“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove . . . but the world may be different . . . because I was important in the life of a child.”

~ Forest E. Whitcraft

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bullying & the Montreal Massacre: Why Wait Till It Gets Better?

Bullying and gay bashing are nothing new, but a lot of us were shocked to learn about a rash of teen suicides related to these phenomena. In the aftermath of these incidents, one of the catch phrases used to encourage LGBT youth to look for help instead of giving up on life was, "It Gets Better."

It gets better for most teens. Most of us can relate to the feeling of being bullied or rejected, to feeling insecure or unpopular, or perhaps just to struggling with schoolwork and feeling we didn't get the help we needed.

But a whole publicity campaign based on the premise that it gets better begs the question, why can't things be better today? Why do we tell kids to hold on and wait for a better tomorrow, instead of working to make them a present day that doesn't make them want to give up on life completely?

And what about the kids who won't make it that long? There are young people who have been killed by bullies. There are those, like the ones killed at Columbine or at the Montreal Massacre, who can't wait for tomorrow to get better.

I wrote a piece for my daughter and for her friends, in hopes that it might help them to create a more positive present day for themselves. Here is an excerpt:
Love yourself
It's a cliche, I know. It's hard enough for a grown woman to do sometimes, so how can I expect a girl of fourteen to figure it out? The answer is simple: you are the only person you can count on to love yourself the way you want to be loved. Don't wait for life to bring love to you on a silver platter; instead make it happen by being your own biggest ally.

Take time to get to know yourself, just as though you were meeting a completely new person for the first time. Celebrate the things you like, work to change the parts you don't like, and always be honest about what you want and need from others. Yes, that means hard work and taking risks. Life ain't easy, so get used to it.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Parents Take Out Free Babysitting Ad After Teen Breaks Curfew

One of the more difficult aspects of parenting in the 21st century has got to be discipline. We live in a complicated world, where kids and parents alike are used to getting what they want in seconds, at the mere click of a mouse button. Impulse control and delayed gratification have always been challenges for kids, whether they be toddlers or teens; but the world we live in makes it even tougher for kids to learn them.

Discipline has become complicated too. Go back a generation or two, and the rule was, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." Now parents are judged for everything from a swat on the bottom to giving their child a time-out. What works? How should we approach discipline? Will our parental authority be undermined before we can even get the message across?

Here's a reaction I wrote after reading about the Texas parents who sentenced their 16-year-old to 30 hours of free babysitting after she had a late night party in their home. What would you have done? Do you think she'll learn her lesson?

The Offence

Kirstin Rausch got bored one night when her girl friend was staying over. At bedtime she decided to invite about half a dozen friends over for an impromptu party in her family's media room. Her father and step-mother woke up at 2:30 a.m., and her friends were still in the house. The 16-year-old honour student was caught red handed, having broken both her bedtime curfew and the house rule against having friends over late at night.

The Punishment
Robert Rausch sentenced his daughter to 30 hours of unpaid babysitting. Rausch and his wife Wendy had initially wanted Kirstin to take part in a community service project, but when several community organizations were unable to assign a project, the family got more creative.

Read more....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Preparing a Future Kindergarten Student for the First Day of School

One of the hardest parts of the back to school season is getting kids out the door on time. You can make this easier for your future kindergartner by adopting a daily routine that has her getting up each day at the time he will have to rise for school. Make sure to change bed times too, if necessary.

Your child may need ten or more hours of sleep in order to be healthy, so be sure she is in bed early enough at night. Schedule a rest time for a nap or for quiet play or reading. Schools that have a full day program usually do this after lunch. if your child is attending half-day kindergarten, you can ask the teacher when the nap time will be.

Have your future kindergartner go through the morning school preparation each day, just as if he were going to school. This means not only having him up at the same time each day, but getting him to eat breakfast, dress and groom himself, and do any morning chores he is expected to do before school. Have him put on his school clothes or uniform, instead of wearing play clothes.


Credit: S Brumley

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Teaching Kids Conflict Resolution Skills: Telling vs Tattling

Credit: Gilabrand, Wikimedia Commons
Just as surely as a parent faces piles of dirty diapers and 4 am feedings in the early years of a child's life, as that child grows they will find themselves having to help that child cope with some kind of interpersonal conflict. Whether it's sibling rivalry or a fight with a soon-to-be-ex-friend, or maybe even feeling that a teacher at school is picking on them kids will often turn to their parents first, so we need to be prepared to help them.

The Difference Between Tattling and Telling
Tattling is probably the first interpersonal issue a parent faces other than kids not wanting to share, and it can last well into adulthood if it keeps paying off for the individual. Tattling is not the same as telling, although you may use the phrase "telling on" to describe it.

When a child tattles, most often the motive is manipulation of a situation. The child has tried to get something and was refused or out-voted, or has perhaps been excluded from play or has observed another child breaking the rules. When a child tattles, they try to make it seem as though they are doing the adult a favour or fulfilling an obligation. Often they beat around the bush about it, rather than coming straight to the point. They will often highlight their own good behaviour, in contrast to the offense the other has committed.

Telling, on the other hand, generally feels more genuine. The child may use fewer words or may seem distressed, as opposed to the tattler who presents his case triumphantly and is obviously expecting the adult to support him by immediately intervening or punishing the other. They get a little thrill from seeing the other child laid low.


Top 10 Essential School Supplies for Elementary Students

Before you go out to buy school supplies, have a plan for keeping them safe so you don't have to replace them. Order fancy labels or create your own. Make sure you have labels for everything - from clothing and footwear, to school supplies and backpacks.

Credit: sanja gjenero (sxc.hu/lusi)
Stick to the basics: HB pencils from a reputable company. The fancy pencils from the dollar store are not school supplies. No elementary student should be writing in ink until he has legible penmanship. It is preferable to wait until he has mastered cursive writing. A reliable black or blue ballpoint is all he needs for school. Leave the multicoloured gel pens at home.

Crayons, Markers and Pencil Crayons
When it comes to markers and pencil crayons, buy name brands that will last. For younger elementary students, be sure to buy non-toxic school supplies and choose washable markers wherever possible.

Scissors and Glue
Students need a good pair of safety scissors all the way through elementary school. When buying glue, try to get what the teacher recommends. They know what workd and what lasts. Buying the brand they suggest can save you money.

Paper and Notebooks
Paper is so often wasted in elementary school classrooms. Teachers tend to request much more than students will use, so watch out for first-grade school supply lists asking for ten 72-page Hilroy exercise books.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How the Right School Supplies Can Help a Student with ADHD Succeed

Attention deficit disorders (ADD and ADHD) are generally diagnosed using a checklist of symptoms. One of those symptoms is often losing materials necessary for a task - like school supplies or textbooks. While some people may think that hyperactivity is the most obvious sign that a child has ADHD, for our daughter the first sign that all was not well at school was definitely that she constantly lost or forgot things.

Kids who have attention deficit disorders don't like to forget things, and they like it even less when their disability gets them in trouble at home or school. As the adults responsible for helping them get a good education, it is up to parents and teachers to help kids with ADHD develop strategies to overcome their attention deficit, and to give them tools that will help guarantee their academic success.


Image © morguefile.com/ausbar

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Parenting a Special Needs Child

A friend of mine shared a link to an article by an Associated Content writer whose material I had never encountered until today. Hope L. Brock is obviously a woman who knows what she's talking about when she discusses, "Four Myths About Mothers of Behavior Disorder Children." Here's a brief excerpt:
Moms have a difficult job to do when it comes to raising children. It is a thankless-24 hour-7 days a week-no payment-little breaks type of job. However, if you child as a behavior disorder such as ADHD or Autism, then being a mom can be even harder. There are a lot of myths about what it is like to be a mom of these children, and until we can get some of the truths out there to erase the myths there will be a lack of understanding. There are some very strong assumptions about moms that have behavior disorder children. These can be so strong that even the moms come across as being not 'normal'.
As our kids get older, going out as a family becomes a lot easier. We still go through checklists, need to enlist the help of friends, or take two separate trips so we can better supervise the kids. In the past, even going to sleep at night was an issue. For several years my husband and I had to sleep in shift, so if our son woke up he couldn't get into mischief.

Two of our kids are diagnosed with special needs, including autism and ADHD, so behaviour has been one of the major obstacles for our family over the years. It takes a long time to conquer all the issues. It takes patience and understanding of why our kids do the things they do. Most of all, it takes faith and dogged persistence even when it feels like all the therapies and discipline plans, all the talking and explanations just aren't having any effect at all. The things Hope says about assumptions people make resonate deep inside of me, even today when we are often told how well behaved our kids are compared to their peers.

If you are the parent of a special needs child, please don't give up. It does get easier. At least some of it. Things will change, and you will see improvements. Don't let all the assumptions get you down, even if they come from the professionals who are supposed to be helping you learn to help you child.

Just give it time. Our kids are worth it.

You can read more of Hope's articles at Associated Content, where she is a Featured Contributor in both Diseases and Conditions, and Parenting.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Work at Home Moms

I know a good number of women who work at home by doing freelance writing. Whether we are supplementing income from spouses' jobs or from our own 9-5 jobs, whether we are making a full time wage from our writing, or whether we are struggling just to make ends meet, it's a job that lets us be here for our kids.

Working at home can be tough, too. Having to say no to the kids when they want to play or to watch a movie, monopolizing the computer when they want it. Early wake up times, and staying up late into the night trying to meet deadlines.

Writing is not a glamorous job, but usually it's worth it. I say usually, because every now & again someone will criticize us for working too hard. Only they'll say, "You're always online. You should take the kids to the park," or, "Why do you post so many links? You're spamming us! You spend too much time on Facebook." How frustrating! What if someone told these people they spent too much time at the office?

My friend published an article that speaks to these people who would try to tell us how to live and how to care for our children. I'd like to share an excerpt with you here:
And it doesn't help when thoughtless people say stupid things like 'take a break from the computer', 'remember to make time for your kids', 'enjoy these times now because they don't last' or some other such saccharine platitude. Easy for them to say. They aren't the ones trying to juggle a schedule and lifestyle that would make a saint tremble. Wouldn't you just love to take a break more often? Wouldn't you just love to say 'money be damned, today I shall play'? Unfortunately those same little dears that we moms are advised to 'make more time for' need shoes, food, dental care, transportation, school supplies, medicine, the list goes on. And short of prostitution or dealing drugs, it's difficult to make enough money to survive without spending a good deal of time and energy doing so.
~ "WAHM Guilt Issues: Why Can't You Play with Us, Mommy?" by Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben
I encourage you to read the rest of Marilisa's article and to look at her other work too. Aside from ranting about people who don't seem to understand what it means to write for a living or to work from home, Marilisa also has a background in education. She has written some very informative pieces that would be helpful for both parents and teachers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Take Advantage of School Holidays to Get Kids Moving

Physical activity helps kids maintain a healthy body weight and build healthy muscles, joints and bones. But did you know exercise also helps kids improve their academics? Exercise helps kids sleep at night, reduce stress, and feel better about themselves. It also prepares them for learning activities.

Experts say kids need a minimum of 60 to 90 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA.) Most kids aren't getting that exercise, and it affects both their health and their school performance.

What About Physical Education in School?

According to Get Kids in Action, a web site aimed at improving kids' fitness and health, "Only 10% of schools offer daily physical education classes, and many of those don't meet the time requirements of weekly exercise."

Requirements for gym classes vary from one jurisdiction to another. Where I live in Quebec, schools are required to provide two hours a week of phys. ed. classes. My son gets that in two one-hour blocks, which I appreciate. But it's obvious that he won't get enough activity if we rely on gym classes alone.

Adapting Healthier Habits Over the Summer Vacation

Take advantage of the upcoming summer holidays to gradually increase the amount of time your kids are active each day. Canada's Physical Activity Guide suggests a plan that allows a sedentary person to increase MVPA in small increments, raising them each month over the space of five months. To make the most out of this method use the summer holidays, when kids will want to be moving outside, as an easier starting point.


Photo: © morguefile.com/click

Finger Foods: Easy Meal Ideas Kids Will Love!

Kids love to eat with their hands. They love small foods they can pick up and pop right into their mouths - and even picky eaters are more interested if they get to make those foods themselves!

Here are three finger food ideas that your kids can help to prepare. For special occasions, fancy up your recipe. They make great appetizers for a kids' party and are sure to be popular at your next potluck!


Photo: © Jennifer Bastian, Wikimedia Commons

Teaching Kids to Say No

Some kids don't know how to take no for an answer.
"Julie" comes to visit your Janie, and Julie wants to borrow a special bracelet Janie got as a gift from her grandparents. No, my Mom said I'm not allowed to let anyone borrow that bracelet, Janie tells her.
I'll give it right back after school tomorrow. Your Mom will never know, Julie retorts, trying to change Janie's mind.
But I'm not even allowed to wear it to school.
If you're my friend, you'll let me.

We've all heard an exchange like the one above, and as parents and educators many of us will cringe just from thinking about it. The friendship card gets played a lot with kids around the age of seven or eight, especially with girls. And later on, it's not uncommon for boys to use a similar tactic with their girlfriends in order to convince the girl to do something she isn't comfortable with. Friends should respect each other, and that goes double when it comes to the romantic relationships that develop in adolescence and early adulthood. Respect means that when a friend says no, they shouldn't be made to feel guilty about it and they shouldn't have to repeat themselves.

Kids need to be told no
As parents and educators, it's important for us to say no to kids when the stakes are low. They need to get used to being refused sometimes. If they always get what they want, they won't know how to accept a refusal gracefully. We can offer alternatives or compromises, and we should be open to a certain amount of negotiation, as long as it's teaching kids to work together to find a solution that works for everyone. But every once in a while, the answer really is "no," and kids need to learn that when it's said it should be respected.


Photo © morguefile.com/phaewilk