Archives for September 2012

Taming The Tube: Becoming Screen Smart Parents

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Rachel Taylor, M.S.  Enjoy the post and look forward to future posts from Rachel.

* “Screen Time” = TV, videos, video games, computer use, DVD’s, etc.

 

I receive a lot of questions from parents regarding television, video game and computer time and their children. There are now numerous studies regarding the effects of screen time on children’s physical and mental development by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  They have found that screen time in a child’s early years (birth to age 5) negatively affects a child’s physical health and their chances for success in school.

 

Surveys have shown that on average, babies as young as six months to three years old spend nearly two hours a day with screen media (which equates to roughly 20% of their waking hours).  Also, 40% of parents with young children report their family TV’s are on “most” or “all” of the time even when no one is watching (this is called background TV).  What the research conducted on the effects of screen time is teaching us is that a high correlation exists between the amount of screen time and obesity and lower success in school.

 

“Active free play,” in contrast to screen time, lessens the risk of obesity and related health problems.  Active free play also helps young children develop imagination, creativity, and problem solving ability—all of which lead to positive, health-promoting, lifelong skills.  We have also learned that healthy brain development in very young children depends on emotionally positive, live interactions with adults, other children and their surroundings.  Young children develop strong vocabularies and other language skills—strong indicators of academic success—from hearing many words spoken and read directly to them each day from family members and caregivers. 

 

Attached is a flyer (front page, back page) with 10 suggestions for you as parents to incorporate into your home with further information regarding screen time and children, along with links for additional information. 

 

Fun Fact: When the TV is on, children hear an average of 656 words less from their mother and 200 less from their father.

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Strength in Numbers

It has been proven time and time again that children from families with strength are successful in life, resilient, and self-confident.

What does it mean for a family to be strong? Can a large family be strong? Can a single parent of one child be strong? The answer is absolutely yes. Family strength has to do with the things that a family, of ANY size, does together.

The Search Institute resource for families, Parent Further, has identified a variety of things families can do that promote key qualities (they call them assets) that help families build strength. These assets (listed below) are research-based and can help teens and adults do better in life.

The assets are:

*Nurturing relationships

*Establishing routines

*Maintaining expectations

*Adapting to challenges

*Connecting to community

For concrete ideas and examples of the ways that families promote these assets check out the link to the Parent Further Fact Sheet. You will probably find that your family is already doing many of the things suggested.

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What Do You Need?

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Esther Schiedel.  We hope you enjoy the post and look forward to additional posts from Esther.

What do you need?

What do you need as a parent? Probably more sleep, right?

Often as parents we get lots of information about things we ought to be doing—or not doing. We don’t get as much information about HOW we might actually be able to do or not do those things. We don’t often concentrate on what WE need.

As a parent with young children I remember thinking,  “If I wasn’t so tired right now, I might be able to respond to my whining child in an empathetic and firm manner—the way I want to respond.” It took a few more years for it to dawn on me that a major part of my job as a parent was to take care of myself. Nobody else can make sure I got enough sleep except me.  Even then, though, the prevalent philosophy I ran into was that I could only take care of myself by neglecting my child’s needs. That approach didn’t meet my needs as a person or a parent.

Finally, I began to see parenting as a form of sharing. By learning how to share, I could meet my needs and those of my children in ways that would be affirming and beneficial to both of us. After all, as a biological mother to three children I had shared my body and all its abilities and resources with them during pregnancy. I nourished them then by nourishing myself. After their births I shared my breasts, my arms, my legs, my voice, and my brain as I cared for them. I had to keep nourishing myself to have something to give. I had to have something in order to share it.

Focusing on sharing helped me realize how many things I had that I could share—I had strengths that I could use to guide my children. When I viewed what I had as strengths, I could also work on getting stronger. How do you make a muscle stronger? By using it, by pushing it a little harder, and then giving it a rest.

As a children’s book explains it: when you share, you give something and then you get it back. I shared what I had. And I got something back—new skills, new insights, a better understanding of who I was and what I was capable of, and, best of all, three unique wonderful individuals who are still willing to share with me about their adult lives. I was not the world’s best parent (I am still not the world’s best parent), but I shared what I had and I got a lot back.

What do you need as a parent?

Esther Schiedel is parent to three adults, grandparent to two boys, and a Certified Family Life Educator. She provides parenting education through classes and workshops through LBCC and through her business, Sharing Strengths. She became interested in parenting education when she became a parent and had a need for more information and support.

 

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Off to College, A New Chapter in Parenting Begins

Have you been shopping for extra long twin sheets, a bathroom caddy, shower shoes, or a mini refrigerator?  Are you visualizing your home with one empty bedroom and an empty spot at the dinner table?

If so, then it is possible that you are sending your child off to college sometime soon. This is a time of mixed emotions for the entire family. New college students may feel excitement, anxiety, and eagerness. Parents may feel excitement, anxiety and eagerness. And siblings may feel excitement, anxiety, and eagerness. Regardless of who feels what, this is certain to be a transition filled with adjustments and memories for everyone.

There are, however, things that parents can do to make the transition go smoother for themselves. Three basic tips outlined in the Huffington Post Article article 6 Tips for Adjusting to Your Child Going  to College are:

  1. Reassure your child that they will be fine on their own at college.
  2. Don’t draw out the goodbyes.
  3. Don’t hover.

Isn’t it funny that these tips are the same top three tips that are given to the parents of first-time preschoolers? The scenario is not that much different. Parent(s) and child are going through a time of separation. The feelings parent(s) and child experience going to preschool and college may not be all that different either. Excitement. Anxiety. Eagerness.

So as you begin this new chapter in parenting, take some time to reflect on what worked when you were sending your, now college student, off to preschool. Reuse the skills and tips that you know to be good for you and your child during this time of transition. And remember, you CAN do this, because you’ve done it before. Take it one day at a time and good luck!

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Parenting in the Park: Personal Journeys in Parenting, Shared in Community

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Jessica Henry.  Enjoy the post and look forward to additional posts from Jessica.

Parenting in the Park, a free parenting series a colleague and I ran over the summer culminated in a final session last week; themed Parenting as a Personal Journey. As the children played around us, nursed, snuggled on their mama’s laps, and ate snacks, we mamas went around in a circle of about 10 of us sharing what we loved and missed about ourselves before we became mothers, and what we find inspiring about this parenting path we are now on. Sharing deeply, themes of loss, medical mis-adventures, sacrifice, joy, life-purpose, and personal transformation no less magical than alchemy, came to light. Touched as I was by the depth of trust, feeling and support at the meeting, as the days pass I am left with more of a reverent awe of the strength and courage of women who come to mothering by choice, “accident”, and medical miracle, and forge through day by day growing side-by-side (and by the way in no less awesome ways) with their children. Truly when a child is born a mother is born too, and that is just the beginning, isn’t it?!

My Heart of the Valley Parenting co-founder and friend Alice Eldridge and I went out on a limb when we dreamed up this concept of 10 free, weekly, themed parenting gatherings that would meet in 10 different parks around Corvallis. Who would come? How would we bring the topics? What would the children do while their mothers talked? Would the weather cooperate? Would we be able to keep our own momentum as group leaders?!

We re-iterated at each meeting that we were not the expert of anything, presented the theme-du-jour and released it to the group. Each time the conversation flowed effortlessly as mothers, (us included), shared, advised, coached, commiserated and laughed together. The feedback was unanimous- the participants gained much and on many levels from the gatherings, and the children had fun together too!

Each of us parents at one time or another has probably felt the loneliness of spending long hours at home with young children. Parenting was never meant to be done in isolation! Keeping perspective, allowing ourselves some un-judged venting, and comparing notes about the exciting development, or frustrating stages our children are going through are but a few of the benefits of building community with other parents.

Parenting Success Network offers a centralized source of resources geared to helping parents find support and community. This support is not just for parents who are struggling with serious life-stressors and setbacks, but for all parents who desire to build community and thereby pursue balance and joy along their path of parenting. Not only do parents benefit from the company of other parents (who, by the way, provide invaluable social opportunities for their children in the form of playmates!), but we parents also benefit immeasurably from the giving of ourselves for the benefit of others; this true secret of happiness. Here, the lyrics of one of my all-time favorite Pink Floyd songs comes to mind- “Together we stand, divided we fall”, or if you prefer, Winnie the Pooh’s- “It’s so much friendlier with two”.

Jessica Henry has been involved in family advocacy, support and education over the years in many different capacities; as a birth doula, Happiest Baby on the Block instructor, Early Head Start home visitor, LifeWays preschool teacher, Waldorf summer camp director, Waldorf parent child class leader, etc.

Jessica completed her LifeWays North America training in Wisconsin in 2007, and the Simplicity Parenting Group Leader training in Portland, Oregon in 2011. She is currently leading the Little Acorns Parent Child class at Corvallis Waldorf School, is the owner of the online LifeWays Childcare-inspired products store www.TwoTallTrees.com, as well as the co-founder of Heart of the Valley Parenting (www.heartofthevalleyparenting.com), a parenting resource for families in the Willamette Valley.
Jessica is never happier than when creating and holding spaces for children and their parents that are imbued with warmth, inspiration, and support for each individual’s unique path of development
.

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Talking to Teens About Sex

The teenage years are typically characterized by intense emotional ups and downs,  rapid physical growth and development, a yearning for independence, and the need for consistent parental guidance and support through it all (most teens, however, would not admit to the latter). During this time teens begin to acknowledge their changing bodies and those of their peers. And their feelings about their developing bodies and sexuality are oftentimes shaped by their peers, experiences, and the larger society in which they engage. Did you know that parents can also be an important factor in the healthy sexual development of teens? Teens want and need to be able to talk to their parents (or other trusted adult) about sex and development. Talking to parents about sex and sexuality provides teens with a safe place to discuss and ask questions about what they are feeling, experiencing, and observing.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that “Parents have a strong impact on whether a teenager makes healthy decisions for himself or herself. Research shows that teens who talk with their parents about sex, relationships, birth control and pregnancy—

  • Begin to have sex at later age.
  • Use condoms and birth control more often if they do have sex.
  • Have better communication with romantic partners.
  • Have sex less often.

Taking the time to have conversations about sex, development, and relationships really pays off. As a side benefit, parents will also strengthen the bond with their teen that will be present even when they are not. So that when faced with challenging relationship situations, your teen’s decisions will be impacted by your discussions rather than peer pressure alone. This notion is worth it’s weight in gold and will last a lifetime.

For more information on talking to your teen about sex and relationships check out the Center of Disease Control and Prevention Parent and Guardian Resources page.

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Beat the Back to School Blues

Well it’s that time of year again. The kids are ready for it and so am I. Every year I am amazed at how this happens. When school gets out in June for the summer we are all ready for a break. We want to give up the hustle and bustle of the school and extracurricular routine in favor of the “dog days of summer” (we really spent this summer lounging around our backyard with our new puppy!). And by the time September rolls around we (my kids and I) are ready to start up the school schedule all over again. In fact, we actually crave the routine, rigor, and balance that school and extracurricular activities can give us if we manage them right. How exactly do we “balance” all that goes into the school routine? Actually, this is something that I have been trying to perfect since my oldest began school. Each year I find some tip or idea that I want to try and implement to make our family’s routine smoother and less stressful. As you might have guessed from my latest blog post series titled “I Don’t Like It” one area that I focused on was the family meal. I feel confident that I have mastered a few tricks (such as those that I shared in the posts) that have proven successful for my family. In today’s blog post I would like to share my most useful tips and tricks for managing the school transition and busy family schedules throughout the school year. We have used these tips over the years and they have stuck with us because they work so well for our family.

*Re-establish morning routines at least a few days before school starts.

*Turn the tv off in the morning. (My husband and I like to watch the morning news but we have found that the morning goes smoother without the background distractions of the tv regardless of what is on.)

*Designate a spot for children’s backpack, lunches,  jackets, and all materials needed daily for school.

*Have ALL backpacks and lunches packed and ready for school each night before. (Don’t forget lunch money, permission slips, PE clothes, homework, notes for the teacher etc.)

*Have a weekly calendar with the family member’s extracurricular activities listed. I like to include school library days and PE days to remind my kids to dress for PE and bring their library books to school. List music if your student needs to remember to bring an instrument to school.

*Have children select their clothes the night before and put them in a designated place for easy retrieval in the morning.

*Post a morning and evening routine for each child. I list the things they need to do after they wake up in the morning and before bed each night and post the lists on the door of their rooms. The list is fairly short and in the order that things should be completed. Be sure that it is appropriate for their developmental level. For example, my preschooler has her list in picture form while my older children have written lists.

*Establish a time and place for homework. This becomes especially important toward the end of elementary school. Homework time may need to be flexible given each child’s after school schedule. Try to have a quiet and comfortable place for each child to study, in separate rooms or together. The key is for the area to be quiet, free from distractions, and have all of the materials that children need to get their work done. It may also be important that an adult make themselves available for homework support at this time as well. It may be okay to cook dinner, read the mail, or check your text messages at this time but be prepared to put everything aside if your child needs your help with their homework. Your undivided attention is essential for success when helping your child with homework.

*Think critically about your children’s extracurricular activities. Consider the time commitment required of you and your child (and any siblings that get dragged around during transporting). Over scheduling your child can be stressful for the entire family. I know because I have done it. This year we are trying something new. I have given the kids reasonable choices that include carpool options and Saturday options.

Check out the link to the National Association of School Psychologists for more tips and ideas for the transition from summer to school. I also like the article 10 Back to School Tips for Parents of Elementary and School Aged Kids brought to you by parentfurther.com. The article suggests practical and useful tips for managing school schedules and extracurricular activities and they are listed by age range from preschool through high school. Many of the tips that I have listed above are also mentioned in both of the article links I suggested. I find that the more I see or hear a particular suggestion the more I am enticed to try it out for myself. Hopefully you will find something new today that takes the blues out of going back to school.

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