Archives for May 2014

Summer Entertaining: Let kids know it’s about friendship, not alcohol

This week’s blog post is submitted by guest contributor, Julie Greene. We hope you enjoy her post and look forward to future posts from Julie.

I cleaned off my grill last weekend and started to daydream about summer entertaining with friends.  There’s something about the warm sunshine that draws me to reconnect with friends and family. How are you planning on entertaining this summer?  Have you thought about how often those plans will involve alcohol?  For many adults, summer entertaining is connected to drinking alcohol – beer at a cookout, frozen drinks at a party, a visit to a winery, or a 4th of July party with mixed drinks.  And most adults who drink are able to do so in moderation.  However, it’s important to consider the message we send our children when they see that most of our social events include alcohol.   Are we telling them that alcohol is necessary in order to have fun? That the only way adults relax and socialize is by drinking?  That the only social events worth attending are the ones with alcohol?  These are messages that kids are likely to take with them to college and/or into adulthood.

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For me, I want kids to know that it’s time with friends that’s most important, not alcohol.  I do serve wine or beer at some gatherings, but most of the time I let the activity or good company take center stage.  So, the next time you’re planning a summer party, consider telling your kids, “I can’t wait to spend time with our friends!” and fill your home with happy memories instead of alcohol.

If you do decide to serve alcohol at a gathering, Here’s some tips for keeping kids safe:

  • Don’t host parties where only alcoholic beverages are served or where drinking is the central focus of the gathering.  Serve a variety of non-alcoholic beverages and tasty snacks.
  • Don’t serve or bring alcohol to kid-centered celebrations (sporting events, birthdays, graduations, etc)
  • Keep alcoholic drinks in a separate area; put the non-alcoholic drinks and snacks at center stage.
  • Don’t ask your children to get you a beer or serve alcoholic beverages.
  • Never serve alcohol to anyone under age 21 at your party, and instruct other adults not to, either.
  • After a party, clean up right away – kids could be sipping off other people’s leftovers.

Lastly, consider having an alcohol-free home during your kids’ pre-teens and teen years.  It’s the easiest way to reduce access to alcohol in your home.  Please visit www.linntogether.org/resources for information on youth alcohol use in Linn County and more helpful suggestions for parents.

Julie is a mental health specialist for the Linn County Alcohol & Drug Program.  She facilities parenting education groups for clients in recovery from substance use.  Julie has a son in high school and a daughter in college.

 

Sharing Grief with Children

My grandfather died last Saturday. He was 95 years old, and lived a long full life. I actually feel like I lost him a while ago as he gradually slipped away into the abyss of dementia. He has been under hospice care for about 5 months. While his passing was not shocking it still hurts to loose a family member. While I had come to understand the passing of my grandfather’s personality, memory and understanding as I knew it, I selfishly did not want to say goodbye to his physical presence in my life.

When my mother called to tell me about my grandfather’s passing, my 12-year-old daughter was in the room. She witnessed my initial reaction and immediately understood the finality of death and the impact that it had on me in the moment. She passed the news on to her 10 and 7-year-old siblings who understood that I was sad and had varying degrees of sadness themselves.

As we prepared to go home and celebrate my Granddad’s life with my extended family, my mother asked me if I was going to bring the kids. My answer, without hesitation, was of course I am. I wondered silently why she asked me that. I even had a momentary hesitation about my decision. Are they too young? Will they understand? Will they be uncomfortable? Afraid? Anxious? After all, this would be their first funeral.

I didn’t need to think long before I concluded that all three of my children NEED to be with us for this family event. Sharing my grief with my children through sensitive and thoughtful reflection and open discussion will help them understand how grief can look and feel and it begins to normalize the grieving process for them. Each of them will come to their own understanding as appropriate for their developmental level and individual temperament. Families celebrate weddings and births together. Nobody questions the presence of children when we are together in happiness and joy. So I decided that my family’s sadness should be validated and experienced by my children in the same way. My children need to see how families come together and support each other in times of sadness as well as times of joy.

The funeral was this afternoon and the kids had an emotional day of bonding and connection with family both new-to-them and familiar. They cried with us, laughed with us, and asked us a lot of questions. Their presence was both appropriate and appreciated by all in attendance. It was a beautifully intimate ceremony on a warm and sunny day. Granddad must have been looking down on his entire family, including his great grandchildren, feeling both proud and happy. I’m sure of it.

This post is dedicated to my Granddad, who I know will dance with the angels forever. I love and miss you Granddad.

School Success Starts Early

“How do children become ready for school? It starts at birth, with the support of parents and caregivers, when young children acquire the social and emotional skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for success in school and in life.”

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So how can parents and caregivers help set children up for school success? The latest Ready to Learn post on the website, ZeroToThree.org does an excellent job outlining the following 5 basic themes for supporting school readiness:

  1. its all about relationships
  2. everyday experiences shape early learning
  3. emotions
  4. the importance of play
  5. what a school-ready child looks like

Check out the link to ZeroToThree.org for more details about ways to support your child’s school readiness from the first days of life.