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Just a day at the beach…at least I think so

It used to be that we’d pack a cooler and grab some towels and go to the beach. Now when I see families going to the beach, I see inner tubes and floaties and water guns and noodles. Not just toys for the beach, but I also see parents ENTERTAINING their kids.

I’m not talking about parents enjoying quality time with their children, I mean actually making sure they are entertained and catered to, because there is a huge difference.

When I was a kid, sticks and sand and maybe a plastic cup were enough to keep us busy. We would play with our siblings and whatever kids came along. It was no nonsense, no fighting over who gets to ride the dolphin or who is stuck with the tire float.

So parents of young children: keep it simple. For your sake and theirs. They will learn to get along with others better, be more creative and imaginative, and you’ll be able to connect with other adults and your children without feeling pressure to break up spats or entertain them.

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Risk Taking: how to feel better about encouraging it

I was talking with a colleague/parent/friend yesterday who told me about her early days in the education field. She toured a preschool age program, and had the opportunity to observe young children being independent and taking risks.

She recalled being nervous, worried about the children being hurt. Years later, she knows the key to positive experiences with risk taking and young children: knowing the child. I could not agree more-it all comes down to building a trusting relationship between you and the children, and understanding their personality and impulses.

For example, when I have a new child in my program, we avoid high traffic areas. I offer them opportunities for me to assess their skills, but more importantly, to build trust. I need to know if that child will stop when I ask, or if that child will smile and take off running. And likewise, that child needs to know that I will keep them safe by setting limits and expectations.

Another important component to encouraging risk taking is remembering that the children don’t want to get hurt any more than we want them to. They are trying to balance, climb, jump to the best of their ability. And of course, accidents happen, but that’s why it is so important for a care provider to know the child well enough to ensure a relatively safe opportunity, and adequate supervision. But bottom line, (I don’t have real statistics) 9 out of 10 times, I suspect the child will be successful in that risk, and if not, they will learn something about their body and themselves! And perseverance is always a good skill to practice!

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“I’m sorry my kid hit your kid!”

Being a parent is so hard, but when your toddler often hits other children, it can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, and just plain upsetting. So I have a few tips for you parents and providers out there because I’ve been there. My son used to bite other children, and his acting out felt like a humiliation, especially given my field of expertise.

  • When a child hurts someone, do not assume their intent was to harm. Most often, the intent of the toddler is to connect or engage in some way.
  • Before an encounter with other children, make sure your child is rested, fed, and feeling ready. This will make self-regulating so much easier for your child (thinking good mood=better behavior helps)
  • Narrate for your toddler. They are still learning how to recognize and interpret social cues. So when Johnny tries to take a book from Susie, you can say, “Susie, I think Johnny likes that book too, he wants to see the pictures.” Sometimes I feel like I am constantly narrating for the toddlers, but it really helps cut down their frustration, and it helps them recognize social cues as well.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice. It might seems exhausting, but putting your child in social settings is the best way to get through this difficult phase when it seems like they have become what you perceive to be “the play date terror”. As parents, it is easy to feel like your child is acting terribly, and to feel bad about it, but practice is good for you too. There will be plenty of times when you will have to navigate these kinds of peer difficulties, so start forming this relationships now, and practice talking it out with others.
  • When your child is part of a positive and collaborative moment, recognize and acknowledge it. They need us to send a clear message that the way they acted was helpful, positive, desirable. Reinforce the patterns that help build a socially capable human being early.
  • And please be gentle and kind to yourself and your parental peers, no matter what side of the situation you are on. It is tough to see your little one get hit, but it’s also tough to be the mom of that child who hit someone. Try some understanding for the child and the adult, and patience. We are all learning.
  • And if another parent says something that feels unwelcome or unkind, try not to let it get to you. I know, that’s crazy, right? But a snide comment and a casual observation can easily be confused when we are feeling stressed, embarrassed and judged. Say to yourself, “if it was just an ordinary day without the hitting, would that comment still bother me?” Chances are it wouldn’t. But in the event that there are truly negative feelings, it’s ok to talk about it with that person. Find a quiet moment without children around, and let that person know how you’re feeling.

I hope this helps, and keep in mind, when you feel like you just can’t take it anymore, your child’s behavior pattern will change. They are constantly learning and growing!

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You learn something new everyday…

So…I’ve been living in Middlebury for over 20 years and hadn’t really had any knowledge of this company, known as Mr. Mike’s Cleaning Service. But when I wanted to hire folks to clean my childcare program a couple years ago, I ended up calling on them after noticing the primary owners property on my evening walks, and its impeccable neatness.

The manager, now part owner came and met with me, talked about needs and expectations. Two young men (one of whom was the manager) dressed professionally in uniforms came to clean my program, and I later figured out they were the sons of the owner. That right there was impressive to me…for them to be scrubbing my floors and cleaning my toilets when, as managers, they could’ve assigned someone else to do it, was really something. Both of these young men are now part owners, but still work as hard as the first day. And over the past couple years, I’ve begun to notice the white vehicles with the yellow and black writing on the side all over the county. I’ve come to find out that they work tirelessly, day and night, weekends and some holidays, in 90 degree heat waves and freezing rain and snow, doing all kinds of jobs from buffing floors to cleaning up homes where a death has occurred. The two young men that first came to my program not only work professionally, they work diligently and spend more than 50 hours each week throughout the year, working to make sure all jobs are done to the best of their ability. They are courteous, respectful and easy going, and they are a vital part of our community. And while I do not have first hand knowledge of the other employees, I’ve seen the care that is taken to account for consistent and reliable service.

Anyway, I feel like people in the community just don’t know about these folks who are dependable, consistent and professional. They work very hard to make our police stations, theaters, and restaurants clean. They are an extraordinary company and they are invisible in the day to day workings of our town.

For more information, click here

Next time you’re out and about, especially at night and on the weekend, and you see these guys and their co-workers, take a minute to notice them. They contribute greatly to the community, and deserve to be seen for the integral part they play in our town.

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Yoga for Kids!

This is our wonderful yoga instructor, Lynn Kiel. She is a dynamic mom, friend, and member of the community. I’ve gotten to know her in her capacity as a yoga instructor for the children in my program. She offers several 6 week sessions throughout the school year, and we participate as often as we can!

Miss Lynn, as we call her, is energetic and skilled at focusing young children. She comes prepared with a notecard of songs and activities chosen for class, adjusting to the needs of the group. She makes sure each child feels included, and she invites adults to join if they would like.

One thing that the children really enjoy is the way she incorporates stories into our practice. We aren’t just being a tree, but we are a seed planted, and she creates a story that has the children becoming the tree. We are warmed by the sun, and watered while reaching our “roots” deep into the soil.

Learn more on her website

And if your child has an opportunity to be in her class, go for it! She is such a lovely instructor!

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“I’ll meet you at the hospital!”

Scary words…as a mom, a dad, a care provider, anyone who hears these words is flooded with emotion. But I’m finding that after it’s over, there are still some steps to take in the healing of the patients caregivers!

Let me start at the beginning…my son has asthma and allergies. He seldom reacts to food, and it has always been rather mild when he has. Yesterday he walked to the store by himself and got himself some candy corn, he’s 13 and rather independent. I didn’t think to check the label because he’d had them before. Guess what? Coconut oil was one of the ingredients, and it’s his worst allergen! He didn’t react right away, he was at hockey practice when an asthma attack came on suddenly. He used his rescue inhaler, sat a bit and seemed ok. Well 15 minutes later, he vomited and got hives all over his body. Of course we had no antihistamine with us, so I grabbed him and told his dad to meet us at the hospital. Typically I’m a fan of calling paramedics on the side of caution, but we were a minute away and he was breathing just fine.

He was treated quickly with an antihistamine shot and intravenous steroids. He had to stay awhile for observation, but would be released in a couple of hours. He was back to his silly attitudinal self and I was so relieved! I sent his dad to buy some medicine to keep on hand, and told him he could settle in for the night, we would fine. Then I sat down next to my son’s bed, and that’s when it hit: he could have died. I started to hyperventilate, felt dizzy, and my chest felt tight. I was running every possible outcome in my head, in my pessimistic style, and felt overwhelmed. So here’s what I did next:

  • I took a good long look at my son. I scanned every visible inch, and when I was satisfied that he was improving, I just let myself sit with that thought for a minute: he was going to be ok. Then I hugged him.
  • I took some long and slow breaths to try to slow things down. When that didn’t work, I took out my phone for a game of solitaire-it always distracts me!
  • I talked to the doctor, asking tons of questions and admitted that I was anxious and worried, acknowledging that I was kinda freaking out. Oddly enough, this helped.
  • And then came the reflection part…did we take all the right precautions (no), how can we prevent this next time, how can we respond better, what has my son learned from this?
  • The next step I took to move through this was to lean on my family and friends…the outpouring of love and support on social media was heartwarming and helped me to refocus.
  • And when we got home and settled, I took a nap because being worried is exhausting!

So let’s remind caregivers to take care of their needs after a crisis…there’s nothing wrong with taking a break to reset after someone has been injured.

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Attunement

I always thought this was a cool word, but didn’t really have a sense of what it meant. At a training back in the fall, I got to hear more about it and found out just what I was missing.

Some key concepts that I wrote in the margins…because they were just so powerful!

  • Communicate your thoughts to children
  • “I can’t do it.” When children feel pressure, they actually cannot do whatever it is even if they’ve done it before.
  • Don’t be too certain you know why a child is doing something
  • Behaviors are repeated because they are successful in some way. It’s up to us to spot the signals and meet the need in another way.
  • Anytime you get too rigid in your WHY, you are missing the real picture.
  • When our body language and our verbal language are not in sync, the child will feel unsafe: dis-synchrony teaches them not to trust our words. The body communicates first.
  • Is it okay for children to be mad in your classroom?
  • A lot of times, children don’t know what to do with their mad.
  • We need to forgive children really quickly.
  • When there is a lack of connection with a child, admit it, explore it. This shifts how you feel about child.
  • Building a relationship with the family is like a dance, with the teacher in the lead.

According to Merriam-Webster

Definition of attune

transitive verb

1. to bring into harmony : tune

2. to make aware or responsive attune businesses to changing trends

What I am trying to say is that to better build relationships with young children and their families, we as caregivers need to be in tune with young children. It is important that we avoid making assumptions about why a child acts a certain way, and instead, bring an awareness and connection to the relationship.

Thank you to Howdy Russell and Doumina Noonan.

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Depression: The Common Curse of Caregivers Like Us

By now, you all know that I am a family child care provider, which means I provide child care in my home. I work alone caring for up to 6 children at one time, up to 10 if I took on school age children. That is a lot, and while most days are wonderful, silly, and rewarding, some days I just feel down. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for a very long time, and recently, it has just dragged me down far enough that I have asked for help. What a tough thing that was! Here I am with an amazing family, safe and secure home life, and a thriving business, so what do i have to be depressed about?

Well, despite all the great things going for me, I have no control over this illness. Believe me, I have tried to “talk myself out of it” and guess what? That only makes me sink deeper and deeper into the darkness. And I’ve come to realize that a lot of us are in the same darkness. When we choose to care for others, we often neglect to care for ourselves, not always, but some of us are predisposed to it. And have you ever noticed that some of us who choose to provide care for others are trying to make up for a time we felt our needs were not met? It’s true for me…how about you?

So the other day, I was talking with another family child care provider and mentioned that I had been having a hard time lately. I mentioned that I just had no desire to do anything. She replies to me, “now that you mention it, I’ve been kinda feeling that way too.” Whoa…💡 moment here! She’s likely experiencing symptoms of depression and here is an opportunity to bring it to light. And suddenly, just like that, I am wanting to share my struggle and help others to see if what they are feeling is in fact depression. So here we go…

What does depression look like? Feel like? Lack of interest

  • Lack of motivation
  • Irritability, feeling agitated and unsettled
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Empty mood or feeling
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Problems concentrating, making decisions, remembering things
  • Change in eating habits, weight
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Seeking isolation, wanting to be alone
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Physical ailments that do not respond to treatment, like headache, chronic pain, digestive problems
  • Changes in personal appearance
  • Frequent self criticism
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Procrastination
  • Difficulty maintaining boundaries
  • Substance abuse, including self medication with food

This is by no means a complete list, and please consider that I am NOT a medical professional. Please see your primary doctor if you are concerned that you suffer from depression.

What can we do about it?

First, let’s acknowledge the stigma that is associated with depression, anxiety, or any mental health condition. It doesn’t mean that we are damaged or broken. Feelings of depression just reveal that we are human, and that we have to work extra hard to be our best selves. If anything, it shows that we feel deeper and have experiences in a profoundly unique way.

Here are some of the strategies that can help you feel more like yourself, but please keep in mind that depression is a mental illness and can require treatment by a doctor. This list is not meant as a substitute, but more as a support or supplement to treatment.

Tips for Mental Wellness. Spend more time with friends

  • Go outside
  • Get good sleep
  • Eat more real food, and less junk food
  • Move your body
  • Drink more water
  • Laugh out loud
  • Remember your hopes and dreams
  • Create something…art can be a powerful tool
  • Listen to your favorite upbeat music
  • Engage in leisure activities like spa treatments or going to the movies
  • Invest in a full spectrum light to simulate sunshine
  • Be brave. Reach out for help when you need it, and know that you are not alone.

Once again, this is not a complete list, but it’s a start! I have used many of these strategies, with a varying degree of success. I am currently on medication and seeing a counselor, and I’m proud to report that I’m beginning to feel more like myself.

< a href=”https://m.facebook.com/jennifer.cyr.family.child.care”>As always, you can find me on Facebook < a href=”http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jennifer-cyr/99/943/a3a”>Or on LinkedIn < a href=”https://m.facebook.com/jennifercyrccpmentoring/”>And check out my new mentoring page for child care providers

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Stranger Danger and Your Instincts: how to talk to young children

We are very fortunate to live in a close community in which we feel comfortable and safe with our neighbors. The local recreation center is a revolving door of friends and neighbors throughout the week, with most attendees being familiar and friendly. My child care program children frequent the young children’s play time each week in which other families and children gather to socialize with each other and enjoy riding trikes and tossing basketballs at child size hoops.

Just last week, I was over at the recreational center’s gym with three of my child care kids. There were other families and a couple of nannies with their charges present. Kids were happy doing their own thing, and adults were engaged in their usual hovering and chatting. And then in walks a middle aged man with a basketball…not too unusual for the gym, but not typical for this time of the day. Immediately I felt uncomfortable, and I had a feeling like a rock in the pit of my stomach. He was unfamiliar to me, but otherwise no obvious reasons for concern. He proceeded to change into his basketball shoes and walk over toward the hoop with the smallest crowd. On his way over to the hoop, he crouched down and started to talk to my kids, got down low and close. I immediately stepped in and told him that he should not be talking to the children, since he doesn’t know them. He says, “its fine”. My response was to turn around and say, “it’s time to go kids.”

Now typically, when it’s time to go, the kids take their time cleaning up and get distracted. Not this time, they walked right to the door and followed me out with no problem. I think they felt it too…that uneasy feeling. It’s quite likely that this man offered no threat whatsoever, likely a friendly person who enjoys talking with kids. But I chose to listen to that feeling, and I have no regrets. (I later contacted the local police and provided a photo of the man. The officer had some knowledge of this person, and felt something was off as well.)

So my point…how do you talk to kids about this? First things first, get safe. For us, this meant going into the hallway. I sat the kids down and told them I was sorry we had to leave early. I told them about having a bad feeling in my tummy when the man tried to talk to them, and then I told them that I felt like I had to listen to my tummy. The children were satisfied with this for the moment. We got all of our gear on and left, and when we got back to the program, I asked the kids if they had any questions. They seemed to be fine, and talked about the man a little bit. I tried to instill the idea of trusting your feelings as opposed to making a a visual assessment, since that’s a natural reflex for some.

Interestingly enough, the next day we went back to the gym and encountered the very opposite type of feeling. A woman playing with her granddaughter came up to me and asked if she could talk to my kids. I looked to the kids and asked them what their tummies were telling them. They said it was okay. She asked them how old they were, to which the kids just smiled and became shy. She then said goodbye and went on her way. Afterwards, I asked the kids about it, and they said even though she was a stranger, they felt safe and their tummy felt good. How amazing is this? Now it is completely possible that this grandma might do them harm if that was her goal, after all, you just never know. But this was an opportunity for the kids to explore their intuition and that feeling in their gut.

Let me know what you think! Have you and your children ever had an experience like this?

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“My child stays awake so late after a nap at school”

We’ve all heard this before…parents want their kids to be woken up or kept awake at rest time because they just won’t go to sleep at night. It can be incredibly frustrating for all involved, but we have to keep the focus on the child. So here to help navigate this conversation, here are some points that will help you, whether you are a provider or a parent or guardian.

FOR THE PROVIDER

*What are the rules? Every state has child care regulations that must be followed by the child care, preschool etc. What are those rules and how do they relate to the child’s need for rest. And are rest policies clearly outlined in my handbook?

*Given the age of the child and developmental stage, does the child show a need for sleep? Is the child acting tired (use common cues like eye rubbing, yawning, loss of coordination…)

*Think about the needs of the children in your program. Is it feasible for this child to stay awake and still meet the needs of all children? If not, imagine that the child is not sleepy. How would you meet the child’s changing need?

*Are your own needs dictating the expectation that all children nap? We have all been there…those days when we are in desperate need of peace and quiet. And that’s okay, we just have to make sure that our needs are not being met at the expense of the children. I know this sounds obvious, but many of us work alone, and it can become difficult to balance the needs of all.

FOR THE FAMILY

*Is your child sleepy at rest time? Is your child sleepy at bedtime? Each day is different, and keeping a calendar may prove helpful. You may notice a pattern that relates directly to child care days, extra busy weekends, or family activities. It can’t hurt to check it out.

*What time is bedtime? Why? Sometimes the time we set has little to do with the child, more to do with ourselves as parents. And there is nothing wrong with that, but let’s be thoughtful about how it impacts the routines and the child’s changing needs.

*And on that note, your child may need a later bedtime. Keep in mind that as they get older, especially age 4 and 5, but always, they have more and more thoughts that they need to process. I don’t know about you, but I tend to think about the events of the day as I am trying to settle in for the night. Children do this too, and it makes sleep hard to come by.

*Another thing to keep in mind is that keeping up with a bunch of other children during the day can be exhausting. Maybe your child cannot stay awake at rest time because they are just plain tuckered out. It’s a good thing! I know it changes up the evening routine, but just remember that your child does not have a diabolical and evil plan to mess with the sleep routine. He or she is just tired after a busy morning and hearty lunch.

*Finally, a later bedtime is an opportunity, not a monkey wrench. Spend some extra time reading a story, snuggling, baking together, or cleaning up together. And don’t be afraid to say, “I’m really tired and so you need to rest in your room.” Because guess what? It is an opportunity for your child as well. Maybe they wanted to play with a deck of cards but they forgot. Maybe there is a book that they can’t get enough of or maybe their stuffies have been neglected for a bit.

I hope this helps all of you, goodness knows we have all been there! Sometimes it stinks, but they are only little once…enjoy!

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