Tag Archives: family

To all my loyal followers:

I’ve just launched my first fundraiser to improve my back yard. Please share this link and consider purchasing a shirt from the site below. Thank you in advance!

And for those of you providing childcare, who may be uncomfortable wearing a t-shirt with another providers name on it, I don’t see our businesses as competing. I feel like we are collaborators and your support is just another way of assisting a colleague. If you feel differently, I respect your decision. Thank you for your interest.

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Let Your Kids Cry

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I’ve worked with young children for many years now, and the words of a mentor are still in my head: “it’s okay for a child to cry, there’s no reason to try to make them stop”.

In this particular situation, she was referring to a three year old child who just moved here from far away. New town, new home, new surroundings were all just too much for this little guy. I was speaking to my co-worker, asking her what else we could do to get him to stop crying.

My mentor, our boss, reminded me that the crying wasn’t just something he’s doing because he’s mad or sad, but that it is a way of expressing and releasing emotion. She recommended ways to support him as he struggled to find his way and navigate all of his emotions.

You see, when a child is crying, you have to ask yourself, “what is this child trying to tell me?”. There are times when that cry is to get attention, you know that fake cry that some kids can turn on, right? My kid can anyway… But really, young children cry to express anger, frustration, sadness, confusion, relief, and the occasional “I have no clue” cry. Letting go of the feelings is cathartic and provides relief to children, it’s how they work their way through to the other side of the conflict in their hearts.

Holding in tears, keeping emotions inward or stifling them can be harmful to self esteem, but also to our bodies. The nervous and cardiovascular systems are impacted greatly by stress, as many adults know very well. We want to instill the value of expressing your emotions early so young children develop healthy coping strategies now. (Seriously, crying can lower your blood pressure according to Dr. William H. Frye II PhD)

The other benefit to letting a child cry when they feel the need is the ability to inspire community. When children see that another child is crying, it creates an opportunity to empathize with their peer. Children will reach out to one another, offer hugs, stories, conversation even. It’s a tool that can enrich the classrooms emotional environment.

Please keep in mind that I’m not saying to ignore a crying child. I’m simply saying that trying to make a child stop crying or not allowing them to cry at all is unhealthy. This is something to keep in mind especially as children move out of infancy. Our expectations change as they have more skills and language, but the child will still feel sad. Crying is a natural way of expressing feelings at any age, and regardless of your gender. Remember, boys can cry too.

So the next time you have a sad child in front of you, give them a snuggle and let them cry it out.

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What I did on my summer vacation:

I visited family, swam in their pool and listened to my son laugh. I went for a lot of walks and ate really good food. I took my son to one of those indoor arcades that I really don’t enjoy, but he loves! I sent my husband and son off to the fair together. I went to the ocean with them next. We ate ice cream almost every night, went walking on the beach and looked at the sand and waves. We spent hours and hours in the water and on the beach. My husband and I got to have uninterrupted conversations. And we just spent time as a family.

In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, it’s more important than ever to take time as a family. Leave your house, chores, and worries behind. Just hanging out together helped us reconnect and remember all the good parts of our life together.

I also returned to my work feeling renewed and energized. Having that time out of my typical surroundings and spending time in nature gives me a lift. I hope everyone can take time to have a vacation now and then, even if it’s just a couple days to walk away from your worries and start fresh. It’s so worth it.

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“Don’t make a scene.”

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Ever heard yourself say these words to your child in public? Ever heard someone else say them? You know what happens, it’s like a green light for a power struggle. It’s like your child wants to make you even madder so you’ll give in. They push and push until you just can’t take the staring and humiliation anymore. And you give in, and it happens again the next time and the next time. You feel like your child is some sort of manipulative genius, right?

I’ve been there, and I’m sure so have many of you. Guess what? Your child is not trying to manipulate you. There is no secret desire to embarrass you. So what gives? You’re at the grocery store with your three year old child, and you pick up a container of strawberries and place it in your cart. “Not that one! I want that one over there.” You stand firm and ask what the difference could be, they look the same to you. “That is the one we need. Put this one back, I like that one .” It’s just a container of fruit, no big deal.

Now, this is a verbal child, and that makes a huge difference in how this could play out. But the bottom line is the same: do not worry about the other folks in the store judging your response. You are the parent (or guardian or grandparent…), and you need to approach each situation as you see fit. If your child doesn’t agree with your decision, react as you would had no one been observing. Children expect consistency and predictability from the adults in their lives, and that goes for every situation (I know I use these words often but they are just so true).

And some of those power struggles are the child’s way of checking in just to make sure all the rules are still the same. My 9 year old will ask for something, I’ll say no, and he’ll say, “can’t blame me for trying.” If our young children could say this to us, wouldn’t it be so much easier?

And let’s remember that all of us have either been there, or will be there at some point in our child’s life. I remember walking my child into preschool in his pajamas with only one shoe on one time. He was crying and whining, and all I could think was : “I’m so embarrassed. I’m an early educator in this community and my kid is acting like this?” Guess what? His teacher reminded me that the other parents were probably just relieved it wasn’t their child that day. She reminded me to take a breath, and be the parent that I had been just 10 minutes before when I told my child, “if you won’t get dressed, that’s your choice, but you still have to go to school.” I stood by that decision, and was so glad I did, despite the perceived judgement.

It’s sometimes those moments that our children learn the most from us. So next time you’re on the edge of a public power struggle with your child , remember: you are still the parent you were before the scene began, and you’re not alone.

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When Accidents Happen…

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Toilet Learning, aka Potty Training

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This is a hot topic for so many of you, and there’s so much advice out there…I don’t want to overwhelm anyone so I’ll keep it simple: Toilet learning is a natural process in which young children need to take the lead.

I’ve spent the majority of my career (15 years or so), working with two and three year olds. That’s a lot of diaper to pull-up to underwear transitions. I’ve learned that it is a child-driven process, that is only successful when children are truly ready.

Children who are “trained” (I really don’t like this word when talking about toilet use) early, 18 months or so, will regress and have frequent accidents. How do I know this? Seen it. Consistently. Toddlers will learn to hold their urine, and it will appear that they are potty trained. But after a few months, there will be frequent accidents. The walls of the bladder thicken, just like a bicep that’s been doing lots of curls . When it comes to your bladder, thicker is not better. Holding bowel movements is an issue too, leading to constipation and extra pressure on the bladder, among other problems.

So then there are the well-meaning parents who tell care providers that if they put little Johnny on the potty every 30 minutes, he won’t wet his underwear. First of all, does little Johnny want to spend his whole day in the bathroom? No, and logistically, a care provider just can’t do it. And then there’s the pressure he puts himself under, leading to anxiety and insecurity, and the disappointment he’ll feel when he wets his pants. Trust me, he will. No thank you.

The children I’ve seen have a positive and self-driven toilet learning experience have shown basic signs first. When they are ready, you’ll know. It won’t be a battle or power struggle. It’ll be a positive experience for everyone ultimately, leading to feelings of competence and success.

Signs:
The child shows an interest, either by modeling your behavior or talking about it.

Your child tells you when diaper is soiled, or recognizes when he/she is going.

Dry diapers over a 2 hour period or after nap.

A child has skills that will support toilet learning such as walk, talk, and pull up pants(try anyway).

Suggestions:
Encourage the use of a real toilet when interested…it’ll be so much easier when you are at the grocery store with a child who has to pee.

When you begin to see signs, ask if your child would like to use the toilet.

Expect interest to ebb and flow for a bit…it’s scary to learn a new skill. Also be aware that transitions in a child’s life (new baby, different routines, moving to new house) will affect this process greatly, often resulting in regression or holding. Just be patient.

Use the actual words for body parts (this will be important later on)

Avoid anger at accidents, use a matter of fact tone and let it go. Also avoid treats and rewards-no one gives me candy for using the toilet. Your child needs to internalize the feelings associated with accomplishment, which is less likely when a reward is used.

There may be the rare exceptions out there, but trust me, rare is the exception. Good luck! I hope this is helpful, especially since I said I’d keep it simple, and I really didn’t!

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Life’s too short to be unhappy.

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My husband and I have been married for 14 years. We are happy, it takes dedication and communication, among many other things. But yes, we are happy.

Lately it seems like there are people all around us who are splitting up. While I don’t encourage couples to divorce just because things get a little rough, I do support individuals making a choice to be happy. Especially if that person is a parent.

My parents split up when I was 6 years old. My brother, sister and I all have very different recollections of that time. I remember very little, my dad being around and then not being around. And it’s funny because as a little kid, I feel like I was unaffected at that time. But those circumstances and behaviors act like a template, establishing a pattern in a child’s brain. I can see now that the effects carried into when I was a teenager: mistrust, insecurity, guilt, shame, self-doubt and even fear.

Now I’ve gone a little off course here, but my point is to be a parent means to provide your child with a model for healthy attachment. That translates to the adults in that child’s life modeling healthy relationships. And sometimes, that means separation or divorce. When a child lives with healthy relationships in their environment, they develop trust, confidence, an ability to self-regulate, a sense of initiative, and self-worth.

These qualities are the foundation of a successful and fulfilled adult. It is our job as parents to create the most positive social and emotional foundation possible so that children can learn and grow. Sometimes that means making a change in your life. A 5 year-old child recently said to me, “I’m glad mommy and daddy don’t live together anymore. All they did was fight.”

And mom, thank you for wanting more for yourself, and for being brave enough to do it. We turned out ok, right?

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“What about me?”

I promise, this is my last post about grief!

When children experience grief and loss, and they do, the feelings often come under the “what about me” umbrella. These include jealousy, anger, fear, guilt, blame, loneliness, and sadness. I have some experience with loss involving children, and I have also attended some trainings around the support of children and families through their loss and grief.

Tell the truth. It’s okay to be honest with kids (they see through us anyway), and in the long run, it will support the healing process. When children are given honest information, it empowers them and makes them feel safe. If all they know was that their mom was sick and is gone now, they will think every sniffle will take them away from their family. And remember to tell the truth about your own feelings.

Memorialize. That means helping the child remember the one they’ve lost. A photo, a cherished souvenir, or even a clothing item will help the child to feel close to their loved one. This kind of thing is what adults seek when faced with loss, it only makes sense that children would too. The difference is that kids need help, they need to know that it’s ok to remember that person/pet/home and feel sad.

Routine, routine, routine. Kids need routine even on a good day. But when they feel unsafe after a loss, they need it even more. Maintaining routines after loss reminds children that there are still things they can count on. It’s ok to say, “I know things are different now, but we still go to bed at 8:00.” Just giving children that security can help them dramatically, and their routines can help us adults. We don’t always take the best care of ourselves in these situations. But if you’re making breakfast for your child, you may eat a few bites too.

Move through the grief. Emotions are fluid and always moving and changing. Let yourself move through those feelings and support children as they move through them. It’s ok to laugh at a funny story of a lost loved one. It’s also ok to be mad that they are gone. Children look to the adults in their lives for cues, and if we’re stuck, they can get stuck too.

Seek support. Whether you and your family need an actual grief counselor or grief support group, or less formal support is up to each individual. Some children look for a physical outlet for their grief. Other children turn to artwork as a form of expression. Talking to others who share feelings of loss can be the most powerful experience for kids. They discover that they are not alone, and they have an opportunity to see that it’s ok to move beyond feelings of sadness.

Bottom line: loss is hard for all of us, but children need an extra special touch. And be prepared for some amazing insights from children. After the sudden death of my husband’s sister, our son noticed a branch hitting the window of our car in traffic. This was just two days after her death, and at age 4 he says, “that must be Aunt Kate at the window saying hi .”

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Hats, Mittens, and Boots! Oh my!

It’s that time of year again, and over the past few years, I’ve learned a few things about outerwear for toddlers and young children. Living in the northeast, it’s just part of taking care of children here.

1. Label it. Kids lose things, and we all tend to purchase similar items.

2. Avoid Velcro. It’s wonderful for so many things, but not for boots and mittens. Once it gets caked with snow, you’re done, the boots won’t close and neither will the mittens.

3. Boots with liners are helpful. Boots will get wet, filled with snow, and just plain stinky. Having removable liners will make it so much easier to dry out the boots and make them last longer. Just in case it’s too late, stuff newspaper into the wet boots and change it often. It works!

4. Look for more flexible mittens, and mittens with an elastic cuff. If a mitten is too thick or stiff, the kids will take it off more quickly. Kids want to stay warm, but they also want to pick things up and use their hands. They will choose to be cold.

5. Hats are just super fun! Get your kids wearing their hats in October and thru April so when it’s really cold, they’ll be ready.

I hope these hints are helpful! Let me know if you have any thoughts on outerwear for kids!

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Fake it!

So I’ve decided that a great way to beat the blues when you are with young children is to just fake it till you make it.

Before I figured this out, I did a couple of things: owned those feelings, shared those feelings, and took some deep breaths. You see, I was given sad news just before my work day started. I had to continue with my day, and luckily, we were able to splash in some mud puddles. The kids noticed that I was sad, and so I just said, “yes I feel sad” and guess what? They gave me hugs. After that, they went back to their mud puddle. Deep breathing and watching the splashes were just what I needed to clear my head.

The rest of the day, I tried to just be in the moment and enjoy. At times that it was more difficult, I chose to fake it. It worked, I faked being myself until I just felt like myself.

But seriously, mud puddles are like magic!

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