Tough Conversations with Kids: Honesty is Key

Why is it important as a mom to be honest with your children, rather than to sugar coat or avoid hard topics?

Our kids are watching us all the time. If they see us avoiding hard topics, or backing away from the things that make us uncomfortable, we teach them to play it safe and stuff their feelings down. It’s our responsibility to teach our children the meaning of emotional honesty and how to work through our challenges with transparency and the willingness to learn from conflict. This is why it’s important to clarify our own values and hone our communication skills—especially when it comes to talking to our kids.

Admittedly, it’s tough to be the initiator of the hard conversations. It requires getting conscious and clear about your own intentions; it also requires figuring out whether or not your child can handle what you are offering them. I have discovered that I need to be very sensitive and respect their individuality and needs. We as moms can’t just push the conversation onto them. We must be creative about how we go about talking to them—because, let’s face it, just as we are usually trained to expect our kids’ respect, they are trained to internally roll their eyes at what we have to say! But in being honest, we give our kids permission to do the same. However, it’s important to go into these conversations without expectations or the desire for positive reinforcement and feedback. We are not here to get our needs met by our children. Regardless of how your kids react, just know that you are setting a foundation for honest discussion that will absolutely have positive long-term effects on them and your future relationship.

How do you think embracing these tough conversations can strengthen a mother’s relationship with her kids?

Embracing tough conversations shows your kids that you will be there for them, no matter what. When no topic is too taboo or off limits, your kids learn that they can trust you unconditionally. You build valuable channels of communication that matter, because they foster true connection and become the foundation for your relationship when things get tough.

So many young people fear disapproval, which can keep them from coming to their parents with challenges and important questions. But when we as moms willingly move toward the tough conversations, our children realize they can trust us. Just remember, communication is a two-way street. And when you show respect for your kids’ unique perspectives, you also end up learning from them. I promise that they will appreciate you for this.

For many parents, we’ve been ingrained with the notion that we have to fix or teach our children, and that they should automatically respect us because we’re the grown-ups. Obviously, this isn’t the best way to promote active and meaningful dialogue. And because hard conversations are already so sensitive, we need to go in with the desire not just to talk, but to listen. This starts with treating our kids as the unique, powerful human beings they are. We can do this by asking them what their needs are and creating the space for them to fully be themselves in the conversation. We can also do it by being discerning about what does and does not merit these kinds of discussions. Sometimes, it’s okay to let it go and trust that our kids will figure things out for themselves.

Should moms be worried about using the right words and saying the right thing or in these kinds of conversations is it better to be raw and vulnerable with your own children? Why?

Obviously, we need to make sure that we maintain appropriate boundaries with our kids, depending on their age and maturity level, and the topic of conversation. However, I always advocate being vulnerable and truthful. Believe me, it is possible to be mindful and respectful without censoring yourself. Tackling the hard conversations means you need to acknowledge your truth, your humanity, and the fact that life is messy—and “messing up” is just a part of all of that. When you are willing to be that real with your kids, and to embrace your own “flaws” without any shame, it shows them that they can trust you even more. So stop trying so hard to be a “good” parent and trying to get it right according to someone else’s standards—and trust yourself! You also don’t need to pretend that you have all the answers. For a parent, there is nothing more vulnerable than admitting that you don’t know, and this can be a powerful bonding moment! Just be honest about it, take this opportunity to be curious and nonjudgmental, and explore some possibilities with your kids.

By Kelly McNelis, founder of Women For One

How and Why to Give Kids an Allowance

coins-in-handThe days of paper routes are over, yet the market is flooded with gadgets and games kids insist they must have in order to simply exist. It’s a tough parenting world today. We want to teach our kids responsibility, work ethic and long term gratification. These values can be modeled, and they can also be instilled in the younger child. Once your child is eight or nine years old, it’s time to start.

Ground Rules

One of the ways to instill these values is through having your child earn an allowance. It’s a wide range here, given the huge maturity differences between eight year olds and fifteen year olds. Some basic pointers on establishing the ground rules and expectations for an allowance follow.

  • Select what works for your family and good luck!
  • Work together with your child to establish the the rules and expectations.
  • Decide on what chores will need to be completed and what the payment will be.
  • Will this happen on a monthly basis or weekly?
  • Can the child accomplish part of the list and receive partial payment?

The more you engage your child in this process, the greater sense of ownership they’ll have. If they suggest they don’t want to work for an allowance, that’s fine too. Just let them know they won’t be receiving any discretionary spending money each week. That may eventually begin to burn!

Quality control

Will you ensure that the chores are completed to the best of our child’s ability in a timely manner or will you ask your child to check behind himself? Remember, this is a learning process and won’t necessarily go smoothly out of the gate. Work together to look at the final product. This will reinforce the value of responsibility and pride in one’s work. It’s a slow lesson to learn and trait to develop, but you will be giving them a gift that will last longer than any of the latest must have gadgets on the market.

Encourage your child to set short and long term goals with the allowance he receives. Setting aside a portion of the allowance each week might result in a trip to the Disney Store for a favorite toy or figurine. A short term reward might be a trip to the ice cream shop. Encourage, empower and reward your child throughout the process. Establishing the foundations for an allowance will help develop the values of responsibility, work ethic and long term gratification that are so critical in all aspects of life. Good luck!

Building Your Kid’s Confidence

SONY DSCRaising children is not easy, especially in today’s challenging environment. So many things can affect your kid’s self-image that regular trips to hair salons just aren’t going to cut it. You need to boost your kid’s sense of self now to help them become socially adjusted and successful adults in the future. Here are some ways for building your kid’s confidence.

 

Make them feel loved

Kids always need to feel loved at home. It is how they develop a sense of worth. As parents, we often forget to show them how much we love them because we are working so hard to give them everything they need. The things we give or the fantastic yearly vacations we bring them on are not important. It is the five minutes at breakfast we spend asking them about their plans for the day, and the minute we take to tuck them in and kiss them goodnight. What matters is an encouraging nod when they are not doing well, sympathy when they fail, and acknowledgement when they succeed.

Give them structure

Rules give your kid a sense of security. It may seem the height of cool to be a friend to your kid, but young children need you to be a parent more than they need a friend. Give them rules to live by, and this will give them the structure they need to build upon. Explain to them the consequences of their actions when they break the rules, and follow through no matter what. Giving in to what your kid wants will backfire on them and you in the end.

Encourage them in their inclinations

Don’t impose your own ambitions and expectations on your kids. Give them the freedom to develop their own interests and support them in whatever they choose to do as much as you can.

Kids are resilient, and they are full of possibilities. If you do your job as a parent in developing a confident kid, then you should have nothing to worry about for their future.

Promote Better Pool Safety With Swim Lessons

by Kaitlin Gardner from AnApplePerDay.com

lesson-of-swimmingI love raising my young boys, and watching them grow, but it’s kept me busy. High on my “to do” list has been water safety, to make sure they have fun but stay safe in the pool. One of the biggest safety measures for us has been swim lessons. Knowing how to swim is a skill they’ll use for a lifetime, so I want them to be well prepared.

The need for safety. The reality is that there are inherent risks around the water. Drowning has been reported as one of the highest causes of unintentional deaths among small children in the U.S. Another study has also shown that swim lessons can reduce the chances of a child drowning by as much as 88 percent. When I read those articles, it only strengthened my resolve to have my boys learn to swim, and be well prepared when it came to the pool. Here are some other articles with more great information:

Preparation starts early. It is suggested that a baby can be enrolled in Mommy and Me classes as early as 6 months of age. While these are not formal lessons, they will certainly give the child an orientation to the water, as well as being a lot of fun. I even used bath time to begin reinforcing the water as a fun place to be. I would trickle water over my child’s head, and we spent a lot of time laughing and smiling as they discovered the fun of splashing.

The beginning lessons. By around age 4, a child will be developed enough to have motor skills that will allow them to take lessons. My boys were so in love with the water that they were glad to take those lessons. They began to learn the movements that would combine into swim strokes, and to learn the basics of swim safety. They were really serious when the instructor explained why “no running at the pool” was important. I had to smile because I knew if I tried to tell them the same thing they wouldn’t listen that well. At the end of the pool season, parents can check out their kids to make sure they are “water smart,” meaning how well have they incorporated the safety principles they have learned, like being able to find the side of the pool if they fell into the water, and what to do if a friend was struggling in the water. My boys did great, and I was really pleased by how quickly they picked up a focus on safety.

Repetition helps. I plan to sign my boys up for intermediate and advanced lessons. I want them to really learn the strokes, and be well versed in the safety aspects of swimming. In school they don’t just show kids a concept once and move on, the classes work through a progression which allows kids to build proficiency. With something as important as swimming, I think the same principle should hold, so I will continue with lessons.

Use the time for bonding. I won’t have an unlimited number of opportunities to bond with my children, so I have taken advantage of lessons to spend time with the kids. I sit on the sidelines and watch their lessons, and then may have a couple of questions about what they learned after class, to reinforce what they’re being taught. But when I get to see the first time they jump off the diving board or a similar achievement, it is just wonderful to see how excited they get.

Watching my boys swimming confidently really pleases me – their swim lessons have prepared them well to enjoy all the fun they can have in the water.

KaitlinKaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside to discover interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint watercolors.

 

US Swim School Association Helps Parents Detect If Their Kids Are Water Smart

Guidelines to evaluate if kids know the basic water safety skills after a summer in the pool

boy-in-swimming-poolDrowning is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. On average, 3,533 people die as a result of drowning each year, and most of those deaths are children under the age of four who drown in backyard swimming pools. The tragedy of these statistics is nearly all drowning deaths are preventable. Parents need to be aware of their children’s swimming capabilities as well as their knowledge of how to be safe around water.

To help parents determine if their children are knowledgeable of basic water safety skills, USSSA has created a basic safety guideline parents can use to evaluate their children at the end of the summer pool season. USSSA also reminds parents that enrolling their children in year-round swimming lessons is one of the first defenses in drowning prevention. Even if children can complete the following tasks, year-round lessons can help children maintain their swimming skills and build strength.

  • Flip and Float. Any time a child enters a body of water unexpectedly, he or she should know to first reach the surface then flip onto his or her back and float until help arrives.
  • Find the Side. If your child accidentally falls into a pool he or she should know how to swim to the side, and either pull them self out of the water or move along the wall to the stairs where they can safely exit.
  • Do a Clothes Test. Children might be successful swimmers in their goggles and swimsuit but if you have a backyard pool there could be a situation where your child falls into the pool fully clothed. To help your children know how to react and judge their skill level in a situation like this effectively, under your supervision, have them jump into the pool with clothes on and swim to the side.
  • Throw, Don’t Go. When asked what they would do if a friend or sibling is struggling in the water, children should know to not enter the water. Instead, they should look for a device that can reach into the water such as a pool noodle, a foam ring or even a large stick the struggling person can grab and hold onto while being pulled to safety.
  • Take a lap. If you have a backyard pool it is a good idea to test your child at the end of the summer to make sure your child can swim a full lap of the pool. This will inform you if your child can swim far enough to reach the side or a step to exit the pool no matter where he or she falls in.

For more information on USSSA, details on becoming a member of the nation’s leading swim school organization, or to find a USSSA affiliated swim school near you, visit: http://www.usswimschools.org

 

About US Swim School Association: US Swim School Association (USSSA) began in 1988 to fill a gap in the swim school industry. USSSA has become the largest and preeminent swim school association in the country with over 400 members providing swim and water safety instruction to over 500,000 students each year. Swim schools receive invaluable benefits as USSSA members, receiving the latest training in water safety, swim instruction methods and tools, invitations to annual conferences, and many other benefits that help establish and build each individual business. USSSA has partnered with Safer 3 Water Safety Foundation for its official water safety program. Through USSSA, parents and students are provided with a reliable and trustworthy resource when searching for a swim school and can rest assured they have chosen a top school when they choose a USSSA affiliated location. For more information, visit www.usswimschools.org.

 

The Great Katie Kate Tackles Questions About Cancer

by M. Maitand Deland

This book is geared toward a specific audience of children dealing with cancer either in their own lives or in the life of someone they know. The Great Katie Kate tackles the Worry Wombat and answers a lot of the basic questions about cancer, treatment and common things that come up until children feel less worried about it. Author M. Maitand Deland has a whole series of The Great Katie Kate books that covers topics like diabetes, epilepsy and asthma. The illustrations are great and the characters are relatable and approachable. This is a perfect book for a young child diagnosed with cancer.

The Man With the Violin

by Kathy Stinson

I love this book, perhaps because I am a former violinist. While this is clearly a children’s book it is actually a great reminder for adults to slow down and pay attention to the small details that children don’t seem to miss. This story is based on the true story of Joshua Bell, who played his Stradivarius in a D.C. train station and was barely noticed. The boy in the story, Dylan noticed the violinist and was moved. The music stays with Dylan, coloring his drab day and he eventually hears him on the radio later on. It is a moving story and it has nice illustrations. Children probably won’t appreciate the moral of the story as much as adults, but it is still a great one for kids to hear.

Under Wraps

This movie was a definite schocker! I’m not usually into zombies, mummies or science fiction, but this really wasn’t like that.  It was totally different than anything I have seen before, but I really enjoyed watching it with my daughter. It kept my interest, the acting and the animation was good and the moral was very family oriented. It has a clever story line and in the end the family of four learns a lot about each other and becomes closer. It is a great movie to watch around Halloween, but it’s not really a Halloween movie so it is perfect to add to your family’s DVD collection for any time of year. It would definitely appeal to boys, but my daughter really, really likes it too. She is only four and it didn’t scare her, so you don’t have to worry about that factor either. It is a well made animated movie by ARC Entertainment and I recommend it to any family with young kids!
under wrapsAVAILABLE ON DVD: October 14, 2014
DIRECTOR: Gordon Crum

WRITER: Allison Ross

CAST: Brooke Shields, Drake Bell, Matthew Lillard

SYNOPSIS: Danny and older sister Eleanor fall into an adventure of a lifetime when Danny accidentally unleashes a centuries old curse involving mummies, phaoroahs and nefarious villains! When their archeologist parents go on an expedition to an ancient Pharoah’s last resting place, Danny sneaks into the tomb and finds a sacred amulet, which he takes home. When he accidentally breaks the amulet, all sorts of chaos follows, starting with his parents turning into mummies! Eleanor and Danny frantically look for clues to solve this nightmare but the police, an evil assistant, and a mysterious visitor from the past are suddenly getting too close for comfort.

DISTRIBUTOR: ARC Entertainment

Guess Who Series

guess who zoo Kids love interactive books! We found a series of books that are so fun and catchy for little ones. The Guess Who book series by Howard Eisenberg includes Guess Who Zoo, Guess Who Farm and Guess Who Neighborhood. guess who farmThey are full of clever little rhymes that are engaging and keep children interested in guessing the animal, person or place. Starting the books are rhyming stories that introduce a character who the kids are helping guess throughout the rest of the book. guess who neighborhoodThere are clues with each rhyme until the answer is revealed. Even after your child has them all memorized, they will still love to read them over and over again. Having the answers and being right thrills them!!

guesswhozooCDThe Guess Who Zoo is accompanied by a musical CD that my 4 year old was OBSESSED with from the second she heard it. We had to listen to it over and over and over and over again in the car. In fat, she loved it so much that she preferred listening to it over watching a movie (which is a big deal for her)! The CD made our summer travels more bearable and I can now sing you every single song at the drop of a hat! When we go the actual zoo, the catchy tunes come up when we see the animals we sing about. And, again, even when your child knows what animal you are guessing for each song before the words even begin, it doesn’t take away any fun for them. They love it!

These adorable books can be purchased at a discount at www.guesswhozoo.com

5 Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe

By Eric Long of kidsport GPS (www.kidsportgps.com)

 

lostAccording to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 800,000 children are reported missing each year. That’s over 2,000 a day. Shocking, isn’t it?

When I was a kid, my friends and I spent our hours after school meandering the neighborhood. Mom and Dad had no idea where I was or what I was doing. In summer…sun up; I’m gone. I was a racecar pulling in for a PB&J pit stop around noon, and dinner was just a distraction. I was gone for hours upon hours. No big deal. Today? Different world!

My daughter is almost 10. If she is three minutes late from a bike ride, her mom and I are freaking out. We lose sight of her at the park and we panic. On vacation? When I am not playing with her, I am a CIA agent scanning the crowd for suspicious characters.

So how can we keep our kids safe in today’s modern world? No tool or device will keep your kids safe 100% of the time, but here are five things you can do to mitigate the risks:

  1. Family Talk – Take time to talk to your children about safety and abduction prevention. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has an excellent campaign called Take 25 (http://www.take25.org/) that provides free tools such as safety tips, conversation starters, and mini-lessons to help trusted adults begin conversations with children about safety.
  2. ID Card – Create and give each child a laminated ID card with his or her name, date of birth, address, phone numbers, etc. If your child is too young or otherwise unable to speak for him or herself, consider writing the information somewhere on his or her clothing in permanent marker.
  3. Child ID Kit – Prepare an ID kit for each child in the event that he or she is missing. The kit should include a physical description (nickname, date of birth, height, weight, gender, fingerprints, hair and eye colors, etc.), any identifying features (glasses, braces, scars, birthmarks, piercings, etc.), any medical information (conditions, disorders, diseases, medications, etc.), and, most importantly, an up-to-date, good quality digital photo. Be sure to take your kits with you on trips and vacations.
  4. Emergency Hot Spots – Whether you are at a playground, amusement park, ski slope, vacation resort, or any crowded location, always identify the nearest help and information centers, emergency stations, and police posts. Inform your children where to go and what to do in case of an emergency or if they get lost.
  5. kidsport GPS Tracking Device –The kidsport GPS band is a GPS tracking device developed specifically for kids that allows parents to locate their kids on their cell phones, iPads or computers. It will be available this fall, but families can pre-order now. To find out more, visit www.kidsportGPS.com.

No parent I know can imagine what it is like to have a child go missing. It is our greatest fear. But by educating a children and taking safety precautions, we can help reduce the chances of that ever happening. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com) has a lot of excellent information on child safety and what you can do as a parent or guardian.

safetytatAnother great tool My Good Parenting found is a product called SafetyTat. They are fun and functional temporary tattoos that detail emergency info.  SafetyTats read ‘If Lost, Please Call’ and list a parent or guardian’s mobile phone number. Designed to be worn on a child’s arm or hand, SafetyTats are easy to apply and are perfect for amusement parks, water parks, shopping at a crowded mall, or even while traveling through a busy airport. It is a great solution for small children that cannot carry around an ID card and cannot remember this important information. www.SafetyTat.com