December 25, 2011

A Christmas Memory

Growing up on the farm in Kansas, Santa would visit our home while my family was attending a worship service on Christmas Eve. The year I was four, after opening all our gifts, there was a knock at the door. My father opened the door and in walked Santa Claus!

After handing each of my family members an orange from his bag, he approached me to wish me Merry Christmas while giving me a hug and a kiss. His breath smelled of alcohol and he was wearing bright red lipstick. After he left, I noticed he had gotten lipstick all over the hair and face of my brand new doll. I spent the rest of Christmas Eve crying while my mother tried unsuccessfully to remove the lipstick.

It wasn't until I was a teenager that I learned the identity of Santa. He was the owner of the only restaurant in town and before he traveled the community that Christmas Eve, he had indulged in a few too many drinks. Mr. Blaske passed away many years ago but I will forever have a wonderful memory of the Christmas Eve I had a visit from Santa.

December 19, 2011

Awaiting the Holidays

As Christmas looms closer, your children may be bouncing off the walls in anticipation of holiday preparations, parties and the gifts they hope to receive. Even though they are exhibiting happy energy it can get out of hand.

An over-eager child might break ornaments while helping decorate the tree. They might drop the plate of cookies you baked for the neighbors or give away secrets about what's in the packages.

Here are some suggestions for how to get things under control without curbing your child's excitement.

* Write down on the family calendar when special events will occur. This eliminates your child continually asking when events will occur.

* Even with all the extra events, keep your child's routine as consistent as possible.

* Enlist your child to help with gift wrapping, making place cards for the family dinner or even helping clean the house in preparation for guests.

* Suggest they play a board game or other quiet activity. This will have a calming effect and bring their excitement level down a notch.

By helping your child find ways to channel all of their holiday excitement, things in your house will be much more manageable.

December 15, 2011

Lasting Impressions

Can you list the gifts you gave or received two years ago? How about last year? It's not so easy to do is it?

We go in search of the perfect gifts each holiday season. Maybe expensive gifts are not the ones that have the most significance. Maybe something simple or handmade will make a greater impact upon the recipient. Quite often a child will have more fun with the box and packaging peanuts his gift came in than he will have with the electronic toy that's inside.

Here are some gift suggestions for young children:

* Buy a book and record yourself reading it. Wrap up the book with the recording for a special, one of a kind gift.

* Create a coupon for a special time for just you and the child. Choose an activity they would enjoy doing and include an object that symbolizes the time.  Could be a puzzle, the ingredients to make cookies, a new board game.

* Make home play-dough (recipe) and include cookie cutters, plastic knives, craft sticks and a six inch length of a 1 inch diameter dowel for a rolling pin. Put the kit inside a cake pan with a lid.

Simple gifts can create the fondest of memories.

December 13, 2011

De-Stress the Holidays

You're trying to wrap gifts, address holiday cards and bake cookies for the neighbors. When you add all of these tasks into the mix of your usual household tasks it can certainly be overwhelming. You might find yourself with little patience and feeling short-tempered. If you have children, they're probably picking up on your tension and reacting in inappropriate ways.

Resorting to telling them they'll be on Santa's naughty list might not be effective. There are some simple things you can do to ease the tension.

* Enlist your children to stuff envelopes and put stamps on holiday cards.

* Have them help bake cookies. They can stir in chocolate chips and add sprinkles.

* Involve them in wrapping gifts. Just be sure to have an extra roll of tape on hand because kids love to play with it.

* When a squabble breaks out, start singing a holiday song. What child can resist a chorus of Jingle Bells?

* At the end of a hectic day gather your children on your lap and read a cherished holiday story.

What strategies do you use to deal with holiday stress?

December 5, 2011

Uncertain What Toys to Buy?

A father recently told me that his young daughter brought him a toy saying it didn’t work and could he put new batteries in it. Upon realizing the toy was not battery powered he took a closer look at the toys his children play with. Until that close examination he realized he wasn’t fully aware of how many of the toys his children own and that only a handful don’t require batteries. He shared with me that if he could go back a few years he would buy more toys for his children that don’t rely on batteries to play with them.

Technology has become a big part of our lives and it's no different for children. We can’t ignore technology. It’s a part of our lives and our children’s lives and it’s not going away. I encourage parents to balance out the number of electronic toys they give their children with open-ended toys that encourage creativity and imagination and don’t require a scripted way to use them.

If you're purchasing toys for children this holiday season I'd like you to consider the following:

Blocks, Lego's, Tinker Toys, and Lincoln Logs. Traditional board games such as
Checkers, Chess, Candy Land, Connect Four, Trouble, and Jenga.  

Puppets, art supplies, puzzles, play dough. Think back to the toys of your childhood. Which ones bring back memories? Chances are your child would probably enjoy those same toys.

Once your child has opened their gift, get down on the floor and play with them. You'll be creating new holiday memories for both you and your child.

December 1, 2011

Pam's Parenting Tip of the Month

Managing Potty Training Resistance

Potty training, like eating and sleeping, is truly in the control of your child. All you can do is be supportive and encouraging and set the stage for success. Your child will probably be toilet trained when she is ready, NOT necessarily when you are ready. If your child is three to three and a half years old and you're meeting up with a lot of resistance it's time to re-examine the situation.

Reasons for resistance:

  • Being afraid to sit on the potty
  • A flushing toilet may have scared him 
  • Being pushed too early or fast before he was ready
  • Punishment for not using the potty or being forced to sit on the potty
  • Inconsistent training, especially among different caregivers
  • May have had a painful bowel movement from being constipated
  • May be stubborn and involved in a power struggle with parents
  • May enjoy the negative attention from not using the potty or from having accidents
 How to prevent resistance:
  • Make him responsible for using the potty
  • Don't punish for mistakes
  • Don't remind him to use the potty 
Potty training is a big process. Some experts feel that it is the first and biggest developmental step your child will take. Have patience with the process and trust your child to help lead the way.

November 28, 2011

The Marshmallow Test

In an experiment, young children were offered either one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows later, which might determine if these kids will be successful later in life.

November 20, 2011

Is Your Child ALWAYS Seeking Your Attention?

Children want and need attention and they will do anything to get it. Quite often they’re most in need of attention when you’re in the middle of something important.

Dr. Garry Landreth is known for his writing and work in promoting play therapy. He suggests that when a child needs your attention you stop what you're doing and give him a "Thirty Second Burst of Attention."

Let’s say you’re on the phone with your friend Brenda and your son approached you saying “Mom, Mom, Mom!” He’s tugging on your pants leg and jumping up and down. Your usual reaction is probably shaking your head at him while mouthing the words, “Not now! I’m busy! Go play!”
What if instead you said, "Excuse me for thirty seconds, Brenda.” You put down the phone, got down on your son's level and said, "I have thirty seconds to listen. What do you need to tell me?" As he shares with you his enthusiasm over the dead bug he found, nod your head to communicate that you’re listening and that you care about what he is saying. At the end of thirty seconds you say, "John, thanks for sharing that with me. Now I'm going to finish my conversation with Brenda."

Your child’s need for attention would have been satisfied in thirty seconds. Thirty seconds! That’s not too much of a hardship on your time is it?

When I suggest this technique to parents they usually ask me, “Do you give only one thirty second burst? What if they keep bugging you?” Gently tell them you need to finish what you were doing. Remind them that you listened to them, and when you are finished with your current task, you can spend time with them again. As a general rule of thumb, when you give a child undivided attention, even as little as thirty seconds, it will meet their immediate need for attention.

Have you tried giving your child a thirty second burst of attention? Did it work? I'd enjoy hearing your comments.

November 16, 2011

Power Play

I love to watch children play. As a play therapist, play is an integral part of my work. I'm always searching for toys to add to my play therapy room, so it's not unusual to find me wandering the toy aisles at discount department stores.

On a recent toy shopping excursion, I found myself drawn to the superhero aisle. From the top shelf to the bottom shelf  there were superhero action figures, sports balls, board games, battery-powered toys and costumes. In the electronics department were several superhero movies. The clothing department featured children's T-shirts, shoes, pajamas and even underwear containing images of superheroes.

What is it about a superhero that children find so appealing? Perhaps it's the extraordinary power of a superhero or the fact that superheroes triumph over villains. Maybe it's the distinctive costumes they wear. No matter which of those characteristics attract a child's attention, children will imitate superheroes.

Children will also imitate their parents. Realizing your child is watching you and imitating you can lead to a greater awareness of the behaviors you are modeling. That awareness can lead to intentional behaviors. I wonder what might transpire if a parent intentionally strived to become their child's superhero?

Yes, I know parents are busy, but if Clark Kent finds the time to sneak away from his daily commitments and transform into Superman, surely parents can take 15 minutes out of their day to don a costume, assume extraordinary powers and engage their child in some superhero play.

Imagine the adventures that await you. Together you and your child can invent your own superhero names and create an insignia. The next time your child is facing a challenge, grab your capes (it can be as simple as towels tied around your necks), put your hands on your hips, jut out your chests and morph into your superhero persona's.

Imagine you are soaring above the challenge. Encourage your child to come up with a solution to his problem by using his super powers. By letting him assume the responsibility for making a decision, he will begin to feel powerful. A child who feels powerful will find the courage to face a challenging situation, and his problem will feel less daunting.

I know what some parents are thinking. You're concerned that once your child starts leaping around the house pretending to be a superhero, things will get out of hand, furniture will be broken and maybe a trip to the emergency room will be necessary.

Allow me to lessen your fear. When you're participating in the play, you can direct it and set the rules. If your child becomes overly aggressive, you can stop the play. By engaging your child in superhero play, you will be teaching him the importance of boundaries, cooperative play and of working together to solve problems.

Superhero play can encourage creativity in your child. Make your own costumes and props. An empty cardboard box could become your fortress or your cave. Write a superhero story with your child in which the two of you are the main characters. Your superhero characters not only could be powerful, they also could possess traits of being kind and helpful.

Illustrate your story using photos of you and your child in your superhero costumes. Go a step further and use a video camera to film a superhero movie starring you and your child. Make some popcorn and invite other family members to movie premiere night.

Children need heroes in their lives. What parent wouldn't want to be their child's superhero? I think it's something that is certainly worth donning a cape.