May 31, 2012

“How Will You Entertain the Kids This Summer?”

School’s out and the kids are home. Even though they might be attending camp, VBS or playing organized sports there will come a day when you will hear those dreaded words, “I’m bored!”  Structured activities are good for kids but they need to be balanced with unstructured play time. Toys and materials that are open-ended and can be played with in a variety of ways encourage kids to be creative and imaginative. 

Head to your local dollar store and for less than ten dollars pick up a few supplies that will keep the kids busy this summer. I suggest the following: Sand buckets, sidewalk chalk, paint brushes, funnels, bubbles, a jump rope and a hula hoop.

Sidewalk chalk can be used to draw self-portraits or a hopscotch outline. Once the driveway is full of masterpieces grab a garden hose, and let the kids hose off the driveway. This is also a good time for them to wash their bikes and trikes. 

Fill a sand bucket with water and use an adult-sized paint brush to paint the sidewalk, the house or the lawn furniture.  Fill two buckets with water and use a scoop and funnels to move water from one bucket to another.

Make an obstacle course using lawn chairs, bikes, jump ropes and hula hoops. A fun physical activity can get kids away from the TV and video games and get their hearts pumping.  Have a contest to see how fast they can run the course. 

Don’t forget to take photos. On a rainy day the kids can put those photos into a scrapbook or album as a reminder of their fun and active summer.

May 5, 2012

Practical Advice for Parents About Bullying

Bullying is getting a lot of attention. There is so much information about bullying that it can be hard for parents to sort through it and make sense of it all. I was a recent guest during the 4pm news on KSDK offering insights and advice for parents about bullying.

It's important to have frequent conversations with your child about their day and what happens at school. If you keep communication open between you and your child they're more likely to come to you with their problems.

Watch TV and movies with your child and use situations presented to discuss the problems and how to solve them. Inquire if they've experienced something like this or have seen it happen to others. Let them know that if they're bullied or see it happen to someone else they should tell you, a teacher or another trusted adult.

Involving children in activities, clubs and organizations helps them build self confidence and provides opportunities for them to interact with their peers and develop friendships. Children who are self confident and have friends are less likely to become victims of bullying.

May 1, 2012

Rituals Give Hope, Add Dimension to Family Life

If you're a parent, I suspect you can remember saying, "If we can just get the baby out of diapers, things will be so much easier." Perhaps you were a stay-at-home mom who uttered to herself more than once, "I cannot wait until the kids are in school all day."

Fast forward fifteen years. Your baby turns 16 and he has a driver's license. You wish he were still driving his Cozy Coupe around the cul-de-sac.  

Fast-forward another five years. Your   daughter turns 21 and she stays out all night partying with friends. You get misty-eyed remembering when she used to toddle around the house and take afternoon naps.

You ask yourself where the years went. What you wouldn't give to sit in your grandmother's rocking chair and sing your son to sleep one more time. You rummage through a stack of old VHS tapes in search of the one with the footage of your daughter getting on the school bus for her first day of kindergarten.

Parenting is a journey full of momentous occasions. Some of them are happy, some are sad and some are bittersweet. Moments don't have to end. As a parent, you can keep these moments alive by establishing family rituals.

For my son's first birthday, I bought a personalized audio cassette of a space creature singing Happy Birthday greetings to him from the moon. Every year on his birthday -- he's now had 23 of them -- that audio cassette awakens him only now he hears it via phone instead of outside his bedroom door. He grumbles about how juvenile it is, but I suspect he would be disappointed if one year I didn't play that birthday greeting for him at the crack of dawn.

I always insisted my children eat dinner before they would go trick-or-treating on Halloween. I suppose the maternal side of me was convinced that dinner would cancel out the sugary treats they would be enjoying later that evening. The year my children were 2 and 4, I made Sloppy Joes and served them with barbecued potato chips and dill pickle spears. It was an easy dinner to prepare, and one they could eat quickly before heading out the door. I've made that same meal every Halloween for the past twenty plus years. My children are no longer around to enjoy it so I send them a text message with a photo attached of this year's Sloppy Joe dinner. 
Each year on the first day of school, I would position my children on the front porch. With their new lunch box in one hand and their new backpack in the other, I would snap a photo that would go into the family photo album. The day I overheard my two teenagers flipping through a photo album, talking and laughing about those first-day-of-school photos, I paused, smiled and told myself that this moment is what parenting is all about.

Rituals can be serious. They can be funny. Rituals build memories that last forever. In times of stress or sadness, they can provide hope. Rituals give us something to look forward to. By incorporating rituals into your family life you will be adding another dimension to your parenting journey. Now sit back and enjoy the ride.