Cabin Fever Musts

When it comes to cold weather, staying inside seems like the best option when littles are present…especially newborns. The weather has been unbelievably cold in Ohio this winter and leaving the house just isn’t doable…nor am I excited to do so. I would have to get 3 kids bundled tightly, spend 30 minutes loading them into the car and getting them buckled into their carseats, etc. In other words, no thank you! LOL

Since leaving when it is so cold is out of the question, we have hunkered down and made “cabin fever” more of a challenge to conquer in our household. Here are some things we hav done to “entertain” the boredom that can sometimes come with cabin fever.

  1. Play board games
  2. Break out the Play-Doh
  3. Bake cookies
  4. Put the bounce house in the basement and let the kids jump
  5. Bring snow into the house and experiment with it (make mini snowmen, use food coloring to mix primary colors to see which contrary colors are created.
  6. Make crafts
  7. Play Hide-and-go-Seek
  8. Make blanket forts
  9. Play Barbies and Dolls
  10. Clean-Clean out toy bins, dresser drawers, etc.
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The Facts On Becoming Babywise

I know for me and my household, getting the baby to sleep through the night as early as possible is KEY to everyone being happy and content on a daily basis. That being said, I have incorporated the book On Becoming Babywise into my parenting style. For the first 2 kiddos, it worked like a charm and they were both sleeping through the night no later than 9 weeks. You heard me right…no later than 9 weeks!!! It was FANTASTIC! It takes work and dedication but by following the “rules” laid out for you, you too can have a sleeping baby in no time. With my third, we are starting the implementation process this week and I plan on documenting how it goes throughout the sleeping journey.

Sometimes when we start something new, it’s difficult to know where exactly to begin and what exactly to expect. After reading On Becoming Babywise, my husband and I knew we wanted to sleep-train using Babywise, but translating written content into real life application involves a learning curve. I wanted to give you a run-down of what this process looks like.

1. Mentally prepare before the baby is born.

As a basic first step, read On Becoming Babywise as a couple and then talk about it together. When both parents are on board, everything runs more smoothly. Here are a few things I try to remind myself, when sleep-training…

  • Babies will likely start sleeping longer stretches around 3-4 months.
  • Troubleshooting at various points throughout the process is normal!
  • Stay committed! You will see results!
  • It is always okay to make modifications!
  • Set the foundation! It will have positive lasting effects in the future months and years to come!

2. Start the basics at birth.

If you need to get acclimated for a few weeks before starting the basics that is 100% okay. Don’t stress! I was a nervous, anxious wreck that I wasn’t doing everything right from the beginning. It was a total waste of energy. The first few weeks won’t make or break the future. Start as soon as you mentally feel ready.

Set a morning wake up time and a bedtime. We want to set the baby’s internal clock to encourage consistent night time sleep. It’s most common to see a 7 am wake time and a 7 pm bedtime. In a newborn, you may have a slightly later bedtime for a short while to help fit in enough feedings. After a few months, bedtime can usually be moved to an earlier time.

Create a basic routine for your day. Using the wake, eat, sleep cycle, fill in your approximate times for feedings and naps. In the beginning we are all likely on an approximate 2.5 hour to 3 hour schedule. If you set a wake time and a bedtime, it’s easy to fill in the middle.

Start a pre-sleep ritual. A 5 minute pre-nap routine and a 30 minute before-bedtime routine is simple, practical and easy to use. A pre-nap ritual could include swaddling the baby, sitting for a bit, singing a short song, and saying your sleepy words (e.g. I love you. I hope you have a good sleep, and I will see you when you wake up). A before-bedtime routine could include a bath, soft music, reading a short story, nursing the baby, and saying your sleepy words. Do what works for you.

Don’t let naps get too long. Sleeping too long of a stretch during the day can rob nighttime sleep. Limit naps to approximately 2 hours during the day. If the baby sleeps past the two hour mark, it is absolutely okay to wake a sleeping baby. If you feel the baby truly needs longer naps, feel free to make adjustments and increase the nap limit to 2.5 hours.

Swaddle. From birth to about age four to five months, a baby possesses the startle reflex, in which the baby actually feels as if he is falling. The sensation of falling causes jerking movements, and the baby will inadvertently wake up. Keeping a tight swaddle prevents babies from startling awake, helping the baby sleep both better and longer.

Create a good sleep environment. Dimming the room by closing the blinds or curtains is great a great place to start. Using a small fan or white noise machine in the room is also helpful if your baby struggles to sleep through noise.

Encourage full feedings. When the baby eats a full meal, it will be easier to make it to the next feeding time. It is also easier for the baby to complete a full nap without waking early due to hunger.

Dreamfeed. Before going to bed, we can pick the baby up without really waking him and give an additional feeding. The dream feed helps prevent the baby from waking up shortly after we moms go to sleep.

3. Start laying the baby down awake…

When you lay the baby down awake, there will likely be some crying involved. Crying should be in no way extreme or long in duration. If your baby is struggling to fall asleep on his own, reassurance and support from mom or dad is really important. Allowing your baby to become very drowsy, yet slightly awake can really help with this process. If your baby is fussing for a long time, it can frequently be attributed to overtired or over-stimulation but there are many other disruptions that may be the culprit.

It is common for Babywise parents to start somewhere in the birth to 2 month window. It isn’t necessary to choose before the baby is born; it’s okay to get to know the baby and start when you instinctively think it is best. We started at age 3.5 weeks.

Lay the baby down for a nap after meeting all of the baby’s needs (fed, changed, etc) and the baby has been awake for a bit and the baby is showing sleepy cues (i.e. a yawn, a fuss, or an eye rub). When my daughter was getting close to a nap, I would keep stimulation to a minimum. Sometimes I would just walk her around the house for a bit and hum softly.

Then I would take her to her room, close the curtains, place her in her sleep sack or swaddle, turn on the white noise, and hold her for a few minutes. Next, I would say her Sleepy Words…something like ‘I love you. I hope you have a good sleep. I’ll see you when you wake up.’ Then we would pray.

And finally, I would lay her down. On average, she would fuss from 0-10 minutes. Of course, some days she didn’t fuss at all and some days she fussed for longer. We stayed very, very consistent. And by 3 months there was no fussing before naps or bedtime at all, unless something was off such as travel or overtired or overstimulated.

You can also try ‘shush-pat’: I originally tried ‘Shush-pat’ method from the Baby Whisperer book. After preparing the baby for sleep, you can make a gentle shushing sound and pat your baby’s back while you are holding him. Then lay your baby down drowsy, but awake and continue shushing and pat his side or chest until he falls asleep. This is a great method to help your baby get used the crib.

4. Consistency is key.

This is so important. I stayed home for a few short weeks once I started to set the foundation and provide my daughter the opportunity to get the hang of it very quickly. This also prevents the baby from falling asleep in your arms or the car when you are out, allowing us to stay on schedule at least until the foundation is set. After the initial two week period, I got a little more adventurous with leaving the house. We can’t stay inside forever, right?!

Beginning to sleep-train using Babywise does involve some work, but the fruits of your labor will undoubtedly pay off. She started sleeping 10+ hours through the night at around two and a half months, which at the time, was a much welcomed change. I hemmed and hawed for a little while about letting go of the night feedings. All babies will regress at some point (i.e. teething, growth spurts, and beyond), and you will be awake during the night feeding the baby once again. In the meantime, it’s okay to give yourself permission to get some much needed rest.




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Sensory for the Sensory Kid

I have written it before and if you have followed along with my family’s story, you know that we have a 3 year old daughter who struggles with a sensory processing disorder. We have spent HOURS figuring out her quirks, what works for her, how to best support her and what to do next to continue her “therapy” at home.

We have discovered that what makes her tick is sensory overload. She LOVES wrestling with her daddy, getting involved in an art project, reading books that have lift the flaps or touch pages, submerging herself into sensory bins, etc. It’s her thing…the thing that makes her tick. My point is that every child is different and their sensory needs may be different than another child’s. It is important to diagnose the issue at hand and best conquer it using the resources at your fingertips.

The amazing thing about sensory is that every kid has a sensory input and output “need” so even if  your child is “normal” (whatever that is…normal is a term that describes no one), they can benefit from sensory play.

Here is a list of things you can try with a child who suffers from SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder):





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How Much to Allow a Child to Dictate the Day

Who is in the driver’s seat in the house? Is it you? Your child(ren)? Sometimes balance can be tricky…especially when it comes to  a child with disabilities. Balance is one thing every parent strives to conquer and usually fails before getting it right.

As parents, we tell our children what to do. It is our job to set limits and boundaries, and teach them how to behave and be respectful. I would imagine I bark orders at my kids at least 20 times a day: “Be nice to your sister.” “Get dressed.” “Sit up.” “Chew with your mouth closed.” “Clean up your toys.” These are just a few of the everyday utterances that leave my mouth.

For the child being on the receiving end, I can imagine how this may get frustrating. Nobody likes someone telling them what to do, and just like us, children have opinions, desires, and needs.

And so the power struggle begins…

My children’s demands constantly tempt me, and I often contemplate how much say they are allowed to have: Should they get to choose what they want to wear in the morning, or do I? Should they get to pick what they want to eat for dinner, causing me to cook two or even three different meals? If they don’t want to do a planned activity, such as going to a soccer practice or friend’s house to play, do I give in to their request?

Most of the time society tells us that as parents, we are in charge and need to maintain authority within the family. But I’ve noticed an epidemic of children acting entitled and disrespectful towards their parents, teachers, and coaches. I’ve also noticed that most children don’t just automatically respect their elders; instead, elders must earn their respect, which is different than it was generations past.

So how do we earn our children’s respect? It’s simple—by respecting them. It is important that we truly listen to what our children say, and that we listen to them the same way we listen to our partners and friends. Then, we need to let our children know that we’ve heardwhat they’ve said. That might mean that we repeat it: “I hear that you want to play longer, but it’s time to go.”

Answering a child with, “Because I said so and I am your parent” certainly has a time and place. But if we don’t allow a child to question the world they live in, we may be teaching them not to be curious. When we disregard our children’s feelings, or tell them we don’t care what they think, we may be sending a message to be silent. In the moment it can be effective, but the long-term impact may be that we raise our children not to speak up when they are bullied, assaulted, or mistreated. We may be raising young adults who do not have the resources to speak out for what they believe in, because we never gave them the chance. We may be raising adults who cannot resolve a conflict because they are too frightened to speak their mind.

As parents, we must teach children to trust themselves, and to do this, we have to validate their voice. That doesn’t necessarily mean giving in to their every wish and demand. We all want what’s best for our children. We all try to do the best job we can. Ultimately, we will never be perfect.

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The Art of Bedtime Routines

If your household is anything like our household, then your household thrives on repeating solid routines to make things run smoothly.  In fact, all the research suggests that bedtime routines work best if you reserve the hour before bedtime for quiet play. It lowers your child’s activity level and prepare his nervous system for relaxation. Roughhousing, running, playing tickling games, and even watching action-packed TV shows or videos make peaceful transition to sleep especially difficult. Here are just a few of our “musts” when it comes to bedtime:

    • Set a specific time and stick to it. Your child’s body clock will adjust much more quickly to the routine if the routine follows a natural and consistent pattern.
    • Give a warning. Just before bedtime, give your child advance notice that the day is winding down. Your child may be too young to judge time yet, so saying something like “five more minutes” is not likely to be understood. Instead teach your child by association. Begin the first part of your routine — running the bath water, putting the toys away, or however your particular routine begins to signal the start of the wind down. Some parents signal impending bedtime with the ringing of a kitchen timer for five minutes; the child learns that the sound means bedtime. This allows an impersonal third party to announce bedtime and reduces the desire to complain, since even a toddler knows that you can’t argue with a machine.
    • Offer a snack. A light snack that includes both protein and carbohydrates — for example, a small piece of cheese and one half slice of whole-wheat bread — will induce sleep and help her stay asleep through the night. The carbohydrates make her sleepy, and the protein will help keep her blood sugar level on an even keel until breakfast. Be sure to brush her teeth after she eats.
    • Give your child a warm bath. By raising your baby’s body temperature slightly, you’ll make him more prone to sleepiness. Also, playing with his bath toys allows him to relax.
    • Get dressed for bed. Choose comfortable, non-binding pajamas, that are neither too warm nor too light.
    • Read a favorite story to your child. This is a particularly comforting routine for your toddler, particularly if it’s a favorite story that’s associated with bedtime, such as “Goodnight Moon.”
    • Make sure your child has a friend to sleep with. A favorite doll or teddy bear provides comfort. Our girls LOVE sleeping with stuffed animals so they are allowed to choose 5 to sleep with each night. That is something you could adjust for what fits with your child’s age and your comfort level.
    • Limit or eliminate bottles. If your child needs a bottle to fall asleep, make sure it contains only water. Milk, formula, or juice can pool around her teeth causing cavities, even in infants.
    • Keep last “goodnights” brief. Say “goodnight” when it’s time for you to leave the room and try not to come back if your child calls for you. This sounds harsh, but if you keep coming into the room you will have taught your child that “If I call to Mommy, she’ll come back.” Kids learn how to “condition” parents very quickly! Any hesitations on our part may be picked up by your child as an indication that maybe you really aren’t serious about this bedtime business and if she yells loudly enough you’ll come back and play some more.

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Sibling Rivalry

The excitement when I found out our youngest was a girl and would be the little sister to our sweet 2.5 year old daughter was just overwhelming. I was excited for them to be the best of friends like my sister and I. They would play dolls together, have sweet tea parties, run around together, etc. Life would be grand as sisters.

Then reality set in about 12 months in. Our girls are complete opposites and getting them to play together is like oil and water. NOT the vision I had in my mind the day our second was born. In fact, it has been a struggle to teach them how to get along and understand each others’ differences since pretty much day one.

I could stop trying to get them a better understanding one another and let them disagree on EVERYTHING…or I could seek the advice of others that have been in the same boat I am in now. I truly believe it takes a village.  That being said, I of course, did my research and have been implementing some key strategies throughout our day to make life and relationships a bit more “loving.”

Here are some tips I have found helpful in our household and maybe you will as well:

1. Make friends before birth. Get your older child acquainted with the new baby before birth. Show her pictures of a baby growing in mommy’s belly. Let her pat the baby beneath the bulge, talk to baby, and feel baby kick.

2. Make the older sibling feel important. Savvy visitors who themselves have survived sibling rivalry will bring along a gift for the older child when visiting the new baby. In case this doesn’t happen, keep a few small gifts in reserve for the older sib when friends lavish presents and attention on the new baby. Let her be the one to unwrap the baby gifts and test the rattles. Give your child a job in the family organization. To pull the child out of the “I want to be a baby, too” belief, play up her importance to you, personally and practically. Give her a job title, such as “mommy’s helper.”

3. Time share. What bothers children most is sharing you with the new baby. Since the concept of sharing is foreign to the child under three (as mom is their most important “possession”), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sell the child on the concept of sharing mother. It sounds good to say that you’ll give your older child equal amounts of your time, but in practice that’s unrealistic and unnecessary. New babies require a lot of maintenance, and you don’t have 200 percent of yourself to give. Be creative when trying to take care of baby and give time to the older siblings all at once.

4. Stay positive. Promoting sibling harmony requires a bit of parental marketing. You may think that your older child should be thrilled to have gained a live-in friend, but children are often preoccupied with what they’ve lost. They’re not so keen on sharing their toys, their room, and most importantly, their parents with someone else. Turn this around to help the normally egocentric child to imagine, “what’s in it for me?” Use the term “special time.” (You’ll get a lot of marketing mileage out of the word “special.”) The attention your child apparently has lost from mom, he gains from dad. Arrange a lot of one-on-one outings for your older child, such as time at the park and the ice cream store, so the child realizes that even though he’s lost some time with mom, he’s gets more special time with dad, grandparents, or other caregivers.

5. Begin the day in harmony. If possible, start most days with “special time” with your toddler. Sometimes starting the day with twenty minutes of intensive care—holding time—with your toddler can ward off angry feelings in the toddler toward the new baby and is a good investment in the rest of the day.

6. Raise sensitive sibs. It’s hard to hate and hit a person you care about and who cares about you. You can nurture patterns of life-long friendship among your children by helping them find constructive ways to be sensitive to each other. Learning to live with a sib is a child’s first lesson in getting along with other children. Early in our parenting career, we realized that the parent’s role in promoting sibling harmony is as a facilitator, one who doesn’t do things directly for the children, but rather sets conditions that foster a compatible relationship between them. Your job is not to control how siblings relate, but rather to shape these relationships.

  • Sib in charge. If your children are several years apart, give the older child some supervised responsibility for the younger one. This will motivate the older brother or sister to care, and the younger sib will sense this. Even a toddler can gently hold and pat the tiny baby under supervision.
  • Sib as comforter. When one child was hurt, we would ask one of our other children to help attend to the injury. We would give our assistant a job title: “Dr. Erin, you hold Matthew’s leg while I wrap it” or “Please put the bandage on Lauren’s cut.” The “doctor” would most likely muster up compassion for the “patient.” It’s hard to hate the hand that comforts you.
  • Sib as minister. In our family, if one child was either physically or emotionally hurt, the others were encouraged to offer comfort to ease the pain. We called this practice “laying on of hands.” The sib under pressure (whether it be an upcoming test, or an emotional or physical hurt) would sit in the middle of the group while the rest of us would place a hand on him and pray for his comfort in a calming way. When our seventh child, Stephen, was born, we saw very little sibling rivalry between the rest of the children. Because Stephen was born with Down Syndrome, our children soon learned – because they were taught – that Stephen had special needs and he needed a special kind of brotherly and sisterly love.
  • Sib as teacher. Encourage your child to teach a skill he is proficient at to his sibling. For example, we got our son Matthew, an avid baseball player, to show his brother Stephen how to hit and catch a ball. And now, years later, Stephen can play ball well with typical boys his age.
  • Sibs as co-workers. Assign children tasks that require cooperation and motivate them to work together: “Matthew, would you and Erin please clean up the garage? If you two hurry, we can finish soon enough to catch an afternoon movie!” If the siblings are born with clashing personalities, the adult monitor should keep a “bossy-submissive” relationship from developing.
  • Sibs as co-sleepers. Parents in our practice have told us that children who sleep together at night usually play more peacefully together during the day. That has also been our experience.
  • Sib as entertainer. If you have a born clown, capitalize on that asset and encourage the clown to entertain the other sibling, such as the older child humoring the toddler while you get something done.

7. Set limits. Sometimes you’re too tired to play amateur psychologist and you just want to click into your police mode. Do it and don’t worry about permanently damaging your child’s psyche. Give clear messages about how you expect your kids to behave toward one another before arguments become a way of life. Offer calm verbal reminders: “That’s a put-down,” as one sib belittles the other. Or, issue a look that says “don’t even think about it!” Head off fights at the first squabble, before they get out of hand. Be watchful for aggressor- victim roles. Your job is to protect your children, even from one another. How siblings behave toward one another is their first social lesson in how to behave in a group. In our family, we have set certain “maximum allowable limits”, which are behaviors that we insist upon to like living with our children, and the children are taught to respect these.

8. Hold family meetings.

9. Humor is the best medicine. Humor disarms and catches children by surprise, so that they can see how insensitive their actions are toward one another.

10. Foster a team spirit. We often took our children with us on family trips. They soon learned that with privileges come responsibilities, so they learned how to act in a group. The home and family is the first social relationship that kids learn. They learned how people treat people and that everyone in that group has individual rights. They developed a group sensitivity, which is an important tool for life. In fact, disciplining siblings is really giving them the tools to succeed in life.

11. Promote empathy. Disciplining siblings is giving them the tools to succeed in life, and one of the most important tools that has life-long social implications is the quality of empathy. This is another way of stating the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Help your children learn how to get behind the eyes of another person and think first how their behavior is going to affect that other person. We want our children to think through what they’re about to do. A lack of empathy is the hallmark of sociopathic relationships between adult siblings.

12. Promote gender sensitivity.

13. Ignore smallies; address biggies. For smallies, such as toy squabbles, teach children to handle it themselves. Simply state the consequences and what you expect, “I’ll be back in one minute. If you kids haven’t learned how to share the toy or work it out, the toy goes in the garage.” You can either time-out the toy or time-out the kids. You’re giving them two messages: you expect them to be able to work it out themselves, but you’re giving them the unequivocal consequences that if they don’t, you will. Children expect parental guidance, as if wanting adults to protect them from being like, well, kids. Biggies are put-downs, or one child victimizing the other. In these situations, children need you to monitor put-downs. If you don’t, you’re not doing your job. By remaining silent, the victim concludes you’re siding with the victimizer. Some sibling squabbles seem to be a right of passage. Children practice on each other, especially when they’re bored. They feel, “We need some action here. Let’s stir things up.” This can lead to the older child goading the younger one, though oftentimes the younger sib becomes the pest and instigator, as if child number two has to try just a little harder.

14. Children do not have to be treated equally. While children are created equally, it’s impossible to treat them that way all the time. It took us several children to discover this fact of large family life. In their desire to prevent sibling squabbles, parents strive to do everything the same way for all their children, whether it’s buying pajamas or selecting a college. Children aren’t the same; you don’t need to behave as if they were. Make moment-by-moment decisions and don’t worry about the long-term consequences if you give one child more strokes than the other one day. Shoot for a balanced week, not a balanced day. “Why did Hayden get a new pair of shoes and I didn’t?” quibbled Erin. “Because hers were worn out and you got a new pair of shoes last month.” Yet, we didn’t let Hayden flaunt her prize in front of Erin. Children want to be treated individually, not equally.

Yet, children have an innate sense of fairness, or what they perceive as being fair. Some children are born scorekeepers. If you try to join the game, it will drive you nuts. One evening at dinner two of our score- keeping children counted the number of peas they had been served to be sure they got an equal number. After that, we let them serve themselves. If they wanted to go through this ridiculous exercise, that was their choice, but we weren’t going to join in this draining game. If a treat needs to be divided, we let one child divide the treat, while the other one gets first choice. As much as you can, try to divide chores equally among children according to their ages and capabilities, yet don’t beat yourself up trying to be 100 percent fair. You can’t be.

Remember, you are preparing your children for life, and life does not treat people fairly and equally. “Daddy, why do I have to go to bed at 9:00 o’clock when Erin gets to stay up until 10 o’clock?” “Because you need more sleep.” Children don’t seem to grumble when they sense the fairness of your decisions. Explain that children get different privileges and more responsibilities as they get older. They can look forward to growing up. Sometimes group therapy solves the equal-time drama. If we gave every child in our family equal time for a story at bedtime, we’d be reading all night. The older ones soon learn that the younger ones need more nighttime parenting to get them to sleep. If they want the same, they join the family bedtime story. Oftentimes, we would have several kids around the bed to join in the three-year-old’s story.

15. Every child is a favorite. It’s unrealistic for parents to claim they never play favorites. Some parents’ and some childrens’ personalities clash; others mesh. Some children bring out the best in their parents; others push the wrong buttons. The key is to not let your children perceive this as favoritism. Better yet, make them all feel special. If your child asks you a question, “Who do you love more – me or Matthew?” give the politically correct answer – “I love you both in special ways.” Give the comparison that love is like sunshine – sharing the sun doesn’t mean you get less, and our love shines on our children like sunshine. Mention special qualities: “You are my firstborn, and no one else can be my firstborn child” (or second, or first daughter, etc.). Don’t fall into the “who’s best” trap. Children don’t expect you to say who’s better, they are only fishing for reassurance about how you feel about them.

16. Minimize comparisons. This is also the basis for feelings of inferiority, which encourages undesirable behavior among siblings. Praise your child for accomplishments in relation to herself and not in comparison to a sibling. Each child can feel she is special in the eyes of her parents. Children are constantly being compared. Most of their life they will be rated on their performance: grades in school, the batting order on the baseball team, races and games among themselves. The home is the only organization left that values a child for himself and not in comparison with others. So, avoid comments like, “Why can’t you make good grades like your brother?”

17. Referee quarrels. When to step in as a referee and when to remain a bystander is a round-by-round judgment call. Sometimes letting children be children or giving them reminders is all that is necessary. Martha’s immediate fight-stopper is “You’re disturbing my peace.” This works because we have already planted the idea that in crowds (our family qualifies as a crowd) one respects the peace of others. If children are in danger of hurting someone or damaging property, stop the fight. Siblings who are allowed to fight as kids are more likely to fight as adults. Above all, stop sibling abuse – either physical or emotional.

18. When in doubt, intervene. You may hear, “Oh, they’ll just grow out of it!” Both experience and research has shown that without parental guidance, siblings with bad relationships are likely to grow into adults with bad relationships. The more they are allowed to fight as kids, the more likely they are to fight as adults. Being complacent and concluding that the childhood relationship will naturally grow from sour to sweet is being naïve. It doesn’t. The relationship is likely to get more sour when children grow up being deprived of the brotherly and sisterly love that is the birthright of being a brother or sister.

19. Listen to both sides. Children will be both buddies and battlers. We not only need to protect growing bodies from physical abuse, which siblings usually grow out of with few or no lasting scars, but more importantly we need to protect their absorbing minds against emotional abuse —which is more likely to have life-long consequences. Sibling abuse is not to be tolerated. If danger is apparent, remember safety first and psychology second. First, separate the fighters; then instead of being drawn into the shouting match, calm everyone down and put on your home psychology hat on top of your authority hat.

Also, if you sense one child is victimizing another, call a halt. Verbal abuse qualifies as fighting. Be particularly vigilant to prevent emotional scars, which take longer to heal than the physical ones. Show them alternatives ways of handling differences, a valuable lesson for life. Listen to both sides, “He hit me,” “No, he hit me first!” “I hate you!” “I hate you more!” Give your children time and space to vent their anger and frustration before beginning your “therapy.”

Kids are so caught up in their own emotions that they don’t hear what you’re saying. Show you understand both children’s viewpoints and help them hear each other by echoing their feelings, “Bob, you feel like Jim wronged you, and Jim, you feel that Bob is being unfair… This sounds like something both of you can work out. You’re big boys, and I expect you to come out of this bedroom as friends.” At the height of sibling bickering, our children would occasionally remark that we had too many kids. We silenced their complaints with: “Which one of you shouldn’t we have had?”

20. Siblings are forever. As parents of many children we wear many hats – teacher, referee, coach, psychologist, and field-general. Yet, we wear our communications hat to help our children be life-long friends. Sometime during middle childhood (ages 6 through 10), impress upon your children what “brother” or “sister” really means. Children sense that “blood is thicker than water.” Brothers and sisters are a sort of live-in support system. Here’s the message we give our children: “Your brothers and sisters will ultimately be your best friends. Once your other friends have moved or drifted away, your family friends will always be there when you need them. Friends come and go; siblings are forever.”

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Let’s Chat About SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder)

In past blogs I have defined what SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) is and I have also talked about the help that is out there. Today I want to focus on manipulatives that have helped our daughter combat her anxiety and OCD tendencies. Specifically the body therapy sock you see our daughter wearing in the top picture.

I must admit, they are pretty strange looking, but very therapeutic! However, if you are new to these, or just want some additional ideas on how to use them therapeutically, then keep reading  because I have done some research!

The see-through lycra/spandex “body sock” is a movement, proprioceptive, tactile, and deep pressure experience like no other. Perhaps you are wondering what to do with this “odd” looking thing. Oh, that’s easy…just climb in, close it up, and watch your body make shapes you never thought possible (among other uses which will are suggested below).

Second, you can turn the lights off, shine a flashlight (or bigger light) on them, and use the Body Sock to make crazy looking shadows on the wall. Just as you would with your hands, challenge them to use their whole body to create as many shadow animals, shapes, objects, or letters as possible (standing, sitting, or laying down). It is a wonderful creative activity that also benefits the sensory system and body awareness!Because Body Socks are see-through (and breathable by the way), you can have your child do several things. First, place the child in front of a full-length mirror with the body sock on. Have them stretch it into as many shapes as possible using every part of their body, and watch the silly looks they can create. Have them hold each pose for 10 or 15 seconds to increase body awareness, balance, and or proprioception.

Here’s another idea… have relay races with the kids in them, giving them different directions on how to move (i.e. crawl, walk like a penguin, giant steps, baby steps, slither like a snake, commando crawl, hop, jump, etc.).

Why on earth would they do these things, you ask? Most importantly, because it’s FUN! Second, because it sparks creativity and imagination. Third, because it is quite therapeutic and it feels good.

This thing will help a child with sensory processing disorder to work on “position in space” skills. They must kinesthetically feel what their bodies are doing and how they are coordinating their body movements. Watching themselves in a mirror, or creating shadows, will help them develop this proprioceptive sense , which is often dysfunctional in children with sensory processing disorders.

The last critically therapeutic activity the “body sock” provides is heavy work, deep pressure input that is both calming and organizing. Through all of these movement activities in the lycra “body sock”, they will have comfortable, resistive material to push against and have pushing against them. This will benefit both children (or adults) with tactile defensiveness as well as the sensory seeking kids (you know them…the movers, shakers, crashers, endless “energizer bunnies”!)

NOTE: The “body sock” can also be used for sensory overloaded kids or children with Autism, PDD, Aspergers, or ADD/ADHD for a calming, sensory escape! Just let them crawl into it an sit in a quiet room, or in a play tent, tunnel, or play hut , or have them sit on an exercise ball and listen to calming music or watch a favorite movie that relaxes them.

The unique proprioceptive and tactile input children (or adults) experience with the Body Sock is unparalleled! Any child with sensory processing disorders / sensory integration dysfunction can benefit!

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Children’s Mental Health Matters

This May, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Child Mind Institute (CMI) is running its #MyYoungerSelf campaign. The independent non-profit organization that focuses on the mental health of children has made videos of over 30 influential people who have struggled with mental health issues or a learning disorder since childhood. These actors, athletes, politicians and other well-known public figures share their experiences and coping tips to help end the stigma around mental health and to provide encouragement to kids going through similar struggles.

So far, videos of Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Gavin Newsom have been released at SpeakUpForKids.org. The intimate and uplifting videos allow each celebrity to offer the advice they would have given their younger self when they first realized they were struggling.

Other speakers slated to share their stories are Lena Dunham, Michael Phelps, Brandon Marshall, Keke Palmer, Nancy Brinker and Jay Leno. A new video will be released each day throughout the month. The hope is that people will watch the videos then share their own stories on social media with the #MyYoungerSelf hashtag.

So many children struggle with mental health issues and learning disorders; many try to hide them or feel uncomfortable talking about what they’re going through. I love that these videos are opening up the conversation. When you’re a kid who doesn’t feel “normal,” it’s nice to know that someone you look up to has felt the same way.

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Does My Child Have a Developmental Delay?

“He hasn’t rolled over yet?”

“Aren’t kids usually talking by now?”

People may not mean to be insensitive when they ask you questions like these. But it can still be upsetting to see other kids passing milestones before your child does.

Not meeting these types of milestones isn’t always a sign that your child has a developmental delay. If it turns out he does have a delay, however, getting supports and services early may help him catch up more quickly.

Basics About Development and Delays

Kids don’t develop skills on a strict timetable. For example, some babies start walking as young as 9 months, while others don’t take their first steps until 15 months. Both of those babies are within the range of typical development. Those types of short-lived delays—when kids catch up on their own—aren’t usually cause for concern.

But a developmental delay is more than just being “slower to develop” or “a little behind.” It means your child is continually behind in skills other kids his age have.

For example, a baby who isn’t rolling over by 4 months may be just a little behind in that one skill. But if he also isn’t able to hold his head up and push up when lying on his tummy, he’s behind in more than one motor skill. That’s a sign of a developmental delay. (If you’re noticing this in your child, there are many ways to help.)

Five Areas of Skill Development and Possible Delay

A developmental delay can occur in just one area or in a few. A global developmental delay is when kids have delays in at least two areas.

Kids develop skills in five main areas of development:

  1. Cognitive (or thinking) skills: This is the ability to think, learn and solve problems. In babies, this looks like curiosity. It’s how your child explores the world around him with his eyes, ears and hands. In toddlers, it also includes things like learning to count, naming colors and learning new words.
  2. Social and emotional skills: This is the ability to relate to other people such as being able to express and control emotions. In babies, it means smiling at others and making sounds to communicate. In toddlers and preschoolers, it means being able to ask for help, show and express feelings and get along with others.
  3. Speech and language skills: This is the ability to use and understand language. For babies, this includes cooing and babbling. In older children, it includes understanding what’s said and using words correctly and in ways that others can understand.
  4. Fine and gross motor skills: This is the ability to use small muscles, particularly in the hands, and large muscles in the body. Babies use fine motor skills to grasp objects. Toddlers and preschoolers use them to do things like hold utensils, work with objects and draw. Babies use gross motor skills to sit up, roll over and begin to walk. Older children use them to do things like jump, run and climb stairs.
  5. Activities of daily living: This is the ability to handle everyday tasks. For children, that includes eating, dressing and bathing themselves.

There is no one cause of developmental delays, but some risk factors include:

  • Complications at birth: Being born too early (prematurely); low birth weight; not getting enough oxygen at birth.
  • Environmental issues: Lead poisoning; poor nutrition; exposure to alcohol or drugs before birth; difficult family situations; trauma.
  • Other medical conditions: Chronic ear infections; vision problems; illnesses, conditions, or injuries that have a significant and long-term effect on a child’s day-to-day activities.

If your child is showing signs of a developmental delay in any of the areas mentioned above, it is important to get him evaluated by the pediatrician and start interventions as soon as possible for the best possible outcome.

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How “Help Me Grow” Changed Our Lives

When our daughter (Annora) was just 13 months old, I was out of town on a work blitz and my husband was holding down the fort with her. When I returned, he explained to me that she had been doing some strange head thrusts and he wasn’t quite sure what it was. I quickly grabbed our baby girl to embrace her. As I was holding her, sure enough she demonstrated the head thrusts my husband had just described. My heart sank! I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was going on and I did what any momma would do, I frantically called the pediatrician’s office. They directed us to go to the hospital where Annora was admitted for further testing. She was poked, proded, tested, retested, etc. and the tests came inconclusive. We were referred to a developmental pediatricianwho got to the bottom of our daughter’s ailments. She quickly realized that Annora suffered from hypotonia (low muscle tone) and that her iron levels were low as well. She referred us to a GI doctor for peds and also gave us the information for an organization called Help Me Grow.

I reached out to everyone we were referred to right away and contacted Help Me Grow (HMG). I was amazed that HMG came out to our house to initially meet with us and get a feel for what Annora was struggling with. They then set up a day for us to get her tested at their facility. Everything went very quickly and before I knew it, they had an action plan in place for Annora, dates where specialists would come out to our house and meet/work with Annora were set, play groups she could and would be a part of were given to us to take advantage of, allocated money to help with services was provided, and a new friendship with our family emerged.

Amazement at the amount of care we received is a good way to describe it. The ease of having someone else take the reigns and lead our daughter (until she was 3) down a path to success was more than helpful and appreciated. She not only hit milestones that we were worried would take years for her to hit, but she was given the best care we could possibly have provided her through the use of HMG. I feel the need to say this…If you have a child who is suffering in ANY way be it socially, emotionally, physically, developmentally, etc., getting help immediately for him/her is the first step. Ask your pediatrician about HMG and if it is a good fit for your child and your family. It helped our family TREMENDOUSLY with the right care for the need our family had with our daughter.