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Fall Festival Activities

As much as I LOVE summer and all that happens during the summer months, fall has a special place in my heart. I love the leaves changing, the weather getting crisp but not quite bitter and most of all, the festivals. If you haven’t made your way to any this month yet, you’re in luck because there are 2 left that are worth checking out. Unfortunately the end of the month is sooner than later so make sure to check out the following festivals:

1. Erie Orchards Harvest Festival-Saturday, September 23rd

This is a great fall weekend to visit the orchard. The apples are all ripe for picking and the corn maze is open and pony and hayrides for all.  They will have a magic show on Sunday for the children. 

http://www.erieorchards.com/?pg=events

2. Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center Fall Festival

The Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center will host its first Fall Festival on Saturday, September 30, 2017 from 10 AM to 5 PM in the parking lot in front of the Center.

This family-oriented event features:

Children’s games

Both children and adults can make a fairy garden or decorate pumpkins.

Our pumpkin patch will be stocked with both typical and exotic varieties, courtesy of Rupp Seeds.

Food with an autumnal flare will be available from our neighbors at Fowl & Fodder.

The Amazing Eli will conjure up balloon creations from 11 AM until 2 PM.

This year’s main event will be the MEGA Brain, a larger-than-life, inflatable interactive exhibit of the human brain. Visitors will have the chance to learn how the brain works from the inside out and what can happen when the brain is injured. This is a wonderful educational tool for teachers, healthcare professionals, parents, children or anyone that wants to know how the brain works.

Healthcare professionals will also be available to answer questions about brain injury and resources in our community.

We will also be offering fleece mermaid tails for sale. These one-of-a-kind items, crafted by TBI survivors, can be worn for Halloween or used to keep warm while relaxing at home as the evenings turn cooler.

Admission to the event is free. Proceeds from the event benefit the Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center and will help to support the launch of pediatric programming. The event take place under a tent, rain or shine.

https://tbirc.org/index.php/component/content/article?id=122.jpg&Itemid=

 

 

 

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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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Growth Spurts…YIKES!

I don’t know about you, but when our girls are going through a growth spurt, our household is in disarray. In fact, we have started recognizing the “symptoms” of growth spurts so that we can adjust the way we handle certain situations accordingly. The first step though is recognizing them.

Here’s how to recognize your little sprout’s spurt:

 Your baby wants to eat nonstop. If you’ve been breastfeeding every three hours, your baby will now want to belly up to the milk bar every hour or two. That’s just fine. The more often your baby breastfeeds, the more he stimulates milk production to keep up with his growing appetite. Older babies will also want to nurse more and up their intake of the jarred stuff if they’re eating solids.

Your baby will be up more often at night. Even if your baby was sleeping for a blissful five- or six-hour stretch, during a growth spurt he’ll howl for a midnight snack, then one at 2 a.m., and 4 a.m., and so on. You may find your older baby waking up earlier from his naps, too.

Your baby will be crankier than usual. At the breast he’ll be extra fussy, latching and unlatching because he wants more milk right now, and your production might not be up to speed yet. Plus, all those late nights don’t help his mood (or yours!) either.

***Now that you have recognized the spurt and know what to expect, how do you deal with it? Here are some tips that we do in our household that help with this crazy time in life.***

HOW TO DEAL WITH BABY GROWTH SPURTS:

Since you were already struggling to get enough rest or do anything other than feed your baby, it’s extra-exhausting to have a newborn who suddenly treats breastfeeding like a 24-7 all-you-can-eat buffet. So make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, recruit help from your partner or a friend to do dishes and other household chores, and settle in for the long haul. (A DVD can help pass the time.)

Whatever you do, don’t give up on breastfeeding now. When your baby seems hungrier and crankier than normal, you may worry that he’s not getting enough to eat and think about abandoning breastfeeding altogether. But those temporary round-the-clock feedings are actually your baby’s way of boosting your milk supply to keep pace with his oh-so-healthy appetite.

If you’re really concerned, keep an eye on two things: diapers and weight gain. If he’s packing on ounces (that adorable little T-shirt seem tighter today than it did two days ago, for example) and soaking five or six diapers a day, he’s doing just fine. Soon enough his hunger pangs will be over, the growth spurt will end, and things will settle back to normal. Until the next baby growth spurt hits, that is.

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Let’s Talk Dirty…Potty Training

Our youngest (born) three-year-old child has been potty trained for a good 4 months now and things were going GREAT! We were having ZERO accidents and only wearing pull-ups at night…and waking up dry 50% of the time. We felt that Delise was on her way to a pull-up free life in just a few short weeks.

Then something happened…the idea of being in underwear, stopping what she was doing to use the restroom, and the novelty of being a “big girl” wore off. Potty accidents started creeping into her day and she started wetting the bed during nap time. I found myself getting frustrated day by day at her lack of care for being “dry” anymore. Why was this “Potty Trained little 3 year old” going backwards with her milestones?

So I looked in Parent Magazine and found some truly interesting pointers I wanted to share with all of you on this topic called “Potty Training Regression.”

Don’t Overreact!

If your child has an accident, don’t show disappointment; doing so can make your little one more anxious and that, in turn, can lead to more potty problems. “Despite the frustration of having to head back into accidents and diapers because of toilet-training regression, do everything you can to stay positive,” says Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a Parents advisor and pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. When you check to see if your child is dry, clap and cheer if she is. If she’s not, just remain nonjudgmental and say, “Oops. You had an accident. Let’s go sit on the potty.” Remember to remain upbeat and never yell at or scold your child. “You want your children to feel empowered and not worry they’re going to be punished if they make a mistake,” explains Lisa Asta, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco.

Resolve the Root Causes

You’re not going to stop the setbacks if you don’t address the exact problem. “Try to identify the reasons for the regression, as addressing them will help the child return to where she was,” says Mark Wolraich, M.D., Chief of the Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Director of the Child Study Center. For instance, many children start having accidents during times of transition that might cause stress, such as starting a new school or welcoming a new sibling. Chances are, once your lives settle down, your child will master potty training once again. But even if your child makes it through the day without accidents, she still may have mishaps at night. “Many kids are not dry at night for years after they are dry during the day,” Dr. Goldstein says. “Nighttime and naptime control are very different than daytime control.” Medical issues can also cause potty training regression, and constipation is a common one. If a child has difficulty having a bowel movement, she might steer clear of the potty altogether to avoid having to push and strain. Make sure your child is getting enough fiber and plenty of water, but if she’s scared of pooping on the potty, play games or read books with her while she sits on the toilet to make it more fun.

Give Gentle Reminders to Go

Often, accidents happen because a child is having too much fun playing or doing an activity and just doesn’t want to stop to run to the bathroom. To resolve this situation, explain that it is normal to forget to use the potty sometimes and reassure your child that she’s still “a big girl,” Dr. Goldstein says. “Then take her to the potty every few hours at home and ask her teachers to make sure she gets to the potty frequently. Simple, gentle reassurance and reminders to use the potty will get a child back on track.” Encourage your child to at least try to use the potty when she first wakes up, before meals, before bedtime, and immediately before you leave the house.

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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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The Importance of Reading to Your Kids

You probably already know that you should read to your children, but do you know why? Here are three important reasons to not only read aloud with your child, but also to make it a shared activity:

  1. Reading exposes your child to rich language and diverse content.  Book language uses a larger vocabulary and more complex grammatical structures than the short, one-way communication we tend to use in feeding and caring for our children. Books allow us parents to expand the language environment as we become their children’s first and most important teachers.  They help us to immerse our children in rich and varied language. Books of narrative fiction spark children’s imagination as they entertain and inform them about their emotions.  Books of informational non-fiction answer questions, providing concepts and knowledge that are the cornerstones of science and math. Both types are important and all of their benefits can be realized with books in any language. Parents should feel empowered to read aloud in Spanish, Chinese, or whatever their native language.
  2. Reading with your children helps prepare their minds to succeed in school.  The benefits of shared reading know no age limits.  Babies are soothed by their parents’ voices; school children reading to parents can show their new accomplishments or seek their parents’ help. Books for toddlers can help children get ready to learn to read. I recommend books that provide nursery rhymes, songs and verse as they help children learn to appreciate the sounds within words. Children are used to listening to language for its meaning, but reading demands that they also pay attention to the sounds of language.  Hearing words in terms of syllables, consonants and vowels encourages phoneme awareness, which is the first step towards reading phonetically.  Nursery rhymes and songs leap from the page when parents remember them from their own childhood and make them a part of family life.  When said in English or Spanish, traditional nursery rhymes and songs help attune children to what the alphabet is all about.
  3. Reading with your child can enrich family ties and intimacy.  Its virtues are strongest when us parents read ‘dialogically’ by taking the book as an opportunity to enjoy a conversation.  Reading together is family time; it is fun time, cuddle time, a time to share your passions, perspective, and your values but also a time to listen. It creates a time for children to express themselves as well as an opportunity for us to show our willingness to listen. When we build a conversation around a book we encourage our children to communicate with us.

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Daily Sunshine…It’s What’s For Din Din!

As a mom, I know the struggle of trying to get your family to eat healthy. What’s worse, even seemingly “healthy” snacks are filled with refined sugar, saturated fats, and artificial flavors. I also know that while Shakeology is an incredibly important source of dense superfood nutrition, most of us still need a source of nutrients from fruits and vegetables that we can share with our kids as an alternative to the unhealthy snacks they beg for. And that’s why Beachbody created Daily Sunshine.

This is a smoothie that everyone will love. It’s made with organic fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and it provides plant-based protein. I know how hard it can be to convince my daughters to eat all those things—but not with Daily Sunshine!

I still drink my Shakeology every morning, and then every afternoon my daughters and I each have a chocolate or strawberry banana Daily Sunshine. The best part is, it’s not a battle, they ask for it! Sometimes I even make Daily Sunshine a reward for eating a small bowl of veggies! How about that for a healthy incentive?

We know our kids need fruits and vegetables. But they beg for snacks loaded with salt, saturated fat, and high-fructose corn syrup—and zero real nutrition. What’s a well-meaning parent to do?

You give them Daily Sunshine, the healthy smoothie kids love—and parents feel great about serving! Daily Sunshine puts an end to the kitchen table battles, the bargaining, and the compromises. Now everyone can be happy at snack time.

3-IN-1 SMOOTHIE
Daily Sunshine is made with organic fruits and vegetables, organic pea protein, and healthy fats. It delivers the equivalent of a full serving of fruits and vegetables† in each smoothie. Just add water, shake, and drink!

NUTRITIONIST DEVELOPED
Daily Sunshine is carefully formulated with the building blocks of nutrition kids need to help them grow up healthy and strong.

PEDIATRICIAN-APPROVED FORMULA
4 out of 5 pediatricians approve the Daily Sunshine formula. So you can be confident you’re giving your family great nutrition every day.

KID-APPROVED TASTE  
How can a “real-food” formula taste so great? Beachbody puts both flavors through rigorous taste tests to ensure they satisfy the world’s toughest critics—kids!

THERE’S NOTHING SECRET ABOUT OUR INGREDIENTS.

Check out our label. These are real ingredients you can recognize. Made with organic fruits and vegetables, organic pea protein, and healthy fats, plus a few other important ingredients to help support optimal health.

http://images.beachbody.com/pdf/DSS-nutrition-fact-PDF-StrawBan.pdf

http://images.beachbody.com/pdf/DSS-nutrition-fact-PDF-Chocolate.pdf

 

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Mom of the Year…or Not.

Stressed? You’re not alone. Apparently 70 percent of U.S. moms say mothering is “incredibly stressful.” And 96 percent also feel that we are far more stressed than our own mothers were.

So what’s triggering Mommy Angst, circa 2017? (How much time do you have? LOL) It’s everything from financial insecurities, a more intensive parenting style and  higher expectations for our kids’ success to a lack of support, time famine, relationship demands, and concern that the world is more perilous for kid raising.

The best news is that you can try these tricks with your kids that will make you feel like “Mom of the Year” is right around the corner, which means everyone benefits by learning to manage stress.

1. Learn your stress signs

Common stress signs include: Rising blood pressure or spiked heart rate (which can make you feel a little dizzy). Speaking louder or yelling. Irritability, more impatient or experiencing lapses in judgment.

2. Take a break

You may not be able to avoid all the stress, but you can get away for just a few minutes to feel less overwhelmed. Giving yourself permission to take a brief “stress break” is often enough to decompress or just give a new perspective. This can include:

Taking a Mommy time out: Put up a “do not disturb” sign on your bedroom door. Listen to relaxing music or plant a picture in your mind of a soothing place. Take five minutes to decompress.

Give permission to “take ten”: Let everyone in your family know it’s OK to walk away until they can get back in control. Some families create a family signal such as using an umpire “Time Out” hand gesture that means that the person needs to decompress.

3. Create solutions for your “hot” times

Stress mounts for me at predictable times, such as in the morning when everyone is dashing to get out the door or at that dinner time witching hour. Identify when you are most irritable, and find a simple way to curb the friction during that “hot” time. For instance: If mornings are stressful because your kid can’t decide (or find) what to wear: lay clothes out the night before. If your car pool is frantic because you can’t find your keys, make an extra set.

4. Learn deep breathing or meditation

How to start:

Use slow, deep breaths.Inhale slowly to a count of five, pause for two counts, and then slowly breathe out the same way, again counting to five. Repeating the sequence creates maximum relaxation. (Using bubble blowers or pinwheels helps younger kids learn to take slow deep breaths to blow “meanies” away.)

5. Exercise together (My personal FAVORITE technique)

The research is growing that exercise keeps stress at bay whether it’s walking, bike riding, swimming, playing basketball or something else. The trick is finding the type you enjoy. Best yet, find a strategy to do with your kids so everyone benefits.

Just walk: Walk alone, with your kids or find one other mom to join for a short walk each day.

Ride off the tension: There is nothing like riding bikes with your kids.

Dance stress away: A ten-minute spontaneous dance session with your kids is a great tension reliever whether the music is a nursery rhyme or Coldplay.

6. Take time to laugh

Be spontaneous: Celebrate the dog’s birthday by baking him a cake. Eat dinner in reverse. Tape a dollar bill to the garbage can (and don’t say anything about it) to see who will take out the trash. Just have fun!

7. Find a support group

The truth is we devote so much time to our families, we forget to take time for our social needs, whether it’s our significant other or our girlfriends. Relationships help reduce our stress and restore balance.

Schedule date nights: The date doesn’t have to cost anything — a walk, going to the park, watching a rented movie, or sitting in the car in your driveway with wine and cheese. It’s just time alone with your significant other.

There’s a reason flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen masks first, then on the kids. We can’t take care of our families unless we take time for ourselves, and Moms are notorious at putting ourselves on the backburner. Take time for yourself. Make sure to check your stress. After all, a happy, less-stressed mom makes happier, less-stressed kids. Always has. Always will.

What are your secrets for de-stressing?

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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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Preparing For School After Summer Break

For most (If you haven’t already returned to school), It’s that time of the year when schools are getting ready to re-open and begin the new academic session. While all will make a fuss about going back to the school routine, it is this same school routine that gives kids the much needed focus and stability we all long for. So how do we go about preparing for this return?

For the child who is going to school for the first time, parents, we have a very special role to play. Most children have gone to a play school or nursery and are happy to go to a big school. While there is excitement, there is also nervousness. The playschool next door is small, and with fewer kids. Going in a school bus to school that is huge and with many children can unnerve a child. So, prepare your child for that. If possible take him/her a few times to the school maybe after school hours or if permitted during daytime. Let them have a tour of the school, canteen, washroom or playroom etc so that they are familiar with the surroundings. Fill the child with the fun component of being in a big school. Schools these days do allow for these sorts of visits, and usually permit parents to travel in the bus for the first couple of days.

The child who is going to the Secondary section or to a new class, too goes through moments of apprehension. True, they look forward to the new academic year, but there is a fear — “Will the child who bullied me last year be in my class?”, “Who will be my class teacher?” and so on. Parents need to understand these anxieties and help the child cope with them. Research suggests never using school as a threat or punishment — “I will send you away to a boarding school” or “Wait till I tell your teacher”. Instead, talk to the child and tell him/her about how exciting the Secondary section will be. New building (maybe), new friends, new uniform, books and a new chance to do well. This will fill the child with joy and school will be a happy place to go to. I always say…stay positive and so will your child.

If it is not a new term but just reopening after a short break, students must check their homework list. Ensure that you have completed your summer homework and projects. Check if your uniforms still fit (children are prone to shoot up suddenly in the holidays or over summer break), you have the socks, sports uniform and shoes as per specification.

If you have moved to a new town and the school is altogether different and your child obviously knows no one. Yes, some nervousness is bound to be there — for you and your child. But relax. You have used the summer break to settle down in your new home, I am sure there is at least one child going to the same school. Even if you are anxious don’t let your child see it. Describe all the wonderful things he/she can do in the new school i.e. meet new friends, start over from the previous year if it was rough, get involved in the extracurriculars, etc.

Make sure to accompany the child to school on the reopening day. Try using the school bus, there will be several children and their parents waiting at the stop. Can you get a better opportunity for both you and your child to make new friends? I am sure that soon enough all your fears will be put to rest.

Now, that all of us are ready, why are we waiting? Is that the school bus I hear? Happy Return to school…