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Helpful Hints of Healing

By | February 9th, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

We all haven’t faced the easiest of lives. Unfortunately along for the ride are our little ones. As much as we try to protect them, their experience is undeniably different from that of their friends. It isn’t your fault. You might be able to look back and see things you could have done better, but isn’t that true of everyone? You do the best you can with the hand you’re dealt. As a result, your child may start to display some poor coping strategies and behaviors. There are positive methods that you can do that support your child.

The first step is Acceptance. Accept the idea that your child is acting out because they are getting attention. This is true for many if not most people. During times of trauma, it is easy to overlook everyday events. Traumatic experiences take precedence and events like growing up get overlooked. The need for attention is a result. For some people, this may only go on for a short time and long-term behaviors never emerge. For the child who experienced traumatic events over a longer period of time, they may have started to accept the role that is assigned by adults and peers, i.e., troublemaker, class clown, bully…, etc. 

The second step is to be Available. Now its time for the parent(s) to be available and figure out what activities to do together. It could be something as simple as a card game or making dinner together. Don’t just try to be part of their lives…let them be part of yours. I’m not under any assumption that life has changed for you so dramatically that your calendar has opened up. As your child ages, they are more interested in what you do with your time. Things that you wouldn’t think of might appeal to them, i.e., the gym, your friends, your work. The trip to the grocery store could include a quick stop at the ice cream parlor. A long wait at the DMV could be a chance for them to show you their favorite YouTube video. The point is you have to make time even if it overlaps with your busy day.

The third step is Identity. You can’t shake a role assignment that your child has taken on, it is now part of their identity. However, you can add extracurricular activities to their agenda to help them discover different facets of who they are. Provide them with different groups to support a different role opportunity. Leave leaflets around the house and see which one sparks their interest. No point in pressuring them. Try to make it their idea. Some ideas are art, photography, sports, volunteering, coding, dance…, etc. Your child shouldn’t get the idea that you don’t like their identity or that you want to change them.  Remember these steps are taking care to help your relationship and grow as parent and child. Change is inevitable. 

The fourth step is Reward. Communicate with your child and discover some trouble areas. Identify them and write down positive alternatives to replace negative behaviors. Reward when they are completed. Best to identify the poor coping strategies that have been used such as yelling, hitting, ignoring, slamming, lying…, etc. If your child has experienced a lot of trauma it is best for them to experience reward on a more frequent basis until there is a level of trust. (Using a game like Vlinder, www.ourbreakthroughs.com is helpful in having some consistency and structure in your reward system.)

The fifth step is Celebrate. Look back at all you have accomplished. Go out to dinner and celebrate that you are working on your relationship and that you have made it all the way through the five steps! Think about how far you have come. Before you started you hadn’t accepted that your child needed attention and you weren’t looking at being available in a way that involved you both opening up your lives to one another. By recognizing your child’s assigned identity you opened up avenues for your child to re-invent themselves. Finally by talking about your child’s problem area’s and rewarding positive behaviors you have reinforced your expectations.

These steps should not take the place of counseling or medical attention if needed. There are different levels of trauma and we all experience them differently. I advocate for families that want to work on their family relationships and provide many tools to help them do so including Vlinder and Consultations. www.ourbreakthroughs.com

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Why Writing Thank You Notes Teaches Good Manners

By | January 21st, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , , |

You may or may not advocate handwritten thank you notes in your home; no doubt, you have your reasons either way. Some folks believe the practice is outdated and the idea shouldn’t be forced on unwilling kids. Others were taught when they were young that writing letters of thanks after receiving presents was a polite measure and want their kids to do the same. Perhaps no one is right or wrong, but kids can benefit from expressing their gratitude by writing thank you notes; here’s how.

Appreciation
The act of writing thank you notes make kids think about the thought and care that goes into buying and wrapping the toys and gadgets they receive. The gifts themselves are super-exciting, of course. However, realizing friends and relatives care enough to be thoughtful adds a positive emotional dimension to receiving presents.

Gratitude
There’s more to gratitude than the recognition presents come from someone rather than appearing out of the blue. Studies show the art of being grateful makes people happy; it’s a well-being tool. Once kids tune into gratitude they can use it in all areas of life to boost happiness.

Writing for well-being
Many kids use computers instead of writing words on paper. Nonetheless, research reveals there’s a connection between expressing feelings in written form and well-being. Kids who get used to writing about what’s on their minds, whether to say thanks for gifts or share how they feel about events in a journal, can reduce stress.  If your child finds this type of writing, he or she might continue to write, not only to express gratitude but also for enjoyment and anxiety reduction later in life.

Good manners
Teach your kids good manners and they will thank you somewhere down the road of life. Etiquette is a useful social tool that makes people stand out from the crowd: it helps them forge friendships and make a terrific impression. The habit of being polite gained from writing thank you notes will give them the edge as they mature.

Handwritten thank you notes are just one way your kids can show appreciation for gifts. Nevertheless, putting gratitude down on paper rather than using another method is beneficial since doing so teaches them life lessons you won’t want them to miss.

Original Post can be found on Child Development Institute

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Where Are All the Grandparenting Books?

By | December 7th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

(This article was originally posted by the New York Times on Dec. 6, 2017. Written by Paula Span)

It was, let me acknowledge, an old-school response. A major life cycle event was underway — becoming a grandmother or, to use the Yiddish name I’ve chosen, becoming Bubbe. So I began looking for a helpful book.

Others might prefer a website like The Grandparent Effect, where the writer Olivia Gentile passes along news, interviews and studies.

But I wanted a book I could underline and dog-ear and stick Post-its on. I had in mind an authoritative user’s manual, a later-life counterpart to the Penelope Leach baby and child guide I’d relied on as a parent. I also hoped to find more empathic, personal volumes that explored the emotional side of the experience.

Publishers would be eagerly targeting this vast market of 70 million American grandparents, I figured, so I would find dozens of worthy contenders in both categories.

Well, no.

You can indeed find scores of grandparenting books. But when you weed out journals and keepsake albums, books for specialized audiences (often religious ones, like “Biblical Grandparenting: Exploring God’s Design, Culture’s Messages, and Disciple-Making Methods to Pass Faith to Future Generations”), self-published books (without gatekeepers, it’s hard to gauge quality), books that label their reader a “complete idiot,” and those out of print except for digital versions, there’s not much left of substance.

But here’s the good news: You can find scads of wonderful children’s books about grandparents, even if there aren’t a lot of great adult books for them.

Why the disparity? Maybe the industry thinks we’ve been parents already, so we don’t need or want books about grandparenting, even though these are very different roles.

Or perhaps potential readers don’t exactly want to acknowledge being old enough to be grandparents, though you can achieve that status long before Medicare eligibility.

When I asked people in publishing about the gap, they couldn’t quite explain it.

“They’re conspicuous by their absence,” the literary agent Andrew Blauner said of good grandparenting books.

“There should be a big book by someone we’ve all heard of and want to hear from,” said Marnie Cochran, executive editor at Ballantine Bantam Dell, who has published family and parenting books for 25 years. “Like Nora Ephron, God rest her soul.”

So why isn’t there? Ms. Cochran’s sense is that grandparents who want the kind of guidance offered by a Penelope Leach are reading … Penelope Leach.

Still, here are my picks. I’ll be interested in yours.

When it comes to instruction manuals, I’ve found no contemporary expert with the status and clout of a Spock, a Brazelton or a Leach. But a California child psychiatrist, Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, came close. He researched grandparenting extensively, published half a dozen books and many articles in the 1980s and ’90s, became a TV fixture. Tom Brokaw called him “the Dr. Spock of grandparenting.”

Now 85 and still practicing, he has self-published an updated version of his encyclopedic “The Grandparent Guide,” first released in 2002. Like many self-published books, it suffers from poor layout and design, with lots of typos; it’s not an aesthetically pleasing object.

But so what? Here’s a guy who has thought about every aspect of grandparenting, cosmic and pragmatic, and covers subjects ranging from favoritism and spending to L.G.B.T. families and visitation laws. He writes authoritatively, citing others’ research and his own; he combines compassion with sound advice. Like a Spock or a Brazelton, he earns your trust.

And he may have a rival come March. The trade publication Publishers Weekly just warmly reviewed “Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today” by Jane Isay, a longtime editor and author of several books on family relationships.

In writing about grandmotherhood (grandfathers are even more underrepresented on bookstore shelves), they’ve taken a collective deep breath and proceeded with unexpected honesty.

You’ll read heartening stories, but also chilling ones. The authors confess to competitiveness and perfectionism. They sometimes triumph as magical, memory-making grandmoms and sometimes screw up. They keen over grandchildren they’re no longer permitted to see. (Note to my daughter and son-in-law: Don’t ever do this, ever.) It’s a compelling collection.

A few runners-up in this category: The relentlessly droll Judith Viorst’s account of a briefly multigenerational household, “Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days.” The more recent “Becoming Grandma,” from the veteran television journalist Lesley Stahl. And, depending on how resonant you find her spiritual labors, Anne Lamott’s “Some Assembly Required.”

You’ll find the true riches, though, among the children’s books. Here, I turned to a friend, Marjorie Ingall, author of “Mamaleh Knows Best,” who reviews children’s books for the Times Book Review.

Among picture books for the youngest, she gave a thumbs-up to Todd Parr, who has created dozens of Technicolorful books on an array of subjects. I add my thumbs-up for his producing both “The Grandma Bookand “The Grandpa Book.” “For very, very little kids, these books are crack,” Marjorie said. “And if the goal is to enjoy cuddle time with your grandkid and make reading feel intimate and pleasurable, mission accomplished.”

She also applauded Lauren Castillo’s “Nana in the City,” a Caldecott Honor picture book for ages 4 through 7. “The grandma is bold, vigorous and energetic and wears snazzy Berkeley therapist-esque clothes,” she said. “I have a hard time thinking of other picture books with lively, out-in-the-world, non-soup-making grandmas.”

She’s also fond of another Caldecott Honor picture book, by the revered Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. “Coming on Home Soon,” meant for 5- to 8-year-olds, is set during World War II, when a mother must go off to work in far-off Chicago, leaving her daughter behind with her grandmother. “It’s an intimate portrayal of the little girl and grandma’s life together,” Marjorie says.

Other friends have tipped me to “Tom,” the wonderful illustrator Tomie dePaola’s idiosyncratic tribute to his own grandfather. And to Vera B. Williams’s much-loved “A Chair for My Mother.” And to “What Grandmas Do Best” by Laura Numeroff, of giving-cookies-to-mice fame. Flipped over, it becomes “What Grandpas Do Best,” and in egalitarian fashion, the text is the same for both.

All these children’s books were new to me, and they’re all marvels. So my granddaughter will come out ahead in this investigation, apparently.

The bookshelves in her small bedroom are already crammed, because while we were awaiting her birth, good friends hosted what they called Bubbe’s Book Shower.

The guests all brought favorite children’s books, a wonderful idea. Nobody had to worry about proper sizes or whether her parents would appreciate princess-themed onesies. (Answer: No.) People just brought copies of “The Story of Ferdinand” and “The Runaway Bunny.”

But I’m going to wedge in these new titles, too. This is the kind of reading about grandparents I’ll probably be doing for a while.

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Angry in a Flash

By | June 4th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

There is more in a moment of anger than we credit; many different internal and external factors are at play. We have little control over some, but, we always have control over our reactions. We need to remember that when it comes to our children. Everyone has experienced when spilled milk one day is just an accident and the next day it is clumsiness and cause for a stern talking to.  It’s confusing to be a child.

Anger is the result of three things, something happening, how we experience it and ultimately how we react. The parent who experienced the spilled milk and was angry one day but wasn’t the day before had other internal and external things that affected their response. Lets take a closer look at the difference between internal and external factors and how they affect a person’s anger.

As we progress through life events go through our experience filter. It’s this filter that helps us decode how we feel about everything based on past experience, culture, upbringing, gender, race, or religion. Those feelings ultimately direct our reactions, impacts how we respond, even to something as simple as a glass of spilled milk. How would a glass of spilled milk impact you? If it makes a laud noise? If it breaks something? If you are embarrassed in front of friends or family? These are all examples of internal things that provoke anger because it is how we respond to external stimuli. These events alone are not a common trigger. Even though the events are external they are going through your experience filter and your internal belief structure that is impacting how you are relate to an incident.

Other internal factors that are easier to relate to are fatigue, pressure, conflict and insecurity. These have direct impact on how we choose to respond to an event.

When thinking about external factors one must think about the events that he or she experienced and the circumstances under which they occurred. For example think about the things in your life that caused you stress. Did you come up with any frustrations, annoyances, abuses, injustices, harassments, hurts, disappointments, or threats? These are all stimuli that activate your anger. It is clear that not all of us react the same way. A bully might see an insult as humorous from someone smaller; however, if threatened his response would be quite different. External factors are different from internal in that they alone can cause anger. They don’t need to go through your experience filter to stimulate a reaction.

It is understandable that people have different reactions to the same event. No two days are the same and our experiences throughout the day have an impact on how we treat those who cross our path. Understanding the factors that go into anger gives you a tool set to make different choices. Knowing that you are walking into a situation when you are tired and feeling vulnerable should warn you to go easy or to schedule a better time to have important conversations. If your child spills a glass of milk and you feel your temperature rise ask yourself some very important questions.

    1. Where is my stress gauge?
    2. Do I already feel anger about another incident?

These questions might help you from making saying and doing things that you will regret later.

If you have any questions or you would like to look up more information on behavior management, please visit our website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. Vlinder is a behavior management game created to encourage communication, cooperation and connection in the family. To learn more visit us here.

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Memory Lane

By | April 9th, 2017|Tags: , |

When I was a little girl my grandparents lived in a grand house that we called “The Ranch”. It had a formal living room with antique furniture from one side to the other. Each piece had its own story of how it had gotten there and where it had been. It was the perfect place for my grandmother, who we affectionately called Mom-mom, to tell the stories of her upbringing in New Castle, England. I don’t know any more about those stories about her adventures then that because I was too young to enter the room during story time. It was a reserved for the older granddaughters. I sat outside the two huge french doors and peeked through a little key hole, hearing only the occasional muffled laugh. I was rather grumpy and bored by the time the doors reopened and I rejoined to the group.

As the years moved on, my grandmother was diagnosed with what we now know is Alzheimers. I never made it into the living room to hear her stories and it is something that puts a lump in my throat, even now some forty years later. So today I’m doing my part for the next generation to make sure this doesn’t happen to them. I want to help facilitate a chat that your child can have with grandma or grandpa that gets the grandchildren past those two “living room doors”…

Here are 10 conversations starters.

  1. When did our family enter the United States? What is our history?
  2. When and how did you meet our Grandma or Grandpa?
  3. Where and when did you get married?
  4. What was going in the world when you were younger?
  5. What was your profession? Is that what you wanted to be?
  6. Who were your childhood heroes?
  7. Do you remember any fads from your childhood? Popular hairstyle?
  8. Where was your favorite vacation?
  9. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  10. What do you want people to remember about you?

Take 3 or 4 of the questions that most resonate with you. If mom or dad are suffering from dementia or simply need help remembering, ask other relative to help fill in the gaps prior to your visit. This is an opportunity to be a fun trip down memory lane for the whole family, as well as a lesson to remind kids that in Grandma and Grandpa were young once too.  Maybe you could even do this with Great Grandma and Great Grandpa?

As for Mom-mom, on my very last visit, long past her days of recognizing anyone, she stopped, looked me full in the face, put her hand on my cheek and said with all the love in her heart…”you always were my little lamb”. So in the end I feel I got my special moment after all!

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