Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Families Need to Work Together!





Busy parents are the first to raise their hands for convenience.  I know why--because it is difficult to keep up with crazy schedules and having multiple children in multiple schools with differing calendars,  demands and expectations.  Being able to cut a corner here and there has an immediate appeal.  Ordering groceries from a delivery service like http://www.peapod.com can prove to be a true lifesaver.  Making the choice to hire out for housecleaning or laundry services can offer parents a way to focus on being a better parent rather than stressing about chore lists that overwhelm and defeat them.

But I also worry that we are sending the wrong message to our children if we "hire" out all of our responsibilities.  These days I have seen parents hiring personal trainers to teach their kids to ride a bike.  I see parents opening their wallets to have their houses decorated for the holidays.  I know people who wouldn't dream of shopping and cooking a holiday meal.  Aren't we really paying the ultimate price for all of this convenience?  We are sacrificing time working together as a family to accomplish something, and this is a very important lesson.  If our children never see us accomplish any sort of task, where is there work ethic going to come from?

Please reflect on your lifestyle and see if embracing a simplified version might benefit you and your children.  Let's all slow down a bit, and enjoy time working together to accomplish something.  Decorate your own house, cook your own turkey, play with your own children.  Get to know your family through these simple activities.  Help one another.  Laugh together.  And get back to the basics of working and playing together.  Your children will grow up so fast, don't miss out on the life experiences that bond you together.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Give your children the gift of music!



One of my little preschoolers came to school yesterday with an extra sparkle in her little eyes!  She walked in carrying a violin case, and as our Student of the Week, she had decided to play a piece of music for our class.  And let me tell you, it was the high point of our morning together.  As she carefully removed her instrument from it's case, and then with the utmost of concentration performed her song, I was reminded of the countless hours of music lessons and performances that my own children were subjected to as they grew up.  And although none of them are continuing on with their music studies, I still would admit that requiring them to study music, until high school was a decision that my husband and I will never regret.  And here is why:

1.  Studying music teaches discipline.  Children need to practice, and although they don't usually want to, they quickly understand that they won't improve without practice.

2.  Music has relaxing qualities.  And children in our fast paced world need to find ways to unplug and unwind.  By studying music, children are exposed to different kinds of music and the benefits music can bring.

3.  Learning an instrument can build self confidence.  How do you know whether or not your child has musical talent unless you allow him/her to pursue music in some form?  All children have gifts and music may be where your child's talent lies.  In addition, learning to play an instrument brings a lot of positive feedback when your child performs for family and friends or in recitals or concerts.

4.  Music allows for creativity.  Children need creative outlets that allow them to experiment and test ideas.  Real experiences of making music and performing music are so much more valuable to young minds than watching movies or playing video games.

5.  Studying music has been linked to better performance/understanding of math concepts.  It certainly cannot hurt to require your children to be using their brain power a little more each week.

6.  Exposing your children to music will allow for you to connect with them about something.  Children who study a musical instrument or take voice lessons are exposed to a wide variety of different types of music.  There tastes will develop from there and will become a source of endless discussion as you to compare notes on musical tastes.  

My high school daughter loves to listen to George Winston piano music when she studies, my college age son has been featured on his college radio station-and loves to discover new, independent artists and their music.  Another one of my daughters has introduced all to her love of country music, and finally my eldest daughter loves to attend gospel mass at a church in Washington D.C.  All of these examples illustrate to me that we were on to something when we were insisting that they practice their instruments.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

6 Important Things to Teach your Child About Friends




I am so lucky to teach preschool and see these darling little people forming some of their very first friendships.  Some children are tentative and shy, but after a few weeks of being together it is such a joy to see them "open themselves up" and become active seekers of new friends.  

Also I have had the opportunity to watch my own four children navigate the choppy waters of friendship during their middle school and high school years.  Their relationships have been a constant reminder about how tricky friendships can be.  So based on what I have observed through the countless numbers of friendships I have seen bud, blossom, and (if we are being honest) sometimes wither, I have come up with a list to help teach your child how to be a good friend.  This is not always easy!  But being a good friend helps your child understand what qualities to look for in friendships.  And finding a good friend is truly a priceless blessing.  

Parents:  Teach these lessons to your children:

1.  Friends Listen:  A friendship cannot be one sided.  If everything is about one person in the friendship than it is imbalanced and more of a groupie relationship than a friendship.  Teach your child to listen to the viewpoints of their friends, and also have the confidence to speak their opinion on things.

2.  Friends Defend:  One of the most valuable aspects of a friendship is knowing that the other person "has your back".  If you are unsure if your friend would defend you if they hear negative things about you, than you don't have a friend.  And you are not a friend if you don't speak up and defend your friends against gossip and meanness.

3.  Friends Share:  My preschoolers will tell you about this all day long.  They understand the concept of sharing but as children grow, it becomes less about sharing concrete items like toys and more about sharing their feelings with one another.  If you are upset about something going on with your friend, you need to share the feelings and work it out.  Friends also share the attention.  It cannot always be about one person in the relationship.  True friends value each other and share a balanced and healthy relationship.  Good friends share happiness and sadness, together.  If your friend has something good happen to them, you should celebrate with them.  And conversely, if they are going through hard times, you need to be there for them.  That is what true friends do.

4.  Friends Forgive:  No friendship is perfect.  Friendships, just like real life have their ups and downs, peaks and valleys, joy and hurt.  True friends learn how to talk things out, and forgive and move on.  And the miracle is, the friendship will be stronger because of it.  When you come through a difficult time with someone, it draws you closer.

5.  Friends Don't Inflict Pain:  If a friend is constantly making you feel upset, bad about yourself, or less than, it might be time to look for some new friends.  Relationships don't always work out, and sadly knowing when to move on can be a very difficult decision to come to.  Holding on to the hope that there are other people who are eagerly awaiting to become your friend, is something you need to know.

6.  Be Your Own Best Friend:  Liking yourself is important.  Knowing who you are and what you stand for will allow you to find friends that compliment you and enrich your life.  Trying to be someone or something that you are not, by being friends with someone just to be "cool" is never a good idea.  People who like themselves have more authentic relationships because they are not based on trying to prove something to others.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There is Power in a Hug!





Children can be quite unlovable at times.  They whine, complain, have temper tantrums, "forget" to do what we have told them a million times to do, and the list can go on and on.  But when our children are frustrating us and we are feeling anything but love towards them, ironically they need our love the most.  The more unlovable they are, the more they need our love and acceptance.  They need to reconnect with us.  They need us to reinforce the lesson that we love them no matter what; that as their parent, we are always present for them.

The best way to show a child of any age how much you love them, is by using physical touch.  Children need the calming message a hug sends.  They need to feel your love as you stroke their hair, or rub their back, or hold their hand.  Don't get too busy to make the effort to connect with your child in this way.  And take the time to learn what they like.  Some children don't want their heads to be touched but love a hand or foot rub.  And I can't think of anyone who doesn't like a loving hug.  Make time to cuddle your children and reinforce the message of just how very much you love them.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3 Steps to Help Your Child Make Friends


It is a painful experience to watch your child struggle with friendships.  When your child is hurting you experience the pain in a most excruciating way, and often you feel powerless to respond.  You want to search out the child responsible for causing your child's pain or loneliness and "get even" or "teach that kid a lesson".  But trust me when I say, you only are seeing one side of the story.  Every situation has more than one side.  So, as difficult as this advice is to follow...take a deep breath and let it go.  Then refocus your efforts on the here and now.  What can you do to help your child facilitate lasting and quality friendships?  Sit down with your child and imagine a trip to the idea store...here is what I mean...

1.  Speak to your child about what qualities make up a good friend.  Brainstorm the type of friend your child hopes to find.  Is it someone who shares certain interests? Or someone who has qualities that would compliment your child?  Maybe an outgoing child because your child is shy, or an athletic child because your child loves to play sports.  Talk about morals and values, does your child want a friend that can be trusted and will be loyal?  Discuss why these qualities would be valuable to a lasting friendship.

2.  Discuss what your child might do to find that type of friend.  Does someone already come to mind?  You can encourage your child to reach out to a new person who they think might make a good friend.  Suggest that they sit by someone new at lunch or look for new friendships on the playground.  Maybe your child needs to join a club or activity that would expose him/her to new children who share his/her interests.

3.  Agree on a goal your child can work towards in the coming weeks.  Perhaps the challenge is to invite someone new over for a play date, or play with a new child during recess.    Challenge your child to reach out to children who don't already have many friends, and be the one to help other children who feel excluded.

Make it clear to your child that their friendships are their choice to make.  You are not willing or able to make friends for them.  But you are available to love and support them at all times.  Empower them with your confidence that they will find good and true friends.  Urge them to be patient with themselves and others.  Solid friendships take time to build.  And remember, all children really need is one true friend.  It is wonderful to be blessed with more, but as long as your child has a friend, they have the relationship that is so important to their development.  And if they don't have that one friend right now, take a trip together to "the idea store" and gather some ideas for how to find that special friend who is waiting to meet and make friends with your child.
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