Your child is more capable than you realize. Even your preschooler can begin to learn these essential life lessons.
By Michelle Crouch from Parents Magazine
With so much for our children to learn in today’s high-tech world, it’s all too easy for them to miss out on practical life skills, whether it’s running a load of wash, reading a map, or handwriting a letter. A recent study by the online security company AVG Technologies found that while 58 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds in the U.S. can navigate a smartphone, fewer than one out of six (15 percent) could make their own breakfast. “I see many parents doing everything for their kids instead of letting them figure out how to fend for themselves,” says Tim Elmore, founder of Growing Leaders, a nonprofit in Norcross, Georgia, that works with schools and civic groups to promote leadership qualities in children. Start teaching these life skills now, and put your kid on the path toward independence.
1. Doing the LaundryToo many teens head to college with no clue how to clean their clothes. Don’t let your kid become one of them. You can begin teaching your child when she is around 6. If you have a top-loading washer, keep a step stool nearby. Walk her through the process—how to measure and add the detergent, choose the settings, and start the machine. Amy Mascott, who blogs at TeachMama.com, taught her three kids (now 9, 10, and 12). She chose cute names for jobs: Wash Warrior, Super-Fly Dry Guy, Put ’Em Away Triple Play. Mascott says there have been snafus, like the time a whole load was folded and put away damp. “But I’m not aiming for perfection. I’m aiming for them to get the job done,” she says.
2. Planting a SeedlingLots of preschoolers learn to plant seeds in class but not how to transfer sprouts into a garden. Whitney Cohen, coauthor of The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids, shares the basics.
4. Hammering a Nail
6. Preparing a Simple MealInvite your child to help make meals, assign him jobs to do, and stay calm when the flour spills and the eggshells fly, says Christina Dymock, a mom of four and author of Young Chefs. Yogurt with fruit is a good first DIY breakfast. Preschoolers can spoon yogurt into a bowl and add prewashed cut-up fruit. Work with kids 5 and older on making sandwiches and smoothies (monitor the blender closely). Around age 7 or 8, your kid can try toaster-oven faves like English-muffin pizza, or make a simple salad by ripping lettuce, dumping in croutons, and cutting up tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. By age 10, kids can use the stovetop with supervision for a grilled-cheese sandwich. Focus on safety and practice, and you might just have a MasterChef Junioron your hands.
7. NavigatingIf you’ve ever gotten lost following a GPS’s turn-by-turn voice directions, you know why being able to read a map is essential (even if it’s one on your phone). These activities will build your child’s navigational skills.
10. Comparison ShoppingTeaching kids to be smart consumers takes practice. This three-step approach worked for our family:
By Kara Corridan
1. Children need a social-media mentor, someone in the know who can help them navigate the right way to behave online. Ideally, that would be a teacher or a librarian. But as keynote speaker Mega M. Subramaniam, Ph.D., explained, teachers and librarians rarely have the opportunity to guide our kids in that way, because school and public computers automatically filter out all social media sites. Of course, there's a good reason for that. But I hadn't thought of the downside until Dr. Subramaniam pointed it out. She's the associate director of Information Policy and Access Center at the University of Maryland, and runs several social media literacy programs for tweens, and she suggests that in place of a trusted adult, find an older teen your child looks up to--a cousin, a babysitter, a camp counselor--who's demonstrated responsibility online, and have that person help show him the ropes.
2. There's a value to texting, even among younger kids. Julia is dying to text with her friends. I'm not allowing it. I feel it's pointless--what on earth is there to text about when you're in fourth grade?--and I fear it'll erode her writing and spelling skills. But more than that, I worry that texting merely provides her with another avenue to see (or do) something inappropriate or rude. The panelists agreed that 9 is a little young, but they gave me ideas on how to allow it in a controlled way when I eventually do let her text. Stay away from group texts, suggested Orit Goldhamer, Psy.D., a middle-school psychologist at The Churchill School in NYC. Otherwise Julia will get sucked into a thread of neverending emojis and "Hey"s. And let her start out by texting only to plan get-togethers (I almost called them playdates!), as opposed to aimless chitchat that could more easily go awry.
3. Have your child ask herself one simple question before posting anything. And the question is this: "Would you show this to your grandmother?" Oooh. Good one. Or maybe this would work better for you: "Would you be proud to have your teacher see this?" I'll be suggesting that Julia consider both of these.
4. Sign a digital media contract with your child. This will cover everything from time restrictions, to passwords, to where devices need to be kept at bedtime, to the importance of kind behavior, and more. The best one I've seen is from Common Sense Media, but a quick search will give you lots of options. And more importantly than signing the contract is revisiting it, points out Scott Gaynor, Ed.D., head of school at The Stephen Gaynor School in NYC. It's tempting to go over the rules once and shove the paper in a drawer, but just like any important topic we want our children to understand, we need to talk about it often.
5. Fun fact: There's an unspoken rule among kids that you post to Instagram no more than once a day. It's clear that my daughter, who only gets to use her phone on weekends and goes to town on Instagram for those two days and nights, has no idea about this one.
Saira Siddiqui, founder of Confessions of a Muslim MOMmaholic, shares her top picks.
Saira Siddiqui from Parents Magazine
When Houston mom-of-three Saira Siddiqui started her blog, Confessions of a Muslim MOMmaholic, six years ago, she hoped it would provide a different narrative than so many others. “I’m the child of immigrants, a Muslim-American, and a social activist, but writing about motherhood is a common thread that transcends labels and boundaries,” she says. We asked Siddiqui—who’s pursuing her Ed.D. in social education—to share a short (by no means complete!) list of books to give kids perspective on the world around them.
From North to South, by René Colato Laínez “José lives with his mamá and papá in California, until Mamá is deported to Mexico for not having her citizenship papers. I love that this book takes a closer look at families struggling with legal status and helps children realize how much we have in common. It gives face and heart to people many kids might not know personally but whom they hear about in the media.” Ages 5 to 8, $10
Sitti’s Secrets, by Naomi Shihab Nye“A girl who visits her grandmother in her small Palestinian village learns to communicate through the shared language of the heart. This story shows what life is like for many U.S. families separated by land and by language.” Ages 5 to 8, $8
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer“At just 14, Malawian William Kamkwamba used scrap metal and old bicycle parts to build a windmill, bringing electricity to his home and village. This book about overcoming adversity is all the more powerful because it’s a true story.” Picture-book edition (ages 6 to 8), $18; or young readers’ edition (ages 10 and older), $9
The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi“A little girl from Korea named Unhei finds herself in a new country and a new school. She hesitates to tell the other students her name. Instead, she says she’ll select a new name from a jar. I love that she ultimately realizes the beauty in the name her parents have chosen for her and learns to value that over fitting in.” Ages 3 to 7, $8
Lailah’s Lunchbox, by Reem Faruqi“This story is about a Muslim girl who is excited to begin fasting for Ramadan but is scared that her classmates won’t understand. Its story can help bridge the divide between Muslim students and their peers.” Ages 5 to 8, $17
5 Real-Life Finance Lessons for Kids
Think money matters are just for grown-ups? Not so. It’s never too soon to teach your kid real-life finance lessons. Start now, and your child will be a wallet whiz before you know it.
By Tamekia Reece
“Mom, can we go to the dollar store?” The day my 6-year-old son, Darren, asked that, we learned an important lesson. Since he had been saving money he’d received for his birthday, I took him. To my surprise, he had a fit and refused to get out of the car. Why? We weren’t at the real dollar store, he claimed. I asked, “What’s the real dollar store?” His response: “the place where you go and they give you dollars.” He meant the bank!
The confusion isn’t surprising. Many kids think money is free, or have zany notions about how you get it, explains Jayne Pearl, coauthor of Kids, Wealth, and Consequences: Ensuring a Responsible Financial Future for the Next Generation. Getting a grip on finance is crucial, especially for Latino kids: Nearly 60 percent of college-educated Latinos struggle with financial literacy—more than other ethnic groups—according to a study by the TIAA-CREF Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center. Give your child a financial head start in life by cashing in on these tips.learn about earning, talk about jobs and how people are paid to do them. Then, make a big deal about his having a job of his own. You can “hire” him to do extra chores, he can sell hot chocolate or old toys, or he could collect and recycle cans to earn cash.
2. Super ShopperTurn your kid’s bedroom or playroom into a store. Put price tags on household items, give her spending money, and pretend to have a supermarket, a toy store, or a clothing boutique. Your child can come up with a list of things she wants to buy, work with the amount of money she has, find items on sale, and count out (with your help) the correct amount for her purchases. To practice those math skills, give her a chance to be the cashier. As she gets savvier about spending, give her some money and a short list of items that she’ll be in charge of buying the next time you go shopping in the real world.Prosperity 4 Kids, that teaches fiscal responsibility. Determine the amount of the allowance (experts suggest $1 per year of age per week). Then make it interesting by playing “bank.” When the time comes for an allowance, issue your child a pretend check. Tell her that she’ll need to play “bank” with you to cash the check. Follow the same steps you would take at a real bank, asking her if she wants to have all the money now or keep some in her account to take out in the future. “Discuss the reasons she might want to save some,” suggests Mackey. “For instance, say, ‘I know you’ve been wanting new gel pens. If you save up for three weeks, you’ll have more than enough to buy the set you want.’”
4. Compound SavingsWhat does a kid do with money? Splurge! “A good way to encourage saving is to do a child version of a 401(k) plan,” says Ken Damato, CEO of DoughMain, a family financial-education website. “Tell your son that for every dollar he saves, you’ll add 50 cents of your own,” Damato explains. He probably won’t have any problem socking away a dollar here and there, which will help him develop smart saving habits for the future. “Kids think very short-term, so you have to engage them along the way,” says Damato. A piggy bank that lights up or makes a ka-ching sound when he adds money, a big, colorful chart to see his goal and his progress, or even a clear jar so he can watch his dollars and cents grow can all make saving more exciting.
5. Reality CheckYour daughter is trying to convince you that she needs those night-vision spy goggles. Just like she needs a new bike, a remote-control car, and a puppy! Playing the “Gotcha!” game can help her better understand wants and needs. First, give her a simple refresher on the difference between the two. “You can tell her that a need is something she must have in order to survive, such as air, food, water, and shelter,” says Pearl. “Explain that a want is something she’d like to have.” Then, set up a family “Gotcha!” jar. Any time a family member says “I need” when it’s really a want, someone else shouts “Gotcha!” The person who made the mistake has to put a quarter in the jar, Pearl explains. Your child will be on alert and will love it when you slip up (you will). Periodically, as the “Gotcha!” jar fills, your family can donate the funds to a charity for people who really do need things.
The choices you make and the actions you take now will shape the year ahead, for better or for worse. No pressure, right? Luckily, setting the tone for a positive, calm and more focused classroom doesn’t have to be hard.
Educator Kristy Herrmann created a lasting mindfulness practice in her classroom by using Mind Yeti for just a few minutes each day. Check it out:
It’s easy to get up and running with Mind Yeti this fall. Just follow these steps:
Step 1: Try Mind Yeti on your ownThe first few days before students come back to school are a great time to find a quiet moment to test drive Mind Yeti. You’ll get a sense for how best to model mindfulness and guide your students, and boost your own sense of calm and focus at the same time.
To get started, create a free account, then click “play” on one of our introductory sessions and follow along. Each session is just 3-5 minutes long. Practice getting into your Yeti Body and focusing on your breath. Pick one or two sessions you want to share with students during the first few days and weeks of school. You can bookmark these to return to later. Reflect on how you might introduce and debrief your Mind Yeti sessions, putting your own spin on it.
Step 2. Identify potential mindful moments in your school dayAs you plan your first few days and weeks of school, consider: when do you anticipate your students having the most trouble calming down and focusing? Perhaps your students struggle first thing in the morning, as class is settling in. Maybe it’s after lunch or P.E., when kids need help transitioning back to learning. Or maybe it’s at the end of the day, as you’re saying goodbye and winding down. There arelots of times that might make for good mindfulness breaks; pick one or two and plan to use Mind Yeti to flip the script on these problematic moments, making them work for you.
Step 3. Set the stageAs you’re setting up your classroom, ask yourself: where will we practice with Mind Yeti? Mind Yeti can be done anywhere, anytime, but sometimes physically moving into a new space in the room can signal to kids that it’s time to change their minds as well. Perhaps you can gather your students in a circle on a carpet, or maybe you can ask them to move their chairs into a circle. Maybe it’s easiest just to have students find their Yeti Bodies at their desks. Whatever space you select, make it easy to get into and out of. Set up a pair of speakers if you have them, and connect your mobile device or computer to them. Get a comfy seat for yourself, so you can model and practice along with your class as you guide them. Dim the lights. Do what you can to create a comfortable and calm oasis for practicing mindfulness, and make sure it’s a space you can maintain throughout the year.
Step 4. Get inspiredTeachers all over the world are using Mind Yeti to ease transitions and settle the hubbub. Joining our community of YetiGuides is easy. You can follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram. And as you get started with mindfulness, share your stories, pictures and experiences by using #YetiGuide and tagging us (@MindYeti) in your post. Your successes and challenges will inspire others!
Step 5. Find an accountability buddyGetting started with mindfulness is easy, but sticking with it as the year goes on can be challenging. You’re more likely to be successful if you connect with someone else who’s willing to cheer you on and hold you accountable. Why not ask a colleague, co-worker or critical friend to join you in trying mindfulness this school year? Below is an invite you can copy and paste into a text, email or social media post. Alternatively, you can connect with other YetiGuides from around the globe via social media. Just search for #YetiGuide to see who else is out there.
Find a buddy! Copy and paste the below, or create your own post on social media:I’m trying @MindYeti this school year to set my class up for success. Will you join me? http://mindyeti.com #YetiGuide
Arizona takes steps toward creating Safe-2-Tell anti-bullying hotlineBy Margaret Beardsley | September 28, 2016
Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas recognized Riley Wilson (13), left, and Karis Wilson (12) of Phoenix for their work on anti-bullying legislation. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Education.
Thanks to two middle-school-age sisters from Phoenix, there may soon be a new resource for Arizona kids who endure bullying.
This week, 12-year-old Karis Wilson and 13-year-old Riley Wilson were recognized by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, who gave the seventh- and eighth-graders atMadison Meadows Middle School certificates of appreciation for their work on anti-bullying legislation.
The girls have worked for nearly a year to get a bill called Safe-2-Tell through the Arizona Legislature. While Safe-2-Tell isn’t yet a law, the legislature did pass a bill that Gov. Doug Duceysigned, directing the Arizona Department of Education to study the feasibility of a state anti-bullying program.
Simply put, Safe-2-Tell is a hotline kids could call if they feel they are being bullied. Already in several states, Safe-2-Tell is described as a safe and anonymous way to report any concerns about personal safety or the safety of others. The idea is that early intervention can prevent a problem from becoming bigger.
The Safe-2-Tell hotline was adopted in Colorado after the Columbine High School tragedy, in which 12 students and a teacher were murdered by two high-school students. According to the executive summary study in Colorado, research shows that in 81 percent of violent incidents in U.S. schools, someone besides the attacker knew it was going to happen but failed to report it.
Riley and Karis say their aunt, who served as a state senator in Nevada before her passing, inspired them to work to establish a similar program in Arizona.
“My Aunt was Senator Debbie Smith,” Riley explains. “And she passed this bill in Nevada, and I think it’s important to have it in Arizona, too. Lots of kids are being bullied, and they have nobody to tell.”
Douglas said she was “honored” to recognize the two students for their diligence.
“As we educate our children, there are few things I see as more important than helping them understand their rights, roles and responsibilities as American citizens,” Douglas said of the Wilson sisters. “These two students are shining examples of the high-quality civic engagement that is being taught in our classrooms.”
Karis says getting the legislation where it is today was “a lot of work, but fun too.”
Arizona Department of Education Spokeswoman Alexis Susdorf says the feasibility study will be completed by Thursday, Dec. 15 and submitted to Ducey and the legislative leadership for funding or future legislation.
Similar hotlines in other states typically are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by trained experts. Colorado also maintains a website: safe2tell.org. Hotline tips are generally passed on to the appropriate agency, whether it’s law enforcement, mental health professionals or school officials.
Riley says her friends think the program is a good idea because, “It will give kids someone to talk to anonymously, and then someone from the office will just come and talk to (the bully), and they will not know who ratted them out.”
Noelle Wilson, the girls’ mother, is proud of her daughters.
“I think the girls have done a great job of sticking to it and working on this program,” she says. “It’s really going to help kids — give them an outlet to report dangerous things that are happening in their school or in their families.”
Riley and Karis say they’ve never been bullied, but both admit to knowing other children who have. When asked if she thinks her bill will be funded, Riley is confident.
“It took a lot of convincing,” she explains. “We had to talk to a lot of senators and representatives. We had to meet with them a lot. It will (be funded); it definitely will.”
Tags: anti-bullying, anti-bullying hotline, Arizona Department of Education, Arizona Legislature, bullying,Columbine High School, Diane Douglas, Gov. Doug Ducey, Madison Meadows Middle School, Safe-2-Tell,safe2tell.org
Mothers can follow these steps to instill a positive body image in their children (especially young girls) and help prevent eating disorders.
By Aviva Braun
In my private practice as a psychotherapist specializing in eating and body-image problems, I have seen teens and young adult women with eating and body-image problems that stem from growing up in homes where certain foods were off-limits. Many of their negative associations come from painful memories that go back as early as grade school. My knowledge of this awards me the opportunity to address this issue with parents of children in this age group early on, in an effort to prevent eating disorders later. From the first time a mother feeds her newborn baby, her attitude toward food and eating can leave an impression. A mother who is anxious while feeding her newborn and doesn't pay attention to hunger cues can set the stage for problems with food later in childhood. By the time preschool comes around, the attitudes and approach mothers have toward food sets the stage for how kids may feel later about food and eating. If a child witnesses her mother expressing disgust at her image in the mirror, the child may begin to mimic that behavior.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 40 to 60 percent of elementary school girls (ages 6 to 12) are concerned about becoming too fat or gaining wait. It's troubling when girls as young as 6 are worrying about the fat content in their lunch boxes. So where are these children picking up their ideas about food, fat, and body image? Their home environment, other kids at school, and commercials and magazines all influence them. Kids start to perceive what fat means just by hearing about it from other peers and adults or by watching TV. They learn that fat is "bad for you" and will make you gain weight. As a result, they don't want to eat. A majority of my patients have also said that their mothers were very tough on them about how their bodies looked or that their mothers had personal body issues. Generally, later on in life, these young women become binge eaters to rebel against the ideas that were set forth by restrictive mothers. Mothers, then, are the first and most significant female models in their developing daughters' lives. They are faced with the difficult challenge of modeling positive feelings toward food, eating, and body image. Here are steps that mothers can take to help their school-age girls and to prevent early eating and image problems.
Model a Positive Body Image. Women may have internalized cultural values, such as the importance of thinness, and have difficulty trusting their own needs, desires, and wants. It is key that mothers be aware when they feel bad about their own bodies and when they are modeling a negative body image. Be careful not to use words such as "fat" and "diet" around the home. Young kids, especially girls, are impressionable and susceptible, so teach them to be comfortable with their developing bodies. Convey this with phrases such as, "Honey, that dress really flatters your body" and "You are my beautiful child, inside and out." Although mothers who struggle with their own negative body image may find this difficult, it's key to remain cognizant of the language and phrases said in front of daughters. It's essential that every mother find the strength within to avoid making bad comments about her own body.
Discuss "Sometimes" vs. "Always" Foods. When it comes to discussing food choices, avoid categorizing foods as "good" vs. "bad" (which can make kids feel as though they've been good or bad) or "healthy" vs. "unhealthy." Instead, talk about "sometimes" foods and "always" foods; this can help your kids understand that some foods are better eaten in smaller quantities and less often. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins, and dairy products can all be explained as "always" foods that are useful and necessary for growth and development. Sweets and fried foods can be seen as "sometimes" foods that taste good but are not healthy or necessary to help us grow. When kids do desire "sometimes" foods, they should eat just a small portion and stop when satisfied. Because feeling full and satisfied may have a different meaning for every child, be attuned to your child's unique nature of fullness. Let your child be the one to say when she is finished eating; don't make the decision for her.
Practice "Self-Attuned Eating." The "self-attuned eating" model, a process of learning to pay attention to and trust feelings of hunger and fullness, can help with making certain food choices. In my own practice, I rely on this model; while it may not work for everyone, I believe it is the best way to prevent eating disorders if it's taught and practiced with children early on in their lives. This model teaches that feeling satisfied is important, so no food is off-limits and it's okay to eat all types, whether carrots or candy. This helps them feel safe, comfortable, and open around all foods and promotes a healthy, normalizing attitude toward eating.
Talk About Empty vs. Full Stomachs. Discuss how food affects the digestive system and the body by sharing how to eat only when hungry and how to stop when full. Talk to your kids about how their bodies feel at the present moment. Try asking if their stomach feels empty and "growly" or if their stomach feels full and "heavy." Re-enforce this on a regular basis to help kids feel connected to their bodies. In Preventing Childhood Eating Problems, psychotherapists Jane Hirschmann and Lela Zaphiropoulos stress that allowing children to decide when, what, and how much to eat helps strengthen their self-confidence, self-esteem, and sense of dignity. This also helps kids avoid the kinds of eating difficulties that have plagued many adults for life.
Involve Children in the Lunch-Making Process. Get creative by having your kids prepare their own lunches. Allow them to choose what they like and also teach the basic food groups. Offer enough options so that kids can choose chocolate milk one day and regular milk another day. Include them when grocery shopping so they are further involved in picking the foods they would like to have in the house. Talk about how their bodies need certain nutrients and vitamins to grow strong; this makes them feel that they have some control over what is eaten. As they consume a variety of foods, explain the purpose each one serves and the positive effects. For example, "We eat carrots because they have vitamins and help with our eyesight." Although getting vital nutrients is crucial to development, enjoying the eating experience can have a long-lasting effect on the mind and body.
Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.
Aviva Braun is a licensed clinical social worker who offers both individual and group therapy to adolescent and adult women who have eating and body image problems. She has presented on the topic of eating disorders and healthy body image to schools, college counseling centers, and parent associations. Visit her site at avivabraunlcsw.com.
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.
1- Why Aren't There Any More Dinosaurs?
Tell your kid About 65 million years ago an enormous asteroid collided with the earth and changed everything on the planet. The dinosaurs couldn't adapt and eventually died out, making way for new animals, ones that were better suited to this other climate.
What you should know "Dinosaurs are vivid proof that the world was once very different, which gets a child's imagination running wild," notes Matthew T. Carrano, Ph.D., curator of Dinosauria at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. "Dinosaurs can often hook kids into broader scientific concepts," he says, so take this opportunity to talk about, say, the environment or evolution. For example, explain that dinosaurs' fossils show that they were the ancestors of today's chickens, pigeons -- even ostriches.
2- Why Are There So Many Languages in The World?
Tell your kid Thousands of years ago, people in different communities all over the globe invented their own words to describe their lives, and that's why today people from the same area tend to speak the same language and other people may not. Languages also evolve over time: Our own has changed so much that if you heard someone speaking English as it was spoken 500 years ago, you'd have trouble understanding what he was saying.
What you should know Hearing someone speaking a foreign language can strike young children as odd -- even unsettling. "But the earlier we help kids understand what they can learn from other cultures, the more likely they'll seek out new kinds of people," notes Jillian Cavanaugh, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology and archaeology at Brooklyn College, in New York. Remind your kid that people from other cultures might think the way we talk is unusual, too, and point out that some words she uses often come from other languages, like ballet (French) or pasta (Italian).
3- Why Don't We Want Others to See Our Private Parts?
Tell your kid Because we use them for things we don't do in public, like going to the bathroom -- that's why we call them private parts. It's also why we cover them with a swimsuit at the pool or close the door when we use the potty. We don't show our private parts to anyone except Mommy and Daddy or a trusted adult, like a doctor in her office. If someone tries to touch them or makes you uncomfortable, please tell me.
What you should know "This is a great chance to model a calm, normalized attitude about the body," assures family therapist Hal Runkel, author of ScreamFree Parenting, so remain matter-of-fact. Young kids lack inhibition, he explains, so take this opportunity to set some safe boundaries about what body parts are off-limits to outsiders.
4- Why Is That Man Homeless?
Tell your kid I'm glad you noticed him. There are lots of reasons people become homeless. He may have lost his job or become too sick to take care of himself or his home. In any case, we should treat him with respect. We should also offer help for the homeless when we can, by doing things like donating to a shelter or collecting winter coats.
What you should know "Children have a limited frame of reference and believe everyone lives just like they do," says Brenda Nixon, author of The Birth to Five Book. They need honesty but also reassurance: They may worry that they'll also become homeless. "Kids often show amazing compassion," Nixon adds, so brainstorm together about how your family can lend a hand.
5- Why Do People Get Sick?
Tell your kid Usually, it's because of germs. These tiny critters can find their way into our body through the air we breathe and things we eat, or when we touch our mouth or eyes without washing our hands. Most of the time, germs don't affect us, but sometimes our body can't fight them off -- and that's when we get sick. Occasionally, people also become ill because their body isn't working properly, but you can't catch those kinds of sicknesses. Fortunately, in most cases, resting and taking medicine can help your body heal.
What you should know It's important to draw a distinction between common conditions like the flu and more frightening ones like cancer. "Children want to know that they're going to get better," says Parents advisor Darshak Sanghavi, M.D., author of A Map of the Child: A Pediatrician's Tour of the Body. "Explain that most serious diseases usually don't happen until old age. The illnesses kids catch typically can be easily treated." While you're at it, promote healthy habits such as washing hands frequently to ward off germs.
More Answers to "Why?" Questions6- Why Do Grown-Ups Sometimes Cry When They're Happy?
Tell your kid People may feel something so strongly that they just have to let it out. When kids feel happy they usually jump up and down or yell, but grown-ups have more complicated emotions -- and when we're really happy, we can also be just a little sad at the same time. Sometimes for adults, crying just happens.
What you should know When you cry out of happiness, it's usually because something feels bittersweet, like your kid's first day ofkindergarten (you're so proud -- but she's growing up so fast!). Kids don't have the same range of emotions, so this concept can baffle them, Dr. Sanghavi says. Use this conversation to encourage your kid to express feelings in words. Emphasize that crying is okay -- but it's important to say what's wrong. "Understanding why you have a particular emotional response will also help your child become more sensitive to others' feelings," he adds. So tell your child that if she ever sees you crying, she can ask if it's because you're happy or sad.
7- Why Can't I Stay Up As Late As You Do?
Tell your kid Not only does your body need a break after running around all day, your brain needs one too. It's busy exercising as you think and discover new things. Since you're so active and learning so much more than adults each day, you need extra time to rest. You go to bed a little earlier so your body and mind can work even better in the morning.
What you should know Contrary to popular belief, our body and brain don't "grow" while we sleep. But scientists know that rest is essential to healthy mental development; when kids get less than ten hours a night, they're more irritable and don't learn as well, Dr. Sanghavi notes.
8- Why Do the Kids Next Door Have So Many More Toys Than We Do?
Tell your kid It's up to adults to decide what they do with their money, and our neighbors may choose to spend more on toys than we do. It's easy to feel jealous, but having more stuff won't make our family happier or better than any other.
What you should know This might sound like a loaded question, but look at it as an opportunity to start a conversation about the concept of money: where it comes from and how your family opts to spend, save, or give it away, suggests Sharon Lechter, founder of payyourfamilyfirst.com, an organization dedicated to improving financial literacy. "Explain that everything has a cost, then describe what it is you and your partner do every day to pay the bills," she says. Discuss the difference between want and need, and, with an older child, talk about ways that he can make money of his own, such as by offering to wash a neighbor's car.
9- Why Do I Have to Invite That Girl to My Birthday Party?
Tell your kid Because if you don't, it might hurt her feelings, and in our family we always try to be kind to others. Even if another kid seems different from you or you're not into the same things, it's important to include her. You don't have to become close friends, but imagine how you'd feel if she threw a party and invited everyone in the class but you.
What you should know Kids can start to form groups and exclude others as early as preschool -- but combating this behavior now can have a major impact down the line, says Parents advisor Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. "If you can teach your child at an early age to imagine how others feel and consider how she can help them, you'll raise someone who's not only less likely to bully, but more likely to stop a friend from being cruel," she says.
Originally published in the August 2012 issue of Parents magazine.
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Practicing mindfulness can help kids learn to focus, manage stress, regulate emotions, and develop a positive outlook. Here's how to teach them the skill.
By Ellen Sturm Niz
Last year, my daughter started learning mindfulness in her third-grade class at school. The students would sit in a circle, close their eyes, and quietly take notice of their own thoughts and what was happening around them. Each session, led by Danielle Mahoney, the mindfulness educator and literacy coach at P.S. 212Q in Jackson Heights, Queens, had a different lesson: mindful seeing, mindful hearing, mindful breathing, or heartfulness (or sending kind thoughts to others). The idea was that learning these techniques would help the young students focus better in school and be less stressed out.
Though at first my daughter resisted the mindfulness—she said the singing bowl they rang to start the sessions hurt her ears and gave her a headache—she slowly came around. She began enjoying the sessions and discovering they helped her focus. Since she began using the skill at school, I've noticed she is better able to center herself at home, too. When she starts freaking out about something, she is able to stop, take a breath, and shift her perspective to come up with a less emotional—and more productive—reaction. For a very sensitive and dramatic kid, this is a major development.
Mindful Schools. "They learn how to pause and respond to situations rather than react. They have a better understanding of the ways that their brains work and have an increased sense of curiosity and wonder about their own thoughts, emotions, and body sensations."
The children also seem to have better coping skills and communication skills, adds Mahoney, who has taught the practice to more than 300 students. "They have learned to be present—for themselves and for others."
The Benefits of Practicing MindfulnessThe benefits of mindfulness are not just anecdotal: A growing body of scientific research shows its positive effects on mental health and well-being. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve attention and reduce stress as well as increase one's ability to regulate emotions and feel compassion and empathy. Mindfulness also is widely considered an effective psychotherapy treatment for adults, children, and adolescents with aggression, ADHD, or mental health problems such as anxiety.
MindUP. "A lot of the research shows that mindful awareness—and understanding its pieces—helps students with cognitive and academic growth. It helps them follow through and prioritize."
In schools where MindUP has been implemented, the Hawn Foundation says 90 percent of children improved their ability to get along with other children. About 80 percent were more optimistic and had enhanced their self-concept, self-regulation, and self-management, while three-quarters of the children improved their planning and organizational skills, and the same amount had better impulse control and less reactivity. In addition, visits to the principal's office, incidents of bullying, and absenteeism—among both students and teachers—decreased.
"Students learn about attending to the here and now and being present with the people that they interact with, with themselves, [and] with their environment in a non-judgmental way," Dr. Hersey says. "It's really about getting students to reflect on their own thoughts and actions and learning how to make better choices for themselves and for others as well. So in our technology-based world where everybody is connected, we talk to students about the importance of self regulation and learning how their brains work so they might react less emotionally and more rationally in situations, and understand that they can be in control of themselves and their actions."
How to Teach Mindfulness at HomeWhether kids are learning mindfulness in school or not, parents can and should employ some of the same lessons teachers use in the classroom at home.
"If you really want children to embed a skill that schools are teaching into lifelong learning, it has to be reinforced at home as well," Dr. Hersey says, adding that MindUP's founder Goldie Hawn wrote a book, 10 Mindful Minutes, specifically for parents so they could help their kids develop these skills, and that the foundation offers MindUP family workshops for parents and caregivers. "If kids want to really learn, they have to...embed the new learning into different situations. It's really giving them that context to say, 'Hey, I learned this in school, but this really works for me when I'm stressed on the softball field.'"
One of MindUP's core practices is the "brain break," in which students take a deep breath and calm themselves for three to five minutes to quiet their minds, be present, and just focus. Parents can encourage their kids to take a brain break during homework time, during stressful situations, or simply when transitioning from one activity to the next. "It's just a moment when you need to decompress a bit and just be present," Dr. Hersey says. "It's really about taking that time to be calm and peaceful and remember the things that are important in life and really focus on the positive."
Other lessons include practicing mindful awareness during everyday activities, like walking and eating, to teach kids to truly be in that moment and not thinking about tomorrow's math test or Saturday's birthday party. Dr. Hersey suggests parents do a "listening walk" with their children, asking them what sounds they hear, what the sounds remind them of, and how they help them remember a happy time or appreciate a happy experience.
"For mindful tasting, we talk about the importance of being mindfully aware when we are eating and focusing on each morsel and what does it taste like, just engaging with food and not watching TV or focusing on conversation," Dr. Hersey says. "There is a lot of research on watching TV when we are eating, and we will tend to eat more instead of taking our time to be present in that particular moment."
MindUP is also developing an app for teaching these skill to kids, and a few are already available from other developers as an easy way for kids to learn the practice on their own. Smiling Mind (free) offers mindfulness sessions, developed by a team of psychologists, that start with a quick series of questions to focus the mind followed by simple, easy-to-follow meditation exercises. Inner Peace for Kids ($1.99) from Kids Happy Apps features two meditation tracks, Colorful Balloons or Sleeping on a Cloud, and lets kids create their own zen garden. For bedtime, there is Sleep Meditations for Kids (free) where four bedtime stories are transformed into guided meditations designed to promote relaxation and contentment.
Developing a Family PracticeHowever a parent chooses to teach their children mindfulness, Mahoney says parents practicing it themselves may have the greatest impact on their children. "I would suggest that parents encourage their children to take a few minutes a day to practice and then practice right along with them," she says. "Setting routines in place for taking just a few moments a day to close your eyes and notice your breath, your thoughts, your emotions, and your body sensations, with kindness and curiosity, would make a great impact on the whole family."
As a busy mom trying to balance family, work, friends, chores, and "me time," taking a few moments a day to breathe can be harder than it sounds, but I'm determined to incorporate mindfulness into my life to model it for my daughter. Just like nutritious eating, exercise, reading, and any other habit we believe will help grow our children into happy, healthy adults, developing a skill that will help my kid connect with her own thoughts and feelings is worth the effort.
Being present in the moment is key to experiencing life to its fullest. As The Family Circle cartoonist Bil Keane said, "Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present."
Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who is starting to practice mindfulness at home with her 9-year-old daughter. Follow her on Twitter.
When it comes to dealing with bad behavior, everyone screws up. We'll help you do it right.
By Katy Rank Lev from Parents Magazine
I haven't been to the post office since "the incident." I was that wild-eyed woman with a screaming child, slowly working my way up the line as one customer after another let me go ahead. Turns out my desperate attempts to comfort my kid were the result of a rookie error. The tantrum came from an oversight I made earlier that day: failing to notice the signals (eye-rubbing and crankiness) that he was tired. No wonder he had a meltdown.
I'm hardly alone in missing my child's cues, says Parents advisor Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. According to her, there are patterns to behavior. Kids do the same things when they're tired, hungry, or getting fed up; it's up to adults to take note and adjust accordingly. My son's moodiness should have told me to let him nap, then run errands when he was ready.
Ignoring a kid's signs is one of many discipline mistakes parents make all the time, but fixing them can make a huge difference in the parenting experience. We asked the experts to reveal the most common missteps.
THE FIX Ask for the behavior you want to see. Nobody wants to raise a child who doesn't understand limits, but "parents say 'no' so frequently that kids become deaf to it -- and the word loses its power," Dr. Borba explains. Moreover, "we often tell kids not to do something without letting them know what they should be doing," notes Linda Sonna, Ph.D., author of The Everything Toddler Book. So save the naysaying for truly dangerous situations (think: fork in the electrical socket or your child eating the spider plant), and focus on telling kids how you would like them to behave. For example, instead of, "No standing in the bathtub!" try, "We sit down in the bathtub because it's slippery." Later, when you notice your kid splashing away in a seated position, offer some praise ("I like how you're sitting!") to reinforce her good behavior.
We Expect Too Much From Our KidsYou're sitting in church when your toddler shouts. As soon as you shush him, he does it again. Mortifying! Why doesn't he listen?
THE FIX Play teacher. Very young children still haven't developed impulse control or learned the social graces required in public places like stores and restaurants. "Parents assume kids know more than they do," Dr. Sonna says.
When your child breaks a norm, remind yourself that he isn't trying to be a pain -- he just doesn't know how to act in the situation, so snapping isn't effective (or fair). Focus on showing your child how you want him to behave, softly saying things like, "I'm being quiet because I'm in church, but if I need something from Dad I lean in close to whisper." Also point out what others are doing ("Look how Charlie is coloring while he waits for his meal to arrive"). Kids are born mimics, so modeling or drawing attention to something we want them to do goes a long way.
"It takes time and repetition for kids to learn to handle themselves," Dr. Sonna says, which means you should expect to give your kid a lot of reminders -- and remove him when he doesn't get the message. Over time, he'll learn how to act.
We Model Behavior We Don't Want to SeeWhen you drop something, you yell. A man cuts you off and you call him a rude name. But then you get mad if your kid reacts the same way when things don't go her way.
THE FIX Apologize and take a do-over. There's a boomerang effect to behavior: If we yell, our kids probably will too, says Devra Renner, coauthor of Mommy Guilt. Yes, it's hard to be on perfect behavior around the clock, so apologize when you do slip up. "Emotions are powerful and difficult to control, even for grown-ups," Renner notes, but saying "sorry" demonstrates that we're accountable for our actions nonetheless.
It also creates the chance to talk about why you reacted the way you did and offers appropriate ways to respond when you're feeling frustrated. That's what Deena Blumenfeld, of Pittsburgh, did when her son Owen, 5, protested so much about getting dressed that she snapped, "Just shut up and get dressed!" Realizing this was not how she'd want her son to react in a similar situation, she knelt down, apologized, then talked about how important it is to be on time for school. It worked: Owen got ready for school calmly after that.
We Intervene When Our Kids Simply Annoy Us
You hear your children chasing each other around the house and immediately shout.
THE FIX Ignore selectively. Often, parents feel the need to step in every time kids do something, well, kid-like. But always being the bad guy is exhausting, Dr. Borba notes. Keep in mind that children sometimes do things that are irksome because they're exploring new skills. (So your toddler could be dumping juice into his cereal because he's learning about liquids.) Other times, they're seeking attention. When it comes to reacting, Dr. Borba's rule of thumb is: When safety isn't an issue, try watchful waiting. If your 6-year-old is playing his recorder with his nose, try not to shout. See what happens if you just continue with what you're doing as if nothing is happening. Most likely, if you don't respond, he will eventually stop -- and you'll feel calmer, having avoided a shouting match.
We're All Talk and No Action"Turn off the TV... I'm serious this time... Really!" Your kids continue bad behavior when warnings are vague for the same reason you run yellow lights -- there aren't consequences.
THE FIX Set limits and follow through. Nagging, second chances, and negotiation all convey that cooperation is optional, says Robert MacKenzie, Ph.D., author of Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child. To teach kids to follow rules, make expectations clear, then take action when they're broken. If you want your kid to, say, get off the couch and do homework, start with respectful directives ("Please turn off the TV now and do your work"). If she follows through, thank her. If not, give a consequence: "I'm turning off the TV now. Until your work is finished, your TV privileges are suspended."
We Use Time-Out IneffectivelyWhen you send your 3-year-old to his room after he hits his brother, he starts banging his head on the floor in rage.
THE FIX Consider a time-in. A time-out is meant to be a chance for a child to calm down, not a punishment. Some kids respond well to the suggestion that they go to a quiet room until they're chill. But others view it as a rejection, and it riles them up. Plus, it doesn't teach kids how you want them to behave. As an alternative, Dr. Sonna suggests taking a "time-in," where you sit quietly with your kid. If he's very upset, hold him to get him settled down, Dr. Sonna adds. Once he's relaxed, calmly explain why the behavior wasn't okay. Too angry to comfort him? Put yourself in time-out; once you've relaxed, discuss what you would like your child to do differently. You might start by saying: "What can you do instead of hitting when Milo grabs your train?"
We Assume What Works for One Kid Will Work for the OtherThe best way to deal with your son's whining is to get down at eye level and explain how his actions need to change. But your daughter is more aggressive and refuses to listen.
THE FIX Develop a diverse toolbox. It's easy to blame your kid when a discipline technique fails. But "you may have to go about getting the behavior you want in different ways with each kid," notes Avivia Pflock, coauthor of Mommy Guilt. While one might respond to a verbal reminder about what is acceptable, the other might need a consequence when she acts up -- like having her Wii unplugged. Being firm with one child and touchy-feely with another isn't being inconsistent; it's tuning in to different needs and learning styles, Pflock assures. "The punishment should fit the crime -- and the kid."