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A season of change

house for sale

In most homes with school-age children, fall is a season of change. But in our family, these past few months have provided a little too much change.

This past summer, we left Michigan to return to our home state of Connecticut. It was our second big move in three years and although it felt good to be coming home, the move was (and still is for that matter) particularly hard on my two teenagers. In fairness, there was a lot of newness: new town, new house, new school, new job, new sports team, new friends. I also felt overwhelmed by all the changes, but as the captain of this ship, I had to be mindful about my reaction.

Here are a few tips I have learned after five moves with kids.

  • Convey the expectation that your kids can adjust, adapt, and yes, be just as happy. If I’m consistent with this expectation, then my message is that I have faith in their ability to be successful in the transition.
  • Don’t sit too long with the negative emotions around the change. When I ask them about their day and the response is negative, I will shift the conversation to something positive, even if the one positive is something totally superficial like the school lunch was good.
  • Stay in the here and now; try not to let your child focus too much on the past. Memories are fun to share and laugh about, but then we turn our attention to the present and work to create new memories in our new space.
  • Let your children have some ownership in decorating their new bedrooms. I gave my two older kids a reasonable budget and they had fun decorating their rooms in a way that didn’t constantly remind them of their old bedrooms.
  • Be patient and consistent. I have found in all our moves, older children take longer to adjust. I stay mindful about my own language when it comes to the changes we are experiencing as a family. I set the tone for the kids so I try to keep it positive and optimistic when they are within listening distance.

We aren’t out of the woods yet. None of my kids are saying they love it back here in Connecticut. But I’m confident that the winter months will bring a sense of familiarity and comfort that the fall did not. And although I’m proud of my kids for being adaptable, I think we’re going to sit tight for a while.

– Andree Palmgren is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Westport, Conn. A Parenting Program volunteer, she is also a mom to a 15, 13, 9 and 5 year old.

Celebrating National Kindness Day

woman holding basket of lilacs

What is kindness? One definition is doing something for someone without expecting anything in return.

Some kindnesses are big and memorable, like creating Halloween costumes for our tiny NICU patients. That thoughtful gesture made the day for so many of our families. (Thank you, Ingrid Peeples!)

Some kindnesses are smaller, but still can bring joy to those around you. In fact, it’s the little things we can do daily that make the most impact. Here are some simple ways to show kindness today and every day.

  • Pay it forward by extending someone’s parking meter or pay for coffee for the person behind you. (Stephanie Babcock)
  • Put a little note in your child’s lunch.
    • When I include a joke, my son likes to share it with his friends. (Becky Bibbs)
  • Give a handwritten note.
    • Giving encouragement or thanks to my family and co-workers in a handwritten note in the age of electronics really makes a personal connection. (Nicole Capozello)
  • When young children are learning about kindness, always show appreciation and respect towards people animals and nature. (Lucy Hill)
  • Give a stranger a compliment.
    • I love doing that because I can see how it makes them feel. (Lori Polakowski)
  • Leave a surprise on the doorstep of someone.
    • I like to leave a pot of flowers or a goodie basket with fresh jam, bread and favorite tea or coffee. (Deanna Robb)
  • Reach out to friends you haven’t spoken to in a while.
    • I don’t know about you, but throughout the day my mind will go to certain people, or I may have a memory that is sparked that makes me thing of someone. A simple text to say, “Hi, I was just thinking of you. I hope you have a great day” or “Oh my gosh, I just heard the Spice Girls on the radio and it reminded me so much of all the fun at our old apartment. Hope you are well!” Little random notes like this can make people feel really good and can brighten a gloomy day. (Kelly Ryan)
  • Leave an extra hefty tip above and beyond the typical 20 percent for great service, or to server who seems to need the pick-me-up.
  • Leave a penny by the Sandy horse ride at Meijer so a kid who may not have a penny can take a ride.
  • Give a smile to someone.
  • Allow someone to change lanes in front of you.
  • Give a friendly wave to the driver behind you when changing lanes.
  • Take a meal to a family member, friend or someone in need. Whether it’s a new baby, a loss in the family or just some overwhelming stress, providing a warm meal can be a kindness.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Hold the door for someone behind you.
  • Offer to help someone without them having to ask you.
  • Remember to say please and thank you.
  • Share lots of hugs in your family.
  • Remind (and demonstrate to) children to stand up to someone who is bullying another.
  • Listen, demonstrate presence, and show openness and empathy to those around you.
  • Try and live each day with intention and positivity.
  • Donate to your favorite charity.

And one final thought from Betsy Clancy:

  • “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
    • My mom was always saying this, but more importantly, she lived it. (In honor of my mom, Betty Farley 1920–2016. “Love you, miss you …”)

The difference between rewards and bribes

serious looking girl with ice cream

Unaltered image. Marcin Kargol, Flickr. CC license.

When working with parents of challenging children, the topic of rewards (or, in behavioral language, “positive reinforcement”) typically comes up early in consultation or treatment. Parents often express some concerns about rewarding their children for acting appropriately, and invariably I’m asked if providing rewards is simply a dressed-up version of bribing kids to behave well. This is a great question and I’m always happy to take the opportunity to explain the differences between rewards and bribery to wary caregivers.

First, let’s take a look at some definitions as they appear in the Oxford Dictionary:

  • bribe /brīb/ verb: to dishonestly persuade (someone) to act in one’s favor by a gift of money or other inducement
  • re·ward /ri-ˈwȯrd/ verb: to give something to (someone) in recognition of their services, efforts, or achievements; to show one’s appreciation of (an action or quality)

The differences should start to become clear simply from reading these two definitions. Consider the following three factors attempting to distinguish between these two very different methods of influencing behavior.

  1. Intent. Right off the bat, it’s clear that bribery has a negative connotation as it tends to be associated with questionable morals and/or conduct. For example, one might envision a sports referee being offered a monetary bribe in return for deliberately influencing the outcome of a game. So, the first way in which bribery differs from offering a reward is that it is usually intended to promote questionable or dishonest behavior, rather than encouraging “good” behaviors one might define as constructive, prosocial or fair.
  2. Timing. The second major way in which bribery differs from rewards, particularly as it pertains to changing child behavior, is in the timing of the delivery. While an effective reward is generally set up ahead of time (i.e., before the behavior has had the chance to occur), a bribe is offered in the middle of a challenging behavior episode, usually in the desperate hope that it will turn things around.
    Here’s a classic example. A parent takes a child to the grocery store. About halfway through the trip, the child starts to whine and complain. This quickly escalates into a full-blown tantrum. In an effort to stop this disruptive (and embarrassing) behavior, the parent offers to buy the child a donut at the bakery counter in return for better behavior for the rest of the shopping trip. The child stops crying, and the parent buys the child a donut (while making every effort to finish up the shopping as quickly as possible before another meltdown can occur!). In this instance, the parent delivered a bribe in exchange for improved behavior.
    Now, let’s consider the same scenario with the parent choosing to provide a reward instead of a bribe. Before the shopping trip, the parent tells the child that she will be able to select a treat from the bakery if she can stay seated in the cart and refrain from begging or throwing a tantrum while they shop together. (Note that the parent was very specific about the desired behavior, rather than simply telling the child to “be good”). If the child successfully demonstrates the desired behavior, the parent will reward the child with the bakery treat for a job well done. However, if the child is unsuccessful (e.g., does not remain seated or has a tantrum in the middle of the store), she will not receive a donut during this shopping trip. If she asks her parent if she can have the treat, the parent explains that the child she receives a reward when she behaves well in the store, and this time she did not behave well. The parent can then decide if the shopping trip will continue despite the undesirable behavior, if the child takes a consequence (e.g., time out in the car), or if shopping gets postponed for another time and everyone goes home. This decision will depend on the severity of the child’s behavior and the parent’s remaining reservoir of patience at the given time!
  1. Long-term impact on behavior. Both rewards and bribes have the power to influence child behavior. However, bribery tends to have only short-term positive effects and can often encourage undesirable patterns of behavior in the long run. In the aforementioned example, the donut bribe did result in an end to the tantrum in the grocery store. The parent might leave the store that day thinking that a donut was a small price to pay for a few moments of peace and a successfully completed shopping trip! However, the take-away message for the child is that a tantrum can lead to donut treats, while being helpful and cooperative in the store from the start has no positive consequences at all. The next time this child accompanies her parent to store, it is likely that a bribe may be necessary again (and it might take more than a donut to appease her). In other words, bribes can teach children to behave badly to get the things they want. A well-planned reward, on the other hand, encourages desirable behavior in children. In our example, the child earned a donut for displaying the “good” behavior the parent defined for her ahead of time. She earns nothing for a tantrum, which means that in the long run, she is more likely to display “good” behavior on shopping trips with mom or dad. Parents sometimes find it helpful to think of the use of rewards as a “contract” between themselves and the child. And for those concerned that their children will still be expecting treats at the grocery store until they leave for college, I offer the reassurance that rewards are typically faded out when desirable behaviors become habitual and they are no longer necessary to help shape the child’s behavior.

Do you have a strong-willed child? Are you ready to learn more about how to change his or her behavior for the better? Consider joining us for the The Challenging Child: Positive Parenting for Family Harmony, a six-session workshop where you can learn evidence-based strategies to help you reverse coercive cycles of child noncompliance, improve parent-child communication, and rediscover the things you love about your son or daughter.

– Sarah E. Baker, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Center for Human Development at Beaumont Health

The gift of listening

hand cupping ear to hear

Unaltered image. jppi, Morguefile.

What are the most important skills you want to teach your kids?

Self-reliance and independence? Valuing education and learning? Being confident and helpful? Being kind and understanding? These are all wonderful traits, but one that shouldn’t be missed is teaching our children to be good listeners, and modeling how!

In our modern American culture, being a good speaker is often emphasized over being a strong listener. We want our children to communicate and share their thoughts, feelings and ideas. However, well-developed listening skills are one of the most important ways to maximize our kids’ potential for connection and happiness. Why?

Listening has multiple benefits! Al Ritter, author of “The 100/0 Principle,” says, “listening is a gift”. But what does that mean?

Listening grants others the power of speaking, and is one of the most direct and powerful means of creating strong relationships. It improves communication and collaboration, especially if we listen creatively. Ritter says this means being open and interested, perhaps asking questions to clarify and ensure we understand the message, but mostly remaining silent and thinking about what the message means.

quote about listeningGood listeners are rare; even when we intend to listen well, we sometimes find ourselves distracted or lost in our own thoughts. Sometimes we are listening judgmentally, waiting to pounce on something incorrect, or focusing on what we want to say next. Truly paying attention to the other person and listening, not simply hearing, is the best thing we can do. People who are listened to feel understood. They are more likely to work with us through a conflict or difficulty rather than becoming defensive and argumentative.

One popular model to teach kids better listening skills is “whole body listening,” first introduced in the 1990s by speech pathologist Suzanne Truesdale. Whole body listening focuses on what different parts of our bodies should do (or not do) in order to be a good listener. For example, our eyes should be on the speaker, our hands calm and quiet, etc. This is “a tool, not a rule,” says Elizabeth Sautter, MA, CCC-SLP, so it’s important to be flexible and adjust to any special needs your child may have. For more resources and ideas, read this post.

Common games are often good opportunities to build listening and attentional skills while having fun. “Show and Tell,” “Telephone,” “Simon Says,” and “Red Light/Green Light” all teach kids to listen and control their bodies.

Most importantly, be a good role model! Our previous posts on digital addiction and mindfulness offer tips for staying more connected. One key piece of connection is actually slowing down to listen.

Overall, being talented listeners helps our children build self-control skills, connect and learn, and create deeper social relationships. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!

– Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s

Dear Daddy

dad holding little girl

I was asked to write a blog post for Father’s Day and was finding it challenging. Not for lack of material or inspiration — I think because there was just too much. So I thought I would try doing this in the form of a letter and sharing it with the “world.” So … here it goes.

It’s difficult to put into words how much I love and appreciate you. As my life has gone on and I’ve had new experiences, both personally and professionally, I have learned more and more how important it is to not only have a father in your life, but that the true gift is to have a really good one.

I can say without a doubt that you are a really good one, Dad. There has never been a time when I haven’t been able to count on you. You can fix anything, you have moved me more times than you would like. If I need your help for anything, you always say yes without hesitation. The comfort and security that comes with having that in my life is priceless.

I have so many wonderful memories growing up with you as my Dad. Teaching me to catch a ball in the living room, you would say, “Just keep your eye on the ball, Baby.” You coaching my softball teams, and thanks to you, I’ll never forget to “always run through first base.” Then when you surprised me with a Care Bear after I had oral surgery when I was 6 or 7, or when we went to the movies just the two of us to see “Twins” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito and we snuck in our own candy. Let’s not forget those walks in the woods, eating cold pizza for breakfast, you cooking venison and rice, lots of rides in your truck when you would quiz me on my spelling words, watching “Little House on the Prairie” and both of us always getting teary at the same time. I could go on and on with these little things, and they may seem random and little, but I think of them often and smile; there were so many happy times.

dad and daughter

And then there are the big things: graduations; moves; my wedding, walking me down the aisle and dancing at the reception to our song, “My Girl”; you being there when Cassie and Connor were born. All of it, everything, from little things to big milestone moments you are a constant. I am so lucky that you are my dad.

Billy Graham said, “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” So true, but I want you to know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed by me. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Love you,
Kelly

­– Kelly Ryan, MSW, Parenting Program, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator

Let’s go hiking!

family hiking

Spring is here and with summer right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to do an article about hiking. Just like camping, hiking is a great way for you to spend quality time with your family without spending a fortune. But how do you get started? Here are some tips that can help.

Location

First, decide how big of an adventure you want to tackle. Start small and work your way into longer treks.

  • The easiest trails can be found at nature centers or Metroparks. These are often just a few miles on groomed trails so they can be completed in a few hours.
  • You can then steadily increase the distance and/or altitude on future hikes. As you take on more challenging trails, you may eventually decide that you want to spend the night on the trail.

Boots

Absolutely, the most important equipment is footwear! If you don’t have boots that are comfortable or fit properly, you are going to have problems.

  • Generally you’ll want a boot that provides plenty of arch and ankle support (although some hikers like to wear lightweight shoes with very little support).
  • Spend as much as you can afford on the boots. It is true that you get what you pay for.
  • Consider getting your boots from an outdoor recreation store like REI. Stores like this often allow you to exchange the boots for a different style if you find them uncomfortable. Their staff is also going to be more knowledgeable about hiking than at a regular shoe store.
  • Wear your boots around the house or during the day to help break them in before going on a hike.

Equipment

Backpacking is all about saving weight. When you have everything in your backpack, it shouldn’t weigh more than one-third of your body weight. If it does, either you have too much stuff or you need to buy lighter equipment. Not surprisingly, lighter equipment is usually higher in price.

  • A backpack
    • Start with basic equipment. A regular school-type backpack is fine for going a few miles at a Metropark. You can pack a lunch, snacks, and a small first aid kit with plenty of room left for a raincoat, extra water, etc.
    • When you’re ready to start spending the night on the trail, it’s time to upgrade your equipment.
      • The duration of your hike will help determine the size of the backpack that you need. If you plan to continue expanding your hiking abilities, go with a bigger pack so you can grow into it.
      • For overnight hikes, you can probably get by with a 40 to 50 liter backpack. For a weeklong hike, you’ll want 80 to 90 liters.
    • Most backpacks now have an internal frame, meaning that the structure is built into the backpack instead of the frame being on the outside. When you’re at the store, try on several different brands and styles to see which one fits your build the best. Again, an outdoor recreation store is great for this because they have a wide selection and knowledgeable staff.
  • A sleeping bag.
    • There are generally two types of sleeping bags: down and synthetic. Down is warmer but can take longer to dry if it gets wet (although there are new styles available with water-resistant down). Synthetic bags will dry faster and are usually cheaper. Be sure to get a waterproof compression sack to store it in.
    • Note: You don’t want to use the same one that you use for tent camping because it won’t compress small enough to fit in your backpack.
  • A tent.
    • There are several styles of backpacking tents available in a wide range of prices. If you’re hiking with other people, you can get a two person tent and each of you can carry half of the tent.
    • Generally speaking, most tents are similar in design; you’ll have poles, a nylon shell, and a rainfly.
    • When you buy a higher price tent, you’re paying for lighter weight.
  • Some cooking gear.
    • Start with a backpacking stove. You can get ones with pre-filled canisters of fuel, ones with a fuel bottle that you can refill, ones that use fuel tablets, or even ones that use wood. Talk with a staff member at the store to determine which one is best for your needs.
    • For pots and pans, look for ones that nest inside each other to save space.
    • Again, higher price means lighter weight.
  • You don’t need to spend much money on plates, cups and utensils. Just get a plastic bowl, a cup, and a spork (a fork, spoon and knife all in one). You can even go simpler and use a Frisbee for your bowl!s
  • That’s it for the basic equipment that you need. You can consider getting things like collapsible stools, hiking poles, pillows, GPS, coffee pots, and more. Just remember to watch the weight.

Food

  • To save weight, go with freeze-dried food. It stores easily and is fairly easy to cook on the trail.
  • Bring high-energy snacks to eat while hiking. You will go through more of these than you would expect, so have plenty.
  • Water can be your biggest obstacle when hiking. If you’re doing a strenuous hike, you’ll want to have at least one quart of water for every hour that you’re hiking. Drinking water also helps combat altitude sickness. You’ll also need water for cooking and cleaning. Consider dedicating specific bottles for each of the categories. You’ll likely need to fill your bottles during the trip so plan ahead. Either know where you can find clean, sanitized water or bring a method to sanitize water from streams and lakes.

Clothing

  • Less is more with clothing. Believe me, you can go a whole week on two sets of clothes! Bring some biodegradable soap and you can wash your clothes in a stream. Hang them on the outside of your pack to dry as you hike.
  • Spend some extra money and get a lightweight, thermal, long-sleeve shirt. You can wear this in the morning so you don’t have to bring a coat.
  • Have a separate set of sleeping clothes. Shorts and a T-shirt work great.
  • Bring a couple extra pairs of socks so that you always have a dry pair to wear.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • A lack of sanitation is the enemy when hiking. Don’t drink untreated water from lakes and streams. Make sure you are properly cleaning and sanitizing your cooking gear. Determine how you are going to deal with your waste and use hand sanitizer as necessary.
  • Be sure to familiarize yourself with the trails before setting out. Even if you are hiking though a Metropark, print off a copy of the map so you know where you are. For longer hikes, purchase topographical maps of the area. Even though you can use a compass on your phone, have a regular compass as a backup.
  • Make sure to use sunscreen. Even in the woods, the sun can filter through and have an effect.
  • Always let someone know that you’re going on a hike (even if you’re with a group). Share your planned route and when you expect to return. This will assist rescuers should you need help on the trail. Remember, your cell phone may not work on the trail, so you may not be able to call for help.
  • Finally, follow the Leave No Trace principles. They can be found at lnt.org. It’s important that we all follow these principles so that everyone can enjoy the trails for generations to come.

Now, get out on the trail and see what the world has to offer!

– Dave Enerson started camping and hiking with his dad as a young child. He is a former Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout Troop and spent a week hiking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico last summer.

Irish eyes are smiling

bride dancing with her grandpa

​I guess when you have a name like Kelly Cathleen Ryan, you shouldn’t be surprised when you’re asked to write an article about St. Patrick’s Day. My first idea was to write about our family traditions and how we incorporate our kids into the festivities. My thoughts centered around making sure the kids have something green to wear on March 17th, the buttons we have that say “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” and the corned beef and cabbage we enjoy on that special day. I also thought about how our St. Patrick’s Days have changed over the years to become more family friendly if you know what I mean. I remembered our college days and that certain cold, green beverage and going pub to pub with friends. I found myself getting a little nostalgic as I recalled these fun memories. My mind kept going back to how it all began and the reason why this day of celebrating all things Irish is important to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandpa, the first Irishman I ever loved, and then this article went in a completely different direction.

​My grandpa was simply the best. He was proud of his Irish heritage and passed that pride along to his six children, and seven granddaughters. My parents decided my name before I was born, so even though I came out with lots of dark hair and brown eyes, favoring my Dad’s Italian looks, I was “Kelly Cathleen” and there was no going back.

My grandpa loved my Irish name and always called me “Brown Eyes.” He was short in stature and I remember he had a long, thorny shillelagh that leaned against the wall in the corner of his bedroom, and he would sometimes use it when we went on walks. (For the Detroit readers, yes, an old shillelagh is more than just that infamous bar downtown!) Grandpa didn’t know a stranger, and I don’t know anyone who didn’t like him. Grandma often said he was full of blarney, but it served him well in his career as a salesman. He always had a twinkle in his eye, and I think that is what I remember most. He was quick with a joke and had lots of fun sayings; one of my favorites was “You can always tell an Irishman, but you can’t tell him much.” There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him, but he is particularly on my mind on St. Patrick’s Day.

Now to circle back a bit to that Irish name I carry with me. My first and middle were given to me by my parents of course, but that Irish last name came from my husband, the second Irishman I’ve ever loved. Chris and I met outside of a house party in Kalamazoo. The night we met he was wearing a white t-shirt with a huge green shamrock on the front. Funny thing is, it was in summer not on St. Patrick’s Day!

girl with arm around brother

In keeping with the Irish names, our daughter is Cassie Cathleen and our son is Connor.

I should’ve known what I was in for. Like my grandpa, Chris also had (and still has) a twinkle in his eye. Just like my grandpa he is successful in corporate sales. There are many traits Chris has that remind me of my special grandpa. Life with an Irishman is never boring!

Sure, we will do all of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day stuff on the 17th (like a shamrock hanging on our front door), but our Irish pride is with us every day. It was passed on to us from loved ones who are now gone, and we will do our part to continue sharing it for generations to come. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

– Kelly C. Ryan, LMSW, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator and Team Leader for the Beaumont Parenting Program


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