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Love scavenger hunt

scavenger hunt clue

Valentine’s Day used to mean I looked forward to flowers and candy from my hubby (And I still do like those things if you’re reading honey,) but besides my husband’s modeling this for my two young boys, I questioned how do I explain this holiday to them?

Anyone could look up the history behind St. Valentine and end the discussion there. However, I’ve been on a mindfulness journey recently and taking an extra minute to really think about the decisions I make for my family. Do I want to show my children that this holiday is another event for candy? (There are just too many of those already!) Along this journey, I’m also paying extra attention to the lessons and traditions that I start for my family. After all, this will shape their lives and eventually how they celebrate this “holiday” in their own adult lives—maybe even one day carry on the traditions with their own children.

Instead of candy, giant teddy bears, or a love explosion concentrated in one day, I started the tradition of a Love Scavenger Hunt.

I created little rhymes and riddles that lead my oldest son, who is almost five, on an adventure throughout our house to highlight the everyday kind of love we have in our family. Once my youngest is old enough, he will get his own set of clues to play detective and join in on the fun.

My husband will tell you that I’m not the best at rhyming, as evidenced by my constant questions of “What rhymes with …..” in bed while writing the clues, but I’m the best at being grateful for everyday moments with my kids. I’m a big fan of gentle tickling my little ones wake them up, bedtime stories, card games at the kitchen table, and movie cuddles. So why not highlight these ordinary moments of love to show my boys that my love isn’t overflowing for them on Valentine’s Day? My love for those two rambunctious boys overflows for them every day.

I will disclose that at the end of the scavenger hunt my 5-year-old boy gets a big prize of dinner and movie (both his choice) with mommy or daddy. I feel this prize is fitting because it highlights that the importance of Valentine’s Day isn’t on the present or candy, but with the people who you love.

– Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two.

Fabulous winter outdoor photography tips

silhouette of boy and girl jumping at sunset

You’ve been waiting for what seems like forever. Gazing wistfully through the icy windowpane, you sigh in impatience as each day passes with less-than-ideal conditions. Just as you reach your breaking point, it comes: An overcast day … and it’s just what you wanted.

The lighting is finally perfect for your outdoor photo shoot!

OK, so it seems strange to desire an overcast day. But believe it or not, sunlight isn’t the best to work with when taking pictures outside. Why, you might ask?

When mixed with clouds and trees, sunlight can cast erratic shadows that are difficult to erase even with editing software. Your subjects may be well-lit in the front, yet they’re squinting because of the light shining into their eyes. Put the sun behind them and their faces might be draped in darkness. The best solution is to remove the sun from the equation completely.

With the lighting set, you should consider your setting. Winter can seem very stark and bland—void of color. So instead of color, focus on texture. Tree bark, bricks and stone are all great options against which to pose your subject. Weather-beaten boards, such as the side of an old barn, look great too. If you do want some color, look around for some graffiti; some buildings in Berkley and Royal Oak feature buildings on which an entire side is dedicated to a gorgeous work of art.

You have your lighting and your setting. Something else to think about is your style. Do you want all posed shots, where everyone is facing (and smiling at) the camera? Do you want everyone centered? Go ahead and get some of those. Then consider sneaking in some candid shots. Get the one where everyone burst into laughter because someone tooted.

The “Rule of Thirds” is a popular one in photography; there are different levels of complexity to this. In the simplest terms, the subject(s) are in one-third of the frame, be it the left, right, or bottom. Shoot some off-center. Also consider tilting the camera and snapping faces from a different angle. Lie down on the ground and shoot up. Climb on a picnic table, gather everyone close to you, and shoot down. You may find that some of the best pictures are captured when conventional poses are tossed out the window.

If Mother Nature somehow confounds you and presents you with one sunny day after the other, you do have some recourse. Find a hill. At sunset, have your subjects gather at the top of the hill and take some pictures as the sun dips down towards the horizon behind them. Use your editing abilities (this can be done on a phone as well as with computer software) to tone down the amount of light in the image. The resulting picture is a timeless silhouette, framed in the vibrant colors of that darn winter sun.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and a huge fan of silhouette photos.

Child life specialists: Improving your child’s hospital visit

child life specialist with little boy patient

As certified child life specialists with Beaumont Children’s, our role in the hospital is unique. We are trained professionals in the developmental impact of illness and injury. But what does that even mean?

What we do

Child life specialists help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement. We provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions, which include therapeutic play; preparation for procedures; and education to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain. We work with the multidisciplinary team, as well as the entire family, to meet the needs of patients, siblings and parents alike to promote a culture of family-centered care throughout all hospital encounters.

We help children by:

  • Educating them on diagnosis, procedures and treatment plans through the use of medical play.
  • Preparing for tests, procedures, and/or surgeries (patients, siblings and family).
  • Supporting them during invasive procedures through the use of distraction and coping skills.
  • Engaging patients in therapeutic and expressive activities to help them cope with fears and anxiety.
  • Advocating for the unique needs of patients and families during and after hospitalization.
  • Promoting family-centered care through psychosocial and emotional support.
  • Normalizing the hospital environment in an effort to promote optimal growth and development.

child life specialist drawing with a young patient and her mom

In order to create a comforting and normalizing environment for patients and families, our department provides additional services. These include pet therapy visits, daily recreational activities that give patients an opportunity to meet and socialize with one another, and special events like our annual holiday parties and Dream Cruise Parade. We also have a schoolteacher and board-certified music therapist on staff.

Where we work within the hospital

Beaumont child life specialists cover multiple areas, including the Center for Children’s Surgery, Pediatric Oncology and Hematology, the inpatient Pediatric and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Short Stay and the Emergency Center. We also have part-time coverage at Beaumont, Troy in its inpatient pediatric unit and emergency center.

Our department attempts to see all children who are hospitalized to provide an assessment of their coping and psychosocial needs. Much like other disciplines, we receive consults from the medical team for patients and families in need.

child life specialist working with young boyChild Life Services is able to do this with the support of Children’s Miracle Network. We hope to expand our services in the future to reach all pediatric patients in Beaumont Health, including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, pediatric specialty clinics, Pediatric Radiology, etc. We truly love what we do as well as the patients and families we serve! 

Favorite moments from our child life specialists

  • “I had a patient who was afraid of her anesthesia mask. I built rapport with the patient and got her to engage in activities with me to build rapport and trust. I provided preparation with the anesthesia mask to help her become familiar with it. I was able to have her lay down while I was blowing bubbles at her. In the end, she was breathing with the anesthesia mask on while popping bubbles to make it less traumatic.”
  • “We had a 4-year-old who refused to walk admitted to the pediatric unit. She wouldn’t even walk to the playroom. We brought in our pet therapy dog and she walked the dog around the unit multiple times.”
  • “A 7-year-old in the emergency room was screaming and crying whenever a nurse tried to touch her cut. I overheard the nurse say they were going to sedate this patient in order to clean out her wound. After talking calmly with this little girl and explaining (in a developmentally appropriate manner) the procedure of cleaning out her wound, she realized it wasn’t so scary. She engaged in deep breathing with me as the nurse cleaned and wrapped her cut without having to sedate her.”
  • “There was an 11-year-old patient who had severe second degree burn. The patient was extremely anxious and fearful of the painful daily dressing changes and physical therapy sessions. After a medical play session and extensive preparation, the patient worked with me to come up with a positive coping plan that included deep breathing, use of a stress ball, parental presence, and taking 10-second breaks every minute. All of these things helped with coping and compliance with the treatments she was undergoing during this stressful hospitalization.”
  • “A 10-year-old patient came to the emergency center and needed an IV. Her nurse informed me that this patient was very anxious and could use child life services for preparation and procedural support. I worked with this patient by providing education, preparation, and familiarization so that she knew what to expect during the procedure. To provide her with more control and mastery, she performed the procedure on a medical play doll before her own IV start. When it came time for her IV, she was no longer anxious and knew exactly what to expect and how to help make it less painful with deep breathing and distraction.”
  • “I helped create a school program that was manageable for a heart transplant patient. All of his second semester of senior year was spent inpatient. Even though every day was a challenge for him, he was able to graduate on time with his class!” – Schoolteacher
  • “I have many favorite memories of being a music therapist, but there are two that stand out above the rest. My first memory is of a cancer patient using songwriting through her journey and how she used music to express her emotions. The second is developing a heartbeat bereavement program to give parents the gift of music and a piece of their child to hold on to.” – Music Therapist

– Beaumont Children’s Child Life Team: Lisa Kristoff (CCLS), Rose Freigeh (CCLS), Michelle Staubach (CCLS), Amanda Lefkof (CCLS), Jenn Ernst (CCLS), Caroline Wall (CCLS), Holly Platis (MT-BC), Janis Traynor (Schoolteacher), Kathleen Grobbel (CCLS, Manager)

Respect is learned AND earned

mom and son looking at each other

Beans. That’s what started this blog post. Beans.

My daughter and I were at the vegetable market and she was helping me pick green beans. As we were putting them into a bag, another woman just stepped in front of my child and proceeded with her shopping. No “excuse me,” or offer to share the space. Just a complete disregard for my daughter.

A short time after that, I was home with both kids and things were getting heated. In my frustration, my tone changed and it wasn’t for the better. It was almost as if I had an out-of-body experience and could hear myself talking to my kids. I very distinctly remember thinking, “You know, if someone talked to you like this, you’d be [insert bad word for very upset].”

I calmed down and worked on the way I was speaking.

And just the other day, I was in my kids’ class helping out. I saw one kid tell another to shut up as he lightly hit another across the face.

All of these instances are infuriating to me. That someone—anyone—thinks so little of a child that common courtesy is forgotten. That I wouldn’t treat another human being, no matter what their age, with the same respect that I would expect. That learned behaviors readily spill out into the classroom.

As adults, why do we think children don’t deserve common, decent behavior? Sure, kids can be frustrating and maddening, but to not treat them as an equal on the human scale is, well, I can’t find the words.

No, kids can’t vote. They have no “rights” and no defenders. Except us. The grown-ups. But that’s no reason to be a bully and it certainly doesn’t give us, the responsible ones, carte blanche to treat them however we want.

If the past six years of mothering have taught me anything, it’s that kids learn by example. They’re parrots and sponges. It’s up to us to teach them about respect and how it should be for everyone until proven otherwise. That treating another person with decency is really the only decent thing to do. And if we just can’t bring ourselves to do that, we just need to walk away and try another time.

The world teaches its lessons via the School of Hard Knocks. Let’s agree to give our kids a leg up and work on promoting more kindness and understanding. Discipline that teaches, not just punishes. Courtesy that extends to everyone. Not just adults.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

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


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