Posts Tagged 'daily life'

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 …”)

So I brush her hair

brushing red hair

All of a sudden I find myself the mom of a tween. It happened in the blink of an eye. It seems like yesterday that princess dresses, tutus, and American Girl dolls were her focus; now I have a confident, responsible, independent 12-year-old girl who knows what she likes and doesn’t like. She practices with makeup, has her own sense of style, manages all of her school stuff on her own, and even does some cooking.

Sometimes I wonder if she even needs me anymore. As a mom, it’s sort of a weird place to be. I mean, I know she needs me and will for a long time, but it’s just different. We have a good relationship and are doing our best to navigate her transition to a young woman together, and I’m learning as I go.

About six months ago, I found myself really missing my girl — missing her needing me to take care of her the way she did when she was younger and not so self-sufficient. I know, I know, that may be a little irrational, but I had a moment. In my logical mind I know that this is a natural progression, but my mama-heart took over. She had just showered and was getting ready for bed, dressed in her bath robe with wet hair, and I looked up from reading and asked, “Would you like me to brush your hair?” She said yes and so I did. It felt good to do that for her, and it was nice to have some quiet time just the two of us to talk about whatever.

A few days later she asked me herself if I would do it, and since that time it’s something that has happened many times, and I love it. To think something I once took for granted — all the years of chasing her with a brush to get her wild, red hair tamed — now has become such a precious gift.

So if you, like me, have found yourself parenting a girl on the verge of becoming a young lady and you’re missing the “old days,” may I suggest that you brush her hair? It may be just the thing you are looking for to fill the void.

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

“Leave me alone!” Life with a threenager

little girl pouting

My daughter, C, turned three over the summer. “Whew, we survived the terrible twos. It’s finally going to get easier,” I thought to myself. However, as C approached her third birthday, people starting throwing around this term at me: “threenager.”

“A what?” I asked.

“A threenager. You know, a 3-year-old teenager.”

“Uh, no. I’m not following.”

“It’s the like the terrible twos, but worse.”

“Worse?!” My heart sank.

I then started Googling “threenager.” Yep, it’s a thing. Apparently the terrible twos are just the start of toddler tantrumhood. Things really start to get interesting when our little one hit the 3-year mark.

In honor of this fun phase, here are a few of the threenagerisms I’ve encountered so far.

  1. Ms. Independent. While I applaud my little one for trying new things, I could do without the “I can do it myself!” snarls. (Then five seconds later, “Mama, Mama, help me, help me! HELP ME NOW!”)
  2. Highly illogical behavior. OK, tiny one, I kind of see your point when I ask you to put on your shoes and you reply, “No, they’re Crocs.” But when you yell at me because the french fries you’re eating are touching your teeth, I can’t help you.
  3. “Leave me alone!” At least once a day she blasts this exclamation to her father or me. It’s even more fun when she screams this in public accompanied by “Stop! Get away from me!” The looks, oh, the looks.
  4. Mom/Dad/anyone other than herself is always wrong. The other morning I praised C for sleeping in her own bed all night. She threw herself on the floor and screamed “No, I didn’t!” (See No. 2.)
  5. Constantly changing obsessions. TV. Underwear. Toys. Snacks. It doesn’t matter what it is, whatever she’s into, it’s intense and irregular. What she loves one day/hour/minute, disgusts her the next. Cue up Netflix to the show she’s watched for a week straight without consulting her first? Disaster. Attempt to put on the Paw Patrol pajamas she requested before bath time? Meltdown. I can’t keep up! (See No. 4.)

Fortunately, C hasn’t mastered the eye roll yet, but she’s well on her way to being seriously annoyed by the mere existence of her parents. I keep telling myself the threenager phase is good training for actual teenage angst.

Anne Hein is a past participant of the Beaumont Parenting Program, as well as a mom of a strong-willed toddler.

I’m bereft

mom, dad, son and daughter getting ready for school

First day of kindergarten send off

The day has come for my twins to start kindergarten and I’m not sure what to do with myself. I thought I’d be excited — no more paying for child care, someone else entertaining my kids for hours, the classroom parties, field trips and all the new friends.

I am excited about all that, but I can’t help but feel a tug of sadness.

You know what I’m most sad about? I know I won’t be allowed to put pigtails in my daughter’s hair soon. That my son won’t want shirts with firetrucks on them anymore. That their babyhood is officially over and the next phase is beginning and I can’t pump the brakes.

I’m terrified for my kids. What if they get made fun of? What if someone is mean to them? What if they get scared or confused and I’m not there to help them out? Five seems awfully young to have to start fending on your own. But then I think back recognizing that I was that 5-year-old and I did just fine. All those things I’m afraid of for my kids happened to me and I lived to tell the tale and they will, too.

But I also know that they’re going to start being exposed to meanness and cruelty and that’s just the way it goes. It still makes me sad, that stripping of innocence. I have to hope, though, that we’ve taught them well enough to make good choices, and if they don’t we have to be prepared to coach them through the consequences.

Parenting is tough.

Everyone has asked whether we kept them together or put them in separate classes. We decided to leave it up to the school to decide and we would object or concur as needed. Turns out, they’re in the same class.

I wanted to be able to prepare them for separation, so I emailed the principal about it. He convinced me that keeping them together would be a good introduction to school for them and it would be easier for us parents — same homework assignments (in kindergarten?!?!), same field trips, same class parties.

For now, I’ll keep trying to be excited for the fun things and take the other stuff as it comes. But I’m still mad at Father Time. What a jerk.

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

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

Back to school

kids getting on school bus

In the 1980s, the band Foreigner had a hit, “Feels Like the First Time,” which I believe was about going back to school after the summer off. It’s true; every year does feel like the first time. Even for experienced parents, every new school year brings a new array of questions, hopes, frustrations and expectations. And the forms, the endless forms! Doesn’t the school have this information already?

After many years of trying – and failing – to be the Parent on Top of Everything, I finally realized this: the key to surviving Going Back to School is simply to endure. Soldier on through the paperwork, supply shopping, and re-outfitting.

To make life a little easier on both yourself and your student, here are some helpful additional guidelines:

  • Write down dates as soon as you have them in your hot little hands. I promise dates will come in, thick and furious, a cascade of numbers and dashes. Many people use their phones for calendar-keeping but sometimes a simple paper planner is better for quickly jotting down important events and deadlines (and then you can add them to your phone later). Picture day, curriculum night, 5th grade camp, conferences, half-days, late starts. Write them all down now.
  • Do you have the deadline for ordering your child’s yearbook? It’s a firm deadline and one of those sneaky ones that you think you’ll remember or “get to later” and then it slips by. Write it down.
  • Forgot to schedule your child’s physical at the pediatrician in time for the fall session of sports? Many medical facilities offer sports physicals for reasonable rates. Look for one in your area.
  • Scrutinize your student’s forms carefully. You’ve already signed one form in two different places? Look again for that third spot hidden in 8-pt. font at the bottom of the form. Yes, that one. The one that you didn’t notice at all and now your lack of signature has resulted in your daughter not being able to receive her schedule or her locker. Not that I speak from experience.
  • Realize that all is not lost if your child didn’t get the desired teacher or classmates. This is a tough one, but it is a situation that most students face at some point in their academic journeys. Try to recognize it as an opportunity to explore the unknown – a chance to be a modern-day explorer, if you will. There are new people to be met everywhere … why not start now? That new best friend or adult mentor just might be waiting in the wings.
  • You found a great deal on tissue? Fantastic, buy some extra boxes for the classroom. And for yourself. This year will be over before you know it; you will find yourself weeping not only at the bittersweet experience of your child moving on, but at the thought of having to fill out more forms in the fall.

Here’s to an amazing 2017 – 2018 school year!

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and famous for narrowly missing deadlines.


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