Posted in Library, literature, Mental Health, Poetry, Uncategorized

Miles to go before I sleep…

The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and the cold seems to bring out the worst in some people. Use this time to reflect on yourself and your family to see how everyone is really feeling. In the midst of January, and “January Blues” season, I wanted to share some insight on one of my favorite poems.
Image result for january blues
As you may have seen with the circulating Facebook post about people having “a warm bed and tea ready”, this is the time of year when those who are really suffering from depression tend to have the most struggles.
Why is the winter so hard?
There are a lot of reasons it’s believed that “January Blues” seems to happen. It’s not just January mind you, it’s winter in general. There’s a mix of cold weather, staying indoors more, less sun, calmness from the holiday commotion that some people do not do well with, and of course the need to cleanse yourself from the plethora of calories from the holidays.
I always think of a famous poem by Robert Frost this time of year.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Whose woods these are I think I know.Image result for snowy woods
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Some critique the poem as a suicide note. The claim is that the narrator is trying to persuade himself to keep on living even though it would much easier to stay in the depressed state that he is in. Others look at it as more uplifting. Even though the narrator is contemplating the darkness of the woods he is choosing to continue on. I prefer that latter.
Still others would say it’s a completely over-analyzed poem and it’s just about a guy riding his horse and enjoying nature. I could get on board with that too, I suppose.
Robert Frost wrote this poem prior to winning four Pulitzer Prizes. The man obviously knew what he was doing with words. The sounds and rhythm of his poetry are top notch, even if you aren’t a fan of the possible messages and imagery.
Why is this important right now? Why should I care about a poem written almost 100 years ago?
Well, I think all literature is important and I think it can be used as a great bonding and teaching resource. If you have an older teen or tween who you may suspect is suffering from depression, have them read this poem. Talk about it. I’m sure they are going to be forced to read it sometime in school, but have them do it on their own time. Tell them how you feel about it.
If nothing else maybe this poem could inspire you and your family to log off for awhile. It’s so easy, especially with the cold winds blowing, to stay inside, plugged in, and tuned out. The woods can be a great place for reflection and discovering what you are really feeling. Not to get all spiritual about it or anything, but the woods are one of the best places to just…be.
Image result for snowy woods
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Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, teaching, Uncategorized

Calm Down Box

I have mentioned explosive behaviors once or twice in past posts, and have written about anger in toddlers before, but I also wanted to offer a solution to these breakdowns.

As I mentioned in a past post about discipline, time-outs did not work for us for our daughter. However, the concept behind a time-out (stepping away from your actions and taking a moment to consider them) can be done in a better way. We have a calm down box.

Image result for calm down box

Before starting it, make sure to explain that it isn’t necessarily a punishment, it’s just to help get your child back to neutral. We are working on walking away from anger stimulants (ie someone being mean at school) so my daughter can learn to calm herself as oppose to punching the other kid in the throat (yeah…). I know the anti-punishment movement can seem hippy-dippy to some parents, and I’m not saying certain behaviors don’t require discipline (ie punching the other kid in the throat). The calm down box is simply a way to teach your child how to soothe themselves enough to come back to center before moving on to the next thing.

This has been one of the biggest life savers as far as parenting goes for us. Now that my daughter is 3 and is starting to be able to verbally explain her feelings and emotions better, she realizes that the calm down box is helping her. I have a basic plastic storage box and I rotate the items inside, except for a few standard pieces. Below are some options of things to put in your own calm down box.

Ooooh, the bubbles…

These are still mesmerizing to me, even as an adult. We use one as out calm down timer basically. The sound of a ticking timer can be a little less than calming, so instead we have one of these that I flip over. I tell her she has to play with her calm down box until all the bubbles have fallen. Usually after a few moments of watching them she’s so engrossed in something else she forgets that it’s there. These have also helped with not being able to go to sleep at night occasionally.

 

Stress balls are not just for the office. Kids can benefit from them too. The brighter and the more squishy, I think the better.

 

 

Water snakes are a great sensory toy, as long as they don’t break. I guess it depends on just how mad your kid is at the time…

 

 

I may be the only person the world who still uses CDs more frequently than iPods or MP3 players. For my daughter, the process of finding a CD or Audio Book is kind of part of the calming process. She picks what she wants, puts it in the player, and listens. It’s simple and effective.

 

 

Sometimes the CD player isn’t enough and headphones are required to really help her escape. I think that’s easy to relate to.

 

 

 

 

Music is needed sometimes, but I think audio books are also great to help kids learn how to calm themselves down. They have to focus on what book they want and then really listen to the words that are being spoken.

 

 

Touch and feel books are usually for babies and toddlers under two, with some exceptions. However, if your child is playing alone or learning how to soothe themselves a touch and feel book can be very helpful. The act of “reading” along with the physical processes of touching certain materials, can be very soothing.

 

 

Same token, books like Journey are great because without words the child isn’t intimidated to “read” alone. They just look at the pictures and make up their own story.

 

 

 

 

There are many sites out there with recipes and instructions on how to make your own calm down bottles. They can be a great addition to any calm down box.

 

 

 

 

Some other items that help with restlessness and not being able to sit still can also be useful in a calm down box. If you have tried other things that have worked mention them below!

Posted in Family, health, Mental Health, toddlers

Difficult Behaviors & Discipline- Toddler edition

Image result for difficult toddler

Some toddlers are just a little more difficult than others. Spirited, strong willed, imaginative, energetic; all those nice flowery phrases that people without difficult toddlers like to throw at you, can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out. Or theirs. Don’t do that, it hurts. And you’ll look a sight with patches of hair missing. I was already writing this post when my article about anger was published last week. Seems to me we have a pattern…

I will say I have seen some definite improvements in my own daughter (finally!) after trying multiple things I’ve seen online, in books, and even discussed with a doctor. Some parents now argue discipline is actually detrimental to children and shouldn’t be done at all. I think that’s a wee bit on the ridiculous side. Rules are a part of life and kids must learn to adhere to them, end of story. But there’s so many resources out there now, not to mention the countless pieces of unsolicited information you get from your own parents, in-laws, friends, siblings, your weird neighbor with an affinity for flowered hats. Here are some things that worked for me, some things that didn’t, and why.

Yay! These Worked:

 

Remaining calm- Make sure to check yourself first. Make sure you are as calm as you can Image result for check yourself before you wreck yourselfbe while angry. Use a firm voice, at your child’s level, whenever possible. This can be a real struggle during a tantrum storm and a bout of defiance. When you want to scream, when your teeth start to clench, walk away. Go in your room and breath a few times.

Show them how to calm down. Calming yourself is not something you are born knowing how to do. Show them how to take deep breaths. How to relax their shoulders. How to express their thoughts into words once they have caught their breath.

If you have a partner who is helping you with your kids, have a tap out term. We just say “tap out” but whatever works to get the point across that you are getting to that point of no return.

Language- Use “what” instead of “why”. I have learned a lot of the time the “why” isn’t understood by your child. The “what” is much easier to grasp. So for instance, if you are trying to get your child to put on their shoes so you can leave, and they decide instead to throw them across the room, it’s honestly more effective to say “what are you supposed to be doing right now?” than “why did you do just do that?”Image result for kid shrugging shoulders

Also, using the same language is very important. For awhile my husband and I didn’t have the same terms for things. I would say “that’s not how we act like a good girl” and he would say “that’s not following the rules”. To us, we know these mean the same thing. To her it can be a little confusing.

Picking battles- Understand the difference between annoying and aggravating behavior versus unacceptable behavior. Constantly swinging their feet in a seat can be annoying but is it wrong? Interrupting you when you are trying to speak can be extremely annoying but still, is that them intentionally misbehaving? Painting on various surfaces of your home may make you want to cry a little but really, again, not being bad. Just being a kid. If they throw their drink cup at your head while you are driving, that is unacceptable. If they try to see how high they can throw their little sister, that is unacceptable. You see the difference. Pick your battles.Image result for mischievous child makeup

Limit all distractions when something important needs to be said- Again with my daughter possibly having ADHD this is very important in our house but I think is pretty universal if you are not seeing results from your disciplining. ALL kids are easily distracted to a certain degree. Make sure there is quiet, make sure you have eye contact, and if possible get on their level for your message to be made perfectly clear. Keep instructions short and sweet.

Stop idol threats- Coming up with punishments off the top of your head when your child is pushing you over the edge is never a good idea. I think at one point I threatened to give all of my daughters toys to charity including her favorite bunny. I know I would never do that, and she knows I would never do that. Kids are smarter than you think. I would also threaten that she wouldn’t be allowed to go to her grandmother’s in the past. She knew she was going, she did every week. I knew she was going, she did every week. Now, we have a system of repercussions. Snacks go first, than tv, than a toy, than early bedtime. In that order.

Face chart- This seemed so silly to me when I first saw them. And I wasn’t excited about having that picture hanging in my house. However, after trying the sticker chart (see below in the did not work section) I figured why not. For my daughter, visually seeing herself getting into trouble I think really helps. She wants to stay in the yellow (on our chart that’s the good face). When her clothespin moves down she genuinely gets upset about it. Which is a good thing!

 

Boo- These Did Not Work:

Sticker Chart- Since we are on the subject, the sticker chart was not a success for us. I’ve seen different opinions on these and I have to say it did seem like it was helping originally but the excitement of it wore off, fast. The first couple of weeks of seeing the stickers get put up made my daughter pretty happy. But the big old X on the bad days didn’t really have much of an affect on her. She pretty much just stopped caring about it after a few weeks.

Time Outs- This is not to be confused with “calm down time”, which we have plenty of in our house. Calm down time is time for my daughter to go in her room and play with her calm down box. Time out made her go from a 7 to a 20. Having to sit somewhere for over a minute when she didn’t want to was almost torture. Again, ADHD has a lot to do with that and that may not be the case for your child, but we can’t do time outs. Before ending them just the phrase would send her into hysterics. I even tried holding her in time out once or twice but just couldn’t see how it was that beneficial. So now we just start removing luxuries one by one (see above) and that has worked much better.

 Spanking– and the debate continues. I want to be very clear that I have spanked my child. Image result for spankingIn some instances I think it’s called for. In most however, I think it’s really overused. My problem with spanking is parents tend to do it when they are already angry, hot tempered, and out of ideas of what to do at that exact moment. Again, my daughter may have underlying issues but when she did get spanked she took that as a good reason to hit
others. The few times she did get spanked, she got in trouble at daycare the next day for hitting. I don’t think it was a coincidence. So, we removed spanking from our discipline routine. Honestly, we still get the “we had some violence” issues talks from school but not as many. I do not allow it anymore purely for not being able to explain to her when she asked why mommy can hit her but she can’t hit when she’s upset.

When changing something always give it an appropriate amount of time to see whether or not it’s going to be effective. This is something I struggle with since I want to change things all the time and try everything I read but you do really need to allow for adjustment.

Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, toddlers, Uncategorized

Little Bits of Anger

Newly published article at Hip Mama magazine:

 

Pouting toddler with wet hair in the bathroom

“Little Bits of Anger”

I think a lot of parents will be able to relate to this experience. I decided to write about it a long time after it happened. I feel like if I would have tried to write it immediately after our highlighted argument the perspective would have been much different. I hope maybe our experience can help you with yours.

 

Posted in Education, Family, Mental Health, parenting, toddlers

Sports and ADHD

 

I have been doing a lot of research on the topic of ADHD (if you can’t tell by some of the other posts) and to help kids (and parents) better cope with the disorder. It’s actually pretty fascinating how the mind works and how ADD and ADHD affect it.

School is starting soon, and that means classes and sports will also be starting. You may be wondering what’s the best sport or activity to put your child in, especially if you have noticed some hyperactivity. (Note: I don’t think every kid who is hyperactive has ADHD and I do think it’s extremely overly diagnosed. But some of this information is good for any child who needs a little extra help burning off some energy).

It has been proven that children who participate in extracurricular activities do better in school. I would be wary of doing too many activities as you don’t want to burn your child out, but getting them involved and interested in at least one thing early on can lead them into a lifelong appreciation for the activity.

What do sports teach? Teamwork, listening skills, discipline, social skills, focus, and above all, in my opinion, a sense of accomplishment. Children with ADHD and ADD tend to suffer from low self-esteem, especially as they get into elementary and middle school.

What do activities like music and art teach? Discipline, structure, a way to calm down, and again, a sense of accomplishment.

This article will focus on sports. The biggest question I keep seeing is “should I put my child in an individual sport, or a team sport?” It may seem daunting picturing your hyperactive child trying to work as a team and you may want to do an individual sport. Or, you may see this as an opportunity for them to challenge themselves and work with others. Below are options for both.

 

Martial Arts:

young children doing karateBenefits: teaches self-control, discipline, individualism, accomplishment, respect

You do not have the issue of struggling to work as team but they will need to understand how to share their time. Each student usually gets a chance to try a new skill or lesson on their own. This may be hard for a child with ADHD or ADD but something they can overcome. They will also have to learn new skills by step-by-step instruction.

 

Swimming:

Benefits: can be very physically demanding which is good for ADHD children, gets one on one with coaches, still has team to work with even though rated individually

Make sure to research swim lessons or teams in your area. In some places this may be an expensive route but there have been many success stories. Obviously, Michael Phelps being one of the most popular.

Gymnastics:

Benefits: physically demanding, physical awareness, improves focus, great for children with sensory issues as well

TImage result for gymnastic toddlerhe only downside I see to gymnastics is most children with ADHD and ADD suffer from impulse control problems and reckless behaviors. When learning difficult maneuvers, it may be something to consider and to monitor closely to lessen any injuries. Of course, most coaches and instructors know this and are trained to handle these behaviors.

 

Horse back riding:

Benefits: out in nature, learning patience and calmness, learns to respond and appreciate the animal

This may be one of the most expensive activities that you can find for children but again there have been many success stories. I would wary of horseback riding for those children with more severe ADHD as horses are animals. I love horses and horseback riding personally, but I have been thrown off of one as well and it is scary, not to mention dangerous. If your child doesn’t have a sense of how to control their impulsivity, at least a little, I would recommend working on that before trying horseback riding.

Soccer:

Benefits: team camaraderie, constant movement, little downtime between activities, sense of accomplishment

As with any team activity the biggest issue is learning to deal with losing and learning to work with others. That can be a turn off for some parents or a driving factor for others. I think just being open with your child beforehand that they may not win, but that’s it okay, will help with this so they are prepared for that. Soccer also has a very young starting age (some places as young as 2) and goes through most high schools so it’s something your child can grow with.


Baseball:

Benefits: teamwork, patience, sportsmanship, discipline

My biggest problem with baseball is that there tends to be a lot of downtime. If your child is playing outfield there may be lulls in time where they are not running or doing something active. This tends to let the mind wander and leads to boredom, which then leads to them not paying attention. Again, for especially hyperactive children, baseball may not be the best fit.

 

Basketball:

Benefits: concentration, teamwork, constant movement, sense of accomplishment

There are many mixed reviews about basketball and ADHD. For one thing, it’s a good sport because it is so high energy. On the other, it’s tough for some children because you must have serImage result for basketball elementary schoolious focus and keep the ball in sight at all times. Many ADHD students struggle with this and can get frustrated during the game. My advice is, if you want to go this route, is to explain it as a trial. Tell your child there are many other things they can try to do if basketball doesn’t seem to be fun for them. If they are struggling with paying attention to it too much then they won’t enjoy the game and that defeats the whole purpose.

 

One thing worth mentioning is (just like with school and having a great teacher) any sport can be as good or as bad as the coach you get. If you have a coach who is understanding and patient then your child is more likely to succeed at whatever it is they are doing.

 

Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen

Teaching Teens Tolerance

In light of recent events, I thought it was fitting to do a post about teaching tolerance of others to teens. I honestly am not a fan of the word “tolerance” since it has the connotation of just “putting-up with” or merely “tolerating” those who are different from you. I instead like to think that teens can be understanding and accepting of others. I think they can actually enjoy the differences, imagine that. We as a society have obviously messed something up somewhere but this cycle of hate doesn’t have to continue.

In a lot of ways young adults today seem to have more experience with different races, religions, and sexual orientations than past generations. Classrooms are becoming more diverse and even the media is breaking down a lot of diversity stereotypes (on the other hand however, they are making some worse). Most parents welcome this, as they should, while others seem less enthused.

One way to promote understanding is to make all students aware of the truth. This means teaching them history accurately. Not the watered down, Disney esque, version that is taught in most politically run schools today. I mean the real history of the world. All the nitty gritty details of it. The book Lies My Teacher Told Me is one of my absolute favorites. A tough read for teens but as a parent, who is educating your child, I suggest you give a read through.

I have to mention, that I believe you should try to be unbiased as possible when teaching history to your children. It’s very easy to sway historical events to be the fault of this group or that because you personally feel that way. Stick to the facts. Come to the understanding that no group has clean hands when it comes to history. I will be posting a history cheat sheet for anyone who needs a little help to better explain some complicated historical events, like the Crusades.

We can just talk about the elephant in the blog and mention Islam education. Their religion is a complex one and it is important for our teens to understand it. It would appear that tensions in the Middle East and tensions with the U.S. are not going to subside anytime soon thanks to the control that ISIS has acquired. I think teens should have a general understanding of all world religions in order to be able to make better assumptions and judgements of current world issues.

Tolerance isn’t something that needs to even be as vast as world religions and politics. Teaching teens to be tolerant of other students and members of the community is a great place to start. Most teens I have encountered understand to respect others who are handicapped or impaired in anyway. Some will still find an opportunity to mock the other’s pain but for the most part I feel that young people are generally good natured in that way. However, I think it’s much easier for teens to make fun of, or belittle, those with less visible ailments. For instance, a student who is suffering from Asperger’s may be a target because they do not understand the same social cues as everyone else. Their impairment is not a visible one making it easier for teens to target someone with a social problem.

I think a great way for parents to explain this to a teen if they talk about a student who maybe isn’t the best at socializing (or who is extremely solitary or who takes too long to answer questions in class) is to explain they think and process information differently than your teen does. This doesn’t mean they are any better or worse than your teen. In fact, the student struggling may have skills your teen does not. For instance, they may be very artistic or know more about a particular subject that your teen struggles with. Making light of their talents instead of their social inequalities is a good way to see them as equals for your teen.

Getting out to volunteer is another way to teach tolerance. Places like homeless shelters, nursing homes, other schools, libraries, and other community outlets will introduce them to people they may have not encountered otherwise. Seeing the less fortunate can do the same. There are many inspiring stories out there about young people starting fundraisers and doing great acts for those who need it. There’s an organization called Teen Line where teens volunteer to speak or text with other teens who may be in crisis or just need someone to talk to.

Never discourage your teen’s (or younger child’s) curiosity of those around you. Sometimes you may be asked something that you think is rude, or racist, or unacceptable; however, if they are generally unsure about something you need to be able to answer them honestly and respectfully. Steer them towards the appropiate response and reactions to the world around them.

The biggest and best way to teach tolerance to your teens? Be tolerant yourself. I know, this is groundbreaking stuff. But if you are accepting and helpful to others they will see that and emulate you. Remember that they are listening, all the time. So be wary of using hateful slang and furthering any sort of stereotypical ideology that you may have grown up with yourself.

 

 

Some reading recommendations for teaching diversity to teens:

 

 

“Chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.”

 

 

“Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness.”

 

 

“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

 

 

 

“Tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces.”

 

 

 

 

“A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.”

 

 

“The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl.”

Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Outdoor Education and Camping!

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, eReaders, television, game systems: There are so many reasons for your kids to stay inside and stare blankly ahead not absorbing the world around them (note: I put eReaders on the list because a lot of times I see kids using them they’re playing games, books are okay 🙂

I’ve posted a few articles about being outdoors with children and how it’s educational for them, but this weekend is our first attempt at taking our three year old camping. I am nervous and excited but it also prompted me to look up educational reasons to take your kids camping that I wanted to share. (Update: we didn’t make it through the night. We did get to do some of these things though it was fun for awhile just playing in the woods so…still worth a shot!)

1) Outdoor Education- this is an educational initiative all its own now. Many countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway come to mind) have outdoor education as part of their normal school curriculum. It consists of everything from hiking trips to playing more outside, to having several recess breaks throughout the day, to fishing trips. In the New Zealand Curriculum Framework, they state that providing outdoor education gives students “opportunities to develop personal and social skills, to become active, safe, and skilled in the outdoors, and to protect and care for the environment.”

2) Problem solving- many spur of the moment issues can arise while camping. Is that poison ivy? Is there rain coming? Taking children camping can help them better their problem solving skills and quick thinking techniques. To prep for the trip have your children be involved with packing their own supplies. Obviously, guide them to pack essentials but let them really decide what they want and what they do not.

3) Imaginative play- camping provides ample opportunities for imaginative play. Being out in nature surrounded by trees (or the ocean if you choose to camp on the beach) gives them a backdrop they aren’t used to at home. The campfire is also a great place for imaginations to take off. Take turn telling stories. If you are having trouble starting, try making up new endings to stories you already know. Like what if Little Red Riding Hood didn’t realize that the wolf was pretending to be her grandmother? What if they lived together for a while, how would the wolf act?

4) Unplug! Along the same lines as imaginative play, being outdoors and camping really gives you and your family a chance to unplug together. It may be tempting to break out the phones or bring the iPads but don’t. Spend your time together, together. You are not home so you shouldn’t be worrying about work and things that can be dealt with once camping is over.

5) Cooking in a new atmosphere- cooking is a great learning experience. Measuring, mixing, and playing with different textures and ingredients. Camping provides a completely new way to experience the learning process of cooking. Bring some pre-made items like pancake mix and let your child help with pouring it on the pan over the fire. In addition, being outside instead of in the kitchen might help you not worry so much about the mess.

Here are some activities to do with your children while camping to make the experience fun and educational!
Scavenger hunt- there are many available online if you don’t want to create one yourself
Frisbee or catch
Fishing or crabbing
Bubbles
Crafts- a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest. Here are some I really like.
Sand toys