Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Getting Your Child Outdoors

There is a growing sense in the back of our brains that is telling us that we all are spending too much time indoors, away from nature. This is particularly true for our children. If you think back to happy moments in your childhood, what images do you conjure up? For many of us, it's images of playing outdoors. Yet many of our children are missing this as they are rushed from school to daycare to home to bed. When there is time for our children to be outdoors, it's often a struggle to get them away from video games, or off the phone. Click here for some tips we found written by Julie Deardorff on how to get your child outside and why it's important.

Interested in learning more about the growing movement to reintroduce children to the outdoors? Check out the Children and Nature Network to learn more!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stepfamily Myths

It is a common belief that stepfamilies should act and look just like nuclear families. Often unrealistic expectations  such as these can cause people in stepfamilies to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, disillusioned and confused. When you factor in the daily stresses of stepfamily life, tension can mount between individual and things can feel out of control.

Often however, a little bit of information about this and some other misconceptions and pressures we place on stepfamilies can cause a positive shift in perspective, improve the relationships within families and help define roles that work. By developing a better understanding of what everyone in a stepfamily is experiencing, it is very possible to improve communication, reduce stress, increase cohesion and increase the appreciation for what each individual brings to this unique family system.

For those of you who may not have seen these myths before (or maybe need a refresher - you know who you are), click here for the National Stepfamily Resource Center's page on this topic.
By Heather Remer, MA LMHC 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Power of Being Present in Parenting

By Heather Remer, MA LMHC

Especially when times are tough, it is so easy to get caught up in the day to day and miss those beautiful moments when we can truly connect with our children. Yet in the hear and now are the sweet spots of life. The now is really the stuff our lives are made of. What better lesson to teach our children, then to appreciate the present moment? With that in mind, may these beautiful words by Diane Loomans bring us into the hear and now, and remind us of what's important.

If I had my Child to Raise Over Again

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less and know to care more.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously plan.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.
I'd see the oak tree in the acorn more often.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I'd model less about the love of power,
And more about the power of love.
By Diane Loomans

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mastering Meal Time Madness!

Many parents are quick to report that meal times are some of the most stressful moments of their days. Bickering, complaining, burnt food, scheduling conflicts, tantrums and host of other potential problems can stand in the way of a relaxing meal with family. Here are some steps Kathryn Kvols, author of Redirecting Children's Behavior, suggests for taking the madness out of your family meals:

1. Ask yourself, "What do I want meals to sound like, feel like and look like? Mealtimes should be a time for:
  • Talking about their day and yours.
  • Finding ways to work through problems.
  • Letting children know you are available.
  • A chance to reconnect.
  • Opportunities for families to learn about and experience the value of teamwork.
  • Nourishment, not only from food, but also emotionally and spiritually.
2. Create a plan. It may not be feasible to have dinner together every night. You could do breakfast together on certain days and dinner on other days. Have a family meeting to determine meal plans, make a list of mealtime chores and who will do them.

Letting children be involved in the meal planning and cooking can help prepare them to make good decisions on their own and lead to a lifetime of healthier choices and self confidence.

3. Set clear boundaries around issues that are important to you. For example, the use of technological gadgets might be where you draw the line. This means putting limits on answering phone calls, playing computer games, listening to music and watching t.v.

Also set boundaries about bickering and other non-supportive bantering. Be prepared for your family to resist your changes. Often they will attempt emotional black mail to get you to go back to your old ways.

But what about my teenager? I can't even get her to come to the table!

Teens turning up their noses at the prospect of a family meal is not surprising because they're trying to establish their independence. Yet studies find that teens still want their parent's counsel. Consider trying these strategies to entice them to the family table:

  • Allow your teen to invite a friend to dinner.
  • Involve your teen in meal planning and preparation.
  • Keep mealtime calm and congenial. Avoid lecturing , arguing or prying.
  • Sometimes candlelight offers a safer atmosphere to share feelings.
  • Excuse younger siblings from the table when they are done eating if they are being annoying, so that you can have some alone time with your teen.
Take time for family meals together. It could mean  you simply order a pizza and eat together. The food isn't as important as the sense of camaraderie and feelings of support that your family will take with them throughout their lives.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

TabooTruth about Parental Happiness

In December of 2010, Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman (founders of the parenting website babble) gave a wonderfully candid TED Talk about parenting taboos and how we as a society falsely advertising to new parents about what life as a parent is all about. With humor and grace, Alisa and Rufus illustrate five off-limit topics including the response of fathers to their newborn babies, isolation of new mothers, miscarriage and more. One of their final talking points rests on happiness. We are steadily fed streams of happy family images through the media suggesting that our life as a parent will be leaps and bounds happier than before our little bundle of joy arrived but, in reality, research suggests that most couples will face a decline in happiness during child rearing years. This is a hard pill to swallow and, as Rufus and Alisa suggest, may be due to how we are trained to believe parenting to be. They suggest that by adequately preparing parents, we as a society can begin to raise the bar of happiness for parents over time, increasing the number of moments of pure joy that can be found in parenting and maybe reducing those moments of extreme frustration and loneliness.

I'd like to take this one step further. In addition to not knowing what lifestyle changes to expect as a parent, parents are also fed inaccurate and at times inappropriate ways of navigating their child's behavior as they grow leaving parents frustrated and disconnected from their children. I believe that in addition to more frank and honest discussions about parenting, the more we work to empower families in ways that increases peace and cooperation in the home, the more we can raise that happiness bar. I think this is an area where Redirecting Children's Behavior truly shines by giving parents practical tools that reduce the stress within the home and allow families to experience more moments of genuine and joyous connection.

Click here to see Alisa's and Rufos's fabulous talk in its entirety.

By Heather Remer, MA - Guest Blogger for INCAF