Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What should I do when my family does not agree with how I raise my children?

Ah, families.  Don’t you just love them?  On one hand they bring support, much needed relief by way of babysitting and stability for your children.  But sometimes those very things we love about our families can drive us nuts. 

Most of our parents were brought up in a different generation and they tend to believe their generation did parenting right.  They look around at all these “new” techniques and parenting rules and think “well if that is the right way to raise a child, I did it all wrong.”  They might have a tendency to feel hurt and offended if you choose to raise your children differently. 

I honestly believe that EVERY parent is and has always done the best they could with the information, support and mental abilities that they have.  It is very easy to look around the world, maybe even your neighborhood, and see examples of parents being less than perfect.  It is important to remember that these parents and our parents love their children.  They very possibly have experiences and issues from their past that we could not begin to understand.  It is also very easy to think about our own childhood and wish we would have been treated differently.

More than likely as you were growing up you thought or even muttered the words “I will not do that when I have children.”  The chances are almost as great for you to now understand why your parents made the choices they did in disciplining you.  That does not mean that you will want to repeat every parenting decision made by your parents.  
So when it comes to your children, your parents might still feel like they know what is best and they may not be afraid to tell you it.  This can bring frustration, tension and family turmoil.  

When I am working with families that feel they are being pushed to discipline their children in ways they do not feel is right by their children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members, I remind them that there may be some wisdom in what they say but that our culture and understanding of children’s development have come a long way.  No parent will ever be perfect. Your parents might have messed you up by doing “x” but you were able to get over that and have turned out to be a pretty decent person.  I am sure there will be many ways that I will mess up my children, but they will eventually recover from my mistakes as long as I also give love, care and as much patience as I can muster each moment of the day.  Children are much more resilient than we know. 

The best way to both include your extended family in the lives of your children while knowing they are on a “similar” page when caring for your children is to involve them in discussion on the way you plan to discipline your children.  This needs to be done with a non-judgmental attitude.  It would be very easy for the people that raised you to feel you are angry or bitter about the way you were raised.  Start by letting them know that you understand how much they love you and always have.  Talk to them about why you are choosing one parenting method over another and what you have learned about it.  

If they will not understand you have to agree to disagree, but ask them to respect your wishes when it comes to discipline. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Should I be teaching my two year old son the alphabet to make sure he is not going to fall behind other kids?

Guest post by Deborah McNelis, owner/Brain Insights

You are obviously a very caring parent that wants to do all that is best for your son. However sometimes it is difficult to know what is the best direction isn’t it?  It is wonderful to share with you that brain science can help. Due to a wealth of brain research we now know the way children learn best.

I am going to begin by asking you a few questions as I lead to clarifying what is going to help your child learn in the most optimal way.

M  Z  @  Y  X  Q  R  #  W * G  L  D T

Does the above have meaning to you? What if I asked you to say it out loud repeatedly? Would that help you know what it means? Maybe you could sing as you say the names of the letters and symbols. The repetition and singing will likely help you be able to memorize this sequence of letters and symbols. But, in the end will you have learned anything?

Frequently two, three, and four year old children are encouraged to do this type of activity and it is called learning. When children of these ages are saying or singing A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L …. there is no meaning to a young child.

Children can do it, but there is no REAL learning taking place. As adults we understand that these are letters and they represent sounds and they create words. But, to children these letters are abstract.  

The brain learns with real objects first. Then as higher areas of the brain develop, the brain is able to think and learn about things that are not experienced directly with the senses. 

The same is true when flash cards are used with young children. Children just memorize and repeat back words on the cards, but there is no real learning taking place. 

Think of a child that is looking at a flash card with the picture of an orange and the word, ORANGE  printed below the photo. With the repetition of a parent saying orange when showing the picture, the child will learn to say, "orange". 

Now, compare the difference of a child seeing a photo on a card to a child holding, smelling, and tasting a real orange while hearing the word "orange" .. .. (and other words like juicy, sweet, soft, and round). It is easy to see that a child would make MANY more brain connections through experiencing a real orange. It really is simple.... REAL learning for young children happens through real experiences.

So for you to help your child learn best all you need to do is provide fun interactive experiences.  Through opportunities to explore, touch, taste, smell, hear, poke, pound, pour, manipulate, and throw children directly experience and learn about the world. This is real learning and this is what developing brains need most.

For REAL brain development activities ideas to use in everyday life go to www.braininsightsonline.com With Brain Development Packets you can learn the very easy way to provide what your child needs … even during your busy everyday life!

Deborah McNelis,  MS -Education
Deborah is an author, speaker, educator and parent. Her passion is to achieve the best possible outcome for all children and make brain development common knowledge.
As an Early Brain Development Specialist and owner of Brain Insights, Deborah is the award winning author of, The Brain Development Series. She has been seen in several publications, heard on numerous radio shows, and receives rave reviews for her enlightening and engaging presentations. Deborah is overjoyed with the response to all that her company provides due to her passion to create awareness of the critical importance of the early years.
In addition to the brain series she has also created a brain packet called Naturally Developing Young Brains. Deborah has additionally created the Love Your Baby App, a valuable newsletter, the Early Childhood Brain Insights blog, and the BRAIN Initiative. Her newest initiative helps entire communities, “Create Great Connections”. Her goal through this work is for everyone to gain an understanding of early brain development, it’s impact, and the ways we can all easily make a REAL difference.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holidays are coming up, how can I make them less stressful?

It seems like every year we go from mid November through to the beginning of January on autopilot.  There are family functions and parties involving way too much candy and food and WAY too much stress.  We tell ourselves every year that this year will be different.  By the time January 4th rolls around we are exhausted, stressed and feel like we need another vacation.  How about we give it another try?  Here are a few tips to make this holiday season more memorable and enjoyable for both you and your children.
1.             Make commitments wisely.  During the holidays, everyone wants a piece of you.  There are so many fun events and parties, but don’t forget that YOU get to make the decisions about what you will do and who you will be with.  Take a minute to think about past holidays.  Of all the parties and events that come up, which ones did you enjoy?  Talk with your spouse or significant other and even your children about the activities that they love to do, the ones that really bring the joy of the season for you.  Separate them from the activities that just added stress and frustration to your lives.  Decide together what celebrations you will attend.  Say no to the rest and try hard not to feel guilty about the rest.  It will be a challenge to STICK TO IT but keep remembering you get to choose. 
2.            Holiday cards for some are a headache.  Lots of people are now sending e-holiday cards.  These are a great option for some people and can even be sent personalized.  However for some that just does not feel right.  I remember every year my mother (who was a teacher) did not finish our Christmas cards until after New Years.  Why not make that the plan. These days a lot of people are opting for New Years Cards instead of Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanza cards.  That way it is one (or 200) fewer things you need to do in the middle of shopping, baking, cooking, cleaning and partying.  Maybe it can be one of the things you work on when your children are enraptured by their new presents (for the whole day that that lasts.)
3.            Consider using some of this new found time to give back to other people.  Maybe you know of a needy family you could bless with extra gifts.  You could take advantage of the many charities that help the underprivileged this time of year.  Maybe it is a family friend that you know has been struggling lately and you show up with a big meal and some company.  Whatever it is, you will be amazed at the seasonal joy giving to others will give you. 
4.            Gifts can drive person nuts.  For me, I am always terrified that I will miss someone.  I have the recurring dream this time of year that someone shows up at my door with a gift and I have nothing to give them.  The first step here is to take a breath and realize that your friend or neighbor is giving you a gift because they want to and are NOT expecting anything in return.  If this continues to be something you worry about it is pretty easy to prepare some small “universal” gifts for such occasions.  Maybe you make a trip to the store and get some premade cookies or chocolates.  Keep them in the freezer or fridge ready to go in case someone surprises you with a gift and you want to return the favor.  One of my favorite things to do is bake my own “family” cookies.  I always make extra for these occasions. 
5.             It is amazing how we adults can make things so very complicated and children have a way of simplifying everything for us.  If you think about your childhood or ask your child to think about the holidays they remember, you might be surprised to find that they things they remember the most are the simple ones.  Like taking a drive or walking around to look at all the holiday lights.  Or helping make cookies that ended up burning.  Remember that of all the things you do this season what your children will remember the most are the attitudes and atmosphere that surround them.  They will remember snuggling on the couch watching a Christmas movie more than they will remember how perfect the tree and decorations were.

 Don’t try to do it all, do what is fun and forget the rest.  You will find yourself on January 4th a happier and healthier person for it. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Families Grown through Adoption: Private Adoption

Over the last month I have been re-posting articles that I originally wrote for Regarding Nannies website this summer.  I encourage you to check out their great ideas for working with children. 

Today I am continuing my discussion about methods of adoption with Private Adoptions.
Private adoption is any adoption in the USA that utilizes an adoption agency.  Sometimes the adoptive family finds the birth family on their own and simply uses the agency for the legalities of it all and sometimes the adoptive family works through the entire process with the agency.  If you are an adoptive family that found a birth family on your own, it is also possible to use a private lawyer.  I still consider that a Private adoption.  

This type of adoption has a lot of benefits.  Like a foreign adoption, you are working with a group of people that know what they are doing and are able to help you through every part of the process.  After the application and home study is complete, the adoptive family puts together a portfolio that tells their story.  This is what birth mom’s will look at to make the biggest decision of her life – whose family her baby will go to.  Once this portfolio is complete, adoptive families have nothing to do but wait for a birth mother to make the life altering decision.  This can take weeks to months and even years.  

Then again it could happen in the blink of an eye like it did for Valerie and Will.  They learned through someone they knew, of a baby that was 3 days old.  They had to work through 6 months of applications and home studies in 2 days so they could fly to meet their baby girl.  For this adoption everything went well.  Their second adoption did not go as smoothly but they now have two beautiful children Debra-Jane and Sam.  

Domestic private adoption is a more doable price.  It can cost anywhere from $12,000 to 20,000, which certainly isn’t free, but is not as steep as the foreign adoption.  Most of this cost can be recouped eventually with the tax incentive I talked about last Thursday from the US government.  This fact makes private adoption a real possibility for a lot of families. 
So once a birth mother chooses an adoptive family, things move forward.  However there are still some potential bumps in the road.  At any moment, even up until 2 days after the birth of the child, the birth mother has the right to change her mind and keep the baby.  This has broken the hearts of a good number of families including Robin and Scott.  They had been chosen by an adoptive mom and flown to Georgia to be present for the birth.  They spent 2 days with the little baby girl that had been promised to them only to have the birth mom change her mind just before signing the necessary paperwork.  Scott and Robin had to fly home empty handed, save the car seat and all the supplies they had bought thinking they would be flying home with a newborn baby.  The good news here is that a few months later they got a call that there was another birth mom that had chosen them.  This time all worked out well and they now have two beautiful children – Ella and Emmett. 

Another possible distraction is if the birth father is not willing to give up parental rights.  This can potentially stop the entire adoption but will at least cause things to drag on longer and make things more expensive because an additional lawyer needs to be paid for by the adoptive families. This happened to Steve and Jennifer with their first child.  It meant that they were not able to bring him home for almost 2 months due to a court hearing to legally terminate the parental rights.  They were eventually able to bring him home and now have 2 wonderful children; Josiah and Sam. 

Next method of adoption is Public Adoption, the method my husband and I choose.  

Check out the other adoption artcles:


Families grown through adoption: BOOKS

Families grown through foreign adoption


Families grown through public adoption

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How can I encourage my child to play with other children?

Some children are naturally drawn to other children.  They thrive on the energy of people around and even at times act out when they do not get the interaction.  Other children prefer to be alone in their play.  This is natural and nothing to be concerned about.  After all, adults are the same way.  Some of us are introverts and some of us are extroverts.  However, it is important for our children to learn to play with other children to some degree.  After all this “play” will teach the child to “work” with other adults as they grow.  The Lego tower that is built today may become the skyscraper of tomorrow.  The compromising, accepting and collaborating tools that children learn by playing are invaluable to them as adults. 

For those children that do not thrive on the energy other children bring, there is a level of persuading that might need to be done.  Most lessons can be learned by children through a model.  That is where you can start.  During your play time with your child, work on modeling these actions.  Don’t just tell your child what to do, but collaborate with him.  Ask questions that will lead him to the right answers, let him make mistakes in what he is doing.  Don’t just give in and “do” whatever he wants to do, but work with him to negotiate.  Make it clear that there are some events that happen in the play time that you are not completely pleased with, but that you are willing to accept these things and move on. 

The next step comes in groups of children.  Begin by playing with your child as he plays with others.  Avoid phrases like” go play with them” or “why don’t you want to play with them?”  Instead use phrases like “Let’s go see what those kids are doing,” “I wonder if she wants some help with that?” and “He looks like he might want someone to swing with.”    Go over to the group with your child and sit down.  He might need some direction like “maybe you could help him fill up his pail with sand” or “what if you helped him climb up the ladder?”

These phrases will make your child think and imagine what it would be like to engage with other children.  As your child begins to interact don’t immediately walk away.  He might suddenly get nervous and come to you for more guidance.  If your child expresses fear of playing with the other children, validate the feeling. You can even talk about how sometimes you are nervous to talk to other grownups too.  “Sometimes I get afraid of talking and working with people I don’t know, too.  It is hard to be brave enough to play with someone you don’t know.  You might wonder sometimes if they will like you or what you say.  But I believe you are brave enough to do it.  And if you don’t like playing with them after a while, you can always go play by yourself again.”

Don’t push your child into it.  This will only cause him to try and run.  Be present in the play as long as your child needs you to.  Express your understanding of the fear but also your trust in his ability to learn to play with others.  By doing this consistently your child will have the courage to play with new people and eventually will not need you by his side.