Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Prepare Your Child for Potty Training (part 1)

I had the privilege of writing for the e-book Parenting Responsively along with 11 other ACPI parent and family coaches.  Over the next few weeks I will be reprinting my chapter.  I hope you will enjoy it.  If you would like to order the entire book you may do so on my website for $9.99 - Strong Roots Family Coaching.  Enjoy

              Preparing your child for the transition from diapers to underwear can start at a very young age.  Even a child under the age of one is beginning to understand the world around him.  In fact, even a six month old wants to do the things you do.  Use this to your advantage and model the positive behaviors you want your child to mimic.  Remember, if your goal is to get your child to eat his food with a fork, you'll need to show him that you eat your food with a fork and praise him as he tries to do the same. 

                The technique of modeling and imitating is not only successful with teaching appropriate mealtime manners; it's a wonderful tool that can be used during toilet training. To some parents, taking their child with them to the bathroom may sound crude and raise feelings of discomfort, but the reality is that your child needs to see you using the toilet to understand that doing it is a normal and expected event.  If you lock yourself in the bathroom every time you go, your child will never have a chance to witness this natural experience.  In fact, if you only use the toilet behind closed doors, your child may even grow to think that something mysterious and strange goes on in the bathroom, which can create and breed fear.  By treating using the toilet like any other habit, you show your child that using it is just one more thing he will learn to do on his own. 

                It is often said that boys potty train later than girls. If we stop and think about this, is it because mothers tend to do most of the training and boys are not exposed to seeing their father's use the toilet regularly? I think this could be the case. That's why it is important for your child to witness the same gender using the potty.  If your little boy never sees another older male use the potty standing up, it will make the process of teaching him to urinate standing up much more difficult. 

                Your bathroom vocabulary is another important part of the potty training process.  Using language that your child can understand and even repeat at young ages is key to developing your potty training language.  Though it may be embarrassing for you when your child says he has to go poop in grocery store, most people will understand and laugh with you, not at you.   Decide what words you will use and be consistent with using them.  “Tinkle”, “poop” and “toilet” are popular, recognizable words that many parents use.  Using the word potty when your child goes in his diaper and the word toilet when he goes on the toilet can also help build your child's potty training understanding.  Saying, "you went potty” when your child just soiled his diaper can be confusing if you also use this language when he goes on the toilet.  Using different words and phrases will help separate the two experiences.  If your child is in daycare, you'll also want to be sure to communicate your potty training vocabulary with his caregiver so that she can support your child during this process as well as understand what he's trying to communicate when he has to go.

Please see the next weeks post (or subscribe to this blog) to hear the rest of the chapter on Potty Training without a Power Struggle

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Keeping Your Child’s Dignity while Potty Training

I had the privilege of writing for the e-book Parenting Responsively along with 11 other ACPI parent and family coaches.  Over the next few weeks I will be reprinting my chapter.  I hope you will enjoy it.  If you would like to order the entire book you may do so on my website for $9.99 - Strong Roots Family Coaching.  Enjoy

Potty Training without a Power Struggle - Keeping your Child's Dignity

                Caring for three children ages six and under can be a challenge, but adding potty training to the mix can make it downright chaotic.   That is where I found myself not too long ago.  Joy, my two-year-old charge had just started wearing underpants earlier in the week.  She had done very well on this particular day, so I decided it was time for our first outing without diapers.  When we arrived at the community center for her older brother’s basketball practice, I was surprised to find that she had had an accident during the short car ride there.  I remained positive as we headed inside where I could change her clothes, gently reminding her that "everyone has accidents" along the way. We went on with our day, she happily coloring in her coloring book, and I keeping a two-month-old entertained with catching some of the eldest boy’s practice. Not more than 20 minutes had passed when I noticed that there was a puddle on the floor of the gym, right under her feet.  At this moment, I came to the realization that Joy wasn't as ready as I had thought to be without diapers, and that continuing to have her in public with panties would only lead to frustration and emotional stress.  

                For many parents, the thought of potty training brings up feelings of anxiety.  You may have heard potty training stories that recount months of embarrassing accidents, painful setbacks and intensive struggles. From those stories, you may have gleaned that potty training isn't always easy.  But fortunately, potty training does not need to be stressful for you or your child.  Potty training doesn't need to be a source of emotional pain and frustration.  Whether you begin the potty training process this month or next, your child will eventually learn to use the toilet regularly, with whatever method you choose, and with success.  While you can, and many parents do choose to approach potty training in a way that can cause distress, there is another way.

You can potty train your child successfully while allowing him to maintain his dignity as he tackles this new and somewhat scary endeavor.

                While you may think that walking is the first major milestone for your child, it's really not.  To your child, walking is just one more way to get from here to there. Before walking, he was able to scoot, roll or crawl to wherever he wanted to go.

                But when it comes to using the potty, your child is truly experiencing a first. To him, learning to urinate on the toilet is the first monumental task he is facing. Up until now, the only place he knew to go to the bathroom in was his diaper. Remember his whole life he's been wearing a diaper and naturally relieving himself in it.  So not only does your child need to learn to go in the toilet, he has to unlearn the habit of going in his diaper. As you can imagine, this is huge adjustment for your child. Remember potty training is a process. Transitioning to using the toilet will happen, but it takes patience, courage, instruction and a lot of cheerleading for it to happen easily and successfully.   

                When you bring patience and respect into the potty training equation, you are letting your child make the decision for himself that he is ready to use the potty.  When using the potty is something he chooses to do, rather than something that he is being forced to do, he's able to maintain his dignity with each challenging day.  While it may seem contradictory to the training process to let your child decide when he's ready, when you do, you'll actually shorten the length of the potty training process because he'll be gaining dignity that will raise his self-esteem.  When his self-esteem is raised, your child better has the ability to take on new challenges and to keep working on areas of his life that need improvement. 

                The self-esteem built through a positive potty training experience will also help him, as he gets older.  They gain the courage to try new things and to get up and try again, even if they fail the first few times.   Children who have a positive experience will also learn to equate hard work with that good feeling that only increased self-confidence brings.

                In more than 15 years of working with young children and families, I have seen a masterful change in the demeanor of children when they master using the toilet.   Their independence grows by leaps and bounds. They look for new and bigger tasks that they can master.  The benefits your child gains from a positive potty training experience do last a lifetime. 

                As I said earlier, potty training is a process. While potty training language can at times be confusing, for our purposes, the phrase “potty training” encompasses everything from talking to your child about using the toilet to dealing with accidents at night as a child gets older.  Actually getting rid of diapers and putting on underpants is what I refer to as “the transition to underpants.”

Please click here to see last weeks section from Potty Training without a Power Struggle

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is That Child Smarter Than Mine

This is an article I wrote for Brain Insights a few months back.  Brain Insights was founded in 2008 by Deborah McNelis, an educator, national speaker and author of, The Brain Development Series. As a result, Brain Insights leads the way in making early brain development common knowledge, thanks to the unique combination of inspiring brain presentations and the incomparable Brain Development Activity Packets in both English and Spanish.

I have been a Certified Professional Nanny for almost 15 years, working with children and families from birth into their teen years.  I have studied children’s brain development both in the classroom, through books, and during lots of personal experience.  I know that the bond babies make with mom or dad in those first few months are vital to the neurological connections that are being made in their brains.  As children get older, the connections also are made through many stimuli like touch, feel, taste, sight and sound.  I understand that a toddler’s brain will develop best through real experiences.  They should be learning balance, coordination, speech, spatial dexterity and social skills.  Learning the ABC’s, numbers, shapes and the rest will come but do not need to be pushed at this stage.  In fact stressing a child out (and yourself) to learn these lessons earlier and earlier could have negative effects to the development process.  The energy being used to memorizing these skills could go instead to the improvement of age appropriate activities.

All this I know from my training, however, I am also a mom.  A few weeks ago my almost 3 year old daughter had a play date with a child 5 months younger.  During play time the other child began to sing her ABC’s.  She got every letter right!!  Not only that, she went on to count to 20 without missing any numbers.  My daughter says “1, 2, 17” and her idea of ABC’s are “A, B, Q, X.”  Suddenly my mommy jealously kicked in.  For a moment all understanding of how the brain works and what is age appropriate flew out the window, and I found myself wondering if my daughter was not as smart.  Would that mean she would not do well in school and then not get into a good college Then would she not get a good job and be HAPPY!

Okay, maybe I did not consciously think all this in that instant, but my emotions went around these issues.  My head started spinning with worry.  I know the reality that even if this child was showing signs of greater intelligence by saying her ABC's at 2 years old that does not mean my daughter will not do well in school.  Happiness does not come from your intelligence or your job. 

But the issue goes even deeper because I know that being able to recite ABC’s and count to 20 at the age of two does not equal great intelligence.  It means that this other child has strengths in areas different from my child.  Perhaps she is an auditory learner and has caught on to the “ABC song" quicker than my child. Perhaps her mother has worked very hard training her daughter to be able to count to 20. 

Whatever the case is my story is not unique.  There is a natural instinct in parents to want their child to excel at academics and to compare them to other children.  It’s hard for parents to resist this temptation and choose instead to see their child’s strengths.  If it is difficult for a mom like me who has been extensively trained and witnessed many children grow healthy and bright who did not know their ABC’s at 2, how much more difficult is it for parents that do not know these things.  Therefore it is understandable why it is so common for parents to push their children to learn things they do not need to be pushed to learn. 

I was able to quickly regain my rational thinking and genuinely praised the child for her skill.  I did not run home and try to force my daughter to learn these same skills.  I choose instead to find the things she is really good at, like her imagination and willingness to play with others.  Remember that EVERY child has stills and talents that they can do well.  It is our honor as parents and caregivers to find those strengths and nurture them. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Families Grown through Adoption: Tips

This is the final installment of a series of articles I originally wrote for Regarding Nannies web site. Check them out, they are amazing.  It is written in an effort to help nannies care for their charges and support their employers but the information will be helpful for anyone that knows families of adoption.  

The first job I had as a Certified Professional Nanny was for a family going through a divorce.  I knew nothing about divorce and how it affects children.  I tried very hard to be compassionate and understanding.  However, there were some things I just didn’t know and wish someone had told me.  

Nannies have a great desire to help and support the children in their charge and the parents that employ them.  Sometimes we don’t know how best to do that, especially in situations that we don’t know much about.  Through these articles I am hoping to give you – my nanny friends - some of the background information about adoption.  I would have found background information about divorced families helpful during my first job.  

Today I have 5 tips to help you navigate dealing with adoptive parents and children. 

1-      Find a friend
There are many challenges that face families grown through adoption.  These challenges become stresses on the family and then of course on the nannies too.  We need to make sure we are dealing with the stresses without taking it out on our charges.  Make sure you have some people you can reach out to for advice, help and to just relax with.  If you need help contact me or Regarding Nannies to connect with other nannies that have worked with families of adoption so you have a friend to go to that has been where you are before.  

2-     Be Sensitive
Adoption is a sensitive issue.  Most of us that adopt are very protective of our children and do not want them to ever feel “different” in a bad way.  They can be sensitive to a variety of comments from a child not being their “real” child to comments about multiracial families.  Be cautious with the words you use to discuss and refer to adoption.  So be sensitive when talking with your charges and their parents.  Tara says:
People mean well, I think, but do not understand how hurtful certain phrasings or words can be...or how confusing they can be to a child. They ask about the child's "real" parents...when they need to ask about birth parents. They ask "Are they really siblings?" Well, yes...we have the papers to prove it! What they really mean is "Are they biological siblings?" ...as if that means they are "more" to each other than they are through adoption.”

3-     Communicate
It is vital that you have a detailed conversation with your employers about how they talk to their children about adoption and what they want you to say.  It is very important for all caregivers to use the same language and answer questions in the same way.  Make sure you discuss what questions, if any, your employers would like you to answer and how they want you to handle the questions beyond that.  If you disagree with how an employer is handling a question or concern your charge has, bring it up to the parent.  It is worse for the child to be given two different answers than to be given a wrong or half truth that is unified.  Esther says:
The truth is that Peach can be a handful at times which is why we felt it was important that Rachel [our nanny] have all the details about Peach's past - some of which are really gut-wrenching - but we knew she needed the full context in order to help address the behavioral and emotional challenges ahead. What I appreciate so much about our nanny is that she loves the kids like I do and she's been someone I can confide in throughout this sometimes very difficult adoption process. I want to make sure she's up to date on all the details of the case so that she feels part of the process too. We also try to coordinate helping to explain concepts (like adoption) to Peach and make sure we all use the same words/phrases/metaphors so that we're all clearly communicating the same messages.

4– Don’t give too much information
Be careful how much you tell children.  You want to be honest with them, but small children do not need to know that their mother gave them up because she was too addicted to drugs to care for them.  Use simple straightforward comments.  And be careful not to imply there was something wrong with the child.   Tara says:
One very important thing I learned was that a child will usually ask something along the lines of "Why couldn't/didn't my tummy mommy/birth mommy keep me or want me?" and that it is CRUCIAL to answer in a way that removes the "me". If you answer "She couldn't take care of you." a young child often misinterprets that to mean there was something about them, personally, that caused the birthmother to choose adoption. They think there was or is something wrong with them. However, if you answer something along the lines of "Your birth mother wasn't able to take care of any baby by herself..." and go from there. It helps the child see that it was the situation and to not personalize it so deeply. 

5 – Expect a change
Children that have open adoptions and visitation with their birth families often return from these visitations different children.  The complicated feelings that these events stir up often take days and weeks for the child to sort through and sometimes are never resolved.  The best thing for nannies of adoption to do is to double their efforts in providing a stable, predictable and consistent atmosphere.  They need to be lovingly reminded of the rules at the house but also encouraged to express their feelings and frustrations after returning home.  Cassandra says:
Describing the behavior and emotional changes in either of my charges after interacting with her birth family is somewhat of a complicated task. Both children wrestled with complex and mixed emotions after time with members of either birth family.  [However] Knowing that families were willing to work together across what could have been a barrier of adoption for the greater purpose of raising a healthy, happy child and seeing those families grow to sincerely care for one another was a true tribute to the vastness of the human heart. Providing truth to the saying, It takes a whole village to raise a child.” 

The truth is that every family has its own struggles and issues that it faces.  We as nannies learn to adapt to and support families with their unique issues.  In this way families formed through adoption are no different than families formed through blood.

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these articles and interviewing the families and nannies I did.  Adoption is very near and dear to my heart.  I hope what I have said has helped you to understand adoption a little more, helped you to support adoptive families you might work for and maybe even consider adopting someday yourself.  

Links to previous adoptions articles
Families grown through adoption: BOOKS
Families grown through foreign adoption
Families grown through private adoption
Families grown through public adoption

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My child hates to do home work. How can I help?

I remember coming home at the end of a long day at school and being so exhausted that I did not want to even look at a school book.  I was lucky, when I went to school (many) years ago, we had a normal amount of homework.  I was able to get most of it done at school.  Today for better or worse, our children tend to have so much homework that they often could spend most of their precious time in the evening finishing it. 

I don’t blame children for not wanting to do home work after a long day at school.  No matter what age, they need some time to be kids – even when they are 17 years old.  When you add afterschool sports and other activities to the equation you have an overload.  

I always think the best time for a child to do their homework is right away when they get home.  But often times they are exhausted and overwhelmed and just need some down time.  
Here are a few suggestions to help make it easier. 
1.         Limit after school activities.  I know this is a big challenge but too often today our children are overloaded with too many activities they “kind of” enjoy.  Let your children each pick one they really like and MAYBE offer a second.  Give your children some time to be children.

2.        Feed them a healthy snack after school.  Whether you are leaving right away to make it to an afterschool activity or you are staying home, this is an important step.  Avoid sugar/carbohydrate loads.  Try cheese and fruit.  The fruit will give them a burst of little energy now and the cheese will sustain them until dinner time. 

3.        Give your children the choice if they want to play right away or do home work.  You will be amazed at the response your children will have when you ask every day what their preference is.  There might be some days your children choose to do homework right away, and there may be days that your children are just too tired.  Be sure your children understand what else is on the schedule for the day before they make their choice.  And once your child has made the decision for the day, hold him to it. 

4.       Make sure that at least 2 times a week your children have 60 minutes in the evening to do what they want to do.  Give your children time to relax and enjoy themselves.

5.        Talk to your children about motivation.  Ask them what they want to be when they grow up and help them to understand how the homework they do today will help them accomplish their goal.  For example if your daughter wants to design buildings as an architect, she is going to need to be really good at math.  If your son wants to write books, he will need to be really good at spelling and grammar.  Help your children to see that they work hard at some things in his life like sports or video games, and there is also value in working hard to finish homework.