One of my favorite things during the Spring season is watching my husband and daughter start our garden. They start the seeds in small peat pots in our kitchen and nurture them until the sprouts are big enough to move outside to the back porch. We all take turns bringing the baby plants out into the sunshine for a few hours and then back in to stay warm overnight. Once they are big enough, Tim and the girls plant the little plants in our garden.
The impact of gardening has often been studied and written about before. I’m sure you’ve heard that the more active your children are in growing and/or preparing their food, the more likely they will be to eat it, or at least taste it. While this has not exactly been the case in my family, the girls certainly enjoy the process of growing and picking tomatoes for dad or zucchini for the neighbors.
There are also health benefits to being outdoors and to doing meaningful activities with your hands. In fact, there have been studies that show the more outdoor experiences a child has, the more positive his attitude tends to be. Many adults I have talked to, use gardening to relax and reduce stress which can help grow a positive attitude, or at least squash a negative one.
A garden does not need to be huge. In fact, if you don’t have an area in a yard to use, you can grow a small container garden. Even just experimenting and trying a few things with your children can be fun and help grow the connection between you and your child. We have planted apple and orange seeds from our snacks and the excitement and joy of watching them sprout was awesome. Parsley is an easy plant to grow in a small cup in your kitchen. We have also taken empty egg shells and grown hair for our “Egg Heads” (thanks mom for that fun idea while I was growing up!).
To grow your own “Egg Heads,” next time you use eggs, carefully crack your eggshells so that you save at least 2/3 of the shell intact. Wash them well and let them dry. Draw a face near the top of the cracked shell. You can even glue on some googly eyes. Fill the shell about 2/3 full of dirt and then put some grass (or parsely) seeds in the dirt. Water it as needed and watch the hair grow. My girls enjoyed giving our Egg Heads an occasional haircut .
Whatever type of garden or kitchen experiment you try, allow your kids to explore, experiment and get dirty. You can always hose them off or throw them in the bath tub!
I would love to hear what is growing in your garden! Comment below or send me an email at DrRenee@HelpingParentsParent.com and I’ll respond personally!
Here’s a website I recently found: KidsGardening.org . It is full of fun ideas and lots of information about gardening.
I am posting this a bit early. I wanted to give you a little time to try the ideas below so that you don’t have to start them at midnight on February 13th!
Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day, or just love chocolate, love seems to be in the air this time of year.
According to Dictionary.com, LOVE is…
A profound tender, passionate affection for another person.
A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
I remember when we first brought our daughter home. In between the sense of overwhelm and fear that if we didn’t “do it right” someone would come take her back, I developed this incredible sense of love for our tiny infant. It was something so strong I couldn’t describe it in words.
I was a actually a bit worried when we brought her sister home that this would hurt, or somehow diminish, the love I had for her. It didn’t. It’s amazing how much a heart can grow!
Some of you are going through challenges with your children and aren’t feeling that love right now. I get it. Believe me – we have both teen and pre-teen girls in our house! It can be very hard at times to remember the love you felt when you were first getting to know your child, whether that was at birth or any age you brought a child into your life.
Here are three things to help you get that feeling back. It won’t happen overnight, but try one – or all three – to help you feel the love between you and your child more often.
1) Write a Love Letter to Your Child
Take some time to think about what you most love, admire or enjoy about your child. Put this in a letter and mail it to your child. Be sure to include what makes you most proud to call him/her your child.
2) Create a Love List
If writing a letter is not your thing, write a “Top Ten Reasons I Love You” list. Some ideas to get you started: I love your smile, kind heart, how you care about your friends, share your toys nicely, how you cuddle with our dog, when we brush our teeth together and see who can get their teeth the cleanest, …. Be creative.
3) Love Notes
Write a short and sweet love note to your child and put it in his/her lunch box or leave it at the breakfast/dinner table each day of Valentine’s week. “Have fun in school today” or “I love your smile” are two ideas.
Here is an easy craft idea I sent out to my weekly Tip subscribers:
Cut out large hearts in different colors. Write notes on each of the hearts and tape them to your child’s door. The notes can be things you love about your child or you can use candy-heart sayings (Be Mine, I Luv U). You could even stick one heart per year that your child has been alive – this is easier for kids to understand when they are older. Be aware that younger children might wonder why they didn’t get as many hearts as their older siblings, so just be ready with an explanation.
If you have a young child who can’t read yet, glue or draw pictures onto the hearts. The pictures can be of family and friends who love your child or fun/cute pictures from magazines or the internet.
Sometimes it’s the little things that can melt a heart and see big changes.
If you are feeling the challenges of raising a child, please take advantage of my February Special: One-on-One Coaching sessions are only $49
Click the picture for more information.
This is not just for new parents – if you have worked with me before, you can take advantage of this, too!
Focus on the Positive
Last week I wrote about the self-fulfilling prophecy: “You will find what you are looking for.” So why not look for the good?! I invited you to take some time to really stop to notice all the things your child can do and some things about him that make you smile.
This week, I invite you to focus on your parenting through a positive lens. Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And I bet, that even though you might not always feel that way, you are doing a pretty good job at parenting.
Stop and think for a moment. What is one thing that you are doing right as a parent? Do your children know that they need to stay buckled in their car seats to be safe? Are your kids going to bed nicely at night? Do they enjoy grocery shopping with you because you keep them engaged?
We are very hard on ourselves as parents. It’s so easy to dwell on the mistakes and regrets. It’s easy to freak out in the moment instead of looking at the bigger picture. Sometimes we need to stop and think if this will actually matter a year, or even a month, from now.
As a parent, it’s also easy to assume that every other parent has their act together. I used to giggle inside when people assumed that because I was so involved and organized outside my home that the inside of my home was just as organized and spotless. To be honest, the organization part isn’t bad, but even the few years that I had a maid didn’t seem to keep my home spotless! I was spending more time playing with my kids than washing baseboards so that made it OK for me.
Think of this as permission for you to spend a few minutes as you are getting dressed in the morning, or ready for bed at night, to pat yourself on the back. Think about some of the things you have done as a parent that have been successful. Be specific and authentic with your thoughts. Some days, that might include a sentence like: “My kids are still alive today!” and that’s OK. The fact that they have made it this far with your help and guidance, is an accomplishment.
Congratulations! Raising a child isn’t easy and you’ve made it this far. There will always be ups and downs, but focusing on the positive will improve your outlook and spill over to make the downs not dip quite so low.
I love this time of year! There are fresh school supplies in the stores, the weather starts to change, and there are so many hope-filled possibilities. Yes, it’s “Back To School” time.
My disclaimer before you read the rest of this post, so that you know my bias: I am not one of those moms who does a happy dance when my kiddos go off to school each fall. This time of year is bitter sweet for me. I love getting back into a routine and the structure of school and activities. But I miss my kids. I enjoy spending time with them during the summer and eating lunch with them..
Below are a few things that have made the transition to school easier for our family. Sign up for my weekly TIPS if you would like more fun, easy ideas regarding the start of school (and many other things throughout the year)
1. Practice Run
When my girls were little, we would do a full practice run the week before school started. We would wake up “on time” to get washed up, eat breakfast, put clothes on, make lunches, and pack things into back packs with enough time to get to school. If your kids will be walking or riding their bikes, time that. It took our family 25-35 minutes to walk to school in first grade because my girls had small legs. We also we had to stop and look at everything along the way. By fifth grade, we could make it to school in 10-15 minutes (less if we were late and had to jog!). If your child is taking a bus, practice being ready 5 minutes before you need to leave for the bus stop. If you are driving, plan on carpool-lane lines, especially in rainy or snowy weather, and give yourself a little cushion of time there as well.
2. Stock up on School Supplies in Advance
Many schools will provide students with a supply list for their upcoming year. If at all possible, buy these supplies in advance so that you are not fighting crowds or toting tired kids along after they have been at school all day.
Since we’ve been doing this for a while, I save leftover supplies at the end of the year. My girls shop in ‘our store’ before we go off and purchase new items. It’s not nearly as fun as having brand new colored pencils, but do I really need to spend $3 on 12 new pencils when only the light blue and green ones were used a little bit last year? I think not. It’s the same thing with notebooks and binders. Especially the notebooks we bought towards the end of the year. These often only have 8-10 used pages. I rip the used pages out and we have a new (well, almost new) notebook for the fall.
3. Important Names and Numbers
Start working on important names and numbers now. In addition to a digital list, if that’s the way you work, keep a hard copy of this list in a central location (near your phone or on the cover of your phone book) so that it is handy for everyone when needed. Some of the numbers I keep: School Office, Attendance, Teacher(s), Emergency Contacts, Doctor/Dentist Office, Close Friends and Neighbors. This list comes in handy when my kids need to be out of school (attendance) and when filling in all of the forms at the beginning of the year (every year) that ask for some of that information.
4. Dates on Calendar
Put dates on your calendar as soon as they come in. It doesn’t matter if you use a digital calendar or an old fashioned paper and pencil calendar. Put the dates on now. This might seem like a no-brainer or a super easy task. If you are just starting and don’t have too many activities, it should be relatively easy. However, if you have multiple children involved in multiple activities, it can get busy and might seem overwhelming quickly.
I have one client who uses a different color for each person in her family. Another client uses a different color for different activities (school activities are green, sports are blue, scouts are brown, etc.). There is no correct way to do this. You will need to come up with a system that works for you – even if you write everything in pencil – the goal is to get in the habit of writing it all on your calendar so that you can keep your head above water and stay on top of things!
5. Have Fun
This is super important to me. I want to send my girls off to their first day in a good mood.
I have helium balloons and take pictures on that first day of school. While I do request at least one ‘nice smile’ picture, there are often a bunch of crazy faces along the way. I also provide donuts for our bus stop on the first day of school (the middle school bus stops right in front of our house). As a bonus, after the kids leave, the parents usually hang around and visit for a bit and tease me as I try not to cry. Yes, even with my girls growing up, I still get a bit tear-y eyed on that first day.
After school I offer my girls a special snack (ice cream or milk and cookies) that we don’t have on a typical afternoon. It’s my way of getting them to sit still long enough to talk about their day for a few moments.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog. I’ll have more ideas to help if your child is anxious about school starting.
Do you feel like you are doing all of the work around your house?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little help so that you could play, too?
Young children love to help! If your children are young, you have a huge advantage here, please don’t let this slip away. If your children are older, it’s a bit more work, but in the end, you will have well rounded, knowledgeable children who can take care of themselves when they are off on their own- not to mention a little more time for yourself before they leave!
It’s important to find age-appropriate chores and to realize that you will need to teach, and re-teach these chores on occasion. It’s also important that you pick chores you can live with being done at a ‘child-level.’ If you need to have the mirrors wiped without streaks, or it will bother you all day long, this is not a chore you should give to your child. If you don’t care that there is a smudge here or there, give it away and put your feet up for a few moments!
Obviously young children will need more help and supervision, and older children will need to be taught and supervised in the beginning, too. Just remember, you are training your child for the long run. If you can stick with it, the benefits are worth it.
Here are some examples of a few age appropriate chores and a few tips:
Young Children (3-5 years old)
Pick Up Toys: You can make a game of this or have your child race a timer.
Set/Clear the Table: If you put the items on the table and have taught your child (or continue to teach) where to put the plates, napkins, forks and spoons, your child can start this task as early as 3-4 years old. Encouraging your child to clear his/her plate and silverware can start as early as they are able to carry something from the table to the counter.
Vacuum/Mop: Young children love to help. In the beginning, a toy vacuum is a great way to have children help and enjoy doing the chore.
Laundry: Children love to make pairs and find matches. Have them help by sorting socks.
5-8 Year Olds
All of the above chores with a little more responsibility.
Pick up Toys: We have a saying at our house: “Whatever you take out, you must put back.”
Set/Clear Table: Your child can set the table with items you have put on the table and can also start helping to bring food to/from the table. Clearing can include not only his/her place setting, but also parent place settings, too.
Vacuum/Mop/Dust Mop: Children can start using ‘real’ vacuums and mops at this age.
8+ Years Old
All of the above chores and…
Pick Up Toys and Crafts: At this age we added the saying: “If you can’t clean it up withing 15 minutes, it might be too much.” My daughters prefer to spend more time playing than cleaning, so this saying seemed to resonate with them.
Load/Unload Dishwasher: When my children first started unloading the dishwasher, they were too short to put some of the dishes and cups away in the high cupboards. They started by putting the things on the counter and I would put them away. As they grew, they were able to stand on a stool to help them be tall enough to finish the job. And, yes, for those of you who know me, I have to use the stool sometimes, too!
So, there you have it. A list of a few age-appropriate chores you can try at your house. My suggestion would be to pick one or two chores and experiment with those chores, not to try all of them this week. Once you have established a routine, or a system that works with one or two chores, you can add another one. Slowly, over a few months, you can continue to increase the responsibility. Just don’t forget to figure in the “Fun Factor” to keep things from seeming too much like work.
Check out my upcoming Webinar:
How to Get Your Child To Cooperate and Complete Chores
If you sign up through this link: http://supersweetdailydeals.com/
by May 25th, 2016, you will be able to attend this $27 Webinar for FREE!
There are a multiple dates/times available.
Does your child have a bad case of the “Gimmes” or the “I-wants”? “Give me this” and “I want that!”
Parents often struggle with providing for their children while keeping their child from feeling entitled or falling into the “spoiled” category. Many parents feel like they are earning enough, so why shouldn’t they provide everything for their children? It’s also easy to want for your children what you didn’t have. Watch out and think twice before you provide everything! Material things end up meaning less if they are easily available.
If you want to break the “Gimmes” or “I-wants”, or if you are lucky enough to be reading this when your child is very young and want to prevent these sneaky creatures from entering your home, you need to have a plan. As a parent, you are in charge. You do not need to be mean, but you do need to think about your priorities and teach them to your children. Will you give them everything they need at any time, or only when you feel they need something? What about things they ‘want’ (the $200 pair of jeans, when you can get very nice jeans for $20-30). Will you provide an allowance and ask your child to provide for herself (clothing, activities, outings)? Will you ask your child to split the cost of the extras (movies, shopping for items that are not needed-just desired, such as his 8th hockey stick)?
If allowances or a demand for new things aren’t the problem but you feel like your child has too many things (notice a big mess around the house or things that get ignored for months?), think about having your child clean out his toy box right before the holidays or his birthday. See if you can find a homeless shelter, women’s shelter or another ‘real-life’ place to take your child to donate the old toys. Help your child understand that these children might not get any toys/clothing if you did not help out. Explain that these children can still be happy and healthy and loved, but their families most likely do not have enough money for fun things or things above and beyond the necessities.
And what about shopping trips to the grocery store or for another person’s birthday? As a parent who needs to take a child on a shopping trip, you face extra challenges than someone shopping alone. I’ll be the first to admit to buying a toy from the $1 section on more than one occasion to entertain my child throughout the shopping trip… See my blog on The Joys (not!) of Shopping with Children for more. If you buy your child something on every shopping trip, he will learn to expect it (and the “Gimmes” will be there in full force). If you give in to a tantrum because he wants something you are not willing to buy, he will learn that throwing a tantrum gets him whatever item he wants.
Some parents have children keep a list of things they want. Every time a child says “I want” something, they are politely told to write it down on the list. Parents review the list with the child close to birthdays, holidays and special occasions to see if the things on the list are still relevant. If they are, they can be shared with relatives or others interested in buying a gift for your child or the child can be encouraged to save and buy the item with her own money.
It’s not too late to get rid of the case of the “Gimmes” or “I-wants.” If there is something your child really wants, have her earn part of the money to pay for the item. Helping a neighbor or doing extra chores around the house can help a young child earn some spending (or saving) money. This is a good practice even when it’s not around the holiday time!
While I try to be thankful all year, I find myself feeling especially grateful around this time of year. Yes, Thanksgiving was just here, but for me it’s the fact that, as the weather gets colder, I have a warm, sturdy house, plenty of clothing, and more than enough food to eat. I’m even grateful for the mess in my daughters’ rooms or the things around the house that I have to clean up because it means that we have things. True, too many things, but still plenty of things to be grateful for in my life.
My husband and I try to promote a sense of gratefulness and responsibility in our children by helping others who are less fortunate. Here are three ways you can involve your children in helping others.
Pick a tag off of a Giving Tree (or Angel Tree) and have your child help shop for a present and talk about the child you are shopping for. Help your child understand that this child might not get any toys/clothing if you did not help out. Explain that this child is loved very much by his/her parent, but the parent most likely does not have enough money for fun things or things above and beyond the necessities.
Adopt a family from a homeless shelter or check with your child’s school to see if there is a family you could help. Please note that there will likely be a need for confidentiality. Families in need do not typically want to be recognized or noticed. Even though your family might provide for the same adopted family all year, the shelter or school contact might not share anything other than age, gender and sizes. It is important that if you or your child figures out who this family is, that you don’t call it to their attention.
When we pulled names off a gift tree one year, my daughter figured out that she knew two of the children. We discussed confidentiality, how lucky we were to be able to help and how nice it was that she had insight into what these children might need and want throughout the year. Of course, you, the parent, need to determine if this is something your child understands and can handle. Some children would find it hard to keep that knowledge secret, especially over an extended period of time.
Donate. You can give your child a specific amount of money to donate and help him decide which organization he wants to donate to this year. Or, another thought is that you could match the amount he chooses to donate of his own money (from allowance, extra chores, gift money, etc.). This might not be a large amount of money, but even a handful of coins helps!
Donating clothing or toys is a great excuse to get your child to clear our closets and storage space for any new clothes/toys that she might receive this year. If possible, bring your child with you to the drop off location and have them carry their items in– often the people receiving the items will make a big deal out of the donation if you (or your child) mention that your child cleaned out her closet to be able to help those less fortunate.
These three ideas are great for children of any age. Even if you have an itty bitty child, begin a new tradition and talk to your child every step of the way. Each year he will understand a little more and the act of helping others will become a ‘fact of life’ in his world, maybe even something he eagerly anticipates each year and will share with his children.
I have many things in my life to be thankful for. I have learned, however, that just being thankful, is not enough. Thinking about why I am thankful for these things and verbalizing them outloud or writing them down has brought my gratitude and happiness to a whole new level.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sending out tips on how to enjoy life and focus on gratitude – so if you haven’t subscribed to receive my Tips, check out the box on the right side of this website and sign up!
I am thankful for my health so that I can enjoy all of my senses.
I can hear the laughter of my children.
I can taste chocolate – hot chocolate in the winter, chocolate chip cookies year round-and I am fortunate to have the capacity to be able to drink/eat whatever I choose to drink or eat.
I can smell of roses, and babies, and bread baking on Friday mornings.
I am able to see snowflakes and beautiful sunsets and occasional sunrises.
I can feel hugs and wet puppy noses on my cheek.
I am thankful to have grown up in America and to have been able to live in a foreign country for a few years when I was younger.
I am free.
I am a female who can do many things.
I have had and still have many opportunities many people don’t have.
I am thankful for you.
You ask fascinating questions and are brave enough to ask some questions that many other parents want to ask, but don’t have the courage to do so.
You have the courage and strength to ask for help or guidance to get your life to a place that is easier and more enjoyable.
You share your life and experiences with me and teach me so much.
Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy finding things to be thankful for this week and always!
While I have often challenged parents I work with to catch their children being good, a few years ago I decided to challenge my family to catch each other being good. I think it was a busy time of year and we were all tired and running in multiple directions. It seemed as if there were more complaints and arguments than usual. I wanted to shift our stinkin’ thinkin’ from the negative to the positive.
I cut long strips of colored paper and put them, along with a few markers, in a box labeled “Can You Catch Someone Being Good?” The goal was to make a chain with all of the strips of paper. I was surprised that this was difficult for my daughters at first, and will admit there were days that this was hard for me to do, too. However, after a little while, when the girls realized that being good didn’t mean doing big things, it almost became a competition to see who could catch the most people being good.
Each day I tried to find something that was good about my children and to look for a variety of things as often as possible. Here are some of the things I wrote on my slips of paper:
Alanna went to bed nicely tonight.
Megan brushed her teeth well for 2 whole minutes.
Alanna fed the dogs.
Megan played with the dogs.
Alanna held the door open while Mommy brought in groceries.
Megan walked to school with a friend so her friend wouldn’t have to walk alone.
Alanna donated allowance money to a friend who was in a jump-a-thon at his school.
Megan asked for items for the Humane Society instead of birthday presents at her birthday party.
Here are some of the things my girls wrote on their slips of paper:
Mommy put away the dishes from the dish washer (this was before it became a ‘life-skill’ assigned to my children…)
Daddy, Mommy and Alanna – for being you
Mommy walked the dogs today when they needed exercise.
Megan shared her toys.
Alanna is good at Irish Dance.
Megan played soccer great today in her game.
Alanna played dolls with me.