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.
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 am a strong believer in the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
“You will find what you are looking for.”
So why not look for the good?! Focusing on the positive is the foundation of all the work I do with parents.
We get so caught up in our day-to-day activities that we often forget to look at all the great things that are happening around us. Unfortunately, our brains are wired to notice the negative. It is simply easier to focus on what is going wrong. Taking note of the negative does help prevent mistakes from happening again, but it can be a real downer! Rather than dwelling on what could be better or what you should be doing, why don’t you pay attention to the things that are already going well.
Your mind is an amazing entity. Look for the good that is happening, think positive thoughts and you can transform your life.
I know, you’re thinking, “Sounds great Dr. Renee, but HOW can I do this?” The fact that you are interested in learning more, indicates to me that you are already on the right path.
Start by looking for the good in your child. I know this is hard when you are exhausted and stretched beyond anything you ever imagined parenting to be. But I promise you, it is worth it.
Take a few moments as you get dressed in the morning, or ready for bed at night, and think about your child. What are some of his positive qualities, traits, and abilities? If you are feeling a little more ambitious, pick an entire day to try to look for positive things your child says or does.
Positive things can be something as simple as ‘sitting in a chair for an entire meal.’ Even if he’s strapped in a high chair, your child is sitting and not climbing/fussing to get out. Maybe your daughter smiled at you this morning. Maybe you took a few seconds to notice, and really enjoy, the sweet, little hand holding yours as you walked to the car. What about how he played with his friend and shared his toys? Or how she called a friend who was feeling lonely or looked sad at school? Open your eyes and look for the positive.
I am often asked, “Should I tell my child about all of these positive things I am seeing?” Then almost immediately, there will typically be one of two follow-up questions: “Will this boost his self-esteem?” or, “Won’t all that complimenting go to her head?”
It is OK to comment and praise occasionally, especially if you can point out a specific behavior/action and you are being authentic. However, just spouting off compliments all day could backfire. Your child might come to expect your input on everything in life (= not be able to think for himself). Or she might begin to tune you out well before she hits the pre-teen years!
Focusing on the positive is more for YOU than for your child. Trust me, your child will benefit because your upbeat mood will have a ripple effect. Focusing on the positive is really more about a mind shift for you. It will help you find ways to be happier and feel a purpose as you go through the everyday tasks and necessities in life.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog. It’s Part Two of Focus on the Positive and it’s going to help you even more with your ability to parent.
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.
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.
So, what do you think? Can you Catch Someone Being Good?!
After a great night of Trick-or-Treating, you’re a bit worried that your child is going to eat 2 pounds of candy a day for the next few weeks. So what can you do about it?!
Many parents will limit the amount of candy their children are allowed to eat after Halloween (1-2 pieces/day). Some even place a limit on the length of time… “We’ll eat Halloween candy for 2 weeks and then be done.” But then, if you’ve had a good year, there is still all of that leftover candy…
Many dentists and orthodontists will collect “extra” Halloween candy. When I first learned about this, I thought it would be bad for business. Don’t dentists stay in business because children eat all of their Halloween candy and forget to brush their teeth? However, each dentist I talked to assured me that they have plenty of business all year long, not just at Halloween and that promoting good dental care (“don’t eat all that candy”) was actually good for business. They want their patients to have healthy, happy teeth.
So, dentists and orthodontists collect the candy you don’t want your children to have. Some even offer bonuses or prizes. One dentist in our town offers a dollar for each pound of candy a child brings to his office. Our orthodontist provides “Goings Bucks” and the children earn one “Goings Buck” towards prizes for each pound of candy they bring in.
My favorite thing to do with “extra” Halloween candy is to donate it. Fortunately, our orthodontist helps with that, too. He collects the candy from his patients and a few local schools and sends it to our military troops serving overseas through Operation Gratitude. To learn more about this organization, click:
What a fabulous way to encourage better nutrition and healthy teeth in your children while thanking those who are protecting our freedom!
Other places you can donate your candy would be nursing homes, hospitals (nurses stations, not patients rooms!), fire and police stations. A great idea is to include a note along with your candy letting people know how much you appreciate what they are doing.
So, you see, there are plenty of positive ways to “share” the extra Halloween candy you don’t want your children eating. Do a little research, get a little creative, and then that candy won’t be sitting around calling your, I mean your child’s, name!
Halloween is creeping up… and ghosts and goblins are jumping out at us along with witches and vampires.
How do you help a child who is scared of everything make it through the Halloween season?
Young children can have a hard time determining what is real and what is imaginary. They honestly can’t differentiate between the two. Sometimes, it is not just the things they see, but rather what their little minds create, what is known as “magical thinking,” that can frighten them.
To put it in a regular-day, not Halloween related context, an example of a common “magical thought” can be seen when a child is scared to take a bath because she sees the water going down the drain and thinks she might be washed down with it. As adults we know this is impossible, but young children do not.
This same magical thinking causes children to believe that ghosts and goblins might come after them at night.
So, what can you do to help your child who is scared? Here are 5 suggestions:
1. Don’t try to minimize the fear. Be there to support your child. The fear is real to him. Hold his hand, walk on the other side of the street, whatever it takes to support him.
Identify what your child is afraid of. Once your child is able to verbalize her fear, or when you are able to figure it out if your child is unable to verbalize, you can help decrease the anxiety. Is your child scared of the many creepy things walking around and people running everywhere? Maybe she doesn’t like going up to strangers’ houses (not necessarily a bad thing on normal evenings!). Or is it that your child is scared of Halloween because it’s dark outside?
Help your child deal with his fear, don’t force him to eliminate the fear. Help your child understand what he is scared of and listen to why he is afraid. Help put the scary thing into perspective. Many things at Halloween were invented to let people have fun scaring each other.
Recognize signs of anxiety. Some obvious signs of anxiety include your child clinging to you with a vice grip hold you didn’t know her tiny hands could accomplish. Crying, shrieking or hiding behind you are also more obvious signs of anxiety. Short breaths, timid steps, and slowing down while walking towards something are slightly less obvious signs of anxiety. Appearing angry or more violent (hitting or kicking you or siblings/friends) are also possible signs of anxiety.
Be Flexible. Maybe Halloween is your most favorite holiday and you like to go all out…you might need to adjust a bit for a year or two. If your child is scared of the dark, find day time, child-friendly Halloween events (check out local malls or Trunk-or-Treats). If your child is scared of going to strangers’ houses, take him to a few of your neighbors’ houses and call it a night. For children who are scared of all of the creepy things that go Boo in the night, turn off your lights and go to a back room, or bedroom to play a game or cuddle and read stories.
In time, most children grow out of their Halloween anxiety. If you are willing to be patient, flexible and support them, they will be just fine. As they get older, children learn the difference between real and imaginary and many even find out that they enjoy being scared or being the one who scares someone else every now and then.
When was the last time you played as a family? Or just “hung out” together? Sometimes you need to call a Time Out of your hectic schedule, ignore your To-Do List and just take time to play. The laundry and the dirt in the corner of the bathroom can wait until tomorrow. When you take a break from the rat race, you give your family time to get to know and enjoy each other.
While time away can be a vacation or a pre-made adventure (amusement park, mini-golf, roller skating), it can also be simple and cheap. Here are the top 5 favorite Family Fun Escapes contributed by some of the families with whom I have worked:
Have a Picnic in the Den. Instead of sitting at the dinner table, lay a table cloth on the floor and eat picnic foods. You can play music that reminds you of summer and have popsicles or ice cream in cones for dessert!
Go on a Night Walk. One night, when no one has a super busy schedule the next day, surprise your kids after PJs and teeth brushing and go outside for a walk. Listen to the night sounds, look at the night stars or the snow if it’s falling. What does the night smell like? Is it the same as during the day or does it smell more clear and fresh?
Go on a Hike. Explore your local parks and paths. Bring plenty of water, a few snacks, and most importantly a camera to save your family memories!
Have a Family Game Night. Depending on how much time you have, each family member can choose a game to play or you can write down everyone’s ideas and pick one out of a hat. Serve a special snack (popcorn or fruit kabobs).
Have Ice Cream for Breakfast! You might have heard me mention this as a special surprise to get kids out the door on time or as a reward for getting all of their “To Do’s” done, however, if you haven’t done this in a while (or ever), serve ice cream for breakfast for a fun morning. You can balance it out with fruit toppings, or go all out and enjoy chocolate syrup and sprinkles. It’s such a fun way to start the day off with smiles and giggles, give it a try!