Teaching Kids to Respect Other Religions

We live in a very diverse world with many different ideas and value systems that may differ from our own. One of the wonderful things about the United States is that you can express your diverse ideas with freedom. One of the freedoms Americans enjoy is freedom of religion. While around 70% of Americans identify as Christians (including Protestants and Roman Catholics), somewhere close to 10% are of various other religions and another 20% hold no religious affiliation. In such a diverse world how do we teach our children to respect others and their religious beliefs? Teaching kids to respect other religions is an important step to teaching students how to be good citizens in our changing world.

Respect

Understanding

Understanding your own religion as well as other religions is an important step. You can be devout and practice your own religion while respecting the religion of your neighbors and community. First, learn the tenets of your own religion and pass those on to your children. Then learn about and teach your children the basic beliefs of other religions so you can have factual discussion with your children. This is not about pointing out how your religion is right and the other religions are wrong. This is about understanding why others believe as they do and respecting their right to do so. You will probably find that many of your preconceptions about most religions are based on faulty sources and are not entirely true. Stereotyping religions is on par with stereotyping other races and should be discouraged.

Look for Common Ground

Many religions have similar customs or traditions. Look for common ground such as a version of the Golden Rule or some other basic idea that is similar to your own. If you know someone of a different religion, ask thoughtful and respectful questions to learn about other religions. For example, both Christianity and Judaism share religious writings included in the Old Testament. Islam even connects back to Christianity and Judaism through Abraham’s son, Ishmael. Most religions have tenets referring to charity or caring for family and community. Finding things you have in common with others fosters respect for their beliefs.

Common Courtesy and Respect

Educating yourself about other religions allows you to answer questions sincerely when your child sees a woman wearing a hijab or a man wearing a turban. If you know the answers to these questions, you can open a sincere discussion in which the natural curiosity of a child is appeased without judgment or stereotyping another individual. Children learn what they see and hear, and if they see you practicing common courtesy and respect to people of other religions they are more likely to practice the same themselves. No matter what your religious affiliation, you should always respect the beliefs of others and their constitutional right to practice their own religion. Being kind and respectful to others does not constitute lesser belief in your own religion, nor does it insinuate agreement with someone else’s; however, it does show respect for humanity that every individual is entitled to.

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Top Five Ways to Improve Reading Skills

Many Americans struggle with reading skills on a daily basis. In a country that offers a free public education, students fall further and further behind each year. Roughly 20% of Americans read below a fifth grade level and an astounding 44 million Americans can’t even read well enough to read a story book to a child. However, there are ways to improve your reading skills no matter where you find yourself in life. Here are the top five ways to improve your reading skills.

Read

It sounds crazy, but the best way to improve your reading skills is to read. However, you should read at your reading level. For example, most newspapers and entertainment magazines are written at about an 8th to 9th grade reading level. If you can comfortably read those, you can challenge yourself with more difficult material, but if you struggle reading the local newspaper or People magazine, you may want to try some juvenile literature selections to see where you can find a comfortable reading level. To practice, you should read things you enjoy that are easily understandable. To begin improvement, challenge yourself with a slightly higher level than is comfortable. Keep a dictionary handy to help with words you don’t understand.

Ways to Improve Reading Skills

Handy Reading Material

Keep available a wide variety of handy reading material. You are more likely to practice if you have things around to read that hold your interest. Visit Goodwill, thrift stores and used book stores to find great buys on all kinds of books. Sign up for a library card. Ask everyone you know to save their used magazines and buy a few you are interested in. Magazines are great for quick reads if you lose attention easily. Sometimes short non-fiction articles are easier and more interesting than a long novel. A book of short stories can be helpful as well.

Comfortable Reading Area

Create a comfortable reading area with sufficient light and little distractions. A place where you can read uninterrupted can help you concentrate and stick with your reading for longer periods of time.

Preview

When reading, preview the material before you read. For informational text, read the title, look at any pictures and their captions, notice any graphic aids such as tables, maps and charts and skim over the headings and sub-headings. These can give you an idea of what the text is about. For fiction, read the back of the book or the book flap for a quick summary. If you are reading classic literature or prose you are unfamiliar with, read the summary of the story on sparknotes.com or cliffnotes.com. Knowing the general outline of what is going on and being able to sort the characters can help you better understand what you are reading.

Read Out Loud

If you read out loud, you can judge for yourself where your brain is not connecting to word meanings or pronunciations. You can look up online how to pronounce unfamiliar words and find out their definitions. Reading out loud also allows you to practice difficult words.

Implementing these top five ways to improve your reading skills can help you increase your ability to read which can benefit you in all areas of life.

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Getting Kids to Spend More Time With their Grandparents

Spending time with grandparents is an integral part of childhood and can offer truly special memories.  More importantly a kid needs to have fun with their grandparents.  Here are some great activities for kids to do with their grandparents to create priceless memories for everyone.

Cook a Family Recipe Together

Does your family have a secret heirloom recipe?  If so kids helping their grandparent cook this dish helps children learn about their heritage and allows grandparents to tell the story behind the recipe for some additional information an on the family tree.

Create a Family Scrapbook

By doing this, especially if grandparents live far away, kids have a wonderful chance to learn about their family by going through old pictures and records.  This would be a great summer project and a fun way to teach a child about their family tree and history.  Putting names to pictures is invaluable as it creates a new dimension of learning about one’s family and provides an easy way for a child to learn.

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Field Trips

Getting out of the house and taking special trips with grandparents also leads to wonderful bonding time and special memories.  Fun activities include going to the zoo, a museum, local parks, or even arranging weekly dinners at a favorite restaurant.  This creates structure and gives kids something to look forward to.  A promised outing to the zoo is also a great way to get your kids to behave so they can enjoy a fun trip.

Embrace Technology

To introduce youngsters and older generations to technology arranging video chats is a fun and beneficial activity to both parties.  Even if you are far away from grandparents advances like Skype make it possible to have a face to face call with someone on the opposite side of the globe.  Kids will realize they can speak to their grandparents whenever they like and grandparents have the sense of knowing that long distances are no longer as limiting as they used to be.

Sharing Hobbies

Encourage your kids to learn a new craft, skill, or hobby from their grandparents.  Sadly these arts are a dying breed and to have such a hobby is not only immensely satisfying it is a great way to brings kids and grandparents closer together.  These dying arts are also very valuable to be familiar with as they might include sewing, woodworking, and baking among other things.  These areas offer life lessons that child will most likely be very grateful for.

A Wealth of Knowledge

Above all else, grandparents are pillars of values, morals, and knowledge.  They can offer deeper and more meaningful lessons based on what they have been through in life and their generational perspective.  The more time kids spend with their grandparents the more of their wisdom they are exposed to and this is a priceless gift.  In addition to being the best caregivers after parents grandparents are there to provide wisdom, guidance, and answers to  help their grandchildren grow into better people.

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Top 5 Books for Sleeptime

Getting kids to go to bed can be quite a chore but the cherished ritual of a bedtime story can be quite helpful.  A bedtime story is not just spending quality time with your kids it also introduces them to the world of reading.  As our world becomes more and more digitized books are becoming all the more special.  Have a look at some titles that are highly recommended for sleep time.

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep

Written by Swedish author and psychologist Carl-Johan ForssenEhrlin this 22-page tale is that of Roger the Rabbit who is trying to catch up on his sleep.  With the help of Sleep Snail and Uncle Yawn the book is written in a tome using meandering sentence structure and specific words to induce a state of sleepiness.  Ehrlin recommends that parents read the book methodically and even yawn while doing so as children tend to mimic their parent’s behavior.  The book is getting rave reviews on Amazon with one parent claiming bedtime went from 2-3 hours to just 12 minutes and another claiming the book is like a “guided meditation”.

The Sleep Fairy

This title was written by child therapists Jane and Roger Peterson.  The book is about a Sleep Fairy who peacefully coaxes children into dreamland.  After the Peterson’s came up with the Sleep fairy to keep their own kids in bed they decided to share the story and help out other parents.  The book is lauded as appealing to a child’s inner magical world and helping them reach a place they can wish, imagine, and dream.  The characters in the book, Molly and Katie, learn what is expected of them at bedtime and are motivated by the chance of finding a gift from the Sleep Fairy if they follow all bedtime rules.  This book is also the silver recipient of the Mom’s Choice award.

Bed Time

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon is without a doubt a lovely, touching, and inspirational children’s classic.  It is told from the perspective of a little rabbit who is trying to postpone his bedtime and a poem to all of the things the rabbit isn’t ready to say good night to.  These things range from a woman telling him to hush up to the moon itself.  The book’s author, Susan Cooper, has stated that she wrote the book to be more of a “deceptively simple ritual” than a story and it has been hailed as one of the Top 100 picture books of all time.

The Going to Bed Book

If you have little ones who can’t seem to ever be ready for bed this book is a great option.  It is full of every animal imaginable who indulge in an array of adventures as each ones prepares for bedtime.  Once night-time rituals like exercise, baths, and fining pajamas are complete the animals all say goodnight to each other before drifting off to sleep.  Author Sandra Boynton demonstrates an unusual knack of understanding what appeals to kids as the simple rhymes and silly settings deliver a delightful story.

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

This is a perfect choice for rambunctious kids who firmly refuse to go to bed.  Once five little monkeys are prepared for bed they proceed to jump on the bed instead of climbing into it.  The book helps little ones go to sleep with its melodic rhyme scheme that makes its way into young minds and helps them drift off to sleep.  As each monkey falls off the bed and gets a bump on the head the doctor bandages each one up as the book counts down the monkeys on the bed from five to one then bedtime.  Eileen Christelow delivers a well-loved book for parents and children alike with this amusing story.

Time for Bed

This beautiful book by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer features different animals being cuddled to sleep by their mothers.  The verses are short and minimal with each rhyme corresponding to each animals which deliver a great effect in putting kids to sleep.  The whimsical large-scale watercolors are a delight to gaze upon and offer an equally relaxing effect as the verses.  It is a great choice for animal lovers or anyone who just enjoys looking at adorable baby animals.

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Coping With Teen Dating – Tips for Parents

As our kids grow up, we get to experience their firsts right along with them – their first word, first step, first day of school – first date. Many of our children’s firsts are something to look forward.  The first date, however, is something that most parents seem to universally dread. With the world of dating come those talks regarding the birds and the bees, the first heartbreak, the first fight. Dating is a magical time for teenagers, which are also fraught with anxiety and frustration.  But how in the world do Parent’s get through the dating years?  We get to watch our kids grow up and our kids experience a hard time – how do we deal with it?!?

1.     Communicate.

Your kids will worry you and drive you crazy. To maintain a strong relationship with your teen during the dating years, make sure to keep communicating.  The last thing you want to do right now is alienate your child.   If you cut off communication, your teen may not trust you to speak with them calmly about dating, relationships, and even sex.

2.     Breathe.

I know it can feel like we stop breathing during every big change in our kids’ lives – but take some time to breathe.  You take a few deep breaths, and let your teenager do the same.  By giving each of you some space, you’ll be allowing your teen to develop the responsibility in the dating game to confidently navigate without getting into any sort of trouble.  You also give yourself a break, and a chance to focus back on yourself.

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3.     Do things together.

Even when your teen is dating – try to find times to do stuff with them as well.  Have one night a week that is a family night.  Once a relationship begins to get more serious, this can be a fun and easy way to introduce the girlfriend or boyfriend to the family as well! If you have a special bond with your teenager, make a date night with just you and them occasionally to catch up, see how their relationship is going, and keep the lines of communication open.  Putting it in the middle of the week is usually a safe bet – not a common date night and also perfect to blow off some steam from the week.

Navigating the world of teenage dating is hard.  Preferably, all of these are a good idea for your teenager – but that isn’t always the case.  Sometimes your teen may not want to communicate, or spend time with you outside of necessary interaction at the dinner table. They may constantly be going so fast that you feel like you’re drowning – but it’s OK.  The main thing to remember is that your teenager is likely smarter and more careful than you give them credit for, and that you need to let go and trust them.  They are not your baby anymore, who needs hugs and reassurance – what they need is your trust, respect, and support.

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5 Reasons You Should Keep Your Two Year Old Away From Tablets

Let's be real: kids these days are different, entertainment is different, and technology is everywhere. The world is at our fingertips with our smart devices, and all of this is just as available to our kids as it is to us. We, however, like to think we know how to handle it in moderation; kids do not. What's the result? Kids who must be entertained at all times, who rely solely on technology to do it, who don't know what it's like to get outside. In order to avoid this for your child, eliminate the seed from being planted as early as two years old, and keep the tablets away. Here's why.

They Develop a Dependency on Entertainment

When we were kids, there were times we were bored. Sure, we fussed and cried about it some, but the result was perhaps a form of discipline that got us being more appreciative of what we had to play with. If not? We were just bored, and that's okay. Life isn't all about being entertained, although the convenient accessibility of tablets and smart devices would lead us to believe it is. The fact is, by giving your two your old a tablet to play with when he's fussy, you're teaching him that fussing will give him what he wants, and that he can always be entertained – and we all know that's not accurate. It's the easy way out for you, but it's wrongful teaching for your child.

Reasons You Should Keep Your Two Year Old Away From Tablets

They Become Gamers, Not Adventurers

If you've ever tried to carry on a conversation with an 8 year old, it didn't take you long to figure out that most can talk your ear off about apps and Minecraft and video games, but very few talk about climbing trees or building forts. Imagination has really taken a hit since tablets have taken over our households and become the go-to solution as a quick fix for a fussy child. Adventuring is a game that will start or stop early on in a child's life – so keeping tablets a way is a great way to promote a strong start.

Their Health Will Decline

Kids simply don't exercise when they use tablets. It's a stagnant activity, one that's done sitting around. Over time, this is going to wreak havoc on the health of your child. You don't quite realize just how much sitting around takes its toll until obesity sets in – a huge problem with many young children in America today. Prevent health issues early on by nipping tablet usage in the bud at an early age.

They Aren't Very Socialized

As they get sucked into tablet world early on in life, they miss out on all types of conversations and opportunities to make friends and meet new people. As a result, they often grow up and get into a classroom of kids and awkwardly withdraw. The only place they find comfort and solace is in the presence of their precious iPad – friends don't quite make the cut.

They'll Always Need the Latest and Greatest Technology

It's true that it starts young, and it's true for pretty much any desirable object... we always want the latest and greatest. Before the age of buying 6 year olds cell phones, however, parents actually said “No”. A child who hears “no” early on in life will be more likely to adapt to an answer they don't want to hear later on, say, around 16 years old when they're wanting a car. Your child may reach for the tablet to watch some video at 2 years old, but it never hurts to sternly respond with a, “No!”

The reasons are numerous as to why you should actually take care not to introduce tablets to your children at age 2. Fight the urge to ease the fussing with the convenience of a tablet; muster up a “no” and you'll be thankful you did years down the road.

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3 Signs Your Child Is Over Stressed

When we think about childhood, we tend to assume it is a stress-free time, as kids don’t have to go to work, pay bills, or be an adult. However, pediatricians and psychologists point out that kids do suffer from stress and stress can have a huge effect on a child. Learning stress coping techniques can be difficult, but it is crucial to your child’s development. And, they will need to use these skills throughout their adult lives. With this in mind, it is important to see the signs indicating that your child is over stressed. Here are three signs that your child is over stressed:

  1. Aches and Pains

Stress can cause physical sickness, aches, and pains. Have you noticed that your child is complaining of stomachaches or headaches, more than usual? This may be an indicator of high stress, or it may be an indication that your child needs to visit the pediatrician. Other aches and pains could be chest pains, or more severe symptoms would be difficulty breathing.

Baby Criying

  1. Anxiety and Isolation

Difficulty breathing may be a sign of  severe anxiety, or even an anxiety attack, where you should get your child professional help. However, your child may have less severe anxiety, which can easily go unnoticed. Have you noticed you’re your child is withdrawing themselves from their normal friends? Or do you have to do more convincing to get your child to go to dance, soccer, basketball, football, etc? Withdrawing from usual activities and social isolation are common symptoms of anxiety and being over stressed.

  1. Difficulty Handling Emotions

When children are under a great deal of stress, they can easily be set off by even the smallest of things. Is their green shirt still in the washing machine and they throw a fit? Or are they becoming more aggressive with you, siblings, friends, or pets? Are they having unusual outbursts, over normal things that wouldn’t usually bother your child? Are they going from one extreme to the other, from happy one second to screaming or crying the next? Outbursts, aggression, and mood swings are common symptoms of being over stressed.

Watch for these symptoms in order to determine if your child is suffering from stress. If your child is displaying these symptoms, there are ways to help your child cope with stress. One way to start would be to normalize stress, making it clear that stress is a normal part of everyday life. Your child needs to know that they are not the only one that is dealing with stress; they just need to figure out how to manage it. Physical activity is a good way to reduce stress, so while they may be pulling away from social activities, you can encourage your child to go for a bike ride, a run, or shoot some hoops. This gives your child the time they need, away from friends and people, and reduce their stress levels.

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Teaching Your Child Self-Control in 4 Easy Steps

Self-control is a skill that is essential to being an adult. While there are those few individuals that still have tantrums, stomp their feet, and throw a fit in their adult lives, for the rest of us, self control is essential to our success. Self-control allows us to logically think about the situation and make the best decisions. Here are 4 ways to teach your child self-control:

  1. Calm Down

In most cases, when things do not go in your child’s favor, their immediate response is a tantrum, with stomping feet, screaming, and anything else they do to physically show their discontent. The first thing that you need to do is get your child to calm down. This could be leaving the room and entering a more quiet space, possibly a time out space, going outside to get fresh air, wherever your child needs to go to calm down and stop furthering the tantrum.

Kid screaming

  1. Find Out What is Causing the Loss of Control

Sometimes children get upset and they really have no idea what they are even so angry about. Or, actually having to say what is making them angry, sounds a lot sillier when they say it and they realize that they over reacted. The last option is that the issue is a serious matter and deserved the huge tantrum, however problem solving requires being calm and cool.

  1. Consider Long Term Consequences

Once your child is calm, you need to discuss all the possible solutions and the consequences to those solutions. Making sure you consider all variables to the issue and the solution is extremely important, as you want to resist avoid other potential last minute issues that will cause another tantrum.

  1. Make A Rational Decision

Your child then needs to decide how he or she is going to respond to the issue. For example, if the tantrum was because he or she wanted ice cream before dinner, and not after, and you said no, which resulted in the original tantrum. Now you need to decide if you are still going to offer ice cream after dinner ( I would recommend still holding up your offer for younger kids because you will then encourage them to be in control, rather than setting them off again by not allowing them to have anything after completing steps 1, 2, and 3). Then, you can tell your child that if they continue to remain in control through dinner, they will get the ice cream.

All in all, teaching your child self control is a process and it takes process. You cannot expect to go through this process one time with your child and that your child will just get it. It is going to take effort, and time, but if you follow these steps and this process, your child will learn how to stay in control during stressful situations.

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5 Tips for Raising a Child Alone

Single parents are becoming more and more common. And, while raising a child with two parents can be difficult, raising a child with one parent will be easier in some aspects but a whole lot more difficult in others. While you no longer need to adjust your parenting style to match the style of your significant other, you are now fully responsible for raising your child, from day-to-day- child care, to soccer games, gymnastics, and everything else that comes with a child. Not only do you have to juggle being a parent and your work, but you are also going to have to manage the finances, and try to manage your own social life. Use these five tips to a child alone.

  1. Don’t Feel Guilty

Many single parents feel guilty that they are not giving their child the lifestyle they had wanted for them, with 2 parents in the same household. They also feel as thought the child would be happier with two parents, but the reality is that they just want a happy home, to be loved and in a supportive environment. In other words, do not feel guilty for not being able to provide this environment for them. You can only do your best and that is enough to be proud of, not feel guilty.

Single parent

  1. Create a Routine

Having a routine is essential to being a single parent. Once you have the routine down, you can work your schedules around your child’s so that they mesh. Meals and bedtime need to be at the same time so that both you and your child know what to expect and what needs to be done. Also, as we know with kids, there are always those unexpected schedule changes, so having a give-take schedule is always ideal. However, if you have a strict work schedule or have non-flexible obligations, then you will need to have a support system in place if the routine gets offset.

  1. Find Child Care/ Lean on Others

Having trusted child care is extremely important, as you cannot expect to be able to do it all (unless you are superman/woman). Find others to create a carpool schedule, join a support group for help, religious institutions are a great place to get help, and you can always ask loved ones, family, and neighbors for help. The key is to not be afraid to ask—what is the worst they will say, “no?” Also, child care is key!

  1. Take Care of Yourself

Making sure you have time for you is also important. You should be eating a fulfilling diet, sleeping well, and being active physically and socially. Do not feel bad if you need to get a friend or family member watch your child so that you can get out of the house and upkeep your social life.

  1. Show Your Love

Because you are a single parent, you may need to put in the extra effort to make your child feel loved. While you are putting in so much effort to do soccer pick ups, provide a roof over your child’s head, and put food on the table, setting aside time everyday or even every other day to play a game, read a book, or do something with your child is essential.

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4 Ways to Make The Talk Less Uncomfortable For Your Teen

The Talk can be very uncomfortable for both parents and teens. Yet, if you want your kid to make the best decisions about sex, the sex talk is absolutely necessary. Here are four tips to make The Talk more comfortable for your teen.

Start The Talk Early

Start talking to your child about sex early in their lives. Make it an on going conversation throughout their lives, instead of just a one and done talk. While you want to start the talk early, you need to ensure that you are adjusting the details and content to fit your child’s age. However, as a teen, they are ready to know all the details, as they (may) be starting to become or wanting to become sexually active.

Teen Conversation

Time and Location are Key

When having The Talk with you teen, you need to make sure of two things: time and location. In terms of time, you need to make sure that there is enough time! On the way to soccer practice will not be enough time. While it may be appealing to you because there will be an easy exit, when practice starts, it will not leave enough time for your child to ask questions and they may feel rushed. The location is also important, as your child needs to be in a comfortable space. This could be at the dinner table, if your child is an only child, if you have other siblings, you may choose a more private location, like a walk in the park.

Admit The Talk Is Awkward

Tell your teen that you think the talk is awkward too. What was it like when your parent(s) had the talk with you? Also, how you are uncomfortable talking to your teen about sex, too! This will allow you to find common ground with your teen and make the whole situation less uncomfortable. State that while it is important, it is an important discussion to talk about because you want to unsure that they are making the best decisions.

It’s A Conversation, Not A Lecture

In many cases, parents will lay down the do’s and don’ts about sex and leave it at that. They go over what their expectations and beliefs are about sex and their teen, but never really give their teen the chance to voice their opinions, thoughts, or pressures. If you make this talk a lecture, they are just going to start blocking you out and not paying attention, and he or she will not ask you the important questions they are wanting to know. After each of your main points, if you are setting it up lecture style, you will need to have pauses throughout the talk to turn the tables and get your teen talking. Start asking them questions so that they have to talk and you can make sure you both are on the same page.

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