Talking to Kids about Scary News

School shootings, natural disasters, terminal diseases and other tragedies -- if only we could keep our children protected from the harsh realities of the world. The simple truth is that we cannot. We can hope that these lessons are saved for when they are old enough to understand. We can pray that we won’t ever be in the position to have to explain it. But in the end, we will all be faced with the challenge of talking to kids about scary news. Here’s some advice about how to have some of these difficult conversations.

Keep it Simple

To the extent that you can, keep discussions as straightforward and conceptually simple as you can. Adding to many qualifiers or nuances to the information may result in a loss of understanding, which will raise more questions. Many parents were faced with having to talk to very young children about the tragedy of September 11. Rather than discussing the political, social and religious reasons or implications for what occurred, it was best to simply state that some people wanted to harm others and they did a terrible thing. A child can much more readily understand a “black and white” issue than one with many shades of gray.

Let them ask Questions

Even if you don’t have the answers, let your child ask and questions they have about the news they’ve heard. It’s ok to be at a loss for explanation – in fact, that’s part of life, too. Encourage your child to talk and ask questions and create an environment where they feel safe doing so. In turn, ask them questions to understand how well they’re processing the information and how they may be feeling.

Talking to Kids about Scary News

Stay Calm

Children are very adept at picking up on non-verbal cues during conversations. As you talk about difficult issues, try to remain calm and open. Pick a time to talk when you can be logical, calm and open to whatever arises.

Empower Them

Look for opportunities for your child to be proactive in response to scary news. If they hear about a house fire where the family has small kids, suggest donating some of their clothes or toys to help. Talk about making a donation to support the recovery effort or volunteering as a meaningful way to make something good out of a bad situation.

Remind them of Good

Even in the face of adversity, remind your child that there are good people in the world who try to help whenever something bad happens. Look for those people who are helping. Encourage your child to look for those people or even to be one that tries to help.

Scary news is difficult for your child to understand and it may be difficult for you as well. Keep your lines of communication open and, if you need it, seek out additional professional resources to help you and your child work through it together. Despite the circumstances, there’s an opportunity to learn from what has happened and take those lessons forward to be better prepared in the future.

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3 Educational Movies You Must Watch with Your Kids

Most children absolutely love movies, and jump at just about any chance to veg out in front of one. The line is drawn, though, when it comes to educational movies... those all seem to be boring or just not entertaining enough. As parents, we want our children to enjoy learning as they grow, and finding solid educational films is one solid way to ensure that happens. Added bonuses factor in when these flicks are worth your time, as well. Believe it or not, there are a few educational movies out there that will keep both you and your child entertained.

March of the Penguins

Actor Morgan Freeman narrates this documentary film that depicts the annual journey taken by the emperor penguins of Antarctica. It begins in Autumn, as all penguins of breeding age leave the ocean, their normal habitat, to walk inland to their ancestral breeding grounds. There, the penguins find a mate and produce an egg that results in the hatching of a chick. Over the next year, both penguin parents make multiple journeys to and from the ocean from the breeding ground in order to produce food to ensure the chick's survival.

The film is wrought with intense situations as the penguins face predators and environmental challenges, but is lighthearted and amusing as it really emphasizes the beauty and the quirkiness of these cute animals. In 2005, the film actually won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Truly, you'll learn something new each time you watch it, and you'll laugh and cry while you do.

Educational Movies

Finding Nemo

Entertainment really melds with education in this funny and cute film about the underwater world. It all starts when an over-protective clownfish forbids his son, Nemo, from swimming out of their Pacific Ocean Reef. Nemo rebels, and in turn is taken on a wild journey away from his home. Eager to find and rescue his son from the dangers of the ocean, the clownfish and his friend Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) set out on a great adventure to bring Nemo home. The movie explores and educates children about anemones, coral reefs, sea turtles and the different types of species found in the ocean. Ecological messages abound in this one that proves to be a hit for both children and adults alike.

Bears

Disney Nature released its documentary “Bears” in 2014, and quickly found it to be a hit among parents and children who are eager to learn. It's a film that depicts the fierce Alaskan grizzly bear family in their everyday life and habitat. The cubs, who are adorably curious and oh-so cute, are taught important lessons daily as they approach dangerous situations with innocent and inexperienced minds and bodies. Kids will learn a ton about brown bears, and about the role of the irreplaceable role of mother bear in the family. Intense situations abound as the bears face challenges in the wild.

Any one of these educational films will do more than teach your child something new – they'll entertain for hours while imparting a plethora of useful information. We guarantee that both you and your child will watch these films once, and look forward to seeing them again in the future.

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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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Fun and Easy Games for your Kid’s Party

Finding games that are quick, easy, and will be fun for everyone can be a challenge.  Something that is too long may be hard for the younger ones to keep track of.  Ones involving a lot of running may not work for guests with asthma – so how do you ever find games that are not only fun for everyone, but also easy to create? It isn’t a simple feat.  Here are a few ideas to make your foray into party planning just a little less hectic!

Obstacle course

This can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it.  Whether you set up a whole course in your backyard or use a series of chairs, ribbons, and clothes, you can make a team game that everyone can enjoy! Make sure that you have enough room for at least 2 teams.  If you have a large backyard, create one long course and do a relay style.  If not, do a game with a consistent relay style for each team member.  For example, the first team members have to run to a large paper roll, run around it three times, then put on a new pair of shoes.  Next person has to run to the paper roll, run around it three times, but put on a shirt!  Whatever you choose to do, this is a fun option that will let you get creative and have some fun while you are at it!

Easy Games for your Kid’s Party

Balloon relay races

This game is especially funny when older kids are doing it.  To play this game, you must run with a balloon between your legs to your teammate, and pass the balloon off to them for their leg.  Whoever completes this task to the finish line first, wins!

Pin the tail on the donkey

A classic, this one is a lot of fun for younger kiddos.  Using Velcro or tape, have the kids try to pin the tail onto the right spot on the donkey. The closest ones get a prize – everyone else gets candy!

A scavenger hunt!

This activity is a great way to use time. Create a hunt that will send them all over, and give you some time to either set up a new game, or kick back and relax for a little while!  Split the kids into two teams, and then give them a beginning clue list. As they move throughout the hints, give clues to each item.  All items should be following a certain theme, and should lead to an ultimate item, theme, or compilation.  This also allows you to use complete creativity and have some fun.  You can also let your child in on the fun – let them pick the theme, and have some say in how many clues there should be, etc. Even with the surprise of what you ultimately pick, they can know that it will be something everyone can enjoy!  Whatever you pick, these simple activities can make a good party great!

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When is a child old enough to cross the street alone?

When is a child old enough to cross the street alone

The first time that you drop that little hand and allow your precious offspring to cross the street alone you feel like your heart is going to beat out of your chest, but Junior has to grow up so if you don’t want to be holding the hand of an 18-year old while crossing, there has to come a point you decide he is old enough to let go.  But just what is this magical age?

Maturity

In most situations, there are some factors to consider beyond the child’s age because not all children of the same age are ready to tackle a challenge like crossing the street alone.  Every child is a unique human being with different levels of maturity, training, and experience, so each case must be examined individually.

As a parent, you are in the best position to determine the answer to the question of when is a child old enough to cross the street alone.  You alone have the knowledge of your child’s maturity and whether he or she is capable of being cautious enough to cross the street safely.  Trial runs are a good way to teach and give experience with you as a safety net.

Responsibility

Does your child understand the dangers?  You can teach safety without making your child excessively fearful.  Set some rules and make sure your child understands the rules and agrees to follow your direction. Spend some time learning the safety rules while out walking with your child.

As the two of you walk discuss safety rules, teach children the proper use of crosswalks if your neighborhood has these, and take time to point out what you observe regarding the cars and people on the street.  If you see drivers behaving unsafely, point this out to your child and explain the dangers.

Ask your child to observe the traffic and point out safe and unsafe drivers and situations.  Explore crosswalks with your child explaining how to use the crosswalk and other safety measures, such as not being distracted with a cell phone or earplugs while crossing and to be aware that caution is needed even when the walk signal is displayed.  Distracted drivers can easily run a red light.

Cutting the Apron Strings

There will come a time, whether we are ready or not, that our children will begin to venture out on their own a little farther each time until they fly away for good.  As sad as that might make you feel, you know it’s your job to make them self-reliant and ready to take on the world.  The only question is when will that be?

Experts say that the age to start allowing kids out alone is 11; however, as a parent, being allowed to go it alone at 11 has some specific limitations and conditions.  In a neighborhood with no through traffic, only neighbors and visitors passing through, and equipped with sidewalks, 11, or even slightly younger, is a fairly safe proposition.  However, if we are dealing with busy highways and heavy traffic, I would say 13 might be a better age.

In the end, no matter how much we try and want to protect our children from harm, we know that some day we will have to allow them to strike out on their own, even if it is just across the street.

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What’s the Going Rate for Babysitters?

What’s the Going Rate for Babysitters

Babysitter’s salaries have come up in the world since I was working as one, back in the day.  I remember getting paid $1 per hour and slightly more for more than one kid.  I suspect teens would laugh at that today; not unkindly, but because they would surely think I was kidding.

You might be new to the babysitter hiring/paying concept and there is a lot of information on the web, but with so much info and so little time, we have done your research for you compiled some guidelines to go by.

The Going Rate

There is a wide variance between rates that depends on the circumstances such as location; babysitting in areas with a higher cost of living will command a higher pay rate for sitters.  Expect to pay more in New York and San Francisco than in Kansas or North Carolina.  A realistic per hour range is about $5 to $12 per hour.

Another factor is experience.  Adult professional nannies or daycare personnel would earn more per hour, around $10 per hour, than a high school student wanting to earn a little spending money, who may reasonably be paid from $4 to $8 per hour.  The number of children and their ages is a factor as well.  For instance more and younger children equal more work, equals more money.  Most sitters will be satisfied with an extra $1 per hour per extra child or an additional $2 per hour for children under 3.

Usual babysitting hours are around 8 am and 10 pm; if you need a sitter to work before or after these times, you can expect to pay around $2 more per hour.  Some situations are above the norm, such as caring for disabled or special needs children, housework, shopping, or cooking.  Extra work merits a higher rate, also.  You can add at least an extra $2 per hour, but to be fair, discuss this with your sitter.  Keep in mind when calculating cost, that teens paid in cash do not have to pay taxes on their earnings if less than $600 per year, so they get more from their wages as would a full time worker.

Dollars and Sense

Another mitigating circumstance is affordability, meaning if paying a sitter is so high you cannot afford to go out, other solutions should be explored.  This situation requires some negotiating.  Perhaps swapping childcare with another Mom you know will help, but even if you are set on hiring a teen, you can perhaps work out wages in the form of some benefit besides cash, or some type of barter system such as loaning your car as partial payment for services rendered, or allowing the use of your pool for a party.  Consider what you might have of value you would be willing to trade, like movie tickets or use of a Netflix account.

Another option is to provide a service without charge, for example, a hairdresser could offer to cut, color, or style hair or a manicurist could offer manicures and pedicures; you get the idea.  Whatever your situation, it is best to discuss pay rates upfront to avoid any misunderstandings and ensure neither of you feels short-changed.

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How to Raise a Polite Preschooler

How to Raise a Polite PreschoolerIt seems that politeness and courtesy have gone out of style, and the teaching of such things has gone right with it.  Everywhere you turn you see temper tantrums, and children running with abandon through stores and restaurants, their hapless parents seemingly unaware or unconcerned that their offspring are behaving atrociously and annoying everyone simply trying to eat or shop.

The problem is rampant permissiveness to do as they will without consequences, either because it is too much work to correct or too little courage to enter into a battle of wills with a child, but parents who won’t teach politeness are doing their children a disservice.

Respect

Children must be taught to respect others – their property, their space, their right to eat without being stared at by the child in the next booth.  Realize that respect is a two-way street.  One way to teach respect is to offer it in return.  I cannot tell you the number of times my children have nearly been run over by a shopping cart steered by some adult who thinks it is acceptable to push a child aside or cut them off.  This is a great opportunity to point out that such behavior is rude and should not be done by anyone.

If I am going to instill respect for others, I must be the example.  A couple of rules of the house are as follows: if my bedroom door is closed, you must knock and await an invitation to enter; children are not allowed to take or use something that belongs to another person without permission.  These rules are not only for the children but for the parents also to lead by example.

Please and Thank You

The teaching of polite behavior must begin as early as possible in order to be retained and ingrained.  When someone offers you something, be it a cookie, a compliment, or a seat, say thank you.  I have heard others denigrate this method, saying it is not teaching politeness but rote behavior with no association of a social obligation attached, but I disagree.  If you are making a request, say please.  This shows the concept of equality between the parties involved.  A demand signifies entitlement as does receiving a gift or service without acknowledging it as such.

Social Graces

A parent’s job is to instill good values and societal graces.  Your child needs guidance, not a best friend.  Failing to teach good manners is setting up a child for failure in relationships with other adults and children.  There seems to be at least one child in every group that no one wants to play with because of the child’s attitude and one that defies teachers and administration personnel as well, which can cause isolation – from others and from the class as disciplinary measures escalate, eventually leading to suspension and/or expulsion.

What sort of adults will these children be?  Becoming socially acceptable can very well come later in life when the results of bad behavior lead to a desire to be accepted, but it is a long hard road that no parent wants to subject their child to.  A parent who teaches good manners and polite behavior are setting their children up to succeed in life and polite society.

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Am I a Bad Mom Because My Kid Can’t Tie Her Shoes?

Am I a bad mom because my kid can’t tie her shoes

There are many mom-ish things that moms admittedly don’t want to do or don’t admit and make excuses for.  Mine was potty training so my kid was three years old still in diapers, and, when I asked her, when are you going to use the potty, she replied, “when you get me underwear.”  Precocious, right?  And that actually worked.  She used the potty and never had an accident.  Go figure!

Why Resist?

Learning to tie shoelaces is an exercise in patience, repetition, and more patience.  But many moms, even though they know how to tie shoelaces, may not remember the way they learned it and have no idea who to teach it.  Fortunately in the age of the internet there are numerous tutorials, both video and blog on this very subject.

Why is it though, that kids aged eight and beyond do not know how to tie shoelaces?  Experts suggest that due to the popularity of Velcro and slip-on shoes, moms and kids alike have never seen the need, and it only becomes a glaring omission in early childhood training when we confront a pair of kid shoes with laces, coupled with a lack of motivation to put yourself through this endeavor without an immediate need.  In many cases, the deciding factor was a pair of shoes, be it a gift or a choice, with the dreaded laces.

How to Proceed

Many moms choose to do the tying themselves, thus avoiding one more day without a struggle with laces – buying time to get her courage up!  Naturally mom knows that eventually the day will come with a need for lacing knowledge.  You can employ the old double bow to avoid accidental untying, but what if she has to take her shoes off without you around, like in school or at a friend’s?

This will most likely be a wake-up call when both you and she are embarrassed by her lack of knowledge resulting in a third party intervention.  Once you have reached the inevitable decision, you have to choose a method for training.  You can demonstrate on her shoe, or yours, give her a random shoe to practice on, or purchase a special “book” with shoelaces meant to teach tying skills.  Just add it to the nightly routine.

Too Much Mollycoddling?

We’re all shocked when we hear of the 10 or 12-year old whose mother still bathes him or does his homework and projects.  Most likely this fictional mom is simply showing her love and devotion to her son by taking extra good care of him, but not realizing he needs to learn to walk before he can fly.  If not, he has a good chance of living in her basement all his life.  None of us wants that.

So, what’s a mom to do?  First of all remind yourself you are an excellent mom, the shoe issue notwithstanding.  I mean it’s not like you still feed him or anything, or still use diapers.  You covered the big stuff so don’t sweat the small stuff.  And, if you just can’t conquer the task, delegate it to your husband, mom, or older child, and just keep moving in concentric circles till you find the one – the one who can help to fill this tiny gap in skills.

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Six Rainy Day Activities for Kids

Summertime is a great time to be a kid…until it rains! Stormy days bring on the boredom and the whining! As much as parents sometimes love a good thunderstorm and a nap, kids often don’t see the nap thing as part of the plan. What are some activities you can do with kids at home on a rainy day after you have already watched Frozen or some other animated movie at least a dozen times? Here are six rainy day activities for kids.

Six Rainy Day Activities for Kids

Craft Time

Savvy parents never throw away anything! Pull out the craft box and get started! Some good ideas are cereal box jet-packs, paper towel roll light sabers, purses, hats and other odd ball stuff. Just let your imagination run wild and make craft time Some adult supervision may be needed with glue or other items, but let them have fun with it.

Build a Fort

Go old-school, and build a fort in the dining room. Make a quick run-through and remove breakable treasures. Pull out the extra blankets, sheets and pillows. They can read, play games or even take a nap in their forts. They can even play “defend the fort” using those paper towel roll light sabers!

Play Cards or Board Games

Play cards or board games with the kids on a rainy day. Anything from Candyland and Hi, Ho, Cheerios! for little ones to Monopoly and Scrabble for older kids. Take some time and teach your kids some of your old favorites with just a regular deck of cards. Who needs Uno cards when you know how to play Crazy 8’s! Even Go, Fish! is easy for young kids to learn. Can’t remember the rules? A quick internet search will have you playing in not time!

Make Cookies

Most of us have on hand the ingredients for sugar or peanut butter cookies. Let the kids help make cookies and have an ooey, gooey treat in less than 45 minutes! This is a great opportunity to teach kids how to follow a recipe and use kitchen utensils. They can also help in the cleanup while the cookies are baking.

Make a City

Get out the Hot Wheels cars and some washi tape (or painter’s tape) and get going. Use the tape to make a city with roads and parking lots. Boxes or cans from the pantry can serve as buildings. The tape comes up easily with no damage to your floors. This activity can provide hours of fun for kids as they zoom their cars through the city and build new roads.

Indoor Camping

Indoor Camping can be the best fun! You can set up a small tent or make one from chairs and sheets. Get out the sleeping bags, make a pretend fire and other camping accoutrements and tell ghost stories with the lights off or eat microwave Smores together.

These six rainy day activities for kids can save you from watching Frozen a dozen times and hearing “I’m bored” over and over again on a stormy day!

 

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Values Every Kid Must Learn

Values Every Kid Must Learn

 

When it comes to kids, there are certain values they should probably learn early on. Knowing which values to teach them right away can be difficult to decide on. You want to do right by your kids and get those values into them as soon as possible. So, which ones matter the most? Well, here are a few of the most important.

 

Hard Work

This is a classic, but still a staple for any child early on. They want a new game or toy? Have them work for it. Need to replace a broken device? Have them work for it. Obviously, this varies between children and their age. Most of the time you can just have them do extra tasks around the house. For example they make the bed, sweep the floor, or maybe even just remember to wash a dish after they eat. When it comes to an older child like a teenager suggest they do odd jobs around the neighborhood to raise the cash to get what they want. Or, if not, they get half and you pay half for the item they want. This will teach your child the value of what they have, and make them appreciate it more versus just handing it to them.

 

Compassion

Kids may have a hard time grasping this one. However, it’s still very important. Knowing how to care about not only other people, but other living things such as pets can play a big part in how they interact with the world later in life. Being able to feel, and express, compassion to someone who truly needs it can play a big role in how they grow up as adults. Not only will it make them a kinder person, but it will help them to be able to interact with other people much easier.

 

Sharing

Now, the value of sharing can be a delicate matter. It’s good to make clear right from the start your child is allowed to set some things aside they absolutely do not want to share. For example, maybe it can be a toy they particularly love or a treasured possession they take good care of. Let them know sharing also has many benefits. Not only does it make them feel happy, but it makes the other person happy as well. Sharing will help them to know that an object’s worth is only as great as how much they feel it is. It can also help them to be less greedy and possessive when they become older.

 

These are valuable values to teach any child. The concept of hard work, sharing, and compassion are good building blocks to start off as. There are others as well that are valuable for any child to learn. Each child is their own human being with their own thoughts and feelings. How one child feels one way another won’t feel the same. Do your best to find out what works best for your child. They may pick up some values faster than others, so adjust your approach accordingly.

 

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