Spring will come

What is going on?  One day we are in shirtsleeves soaking up the near 70 degree sunshine , ever hopeful that winter is over, and then we wake up to a cover of snow  – a light cover, but snow, none-the-less.

How often do we feel the same way about our child’s behavior/stages/moods?  Just when we think that the bedtime routine is working, we spend an evening answering calls of “distress” and repeating our mantra, “It’s time for you to be in bed.”  Or  “my children have reached a point where they play so well together” - when suddenly – they don’t.

In nature there is always an explanation – some cold front moving down from Canada, some low pressure causing storms and tornadoes, two fronts meeting and creating nature’s fireworks.

Oh, if it was only so scientific in predicting and understanding our children’s behavior.  As parents, we just don’t understand” why she’s so bossy”, “when will he stop being so clingy?”, or  “Help! Why is my child out of control?”

Well, we don’t have the instruments that meteorologists use to forecast and explain weather conditions.  But we can do what people have done for centuries way before the weather channel moved into our homes.

We can observe.

Yes, observe – look, feel, pay attention to the atmospheric changes in our homes.  What brings the dark clouds, the bright sunshine?  What does this child need?

That might sound far too simplistic. “I can tell you what this child needs” a parent may say in frustration.  But if you are dealing with an on-going behavior problem, take the time to observe.  Really pay attention to that particular child.  What is happening before the “downpour” occurs.

Is she getting enough sleep?  Is he getting the physical activity he needs to release the energy within him?  What’s happening before to trigger the behavior?  What seems to help?  And of course, check on our own pressures at home.  Are we stressed out with too much going on – rushing here and there – resulting in cloudy moods for everyone?

Okay -  even as I write this, the sun has appeared.  And we know, Spring will come and summer will follow – for sure. And it is this same faith and trust that can serve us well as parents.

Embrace it all – the stormy, unpredictable moods of childhood as well as their warm and sunny dispositions.

And trust in your heart that spring will come.

If you are looking for sunnier days in your child’s behavior, take advantage of our Warmline program.  It’s as easy as  giving me a call at The Parenting Place – 784-8125 or e-mailing me your question at franswift@theparentingplace.net .  Together we’ll figure things out.

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our real house

I’ve been thinking a lot about families moving.  As a family, we’ve moved quite often – sometimes across the country and sometimes across town.

It is almost always bittersweet – the anticipation of a new place, a new adventure along with the pangs of leaving behind all that is so familiar, all that has been garnered.

A little girl blurted out to me recently, “On Sunday, we’re going to look at a new house to see if we like it.  But, then, we’ll come back to our “real house.”

Our “real house” .  For that little girl, the other house, no matter how special,  was not her “real house” – at least not yet.

For most families involved in the moving process, it’s  the change in routines, maybe even family rituals, that get short-changed, that are so upsetting.  The pace of life increases,  parents are often distracted and stressed.  Things are being boxed up, sold, given away.   As adults we expect these things, but for children, sometimes their biggest concern is that they will be left behind – or even given away. They often feel powerless in participating or comprehending the changes taking place.

In any kind of significant upheavals in a child’s life, the biggest concern is always “what will happen to me?” Creating a family “moving story” can be exactly what children need to inform and assure them just what is and will be taking place, and that they are safe.

By telling a child in an age-appropriate way what’s going to occur, what the child can expect,  his/her very own “moving story” including the special details as to what will happen to friends, toys and all his/her family’s things, you will notice your child’s anxiety going down.

Don’t think, however,  the “moving story” is a one-shot deal.  One mom just told me how she  took the time and shared a pretty elaborate story with her little girl, about their upcoming move to a new house.  Immediately her daughter said, “tell me again“.

Plan on sharing the” moving story” daily.  Your children will want to hear it -  a litany of love that will comfort and quell their imagined fears and insecurities and make them feel included.

Information is powerful.  Your personal “moving story” will provide children with the answers,  understanding  and acceptance for when it is time for the new house to become your family’s “real house”.

In a few days, one of our  families involved at The Parenting Place will be moving from La Crosse to Spokane, WA.  We wish all of the Aldreds -  Alison, Jason, Sophie, Will, Beatrice and Elliot all the best.  It has been so much fun “playing” with you at Play Shoppe and getting to know and appreciate the love, energy and spirit that makes your family so special.  We hope you take with you warm memories of your friends here.  You will definitely be missed. 

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a circle

I guess I am always very aware of family – my own, my friends’, all the families I know and see in my work as a Parent Educator – so it shouldn’t be any real surprise that this past week I was so struck, once again, by the intimacy of family.

Several children have come in to The Parenting Place to paint pictures for An Evening With The Parenting Place, An Event for Grownups who care about Kids.  The paintings are a charming part of our silent auction.  The theme for the children’s art this year is My Family.

The first thing I recognized in these young artists was their keen sense of familiarity and observation.  These children were so aware of each family member’s style and personality, their favorite colors, the details of their hair, eyes, body shapes, and patiently tried to replicate them as best they could.

One young boy ran back and forth to his siblings and mom in the play  room giving them choices as to which signage they wanted on their t-shirts.  The little sister could not decide what she wanted on hers, throwing out all kinds of ideas, and then changing her mind.  This wiser “older” brother finally astutely delivered a most likely often overheard parenting solution - “You have two choices.  You can have a crown or a star.  Which one do you want?”

It was as these children worked that it was not only the painting that emerged on the canvas, but the whole picture of each child’s significance in the family – one of love, pride, sharing and unique identity.

Janis Keyser, co-author of Becoming the Parent You Want to Be , says we tend to think of a family as a triangle with the parents at the top managing all the children below.   Instead, she suggests, it’s more helpful to visualize a circle where all members have something to contribute – like these young painters do for sure.

I like that – a circle – because for children the family is their world.

And we all know, the world is round.

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super heroes

Parents often feel it’s a losing battle trying to keep their young boys from playing at being super heroes and “bad guys”.  Yet, at the same time, they are concerned and nervous that their child is so drawn to this type of play.

According to well-known psychologist and author of “Raising Cain – Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys”, Dr. Michael Thompson,  “parents need not worry about this kind of play if it really is play.  Children’s play is just play.”

Children pretend many things in their imaginative life – being mommies, daddies, doctors, firemen, bus drivers, teachers, tigers, dinosaurs.  They are busy figuring out their world around them and this type of imaginative play is important and valued.

Boys seem to love to play – seem to need to play – at being powerful, having super powers.  It makes them feel strong and masculine.  There are some red flags that Dr. Thompson addresses, however,  -” if your boy hurts other children, gets very angry at them, does scary things to them, that’s not playing.  If other boys don’t want to play with him, if they leave your house crying all the time, that’s not playing”.

But, Thompson says, ” If they are running around the house using their imagination, pretending to be someone big and powerful, even a villain – but only pretending, then not to worry at all.  They are just playing.”

And Thompson adds, “if you are a good boy in real life, pretending to be a bad boy can be exciting.”

Limiting television and other screen time programing of super hero genre, however, allows children to keep this kind of imaginative play truly their own script and therefore more creative and more beneficial.

Parents are concerned to let super power play happen  since super power play is not allowed in most schools and day cares.  It can be very stimulating and in larger groups, can be overwhelming for some children.  But in your own homes, Dr. Thompson says, children should be able to pretend and play in this way  – to have this outlet to experience their release of tension and emotions while imagining that they are all powerful and capable in keeping their own world safe.

Until, that is  -  he returns – to being your little boy again -to needing his mom to cuddle with him at bedtime, to listen to his day, to read him a story, to tell him how special he is – to tell him that all is well.

Boys … sigh!

 

 

 

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Ta dah

When I observe busy parents coming and going, meeting their young children’s needs, while juggling other personal and professional demands in their lives, they often share their frustration with thinking they are not accomplishing anything.

Parenting small children makes for a busy world.  I recall hearing a story of a parent who was voicing her frustration of not getting anything done that day.  Her three-year-old daughter, listening in nearby, quickly corrected her . “Yes you did.  You found my lost dolly shoe under my bed, you read me three books before my nap, you took me to the playground to play, you put a bandage on my “owie”, and you made ‘breakfast for dinner’ tonight.”

So there!

Somewhere recently I came across an alternative to the “to-do list” we all have going in our heads. Instead of  facing every day with a list of all the things we must do, why not at the end of the day, celebrate the things we did do – with  a  big ol’  “Ta dah”  list.

And make it all count – the small things as well as the big things, the intentional things as well as the “meeting the needs of the moment” things.

Then bask in the acceptance and the joy of realizing what you really did accomplish that day – mattered.

Ta dah!

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Puddles

It’s like it was yesterday – my memories of being a child in the early Spring and playing in the puddles from the quickly melting snow. It was one of my favorite times of the year.

There are no two ways about it – we have puddles galore outside now – big puddles waiting to become rivers, bays, streams, canals and creeks – whatever one wants them to be.  And there is probably nothing more inviting and nothing more fun and satisfying than for a child to have permission to play in the puddles.

It doesn’t take any special material, except for good boots for some good old-fashioned wading, jumping and stomping to take place.  That’s the way it usually starts, but don’t stop them there.  Because with enough time thrown in with nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, puddles will offer your children a veritable experience of  hands-on independent learning, problem solving,  imagination, and total joy. Sticks are fun for stick swishing,  pebbles for pebble tossing,  rocks and twigs for dams and bridges, leaves for floating, milk cartons for boats, shovels for adding more snow to the mix.   How about rushing through puddles on a favorite “ride’em” toy?

My favorite puddle was the smaller “stream” that came from under an overhanging snow bank and meandered in a long and curvy path.  We would create a story world of our own, in the unrushed afternoon sunshine.  We were “workers”, busy, happy, involved, and focused with a project at hand.

I remember our young daughter at her fun alternative school playing out in the backyard area where a large pool of water had formed.  Egypt having been a recent theme at the school, this puddle naturally became the Nile River and many extended lunch hours were granted to take advantage of this  rich cooperative river play.

I encourage all of you to make use of the puddle days we most certainly have ahead of us this Spring.  Puddle play lends itself beautifully to different ages playing together -  children  empowered by freely exploring and creating their own special adventures.

Childhood – still full of wonder.

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an antidote to cabin fever

I don’t know about you but this long siege of frigid temperatures, snow and ice has really begun to wear on me.  And I was doing so well too – being so positive about appreciating winter in all its many facets – bundling up and going out in spite of the cold.

That’s until the tundra arrived.  For me, ice is not nice.

We notice it with our dog, Tootsie, for sure.  She gets her daily short walks, of course, but nowhere near the length or the excitement that she’s looking for – and all those sticks frozen solid in the snow taunting her to just try to work one free.

Back home, her “socky” is continually being offered to us for tug of war play -  her ball for kicking and chasing – and lots of window to window barking.

I know parents have shared with me that cabin fever has definitely settled in their homes also.  Like Tootsie, the children’s exuberance is being contained and their need to be more physical, challenged.

That’s when I remembered seeing this fun activity I found on-line offered by Lisa Stroyan from Empathic Parenting.

Okay – are you ready to play Relay Race Jammies?

A child takes off one piece of clothing (like a sock), runs to another room and touches a certain spot (like run to the kitchen and touch the back door) , then runs back, takes off another item and runs off again.  Eventually the clothes will be off and the pajamas pieces will be on, all while your child is running, touching, laughing, releasing their excess energy and emotionally connecting with you.

Because – when we engage in fun play together with our children, we are helping them (as well as ourselves) relieve the stress that gets built up and causes emotional meltdowns and upsets.

So on these remaining cold days of winter, try this out with your little ones.  (Just remember to provide a calming activity like reading a book, a cozy back scratch,  or singing some lullabies after all the excitement is done.)

On your mark, get set, go….

This Friday, The Parenting Place’s Play Shoppe will meet at the La Crosse City Garage at 2000 Marco Drive at 9:30 AM for a look and a “sit-in” of all the snowplows, buses and big machines parked there.  It is a very fun winter outing and the employees who work there (who make it possible for us to get out of our own homes and drive the streets) proudly like to show and tell what they do.  Call me at 784-8125 if you have any questions.

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