Monthly Archives: June 2009

Thunderstorm season

It’s thunderstorm time – and what does that often mean in your family?  Many of the families I talk with have told me thunderstorms mean the dog is UNDER their bed and the kids are IN their bed! 

It’s not unusual for children to want to be with caring adults when a storm is raging outside.  Welcoming them and being cozy together during the crashes and booms cannot only be comforting but enlightening.  Counting the seconds between a flash of lightening and the roar of thunder to follow will calculate just how far away the storm is, while diverting  a child’s mind from fear to eagerly anticipating the next bang! (even if their ears are covered).  Sharing with your kids your own experiences during storms as a child, is always meaningful and engaging.  “You mean you were afraid of thunder when you were my age?  Did your mom let you sleep with her?”

What if  you’re still afraid of storms?  Maybe you had a parent that was afraid, or one that thought it important that you stick it out hidden,  shaking under the covers of your own bed and you never quite resolved your fear.  Well, now that you’re the parent, this is your chance.  Faking it is the way. Modeling calm  for your child is the most important way to help your child relax, and, actually,  you too.    It’s always amazing to me how children help us take our biggest steps.

I think, often as parents, our first reaction when our child shows fearfulness is to deny that there is anything to be afraid of .  Acknowledging your child’s concern, “Wow, thunder is really really loud – sounds kind of scary, I know!” is a positive way to accept what your child is feeling and convey to him that you “get” what he’s upset about.  Once children feel understood, rather than having their fears dismissed, they will be much more receptive to hearing and experiencing what is actually going on. 

Some parents prepare for nightime visitors ahead of time when severe storms are predicted and have sleeping bags and pillows already on the floor waiting for the scurry of children to jump in, between the first loud rumble and the next flash of lightening. 

If going to the basement becomes necessary because of severe warnings, think ahead.  I know our daughter, probably aged 4 at the time, still remembers our time in the basement during a particularly violent storm.  We had jelly beans and sang all the songs we could think of, wrapped up in cozy blankets, while the storm raged.  Having a few puzzles and books along with flashlights and snacks in a bin in the basement will help you feel prepared and ready to assure your child that all is under control.

Going to the library and checking out books on storms is a great way to meet fear with knowledge and understanding, especially with school-aged kids.  One of my favorite picture books, suitable for all ages, is Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacci.  At the end of the story is a recipe for baking a  thunder cake which can be a fun activity to do together. 

When daytime storms approach, safely watching the storm clouds roll in and the wind increase can be an exciting adventure and can become a special memory.  Thunderstorms are a beautiful display of nature. However,  being respectful and understanding of the dangers of lightening and the precautions to take  is first and foremost.  With caution in mind, the opportunity exists to share and appreciate, with your whole family,  the awesomeness and wonder of nature.

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Happy Father’s Day

I’m really glad there’s a special day set aside to recognize dads.  I’m even more pleased  that today’s dads are readily recognized as able caregivers who know how and want to nurture their children. 

Over the almost 20 years that Family Resources has been around,  we’ve seen a significant increase in fathers attending Play Shoppes, Parent Connection, Fun Nights, workshops and classes.  They have questions and concerns and play active roles in their children’s lives. Today’s  Dads “wear” their babies, change diapers, push strollers, fix supper for the kids, give baths, read good night stories, help with homework, and often are the sole parent in the home.  Did I mention play?

It was just a few evenings ago at Riverside Park when my husband and I were entranced and entertained watching a young father and his three young children romp and play and dart around in the grass.  They were all so totally in the moment – the children running pell mell, the dad chasing and swinging and being the “horsey” to all three of them until they collapsed, laughing and shrieking in a pile on the ground.  This was repeated many times over.  It could well have been put to music, so perfectly choreographed it looked to us from our viewing place. 

So, today on this Father’s Day, I’d like to say thank you to this special dad, who unbeknownst to him, offerred us this glimpse of pure joy.  And to all dads everywhere – those able to be with their children and those who are separated, by distance or circumstances – a sincere wish and a loud shout-out to how truly significant your positive  involvement is in the lives of your children.  Happy Father’s Day! 

(and by the way – check out Family Resources’  new 6-week program, 24-7 Dad,  focusing on the importance of being there and listening 24/7.)

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Full service to self-serve – Toilet Learning!

It’s always fun when you hear some positive feedback.  Tonight while choosing my favorite foods  at China Buffet, a mom came up to me and said, “Hi Fran, I took your toilet learning workshop a few years ago and today at my garage sale, I sold my potty chairs – along with quoting you to the person buying it”.  That’s what Family Resources means when we say “Power of Parenting – Pass it on”.

Toilet learning can be a challenging time.  Parents dread it, want it to be over in a snap and often feel personally pressured for their child to be out of diapers.  Children quickly realize how important it is to their parents and often grab this sense of power and hold on (or in!) 

I talked to another mom this morning.  She told me that when her son is diaperless, he will go on the potty independently and then tell her he’s done.  But she said, “As soon as I tell him, we’re going to do potty training, he refuses to sit”.  My suggestion – “don’t tell him!  Just let him be diaperless when you’re at home.  And don’t talk about it in front of him or on the phone with your friends”.

Toilet learning is on a continuum as most development is.  It starts with full service at one point and ends at self-serve.  But in between, there are ups and downs, relapses, negativity, frustration( often on the parents’ part) and finally sucess.  The most important advice is to avoid a power struggle.

I’ll be doing  another toilet learning workshop, To Pee or not to Pee,  coming up at Family Resources on the 30th of July. Registration is necessary.  Join us if you have questions.

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Tone of Voice

If I was only allowed to share one parenting tip, it would have to be about tone of voice.  Tone of voice you say?  What kind of tip is that?  When I suggested recently to a parent of an almost 2-year-old that the tone of voice you use when speaking to a child is so important, she replied “I have a tone of voice that I use and he still doesn’t listen to me”. We laughed and I explained that we were probably talking about different tones of voice. 

This is such a common situation.  A parent wants a child to stop doing something, pick up her toys or come to eat lunch and so uses a tone of voice that sounds more like an order than a matter-of-fact exchange.    The child ignores her, runs away from her, shouts NO and leaves the parent feeling very frustrated.  Thinking about what tone of voice would encourage you to respond positively to another person is helpful.   Would you feel like cooperating with a person who yelled in a demanding voice for you to do something?  Would you use that kind of voice when speaking to a friend or coworker?  That’s the best test, I think, when we are trying to guage the voice we are using with our children. 

When trying to get anyone to cooperate with you, let alone a two-year-old, try to keep your voice positive and respectful.  If you need your child to come to you to listen, it’s best to get up and go to her, look her in the eyes and state what you want her to do in a firm, friendly voice. Then assist her gently if need be.

The tone of voice we use in speaking to our children will be the tone we hear when they are speaking to us.

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Less is often more!

Tonight when I was fixing dinner, one of those meals where I only had a little of this and a little of that, I began to think of how so often, as parents, we offer too much when our children’s needs would be satisfied with less.  I decided on scrambled eggs.  I had only three strips of bacon and so after frying them up and dicing them, I added them to the eggs.  Along with some chopped onions, a few mushrooms, a little bit of left-over broccoli, some chopped green pepper, some grated cheddar cheese and some chilli powder to spice it up, it became, in my husband’s words, the most fantastic scrambled eggs he’s ever had!

I only share this because the process made me think.  To take something so ordinary – like eggs – and add a few small touches and make it “extraordinary” is what can happen so effortlessly for our children and our families.

So often we think too big.  “I wish we could go to Disney” or “Going to Wisconsin Dells would make the kids so happy”.  I’m encouraging you to take the ordinary and watch your children  make it extraordinary. 

All of us have memories of special times we hold dear from our childhoods.  I would be willing to bet most of them are of simple times – that were not big, planned events.  Let’s provide the same for our children; let’s remember to keep it simple.  Think back to your own childhoods and remember the things you thought were so special to do and that still resonate with you.

Going out for an ice cream cone; Cutting up a watermelon in the back yard and inviting some friends over to help eat it; Walking around the block and letting the kids run through every sprinkler they see – simple suggestions that are memory makers for kids and low cost, low stress and little preparation for parents. 

A pound of bacon would have overdone it.  Three strips diced was just enough.  A day at the beach, a parade the same evening and then a stop for an ice cream on the way home – too much.  Take advantage of keeping it simple and remember that less is most often more!

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