Monthly Archives: June 2010

Try this

Often when a parent discusses a concern or challenge they are experiencing with their young child, one of the first things that pops into my head is “make a book”.

A few weeks ago, a mom called about her young son who had become afraid of staying at his daycare home because of a child who was biting and had already bitten him.  Drop-offs were difficult, for both mom and child.

 This mom was feeling at a loss.  She didn’t want to remove him from the special, caring situation her son was in.  She trusted her day care provider was handling the situation appropriately, yet she also needed to make sure her son knew that she understood his fears and was not ignoring them.

What I suggested to this mom was to come in and  make a book – tell a story, about what her son is going through.  She tentatively but bravely said okay, even as she had strong doubts about her illustrative abilities.

The fortunate point, however, to remember in creating a book for children is that they are very acccepting of our attempts at drawing, and imaginative enough to recognize even the faintest suggestion of reality.  Stick figures, primitive drawings, using their own words in balloons coming out of mouths, a quick dash of crayon on the stick figures and a blush of color across the page for warmth seals the deal in convincing a child that this story is their very own.

And that’s the significant factor here.  This story is your child’s own. 

We started off with three or four pages of computer paper folded in half and stapled to make the book.  From there the story and pictures unfolded – riding to daycare with his mom, singing their favorite tune, drawings and names of his friends at daycare, his very special caregiver, things he liked to do at daycare, who he liked to play with, (yes, even including the “biter”, sometimes), how he felt -sometimes happy, sometimes mad, sometimes sad or frightened,  and how his daycare provider was always there to keep him safe, and mom would always be back to pick him up.  For sure.

So why would this help?  This is a simple yet compelling tool to use with a young child in all kinds of circumstances.  It allows a child to take a step back and hear her own story, absorb the details, reflect on the meaning, feel reassured, understood and definitely connected.

It puts things in perspective in a way that asking questions and trying to get a child to talk about what’s bothering him does not and it offers a solid sense of security that his feelings are being considered and understood.  And it can be read and reread over and over again.

So – why not try creating a book for your own child, your family, your daycare group?  These books can be serious, funny, joyful – on every subject imaginable.  Each will always be one of a kind and that right there makes them special.

If you’d like some encouragement, give me a call.  I’d love to get you started!

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Just like Dad

Today is Father’s Day which started me thinking about what it means to be a dad – as well as to take the opportunity to wish every single dad out there sincere good wishes for a great day. 

I love watching little boys when they are playing in the “housekeeping corner” in Family Resources’ playroom.  They’re fixing dinner, pushing the dolly in the stroller, gently putting the “baby” to bed as if they’ve done it a hundred times. 

However, sometimes a dad will express to me his discomfort in watching his little boy play in this manner, worried that he will be considered a sissy by other boys.  I like to then ask the dad, do you carry your son, help him get dressed, put him to bed, snuggle with him?

“Of course” is usually the response.

Then your child is imitating you – pretending he is a dad, practicing for the day he will be a dad.  What a lucky guy to have a committed and loving dad to model.

For that’s what it takes.  Fatherhood allows boys to observe, reflect and learn how to be caring, responsible and tender dads themselves one day.

An awesome job! 

 Embrace it, value it, join in the next time your little boy is playing “house”. As a dad,  be prepared, you may even catch a glimpse of the way your son sees you. 


(William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow is an oldie but goodie children’s book you might like to read to your child, which addresses this issue in a warm and cozy way.}

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As I took my turn working at the front desk last week, I overheard an exchange between a mom and her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter as they were preparing to leave Family Resources.

  The daughter had found a children’s book on display that she had picked up and was enjoying looking at.  The mom, needing to move along quickly, told her it was time to leave and to put the book back right away.  After a pause, the little girl did do as she was told but not without some tears.  I watched this mom pick up her daughter and compliment her for “Good listening – even though it made you sad.  Sometimes it does.”  And they walked out the door.

How true is that!  Often the things we have to do or give up or not get to do make us sad. 

I recently came across a term I had not heard used before.  It was in regard to allowing our children the opportunity to “exercise their disappointment muscles”.  I love that expression.  That was exactly what this wise mom did so well, while also acknowledging her daughter’s feelings.

As parents, though, we often do everything possible to avoid having our children experience disappointments, no matter how small.  None of us like to see our children sad, of course, but it’s helpful to recognize the significance that learning how to accept life’s small challenges is great preparation, “exercise” for being able to successfully cope independently as they get older.

We hear so much about young people today who want immediate gratification, instant success, inability to take no for an answer.  As parents, we struggle with feeling it’s our responsibility to provide everything a child wants, in order to keep him happy – in order to be a good parent.

But, actually, the healthy, responsible thing to do is to sometimes, gently, say no – can’t go – can’t buy it – can’t eat it – can’t play it – not today.  Allow your child the chance to exercise her “disappointment muscles”, to feel them get stronger even as she may feel sad. Because sometimes she will.

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Poetry in motion

My Glasses

My glasses.
They make everything
                        by Sterling, age 8

Poetry – I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. 

 Poetry can, whether from an 8-year-old child or an ancient muse, also make everything look bigger, clearer and more poignant.  Spending a few extra minutes browsing in the children’s department at the library recently, I found myself in the poetry section.  I was flooded with memories of how much I loved poems when I was little, and then, as a mom and teacher, reading and sharing poetry often with my children.

I can still vividly recall my childhood favorites, so ingrained in my memory.  “How do you like to go up in a swing, up in a swing so high…” ; “Who has seen the wind, neither you nor I …”; “The owl and the pussy cat went to sea, in a beautiful, pea-green boat…”; “I must go down to the sea again…”; “Wynken, Blinken and Nod one night…”.;”I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…”.

Poetry is such a celebration of words, sounds, and description.  It is emotion and motion combined with language, sense of rhythm, pattern and often a touch of whimsy – all assimilated and repeated by those who are fortunate to hear it.

Poetry energizes the senses, makes one more aware of his surroundings, nature, life itself.  It’s an original and personal way to look at ordinary and extraordinary things.  It can speak to the heart as well as one’s funny bone.  Exposure, familiarity, and delight in poetry broadens one’s views and enhances imagination, creativity, and depth of thought.

Reading experts highly recommend exposing children to this gift of poetic language as a foundation for their success in early reading.  From Dr. Seus, Mother Goose, Shel Silversteen and Jack Prelutsky to the classics of Robert Louis Stevenson, Rachel Field and A.A. Milne, as well as oodles of new creative poetry for children, you’ll discover, as will your children, the gems that will remain in their being for a lifetime.

I found a book at a garage sale, Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis written by Caroline Kennedy.  Caroline tells of a tradition in their family, as she and her brother were growing up.  For each holiday or birthday, she and John would, after much reading and deciding, choose a poem for their mother – copy it down, illustrate it, learn it by heart and recite it to their mom as a gift.  Caroline has done that with her own children as well.  What a treasured gift and tradition!

If you’d like to first get yourselves more familiar with poetry read aloud, a nice collection of poems with a CD included, spoken by the poets themselves is Poetry Speaks to Children , which allows the reader to hear the words as the poets intended them. 

I hope you’ll be inspired to share poetry together with your children.  You will all become more perceptive and feeling, and along with Sterling, glasses or not, make everything look bigger.

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Brothers…and sisters

Siblings – I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately.

 At Friday’s Play Shoppe, I overheard an endearing comment from one bigger brother to his little brother, both boys new participants at Family Resources, “Let’s sit next to each other, because we’re brothers”. 

This older brother, seemingly less confident in his new surroundings than his younger sibling, needed someone familiar to sit near and chose very persuasive reasoning “because we’re brothers”.

We do a lot of things because we’re brothers – and sisters – some  good and noble, some not, but the connection that lies within us as siblings, positive or negative, never goes away.

I talk to many parents who are just adding to their families and want to know how to encourage positive connections between their children.

What surprises most parents is when the new baby arrives, all can go very smoothly at first.  The baby cries, eats, sleeps but seems pretty non- threatening to the older child. But suddenly, this innocent baby turns into a true interloper – smiling, gooing, waving, clapping and grabbing the older siblings toys and definitely the attention from both mom and dad.

Parents really do have love enough for each child.  As parents, we know this.  But children aren’t always so sure and that’s what sibling rivalry is all about.  Is there enough left for me?

Many parents tell me they promise the older child a special time just for her- after the baby goes to sleep or we leave her at Grandma’s.  Good idea – sometimes – as long as the message to the older sibling is not  that we can only have fun together when the younger one isn’t around, proving the older child’s point that the baby needs to go for good.

Try creating as many situations  as possible when everyone is having fun together.  “Let’s put baby Zeke here to be the audience for our puppet show.”

“Mary can’t drink tea like we can, but let’s let her sit with us at our tea party and she can pretend.”

“I can give both of you pushes on the swings.  Two brothers, swinging high, in the sky, side by side.”

Often we find ourselves constantly telling the older child, “I can’t do that now because your baby brother needs to …. “.  Occasionally,  try saying to the baby, when you know you can, and for your older child’s ears, “you’ll just have to wait a minute.  I’m helping your big sister now”.

As the years pass, relationships grow and mature.  A sense of family, a bond between siblings is very worth the effort.  Set the bar high for the climate in your home.  Make it a caring, loving place where name calling and putdowns between siblings and/or parents are not part of the fabric, where “because we’re brothers”, matters.

The rewards will be great.

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