Monthly Archives: September 2010

Home works

I hear this often.  Parents are at a loss when trying to keep their child busy at home.  Many express frustration that their children are disinterested in their toys and being “just at home” makes them bored, whiny, and frankly speaking, tiresome.

One mom recently told me she and her three-year-old son purposely don’t stay at home any more than they have to most days because he just runs around, throwing things, climbing, jumping and shouting. 

“Going out somewhere, even the mall, works better” she said. “How can I keep him occupied and keep my sanity too?”

 Here are some suggestions to consider.

 Take a discerning look at your child’s toys and play area.

 I recall different situations with both of our children when they were approximately three-years-old that required us to be away from our home base for several months.  Only very choice playthings made the cut to come with us.  It was heaven.

It taught me how few things children need and how valued those few things become.

 So weed through your child’s toys.  Think hard which ones should “make the cut” at your house.  Arrange them so your child will notice them and so they invite her to play.  Store the others out of sight.

When thinking play things, think outside the box.  High interest objects are not often toys per se.

 I know a mom who bought six rolls of duct tape, all in different colors, for their four-year-old boy for a birthday present. He loves duct tape, putting it to good use in his creative play ventures. Perfect!

Toy boxes have been around for years but they are actually ineffective in encouraging focused play. They’re made to be dumped and dumped they are – leaving disarray that leads to disinterest and disregard on the part of your child.

A child needs ready access to his toys.  If things are stocked on a top shelf of a closet or at the bottom of a toy box, motivation, independence and initiative is impossible.

Shelves are a perfect way to display toys.  Not only do the toys look inviting, but they provide an easy and satisfying way to pick up and return them to their rightful place on the shelf.

Take things out of their boxes.  Use baskets and containers to attract your child’s eye.  Be open to letting them mix and match.  Sometimes one needs a combination of several toys to create the vision they’re imagining.  This adds to the richness, drama and creativity of their play.

Children like to be near others when they play. Don’t expect a young child to play alone down in the finished basement play room.  It won’t happen. 

Physical activity.

This is so crucial and so significant, I should have put it first! 

 Being outside in the fresh air, running, chasing, jumping, shouting (where we’re supposed to do these things} is like an absolute miracle  in producing relaxed, ready-to-focus children.

Reading, books and experiences.

Make use of connecting books, experiences, seasons, interests, activities to her play to encourage and expand her understanding and appreciation of her world. These will provide fuel for her in extending these new ideas into her dramatic play.

Screen time.

Keep the TV  and videos off.  There are some great music and storytelling CD’s for children available at the library.  Check them out.  See if  playing them in the background  lengthens your child’s independent playtime.

Be busy yourself. 

Children often take their cue from you, sense your calm and model your productivity.

Routine helps. 

 Developing a rhythm for your family’s day, your family’s week will be learned, felt  and integrated by your child.

If this hasn’t happened yet at your house, it can.  Don’t be impatient.  It does take time to establish your own family’s routine – to believe in it.  So many parents tell me, I can’t be busy while my child is awake. 

Keep trying. 


Children will often complain about being bored.  That’s okay.  They can learn to accept boredom.  From boredom comes the ability to figure out what to do next. Ta Da! 

Allow this to happen.

If you are reading this and thinking, this won’t work at my house and would like to have some  more specific suggestions to help you along, feel free to contact me at Family Resources, 608 – 784-8125.

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It’s complicated

Families are complicated.

Kids are complicated.

Relationships are complicated.

It takes all the positive support one can receive to make the journey easier. We all need this support and caring from others.  That’s what Family Resources strives to do for families. That’s what I often see other parents doing for each other.

On Friday at the end of Play Shoppe, a little guy fell completely apart when he realized it was time to go home and he had not done the art project that had been set out that morning.  We offered him the materials to take with him, to no avail.  He was not to be comforted.

This type of situation can be difficult emotionally for a parent.  When all of the other children are seemingly happy and cooperative, the parents of the upset child can easily imagine being  judged on their parenting skills and their inability to control their child’s behavior.  It can feel devastating.

Fortunately I saw several parents on Friday offer an understanding touch or “been there” look of recognition to this mom, mixed with grateful relief that it wasn’t their child, at least not today.

For every child has his day.

  And when that child happens to be your own, it’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed and alone.

When it really begins to get most challenging, however, is when “that day” could be every day for a complicated child who has special needs.  We all know a child like this – who may react emotionally in many different situations – perhaps by screaming, throwing, hitting, kicking, refusing.

 It is this parent – most in need of our caring support – who sometimes receives it the least.

Yet it is also these same parents who have to work most diligently to meet their child’s needs.  While others can relax and talk together during groups and outings, a parent of a child with special needs is constantly on task, constantly on alert. 

That’s what makes it so complicated. 

 But we can all make it simpler together.

We can do this by extending our support, offering our friendship, our conversation and our invitations to these families, to help make their lives fuller, as well as our own;  understand, accept and value their “normal” as normal, be less daunted by what’s different and more receptive to the gifts of all families.

We will all be richer for it.

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I spoke with a parent on Thursday whose son began 4-year-old kindergarten last week.  He’s a veteran, his mom thought, having gone to daycare four times a week all his life.  Yet, after the initial hype of first day, new clothes, photos, special attention, her son has started to act out in ways she hadn’t seen before.

She shared he gets upset easily, quickly reacting to situations by outbursts of hitting and shouting, acts helpless when doing something familiar like putting on his shoes, says he’s too tired to walk, too tired to go to school and, in fact, she said, he does appear fatigued.

Wow – can any of us adults recall how we might have felt after the first week of a brand new job?  So many new rules, new people, new information bombarding us.  Does stressed- out or over-whelmed come to mind?

This is exactly the way a child can feel experiencing a new situation where different expectations are being introduced, new faces, new social interactions and perhaps less independent choices, more directed group work required.

It can be exhausting.  Concentrating on using our “grown-up” side, even for three hours, can be taxing.  It’s a relief to be back in the security and coziness of home where one feels safe enough to say no, whine a bit, demand some TLC.

Regression – it happens to all children – and yes, even to us adults.

 Ever crawled under a favorite comforter, committed to staying there for a very long time?  Or over-indulged by eating the whole sleeve of an Oreo cookie package, or the entire bag of chips, pined for your own mommy to take care of you, had a mini-breakdown in front of your best friend?

Regression manifests itself during periods of change, stress, too high expectations, fatigue.  It’s two steps ahead and one step back, even as one continues on the forward path.  It’s the one-step- back spot that this little guy finds himself.

“And so,” ventured this mom, “how do I get this behavior to stop?”

“Gently”, I advised.  If we meet this behavior head on, trying to “nip it in the bud”, not recognizing it for what it is, we chance prolonging it, creating a dragged-out power struggle. Here are a few things to consider.

 Create a climate of calm in your home during these first few weeks.  Take a raincheck on evening and after school activities during this adjustment stage.

Work hard to make sure bedtimes are regular and your child is getting a good night’s rest.

Connect.  Try to have enough time before school to spend some eye-to-eye contact- converse over a bowl of cereal, read a favorite book, help him with his socks.

Limit screen time – TV, video and computer.

Have a healthy snack ready and waiting when she comes home, even if you know she always has one at school.

Limit “twenty questions” about what happened at school, etc. and allow the information to naturally unfold as your child begins to relax at home. Be patient.

Try to pace yourself to match the pace of your child.  Offer to help with shoes before he whines or throws them.  Get ready earlier yourself so he does not feel rushed.

Stop the hitting and yelling at you by removing yourself.  “I don’t like to be talked to like that.  Find me when you can talk in a kinder voice.” Then have a conversation about this behavior at a later time during the day when you know he’ll be able to “listen” and problem solve a different way to act.

Relax.  Breathe. Smile.

 This period of adjustment will pass.

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Building on our strengths

Building on our strengths – that’s what really helps all of us as we manuever through life – whether beginning pre-school, entering middle school, leaving for college, becoming a parent, starting a career, raising a family.

It’s the key – to recognize what it is we are doing well, and do more of it. 

Sometimes as parents, we may feel we are in a losing battle.  Perhaps no one seems to listen,  we find ourselves yelling more, the kids are arguing, tattling, picking on one another.

Then one day, everything seems to go just right.  It may not even be the whole day – perhaps just a morning or the period before bed.  But when it happens, you know it, you can feel it, you can almost touch it.

Those are the times to focus on, to think about, to ask what happened then?  What was it about that particular exchange that helped things go more smoothly?  Or was it that we just remembered to look, to feel and to appreciate.

Recognize these positive moments and savor them, add to them, know that this is what you and your family are really about.

Concentrating on the affirmatives in our families and believing in these strengths is more difficult than one would think and requires a deliberate effort on our part.  When practiced regularly, it fills us with motivation and deeper appreciation of who we are and what we stand for. 

The benefit of nurturing this positive testimony is watching this strong connection spread to the  hearts and minds of our children.

Building on our strengths – it’s a tool that we can all use, a way to live, a way to teach, a recognition and celebration of our own successes.

If anyone is struggling to find the positives in their parenting, and would like someone to help them recognize their strengths, give me a call at Family Resources, 784-8125 and we can discover them together.

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