Monthly Archives: May 2011

A salute

Memorial Day – I loved this holiday when I was little.  I loved the parade, the flags, the yearly cookout planned with family and friends at a special oceanfront state park near where I lived.

Now these many years later, I still have a warm glow from those youthful memories.  As I stood watching the parade today, it brought them all back as I observed so many young children sitting on the curbs, wide-eyed, clapping and waving as the marchers passed by.

For there is most certainly an air of excitement and participation that a parade offers, whether one is watching or marching.  There’s often a palpable exchange between those passing by and the spectators – involving us and connecting us in an intangible way.

And as I watched and reflected, I couldn’t help but think of the families this year, as in many other years before, who are missing their loved ones – families and children whose parents are away at war or who have lost a parent as a casualty of war.

It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to say the good byes that these military families must endure.  And the days, months and years of uncertainty, spent managing family life alone, missing milestones, handling minor and major “crises” as best they can, attempting to share what each is going through while maintaining the patience, strength and acceptance that is asked and expected of them.

In our day-to-day civilian life, we often don’t take the time to acknowledge their struggle unless we know someone personally involved.  Yet the families are all around us – all across the nation and very much right here in our own area.

So on this Memorial Day,  I very respectfully honor and salute these families – parents,wives, husbands, children, babies – and the soldiers they love and miss.

Godspeed!

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stormy times

What a difference a few minutes can make.  That’s the way it seemed late yesterday afterno0n here in La Crosse.  Dark clouds swirling, tornado sirens screaming, and then – suddenly, huge trees were uprooted, roofs torn off, windows broken, cars smashed.

Fortunately, there was no loss of life or even injury reported in our city – miraculously so if one has viewed the extent of damage in the neighborhoods affected by the storm.

The Parenting Place was in the path of the destruction but luckily all is well there except some roof damage that is being checked out.

I know personally I am left feeling a bit jittery inside.  And both of our young adult kids on the East Coast, hearing the news, wanted and needed to connect and talk the experience over to make sure all was well.

So what to expect from your own children – especially those whose homes and neighborhoods saw damage, but even those that waited, huddled down in the basement, for the storm to be through to find that all was well.

What many children might experience during this next week or so are sleep disturbances, waking up several times a night, bad dreams, fear of going to bed, loud noises, separation issues, pre-occupation about what will happen with the weather.

You may notice children play acting the experience with their siblings, hiding, perhaps gathering all their stuffed animals and putting them in the basement or under the bed to keep them safe.

Children are often more irritable, tired, clingy and may show some signs of regression.  They sometimes develop unusual fears – even of specific days, such as “bad things happen on Sundays”.  Coincidentally, our two recent storms, when the sirens needed to be activated, have now both occurred on a Sunday (so not too far a stretch to imagine).

I read about a family in the South who recently experienced devastating damage from a tornado and this particular mom talked about the fears her children were experiencing.  Her preschooler was constantly looking at the clouds in the sky and worrying that one was a tornado.  Her six-year-old was afraid to walk under trees that they might fall on him.  Her older girls insisted she check and re-check the weather channel before they went to school and even a little bit of rain made all of them a bit unnerved (even her, she admitted).

For all of us and especially children, it is the shock of seeing a familiar neighborhood not looking so familiar any more that challenges a child’s belief system about the stability and safety of his world.

And it is this insecurity that creates the anxiety in them, as well as us.

What a child wants and needs to know most, therefore, is that she is safe, that there are people available to help her and that there is a secure place to go during a storm.  I like to focus on the Helpers – the firemen, police,  rescue workers,doctors, medical personnel,volunteers, neighbors, who are out directing traffic, checking on people, sawing trees, helping clean up, making sure everyone is safe.

So never underestimate how powerful it is for our children to know, and to feel, that the adults in their life are “in control” of the situation.

Making the “secure place” your family goes to during storm emergencies a very familiar spot, one that has cozy items there, some books, some snacks, and  is a given that this is where your family goes to be safe can be very comforting for children.

 Bruce Perry, an internationally recognized authority on the impact of stress and any kind of trauma in children, suggests letting your child be your guide as to how much information and conversation you offer.  Try not to overexpose your child to constant TV coverage or to overhearing excess conversation among adults that can keep the stress and anxiety high.

Listening to your child if he has questions and comforting, without avoiding or over-reacting, will have a postive effect on your child’s ability to cope.

Providing a consistent, predictable pattern for your family during this time especially is very significant.  If there are changes that need to be made, spend the time to inform your child about what will be happening differently and who will be there to be with him.

We all may need a few extra hugs this week, a few more helping hands, more requests to be carried, more time spent close.

Make sure you get some of this “comfort” for yourself.

If you have any questions or concerns about how to answer your child’s anxiety or behavior, give me a call at The Parenting Place a call – 874-8125.  I’d be most happy to help you with your concerns.

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Name it

A three and a half-year-old little girl was the first one to arrive with her grandma at Play Shoppe on Friday at The Parenting Place. We were happy to see her and after her perfunctory greetings, she just stood there –  very still – halfway in to the children’s room.

I feel a little nervous when I first come in.  Little girls sometimes feel nervous about painting right away”, she told me. 

“I think I know what you mean. Sometimes I feel that way when I go some place.  Take your time to decide what to do.”

I saw her eyeing the playdough table and so I reminded her that I remember she usually made that her first stop.

She smiled as she walked forward, noticing immediately there was a new playdough gadget on the table.

I thought about this child’s comments all day.  How wonderful for her to be able to recognize and express her emotions as she did. 

 As adults, parents, grandparents, childcare professionals, however, we often want to avoid having a child feel badly or sad, so in response to this little girl, with all good intentions, we might say “don’t be silly, why would you feel nervous?  You come here all the time.  There’s nothing to feel nervous about.”

What then would the child hear, however? I’m silly for feeling the way I do.  I guess my feelings are wrong.  I shouldn’t trust the way I feel.

All of us can find ourselves acting inappropriately when our emotions get the best of us.  When a child is experiencing strong emotions, we often see this acted out through their behavior – tantrums, striking out, hiding behind parents, crying, running from us, whining are some of the ways children might respond when they are angry, sad, scared, frustrated, overwhelmed. 

Modeling for our children the way in which we handle our own emotions can make a significant impression on them.  This is an excellent time to use appropriate emotion words that our children will hear, learn and choose themselves when describing their own feelings.

Reading books together is a perfect opportunity to point out expressions on the characters’ faces which may display clear emotions.  “Look at his face.  How do you think he’s feeling?”  This will help children not only relate to their own feelings but perhaps become more discerning about noticing other’s feelings besides.

Sharing a vocabulary of emotions with our children from an early age is one of the first steps in helping a child use his words versus acting out physically.

Sometimes we get locked in to describing our feelings only as mad, sad, and glad.  But offering a variety of words to describe the way we are feeling makes it ever so much more interesting,specific, and fun.

For anger, try annoyed, crabby, cross, fuming, furious, incensed, outraged.

For fear, try afraid, anxious, concerned, nervous, scared, uncomfortable, worried, terrified.

For happiness, try cheerful, delighted, glad, joyful, pleased, satisfied, exuberant.

For sadness, try blue, disappointed, glum, sorry, unhappy, discouraged.

For frustration, try irritated, exasperated, impatient.

Accepting a child’s emotion and helping her to name it and figure out an acceptable solution to manage it will build trust, deeper appreciation and connection between you while steering your child along the path toward emotional maturity and health.

Now that might make us all feel pretty “exultant”! Right?

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wait and see

A mom who was always very active as a former participant at all of our parent programs volunteered to help me at The Parenting Place’s Hearts in the Park event on Saturday.

I welcomed her assistance for sure but even more enjoyed catching up with news about her two boys 11 and 13 years old, former Play Shoppe alumni.  They’re doing exceptionally well, good students, lots of interests, involved in music and boy scouting.

I listened to what this mom was saying about the boys, felt her appreciation of them and reminded her about the worry, concern and challenges  she went through when the boys were toddlers and preschoolers.

We laughed about it together now, but at the time this mom thought it was anything but funny.  She then reminded me that I had told her, repeatedly, to trust the goodness that was in these little guys, respond positively to their behavior, watch for their passions and allow them to evolve, and stay connected.

She listened.

The next evening I was reading the La Crosse Tribune and came across two more of my Play Shoppe “alumni”.   One was a young girl – always a leader, even when little, whose picture as Senior Student of the month at her high school didn’t surprise me but did delight me.

On the same page I was elated to see a picture of a young man whose name jumped out at me first.  As I looked more closely at the photo, however, there it was – traces of the three-year-old face I remember so well.

He was always one of my favorites – a senior now, a natural wildlife artist with a great passion in natural science and conservation biology.  He took 1st place at the State level for his depiction of the common merganser duck. 

I smiled to myself, remembering this active little boy, especially when he mentions in the article the concentration and lengthy process he went through to study and draw the duck, trying to capture the environment, its habitat proportions and coloring.

I recently read about another high school senior, also a  very special Play Shoppe “alumni” who went to state competition with his high school mock trial team, is serious about his band,music and friends.

All of these Play Shoppe “alumni” were a spirited bunch when young, whose behaviors often called for their parents’ extra patience, fortitude, understanding, and appreciation of their uniqueness. But their gifts were there, even at those young ages, growing, developing, waiting to unfold.

I love these words from Polly Berrien Berunds’ book, ‘”Whole Child, Whole Parent”. 

 “View him as a promise rather than a problem or a project.”

”  Enjoy him…. All that is needed is continually to behold the perfect child right where the disobedient, failing or disturbed one seems to be.  The perfect child cannot be seen at a superficial glance anymore than the flower can be viewed in the bulb.”

”  We must look deeper than complexion for beauty, deeper than behavior for goodness, and deeper than test scores for intelligence… “

Believe it.

Just wait and see.

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You’re in the right place

On Tuesday, May 3rd, Family Resources will become The Parenting Place – for grown-ups who care about kids.

So – if you’ve taken a second look at this blog, scratched your head, wondered what happened – don’t worry.  You’re in the right place.  This is the same Parent Pulse as always only now brought to you by The Parenting Place – for grown-ups who care about kids.

I love our new name, the beautiful logo and the message behind it.  It is, after all, parents and grown-ups who care about kids that we work for and with to help expand and support their efforts to “parent” children in the most positive, confident and resourceful ways possible.

Over the past 20 years, we have worked with so many parents, childcare professionals, grandparents, extended families, teachers, medical professionals.  And in each of  these roles, the adults are seeking information and support to “parent” kids, whether their own or others they care about, most effectively.

For what has perhaps become somewhat of an overused cliche, still, however, rings true.  “It takes a village to raise a child.” 

Our name and logo will be different, but our mission is clear and unchanged.  You can count on The Parenting Place – for grownups who care about kids – to be there for you in all the ways we have been in the past.

I’m excited that all this fits in so perfectly with The Parenting Place’s upcoming Fun Day on Saturday, May 7th –  Hearts in the Park from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. at Myrick Park in La Cross

 It will be a celebration of mothers – or anyone who is a significant person in your child’s life – grandmas, aunts, sisters, neighbors, teachers, friends.  They can honor each of them by writing their name on a heart and hanging it on one of the designated bushes or small trees; then fill out a postcard that we’ll send to let this special person know of this tribute.

There will be mother’s day crafts for the children to make,  treats and fun activities as well as the significance of recognizing those in our lives whose caring and influence we value. 

I hope to see many of you there.  I believe it is always impressive for children when they actively participate in tokens of appreciation and respect.

  Registration is required by calling The Parenting Place  – 784-8125.

Remember – The Parenting Place – for grown-ups who care about kids.

You’re in the right place!

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