How to Use Social Stories for Kids with Autism

Many children on the autism spectrum struggle with social situations in their everyday lives. They have trouble understanding certain behaviors or have difficulty accepting change. Being autistic is not easy but it doesn’t mean we can’t help them.

So, stories are specifically made for autistic children, and these are called social stories.

For these reasons and many more, social stories can be an excellent tool for informing kids about what they can expect in various scenarios and also what might be expected from them by other people.

Let’s start by talking about what social stories and where they came from.

Starting Your Social Stories for Autism

First developed by pediatrician Dr. Carol Gray in the early 1990s, social stories for kids with autism have seen increasing popularity over recent years. There are many social stories to be found and downloaded online at your disposal.

These stories cover topics such as washing hands, dealing with transitions, keeping safe during the pandemic, and much more. The range stretches as long as social stories for kids can be helpful.

However, creating your own social story from scratch is often the best way of relating to your individual child and telling a story they will truly engage with. This allows for specific scenarios or events that can be added to the story letting your child relate better to the story.

Starting Your Social Stories for Autism

If you’re wondering where to start, this article should help you as we take a look deeper at how you can effectively use social stories for kids with autism.

A social story is quite simply a narrative created to demonstrate specific situations or problems and how people might be able to interact and handle them. For children with autism, social stories are often used to help them understand social expectations, build their communication, adapt behaviors, and accept change. [1]

Social stories for autism allow the children to learn as they read through the materials. It helps them digest social situations that can be normally difficult for them to conceptualize verbally. This becomes a learning experience as if practicing when the real situation comes up.

Social stories are highly visual and are best when they are custom created for specific situations and individual personalities. When writing social stories, it is recommended to include specific step-by-step information for the child to follow.

We will delve into this further below.

What Do Social Stories Help Children With?

As parents, it’s our duty to teach our children effectively using the best resources out there. Research studies suggest social stories can help children with autism to relate to others and understand what might be best to do or not do when they encounter unfamiliar situations. This prepares your child by processing the best reaction or interaction so that they can carry it out in the right situation.

Social stories can also help kids with autism by:

  • Improving social skills and overall communication among other people.
  • Helping them understand both their own emotions and other people’s emotions.
  • Reducing their levels of anxiety, especially when they are put in the spotlight.
  • Understanding how they can practice self-care and self-appreciation.
  • Working on their behaviors and how they can interact with others.
  • Coping with life changes and transitions such as moving houses or changing personal belongings.
  • Developing and maintaining lasting friendships.
  • Using their imagination to help them explore new things.
  • And much more

How to Write a Social Story for Children With Autism?

Most autism experts would recommend that parents create social stories using the child with autism’s own voice and building from his or her personal perspectives. This makes the social stories for kids more relatable so that they can easily digest and learn from them.

Here are some more tips for creating a useful social story:

  • A good social story should have a specific goal like targeting the desired behavior of the kid(s).
  • A good social story should be factual with lots of information that is centered on the personality of the child.
  • A good social story should easily describe things while following positive language with simple encouraging words.

When you are writing social stories, you should ensure you are using visuals as much as text. Depending on how regularly you want your child to be exposed to the story, you might want to think about using it in the classroom/homeschool, as light reading during recess, or even as a bedtime story.[2]

Types of Sentences for Creating a Top Social Story

According to Autism Parenting Magazine, there are seven types of sentences that are generally used in social stories for autistic children. These sentences can be used as guides on how you can create your own social stories.[3] The types of sentences include:

1. Perspective Sentences

These are descriptions of the inner facet of another person like knowledge, thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs, and motivations including physicality.

  • “My sister likes to run at night.”
  • “My brother doesn’t like horror movies.”
  • “My mom will do anything for us.”

2. Descriptive Sentences

These sentences answer the question of “why” an event or an action is happening. These are real physical sentences that cannot be assumed or filled with opinions.

  • “Children eat fruits and vegetables to get healthy.”
  • “Grown-ups go to work so they can buy stuff.”

3. Directive Sentences

These are sentences that respond to any kind of situation or action positively. These sentences are not consequences but rather a choice of action from doing another action.

  • “I will pray before going to bed every night.”
  • “I will look at both sides when crossing the street.”

4. Control Sentences

These sentences are mostly written by a child after just having heard a story or action. These sentences can be used to help children with autism as a reminder to do an action or set of actions to solve a particular event.

  • “I need to wake up early every day to get to school on time.”
  • “I need to drink milk every night to keep my bones strong.”

5. Affirmative Sentences

These are supportive sentences that can reinforce the meaning of any statement. It also emphasizes an opinion or a value. These sentences add to the gravity of the action and give it more importance.

  • “I will take respect my classmates. It is very important to be nice.”
  • “I will listen to my mom and dad. It is good manners to listen and stay obedient.”

6. Cooperative Sentences

These sentences explain the importance of the roles of other people in an activity or situation. This teaches autistic children to learn that other people are dependable and that they trust them.

  • “There is a lot to learn in school and lots of things to remember. My teacher can explain these to me so that I can understand.”
  • “There are so many animals in the zoo. The tour guide can introduce me to the animals so I can learn about them”

7. Partial Sentences

These sentences encourage autistic children in looking for the right response to any kind of situation. These are very helpful sentences as the child learns the significance of understanding different social situations and they can be managed.

  • “My sister loves to play volleyball at school.”
  • “My dad loves watching sports.”

General Tips for Using Social Stories for Kids With Autism

Bearing all of the above in mind, here are some more general ideas for parents of kids on the spectrum on how to use social stories to support the needs of an autistic child:

  • Determine which topic can be included in the social story and keep it specific. Avoid adding too many topics and information.
  • To help your child relate more, create your main character with your own child’s features. You can add specific facial or body features or things they’ve done in the past.
  • Always keep the stories in positive behaviors and associate comfort, understanding, and patience. Try to avoid negativity and always create the mood lightly.
  • Separate different concepts in different stories to address every specific need. If there are too many topics in your story, maybe making another story would be a better choice.
  • Observe and consider your child’s mood whenever you tell a social story. They will not always be in the mood to hear the stories so pick your time wisely.

How to Use Social Stories for Kids with Autism

5 Actions

Who Started Social Stories for Kids With Autism? Pediatrician, Dr. Carol Gray in the early 1990s.
Social Stories for Autism is a narrative that demonstrates situations to kids allowing them to handle these situations.
What Do Social Stories Help Children With? It helps them improve their social skills, understand emotions, learn self-care, cope with life changes, use their imagination, and many more!
How to Write a Social Story for Children With Autism? Have a specific goal using facts centered on the child’s personality to describe things in positive language.
Types of Sentences for Creating a Top Social Story. Perspective, descriptive, directive, control, affirmative and partial sentences. 

Summing Up

Social stories for autistic students can be a wonderful tool for helping children to develop their social skills, respond to situations appropriately, and much more. In fact, a 2015 study of 30 children with autism, half of which went through social stories training, showed that those in the group who received a social story exhibited improved social interaction. [4]

Of course, it is always worth bearing in mind that every child is unique, and what works for one young mind might not work for another. Social stories can be great fun to write, though, and are a creative way of learning and growing with your autistic child.

Featured photo credit: Stephen Andrews via unsplash.com

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5 Signs Your Child Has Separation Anxiety And What to Do

A foster mom once shared with me her joy the first time the baby she was caring for reached out and clung to her when she attempted to leave him at the church nursery. He had been with her for weeks and had never seemed to have a preference for her until that day.

Her excitement wasn’t due to his distress. It was because she knew it meant that he finally viewed her as his “person” and felt safe with her. She knew that allowing him to stay would also show him it was safe to be in the nursery and give them both a chance to practice the truth that she would always come back.

Child separation anxiety, depending on the cause, can be troubling.

If it is simply an indication of a strong relationship with their caregiver, it can be endearing. But if it’s due to more serious circumstances, parents must decide what to do about it.

5 Signs of Child Separation Anxiety and What to Do

Here are five signs that your child has separation anxiety and some things to consider to help them through it.

1. Your Baby Cries When You Leave the Room

There are times in a child’s life when age-related milestones can bring on separation anxiety. For example, a baby between the ages of four to eight months may start showing signs of anxiety when they are unable to see their caregiver in the room. They might start to cry or show signs of distress when a loved one leaves.

This is because they are just learning to recognize familiar objects and people and form feelings around them. They do not yet realize that just because they can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.[1]

This is a fun time to show your child that you will consistently reappear. Practice playing peek-a-boo with your child and enjoy this time in their life.

As children get older, they realize that their caregiver will always return. As their trust is established, they learn that the places and people their caregiver trusts are safe for them.

2. They Get Stressed When Seeing New Places and Faces

Sometimes a child will be anxious when it is time to visit new places. They might be reluctant to leave the house for a new event, stay in the corner when they arrive, or display tantrums or meltdown behavior.

The unknown is one of the most common anxiety-inducing factors. The way to combat this is to prepare your child as much as you can.

Let them know what to expect. This can include showing them pictures of the place they are going to and the people there and, if possible, describing activities and expectations for behavior while there and even offering a preview of the place without the requirement of separation.

If you think about it, this is why schools have orientations. If we use the same model for new places that our kids may visit without us, it could be of help.

Preparation is key. Knowing what they can expect from new people is also important. Conversations beforehand about expected behavior for them and the other people around them can empower them and ultimately keep them safe when you are not there.

Be honest. Letting them know why you are leaving them in a new place or with new people, why you trust them, why you trust the people who will be caring for them, and what to do if something goes wrong can all help calm their nerves.

3. Bedtime Is a Battle

Bedtime can be a very difficult time for kids. Even adults can be stressed at bedtime.

Dreams are unknown and can sometimes be scary. It’s a completely different world when it’s dark and the house is quiet.

The prospect of sleeping alone can be anxiety-inducing. Signs your child is experiencing this might include a reluctance to fall asleep, refusing to go to bed, or tears and angry behavior.

There are things you can do to help:

  • A relaxing, predictable, bedtime routine
  • A peaceful, calming bedroom space[2]
  • Lots of supportive talks throughout the day
  • A sleep aid like melatonin
  • Bedtime buddies like stuffed animals, special blankets, some even weighted and warmed
  • A gradual transition from a parent sleeping with them to sleeping alone

Consistency and predictability are key for bedtime anxiety. With every successful bedtime, the positive experiences build, until one day you find that your child is ready to go peacefully to bed with no anxiety.

4. Negative Experiences Have Great Impact

According to research, Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by “developmentally inappropriate and excessive anxiety concerning separation from home or from those to whom the individual is attached.”[3]

Sudden separation anxiety symptoms, sudden intense symptoms, or increasing in intensity over time can all be clues. Children with separation anxiety may have developed this due to negative experiences.

If it is especially difficult for your child to be separated from you, they are reluctant to leave home, or experience feelings of sickness when it is time to go somewhere, a negative experience could be the problem.

It is important to follow up with our kids when we are reunited with them. Preparing them is important, and the follow-up is just as important. Talk to your kids about their experiences, let them know that if at any time they do not feel safe, if something upsetting happened, or if they were confused by something or someone, you are there.

As with so many other aspects of parenting, we must keep the lines of communication open. This can also mean providing access to a therapist or other professional that our kids can confide in as well.

When details of negative experiences come out, it is important for us to take it in our stride, model appropriate behavior in response, and find a solution together.

If appropriate, one way to ensure our kids’ safety is to remove them from the situation altogether. “Appropriate” is the operative word here, though, since removal isn’t always the most effective solution.

Reinforcement of negative behaviors around separation anxiety is one of the pitfalls we as parents can fall into. Giving in to tantrums or claims of sickness without investigation can make our children feel less safe.

This is because it puts all the control into their hands. They need us to help guide them through, to support them, and to know that they are safe with us always.

We can do this by:

  • Talking through the negative incident
  • Talking action if needed
  • Including the other caregivers
  • Talking through solutions for the future
  • Empowering our kids with tools for success
  • Lots of practice at home and back where or with whom it happened

Our kids need to build their confidence, handle the things they can on their own, and know that they don’t always have to because we have their backs.

5. Your Child Has Experienced Trauma

Parents, we can’t control every aspect of our child’s life. Not everything that happens to them is a result of bad parenting or accidents. Sometimes, circumstances beyond our control can cause our children to experience trauma.

Though trauma is also a negative experience, it is much different from a misunderstanding or simply something your child did not like. Trauma is much more serious and requires extra support.

Like the foster mom we talked about earlier, caregivers are not always aware of or responsible for what their children have gone through. We are responsible for doing all we can to protect, support, and love them.

Kids who have separation anxiety tell us a lot when they cling to a person or place. It is because that person or place represents safety to them. Sometimes, what feels safe isn’t. Other times, what feels safe is safe.

If you are reading this article, you are probably the kind of parent or caregiver who wants the best for your kids. This means that you are their safe place. If they are showing signs of separation anxiety and have experienced trauma, you can rest assured that them clinging to you means they feel safe with you.

This is a good thing. The next step is to get professionals involved to help your child work through the trauma, heal, and move forward.

Speak to your child’s pediatrician, therapist, or other family members they trust. Build a team to support your child and your family.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why a child will have separation anxiety. The people and places they cling on to whenever they are afraid can show where they feel safe.

Reinforcing and modeling good behavior, creating a safe predictable environment, preparing our kids for new places and people, communicating, and enlisting the help of professionals when needed can all help your family get through it.

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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Suffering from Parental Guilt? 8 Tips On How To Overcome It

Parental guilt is real, and it happens to all of us for different reasons. As humans, it’s normal for us to experience emotions. But sometimes, stress can get the best of us, making us say or do things to our children that we often regret later.

Guilt is a negative emotion that we all want to release whenever possible, and we always want to be aware of it whenever we are carrying it unnecessarily.

It’s normal to feel guilty whenever we did something that we regret. It proves that we love and are committed to our children. However, too much guilt is detrimental to our well-being and our relationship with our children.[1]

7 Signs that You’re Suffering From Parental Guilt

Is the guilt you’re feeling toward your child normal? Or is it unnecessary parental guilt?

Here are seven signs that you might be suffering from parental guilt.

1. Feeling Guilty After Disciplining Your Child

Most of us feel frustrated and angry when our children do something that makes us think, “They should have known better.” While it may be true, kids lack the same reasoning skills as adults due to their stage of brain development.[2]

That’s why they need us, parents, to step in to provide guidance.

If you ended up yelling or felt your reaction went farther than what you intended, try the One-Ask parenting approach. The consequence can match whatever your parenting style may be.

Natural consequences work with this method, too! A natural consequence is anything that happens as a result of a behavior or choice without adult interference.

2. Not Disciplining Your Child

Perhaps you didn’t feel like you gave your child enough time, attention, or explained expectations. Afterward, you’re left wondering if you just reinforced undesirable behaviors by looking the other way and you feel guilty for not reacting. Notice a pattern here?

We feel guilty no matter what because it is human nature to second guess ourselves, and it takes a great deal of awareness to notice it and let it go. If this occurs, try sitting down with your child at bedtime or another quiet time.

Bring the event or behavior up, talk about why it was not appropriate, and help them come up with a more appropriate behavior next time. If you see that same behavior happen again, you can address it on the spot.

3. Not Following Through With Discipline

You started to discipline or allow them to experience a consequence, but they managed to talk, cry, or puppy-dog-look their way out of it and you feel guilty for being the “bad guy.” You may find the consequence you gave was more trouble for you than it was worth, didn’t match the crime, or didn’t have the energy to follow through.

I am non-confrontational even with my kids. Sometimes, it has served me well, while other times, I have had to practice standing my ground.

I read parenting books on fair discipline that resonated with me and practiced my response to familiar occurrences in my head so I felt prepared, confident, and ready to stand my ground when the time came.

4. Not Requiring Contributions Around the House

There are mixed feelings about allowances and chores that are rewarded.

Some parents feel having a child earn an allowance for contributions around the house is a fair and appropriate way for them to learn responsibility and earn money before they are old enough for a job outside the home. Other parents feel household contributions shouldn’t be rewarded as they are a part of being a family where everyone does their part.

No matter what your stance is here, kids benefit from having responsibilities around the house, so let go of the guilt when you hold them accountable.[3]

Yes, it can be easier to just do it yourself, but consider what your child is missing out on. Contributing around the house builds confidence and gives kids a sense of belonging and responsibility and that they are a valuable part of the family.

If your kids are young, have them match and put away socks and underwear, rinse dishes, or put away silverware. Picking up their toys is another easy way they can contribute while learning to respect their belongings.

Whether you choose to attach a monetary reward to contributions is up to you, but it’s worthwhile to think of ways all children can contribute.

5. Making Excuses or Being Embarrassed for a Child’s Behavior

“They’re tired.” “They didn’t know.” “It wasn’t their fault.”

While any of these may be true, chances are if you do a gut check, you may be feeling guilty for your child’s actions. It’s not fair to you to feel guilty for someone else’s actions—even for a child that may or may not have known better.

If there is an excuse, what changes can be made to address the cause of the behavior? Whether it is an earlier bedtime, a sit-down talk, or consequences, let go of any guilt and look at it as an opportunity to help your child learn and grow.

6. Stretching Yourself Beyond Your Means

While it feels good to give our kids clothes, toys, and experiences that make their eyes glitter with delight, remember that it’s the time we spend together that matters and will help them develop into awesome human beings capable of changing the world, not what we give them.

It teaches them the value of money and decision-making when they can’t have everything.

I have a daughter who is turning six this month and has asked for several things for her birthday. We had her make a list and circle the top three, reminding her to consider what she will get the most use out of and that while birthday gifts are fun, it’s our celebration together that matters. Even at that age, they can reflect on what holds the most meaning,

7. Feeling Guilty for Working

Most working parents feel a twinge of guilt when they are not able to volunteer at school or can’t play with their children when working from home. Remember, you are doing what is needed to support the family and there are benefits for children of working mothers, too.

It is important to spend dedicated time with your children, helping them feel safe, valued, and seen. But it’s okay if it can’t be the entire day.

It’s also okay to have your own time (and to enjoy it) and help children learn responsibility, respect for others’ time, and self-reliance.

8 Simple Tips to Overcome Parenting Guilt

Now that you’re aware of the signs of parental guilt, here are eight tips on how to overcome it.

1. Lower Your Stress Level or Find Stress Relief Activities

This may involve setting time aside for yourself, which may cause more guilt initially. Remind yourself you will be more calm, centered, and happier when you fill your own bucket.

There is a reason why parents are told to put on their oxygen masks on a plane before helping their children! Kids need to see parents taking care of themselves to help them understand they are part of a unit with all parts being equally important. This helps avoid the dreaded—but common—entitlement syndrome.

It also helps us get out of the survival mode that triggers overreactions and anger. Whether your preferred self-care involves yoga, meditation, exercise, time with friends, or reading a good book, take time for yourself. You deserve it and everyone will be better off.

2. Set Clear Rules For Working Time

Have you noticed that when your attention is focused on trying to send that email for work, everyone seems louder and gets on your nerves more?

Our brain can only stretch in so many directions at once, which is why we often have a hard time concentrating on parenting and work at the same time. It is only a matter of time before we snap—and here comes the guilt!

If you can’t separate work and family (as many of us can’t), try setting clear rules for your working time. Whether it is volume control, how and when you are available, or a process to support independent problem solving, notice what your triggers are and problem solve with your family.

With everyone being home more often, this one has been a big focus for us and takes constant planning and effort.

3. Learn Different Parenting Styles

Spend some time researching parenting and discipline styles that feel fair and appropriate to you. Most books and websites offer concrete examples and implementations so you can feel more prepared and in control of your reactions.

4. Show Genuine Support to Your Child (Even in Divorce)

It is common for parents to want to be the preferred parent after a divorce, but what kids need is reliability, stability, and for parents to take an active interest in what they care about. Support them in their interests and hobbies, and let them teach you about them.

You can show them your unconditional love and set appropriate and fair expectations and boundaries.

Breaking the bank on an epic trip to Disney or Paris might win points temporarily, but it’s the ongoing interest that will build a strong relationship. As a child of divorced parents, I saw clearly when my parents were acting out of guilt rather than genuine interest or love.

5. Set Aside a One-on-One Time With Your Child

Set up one-on-one time with your child and focus fully on them. Be clear with the activity or time frame, so your child has appropriate expectations.

While we may want to spend all day with them, we often can’t. So, it helps to give them specified start and end times and, in the end, express how much you enjoyed your time together and set up your next activity so it becomes a routine.

6. Tell Them Honestly How You Feel

Say you are sorry, and tell and show your child you love them always no matter what, especially after they mess up. This is important but also more difficult than it sounds.

We serve as role models for our children, so acknowledging our own imperfections and how we process, move on, and admit our mistakes are necessary.

We may tell our kids frequently that we love them, but they need to hear it most when they make a mistake. When you get upset the next time, try saying out loud what you are doing to process your emotions.

For example, I tell my kids I am feeling overwhelmed and need a few minutes to myself. I also thank them for respecting that so I can feel better and be the best “me.”

Your version may be different, but consider a quick “reset” practice during times of stress so you can move on.

7. Practice Self-Compassion

As parents, we are compassion experts for children. Forgive yourself as you forgive your kids, be open to your own growth as you support your child’s growth, and love yourself with that same unconditional love as you do your children.

Try closing your eyes, feel the love in your heart for your children, and imagine wrapping yourself in that love.

8. Assert Your Role as a Parent

Accept your role as a parent, not necessarily a best friend. Do what you know is best for your child, even if they don’t like it. They will thank you later.

Final Thoughts

What is the consequence of not releasing feelings of guilt? The joy of parenting goes unrealized and can become another burden to bear.

Parenting is often described as the most difficult job in the world. It is also an opportunity to experience the most profound love in the universe and expose yourself to experiences that will allow you to grow and evolve.

Our children are here to teach us just as much as we are here to teach them. What are some moments you have felt guilty as a parent? What is it telling you? Listen, respond, plan, and let go.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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17 Family Game Night Ideas To Bond With Your Kids

Looking to plan an epic family game night that will bring the family together rather than induce moaning and groaning? All it takes is a little planning and you will have a new tradition that everyone will look forward to while building essential life skills.

Family game night offers more than just some fun time together. It can also help strengthen relationships and build problem-solving and reasoning skills, especially in kids, that are transferrable to academics.[1]

Unsure where to start? In this article, I’ll share with you 17 family game night ideas for picking the best and most enjoyable games for your family and some benefits. I’ll also share some hosting tips for more fun and exciting game nights.

Tips on Hosting a Fun Family Game Night

Here are six tips on how to host a fun family game night for a better experience with your family.

1. Take Turns, Everyone Should Get to Pick Regularly

If you often hear “not fair” from your crew, try pulling names from a bucket each week or however often you plan to play. Each family member should get a turn and once a member is picked to choose the game, their name gets pulled out of the bucket until everyone gets a chance to do it as well.

Consider having the person who will pick the game also pick the snacks so they can take ownership of the night. This is a great way to build confidence for each family member.

2. Select Games That Everyone in the Family Can Play

If a family member cannot play independently, give them an important role in organizing or leading the game night. They can also be a helper on someone else’s team.

Often, it is helpful to do some research and make a list of game options to choose from. If your game selections are low, ask family members to make their selections several days in advance so you have a chance to search out any new games. This will also increase buy-in when kids realize they have a new game to play.

Read on for ideas outside of traditional board games that are engaging and cost-effective.

3. Make a “No Phone/Television/Technology” Policy

Make a “no phone/television/technology” policy, parents included!

This is where you might get some pushback. As you have visions of family interactions dancing in your head, remember to consider how you will plan for distractions.

Family game nights should be a phone-and-television-free event. Make sure kids know you are in for this, too. You are working on reconnecting, and that means breaking some typical entertainment habits. All it takes is one tiny text exchange for all the kids to disengage. Guard this time, no exceptions.

Give everyone a 15-minute reminder before the game night starts so they can wrap up conversations or emails. Leave phones silenced and out of the room. Some families have a cell phone basket everyone can toss theirs in to visually show parents are making the same effort as kids.

They will thank you later when they have memories to look back on, something that texting cannot compete with.

4. Do Not Forget the Snacks!

Food makes everything better and can make your game night feel extra special. This can connect to another family bonding activity like cooking.

There’s no need to go overboard and stress yourself out, so consider bringing the family together to make a few special snacks.

The family member who picks the game can also pick the snack ideas and help make them if you want them to have the full “hosting” experience. This will help give them ownership of the night and build responsibility, planning, and leadership skills.

You can also try inviting another family member to handle the snacks so everyone has a role to play.

5. Turn On the Tunes

Just like food, music can improve game night buy-in. This could also be another opportunity to involve someone to be the DJ.

Since everyone has different music tastes this role should be rotated. Make sure everyone knows in advance that only positive comments are welcomed and that criticizing musical taste can hurt others’ feelings.

Let your family members also know that everyone will have a turn to be the DJ, even parents! You can even have everyone create playlists of their favorite songs to share.

6. Consider a Theme

Consider a theme for the month to help focus the attention on specific kinds of games. This also allows family members to try out different types of games they never thought they would like.

Our kids always thought that card games were boring and only for adults. But when they learned how to play certain games, cards are one of the most requested games, and they don’t require a lot of planning!

Below are some basic types of games you can consider building a theme around. Every family member can pick a game under a specific theme before moving on to the next.

17 Family Game Night Ideas

Here are 17 family game night ideas to bond with your kids.

1. Twister

Twister
Credit: Polina Tankilevitch via Pexels.com

Keep your hands and feet on the mat’s circles without having your body hit the floor. A fun and active twister game that keeps everyone engaged and even teens can have a great time playing!

2. Go Fish

go fish

Go Fish is a fun card game suited for kids three and older. This game encourages younger kids to learn matching skills, memorization, and how to read numbers. If you have older siblings, encourage leadership by teaching littles how to play.

3. Pictionary

pictionary
Credit: François Haffner, Public Domain

Sharpen your artistic skills with a drawing game that will inspire imagination. Pictionary‘s objective is to guess what the object or item is from your opponent’s drawing.

4. Clue

clue

This detective and mystery board game is for eight-year-old and older players. Clue Detective Game‘s objective is to solve a mystery by finding out who the mystery killer is, the murder weapon used, and which room where the crime occurred. It’s an oldie but goodie!

5. Help Your Neighbor

Help Your Neighbor is another fun family card game that’s perfect for kids ages four and up.

6. Scrabble

scrabble
Credit: Wikipedia

Earn points by placing letter pieces on the board to form different words. Scrabble will help your kids expand their vocabulary. Calling out nonsense words is sure to provide a good laugh!

7. The Floor Is Lava

This fun and active game will have everyone on their toes. Whenever someone enters the room and yells out “Floor is Lava!”, everyone has five seconds to get off the ground.

8. Life

life board game
Credit: Randy Fath via Unsplash.com

Life’s a classic board game that will take the whole family on a fun adventure through LIFE! This board game will offer your kids exciting choices that will challenge them and teach them strategy. Younger kids will enjoy filling their cars with family members.

9. Dance Charades

Get the whole family out of their shell with a fun game of charades—dancing style.

10. Monopoly

monopoly
Credit: Maria Lin Kim via Unsplash.com

Monopoly is another fun classic board game. Choose a fun token piece and travel around the board, collect money, and make deals on property. This fun game will teach your kiddos how to manage their money and other financial lessons.

11. Balloon Tennis

The entire family can play a simple DIY game in the living room or the yard. Assemble your racket by sticking a popsicle stick behind a paper plate, and try your best to keep the inflated balloon from touching the floor. This one is so.much.fun.

12. Battleship

Credit: Amazon

Teach your kids strategy with this tabletop game Battleship. The game’s object is to sink your opponent’s ships by guessing where they placed them on the board. 

13. Slapjack

The objective of the game is to be the first player to slap the jack from the pile and win all of the cards from the deck. This multi-player game will get everyone’s adrenaline running and is perfect for playing with 5+ players.

14. Yahtzee

yahtzee
Credit: Wikipedia

This fun dice-rolling game Yahtzee will have your kids counting, multiplying, and calculating probability. The objective of the game is to score points and come up with various scoring combinations.

15. No Stress Chess

If you’re looking to teach your kids the fundamentals of chess, No Stress Chess is a good place to start. Each player chooses a card from their hand to show how their game pieces can be played on the board.

16. Uno

Uno
Credit: Yan Krukov via Pexels.com

Uno is a multi-player card game that can be enjoyed with the entire family. Each player is dealt with seven cards and strategies on how to use their cards following a color or number trend. The object of the game is to be left with no cards.

17. Qwirkle

Qwirkle
Credit: Amazon

The objective of Qwirkle is to create lines based on colors and shapes on a flat surface. It’s a great game for younger kids to strategize.

Benefits of Having Family Game Nights

Arranging for a regular family game night has benefits that go beyond spending time together. While strengthening relationships and having fun together may be your primary focus, there are several noteworthy benefits to having regular family game nights.

1. Supports Mental Health

If you have ever wondered about how to get your family to practice mindfulness, this is a great way to do it!

Mindfulness is about giving all your attention to one thing. What better way to practice mindfulness than paying attention to family members?

According to research, some of the benefits of mindfulness include reduced rumination, stress reduction, boosted memory, better cognitive flexibility, better focus, and less emotional reactivity.[2]

2. Improves Academic and Problem-Solving Skills

Most games involve some level of strategy. Developing these skills can sometimes equate to improved school performance, academic outcomes, and confidence.[3]

If this is an area of focus, look for games that involve strategy or solving mysteries.

3. Improves Executive Functioning

Nope, we are not talking about prepping your child to be the first 10-year-old CEO. Executive functioning includes self-regulation skills and the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus, recall, and solve multiple-step problems.

Family game night is the perfect way to develop these essential life skills!

4. Teamwork/Improved Relationships

If you are looking to get your family members to work together, there are plenty of games that rely on teamwork, and this will also serve them well in other areas. Just spending this quality time together helps strengthen relationships.

5. Provides Leadership Opportunities

Offering family members the chance to consider games that everyone can participate in and plan the evening is a great way for them to develop leadership skills. This teaches them the basics of organizing events and leading other people without any pressure.

6. Offers an Outlet to Share Interests

Your kids likely have their own unique interests and preferences. Sharing a favorite game and teaching others how to play can help build confidence and relationships. Don’t forget to share your own, too!

7. Discover That Screen-Free Fun Does Exist

This is self-explanatory. Technology has a multitude of benefits, but too much of it can cause physical issues, such as eyestrain, and psychological problems, such as difficulty focusing.[4] Therefore, kids need to know how to have fun without it, too.

8. Challenges Everyone (Even Parents) to Be Fully Present and Engaged

This is laid out in the ground rules. Family game nights should be a time focused on having fun together. Resist the urge to multi-task.

Even if there is a pile of laundry sitting next to you or a sink full of dishes waiting to be done, modeling how to give your full attention to an activity will help your kids do the same.

If you are used to having to juggle multiple tasks, this will be a great exercise for you to slow your mind down and retrain your brain and body to focus on one activity only.

We are used to spreading our attention to multiple things at once, which is proven to not be good for our brain.[5] This is a great opportunity for everyone to focus on one thing while having fun.

Final Thoughts

There are so many ways to make family game nights feel extra special and tailored to your family’s interests. The kids do not need to know all the benefits, but they will appreciate feeling like they have an important role, even if they don’t admit it.

The secret to making family game nights something that everyone looks forward to is to show you are interested in it, too, and to take a few extra steps to make it feel special, like a party where everyone gets to be involved in planning and put their stamp on. Involving everyone in the planning process will increase interest and ownership.

What will you do to make your family game nights unforgettable?

Featured photo credit: National Cancer Institute via unsplash.com

Reference

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How To Help Your Children With Anxiety (Do’s and Don’ts)

Anxiety to many is the all-encompassing term to describe being nervous, but for those with a specific anxiety disorder, it can be a debilitating fear of a thing or situation that does not pose a real threat.

The overuse of the word in our daily lives can make understanding the disorder confusing for our children and equally confusing for parents who try and mitigate the stress and strain they witness their child go through. This makes it harder for parents to learn how to help their children with anxiety.

Research suggests that 9.4% of children between 3 and 17 years old have been diagnosed with anxiety.[1] Unfortunately, family interactions can also increase anxiety if they feed into anxious thought patterns.

So, what are the key do’s and don’ts for helping your child with anxiety?

How to Help Your Children With Anxiety

1. Don’t Reason. Do Grounding Techniques

When your little one is in the midst of an anxiety attack, the symptoms will influence their thoughts, making fear seem even more reasonable. One of the best ways to reduce symptoms so that you can begin to overcome the fear is through grounding techniques.

Techniques you can try are sucking a sour-sweet candy, 33×3 technique[2] where the child must name three sounds, sights, and smells, or aromatherapy.

Research suggests sucking a sour-sweet is a great grounding technique that allows the child to direct attention away from anxiety symptoms at the moment by focusing on something else.[3]

This is different from avoiding because it helps your child face fears by focusing their attention on other sensations and can then help them push themselves to face fears and manage anxiety.

2. Don’t Avoid. Do Support

As a parent, you are driven to protect your child from harm. So when seeing your little one experience extreme distress, it is only natural to want to provide them with short-term relief by allowing them to avoid the situation frightening them.

Some ways in which we might do this are speaking for our children in social settings, allowing them to sleep in the bed with us, or permitting them to skip school and social situations. These provide short-term relief but could only make your child’s anxiety worse in the long run.

What you can do instead is create a plan to approach anxiety-related things or situations and support your child to get through them.

Outlining gradual steps towards facing your child’s fear should diminish extreme distress while still facing and overcoming their fears. Support here could come from encouraging words and love, seeing a psychologist, and speaking with the child’s educators.[4]

It is also important to make sure your child knows that you have confidence in their abilities. Allowing them to make their own decisions, even if they are small, is an important step in communicating that you have confidence in your child.

Saying things like, “I can hear that you are scared, but I am with you, and I know you can get through this,” are also a great way to ensure that your child believes they can face their fears and uncertainty.

3. Don’t Become Stressed. Do Stay Calm

A great strength of a good parent is being in tune with their child. However, when it comes to handling your child’s anxiety, this can also be a major drawback.

A parent’s reaction to a child’s anxiety is to often become stressed and anxious themselves, which will only exacerbate the situation.[5]

The ability to remain calm and handle your stress is arguably the best thing you can do, especially when your child is in the middle of an anxiety attack. This not only demonstrates to your child how to manage their stress, but it will also help ease their fears and instill confidence in their ability to face them.

Finally, resisting stress and remaining calm could also help you think clearer and make more thoughtful decisions on how to best support your child.

4. Don’t Empower Feelings. Do Respect Them

A common misconception is that validation means agreement, but this is not always the case. You can understand and empathize with your child’s experience of fear without belittling or disregarding them.

For instance, if your child has health anxiety and is afraid they have an illness you know they don’t have, you probably won’t want to amplify these feelings by agreeing with them, but you also won’t want to belittle their feelings, causing more anxiety.

Instead, listen and be empathic while helping them understand what they’re anxious about, encouraging them to feel like they can face their fears.

Phrases that might be helpful for your child to hear could include: “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay, and I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this.” This helps the child feel understood and know that they are not alone.

5. Don’t Ask Leading Questions. Do Think It Through

While this may seem contradictory, asking leading questions can often continue the anxiety cycle. It is better to ask open-ended questions or talk worries through with your child as this allows them to still talk about their feelings without giving power and control to the fear.

For example, instead of asking, “Are you anxious about failing your test?” Try to instead ask them how they are feeling about the test or even how they are feeling in general. Here, they are in control of their feelings.

Another great way to take power away from anxiety is to think things through.

For example, if your child is afraid that a stranger might be sent to pick them up, you can ask your child that if this does happen, they can express their fears of abandonment.

You can then both work together to come up with a solution like having a special code to give anyone that picks the child up, taking away the risk and fear. Here, having a plan is a way for your child to reduce uncertainty effectively.

6. Don’t Restrict. Do Eat a Balanced Diet

What you eat impacts your mental health, and when it comes to managing anxiety, supporting your child’s nutritional needs could make a huge difference in the severity of anxiety symptoms. Vitamins such as magnesium and omega-3 are great for balancing mood, jitteriness, and nervousness.[6]

When it comes to hormones and food, serotonin is mainly produced and absorbed in the gut, and it is also one of the major hormones responsible for the severity of anxiety symptoms. You can support serotonin absorption by eating lots of fish, oats, and dairy products.

You should also encourage your child to exercise as this will not only help mediate anxiety symptoms but will also increase the production of serotonin.

7. Don’t Go With the Flow. Do Establish a Routine

As anxiety is often driven by the feeling of uncertainty, a great way to combat this is to create a routine to bring predictability and certainty into the anxious child’s life.

You can do this by having the same wake-up, nap, meal, play, homework, and family times every day. That way, the child knows what to expect and allows them to feel like their environment is safe.[7]

Having a routine could also keep anticipatory periods short and minimize feelings of impending doom in the child. If you know your child is anxious about visiting the doctor and getting their shots, you can schedule the visit right after playtime, reducing the child’s need to repetitively think about what could go wrong.

This sense of predictability should also help the child focus on certain things at home like TV time or dinner time and overcome their fears. (Autism Parenting Magazine: Anxiety and Autism: Best Ways to Relieve the Effects of Anxiety)

Final Thoughts

While anxiety is not something you can ever eliminate, finding ways to manage it and reduce its severity is crucial in supporting your child’s wellbeing.

While short-term relief often seems like the best go-to, it might be detrimental in the long run. Instead, by giving your child grounding tools, teaching them to have a balanced diet and stay active, and showing them how to challenge their thoughts, you’re giving them powerful tools to overcome their anxiety for life.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

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Balancing Life and Work As a Working Mother (Go-to Guide)

“Working mother.”

That title is loaded with ideals, pressure, misconceptions, and expectations. Everyone has an opinion about working mothers, and it would be nice to say that the only opinion that matters is yours if you’re a working mother. But life just isn’t that easy.

So, from one working mother to another, here’s a (slightly untraditional) manageable guide on how to balance life as a working mom.

6 Ways to Balance Life as a Working Mother

1. Have an Answer for “Why”

No, not an answer to anyone else who asks you why you’re working, but an answer for yourself.

You may be working for the paycheck, the health benefits, your passion for your career, or any combination. The important thing is to be able to say to yourself, “I’m working because…”.

Knowing why you’re working—the “why” that matters to you—will help keep things in perspective.

Maybe you’re working because you love your job, and you’d do it even if you were independently wealthy. Or, the extended health benefits are essential for covering a family member’s treatments.

When you know your “why,” you can prioritize better. [1] Questions about working overtime, answering emails when you’re out of the office, or any other work issues are easier to answer when you know why you’re doing them (or why you’re not doing them).

At the same time, knowing why you work will help with parenting choices. If it’s right for you, you can explain to your children why you work. If you have a partner, you can remind each other of your “why” and how to align that with the family’s priorities.

2. Clarify What “Mom” Means to You

Almost all of us grew up with a mom. We learned from her, made choices about what a mom should or shouldn’t do, and internalized many things about motherhood.

If we didn’t have a mom, we watched other moms intensely, trying to figure out what it would be like to have one.

But so many things about life and motherhood have changed in the past few decades, and they’ve changed a lot in the past few years. Things that were great for moms in the 70s or 80s don’t really exist now.[2]

Although social media may suggest otherwise, there is no single right way to be a mom. You are one-of-a-kind. The type of mom you are can also be one-of-a-kind.

Some moms love imaginary play with their kids. Others would rather play catch. Some moms love cooking suppers from scratch every night. Others know exactly where to order take-out. Some moms need a nanny. Others want to spend every available second with their children.

No way is perfect or required. Work towards identifying exactly what’s right for you as a mom, and aggressively push off any “should” that isn’t right for you.

This also applies to being a working mom. Figure out what’s right for you, and say “no, thanks” to any pressure, ideal, or expectation that is totally wrong for you.

3. Invest in Good Help

Let’s start with help at work. Are you doing things that someone else can do? Would training others help take some pressure off you?

The “invest” part of this tip isn’t about money. It’s about spending time and effort to distribute the things that need to get done to others. Training people can be hard work, but the payoff is less work over the long term.

What about at home? Working moms all have access to potential help from children and maybe from their partners.

Yes, you’ll probably need to spend some time and effort teaching them how to do things, and they probably won’t do things as well as you. But they can all learn to help. Every little task that someone else does is one less task you have to do.

Eventually, this is a great way to create some balance. It may require a shift in thinking, but it’s worth it.

You don’t have to do it all, and it all doesn’t need to be done perfectly.

This is a great place for some creative thinking. Besides all the typical working/mom tasks, you’re probably doing a lot of mental tasks, such as planning vacations, scheduling maintenance, organizing social events, and tracking budgets and spending.

Is there someone else who can learn to take over some of those?

4. Look for the Energy Traps

One thing working moms struggle with is a lack of energy. It’s almost universal.

We’re all tired. Some days, the only way we make it until bedtime is by clenching our teeth and dragging out the last few bits of energy we didn’t know we had.

So, what’s taking your energy unnecessarily? Honest answers likely include your kids, your boss, and/or your partner. Those are all valid.

Think about the things that drag you down the most. Is there something you can do to change them? Maybe the bedtime battle is the worst time of the day. Are there parts of it you can change to make it easier?

Almost everything we tend to do isn’t mandatory: wearing pajamas, reading a book, sleeping in a bed. Those are optional.

If your child fights to brush their teeth at bedtime, brush them after supper. If they hate wearing pajamas, look for whatever option you can live with.

The same goes for morning routines. Wherever you notice yourself facing the same energy trap, ask if there’s anything you can change.

There may be some people outside your immediate circle that are also energy traps.

Did someone immediately come to mind? Someone who sucks the energy out of you or envelops you in negative energy whenever you’re with them?

Energy is a limited resource. You only have so much of it. If you can preserve some energy by reworking relationships or reducing the time you spend with certain people, go for it!

5. Become Your Own Caregiver

This is the hardest thing for a lot of women. We can feel like our job is to take care of everyone else (and there’s truth in that), but we leave the job of taking care of ourselves to some unknown force in the universe.

What do you need?

You know what each of your children needs: up to 14 hours of sleep (including naps)[3], avoiding certain environments, cuddles, a nightlight, etc. Can you answer the same question for yourself?

Once you’ve identified what you need, it’s up to you to get it. A supportive partner, an open-minded boss, caring kids, and good co-workers can all help you get what you need. But you’re in control of getting it.

If you don’t have those types of people in your life, you’re probably in much greater need of taking care of yourself.

Fortunately, society is starting to accept the fact that working moms have needs, too. That’s a start, but you can’t wait for someone/something else to say it’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s on you.

Whether you can communicate your needs to the people in your life and have their support, or whether you have to carve out the time and resources to meet your needs, please, please, please do so.

One day, you won’t have that job. Your children will (probably) be grown up and living their own lives. You may/may not be in a relationship. The constant in your future is you. Start taking care of yourself. Today.

Just like every other tip in this article, you do not have to be perfect to be successful at this. (Actually, we’d like to throw perfection off a cliff.) Try something like insisting on 30 minutes of alone time, or refusing to answer emails on the weekend, or going to that exercise class that looks like so much fun.

If it’s good for you, keep it up. If it stinks, move on to some other thing that might work better.

6. Balance Life With Both Feet on the Ground

What do you picture when you hear the word “balance?” If it involves wobbling while standing on one foot or trying to keep a teeter-totter perfectly level, it may be time for a rethink.

Instead, imagine balance as you stand with both feet on the ground. Your body is strong but relaxed. Your gaze is straight ahead, but you also notice what’s around you.

Your mouth is turned up a little at the corners—as if there’s a chuckle just waiting to be heard. Your hands are relaxed.

This doesn’t mean your real life is like this. It’s the image you hold mentally as you seek balance. Balance isn’t about what’s going on around you (or over you if you’ve got a toddler climbing you right now). Balance is about you.

Only you can know what balance is right for you as a working mom. It might be a lot like someone else’s, or it might be totally different. If it works for you, it’s the right thing.

Final Thoughts

Being a working mother is not easy. Some may even say that it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. So, if you’re struggling to balance life as a working mother, you can start with this simple guide.

Featured photo credit: Anastasia Shuraeva via pexels.com

Reference

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Long-Distance Parenting: Tips on Communication Strategies

Is long-distance parenting making you feel like a guest in your child’s life?

The most common challenge for a physically distant parent is to keep track of what is happening in their kid’s life. It may feel unfair to miss so many important moments, but it shouldn’t define your relationship with your child(ren).

Even if you’re not physically present, you can employ plenty of activities and interactions to enhance the communication that will help you connect with your child emotionally. Maintaining this kind of bond requires smart timing decisions, effort, and sacrifice, but it’s not impossible.

To help you find the right direction, we’ll talk about the challenges of distant parenting and how to cope with them.

Long-Distance Parenting Effects on a Child

You might often hear that frequent contact with both parents contributes to a child’s emotional well-being. For this reason, parents who live far away from their kids due to work or divorce feel guilty and concerned about how their absence will affect their child(ren).

A 2012 survey confirmed that long-distance itself has no significant effect on a child’s behavior or education.[1] Surprisingly, some children even performed better at school. It was probably the result of less conflict and friction between the parents that may have had a positive effect on a child’s emotional health.

Thus, contrary to popular belief, the parent’s physical absence doesn’t harm a child as much as infrequent communication.

You need to remember that the child will grow up healthy and happy if they receive your support and care. And it doesn’t matter if you’re supporting them from afar as long as the interaction is consistent.

What Long-Distance Parenting Activities Can You Try?

Naturally, the variety of activities is somewhat smaller when you can’t physically be together with your child(ren). But don’t get frustrated just yet. You still have many options of fun stuff you can do.

But before you start planning bonding sessions together, consider your child’s age and don’t expect them to engage in every activity with enthusiasm.

For example, a toddler won’t likely sit for a long time in front of a screen or retell you their day because they’re not good communicators just yet.

So, what are some options to improve long-distance parenting?

  1. Scheduled and frequent contact with your kid using video conferences, phone calls, and visiting in person as often as you can.
  2. Sending gifts, cards, balloons, etc., on important events if you can’t be there physically.
  3. Playing games together via the internet when speaking online, e.g., puzzles or video games if they’re age-appropriate.

If you focus on your kids’ interests and things they can accomplish at each age, you can establish a good relationship with them and earn their trust.

Creating a Parenting Plan for a Physically Absent Parent

A parenting plan is usually a legal document. For example, it has a child visitation schedule that you and your ex-spouse both agree upon, making interactions with kids easier.

But even if you’re still married and live far away because of a job transfer or military service, you should create a similar plan to maintain consistency in communication.

What should this plan include?

  • A breakdown of the frequency of contact and in-person visitation whenever possible
  • The means of communication, such as via phone, live chats, email, and other methods
  • The way and frequency of exchanging information about the child’s education, health, and various activities
  • Schedule for holidays and summer vacation
  • Transportation costs for when a child goes to visit a distant non-residential parent

A clear and workable parenting plan contributes to healthy and regular parent-child communication and a more civilized relationship with the other parent.

In addition, when everyone knows what to expect, the entire situation becomes more predictable, which reduces stress and uncertainty.

Dealing With the Challenges of Long-Distance Parenting

Here’s how to cope with common issues a distant parent experiences.

1. What If the Other Parent Isn’t Cooperating?

One of the challenges that long-distance parents state pretty often is an uncooperative co-parent.[2] But since the other parent is the key to maintaining stable contact with the child, you need to get on their good side.

So, be nice and don’t fire back. Remember that you’re doing it for your child(ren).

2. What If Your Child Does Not Recognize Your Authority?

Another danger of being away from the child is losing control over their actions. Many parents complain that their children do not perceive them as authority figures since they’re far away and can’t influence their lives like the residential parent.

Again, if you have a civilized relationship with the other parent, it will be more manageable to correct this situation by establishing rules and the other parent enforcing them.

3. What If Communication Becomes Boring to Your Child?

The quality of communication depends primarily on you as a responsible adult. Therefore, you need to constantly be creative and invent new ways to keep the child’s attention and make your conversations interesting.

For one, communication with teachers can help. The child spends most of the time at school, so teachers are well aware of their interests and difficulties and can advise you on how to talk to them.

Co-Parenting Strategies

How can you co-parent more efficiently? There are two things you can start with.

1. Agree on a Communication Schedule

Most of the time, parents try to build their communication slots around school and work hours. If you have a court-approved parenting plan, you will probably stick to it closely.

But at the same time, our hectic life doesn’t allow us to plan every little thing. For example, older children usually have more action-packed days than kindergarteners.

Be ready to be flexible at trading weekends and rescheduling a chat time on Skype.

2. Synchronize Calendars With Another Parent

A shared calendar is an excellent way for both parents to keep track of their child’s activities. You can use Google Calendar (a free option) or choose other software and apps. Add as many details as you want, including time for calls and your meetings, so that the other person knows when you’re unavailable.

On the other hand, you can hide some events if you want more privacy. And don’t forget to update the calendar frequently and ask the other parent to do the same.

As you can see, long-distance co-parenting has two fundamental components – regular communication with a child and cooperation with the other parent. As long as you take care of both, you’ll be fine.

Long-Distance Parenting Tips for Better Communication

Maintaining a long-distance relationship can be tricky, but it’s not impossible if you put in enough effort. If you want your kids to remember the time spent with you with gratitude, follow these few rules described below.

1. Always Initiate the Communication

Proactive communication is the core of long-distance parenting. Don’t rely on anybody else (e.g., your ex or your child) to facilitate contact. You’re in charge of that.

You need to reach out first and pretty much constantly. It’s your job to create and maintain a continuous connection with your kid.

And don’t take it personally if the child stops talking after a couple of minutes or doesn’t know what to say. Contact will improve after a while, and regular communication will become a habit.

2. Use Age-Appropriate Ways to Engage Children in Communication

Study and research how children behave at different ages and build a communication strategy accordingly. For instance, if you have a toddler, be prepared to be in charge of communication when using video conferencing.

Ask them to show their favorite toy and speak about it for a while (e.g., admire its color or shape, ask how it works, etc.). Also, don’t expect your little one to stay engaged for 30 minutes since young kids don’t have a long attention span.

Talking to teens is a little easier, but this age also has peculiarities. So, do your research.

3. Be Consistent

Stick to a set schedule of calls and video chats to earn your child’s trust and respect, and make sure it’s not a once-in-three months call.

For example, little kids tend to forget you more quickly if they don’t see you every other day.[3] So, your child should see your face as frequently as possible—at least once in two-three days.

Even if you have a co-parent that doesn’t facilitate or support your interaction with the child, you need to be persistent. Schedule calls, video chats, and do face-to-face visits as often as possible.

4. Don’t Use Social Media as the Sole Way of Bonding

Social media posts and comments cannot replace real-life interactions because they are not personal enough. Video chats and messaging are fine but don’t rely too much on public content, such as comments or “likes,” if it’s not your normal behavior.

On the one hand, being there with your kids on social media is good because you’re reminding them about yourself and seeing what they are up to. But on the other hand, your kids might feel uncomfortable sharing everything with you.

So, it’s your task to find a healthy balance and maybe talk with your child about your presence among their Facebook friends.

Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, long-distance makes co-parenting even more challenging than it already is. But don’t let it be your deal-breaker and the source of negative emotions if you want to create and maintain a thriving relationship with your kids.

Instead, take every opportunity to show how much you love and cherish them. As your children get older, they will appreciate your effort and respect you for it.

Featured photo credit: Sai De Silva via unsplash.com

Reference

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How to Teach Good Sportsmanship To Your Kids

If you asked ten different people what being a “good sport” means, they would all focus on different aspects. Here’s one definition:

“Sportsmanship is when competitors or viewers of competitive events treat one another with respect and exhibit appropriate behaviour. This includes being supportive, being respectful, having a positive attitude, being willing to learn and practising self-control.”[1]

Good sportsmanship goes beyond the good manners of shaking hands. It’s like a higher form of competition.

We know that competing in sports, the arts, and yes, even family board games, can offer wonderful opportunities for personal development. When kids’ self-esteem is boosted by winning and still intact when losing, their resilience will be off the charts.

Here are several tips on how to teach good sportsmanship to your kids.

How to Develop a Good Sportsmanship Mindset

The competitive spirit itself doesn’t necessarily create monsters. In its highest form, competing against other individuals or teams can be uplifting, inspiring, connecting, and invigorating.

This quote by teamwork, leadership and emotional intelligence expert Mike Robbins explains it beautifully:

“Positive, healthy competition benefits us and anyone else involved. We compete in a way that brings out the best in us and everyone involved. It’s a way to challenge yourself and others while pushing those around you. It allows you to tap into your potential and succeed.”[2]

Before you go teaching your child certain behaviors, it can be helpful to create an empowering and positive mindset around competing first. Below are just four of the many ways you could do that,

1. Watch Meaningful/Inspiring Movies

Allowing your child to watch meaningful/inspiring movies helps them understand and realize the real value of sportsmanship. Movies make it easier because they can watch this virtue being applied in scenarios that they may relate to.

My favorite movie about teamwork, friendship, loyalty, and the idea that winning isn’t everything is “The Mighty Ducks (1992).”

Reluctant coach: You think LOSING is funny?
Kid: Well, not at first. But once you get the hang of it…

This movie is just one of the many films that will help teach your children the value of good sportsmanship.[3]

2. Spot a Positive Role Model

My son was quick to draw attention to this as his children watched TV coverage of the recent Rip Curl Pro surfing at Bells Beach. There were quite a number of men’s heats before the semi-finals and the finals.

The losers of the early heats were duly interviewed for the cameras, most showing respect and good grace towards their opponent and realistic self-reflection on their performance on the day. A few took off immediately to go to their accommodation.

But many were later filmed as part of the spectator crowd, sitting on the steps with the other pros and supportively watching all the way through to the final.

When the winner was announced, all of these fellow competitors raced down to the beach to celebrate with him, lifting him onto their shoulders and carrying him up the steps to the podium.

3. Find and Celebrate That Thing They Are Good At

We all know that praise and positive reinforcement are required for building healthy self-esteem in your child. Finding that thing that they’re good at has wonderful benefits for resilience.

Author and educational expert Lyn Worsley developed the idea of the Resilience Doughnut. According to Worsley,

“The Skill Factor” is one of the “seven different areas of an individual’s life that may give them internal messages of hope. These seven factors each have the potential to enhance the positive beliefs within the person and thus to help the individual to develop resilience.”[4]

4. Be Proud Of Your Child Regardless Of What They Achieve

Even with the best of intentions (or perhaps an over-emphasis on achievements), the child’s mind can somehow get the idea that when they do well, achieve, and win, then their parents will be proud of them and love them.

But this will only instill in them an unhealthy level of desire to keep achieving. They might think that if they’re not winning, then their parents won’t fully love them anymore.

How can you teach your child the idea that self-esteem is not dependent on winning?

  • Simply chill with your kids.
  • Show them that you love it whenever they light up or share funny moments.
  • Tell them that you love being with them.
  • Tell them that you love them for their personal qualities or simply for who they are.
  • Notice and comment on moments when you catch them being a good or kind person.
  • The whole family can share personal stories around the dinner table about “something I’m not good at.” No mocking and no running yourself or others down—just accepting, especially about something that you enjoy but won’t ever excel at.

Good Sportsmanship Behaviors You Can Teach to Your Child

Let’s say that your child now has healthy self-esteem and a positive competition mindset. Now, for the practical part of teaching good sportsmanship, here are good sportsmanship behaviors that you can teach to them.

Being Respectful

  • Shaking hands at the end of a game or competition
  • Looking a person in the eye and saying “thank you” when complimented

Having a Positive Attitude

  • Having fun
  • Celebrating the win, especially with the parents
  • Applauding effort—“You really went for it today. You were fully into it!”
  • I’ve seen coaches do this: Both teams gather together at the game’s end, and each coach gives a summary of what they liked about the other team’s performance and picks out a couple of “magic moments” they enjoyed watching. They also name some of these moments that are not necessarily a showcase of great skill but rather of a positive attitude.

Being Supportive

  • Acknowledging how well your opponents played or performed
  • Finding some specific quality you can point out to compliment a competitor

Practicing Self-Control

Acknowledge that feelings may need to be talked through later while showing respect for the winners.

Being Willing to Learn

After the competition, ask your child to self-reflect firstly on the question, “did you have fun?” and then any one of these questions:

  • Did you learn anything today?
  • What was your favorite moment?
  • Were you able to do something new that you couldn’t do before?
  • How did you feel you went?
  • What would you love to be able to do in the future?

Moreover, set small goals and visual charts to celebrate achieving progress. Your child should understand that they are competing against themself and that the event is a chance to test their skills against others. It should be about the process of training rather than the end product of winning.

What to Do When Your Kids Show Unsportsmanlike Behavior

As parents, it can be difficult to admit that our kids may sometimes show unsportsmanlike behavior. Fortunately, showing this kind of behavior does not mean that your child is a bad person. There are still some things that you can do to correct this.

Bad Sportsmanship—It’s a Good Thing, Right?

Some people see “bad sportsmanship” and lock that in as a person’s identity.

Instead, try viewing the behavior as a temporary drop into a negative competition mindset, borne of underlying unconscious emotions. Then, the following behavior list below makes perfect sense.

According to Mike Robbins:

“Negative competition is a zero-sum game and is based on the adolescent notion that if we win, we’re “good,” and if we lose, we’re “bad.” In other words, our success is predicated on the competitors’ failure.”[5]

If a person has unconscious feelings that create a negative competition mindset, they might demonstrate:

  • Sulking or angry outbursts after losing
  • Giving up and not putting in effort when they’re clearly not going to win
  • Being ungracious and refusing to shake hands or congratulate the winners
  • Gloating or cockiness about winning
  • Running down the winners
  • Jealousy or resentment
  • Finding someone to blame
  • Refusing to keep playing the season when they’re rarely winning

It’s reasonable to assume that if kids felt secure and happy within themselves, they’d naturally have a positive view of competition. Their self-esteem wouldn’t depend on whether they won or lost.

How to Deal With Those Pesky Bad Emotions

The self-control of good sportsmanship does not mean a repeat denial or repression of feelings that arise under the guise of good manners. Moreover, we can accept and sit with all of our feelings without shaming them or labeling them as “good” or “bad.”

So, if your child has sunken into despair after they’ve lost, take them aside and provide them with space to safely express their feelings and allow them to pass through. Every time your child’s feelings are normalized and released, these feelings get less of a hold on them.

Below are some more tips on how to help your child deal with bad emotions:[6]

  • Tune into cues, such as their body language and behavior.
  • Attempt to understand the feeling behind their language or behavior by asking leading questions.
  • Help them by giving a name to the feeling.
  • Identify that feeling in others and normalize it without judgment.
  • Allow all emotions without labeling them as “good” or “bad.”
  • Be a role model for them by naming and appropriately expressing your own feelings as they occur.
  • Praise them for being able to talk about their feelings.
  • Hold them and cuddle them to soothe their nervous system as the emotion passes through them.
  • Teach them various ways to self-care and safely manage their emotion, such as breathing, drawing or writing, mindfulness meditation practices, and physical exercise.
  • Provide context for the event that brought up this emotion.

Clean Up Your Own Act

Yes, parents and coaches, if you feel a twinge of anything less than celebration and joy when someone else in your life succeeds or wins, it’s a sign that you have some work to do. Don’t just let your kids have all the fun of personal development.

There are no extra tips here—simply go back and re-read this whole article as if you’re talking to yourself.

Final Thoughts

Your interest in teaching good sportsmanship to your kids is so worthwhile.

By helping children develop a positive competition mindset, teaching specific behaviors that reflect this, and allowing for lower emotions to come up and be released without judgment, they will learn the valuable life skill of being able to fully engage in their endeavors and stay uplifted whatever the result.

Your children will possess an unshakeable inner state that goes beyond the mere good manners of sportsmanship.

Featured photo credit: Adrià Crehuet Cano via unsplash.com

Reference

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20 Healthy and Easy Family Meals To-Go For Busy Weeks Ahead

Coming up with kid-friendly, healthy family meals to-go can feel daunting and overwhelming. But don’t stress, I’ve got you covered. Your family is not doomed to a week full of fast food or Uncrustables.

With rising food costs,[1] we are all looking for ways to cut back, and cooking at home is one of the easiest ways to do it. Not only will this save your family some money, but it is also an opportunity to come together and experience the benefits of family mealtime, even while on the go.

When you involve the entire family in the prep-work, it helps develop self-reliance and responsibility. Plus, kids are more likely to try new things when they helped select and make them. Family meals are more nutritious, especially when you focus on finding healthy recipes.

To experience a similar connection to a sit-down family meal, think of interesting questions and conversation topics to bond with while on the go. I’ve listed a handful below to get you started.

Tips for Family Meals To-Go

Below are some tips to help you succeed in preparing your family’s on-the-go meals.

  • Involving kids in the prep work increases the likelihood that they will eat it, so hand over some of the prep to them. If they want to be involved in extra-curricular activities, try to involve them in the meal planning process.
  • Mix pre-made items with fresh ones to blend convenience and nutrition.
  • Don’t worry about following a recipe. There are several below to get your wheels turning, but you can make all of these your own.
  • A rotisserie chicken is the best deal in the grocery store.
  • Opt for portable fruit/veggies for an easy side.
  • Keep fridge/pantry staples on hand. Write down what you will make each week in a visible place for accountability.

Pantry/Fridge Staples

The trick here is to keep the food you are confident that your family will eat readily available. Make a list of meal ideas on a chalkboard or dry erase board in the kitchen area to avoid the dreaded rotten forgotten food conundrum.

We all start with good intentions with a fridge full of possibilities but often forget what we had planned by mid-week and hit the drive-thru. The kids can help by making a list of meal ideas, too, which keeps everyone accountable.

Keep It Simple

There are many tried and true options that we forget about. The recipes below use mostly basic ingredients, but you know your family best.

What can you wrap in a wonton or tortilla that your kids will be open to eating? Get creative with your family favorites. Have the kids help think of ways to make them portable.

Themes

You can still do dinner themes away from home. I have classified the recipes below by cuisine for on-the-go theme nights.

20 To-Go Family Meal Recipes to Try Out

Below are some easy to-go family meal recipes you can try to make family dinner more exciting but healthier as well.

1. Healthier Walking Taco

healthier walking taco

One of the simplest recipes to make that’s equally delicious! All it takes is cooking the ground turkey, tossing in seasoning, and your preferred beans. Grab a single serving of your favorite crunchy chip or wax paper bags with some baked/grain-free tortilla chips and you have a tasty dinner or lunch on the go.

Try out the recipe here.

2. Un-Spicy Chicken Taquitos

un-spicy chicken taquitos

If you have kids that classify anything with flavor as “spicy,” then this recipe is for you!

Try it out here.

3. Taco Salad Jars

taco salad jars

The combination of yummy taco flavors is perfect to dip your favorite tortilla chip in. This puts a whole new spin on Taco Tuesday!

Try out the recipe here.

4. Quesadillas

quesadillas

There are so many varieties of healthy tortillas out there now. Pick your favorite, and add cheese and rotisserie chicken. Sneak in some veggies as well, if possible.

Word on the street is that a thin layer of pureed butternut squash works well. Need a hack for that? Hit the baby aisle at the store and grab a pouch of butternut squash. Toss a few carrot sticks on the side, and you are set!

Try this one recipe.

5. Kid-Friendly Sushi

This recipe is easy, mild, and kid-friendly to please picky eaters. This is a great way to get kids to eat fresh veggies like cucumbers and carrots. Anything wrapped in rice and cream cheese is usually a hit for children!

6. Easy Chicken Egg Rolls

egg roll

This tasty recipe uses puffed pastry, but you could sub in wonton wrappers if preferred.

Try out the recipe here.

The next couple of recipes are not really Asian, but they’re a fun twist that’s a hit with kids!

7. Pizza Egg Rolls

pizza roll

This recipe is very fast and cost-friendly to make, and a unique spin on pizza!

Try out the recipe here.

8. Sloppy Joe Egg Rolls

sloppy joe egg rolls

How to make sloppy joe’s portable and less sloppy? Roll them into an egg roll! Sloppy Joes are a classic kid favorite, and these egg rolls will surely make everyone smile.

Try it out here.

9. Wafflewiches

wafflewiches

Take two waffles and choose a choice of protein and other fillings as the center. This ham and cheese recipe is our go-to, but there are other combinations like peanut butter and banana or apple, egg and cheese, or bacon and egg that you can try. The possibilities are endless!

Try it out!

10. Pancake Breakfast Wraps

pancake breakfast wraps

Wrap a maple turkey sausage and some eggs in already prepared pancakes. There are lots of healthy options out there, so depending on your kiddo’s favorite, you can throw in some hard-boiled eggs or several pieces of fruit inside this pancake breakfast wrap.

Check it out here.

11. Wraps—Your Way

wraps

Choose your preferred combination of wrap or flatbread, salad or broccoli slaw, condiments, protein, and cheese (if desired). Sliced cucumbers work great here, too. Grab an apple or grapes with it, and you are good to go!

Try out one of these recipes.

12. Ham or Turkey Pinwheels

ham and turkey pinwheels

This party favorite can make a perfect meal. Choose your tortilla, deli meat, and cream cheese of choice, fold in shredded carrots or cucumbers, and you are on your way.

Try out the recipe here.

13. Turkey Burger Sliders

These tasty burgers are easy enough to make on-the-spot, or you can make them ahead of time and freeze and warm them up as needed.

Check it out here.

14. Mac and Cheese Bites

mac and cheese bites

I love this recipe because it has a good amount of protein and fiber and uses chickpea pasta. The cheesiness masks any detectable “healthy pasta” flavor.

Check out the recipe here.

15. Pigs in a Blanket

Who doesn’t love these?! Customize them with a preferred dough and dog. Here are some versions that I like:

Paleo Pigs in a Blanket

paleo pigs in a blanket

This kid-favorite recipe is also gluten-free.

Check out the recipe here.

16. Skinny Pigs in a Blanket

skinny pigs in a blanket

This is a slightly different twist to the traditional and convenient recipe that’s made a little healthier.

Check it out here.

17. Pizza Braid

pizza braid

We are walking the line here on healthy, but you can choose a dough that meets your dietary preferences and sneak in veggies. We love this recipe because it looks cool, therefore always a kid with the kids.

Has your family tried a cauliflower pizza? Cauliflower is surprisingly tasty!

Try it out!

18. Spaghetti and Meatball Muffin Bites

 

These are spaghetti and meatballs in a handheld muffin! Kids love these, and you won’t have to clean pasta sauce stains off their clothes.

Check out the recipe here.

19. Chicken Parmesan Roll Ups

chicken parmesan roll ups

This recipe might take a little more time, but it would be great to make on the weekend and have leftovers during the week!

Check it out here.

20. Turkey Gyros

greek gyros

This is a good recipe to make on the weekend and save/freeze leftovers for during the week.

Try out the recipe here.

Bonus: Conversation Starters With Your Family

Here’re some conversation starters when you’re having meals with your family:

  • What made you laugh today?
  • If you could be any character, who would you be and why?
  • Would you change any decisions you made today?
  • If you opened a store, what kind of store would it be?
  • If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
  • What superpower would you want and why?
  • As an adult, what is one rule you would have in your house?
  • If you were President and could make one law, what would it be?
  • If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?
  • What is something kind we can do for someone else this week?
  • What do you like most about yourself?
  • What is your favorite thing to do alone?
  • If you could be an animal, which one would you be?

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to be destined for the drive-thru or have your kids give up their hobbies to have healthy, kid-friendly meals. With a little planning and creativity, you can have it all!

Our mindset goes a long way in creating our reality. What mindset shift can you make to make your week less stressful and more fun?

Featured photo credit: Hillshire Farm via unsplash.com

Reference

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11 Tips To Help Your Child Deal With Divorce

It wouldn’t be original for me to say that divorce is equally stressful for spouses getting divorced and their children. So, what exactly causes stress in children in the first place?

It’s the changes.

The composition of the family is shifting where parents are no longer living together, the general atmosphere in the family, and the possibility of a new place of residence, school, circle of friends, etc.

In this article, I will discuss 11 practical and workable ways to help your child deal with divorce.

How to Help Your Child Deal With Divorce

1. Remind Your Child That They Are Not At Fault

Most children may believe that they led their parents to break up and can unconsciously blame themselves for their parents’ divorce.[1] They may torment themselves with various suspicions and experiences.

For example, a child can run through possible scenarios, such as “Mom and Dad wouldn’t have fought if I’d been nice and not rude” or “It’s my fault that I’m not good enough since Dad decided to leave the family.”

At this stage, it is important to explain to your child that it’s not their fault that the divorce is taking place. Reassure your child and tell them that you and your spouse still love them, even though your marriage is ending.

2. Do Not Shift Your Grievances on Your Child

After a divorce, we are often vulnerable. Mentions of an ex-spouse and their actions can drive us into anger, disappointment, and other negative emotions. Therefore, you need to be especially careful with how you communicate with your child during these moments.

Control the speech and tone of the conversation. A child’s psyche is arranged differently than an adult’s. They project your emotions onto themselves.

Think about what and how you talk about the second parent. Moreover, try to explain how you feel and why you are angry, upset, or worried. Explaining your emotions to your child will help them feel reassured that you will continue to love them.

3. Tell Your Child They Have Not Lost the Other Parent

Another rule for helping your child deal with divorce is to emphasize that the child has not lost the second parent and that both parents will continue to love them despite the changes.

Children often perceive divorce as the loss of a parent who will no longer live with them. It is worth having conversations with your child that, although you will no longer be living together, each parent will still carve out quality time with them.

Providing constant reminders that both parents love the child help kids cope with separation and feel valued by both parents. This way, you do not form a negative image of the second parent in the eyes of the child.

4. Do Not Sort Things Out in Front of Your Child

For your child’s well-being and mental health, do not quarrel with the other parent before them, and do not turn the child into a manipulation tool. [2]

For example, don’t threaten your ex-partner that they won’t see your child if they don’t pay for certain things. Children whose parents are divorcing do not care who pays for what. They need full communication with both parents.

Never involve your children in your battles. The amount of parental conflict that a child witnesses during and immediately after divorce plays a decisive role in their adjustment.

5. Discuss Family Changes With Your Child

When helping your child cope with divorce, explain to them the things that will change within the family.

For example, you may have to move to another location, which may involve having another trusted adult pick them up after school and take them to extracurricular activities. Other changes include the child having to move back and forth from two different homes.

Explaining these changes in a language that is easily understandable to a child will reduce their level of stress.

Families going through a divorce should discuss all family changes with all parties involved so that they can better understand how to navigate the situation as a whole. The main thing is to always be open to discussion with your child and not hide anything from them.

6. Don’t Talk Badly About the Other Parent

Another way to help a child cope with separation is not blaming or criticizing your spouse in front of them. Criticism and accusations bring nothing but negativity. Of course, you can always discuss these issues at psychotherapy sessions or with friends, but you do not need to expose your children and their fragile psyche to this.

Never take out negative feelings on your children or force a child to take sides, as this can be a very traumatic experience for a kid. You should always try to maintain a civilized relationship with your ex-partner.

7. Allow the Child to Express Negative Emotions

Don’t deny your child’s emotions, even if they don’t please you. Instead, understand their emotions — this is the child’s reaction to what is happening to them. It helps them understand their communication skills, regulate behavior, and learn to understand others better.

For example, if the father does not communicate with your child after the divorce, try to share their sadness. Explain that it’s okay to be upset and miss someone important.

Your presence and the opportunity to share experiences with them are significant for your child. Do not deny their pain or desire to cry. They are going through a difficult period like you, and have the right to experience different emotions.

8. Be Truthful About Your Breakup As Simply As Possible

Based on their age, parents should clearly explain to their children what divorce is in simple terms. When having to deal with divorce and children, consider the child’s life maturity and temperament level when discussing the current situation. You can tell your child that your divorce is due to specific issues, but you don’t have to go into details.

You may have to explain everything several times; it is not easy for them to immediately understand and accept that their parents will not be together. Remember, when talking to a child about divorce, do not blame the other parent and do not say anything bad about them.

9. Do Everything to Make Your Child Feel Loved

You must first remember that your child always needs your love and support, regardless of whether they are going through a huge transition or not. And even more so in a stressful situation like divorce.

Your child should know and feel that you are always open to answering all their questions and providing a listening ear when they need to express certain feelings and emotions. This is a confusing time for your child, and keeping things as normal as possible is key.

10. Encourage Your Child to Talk About Divorce

There are many ways on how you can help your child deal with divorce and cope. Expressing their feelings is one of them as it helps relieve pain and stress.[3] So, encourage your kids to communicate and talk about it.

Divorce is tricky to navigate and may need several sit-down conversations. Help them find words for their feelings and acknowledge them. Finally, do not forget about therapy sessions if you feel that they are needed.

11. Support the Child’s Routine as Much as Possible

Changes and unfamiliar routines are the basis of stress that a child can experience during a divorce. Therefore, try to keep changes to a minimum and stick to their regular daily routine as much as possible.

Keep Thursday night pizza nights and weekend trips to the park, if that’s been your child’s routine. Keep prior obligations and promises as much as possible and your child will adapt to the changes gradually.

Final Thoughts

Yes, divorce can be exhausting, but it’s not the end of the world. Parents diverge, but they are connected by the most important person—their child.

As with any painful situation, the key is to adapt. If you’re wondering how to deal with separation when a child is involved, just remember that communication is the first step to moving forward. Each parent must do everything in their power to ensure that the child feels needed and loved during all the changes that surround them.

Featured photo credit: Colin Maynard via unsplash.com

Reference

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How to Raise Happy Kids in a World Full of Uncertainty

If you are raising kids today, chances are you remember what it was like to spend your childhood free of technology, rewinding cassette tapes, talking face to face with friends, asking your parents for a ride, and agreeing on a pickup time because there were no cell phones.

While it may have seemed easier back then, there were still challenges. War, violence, inequalities, and bullying existed back then, too. Everything always seems easier looking back, and we often forget the difficult parts.

Raising kids in a world of uncertainty presents new challenges that require thoughtful planning but also provides a unique opportunity to bring families back together and make your home a safe haven for your loved ones. Keeping kids happy has little to do with what we are giving them and everything to do with the time we are spending together.

While life may have gotten more complicated, we have more tools and awareness than ever before to overcome obstacles and support our children’s emotional development rather than sweep their emotions under the rug. It is an opportunity to evolve emotionally, grow in spirituality, and heal our families. Growth doesn’t happen without struggles.

While we live in an era where overpacked schedules, technology, and social media are commonplace, many families are looking to slow down and reconnect. Here are 10 simple ideas to make raising kids in a world of uncertainty less stressful.

1. Accept and Validate Your Children’s Emotions

Accept and validate any emotions your children are experiencing. When you are upset and a well-meaning family member tells you to relax, how does it make you feel? Usually not any better!

If your child is feeling anxious about going to school, it won’t take those emotions away by telling them that they are okay or to not worry. What we can do is try to understand why they are feeling that way and then arrange for a confidence-boosting activity or one-on-one time during breakfast to help them feel secure and loved.

Resist the urge to tell them not to feel this way (this can be difficult!) even if you know they have nothing to be worried about. Share a time when you felt the same way and how you got through it.

2. Be Their Safe Zone

This is not about having the perfect family or home situation or being a pushover. Being their safe zone means your child can be themselves in their home without judgment. This one may require all siblings to be on board.

If they have an unusual hobby, ask them what interests them about it or how they feel when they are working on it. This benefits the whole family and encourages everyone to leave their stress outside and lead with their heart.

Give them some responsibility in the home to contribute that is not tied to an allowance or reward. If there are changes in your family or living arrangements, keep kids in the loop. They generally want to know how any changes will impact them. Keeping as much structure and predictability as possible will comfort them.

3. Limit Social Media and Stick to Your Technology Comfort Zone

Children are attracted to technology like a magnet. How do you feel after scrolling on your phone? Most would say not any better, but our children often lack the self-awareness to know when something is not making them feel good.

Don’t feel bad when your kids get upset with whatever rules you put in place. We have heard from countless kids that say they are happy their parents limit their social media and technology time. Although they may not admit it now, someday they will thank you!

4. Keep Connected With Centering Activities

Children and teens often need guidance to get out of their own heads. Family walks, yoga, church, and mindfulness activities are all great ways to connect and rebalance.

Mindfulness sounds more complicated than it is. It is doing anything using your full attention, and the benefits are vast. Art, cooking, listening to music, essential oil diffusers, and game night are just a few ideas to bring mindfulness and calm into your family time.

There are countless activities your family can do together to benefit from this practice. Consider theme nights where each family member gets a night to pick an activity for the family.

5. Get Involved Locally

What are some ways you can volunteer in your community as a family? Are there any neighbors that could use a hand? Check out school clubs.

While your child might not jump at the chance to join a school activist club, urge them to give it a try. They might just take interest in something new!

6. Help Your Family Develop a Growth Mindset

Not every day will be sunshine and roses, and it is not in our children’s best interest to make it that way. Mistakes are essential for growth. Challenges are needed to instill grit and determination.

Parents who praise their toddlers’ efforts instead of their talent were shown to have more positive mindsets five years later. These children believed their abilities could develop and improve with hard work.[1]

Comment on effort and perseverance, rather than a perfect result. Instead of them relying on outside praise, help them notice how their effort made them feel.

How did it feel to keep going and figure that math problem out? What did you do when things got challenging? Are you proud of the result?

While no parent wants their child to suffer, sometimes it’s best to allow them to work through an issue themselves, knowing they have your love and support.

7. Guard Family Time

As our kids get closer to adolescence, they may show a preference to be with friends instead of at home. Try to guard at least one or two days a week for family time.

Again, no matter what they say now, they will thank you later. Take advantage of that time together to connect and do something fun like game or movie night, cook dinner together, or take turns picking an activity.

8. Help Your Children Take Charge of Their Well-Being

Help your child develop the skills to take charge of their well-being. Living in a world where our external environment is not always peaceful or within our control, it is essential to teach kids to take ownership of their inner world.

While every child is different, it is vital to help them explore activities that develop confidence and make them feel good. Sports, the arts, journaling, yoga, and meditation are just a handful of engaging options to help them find empowerment.

9. Resist Overscheduling

It is amazing that the word “no” is circling back into our vocabulary.

Kids will say yes to every activity if they could. It’s up to parents to limit commitments. Even too many fun activities in a week contribute to stress and burnout.

10. Develop a Morning Routine

Whether your children are at home or heading to school, our morning sets the tone for the day.

What would be a reasonable routine for your family? Fifteen minutes can make all the difference in the world to set your kids and yourself up for a great day.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Affirmations – Work with your child to create a meaningful affirmation. Encourage them to say their affirmation with feelings and close their eyes and visualize what it feels like. Discuss how they will apply this in their day.
  • Morning dance party – Pick an uplifting song to start your day.
  • Prayer or gratitude practice – This instills hope and reminds your child that they are not alone. Our brain has a negativity bias, which means we tend to focus on problems rather than good things.[2] It is helpful to make it a practice to notice the good. There is a lot more of it than we think!
  • Conversation starters – Grab a deck of conversation starters and do one each morning at breakfast.

Finally, know when to get help. Having professional support to navigate challenging situations can make all the difference so that you and your children have someone to guide you.

Final Thoughts

Raising kids in a world of uncertainty certainly poses new challenges that we need to be mindful of. However, it also presents a unique opportunity to reclaim family time and create a home environment that is supportive and welcoming.

What changes can you make to your weekly routine to reconnect or fill each other’s emotional buckets? You may hear some grumbling as you make adjustments, but your kids will thank you later!

Featured photo credit: Robert Collins via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Growth Mindset and Children’s Health
[2] verywellmind: What Is the Negativity Bias?

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