Currently browsing Community

5 Simple Steps Teach Your Child Friendship Skills for Life

Making and keeping friends is a central part of entering school. Teaching your child pro-social friendship skills is a valuable part of your relationship with your children.

Where do you begin?

  1. A few great books have been written on friendship skills. Ones from the American Girls library include: Friends: Making them and keeping them; The Feelings Book, and Stand Up For Yourself and Your Friends. For middle school children and teens Queen Bees and Wanna Bees is a must-read for parents. Middle School Confidential by Annie Fox is a practical skills based book for middle schoolers. For parents who wish to coach their teens to health and wellness, The Parent as Coach by Diana Sterling is amazing for parents of teens.
  2. Healthy friendship skills begin with confidence and self-respect. Children who have self-esteem are able to be kind, share, and include others in their friendship circles.
  3. Knowing your own social style and what is unique about your child is another fine starting point. Emphasizing that everyone is different and we are all special in our own ways enhances acceptance and tolerance among children.

Here are a few, little discussed, tips on helping your children develop their friendship skills.

  1. As young as age four you can begin to help your child discover his or her personal style. What kind of child is yours? Help her see that she is bright, funny, articulate, caring or thoughtful. Teach her how to recognize positive social skills in others so she chooses skillful friends who are likely to share her values.
  2. In order to help your child see when she is using pro-social friendship skills, comment specifically on what your child does in her friendships that shows she cares. “When Jose hurt his arm and you offered to sit with when he could not play, that was a kind thing to do.” “Offering your sister your sweater at the skating rink when she was cold was a thoughtful thing to do.”
  3. Teach your child to observe the behavior of others non-judgmentally in a manner that helps her to see how other people behave. Talk with her about how other people respond to that behavior.
  4. As your child gets older help her develop the ability to observe the impact of her behavior on others.
  5. Giving your children the words and actions to: a. enter into and exit social groups, b. include other people in their group and c. recognize what characteristics your child wants in his or her friends is invaluable.

Talk with your children about what makes a good friend. Write a short story or a book on what one does to show respect, integrity and honesty. If there is a school-mate who criticizes others or mocks others, that is not a friend you wish for your child to choose as a close mate. Draw distinctions between kids who are willing to lift one another up and those who desire to feel powerful by cutting others down.

Here are some sample social skills you might wish to introduce to your children one skill as a time.

Role-play with your children, create positive conversations with your children and teach them the importance of learning these skills.

Sample List of Skills

• Accepting “No”

• Accepting Consequences

• Apologizing

• Arguing Respectfully

• Asking a Favor

• Asking Questions

• Being a Good Listener

• Being in a Group Discussion

• Conversational Skills

• Declining an Invitation

• Expressing Empathy

• Following Rules

• Good Sportsmanship

Developing friendship skills can be fun. So practice, play and enjoy with your children. Friendships will follow.

************************************************************************************************************************

This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method” used in practice by thousands of families worldwide. The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world.

 

Can Your Child Recognize a Rip Current?

The summer I turned 12 I visited my cousins in California. Boogie-boarding in the surf at Santa Monica I had a real scare. A rogue wave flattened me and started dragging me out to sea. 36 years later I can vividly remember the sensation of being in a washing machine, being churned around with the sand scraping against my back and stomach as I was dragged out to sea. The combination of panic and being under water for so long robbed me of the last of my oxygen as I desperately fought to get a foot hold on solid ground. Finally my feet connected with the ocean floor and I stood up – knee deep in water.

I felt foolish, never told my cousins or my aunt. I mean, it’s hard enough being 12, but almost drowning in under 2 feet of water? But I didn’t know. I didn’t understand how to read the ocean and I didn’t know what to do if the water behaved differently than in my local pool and Lake Michigan is a different story from the Pacific Ocean, although just as dangerous if you don’t know what to look for.

When I look at the primary misleading signals that water can give, rip tides or rip currents is probably one of the scariest and least understood, but understanding them prepares you for other events, such as the occasional rogue wave.

I’ll defer to the experts for all the information on rip current, but the most important thing that you need to know, and what you need to teach your children, is how to recognize a rip current, and how to escape if you do get caught.

  • First, a rip current is a strip of deceptively calm water. On either side you’ll see choppy waves, but the rip current is enticingly, beckoningly smooth. That’s the water heading out at a rate faster than an Olympic swimmer can paddle. So, first step, survey the water, and if you see a flat patch, avoid it.
  • Second, if you do get caught, don’t try to fight the water, you’ll never win. Swim slowly and steadily sideways, parallel with the shore. You will either be able to eventually leave the rip current or it will spit you out at the end of the rip current and you just need to swim back to shore.

Ideally you have also chosen to swim near a lifeguard and have checked out any signs warning of rip current or dangerous surf, but since water doesn’t always abide by the rules, it’s best to understand how water acts.

Of course the most important message is ‘don’t panic’, but it’s a lot easier to keep yourself, or your child from panicking if they understand what is happening to them, and go with the water instead of fighting it. I think Dora said it best in Finding Nemo, ‘Just keep swimming….just keep swimming’.

6 Cures for Family Morning Madness

Family Eating BreakfastMornings with kids may be the most tiring part of the day, but parents often make it worse by getting caught in a cycle of nagging and yelling. Without meaning to, they train kids to expect to hear multiple times what they need to do to get ready.

“If you’re yelling at your kids, and things aren’t changing, then they’re not the slow learners here,” says Ann Pleshette Murphy, author of The 7 Stages of Motherhood: Loving Your Life without Losing Your Mind.

A certain amount of morning craziness is inevitable, but you can control it with a little detective work and planning. “Step outside the circus ring and figure out which of the acrobats is tripping you up,” says Murphy. Then, with your family’s help, ritualize the process of preparation. Here’s how:

Morning Madness Cure No. 1:

Start the day before, not the night before. The moment your kids get home from school (or as soon as you get home from work), begin organizing for the next morning, suggests certified professional organizer Kristi Meyer. Pull homework and lunch boxes out of their backpacks immediately. While you make dinner, have the kids pick out their snacks for the next day’s lunch. Make the rest of their lunch then and clean up just once.

Morning Madness Cure No. 2:

Set the stage. After the dinner dishes are cleared, ask your kids to set the table for breakfast. Before bed, have (or help) them lay out their clothes for the next day. Put their coats, boots and backpacks (with completed homework) in their designated spot (yes, you should have one) so they won’t have to hunt them down in the morning.

Morning Madness Cure No. 3:

Tuck them in on time. Set an early bedtime so they get enough sleep to wake up focused and energized.

Morning Madness Cure No. 4:

Beat the crowds. Get up at least 15 minutes before your kids do so you have a few minutes alone — with your coffee — to prepare for the day. You’ll be better able to cope when the mad dash begins.

Morning Madness Cure No. 5:

Give them enough time. Set the alarm for your kids at a time that allows them to complete their morning routine comfortably. Build in some cushion for them to chill out or cuddle with you too. A lot of morning dawdling or crankiness is really a cry for connection, says Murphy.

Morning Madness Cure No. 6:

Limit the breakfast options. Create a weekly menu or a small list of choices, such as yogurt and granola, healthy cereal with fruit, or hard-boiled eggs and toast. You can even prepare smoothie ingredients ahead and store them in the refrigerator overnight. Keep it simple. Few decisions make for peaceful mornings.

Adding controls can greatly reduce morning madness and nagging. Be patient, though: New routines require explanation and practice. Think ahead and get your children involved. Then prepare to have a great day!

Taking Care of YOU So You Can Protect Your Kids and Pets

Being a member of numerous online social networking pages, I recently started to notice a huge rise in the number of ‘Dog Missing’ and ‘Dog Found’ posts across several of the sites. And apparently, I was not the only one to notice this. On one of those sites someone wrote, “Is it me? Or does there seem to be a much larger number of pets getting posted as missing than ever before?” Well, obviously as a canine professional, this peaked my interest, and I started to really think about why this is happening. It also resonated a bit more with me than ever before because I am coming up on my 10th year of being in business, and a few weeks ago, one of my boarders also got out…. which has never happened before! Even though he was found and was fine, it was the most frightening and tear-filled two hours I have encountered since opening the business. So I had to really question why! What is going on for me and others around me?

As I started to reflect on what was going on for me, I started to realize I was extremely overworked and my eating habits have been terrible; often eating one meal a day or less, and grabbing the unhealthy junk on top of the fridge because I am just too tired to spend time making a meal. On top of that, I had started to become isolated…I started to avoid the phone…. viewing it as yet another disruption of everything I needed to do. And I found myself getting angry every single time it rang.

Amazingly, one of the times I did answer it, it turned out to be one of my closest friends… she was going through the EXACT same thing I was! She’s a full time stay-at-home Mom for a one and a half year old, and just like my husband, her husband also works very long hours away from the home. We spent some time commiserating together about our exhaustion, our lack of patience, our short fuses and tempers threatening to flare at any moment….

And I remembered an acronym I had learned in recovery a very long time ago. H.A.L.T. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Each one of these things, in and of itself, can be a dangerous thing…. And I was allowing myself to live in all four day after day.

So you may be asking yourself, “Why is this important? What does this have to do with child and canine health and safety?

Simply this: when you allow yourself to get this run down and tired, there are many important things that you miss. It becomes harder to focus and pay close attention. You tend to make more mistakes that seem careless and avoidable! And when dealing with children AND animals, not paying attention can have numerous negative consequences.

What do I mean?

  • You make bad decisions that end up adding to your exhaustion. Example: “The kids were bored and were driving me crazy, so I took them to a pet store to play with some puppies to entertain them….the next thing I know, I now have a pup in my living room who’s now ADDING to the chaos! It’s pooping and peeing everywhere, crying non-stop, and jumping on and chasing the kids all over the house!”
  • You give in on decisions you normally wouldn’t have, and now someone’s gotten hurt (more mommy guilt!) Example : “My children were begging me for a dog; I’m so tired I thought it would be a great idea to get one for them to keep them occupied. We went to a shelter and found one, but we don’t really have time to train it (Or “I had no idea how much work it would take to train it”) so now my older children (who begged me for it) are afraid of it because it’s so hyper and wild. It goes to chase them to play and they scream and run! On top of that, my two year old has been knocked down and run over by it so many times, he is constantly black and blue and crying! So the dog gets put outside alone or penned up in its crate, which is making it even more wild and crazy!”
  • You do things when not paying attention that could unintentionally put others in danger. Example: Because I don’t have children, I didn’t realize the ‘whirlwind’ the whole ‘sending the kids back-to-school and going back to work now that the pandemic restrictions have lifted’ created and how it’s affecting my clients. And in that flurry of activity (to get new school clothes, school supplies, get yourself out the door, etc.) no one realized the back door was left open and the dog just walked right out. And since no one noticed the dog was outside while you drove away, no-one thought to check if the gate was shut. And even if the gate hadn’t been left open, the panicked dog (having being left alone in the yard), found their way over, under, or around the gate. Now your dog is roaming free through the neighborhood, potentially putting himself and/or other neighborhood children or pets in danger. OR the more simple version: as the kids ran out the front door to catch the school bus and you ran to the kitchen desperate for a cup of coffee, guess who ran out the door right behind the kids and is now roaming free through the neighborhood? (Remember I mentioned about all the missing dogs lately?)
  • Or you are just doing the simple tasks that you would normally not have to think twice about – such as shuttling the kids to and from school and lessons or driving the dog to the vet – but now you are doing them utterly exhausted – which is the same as if you are under the influence. All it takes is:
    • Turning right to go to work instead of left to drop the baby off at daycare. The baby is sleeping in their rear-facing car seat in the back seat – you can’t see or hear them…
    • Looking in the rear-view mirror too long when the dog is barking at something out of the window
    • All it takes is one second of not paying attention behind the wheel of a car, and the results can be devastating! These are not bad parents – they’re just exhausted!!
  • Any caregiver – whether for a child, an elderly parent, or even a pet – can put themselves and those entrusted to their care at risk when exhaustion sets in. Even I, as a professional dog trainer, recently experienced consequences from allowing myself to get so run down. How many articles have I written where I ‘preached’ about being aware of your dog’s body language at all times? I had a 6 month old pup staying with me for some training. I was very tired and had not had a chance all day to eat …. And I was not paying attention. I went to put her in her crate, and was totally taken by surprise when she suddenly turned around and bit my hand. The fact is, I should not have been taken by surprise, nor should I have gotten bitten. This pup has always been clear with her body language, and I am sure she gave me numerous ‘warning’ signs that she was ‘not in the mood’ to go into her crate. But because I was so tired and was not paying attention, I missed all of them. Luckily, it was not a bad bite, but enough of one to snap me awake and make me realize I cannot afford to NOT be paying attention in my line of work! I was lucky…as are most of us, most of the time, but unfortunately none of us are lucky all the time. And decisions are compromised by exhaustion every day. I say in just about every article, “Never leave your child unattended with your dog” but when we are exhausted, how easy is it to just say, “It is only for a little while…. They’ll be fine…I’m right in the next room!” I am a professional trainer… when that bite happened I immediately knew what to do to de-escalate and redirect the situation…. but what if that had been your child who decided to do something that the dog did not like?

So, how do we combat this? How do we put aside that never-ending to-do list and take the time we need to recharge our batteries?

First step– recognize that there’s a problem and figure out what’s causing the overload – is this a short term (like going back to school craziness) or longer term (such as my friend dealing with a new baby) situation I need to address? Recognizing the situation and knowing when there’ll be an end in sight is half the battle!

For me, the second step was empowering myself and understanding that I am no good to anyone else unless I take care of me. I sometimes struggle with this because I feel I am being selfish. But I have to force myself to look at this from a different perspective. For me, it’s always been easier to help someone else than to help myself…. Which is probably why I became a care-giver to begin with! So, I ask myself, “If my best friend told me she did everything I have done today and had five or six more things still left to do, what would I tell her?” Well, I’d tell her to turn off the phones, and take at least an hour for herself each day. If you have a young child that cannot understand the concept of ‘me-time’ then you need to forgo the six loads of laundry, the dishes, the vacuuming, and everything else you squeeze into the hour that they are napping. Give yourself permission to take care of you for that hour.

The third thing to practice is setting boundaries….. this begins with learning to say “NO”. It’s another thing I too struggle with! When customer’s call me saying, “If you can’t help me, I’m going to have to get rid of this dog” I have a hard time not springing into action! But saying no to them does not mean I do not care. It doesn’t mean I’m this horrible person! All it means is my plate is already full and I would not be helping either of us to say yes.

The fourth thing is scheduling something to do that is specifically for you, outside the of the house, at least once a week. And it needs to be guilt-free! If you have a partner, a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or even a good friend, make arrangements for them to come and take care of the kids for a day…. Or even for a few hours. If you cannot find a relative or friend, hire a babysitter for the day. And while you are at it, put Fido in a doggy day care for a few hours or find a local place that offers some sort of day-train program. He’ll get some (probably much needed) exercise, socialization and play time at doggy day care, and a bit of extra training can never hurt!! ! I know it can get a bit costly, but if you think about it…this is your sanity and the health and well being of your kids.

The final thing is when you know you are tired, view your decision making process just like your go-home instructions after anesthesia. “Avoid making any important or life-altering decisions for the next 24 hours.”

We all love our kids and pets, and we always strive to do our very best for them! We owe it to them to give them our very best… but not our all! Make time for you, because you are important and deserve it! And when you do make that time, you will find you have much more patience, tolerance, and you will be able to enjoy your kids and pets again! And I would wager that they will feel the difference, and be much happier too!!!

Be good to yourself. You are the only ‘you’ you’ve got!

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Diversity

Children are very quick to point out differences. With their limited experiences and understanding, it is hard to explain that differences are a wonderful part of life. Talking to our children about diversity can be tricky. We don’t want to compromise our family values, but we want to cultivate a true respect for everyone.

There are a few key conversations we can have, that will help.

  • Have a “diversity” conversation. Talk about differences that exist in your family. “Jill’s favorite color is pink, yours is blue. Your favorite food is spaghetti, mommy loves chicken” Explain that we are all different, and that is a good thing, not bad. When you encounter new people, explain that there are differences and similarities between all of us just like having different favorite colors. This simple conversation will help our children begin to understand diversity and see that liking different colors and foods is not bad, just different.
  • Challenge your children to get to know someone new on a regular basis and find out what they have in common. If they conclude that they have nothing in common, teach them that they still deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Tie this back into your “diversity” conversations. “Remember, Jill likes a different color than you do, we don’t treat her mean because she likes something different.” Talk about how treating others with respect means that we take some time to get to know them and understand them. Our children need to understand that they might not like all the other kids, but they need to give them all a chance. In our house we encourage our children to meet someone new at school each week. Then our children talk to us about all the things they learned about the new person during dinner each Friday night.
  • Talk about the fact that diversity does not mean we forgo our values. Begin when children are young, and explain that there are choices that other people make that are not acceptable in our home. That is fine, but that doesn’t mean that we are rude or judgmental because they choose differently. To raise children who accept diversity talk to them about different cultures and traditions. You can start with something as simple as having them try different foods.

We will find that by talking to our kids about diversity, they will also learn key values like love, respect, kindness, and compassion for others.

How to Make Fast Food Healthier for Kids

Research shows that kids consume an average of 55 percent more calories when they eat out than when they eat at home. While you should limit fast food to an occasional treat, it’s not a nutritional disaster if you make healthy choices:

Child-size it.

Keep your kids’ portions under control by ordering the child-sized meals that were meant for them — and try one yourself. Just this one move will cut half the calories and fat from your meal. Or share one order of fries with two or three people. This way, you still get to enjoy a little fast food without a lot of calories. Still hungry? Order a side salad with low-cal dressing.

Balance it out.

Cut calories and increase nutrition by making some smart substitutions. Chowing down on a cheeseburger? Forget the fries and order a baked potato or salad instead. Can’t give up the fries? Order a grilled chicken salad instead of a burger.

Skip the extras.

Save major calories by saying no to toppings like cheese, bacon, mayo and special sauces on burgers; pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese on pizza; and bacon bits, tortilla chips, Chinese noodles and regular dressings on salads.

Water it down.

A large cola weighs in at 310 calories, all of which come from sugar. Regular and diet sodas also contain phosphorus, which can prevent kids’ bones from absorbing calcium. The best bet for the whole family: water.