Posts

How is it that summer just started, yet the school supplies are already out in stores? In a few short weeks that will feel like they fly by, your baby will be headed to kindergarten. At this realization, in the midst of a little freak-out and hidden tears, parents will try to put on a brave face as they leave their little one in someone else’s care. But the key to this transition is to start the school routines now!

Preparing for that day is important not only for your child, but for you as well. A month may seem like a long way off, but when it comes to establishing new routines and rituals, it’s actually the right time to put things in motion.

Bedtime:

For example, if bedtime has been at 8:30 or later during the summer months, but a 7:30 bedtime will be in place during the school year, moving bedtime up in 15-minute intervals from now until the school year starts will help your child adjust and keep the drama about it still being light outside to a minimum. As a side note, blackout curtains might be a great investment.

Routines: 

Consider what morning and evening routines will be like, especially if this is your first child to head off to school. It can be unsettling for children when everything is changing, so it’s helpful to think about routines and rituals like a security blanket. Children find real comfort in predictability. If you put things into motion now, it will help your child feel more confident on that first day of school. For instance, practice getting up, getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast and figuring out the best order to accomplish those tasks and any others that must be done before leaving for school. Adapting your evening routine to how things will be during the school year will help as well. 

After school: 

Being at school and holding it together all day long is exhausting. Your child might come home from school and want to take a nap or they might have a meltdown, especially as they are adjusting to their new routine. Comfort them and help them put words to their emotions. In time they will adapt and adjust.

Independence: 

Remind yourself repeatedly to let your child do for themselves what they are capable of doing. Things like dressing themselves, putting on their shoes and velcroing or tying them, going to the bathroom, pulling their pants up and even buckling a belt are important to know how to do. If they are planning to buy their lunch at school, let them practice carrying a tray with their food and drink from somewhere in the kitchen to the table. That balancing act can be a little tricky. If they are taking their lunch, teach them how to pack it themselves. If they are riding the school bus, practice walking to and from the bus stop together.

Practice:

Make practicing these things fun by turning them into a relay race or a game. When you do that, you’ll be giving them a strong foundation to stand on as they head to school.

Organization:

Work with your child to find a location in your home where all things school-related live like backpacks, homework or notes that need to be signed. Helping them get in the habit of placing things in one location will make mornings easier for everyone.

Read:

Start reading with your child daily (if you aren’t already). Even if you aren’t a fantastic reader, just holding a book, pointing out pictures, colors, numbers and words, or teaching your child to turn the pages from right to left will help prepare them for kindergarten.

Other adults:

If you have told your child they don’t have to listen to anyone but you, now is the time to change that. When your child is at school they will need to be able to listen and follow instruction from their teacher and others. Additionally, if you have never left them in someone else’s care, try to arrange some time between now and the first day of school where they are in the care of other trusted adults. It is good for them to know that others can take care of their needs, and teachers will appreciate that you have helped them practice listening and following instructions from other adults.

Technology: 

This year will be different for your child, so consider a technology plan for your home when school starts. They will be expected to sit, listen and engage in activities, but screen time  is probably the last thing they need when they get home. Instead, playing outdoors in the fresh air can help them release stress and relax.

Emotions:

While you might be excited about your little one reaching this milestone, it would also be normal for you to feel some anxiety. Most of our children can read us like a book. If you are feeling uptight about the beginning of school and trying to hold that inside, your child will likely pick up on this and think you are not OK or that you do not want them to go to school. Acknowledging that and talking with other parents who are ahead of you on the journey could be extremely helpful to you and your child. 

Thinking about all that needs to happen before school starts may feel a bit overwhelming. The good news is, if you start now, you will already have your routine down by the time school starts. Both you and your child can head into the first day of school with confidence and great expectations for the school year.

Looking for more parenting resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

At the end of summer, children are facing many transitions in the making. 

Kindergartners are attending school for the first time. Last year’s fifth-graders will go on to middle school. Eighth-graders who were at the top of the pecking order are entering high school and essentially are now the little fish in the big pond. Then there are the seniors – some of whom cannot wait for graduation, while others want to take their sweet time getting there.

Some parents can’t wait for the transitions to occur. Others, however, secretly grieve as they see time flying by, wishing it would stand still for just a bit longer.

No matter where you fall on the transition continuum, the air is typically charged with emotions from excitement, fear and anxiety to anticipation and perhaps feeling overwhelmed. Those with middle and high school-age teens get the added hysteria of hormones in the mix.

As a family, it is possible to have multiple transitions happening simultaneously, each with its own set of expectations and unpredictable challenges which can make any sane parent want to disappear.

There’s good news, though! You can intentionally bring calm to the forefront and help your kids thrive during times of transition.

  • Deal with your own emotions. Sometimes parents can be full of anxiety about an upcoming transition while the child is full of excitement. Be careful not to place your emotions on your child. Find an appropriate outlet to talk about how you’re feeling.
  • Acknowledge that change is afoot. Talk about what will be different. Discuss what is exciting and what might be scary about the change.
  • Celebrate the milestone. While preparing for a transition can provoke anxiety, there is reason to celebrate the end of one season and the beginning of another. Share the ways in which you have seen your child/teen grow and mature. They need to know you believe in them and that you have confidence in their ability to navigate this new adventure.
  • Determine a plan of action. The unknown can be really scary. Helping your child develop an action plan for handling their transition will help build confidence and remove feelings of helplessness.
  • Identify your support team. Coaches, teachers, guidance counselors, pastors, youth leaders, mentors, grandparents, other extended family members and close friends can all be part of this team. Don’t assume your child/teen knows who is on this team. Discuss it together and make sure they can identify at least three people other than their parents who are on their team.
  • Talk to other parents and children who have already made this transition. Conversations with others who have successfully navigated the journey can be both encouraging and enlightening, saving you a lot of heartache and stress while giving you pointers on how to avoid land mines. For children/teens, talking with others their own age who have walked the road can be comforting and empowering.

All of these transitions are a sign of growth for children and their parents. These are great times to teach the life skills that will help your children be resilient. Instead of trying to avoid the changes, embrace them and make the most of them.

Image from Unsplash.com

When temperatures are extremely hot, it’s hard to think about going outside and doing anything except jumping in a pool—and even that feels like jumping into a big bathtub! It’s a shame—because there are so many fun things to take advantage of, wherever you live. When the temperatures cool off a bit and there are only a few weeks before school starts, it’s the perfect time to plan some end-of-summer outdoor adventures with your family.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, childhood has moved “indoors” over the past two decades. The average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.

Children are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.

An ongoing research project called Child of Our Time follows the growth of 25 children from the time they are born until they become adults. They have documented some interesting findings about children who play outside.

  • One of the benefits of playing outside is that children laugh more. This is good because laughter is a stress reliever and it helps stimulate the immune system.
  • Another benefit of outside play is better health. Researchers found that children who engage in outside play have the potential to have stronger bones and muscles from activities like running and jumping. They also get vitamin D just from being in the sun. When children are active, they are less likely to battle obesity and more likely to do well in school.
  • Additional studies show that children who play outside are more likely to be adventurous and open to new experiences. They tend to be better at making friends and have longer attention spans. Outdoor play fuels the imagination and teaches children how to be resourceful by creating their own entertainment.

What are you waiting for? Put the iPhone down, pull your kids away from their gaming devices and head outdoors for some family adventures.  Experience the benefits an active lifestyle can bring while making some great memories!

If you’re short on ideas, here are a few to get you started:

  • Ride bikes through the park.
  • Visit the zoo.

  • Look up hiking trails near you and set out!

  • If you are brave and your children are old enough, check out a zipline adventure.

  • Grab some cardboard boxes and go sledding down a big, grassy hill.

  • Teach your children how to play kick the can, hopscotch and freeze tag.

  • Get out (or rent) the kayaks or paddleboards and travel down a local river or creek.

  • Create your own Summer Olympics and get all the neighborhood kids and parents involved. Sack races, egg toss, three-legged race and the wheelbarrow race are excellent backyard Olympic events.
  • Take your teens whitewater rafting.
  • Find a bridge, country road or local park and take a leisurely stroll.

Playing outside with your children is not only great exercise, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to bond as a family. If having outdoor family adventures is new for you, your kids may balk at first but once they experience the fun, they won’t want to stop. Are you up for the challenge?

Are we there yet? He’s touching my side of the seat.  I’m hungry.  I need to go to the bathroom. If you’ve ever taken a family vacation, you know these words are part of the package when it comes to vacationing with children.

Whether you’re taking a two or 10-hour adventure, families can actually succeed in spending lots of time together in a small confined space, create great memories and share some good laughs. 

Although there’s no guarantee you’ll have a perfect trip, these suggestions can help when vacationing with children:

Include your children in the vacation planning process.

Even young children can help find information about your destination on the internet or in books. Whether you plan to camp for the weekend or take a long trip, let them help you choose the activities.

Mark off the miles. 

Once you know where you’re headed, ask the kids to draw a map from home to your final stop. As you click off the miles in your car, have them fill in the road on their drawing. This will help them visualize how far away they are and may help curb a few of those, “Are we there yet?” questions.

Allow each child to assemble their own trip kit.

Make sure you give them a size limit, like a backpack, for their goody bag. Ask them to include games and toys they can play by themselves and at least one game they can enjoy with the entire family. You can even put together your own trip bag with surprise activities or treats to share. Rand McNally has fun travel games for families, including a scavenger hunt.

Create tech-free time frames along the way. 

Remember the license plate game, road trip BINGO, Name That Tune and add-on storytelling? All of these would be great to teach your kids while giving them a break from DVDs or video games.

Start a daily “Positive Attitude” contest the minute you pull out of the driveway. 

Select a family mascot, then award the it to the person who has had the best attitude of the day every evening. The selected family member can keep the mascot until it’s someone else’s time.  

Plan “play breaks” into your allotted travel time.

Even adults can find it hard to travel for long distances without a break. Instead of taking the quickest route to your vacation destination, plan some stops along the way so the children can run off pent-up energy. Have lunch at a park. Look for educational points of interest along the way and give the family a break from the cramped quarters of a car.

All of this may require a little extra planning, but the outcome will be worth it. Since families get to spend so little time together these days, it’s especially important to make the best of the times you do have with each other. Here’s to happy travels and making great memories.

After a long 10 months, many parents (and kids) are ready to walk away from the usual school-year routines. Who wouldn’t want a break from alarm clocks, the morning sprint, evenings filled with homework, school projects and a set bedtime?

While this break from the school routine sounds great, most people are creatures of habit who like to have order in their world – even children. Though they may complain about structure, children are used to routines and rituals. In fact, that is the environment in which they are most likely to thrive.

A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?, conducted by Barbara H. Friese, Ph.D. and colleagues at Syracuse University, concluded that rituals are powerful organizers of family life and the presence of family routines and rituals in general is beneficial. The review of 32 studies showed that family routines are associated with:

  • stronger academic achievement,
  • better health and adjustment in children,
  • a stronger sense of personal identity for adolescents,
  • better-regulated behavior in young children,
  • greater marital satisfaction, and
  • stronger family relationships.

With summer right around the corner, now is a great time to think about a more relaxed summer schedule that includes routines and rituals to help you keep your sanity.

You may decide to give your children the first week or so to catch up on sleep and celebrate the year’s accomplishments. Beyond that, your family will most likely have a better time if everybody understands the summer playbook. If you haven’t done this before, here’s how you can start.

  • Set the stage. Before talking with your kids, consider what you are willing to do this summer. Will your kids go to camps? Do you expect them to do chores before they go out to play? Will you take a family vacation? Is it OK to sleep until noon? What about technology usage? Is going to the pool every day an option? What is negotiable and what is not? The whole conversation will be easier if you already know the answers to these questions.
  • Call a family meeting. Pull everybody together to discuss the summer months and plans. Clearly define your expectations and establish guidelines. Cover things like picking up after themselves, having friends over, raiding the refrigerator, family meals, bedtime, etc. Being on the same page will hopefully decrease the potential for chaos and unnecessary drama.

Most parents want a happy, healthy and relaxed home, especially during the summer months when everyone is there. Routines and rituals are great tools to help create that type of environment. Children and adults do best when they have consistency in their world, even though they may fuss about it.

Children are less anxious and whiny when they know they can count on things being a certain way every day. Establishing a structured environment may be more work for parents initially, but over time it makes life much easier for everyone.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

When summer approaches many youngsters get excited and look forward to attending camps. And many middle-schoolers are pleading their case for staying home alone.

But exactly how old is old enough?

Surprisingly, only three states have laws regarding a minimum age for leaving a child home alone. Basically, the parent decides if their child is mature enough to be unsupervised at home.

Many parenting experts agree that it is not a good idea to leave a child under the age of 9 home alone, but how do you know if your child is ready for this responsibility?

For starters, assess whether your child:

  • Is physically and mentally capable of caring for him/herself.

  • Obeys the rules and makes good decisions.

  • Responds well to unfamiliar or stressful situations.

  • Feels comfortable or fearful about being home alone.

When it comes to safety:

  • Is there an emergency plan and does your child know how to follow the plan?

  • Does your child know his/her full name, address and phone number?

  • Make sure your child knows where you are and how to contact you at all times.

  • Does your child know the full names and contact information of other trusted adults in case of an emergency?

After answering these questions, if you feel confident that your child is ready, here are some tips to help him/her feel comfortable and confident about being home alone:

  • Have a trial period. Leave your child home alone for short periods of time to see how they manage by themselves.

  • Role-play potential scenarios. Act out possible situations, such as how to manage unexpected visitors or deliveries and how to talk on the phone without revealing that a parent is not home.

  • Establish rules. Make sure your child understands what is permissible and what is not. Be clear about expectations concerning technology, having friends over, going other places, how late they are allowed to sleep, chores that need to be done and exactly what is allowed while you are away. For example, should they bake cookies in the oven when you are away?

  • Discuss emergencies. What constitutes an emergency in your eyes and in your child’s eyes? Would they know that an overflowing toilet is definitely an emergency? Have you established a code word to use for emergencies?

  • Check in. Have established check-in times in addition to random times that you call to make sure all is going well.

  • Talk about it. Talk with your child about staying home alone and encourage him/her to share their feelings.

Staying home alone is a big deal. Even if you stayed home alone as a child, it is a new day and age. Your child may not be mature or confident enough to handle this type of responsibility right now. If not, look for inexpensive alternatives such as volunteering, community center programs or faith-based organization opportunities. Or perhaps a neighbor or fellow parent would be willing to help out.

Remember, although your child may seem smart, 9 is just 9, and 12 is not considered a young adult. The executive function of the brain, which is responsible for decision-making and self-control, doesn’t completely develop until the mid-20s.

While leaving your child home alone may seem like the logical and most cost-effective thing to do, preparing your child for this kind of responsibility takes time. It isn’t too soon to begin the preparation process.

The summer months offer a unique opportunity for families to escape the rat race, enjoy each other’s company and make great memories together.

Instead of business as usual and letting others determine your summer schedule, consider making your own agenda – one that’s full of adventure and fun. This might sound like a pipe dream, but many families know it doesn’t have to be just wishful thinking.

Your first step to summer fun is to consider all of your options. It’s easy to take for granted what is right outside your door when you have lived in the area for a while, but the Tennessee Valley has some real gems that are perfect for family adventures. Here are some ideas to get your list going:

  • If you want an easy drive, check out the Mayfield Dairy or Sweetwater Valley Farm.

  • If your family enjoys the outdoors, your choices are endless. The Tennessee Valley has some of the most beautiful recreation areas around. You could spend the summer exploring parks in the region and probably would not be able to see them all. From Bald River Falls, Cloudland Canyon and Big South Fork to Fall Creek Falls, Chester Frost Park, Lula Lake Land Trust, Chickamauga Battlefield, Pigeon Mountain and the Smokies, whether you love the challenge of a rigorous hike or an easy walk, primitive camping or glamping, or just want to learn about the history of the area, there is something for every skill level and taste.

  • Replace technology with bike rides, swimming, volleyball in the sand, nature walks, beautiful sunsets that are hard to see from inside your house and the opportunity to make new friends. Even if you can’t do this overnight, consider going for the day.

  • Try to visit some of the local attractions that often get overlooked because they are right under your nose. Consider riding the carousel or playing in the fountain at Coolidge Park. Got to the zoo, attend a Lookouts game or play at the Warner Park Splash Park (Families are $5 on Mondays after 5 p.m.). Attend Nightfall or picnic at Movies in the Park at Coolidge Park in July.

  • Gather with friends. Have you ever talked about getting together with someone but didn’t set a date? The next thing you know, the summer is over and nothing ever happened. Make a plan!

  • Read the same book as a family. Let your children choose a book for the whole family to read and talk about it over a family meal.

  • Make a summer scrapbook. Each family member can be responsible for scrapbooking one of your summer events. Or, everyone can do their own thing for all of the summer’s activities.

Don’t be afraid to jump off the merry-go-round of life in order to provide restoration for your family. Spend time this summer with the people who mean the most to you, because life is short. Instead of wishing you had, you’ll be glad to say you did.

Think back to summers when you were a kid. You might recall getting up, doing a few chores and then heading outside to play, only taking a break for lunch. Your mom or dad’s call for dinner was probably met with complaints about coming inside.

In an informal survey of adults about their childhood summer memories, people recalled catching fireflies, climbing trees, fishing and playing outside with friends. They also mentioned riding bikes, running through the sprinkler and lots of other activities. As they thought about their response, they usually smiled and laughed as the memories replayed in their mind.

Most would agree that times have dramatically changed, but not necessarily for the better.

Instead of spending time playing outside, various studies indicate many children will get up and head straight to some type of screen. In fact, 8- to 10-year-olds spend on average between five and seven hours playing games, watching movies or television. For teens, this number increases. This is a stark contrast to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children 10 and older spend no more than two hours a day watching a screen.

Too much screen time can increase a child’s risk of having trouble sleeping at night, experiencing attention issues and developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that children eat more unhealthy food while watching screens, which can lead to weight gain.

While many parents grow weary of this battle, it is definitely one worth fighting.

When children move away from screens and interact with others, it helps them develop communication skills. They also learn how to get along with others and problem-solve when there is disagreement over a kickball game score. Play helps build a child’s imagination and enhances their ability to entertain themselves.

So, here’s a challenge: Unplug from the screens and encourage your kids to spend their time in other ways.

Initially, you will undoubtedly get the usual push-back, but stand your ground. Know that you are setting the stage for your children to create some great memories. If they say they are bored, offer them some ways to work around the house. They’ll probably find something to do in order to avoid chores – and it teaches your child to entertain themselves.

The American Academy of Pediatrics actually says that doing nothing at all is better than staring at a screen. For example, car rides without DVDs allow a child to look at their surroundings and let their imagination run wild.

While unplugging might not be the most convenient thing to do, see it as intentional preparation for launching your child. Moving away from screens gives them the chance to learn necessary skills to help them navigate through life. Who’s up for the challenge?

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV!