Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: quality time

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    Why Reading to Your Child Matters

    While you might be reading bedtime stories to help your child settle down before lights out, you may be doing much more than just a nightly ritual.

    An Ohio State University study shows that young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids whose parents did not read to them.

    Jessica Logan and her team launched into this research after findings from an earlier study indicated that one-fourth of children are never read to, and another quarter were only read to once or twice a week.

    In collaboration with the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Logan and her colleagues determined the average number of words in board books and picture books, and then calculated how many words a child would hear from birth through his or her 5th birthday at different levels of reading. They found that:

    • By the time a child is 5 years old, if they have never been read to, they know 4,662 words. 
    • If they’ve been read to 1-2 times per week, their word count increases to 63,570. 
    • Reading to a child 3-5 times per week increases their vocabulary to 169,520 words, and daily reading expands their vocabulary to 296,660 words. 
    • If a child is read five books a day, they know upwards of 1,483,300 words.
    • Children who hear more vocabulary words are better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school. They are also more likely to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily. 

    “This million word gap could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development,” says Logan. 

    Logan contends that being read to is different from everyday communication. Why? It's because books expose children to words that are much more complex and difficult than what they hear by just talking to their parents and others at home. 

    For example, reading a book about animals, where they live and their natural habitat, will introduce words and concepts that are not likely to come up in everyday conversations.

    “The words kids hear from books may have special importance in learning to read,”  Logan says. “Exposure to vocabulary is good for all kids.”

    If reading hasn’t been a priority in your home, it's easy to start. Here's how. 

    • Visit the library with your little ones for story hour. Get a library card if you don’t already have one so you can take some books home with you. 
    • Look for gently-used books at garage sales or used bookstores. You might even have some friends who have been holding onto books that could use a new home or who would be willing to trade books back and forth. 
    • Check out Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a book-gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school (age 5), regardless of family income. Register your child to receive a new book each month. (Yes, please!)
    • Make reading an exciting time to connect with your child. Change your voice for the different characters or animals, let your child turn the pages, point to different things on the page as you read about them or ask them to find the thing you are reading about on the page.
    • Place your finger under the words as you read them. This helps your child learn that we read from left to right and will help them visually see the word you are saying.

    Don’t have lots of books to choose from? No worries. Almost any parent with grown children can probably still recite to you word for word certain books that their child asked them to read again, and again, and… again. Happy reading!

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on April 28, 2019.

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    5 Ways to Tell If You're a Technology-Distracted Parent

    The little girl was playing in the playground area of a fast food restaurant, yelling at her mom, “Watch me, Mama! Watch me!” Consumed by her cell phone, her mom did not hear her daughter calling to her. The child came down the slide, went over to her mom and started tugging on her arm, saying, “Mommy, Mommy, watch me.” At this point the mother looked at her daughter, seemingly irritated at the interruption, and said, “What?”

    Perhaps you’ve been that mom at one point or another, and chances are good you’ve witnessed that mom. For some, that moment when a child is occupied on the safe playground is the opportunity to take a little break. For others, constant distractions keep parents from engaging with their kids.

    Dr. Jenny Radesky is a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. She and a team of researchers observed 55 caregivers, usually a parent, eating and interacting with one or more children, from infants to 10-year-olds, in fast-food restaurants. 

    Out of 55 caregivers, 40 were involved with their phones during the meal. Sixteen of these adults used the mobile device throughout the meal. The researchers referred to this as “absorption with the mobile device.”

    Three adults gave a device to a child to keep them occupied. One adult with a little girl picked up her phone as soon as she sat down, and she used it throughout the entire meal.

    “The girl keeps eating, then gets up to cross the room to get more ketchup. Caregiver is not watching her do this; she is looking down at the phone…,” the notes showed. “Still no conversation… Now girl’s head appears to be looking right at caregiver, and caregiver looks up but not at girl…”

    How much screen time is too much screen time when it comes to being an engaged parent? Perhaps the better question is, are you frequently distracted by your phone or some other device when your child is trying to get your attention? If you aren’t sure, The Gottman Institute encourages you to consider these questions:

    • When was the last time you played with your child or teenager?
    • What was the last conversation you shared as a family?
    • Ask your kids if they feel you are distracted. Honesty can go a long way in opening up communication. Just avoid responding defensively and ask more about what they need from you.
    • Think about the last conversation you had with an adult. Were they on their phone? Did you make eye contact? Did you feel heard?
    • What makes you feel heard? The same things that make you feel heard probably apply to the children and teens in your life. Have an open conversation about what listening looks like in different settings.

    Many young people complain that their parents nag at them for always being on their phone, yet they believe their parents are as consumed by technology as they are. Perhaps one of the most important things for parents to remember is that children are very good at copying the behavior that parents model for them. 

    Technology isn’t going away. When parents decide to put down the cell phone, turn off the game, and walk away from the emails on the computer to focus on their children, it sends a significant message: You matter. You are more important than the screen. I value you. 

    Face-to-face relationships beat technology any day of the week.

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    The Key to Your Child's Heart

    Most parents believe they're pretty good at communicating love toward their children. But did you know that saying “I love you” only begins the process of communicating your love for your child?

    There are some important communication practices to consider. For example, has your child ever said they were hungry and you told them they weren't because they just ate? When kids say things like this and parents discount or correct the feeling, children think they can’t trust their own feelings and judgment. They also believe they need to rely on someone else to tell them what they think and feel. This can be very dangerous.

    Validating a child’s feelings helps them feel important and loved.

    When parents want to raise capable children who think, solve problems and care for others, it's important for them to trust their feelings. Instead of discounting a child’s expression of anger or feeling tired, ask questions that will lead them to talk about their feelings, such as, “Tell me what you are angry about.” Or, “You just woke up from your nap, do you think you need to sleep a little longer or do you think you just aren’t quite awake yet?”

    In an effort to show love, parents often give their child what fills their own emotional fuel tank. For instance, if a parent loves receiving gifts and that really replenishes their tank, they may show love to their child by giving them gifts. But, gifts may not mean as much to that child as a big bear hug, which is the language of physical touch. In turn, the parent may become frustrated because the child does not respond to the gifts like the parent expected.

    Several books have been written about the languages of love. Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages of Children, lists the love languages as:

    • Acts of service,

    • Quality time,

    • Words of affirmation,

    • Gifts, and

    • Physical touch.

    Chapman asserts that speaking a child’s primary love language can fill the child’s emotional fuel tank much more effectively.

    Although parents need to speak all five love languages to their child, one language usually speaks louder than any other. Once a parent knows the child’s primary love language, this language can more effectively motivate, discipline and teach their child.

    In a world where many children seem confused and are looking for love in all the wrong places, parents have the opportunity to give a wonderful gift. Learning their child’s love language and speaking it often will truly say, “I love you.”