December 28, 2011

There are MANY travel tips out there. But I couldn’t go through this holiday season without blogging some simple, tried-and-true, common sense reminders for us all.

For those who might not know, I am the mother of three, stepmother of two, and grandmother of eight. My husband and I LOVE to travel; and we have covered many miles over the years, both with and without our children. Many of the same rules apply.

  1. First of all, check and recheck your travel plans. We find that reviewing ALL our plans a couple of days before the trip is a good idea—no matter how many times we have gone over them. For instance, we confirm with family what time we are arriving and where everyone is staying. We look at all the airline and show tickets to ensure that we are booked for the correct dates and times. It might seem redundant, but we inevitably find a detail we overlooked.
  2. Educate your family on your destination. A children’s book about the city or country that you’re visiting covers the highlights. Even your pre-teen or teenager might take the time to leaf through a colorful book with great photographs. The more your children know before you go, the more meaningful the trip will be for them.
  3. Hunger causes smiles to fade, so bring snacks no matter the age of your children and make sure the snacks are easily accessible. If you are flying, check the TSA or airline website to find out what can and cannot be taken on your flight.
  4. Also remember that your very young child’s ears are probably going to hurt when you fly. If possible, feed her during take-off or landing. Sippy cups work well to help older children swallow.
  5. The element of surprise can bring hours of peace and quiet. Secretly pack movies, books, puzzles, games, or perhaps download something on your computer/iPad for your child to watch. A variety of new activities will keep him engaged and thus lower your stress.
  6. Pack smart! Pack what you cannot find at your destination and leave behind the unnecessary things. For example, if you are taking a cruise with small children, be sure to pack their medications. It’s tough to find children’s liquid medications on a cruise ship. However, their medications are probably not a good use of your space if you are going to Grandma’s. Adjust your packing to your destination.

No matter where you are going and how much you plan, you will encounter the unexpected. Just remember that your family will be at this point in life only once and that you will never have this opportunity again. You will be glad that you invested your time and energy into making memories. Make every moment count.

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.


Choose to LIVE in the Present

December 21, 2011

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”  ~ Leo Buscaglia

We ALL deal with the stresses of life. But we can choose to live in the present, discover the joy that each day holds, and leave the sorrows of tomorrow where they belong—in tomorrow.

Children of all ages can sense when the adults in their lives are worried and stressed. If they are too young to comprehend the source of the stress or the adults simply choose not to share the reason, children will fill in the blanks with their own ideas. As we know, fear of the unknown is the worst fear.

Two adults might have an argument at the end of a long day over a silly issue, but both know that eventually the dispute will be settled. Adults can keep the disagreement in perspective. Children sense only that the adults are angry, frustrated, or hurt. They don’t have the knowledge to understand that these brief emotions will pass and that the stability of the home isn’t threatened.

Stress is real. Life happens and presents us with real challenges. Here are some practical tips that might help you deal with stress and protect your child from filling in the blanks with his own ideas.

1.     Take a personal inventory to ensure that you are handling your own stress in a healthy manner. You cannot care for anyone else if you are not healthy. We are all familiar with this airline policy: If there is an emergency when you are traveling with a small child, first put on your own oxygen mask and then assist your child with his mask. You cannot help him if you are unconscious.

2.     Avoid stressful conversations in front of children. If it cannot be avoided, find an activity to distract them, such as playing outdoors. Sensory experiences also work great. Safety comes first, of course, but washing a baby doll or play dishes in a small tub with a little water is both soothing and fun.

3.     If your child overhears an argument or sees that you are upset, be honest with her—but keep it age appropriate. Your three-year-old doesn’t need to hear that you are worried about an abstract concept. She CAN understand that someone didn’t play fair, and it made you feel sad. She will want to hug and kiss you because that’s how you make her feel better. Share enough, but not too much, information. A child’s shoulders are not meant to carry adult problems. Visually, think of it this way. You would not dress your child for school in your clothes. If you tell her all of your problems, you are emotionally asking her to wear YOUR emotional clothing. She is NOT equipped. It is our job to protect our children so that they can grow and become healthy adults.

4.     Have house rules for the entire family and model them. If you don’t allow siblings to call each other names, be sure that you and the other adults in your home do not engage in name-calling either. A young child can spot a phony quicker than anyone.

5.     If you are going through a stressful time, work diligently to communicate with your child, no matter the age. If you have an infant, spend extra time just holding your baby and concentrate on being totally present with her. If you have a toddler, make a promise to put aside every worry and get lost in playing with him for a certain amount of time each day. Play dress-up and pretend games with your preschool child. She will really open up with you when she is engaged in role play. Take time to really LISTEN to your child. It will ease your stress and allow you to truly see how she is doing during this time.

Choose joy, choose peace … and choose to be totally present with your loved ones. You will not regret the investment.

Written by: Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

LOVE: The Greatest Gift

December 7, 2011

I am with my parents this week. My sister and I have left behind work, our own families, and all of our other responsibilities to spend the week walking through a few days of uncertainties with our dad. Tomorrow is the big heart test. We wouldn’t have it any other way than for us to be here to support mom and help them both make good, informed decisions.

As I have listened to my mom and dad lovingly care for each other, I was reminded that great parenting begins with two great people simply loving each other and treating those in their home with love and respect. Their last child left their home almost 25 years ago, and they have been doing this for 56 years. I’ve been around for the majority of those years, and I marvel at their relationship…but that was simply the beginning of a home built on love and respect.

I have pondered the question, “How does one couple raise a family of children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren who ALL seem to adore and respect them?” What can young parents do from the beginning that will instill a love for home and family into their children?

My trips home are usually filled with great noise—the beautiful noise of a family. It is rare for my sister and me to be alone with our parents without that noise. In the quietness, I see the same love, respect, and honor practiced in their everyday lives that they show on the big stage of life when everyone is watching. I am confident that great parenting is about love, respect, kindness, and a devotion to family when no one is around BUT family.

Remember that loving your baby, taking the time to listen to an enthusiastic child tell another silly joke, showing a small act of kindness to your spouse when you would rather not put forth the effort, or putting down the phone and refusing to answer a text or read another Facebook status until family needs are met requires a deliberate commitment. It doesn’t happen by accident.

One day you and your parents will reach the golden years of life. My wish for each one of you is that you will be surrounded by children who love you the way I, my sister, and my brother (who lives locally and enjoys them every day) love and adore our parents. You see, they were not and are not perfect nor did they read and understand all the latest parenting tips. They simply love. They love unconditionally. Common sense parenting is not always common. Trust your instincts. Your children will certainly benefit and the rewards will be amazing. Whoever said, “Love conquers all,” was certainly on the right path.

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.