Staying Connected to Your Child as He Goes to School

September 26, 2012

Sometimes our children teach us profound things, and sometimes they delight us. Ella, my three-year old granddaughter who is having her first experience in school, delighted me while giving me a great topic for my blog this week.

Our family works very hard to have Sunday lunch together—it is simply our tradition. This past Sunday, I asked Ella to tell me about her favorite part of preschool.  She proudly exclaimed, “Snack!” I smiled at the skinny little girl and thought about how much she fascinates me. When her mom picked her up yesterday, she asked what she liked the most about her day. Ella said, “When we get our ‘wunch’ boxes out.”

If we want to find out about our child’s day at school, we obviously need to be purposeful. Here are some simple tips about HOW to stay connected with your child once he starts to school:

1.     Many schools routinely send home notes, so be sure to empty his backpack every day. Do this with him as it might spark a conversation about his day.

2.     Check the school’s website routinely. Make sure that you know if there is a calendar or pages dedicated to your child’s specific age group.

3.     Ask your child’s teacher if s/he has email or another way to communicate electronically.

4.     Almost all schools have a newsletter. If your child does not bring one home, ask the office.

5.     Sometimes there is a contact parent for each room, and this parent will know a lot about what is going on. You can get in touch with that parent rather than the teacher.

6.     Volunteer at the school when you can. No amount of time volunteering is too little, and it will help you and your child feel more connected. If you cannot find the time to volunteer, go inside the building and look at what is posted about upcoming events and general news on the bulletin boards.

7.     Send a disposable camera to school and ask the teacher to take snapshots of your child. Keep in mind that typically only young children appreciate you doing this.

8.     The telephone still works great, so set up a phone conference with your child’s teacher. Sometimes just hearing about your child directly from the teacher is exactly what you need to feel connected.

9.     Create a game that you and your child play consistently where you share the highs and lows of your day with each other. As an example, you could call the game “Peaks and Pits” or anything that makes it fun and unique to your family. If you do this routinely, your child may share more and more with you … but it only works well if everyone participates, including the adults.

Staying connected requires purposeful action, but it can be done if parents make it is a priority. The payoff is well worth the effort!

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

Joy Lives in the Present Moment

September 19, 2012

My daughter shared the above quote with me the other day, and I cannot get away from it. So many people are searching for joy, and I wonder how many of us have it at our fingertips yet fail to grasp it because we simply do not live in the present. What are you missing in your world that could bring you tremendous joy if you stopped, put worry aside, and lived in the present moment with your family?

I strongly encourage you to resist the temptation to wish that your child would move on to the next level of development. Be present in this moment and center your thoughts on this fact: Your child will be at this stage only once in his life. As he grows, you will look back and realize how magical each phase of his development was and how much joy you felt and/or missed as he passed through it.

Yes … there are trials, struggles, and frustrations with every step of parenting. Exhaustion sets in as you run to keep up with a toddler, money is tight and you get tired of cooking for your ever-hungry teenager, and you are never as sleepy as you are when you are up with an infant … OR a teenager!  But each stage is over so quickly, and every missed opportunity becomes a regret that you wish you could correct. The weariness seems to be in the distance past when the house is quiet, and you would give anything to prepare a meal for your son and all of his friends.

As a mom and grandmother, I must say that my children and grandchildren have taught me more real-life lessons than my formal education and work experiences combined. I have learned that life goes by way too fast and that all of the stages are filled with SO MUCH joy if you live in the moment. Living in the moment must be purposeful. It means that you let go of fear, anxiety, and worry for a time and DECIDE that the person you are with is more important than anything else that might be on your mind. Although this single-minded focus might seem difficult, it gets easier with practice.

This week, center your thoughts on the joy that lives in the present moment. Decide that you will tune out everything except that sweet face looking at you with hope. Both you and your child will experience joy when you get lost in playing, talking, and exploring together. We KNOW that children crave connection with their parents and will thrive once they feel safe, loved, and cherished. What do you need to do to totally give yourself to this relationship?

Just remember, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” Your children deserve parents who purposely choose the joy of the present moment.

 

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


Growing Successful Children

September 12, 2012

When we think of our children growing into happy and thriving adults, we immediately think of all the positive, uplifting, and fun experiences that we have provided or will provide that pave the way for their success. We rarely think about the role that failure plays. Just like adults, children learn more from their failures than they do from their successes. The hard part for us who care about children is to sit back and allow them to work through adversity. We have a natural inclination to move in and “make it all better.”

I watched a powerful interview with basketball great Dwyane Wade regarding his book released this past week entitled, Father First. He had very little of what we believe children need to become successful, yet he is as successful in life as he is in basketball. Many have asked how.

Of course, none of us have a silver bullet or the magic answer; but Paul Tough, a writer for Time magazine, has written a book that you might find interesting entitled, How Children Succeed. I was reading one of his online articles and felt that what he wrote was worth sharing:

Experiencing failure and adversity, researchers have found, is a critical part of building character. Recent research by a team of psychologists led by Mark Seery of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, found that adults who had experienced little or no adversity growing up were actually less happy and confident than those who had experienced a few significant setbacks in childhood. Overcoming those obstacles, the researchers hypothesized, “could teach effective coping skills, help engage social support networks, create a sense of mastery over past adversity, [and] foster beliefs in the ability to cope successfully in the future.”

By contrast, when we protect our children from every possible adversity — when we call their teachers to get an extension on a paper; when we intervene in the sandbox to make sure everyone is sharing their toys; when we urge them to choose only those subjects they’re good at — we are denying them those same character-building experiences. As the psychologists Madeline Levine and Dan Kindlon have written, that can lead to difficulties in adolescence and young adulthood, when overprotected young people finally confront real problems on their own and don’t know how to overcome them.

In the classroom and outside of it, American parents need to encourage children to take chances, to challenge themselves, to risk failure. Paradoxically enough, giving our kids room to fail may be one of the best ways we can help them succeed.

You can read the complete article at http://ideas.time.com/2012/09/05/why-grit-is-more-important-than-grades

So love your children, protect them from bad things, and nurture them … but don’t expect perfection. Give them a chance to fail, to work through the process of failure, and to understand what went wrong so that they are equipped to handle the issue next time.

Forgive yourself for honest mistakes. If you make a mistake with your child, own it. Talk to her about it at her age level.  It is okay for her to see that you are human. In an age-appropriate way, share what you learned and how your failure taught you a valuable lesson. Next time she fails or has a fear of failing, she might turn to you for help if you have been transparent with her. It is the relationship that matters. Sometimes failure can build a strong bond that success could never build.

Remember that this journey of parenting is about being real, honest, and equipping your child with the skills that he will need in life. It isn’t about allowing him to live in a fairy-tale world where one day the fairy tale ends and life begins. You must equip him one skill at a time—each skill builds on the next. Be real and accept success and failure. Learn from both, but most of all show unconditional love through both.

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


Teaching Social Skills

September 5, 2012

I was watching the news last night, and once again the coverage was dominated by political topics dealing with any aspect you can imagine. One of the networks has worked hard to cover the very wealthy who are partying and celebrating at these conventions as a reward for supporting their candidates.

Cameras in hand, the news crews get behind-the-scenes footage of what the wealthy do at these conventions. As I watched, I smiled and felt pretty important. You see … No matter how rich or beautiful you are, you will use the social skills acquired in your preschool years for the rest of your life. Repeatedly I saw rich, beautiful, and important people lined up like preschool children waiting to go outside.

I thought about how essential the social skills and universally acceptable character traits that we focus on each day in our centers are to children and eventually to adults and thus to our society. Standing in a line to wait your turn doesn’t go away just because you are wealthy. Granted, it will get you around lines or to the front of many lines much quicker, but there are some things in life that will always require you to draw on the basic social skills that you learned very early in life.

Here are some simple tips for teaching social skills to young children:

1.  Seek knowledge. Know what your child can understand and practice. It is inappropriate to ask a toddler to wait for anything so find ways to distract her if she is going to wait. A preschool child can wait but should be engaged in abstract activities—playing games with his eyes like I Spy, challenging his mind by saying, “I’m thinking of an animal with a long tail,” and so on. Have realistic expectations and know what your child is capable of doing.

2.  Celebrate your child’s successes and reward what you want to see repeated. When he acts responsibly or plays fair, express your approval in simple age-appropriate words or actions. A long talk with a toddler about how proud you are that he was nice to his friend will be lost on him. Instead, clap loudly and smile when he gives a friend a hug. Praise him in simple words such as, “You gave your friend a hug. That made her happy and that makes mommy happy.”

3.  Model the desired behavior. Your children will catch your values and will imitate what they see in you. Also, use words to describe what you are doing and always keep in mind the age of your child.

4.  Encourage your child to talk about his feelings. He must be able to recognize and describe his own feelings if he is to become empathetic with others.

5.  Be purposeful. If you notice that your child is very rude, seize the teachable moments to help her understand the power of her words. If you notice that she is struggling with waiting, make sure she is not in a situation where she becomes too frustrated. Sometimes we teach our children by controlling their environment.

Teaching social skills is an around-the-clock investment. Keep in mind that our children will use the social skills they acquire during their early years for the rest of their lives. What we teach them the first five years really matters.

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