Children and Storms

October 31, 2012

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

Our great nation is haunted by more than just little ghosts and goblins this Halloween because of Superstorm Sandy. While we can always look around and find others who are less fortunate, it does not negate the fact that the storm may add extra stress to our lives. Families that have a plan will successfully weather the storm, return home after it, and live with the inconveniences it produced.

Here are some simple reminders to help children through violent storms and their aftermath:

  1. Have a plan. You will feel more confident and in control, and your child will feel your confidence.
  2. Review the plan with your child on her level, keeping it age-appropriate. Be aware of your child’s level of understanding based on her developmental stage and talk with her about the plan before there is an imminent threat. Role playing and explaining what to do in case of an emergency eases a child’s fears.
  3. Allow your child to help return to normal by giving her age-appropriate chores such as cleaning up.
  4. Stay in touch with the news but do not allow your child to see it all. Make sure that you do not have the TV or radio playing continually around him. Children do not need all the details, so find a way to stay informed without that news continually filling his environment.
  5. Children are comforted by routines, so make sure your plan keeps your family’s routines as consistent as possible. If your former routines won’t work, develop new ones for your children as quickly as possible.
  6. Books are great resources to explain storms to your children. Do not fear that knowledge will frighten them even more. More often than not, knowledge helps to ease their fears.
  7. If you must use a shelter, do not leave your children unattended at any time. Emergencies do not change the rules. A stranger is still a stranger, and you should not allow someone you do not know to care for your child unless it is a life/death situation. Keep your child with you at all times.
  8. Create a great memory for your child if you are home together during a storm. Do you remember times when you cuddled during a storm? Play games, sing songs, read books – anything that keeps you close to your child during this time of uncertainty will comfort him.

There is no perfect way to handle every child. Some seem to be unaffected by a storm while others fall apart at the mention of one. However, all children need to feel secure in the care of the adults they trust. Keep your children close, keep them safe, and make sure you have a plan that prepares everyone for whatever could happen.


Building Strong Relationships: How to Overcome Favoring One Child Over Another

October 24, 2012

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

I wrote last week about a Canadian father who recently blogged that he favors his older son over his younger son, Charlie. As I said, I don’t know any parent with more than one child who enjoys each one equally at all times; and I want to share a few tips to help build a strong relationship with your child at moments when it doesn’t come naturally:

1.     Look at life from your child’s point of view before you speak or act. How does your child see you, life, and the world? Your frustration, detachment, or anger will often subside when you look at the world though her eyes. Stop for just a moment, put yourself in her position, and ask, “How would it feel to be on the receiving end of what I am about to say, do, or not do?”

2.     Find your child’s talents, abilities, and strengths that are different from your own and value those traits because they are different. You and your child can learn from each other through your differences. If you are athletic and your child is artistic, let him know that he is much better artist than you are. This will help him feel that it is okay that he must try harder to throw the ball when the two of you are playing catch. Be mindful of appreciating his natural abilities. Respecting his strengths fosters his self-esteem and teaches him to value the talents of others.

3.     Show affection. Sometimes we just have to stop and give a hug, say the words, or look into our child’s eyes to foster the relationship. We are the adults. Don’t wait for your feelings to lead you – tell her that you love her and that you will always be there for her. The pleasure you see in her eyes just might strike something in your heart that builds feelings. Every relationship needs a hero, and the parents must ALWAYS play that role … always. Even though our children often take on that role, it is NOT their responsibility to do so.

4.     Spend time with each child regardless of how you feel. Your child will be happy and relaxed if you let him choose the activities he likes often. If you always insist on doing things that you enjoy, neither of you will have a great time. It is certainly okay to expose him to a variety of activities that are new to him, but balance new experiences with those that are truly his passion. Choose to live in the moment with him, and you will both experience real joy.

5.     If your child is verbal, talk with her about your relationship. Talking with children can be very revealing because they are so sincere and honest. Your child needs to know that she is important to you—that you are going to be there for her, that you accept her, and that you are not disappointed in her. Your approval about who she is and what she does means the world to her so be specific when you praise her.

6.     Keep trying! Do not let guilt cause you to pull away. There are times when you do not like a child’s phase, you cannot stand his behavior, and he is simply not much fun to be around. Do not beat yourself up for feeling this way. Determine that you will work through it and get help, if needed, to teach your child acceptable behavior. Exercise the adult discipline that you expect him to exhibit and don’t hurl words at him that you really don’t mean when you are in an emotional rage. Do not tell your children that you prefer one child over the other. Just be honest with them and say that you do not like their behavior and that you are working through your own frustrations. Be very careful that you do not turn something they cannot control into their issue.

7.     Make sure that you are not transferring your own issues onto your children. Sometimes we reject our child because she reminds us of pain in our past. When we think about life from her viewpoint, we realize that she deserves love, support, and a healthy parent. Seek help if you need it in order to be a better parent.

8.     Get qualified, professional help early in your child’s life and all along the way. There is nothing wrong with seeking out play therapy if you hit a rough patch and feel you need to better understand how to relate to your child. If you start early in her life, getting help will not seem foreign to her when she comes upon an issue that she doesn’t know how to handle.

9.     Never underestimate the power of touch. Every child yearns for the touch of his parent. Play a game or sit him on your lap and read a good book together. Take his hand when you are walking. Kiss him good night every night. Touch heals … so even if your relationship is strained, continue to be the parent who reaches out whether your child responds to you in return or not.

10.  Say, “I love you.” Many parents think that their actions express their love so they don’t create a culture of saying it. Ask yourself each day if you have told your child that you love her. If she is older and it is awkward, start with a note, a text, or a voicemail. Do not let her wonder if you love her. Words are healing, and you will feel it the more that you say it.

Most importantly, remember that your words have a lasting effect on your child, and you can never take them back once they are out there … so choose them wisely.

Favoring One Child

October 17, 2012

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

Is It Wrong to Favor One Child Over Another?

I read where a Canadian father and blogger stated that he favors his older son over his younger son, Charlie. His children are five and two. He favors the one he can do more things with, and he is proud to announce this to world via his blog. Seriously? The two-year-old is his least favorite child because he is two? I shuttered when I read this … not because the dad felt that way but because he obviously doesn’t understand the power of his words OR the power of words written on the web that are forever memorialized for his sons to read many years from now.

Most dads are naturally going to enjoy a son who is out of diapers and old enough to share his love for adventure. I am not angry at the dad for the way he feels, and I also give him credit for attempting to be authentic by writing what he genuinely believes other parents feel but don’t say. But, in my opinion, stating on record that he has a favorite son is immature and insensitive and could have a lasting effect on Charlie. If this father is bold enough to say, “I have a favorite son, and I’m not afraid to admit it,” then rest assured that his actions were there long before his words came out. Children have a keen sense of knowing what we don’t say, and I cannot imagine growing up actually hearing those words.

I don’t know any parent with more than one child who enjoys each one equally at all times, and there are certain phases of a child’s development that one parent or the other may find more enjoyable. However, it is irresponsible for us to voice our feelings in a manner that might affect our child’s self-esteem. Honesty is a virtue, but it is not a license to hurt those who depend on us to guide them and to love them. A parent who expresses every feeling he has throughout parenthood without regard to the effect it might have on his child needs to dig deep and ask, “What good comes to my child if I express this thought or feeling?” Modeling the behavior we want our child to learn begins with our own self-discipline and making every decision on the side of the child.

One child might challenge us while another might come along and make us look like a parenting pro. If we live long enough, however, we realize that the challenging child actually taught us some valuable life lessons. Each child is unique, yet each child deserves to be treasured. Our feelings about our children as they grow and develop should be processed internally, and we must think before we speak.  As Dr. Phil says, “Don’t ever miss a good opportunity to shut up.” We should NEVER underestimate the power of our words, and we must use them wisely. Words have the power to encourage and inspire … but they also have the potential to destroy.

Charlie is two today, but he will one day read his father’s words and know that he was second best. If he does, I hope that he also reads that many of us wrote that he did not deserve what his father said. Charlie may not be like his brother, but I am confident that he is an amazing little guy who will teach his father many great things in life.

Center-based Childcare is Better Than Grandma

October 10, 2012

Sundays are just blissful for me, and I’ve often blogged about Sunday lunches with my grandbabies. Ava is in second grade, Ella is three and just started preschool for the first time, and we were blessed this past year with our first grandson, Holton. He delights us. I was with him this past Sunday and marveled at how much he has learned in his brief 11 months. He is SO smart! But of course he is—he attends a Children’s Choice and has amazing parents. As his grandmother, however, I deal with a certain amount of guilt because I would love to be there for him every moment even though I know that he attends a great center. I understand how parents and grandparents feel when they bring their children to us each day.

Well, imagine my mixed emotions when I ran across this research yesterday. According to Raquel Bernal of the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and Michael P. Keane of the University of New South Wales:

For every year that a young child spends being cared for by a grandmother or other relative while the mother works, his or her test scores at age 3 to 6 drop by 2.6%. Formal, center-based child care has no such adverse effect on cognitive achievement, according to the study of more than 1,000 U.S. single mothers and their children.

I am delighted to see validation for our Children’s Choice centers, and we know that what we do each day in our centers is great for children. We know that we study best practice; we hire the most compassionate, caring and loving educators; and we live out our Core Values. Having said that, I guess I was a little surprised to read that if I stayed home and kept my sweet baby Holton that I, his Dee Dee, would most likely lower his test scores. Oh well … looks like we will both remain at Children’s Choice since it is working so well for us. He loves it and so do I.

At the end of the day, parents and grandparents often feel guilty about things that are really good for their children. We worry and fret when often we are doing all the right things. Parenting and raising children is about following your gut, doing what you know is right, and then embracing the moment and finding joy right where you are and enjoying the journey.

I am going to enjoy my work, enjoy my weekends with my babies, and embrace the fact that school during the week and Dee Dee on the weekends is a great combination for my grandchildren. Too much spoiling would probably do more than lower their test scores!

Just remember, “If we spend our time with regrets over yesterday and worries about what might happen tomorrow, we have no today in which to live.” Live with your children in the present. They only have one childhood, so don’t miss it by worrying about something that is probably “going right”!

Five Things I Wish I Had Known When My Children Were Little

October 3, 2012

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

I share these things to encourage parents with young children to stop and take inventory:

1.     I wish that I had known how much the small things matter. It is amazing what my grown children remember – that look, that tone, the “no” that should have been a “yes” – but I was too proud to correct myself. I thought they wouldn’t remember, but they do. I could have admitted right then that I had made a mistake and asked them to forgive me, but I just let it go.

2.     I wish that I had lived more authentically with my children. I pretended to be stronger than I was, and I think they would have loved to have seen more of the real me rather than the “strong, always-in-control mom.”

3.     I wish I had relaxed and realized how quickly the time would pass. I was SO serious about parenting that I did not take the time to enjoy my children. I believe we all would have had more joy if I had taught them the beauty of living in the moment.

4.     I wish I had offered them a wider variety of opportunities to travel, explore, take lessons in areas no one else was exploring, and pushed them to take more risks. I was too protective and didn’t realize that holding them close was more about me and my needs. They often took their cues from me, and I wonder what I could have helped them achieve if I had focused more on pushing them out instead of holding them close.

5.     I wish I had listened more and talked less. My children are amazing adults. I think I could have been a much better parent if I had listened more to them as they developed. I listen today and marvel. If I had listened earlier, I think I could have learned more about life as I brought them up. I was a misguided young parent who thought I had to have the answers. We could have navigated through some things together, but I always carried the weight of figuring it out on my own instead. I was too afraid that I would fail them, so I kept a stiff upper lip and tried my best to have all the answers. I have learned that it is okay to not know every answer.

I have never met a parent with grown children who feels that they made perfect decisions. Yet I have met many parents who see that their grown children are close to perfect in spite of their mistakes. I am one of those parents. My children are fantastic human beings—they are amazing spouses, have become great parents, and are well rounded, successful adults. I couldn’t love them or enjoy them more, and no one could stand to be around me if I were any more proud of them. So in spite of ME, they turned out just fine. I hope you remember this on those days when you think you are getting it all wrong. Love your children, stay connected, be genuine, and keep trying. They will probably grow up and amaze you.