Ten Tips to Successful Transitions

April 24, 2013

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

You may have heard this quote: “The world hates change, but it is the only thing that has brought progress.” Why do we resist what we know is good for us and our children? Well, I don’t have a simple answer, but I do have some reassuring thoughts for parents regarding transitioning your child from one classroom, school, or comfortable situation into a new season.

It is our job, our honor, and our privilege to be an advocate for our child. What does this mean? Does this mean that we should ensure that our child has no discomfort or that we go before him and remove all encounters that will bring challenge? I think not. It is our job to know the people in his world and to make sure we have vetted the environment so that he is safe.  Then we must equip him with the skills that he needs to navigate through new experiences as he leaves the comfort of a loving caregiver and learns to build a trusting relationship with his next caregiver. Change brings progress, and he must learn that he can cope with change.

Here are ten tips for parents:

1.     1.  The first three years of life should have the least amount of change. Continuity of care is critical. Certainly in the first year of life, avoid all change, if possible, and do not transition your child to a different classroom. Her bond with her caregiver is one way that she learns to trust.

2.     2.  Research validates that remaining with the same peer group is also crucial to forming strong, long-term relationships. It is important for both his primary caregiver and peer group to remain consistent, if possible.

3.     3.  When it is time to transition to another caregiver, the plan should be collaborative. Some children take longer to acclimate to change; and the current caregiver, the new caregiver, and the parents need to work on the child’s individual transition plan together. As a parent, you should be fully informed and feel a part of the plan. Speak up if you feel uninvolved.

4.     4.  Monitor your child’s behavior during the transition time. A child often shows signs of distress that may seem unrelated to the change. For example, she may regress to bed-wetting or baby talk or she may exhibit fears that have not existed in the past. These behaviors do not necessarily mean that the transition isn’t the right transition. They may indicate that your child doesn’t know how to express her anxiety. One way to help you understand the issues is to spend some time at the center observing her.

5.     5.  If your child is in preschool, encourage role playing. Often children will disclose their anxieties or the real issues when role playing. Otherwise, just work hard to keep your child communicating with you in any way that opens him up to you.

6.     6.  Do everything you can to keep the lines of communication open between the previous caregiver and the new caregiver. Often the caregivers can talk and figure out the origins of your child’s anxiety.

7.     7.  Teaching your child to cope with change is a skill that is critical in life, but every day she is upset is one day too many. If she has not adjusted to the transition after two weeks and you have observed in the classroom, worked with all caregivers involved, and cannot find a cause, you might want to try a different classroom or caregiver. There are occasions when personalities just do not connect.

8.     8.  Never second guess your gut instinct. If your child is unhappy and you do not feel at peace, make a change.

9.     9.  Your child is too important to let things slide so talk, talk, talk! So often, what is left unsaid can remedy a problem. Keep talking about what you feel would work. If you like 90% of what goes on, keep talking to your child’s caregiver. Most early childhood educators want to do a great job and are in this field because they have amazing hearts. They might be doing something that isn’t working simply because they do not know that something else might work better.

10.  10.  Show a positive attitude to your child and don’t let your own fear of change affect her. Comfort is tough to give up; but if you truly want her to excel, she must move on to bigger and better things. Let her excel, let her GROW!


Children and Tragedy

April 17, 2013

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

I’ve listened intently to the horrible news and watched in sorrow as the footage of what happened at the finish line of the Boston Marathon continues to play. Many of us thought of and reached out to people we care about who could have been caught in harm’s way. Our hearts are with those who are personally dealing with this tragedy. In these times of grief as a nation, our anger and sense of powerlessness to control the situation sometimes causes us to watch extended coverage of the details surrounding the event. Perhaps this is in an effort to find some sense of understanding the chaos.

As an advocate for young children, I ask that you keep in mind that young children deserve a childhood free of anger, hate, and fear. Exposing them to the heinous acts of adults in their world robs them of a feeling of security and could cause them to have frightening dreams or worries that they cannot control. If children are allowed to watch something replayed on television, they might assume that the event is happening over and over again. This could cause their anxiety to build even more.

Let me offer some tips to help you deal with this tragedy with your children:

  1. Listen to your child first. Find out what he knows before you launch into an explanation. A critical skill of being an effective parent is listening.
  2. Never lie to your children. If your children are old enough to have heard what happened or if they have been personally touched by this tragedy, always tell them the truth on their level. It is important you begin early establishing their trust in you. You can say, “Yes, there was a big blast and people were killed and hurt, but that is over.” Bad things happen in our world, and you cannot make everything seem okay. However, do not give your children details that they cannot process. Remember that what children are really asking is how the news affects them.
  3. Let your child voice his concerns. Don’t dismiss them. No matter how disconnected his fear may seem from the actual event, allow him to express it. Don’t ever tell him that he is wrong for feeling a certain fear. Just listen, let him know that you heard him, and then offer reassurance.
  4. Guard the input — this means television, radio, newspapers, the internet, and other adults. Do not allow children to be exposed to the details of a tragedy. It is our job to deal with the adult problems in this world and allow our children to enjoy their childhood.
  5. Use these times to teach your child about caring for others, serving others, and empathy. Perhaps there are ways to reach out and show appreciation to your local firefighters and police officers, use art skills to make cards, plant flowers that honor the victims, and/or make donations to agencies that help others. There are so many ways to turn times of trouble into teachable moments. Teach your child early that pain can be turned into triumph.

While we are all heartsick at what has happened, we must keep our focus on what is right in our world and continue to keep our eyes on the positive so that our children feel safe. Stand guard over every child in your world. As adults, let’s turn our pain into triumph by uniting our efforts to make our world a better, safer, and more loving place for all of us.


Humor

April 10, 2013

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

I’ve often seen single people interviewed about the most important traits that they are looking for when searching for a life partner. More often than not, they list a good sense of humor as one of their requirements. However, when I listen to the character traits that parents want to instill in their children, they rarely mention a good sense of humor.

Did you know that learning to look on the funny side of life is a skill and that it can be taught? Now, if you have raised more than one child or grandchild or even loved more than one child, you know that there are just some children who naturally make you laugh. They seem to arrive with a nature bent toward a sense of humor. We get that. However, a well-developed sense of humor is a tool that serves both children and adults well throughout life. Research has proven that children with a great sense of humor have higher self-esteem, are happier, seem to navigate through the challenges of life with greater ease, and have greater peer approval than those who have not developed in this area.

It’s not just about the children. We know that people who laugh more are healthier. Laugher is good for the soul and the body. Become more spontaneous with your child and teach her to find the humorous side of life and to look at things in an unconventional way.

It is important to understand a child’s level of development to recognize what is and what isn’t funny to him. Guard against crossing the line between affectionate humor and the teasing that he deems unpleasant. However, remember that developing a sense of humor is like any other skill — it can be taught. It might not come as easily to some children as it does to others, but it is our job as advocates for our children to equip them with the tools to be successful in life. A great sense of humor is a skill that each child must have to navigate this great big world. Nothing soothes the soul like laughter with friends and family. Teach your child how to laugh out loud and enjoy the journey with those he loves and those who love him.


Lean In … Lean Out … Hold On … Let Go: Successful Parenting in a World of Mixed Messages

April 3, 2013

happy family using tablet pc

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

I am an advocate for children and families – it has been my life’s work. I have seen up close and personal the real conflict that families face as they deal with the reality of balancing life. Successful parenting in this world of mass media and mixed messages is more challenging than ever before. I have personally experienced this conflict as an executive, wife, mom, and grandmother. Here are a few things I’ve learned that others may not tell you:

  1. One cannot have it all at all times. There are times when my career flourishes, but it comes at a cost to my family. My children or grandchildren may want me to be with them, but I have to be at a very important meeting. Other times, I invest in my family and feel torn about my career. There is no way around these facts. This is just life … period. No one balances it all perfectly at all times. Guilt must be managed. It will not just go away, and it often prompts us to focus on one area that needs us the most. Learn to manage your guilt and listen to your heart.
  2. There are times when I choose to put family first because I know that I have taken care of my career. My family and I deserve this time together, and I don’t apologize or feel guilty if work takes a backseat for a while. I have come to accept that my family and I deserve this. There are other times that work takes me away from very important family events, and I have to choose to manage my guilt. It takes continued focus and hard work to manage guilt and not allow it to manage you.
  3. I am of no value to either work or family if I am not physically and mentally fit. I have not mastered this, but I continue to work on it. Pushing myself beyond my limits causes me to perform below my optimum level in both my personal and my professional lives.
  4. I have learned to follow my gut instinct. Every time I have ignored it, I have regretted it. We usually know exactly what to do if we just learn to listen to our instincts. This might mean delegating the responsibility of an important meeting and getting on a plane to be with a child or spouse who needs you. Or it might mean leaving a family function and going back to the office to handle a task that you need to finish.
  5. Set traditions with your family that they can count on and start early with routines that are predictable and fun. Our family has lunch together almost every Sunday. This keeps me going and gives my grandchildren a connection to me that they can predict.
  6. Use technology to stay connected if you are unable to do it physically. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad that you are tucking in your child via FaceTime or Skype™. A virtual connection is better than no connection at all.
  7. Post calendars of fun things that you have scheduled. Keep reminders up if you are planning a weekend getaway with your spouse, children, or grandchildren. The anticipation will remind them of your love.
  8. Find ways to encourage your children and other family members to open up to you. When time is limited, find games, exercises, activities, or routines that work to get your family to share their feelings with you. You want to know how everyone is doing. Find creative ways to share feelings.

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