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The Parents Perspective ’ Category
Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Santa Claus brought presents for my daughters before they even became my daughters. He left stuffed animals nestled under the tree, a little something to make the long wait for adoption paperwork to wend its way through two countries’ bureaucracies more bearable.
And when, finally, our daughters came home, we welcomed Santa with open arms and a ticker-tape parade. We stood impatiently in lines to whisper our fondest wishes, and paid handsomely for a few quick-printed shots. We threw glitter and oats on the lawn for his reindeer, arranged platters of our favorite cookies with hand-drawn pictures and painstakingly misspelled notes. We listened for jingle bells and searched for footprints in the snow.
This was even better than being the recipient of Santa’s magic—being his accomplice, his partner in crime. Being the person who helped him give my two beautiful girls their hearts’ desires, who wrapped his presents in mysterious paper and ate his cookies every Christmas Eve.
But it didn’t take long before Santa lost his mojo. My ever-practical Katie did the math on Santa at six years old—and realized that there was no way in hell that he could visit so many houses in a single night. She kept working through her logic out loud, right in front of her baby sister. To help save Santa for Maggie, I had to cut my losses. And my heart just broke.
And now my baby Maggie is six, and she’s saying things that make my heart drop to my knees—like that she knows that the white-whiskered man she told that she wanted a “diary for all of her secrets” wasn’t the real Santa. And I realize that I’ll be incredibly lucky if Santa has one more year of magic left in him.
My girls are growing up, altogether too fast. They leave a long string of “lasts” in their wake, so many that most go uncelebrated or unnoticed. The last diaper, last sippy cup, the last time I carried my Katie up the stairs—all gone and done. The outlet covers have disappeared, and the baby gates are only used to keep the dog from snarfing snacks when we have company. We watch Doctor Who, not Doc McStuffins.
It’s better that so many of these lasts go unnoticed. Because the big losses—the first day of kindergarten, the last day of elementary school, the last Christmas with Santa—are hard enough. We’ll pull out all the stops this year, for Santa’s last hurrah. He’s going to be a little more generous, a tiny bit more mysterious. We have two Elves on the Shelf, not just one. Santa’s going to pen one really awesome note to two very special young ladies. And I’m going to treasure every second.
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Image: Santa hat by berna namoglu/Shutterstock.com
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Thursday, December 19th, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, I pulled my daughter and her cousins aside for a little talk: “Do you guys still want to wear matching PJs for Christmas Eve?” I asked, reassuring them that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they wanted to stop matching now because they were getting older (ages 8 to 11). I fully expected “Yeah, we’re too old for that” with an accompanying eye roll. Instead, they looked a little disappointed that I was even asking. They told me that they still liked to match. And decorate the gingerbread houses. And help me make their favorite Christmas Eve appetizers—mini “pizzas” on bruschetta bread with a little sauce and cheese cut out in the shape of tree or snowman. So it seems that tradition trumps tweendom.
I should have realized that by now. My daughter, 11, is well into the tween stage. There’s nothing predictable about her except maybe being unpredictable. One minute she’s watching the Hunger Games. The next, she’s glued to a Sophia the First special that features Ariel. For Christmas, she asked for Barbies and clothes from Hot Topic (Have you ever been in there? It’s the only store that’s actually made me grateful for Justice.)
Starting tomorrow, she’s going to be off from school for the next 12 days so I’m going to face her multiple personalities 24-7. I’ll surely be referring to this piece in the latest issue of Parents to help me deal. But I’m also going to be relishing my daughter and her cousins frosting their gingerbread houses and putting on a play in their new peppermint PJs because who knows if they’ll want to do it again next year.
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Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Resiliency. It’s learning from that mistake at school or dealing with rivalry between siblings. It’s seen when a child resolves a problem with a friend or when she copes with moving to a new town. Resiliency is your child’s ability to cope with and overcome challenges, whether it’s a day-to-day obstacle or a major transition. It’s the power within your little one to understand her feelings and solve her problems, no matter how big or small. And your child’s resiliency starts with you.
But resiliency is a tough concept for kids to grasp, which is why the Sesame Workshop launched its Little Children, Big Challenges initiative to teach skills and strategies to young children—and the adults who support them—it’s designed so they can persevere through any challenge. The Sesame Street Workshop has been committed to empowering parents and children for 40 years, and their latest installment provides the tools to build important resilience skills, enabling young children to grow and thrive.
Head over to SesameStreet.org/Challenges and you’ll get access to all the fun, engaging tools and activities for you and your child. And they’re all free.
Kids can sing along to the “Bye Bye For Now Song” or play the What We Are Music Maker! game to help your child think of words to describe herself. There are activities for everyday scenarios, like drawing pictures of your morning routine, and meaningful life events, like drawing leaves on Elmo’s “new things” tree. The Sesame Street DVD features a Muppet story and music videos of real children and families. And the Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame app helps children problem-solve anywhere from any tablet or smartphone device.
For parents and caregivers, the Family Guide provides tips and strategies that you can start using today to help build your child’s confidence. The resource specifically gives advice for teaching your tot persistence, patience, dealing with mean or aggressive behavior, as well as a variety of other circumstances.
Resilience is not only innate. Children can also learn problem-solving skills. Ultimately, one of the most important factors is the presence of a caring and supportive adult, which is where you come in. The Sesame Workshop’s Little Children, Big Challenges gives you and your child the tools to cope with whatever obstacles—big or small—come your way.
Sesame Street Lessons: Handling Anger
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Photo credit: ©2013 Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved.
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Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
Whether your child has an aversion to many foods due to sensory processing disorder (SPD) or is just plain picky, getting through those big holiday meals can be more stressful than joyful. I recently tuned into a picky eaters webinar by the SPD Foundation, and Kay Toomey, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with more than 30 years experience working with children with feeding problems, provided some great ways to help kids she categorizes as picky eaters (children who will only eat a limited number of foods) and problem feeders (kids who suffer from SPD and are extremely selective about what they will eat). Here are some of her excellent tips for getting through—and enjoying!—the holidays, as well as special occasions all year round.
1. Talk about the holiday plans. Unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations can be overwhelming for kids and ultimately decrease their appetites. Before you travel or have extended family over, pull out the family photo album, have your child draw pictures of what she thinks the holiday meal will look like this year, or chat about the upcoming plans—anything that will give her a better idea of what to expect.
2. Mask the scent. The smell of food can be too much for problem feeders, so it’s best to lessen it as much as possible. Try placing an isolating fan in the room where you’re having the main holiday meal. Or ask family members if they can open some windows while they cook so the smell isn’t completely permeating the house.
3. Feed her before the main meal. You can’t expect picky eaters or problem feeders to mind their manners and try new foods during a holiday meal. They realistically will only be able to do one or the other, so you’ll have to decide which is more important to you. It’s helpful to put something in their bellies beforehand so they’re not starving at the dinner table and so there’s less pressure for them to eat what is offered. This way they’ll be able to concentrate more on participating in the conversation and bonding with family, less on stressing over the fact that they’re hungry and have to eat unfamiliar foods. Remember: it’s more important they’re at the table and a part of the celebration than whether they’re eating what everyone else is.
4. Add one food they are sure to eat to the table. Even if children eat beforehand as recommended, you still want them to come to the table and take part in the meal as much as possible. To help them feel included, bring one food you know they’ll nibble on—even if it’s as simple as a roll, apple slices, or crackers. If they do happen to try something new on their own, don’t make a big deal out of it. You can mention something to them afterward or quietly at the table, but you don’t want to embarrass them in front of the family. And if they don’t eat at all, that’s also okay since they did eat a bit beforehand.
5. Bring something familiar from home he’s used to eating with or on. His favorite utensil, placemat, or cup can serve as a reminder of how he normally eats at home and cue the same eating habits in an unfamiliar place.
6. Create a secret signal. It’s a good idea to come up with a way for your child to let you know if she is getting overwhelmed during the meal and needs a break. You can give her a small card to hold up or establish a simple tap on the arm or leg to signal it’s time for a breather. This can also go the other way and you can signal to let her know she’s excused before a pleasant situation turns sour.
7. Control and limit the sweets. This can be difficult because those Christmas cookies and Hanukkah chocolates are a large part of the holiday, but it’s important to stand your ground. Not only does sugar cut down kids’ 20-minute appetite window to only 10 minutes, it also suppresses their appetite for substantial food and leads to cravings for more sweets. Aim for one sugary treat a day, and make sure they know to ask permission beforehand—they can’t just raid grandma’s cookie jar at their leisure.
8. Start making unfamiliar foods throughout the year. Most family traditions are about eating specific foods (ham, latkes, turkeys, yams, elaborate desserts, etc.), many of which children may not encounter during any other time of the year. If an unfamiliar food appears in front them, chances are they’re not going to eat it and even seeing it on their plate can cause a great amount of stress, especially for problem feeders. After the holidays, consider making some of these foods throughout the year so by the time the next festive family dinner comes around, your child will know what they are and how they taste, making him more likely to eat them during special occasions.
Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating
Image: Ham dinner via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
When I was 9, my parents shipped me off to Jerusalem to spend a very hot summer with my grandparents. Perhaps the most memorable cultural difference I discovered during my time there was that, in Israel, young kids ran around unsupervised for hours at a time, day or night. As a kid living in American suburbia, I had never gone far from adult supervision. For one, nothing exciting was within walking distance from my house. But most importantly, exploring without adults around was also considered a safety issue, especially at night.
In Israel, parents practice free-range parenting, trusting their kids to stay safe and be independent. On my first day of summer camp, my group accidentally left me on the public bus we took back from the beach, but no one seemed concerned that I had to navigate the unfamiliar Jerusalem streets by myself. Though I wouldn’t recommend that experience to others, I was able to locate the camp…eventually. Overall, my freedom to explore throughout the summer allowed me to learn more Hebrew and make some friends on my own by asking directions and finding things to do.
Reflecting back on that summer makes me wonder: Are American children given enough space to explore?
Switzerland is leading the way toward educating children in an alternative, looser environment. A piece written by Emily Bazelon for Slate.com focused on a completely outdoor school there aimed for kids ages 4 to 7. There is no formal learning in this school; it is all about exploring. During free play, kids can go wherever they want, sometimes under no supervision.
Many American children do not enjoy that kind of freedom ever. In fact, the Slate.com article reveals that Connecticut actually passed a law in 2011 mandating that elementary school students needed at least 20 minutes of recess, because many kids (especially ones in low-income neighborhoods) weren’t getting any at all. Some schools still haven’t implemented the requirement, and this kind of environment, coupled with structured after-school activities, leaves kids with very little free time or space. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that the United States is still very concerned with safety issues, so it can seem as though parents are more hands-on because of the culture here.
I’m not recommending that we send our kids to an outdoor school in Switzerland. However, there are some steps that we can take to step back a bit. In Parents’ January 2014 issue, Senior Editor Gail O’Connor shared expert advice on how we can lean back from our kids. Allow your child to have unsupervised, self-directed play in a safe environment. Don’t be afraid that she will be bored; she’ll learn to entertain herself. When we don’t offer children some form of adventure and freedom, we might be hindering their creativity, independence, and self-reliance.
Help your kids get creative with this around-the-house craft finder or find pretend play construction tools, kitchen toys, and more in our Shop.
Crafts for Kids: Darling Dishes
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