Managing Multiple Summer Activities

Well, we say summer, but really this topic is applicable to any time of year with children. Whether you have multiple children participating in one activity each or one child participating in a couple activities, it can feel like trying to crack a locked safe to figure out a schedule that works for everyone.

Before you get to the point that you’re stressed out from too many activities, take into consideration the following factors when selecting activities for yourself or your kids:

  1. Your Schedule: Unless you have a nanny, neighbor or grandparent who is more than willing to help with shuttling your children to different events, it’s really up to the you, the parent, and your available schedule. Apart from work, you need to determine how much time per week you want to spend at your kids’ activities.
  2. Time Commitment: Once you know what hours you have available, you need to determine how much of that available time you want to spend attending activities. Knowing the location (for drive-time) and the length of the activity will help you determine your overall commitment. Consider a longer activity less often during the week versus a shorter activity that meets often. Many also forget to commit time for them. Yes, you as the parent also need time for activities you want or enjoy, such as an exercise class.
  3. Number of Activities: Many times we get stressed because we overbook and don’t have any down time. Our children don’t need to be in every structured activity. Choose one per season and consider one yearlong. This could be an instrument and summer soccer or Taekwondo and baseball. The yearlong activity should be something they truly enjoy and want to continue with while the seasonal are those that have peaked interest, but aren’t sure if they want to do long-term.

Kids outdoor with sports ballsLet’s say you’ve done all of the above, but you’re still stressing out and not finding the time to get everyone done that you want – at home, work, etc. Follow these tips to help alleviate some schedule stress.

  1. Divide and conquer – Take turns with your spouse or significant other for kid activity attendance. One week it’s your turn to drive and attend; the next week it’s their turn. This not only gives you, the parent, a break, but it also gives your child some more one-on-one time with each of you. If possible, big events or games should be attended by all family members for support.
  2. Prioritize – Summer is hard because of vacations. Prioritize which practices, games and tournaments are most important and don’t sweat the others if your children can’t attend. Missing a practice or two won’t affect them and you can always practice at home.
  3. Drop an activity – As long as this is beneficial for the health of your family, it may be best to drop an activity. No stress on your child or yourself is worth continuing with. If your child is showing signs of disinterest, continuously complaining about not wanting to go, it may be time to take a break. It could be for a week or two or the rest of the season.

At the end of the day, activities should be learning and growing opportunities for your children that they enjoy. Interests come and go. Listen to your children and use common sense. If you’re spending more time in the car and at activities than time with your family, it may be time to reconsider how many activities you’re committed to.

 

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Posted in Health & Wellness

Breaking the Habit: Picky Eaters

We’ve all been there. Waiting an hour for your child to eat three bites. Listening to the never-ending, “I don’t want that, I want chicken fingers.” Hearing, “I’m full” after a few bites of food. Welcome to life with a picky eater!

All of the above are forms of picky eaters. And we’ve all been there. For some children, it’s experimental and truly a “phase.” For others, it may be cause for concern.

Let’s review some of these picky eater habits and how to break the habits.

The S-l-o-w Eater: This is the child who takes more than 30 minutes to eat a meal and hardly eats any of the food. They may also hold food in their mouth often and need reminding to chew or swallow.

For many children, they are easily distracted, causing them to take their time. New foods may also contribute to slow eaters.

Break the habit: Keep snacks to a minimum in between meals so they are hungry during mealtime. Consider a timer for dinner. Set it to 30 minutes and tell them you’ll take away their plate at that time, regardless of how much they have eaten. Keep distractions to a minimum (no electronics or TV and keep conversations short).

The Selective Eater: This is the child who may only like specific textures, specific foods or be opposed to food of certain smells, looks and flavor.

This could be caused by delayed introduction of solid foods during infant development (around 6-10 months) or could be caused from a diet that lacks variety, making new foods difficult for children to accept.

Break the habit: Eat the same food and share to add variety. Make sure they are hungry at mealtime. Limit liquids throughout the day, especially milk, which can be filling.

The “I’m Full” Eater: This is the child who claims they are full after a few bites. They aren’t picky about the food, but never eat much. They usually need reminders to take another bite.

For many of these picky eaters, they are just distracted and want to go play or go back to what they were doing.

Break the habit: Setting timers can be helpful for this bunch, as well as involving them in meal prep and letting them select meals they like. Avoid distractions like electronics and the television.

Most of these picky eater’s are going through phases and can be helped with some additional parental support. The most important thing to keep track of is their nutrient intake and ensuring they are getting the nutrients they need throughout the day. Healthy eating and exercise are essential to all growing bodies.

Farrells-MA_KickerTKD Tip: When introducing new foods to your children, do it slowly. One new food every week or two and reintroduce it a few months later if they didn’t like it. Take them to the grocery store with you and have them pick out (with your help) one new food to try. Make it for a snack or meal and if they like it, start incorporating into more meals.

Parent/Child Activity: Have your child(ren) help meal plan and select one meal a week they want to have. Make sure to include them in the grocery shopping (if you can) and the preparation of the meal. They will feel proud of what they accomplished and most likely will want to eat it all!

 

 

 

Reference: http://pickyeating.com.sg/home

 

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Posted in Health & Wellness, Perseverance

Teaching Love & Compassion

We already know our children are sponges. Even before they are born, they react to stimulus and sounds.

When you think about it, from the time they are born, everything is new to them. They have no preconceived notions of how they should act, what they should say and so on.

They compile every experience, every action, and every word or sentence they hear to create and shape who they want to be.

For the first part of their lives, and the most important part developmentally, they observe us parents. What we say and how we act is observed and many times mimicked by our children.

As they get older, start attending school and get involved in activities, they pick up on others’ behaviors. Then you add in social media and the news and they are bombarded with videos and clips of more behaviors.

Establishing a strong foundation of love and compassion is important for our children. To learn that it’s okay to be different, have different opinions, and to respectfully agree or disagree.

How do we do this?

By reacting with love and compassion instead of blame or consequences. Don’t get us wrong, if rules were broken, consequences should still be enforced, but in a loving way, not an angry or heat-of-the moment way.

By teaching tolerance, not violence.

By communicating with our children and letting them communicate with us.

By showing compassion to others who need it most instead of turning a blind eye.

By taking the time to understand someone’s motives before jumping to conclusions.

If we can start teaching more love and compassion, we may be able to start uniting more people instead of segregating them.

Farrells-MA_KickerTKD Tip: In addition to the words we speak, our tone, facial expressions and body language also speak volumes to little ones watching. Make sure you’re sending your kids clear messages and leading by example.

 

Parent/Child Activity: Sit down with your child(ren) and discuss what it means to have compassion. Take turns telling each other of ways to be compassionate towards others.

 

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Posted in Integrity, Self-Control

Making Time For Family

It seems to be getting more and more difficult to set aside time for family. Most households today have two working parents, a full calendar of activities and events for kids and work and endless errands to run.

Life just seems to move faster, so how do you find time for family?

Hint: You have to make it.

Family time is not only important to keeping connected with your children and spouses, but studies have shown additional benefits it has on children and teenagers as well.

mother-child-sledding-in-winterSome of these benefits include:

  • Lower risk of emotional stress
  • Lower-risk of violent behavior and substance abuse
  • Fewer behavioral problems
  • Better academic performance
  • Greater emotional bonding

So how do you fit in family time with busy schedules?

  1. Make it realistic. You’re probably not going to be able to sit down and eat dinner together every night, but strive to make it at least two nights per week and keep those nights as consistent as possible. Sunday is a perfect day to begin with.
  2. Put down electronics. Put down the phones, iPads, video games, etc. and play a board game, make a puzzle, go on a walk or play in the backyard as a family.
  3. Make the most of time. Talk with your children about their day when in the car heading to activities, school, etc. Focus on them and ask them questions.
  4. Exercise together. Need to work out? Include your children in this. It’s not only a time to catch up, but exercise is great for everyone! Consider a family membership to Farrell’s or set aside time at home to workout together.
  5. Volunteer for their activities. Offer some volunteer time in some of their activities to spend a little more time with them, get to know their friends there and have something to talk about.

Farrells-MA_KickerTKD Tip: When planning family time, make sure to take into consideration their ages and needs. Younger children need more one-on-one attention while older children may prefer some more alone time. Plan accordingly that you always have one event together as a whole family and then decide how much more time you need to dedicate to each child.

Parent/Child Activity: To increase family participation, have your children write down activities they want to do as a family. Put these ideas in a “Family Jar” for selecting once a week. There will be less complaints and more fun when they are involved in selecting the types of activities you do together.

 

 

 

 

 

References: http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/15/a-wise-investment-benefits-from-families-spending-time-together

 

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Posted in Health & Wellness, Indomitable Spirit

Growing Up in a Digital World

kid-playing-at-computerWe’ve gone through a digital evolution in the past two decades. The extent of available electronics is astounding, as is the rate at which they are continuing to be produced. From iPods and cell phones to tablets, e-readers, computers and more, our children are inundated with technology that is easily accessible and getting harder to manage

As parents, the extent of our digital experience (as a child) was the television, radio and cd player. We thought the cordless phone was amazing and was glad to finally have privacy on our calls!

What’s difficult is that we cannot compare. We didn’t grow up in a digital age, so we don’t have our own experiences to fall back on.

There are a lot of arguments for and against screen time. Everything from the type of programming kids are taking in to the amount of time seems to vary. Classrooms are being transformed into digital learning centers with the use of tablets and computers and digital whiteboards.

So what’s acceptable?

18 Months or Younger: No screen time except for the occasional FaceTime or Skype with family and friends.

Ages 2 – 5: Less than one hour per day and should be quality, educational programming without advertisements.

Ages 6+: Should be limited and prioritized with other needs. Homework, physical activity, family time should all be prioritized before screen time. The amount of time depends on the family, but screen time should be more of an afterthought than allowed and monitored. For teens, it’s especially important to discuss the risks of digital environments like social media, texting, etc. in regards to cyber bullying, false profiles, etc.

Farrells-MA_KickerTKD Tip: We can’t just look at our kids though when it comes to screen time. They model our behavior, so if you’re spending a lot of time on your phone or computers, you’re telling them it’s okay. Lead by example and set limits for all family members

Parent/Child Activity: Sit down with your child(ren) and write out screen-free activities they can do on their own or you can do as a family. Reading books, visiting a museum, arts and crafts, writing a letter to a family member, etc. When they ask for screen time, have them select one of these items first.

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Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

young-childParenting at every stage of life is a little bit of a roller coaster. When children learn independence and want to take charge (a.k.a. strong-willed children), parenting can feel like a constant battleground.

Some children are more strong-willed than others. You may see signs of this early on or maybe not until they are preschoolers. Regardless of age, independence is important and should be nurtured, but setting boundaries with your strong-willed little ones is also important (mostly for your sanity).

Check out these tips for raising a strong-willed child:

  1. Teach, don’t tell. Instead of telling your child how you want them to behave, teach them through your actions and conversations.
  2. One of the most effective parenting skills you can learn is redirection. Most young children don’t have the attention span to continue on with a long battle. Redirect their attention to something else to get them back on track.
  3. Give choices. Independence comes with the want to control. Giving kids choices instead of telling them what they need to do gives them the sense of control they are looking for. Just don’t get too carried away with how many choices.
  4. Let the storm pass. Tantrums are inevitable, especially with strong-willed children. Instead of trying to intervene and frustrating your child more, try to give space to your child and let the storm pass, so to speak. Once they have calmed down, make sure to let them know it was not acceptable.
  5. Keep it positive. Whether it’s a reward system for good behavior or positive feedback such as “you’ve been a great listener today”, kids respond better to positive reinforcement.

 

Farrells-MA_KickerTKD Tip: While a strong-willed child is difficult to raise in their younger years, nurture their independence as they usually tend to grow up to be self-motivating leaders.

Parent/Child Activity: Sit down with your child and ask them what they would like to do on their own. There may be daily routines that they don’t want your help with so figure out together what these are to give them more control and to grow. It may be brushing their teeth or doing their laundry or picking out their clothes. They want to feel independent so give them constructive outlets to be so.

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The Giving Spirit

boy-donating-toysThe true meaning of the holidays can sometimes get away from us. While it’s fun to open gifts and attend parties, it’s also important to teach our children the gift of giving. Giving should be done whenever possible, not just around the holiday season, but this makes for a great time to get kids started and could be incorporated into a New Years resolution.

How do you go about teaching your children about giving? The best method is to lead by example, and as we all know, memories hold stronger when we are actively participating.

Check out this list of ideas to get in the giving spirit!

  1. Give each of your children (and your and your spouse) a bag or box. Tell each family member that it is their responsibility to fill that with items they no longer want, need or use. These could be toys, clothes, shoes, books, etc. Take everything to a shelter, Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. to donate.
  2. Volunteer at a local food pantry to serve meals, at your church for an event or to read, or at an animal shelter. Make this a quarterly event and soon enough, they may be asking you to go or coming up with their own places to volunteer.
  3. Print out an Acts of Kindness worksheet for children to participate in. It could even become a challenge between siblings/friends. Some items may be as simple as giving a compliment or writing a thank you note to donating food, baking cookies for the local fire department to donating a toy for Toys for Tots.
  4. Get three jars and label one “save”, one “spend” and one “donate”. Have your children split their chore money between the three jars, which not only teaches them about donating money, but also about saving it.
  5. Contact your local hospitals and find out what is okay to bring by for patients. For children, it could be a small gift bag with crayons or coloring books or maybe ask if you can bring in baked cookies for your children to give out to those that can’t be at home.

Soon enough, your children will learn how rewarding it is to give rather than get.

Farrells-MA_Kicker

TKD Tip: Remind children that there are many ways to give. They can give their time, money or material items such as clothes, toys, books, etc.

 

Parent/Child Activity: Find a list of local volunteer opportunities and sit down with your child(ren) and ask them to pick four charities or business they would like to help out and plan one out for each quarter of the year. If they are young, read them out load and explain to them what each is and the opportunities they have.

 

 

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Getting Through the Daylight Savings Hangover

That time is almost upon us again – Daylight Savings is ending (unless you live in Arizona or parts of Indiana, lucky ducks!). It ends on November 6th to be exact and can have you feeling sluggish and out of sorts. Before you had kids you were probably ecstatic to gain an extra hour of sleep. Unfortunately, whoever decided daylight savings was a good idea obviously didn’t have kids.

Have no fear! We have some tips to help prepare you and your kids for the time change to help avoid sleep deprivation; because we know NO ONE is happy when they are sleep-deprived!

Tips to Avoid Sleep Deprivation From Daylight Savings:

  1. Make it gradual. An hour may not seem like that long, but when it comes to “kid time” and sleep, it really is. A few days before daylight savings ends, gradually adjust their sleep and wake time by 15-minute increments. So if they go to bed at 8 p.m., start by putting them to bed at 8:15 p.m., then 8:30 and so forth. In the morning, let them sleep a little later each day as well, but make sure to wake them at the time they are supposed to get up.
  2. Light exposure. A hormone called melatonin regulates our internal clocks, which is affected by light. It increases as it gets dark, helping induce sleep. As daylight savings ends, make sure your child gets a lot of light exposure in the evening (when it’s dark, but not yet time to go to bed) and not as much in the morning (when it’s too early to get up). Blackout shades are great to help reduce light in the morning to avoid waking up too early.
  3. Routines. Regardless of daylight savings, routines are a great way to help kids unwind and cue them as to when it’s time to sleep. It’s especially important to keep this routine the same during time changes. Keep bedtime and morning routines the same, but just adjust the times that you start them.
  4. Get rest. Encourage your kids to take it easy the few days before and let them sleep longer if they want or indulge in naps. The more tired they are, the harder it will be to sleep and adjust so try to let them rest up.
  5. Limit screen time. The iPads, television, phones – avoid these too close to bed as they stimulate brains and can keep kids awake much longer than they need to be. Try to eliminate screen time at least an hour before bedtime.

 

Farrells-MA_KickerTKD Tip: As you’re preparing your children for the end of daylight savings, remember to take care of yourself as well and adhere to these tips. There is nothing worse than dealing with tired, cranky kids when you are also tired and cranky.

 

 

 

 

Source: http://www.parents.com/kids/sleep/tips/daylight-saving-time/

 

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Preparing For Sick Season

shutterstock_127891799

Fall means outdoor allergies, colds and the beginning of flu season. It also doesn’t help that kids are back in school spreading their germs in the classroom, on the playground and on the buses.

So how do you help prevent (or prepare) for this season? Check out these tips:

  1. Hand washing. It’s simple, but kids get busy and don’t always remember to wash their hands. It’s important all year round, but especially now when they are exposed to more germs and outdoor pollens with the changing season.
  2. Carry hand sanitizer. There’s a reason they now have cute holders for those travel-size hand sanitizer bottles. Send them with your kids in their backpacks and teach them the appropriate times to use them (before eating, after being outdoors, after sneezing, etc.). Of course they should be washing their hands, but if that’s not available, hand sanitizer is a savior!
  3. Keep them active. Studies have shown that exercise can boost circulation of infection-fighting cells, decreasing the numbers of sick episodes by up to 50%.1 Taekwondo is a great year-round activity to kids both physically and mentally active. We offer programs for every age and offer a two-week free trial for anyone interested in joining!
  4. Eat healthy. Make sure your kids are getting a good, balanced diet. Many foods act as natural medicines and have lots of vitamins and immune-boosting nutrients. Even if a fruit or vegetable is out of season, purchase frozen to get those healthy foods in their bodies.
  5. It’s important that kids (and adults alike) get enough rest. Sleep deprivation can breed a higher risk for catching an illness, so ensure they are getting their minimum amounts of zzzz’s.

Farrells-MA_KickerTKD Tip: Germs are spread through the eyes, mouth and nose. Make sure your kids know this and that touching their face after touching germs is how they get sick (as well as coughing or sneezing on others). Teach them to cover their mouths/noses and to always wash their hands.

Parent/Child Activity: Sit down with your child(ren) and brainstorm ideas of how they can help prevent getting sick. This helps them understand how people get sick (sharing cups, not washing hands, etc.). They may also be more apt to help clean to avoid germs.

 

Sources:

1 http://www.parents.com/health/cold-flu/cold/6-secrets-of-kids-who-rarely-get-sick/?slideId=47493

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Surviving the Schedule Overload

Schedule overloadNow that school is back in session and the holidays are around the corner, you’re probably feeling the pressure of supporting every school booster, fundraiser and volunteer opportunity for your child.

As a parent, it’s overwhelming. Especially since we’re usually better at putting everyone first but ourselves! Plus, don’t forget that we have commitments outside of school from community involvement to church to extracurricular activities. It all piles up!

Have no fear! We’ve got tips for how you can get through the school year and actually add value, not stress, to your child’s school, their experience, and your sanity. (Spoiler alert: you can’t do everything)!

What you need to know first is that whatever you’re going to put your money or time to should be authentic and purposeful. As a parent, you’re going to need to learn self-control because you already know the downside to overcommitting.

Let’s break it down by “kids” and “parents” because we all have time and resources to give.

Kids:

Kids want to do everything, but it’s important to be realistic with them. A great rule of thumb is to set limits as to how many activities they are allowed to do. This may seem “restrictive”, but think about it. If they are only focusing on one to two activities, they can actually focus and grow! If they have too much on their plates, they will quickly feel pressure and not want to do anything. Plus, they have school work and most likely household responsibilities that also take up time in their day.

These activities can change every season, but whatever they decide, they need to know they need to finish that commitment. So it may be Taekwondo and flag football, or maybe a weekly art class and girl scouts.

To relieve parental stress with multiple activities (and multiple kids), give them options that work with the family schedule so everyone has the opportunity for down time (including mom and dad)!

Parents:

As a parent, you can donate your time, money or both.

In regards to donating time, make sure it’s something that works with your schedule. Don’t feel ashamed to say “no” or ask if there is something you and your child can do at home for the classroom instead of going into the class. Let the teachers know that you want to help out, but also let them know your availability and they can help find something to benefit everyone!

Fundraisers are constant, especially during the holidays. While you want to support, you may not need (or want) the things the kids are selling so instead, consider making a donation to the cause rather than purchasing something. It could be for the same amount, but then you’re not left with 20 rolls of wrapping paper you’re never going to use because you got 20 rolls last year!

As a parent and family, decide the types of foundations and organizations that you want to support. There are SO many out there, it’s hard not to want to support all of them, but what means the most to you – children, cancer, or animals? Based on what you set aside to “gift”, select one or two you’re going to support. Change it up every year if there are more.

Farrells-MA_KickerTKD Tip: Make sure to set boundaries. Ask yourself what you are willing to support and what is important to you. It’s okay to say no, because you’ll add more value to those you focus your time and resources to.

Parent/Child Activity: Sit down with your family and brainstorm the organizations you could support. Let your children decide one they want to support and then tell them which one you and your spouse are going to support as a “family”. This teaches children about giving and selflessness, plus educates them about the different organizations. Print out a list for them to read, if they are older.

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