Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hey Baby, Hey Baby, Hey!

Is it crazy round your house? Cause it is crazy here. Between pre K stepping up ceremonies, end year concerts, Kindergarten orientations , Pajama day (yes, I forgot to send my son in pajamas, you can only imagine the moment of realization) remembering every birthday/anniversary and getting ready for camp it's like running on the treadmill of life and not losing any weight! Yes, it's the home stretch for sure and don't think for one second your little ones don't have summer-itis. Don't forget to acknowledge their stress and know those elevated amount of tantrums are their way of communicating to you they need some love and need stress release. I'll be sure to blog on how that's working out for me!

Have you also noticed the summer baby boom starting to take place? Summer babies are extremely popular and I seem to be getting a lot of requests to do workshops on how to stimulate baby and build connections. Below are some ideas on how and why it is important to stimulate your baby and some clues about over stimulation!

Children develop in social/emotional, physical, cognitive and language skills when they play.

According to the Creative Curriculum (used by many daycares), when children engage in play, they can:

  • Learn about themselves and others – trust, love, touch, affection, give and take, recognizing the needs of others and empathy
  • Learn about moving – Fine motor (small muscles), gross motor (large muscles), eye-hand coordination, grasp and carry toys, build, push and pull toys
  • Learn about the world – rattles, push buttons to play music on a toy, shape sorters, manipulatives that help children to group and explore and learn cause and effect
  • Learn about communicating – Connecting words with appropriate objects, expressing ideas

It’s all in the timing:

When you're socializing with your baby, be sensitive to any signs that she's had enough interaction: Too much stimulation can overload a baby's neural circuits, leaving her crying or unsettled. It's essentially your baby's way of saying, "I've had all I can take right now."

Here are some signs that playtime is over and she needs a break: Closing eyes - Turning away - Tensing up - Arching her back - Avoiding your gaze - Irritability

A Baby’s schedule and personality changes as they grow, adapting is part of the journey of parenting!

Stimulate the senses:

See, Hear, Taste, Touch, Smell

You are your child’s favorite toy!

Children love and direct attention to:

Faces; your face is a very stimulating tool

Clean lines or brightly colored objects; (black, white and red/primary colors for very young infants) White on Black, a book by Tana Hoban

Smiles;(remind yourself!)

Talk; (play with pitch but use real words, tell them everything you are about to do and are doing, use your baby’s name)

Song; (traditional, make up songs, change the words, rock out!),

Sounds; (make games up call and response from their cooing, cheek to cheek matching pitch)

Movement; dance (bounce, swing, stop and start)

Helpful Tools:

Mobiles: Can promote development of vision and hearing. Look for patterns, circles, high contrast and those that make music. By 4 months children might be able to reach for the mobile.

Mirrors: Children love watching their image appear and disappear in the mirror. Portable toy mirrors that are unbreakable can be placed in numerous locations around your home or can travel with you.

Hand Puppets or soft toys can facilitate language and make for great storytelling opportunities. Look for: Bright colors, boldly contrasting patterns, positive expressions or recognizable faces and sounds.

Grasping and Mouthing: Toys: 3 months +, give babies opportunities to grasp, shake, mouth, drop, and explore objects that they can hold in their fists. Small rattles, teethers, plastic key rings with keys, grasping balls and cloth toys and books.

Books: Read daily; build rituals around certain books (wake up time, naptime, bedtime). Look for board or fabric books, repetitive language, point to pictures, read only one or two words on a page- no need to stay true to the story if baby’s attention span runs out.

Examples of household objects that make great toys:

An empty box, pots and pans, plastic food containers, plastic measuring spoons, tissue paper, hard plastic cups.


  • Infants will follow a slowly moving object from side to side with their eyes – use a toy or twinkle your fingers back and forth, up and down while you sing a song
  • Talk and sing while looking at your baby, slightly exaggerate your mouth
  • Where is…? - Lightly cover your baby’s face with a cloth, ask: Where is (baby’s name)? After you uncover say, “There he/she is!) Book connection, Where is Baby’s Belly Button? (By Karen Katz)
  • Use simple hand instruments or tissue paper while your singing and walk around the room. Let baby turn in the direction that the instrument is coming from.
  • Roll your baby from side to side, touch legs to alternating arms, do the bicycle, row, row, row your boat, do infant massage with a mild edible oil - sing songs and talk while you do this.
  • Hold baby in “superhero” position gently move from side to side (helps develop trunk muscles and head control) sing or play the “Superman” theme.
  • Roll your (4 month old or older) on a “roll” pillow, a large kickball or a small exercise ball. Baby should lie on tummy and gently roll back and forth. With a smaller ball baby can reach down and practice developing shoulder and arm strength.

  • Sing: "We’re gonna walk and walk, walk and walk we’re gonna walk and walk and stop!" 2X We’re gonna bounce, twist, etc.
  • Sensory experiences: swaddle, use sensory balls and roll them on your babies hands, back and feet or use a massaging action teether or any other age appropriate product from

Friday, May 28, 2010

This Memorial Day, Teach Your Kids to Remember

Don't Know Much About History...
Below is an updated post from July 4th, 2009. The post discusses how I created a new ritual for my children on Memorial Day and why. Since the time the original post was written, one of my same cousin's has begun his second tour to Afghanistan, after returning from Iraq just a few years earlier. As well, my uncle, a WWII Veteran was recently honored at Arlington National Cemetery. He suffers from PTSD till this day.

So the summer has begun and my ideas are many... I have received lots of questions since we went on facebook. Make sure to add us as a fan and encourage friends to join! Please keep sending those questions in and check back often for your answers.

I received a great question from Diane who asked "Is it important to keep my kids connected to patriotic American holidays? While our family 'celebrates' the day off we certainly don't make any reference as to why we have the day off. It seems my kids don't learn much about them at school? Should we be doing more?"

Answering this question is almost like giving me an opportunity at Speakers Corner in London and allowing me to stand on my soapbox! I am getting my 'Patriot on' and posting a few thoughts on how we can and should educate our children about our American holidays.

On to my soapbox...
I, like many of you, grew up thinking that major American holidays were simply created so that I could enjoy a backyard bar-b-que with my lucky friends or family that had a backyard and of course, so that Macy's could have a sale. You know Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, Labor Day and July Fourth which, in addition to a Macy's sale, put on the best firework display in the country! I appreciated many of these experiences as a child (still do) and think Macy's is really one of the few stores that does a great job giving back to New York City.

Something recently changed the way I thought about these holidays. Two of my cousins were sent to war; one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. (The Afghanistan cousin left a six week old daughter and 5 year old son for a year). Having children of similar ages and being close in proximity we spent a lot of time visiting and watching first hand how our cousins coped without knowing the fate of their dad and husband. Can you imagine not being without your kid/dad/spouse for a year? While I made small references to these "support the soldiers" and other patriotic holidays in the past, looking at these sacrifices that hit so close to home it was clear I needed to do more to connect my kids to the history and celebrations of this country .

I started this past Memorial Day by taking my kids to the Vietnam Memorial in Lower Manhattan. It wasn't easy to see those veterans cry at the wall and deal with such painful memories, but boy, were we ever welcomed! One smile after the next on those Vets faces thanking us for coming! We took the time to remember and the thanks was so heart warming. It was a teachable moment for sure! I talked to my children about why these soldiers were sad and why it meant so much to them to have us there; they felt remembered. History is a favorite subject of mine so I always incorporate a book or small activity about a holiday with both my students and my own kids. For so many educators though, history often falls by the wayside in elementary schools. A teachers' day gets bogged down with the basics and very little time is left to explore and discuss the importance of our history in the way that we should. As well, if parents do not carry over what might be shared in class the information goes no where.

So to my point - This Memorial Day, go to your bar-b-ques ( I know I always look forward to seeing a special group of friends), go to the sales and enjoy the extra day with your kids. However, take the time to share some history about the day and those many other "day off/sale days". Older children (7 years or so) are capable of learning a small bit about the history. For younger children acknowledge the holiday with a craft or song and a small explanation. The important idea is that children learn that these days exist for a reason. You don't have to be a flag waving, Stars and Stripes boxer short wearing, America the Beautiful humming patriot, to learn about the history of the US of A!

You can have your child write a letter to a soldier or send a care package. Here is one of many organizations that can help you make that happen:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Funky Town!

I don't know about you but between reading too many mommy blog posts, watching the news and perhaps a few too many Law and Order episodes, I am in a state of doom and gloom with regard to the state of children. It seems that every day there is another case of bullying, children who display a lack of empathy and just general gloom. Frankly, I can't take much more. In addition, I have been in a rotten mood because of the weather here on the East coast and my temper around my kids has been less than stellar. It's like I am in a parenting funk but I am going to make a change starting right now. I'm ready to do some deep yoga breathing and start thinking about devising some new positive approaches. It is time to remind myself to put the funk-y back in and stop letting the media and the weather dictate my mood and my fears.

Question this week "How do you change up your attitude, your routine and the state of your relationship with your kids when you have fallen into a parenting funk?"

Firstly, I am going to apologize to my kids for my recent irritability. Modeling a proper apology for your kids and communicating what you need to feel better is an important start. I found this out from my wonderful teaching mentor in my second year of teaching. Tell kids that you are sincerely sorry and they will not only believe you but forgive you too. I am going to reiterate to my kids that I want them to work harder at following directions the first time and I will try not to lose my temper so easily.

Exercise Together: I used to love doing yoga. With the birth of each child, I did less and less and I currently do nothing. The fact is I miss it desperately. I bought a really fun kids yoga DVD years ago and we only did it a handful of times. This week I'm bringing it back. I am going to make time to do yoga with my kids. I need it and they need it too. My two year old will make it challenging but I have got to try something. Find an exercise activity that you can do with your kids even if it is for 5-10 minutes a few times a week.

Shop therapy: Yesterday we went to the local Barnes and Noble with some friends after school and I bought my kids one item of their choosing, just because. I don't do that too much since the doting grandparents seem to fill that role but sometimes a "just because" gift sends a positive message that "I want you to have nice things and I love you". Check out my Amazon "A-store" for some great book selections!

Write it! Draw it! Say it! Leaving a spontaneous hand written note on the breakfast table or slipping a cute hand drawn picture into your kids lunch can change the mood of the day! A little note with an "I love you", "I am proud of you" or just a silly stick figure picture can send a huge message to your child that says "you are important to me and I value you!"

Connect on a Special Project: You know that crafty birthday gift that your child received? Y'know, the one you are trying to hide or better yet get out of the house? The one that your child has been hounding you to do with them? I have quite a few. Whether it is too messy or too involved consider carving out some time to do the project together. Read the instructions a few days before you even tell your child that you want to do this with them. This way you can make a complete plan of how you plan to approach and time the event. If it is messy, doing it outside in the park might be the solution. If it involves a lot pieces, think about a time when another friend or your significant other might be around to help out. If you don't have or don't want a store bought project to work on, consider creating a family scrapbook, writing a book or picture album to document the past year. Your child will appreciate the time spent with them and you will feel good you did something together.

Invest in a kid destination: I remember when my son was almost 5 years old, we took him to a "Day out with Thomas". It was a special day that brought us all much happiness and made for a great memory. Research and find a special activity that will give your child a great experience and create a wonderful family memory. It need not be expensive but try to make it something new. Part of the reason I think I feel so grumpy lately is because I have been sticking to routine for so long and it's time for me to spice it up. I'm currently researching some local trips and activities in addition to one big weekend trip. I'll keep you posted. Please send suggestions!

Do nice things for yourself: When I was a teacher and administrator I bought myself something new every week. Not necessarily expensive but something new. A new soap, body wash, hair gel, a type of gum or candy, lipstick, a CD something that was just for me. Anyone who knows me has heard me refer to my career and my parenting as "spit and chicken wire" and I just make it work out of sheer love of what I do. I forget sometimes to routinely replenish myself after giving to my family, friends and my clients. It's time for me to remember.

This has reminded me that the little things do matter. Please share how you change up your routine, connect with your kids and how you give back to yourself!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

S-A-F-E-T-Y Dance!

Okay, another missed week, last week, sorry. I am swamped these days. I was a guest on's Blog Talk Radio, a few weeks ago. I planned to post the podcast but was having trouble editing (there was a guest before me). I was discussing the topic of children and sharing. I had a lot of fun and will post it on this blog as soon as I can make it more user friendly for you all.

I also had a great time doing the Mom's Luncheon's at babybites last week! Please know I am available to speak on any teaching/parenting topic at your child's school PTA meeting, parent information night, small group parent salons held at a home or even personal consultations. Please contact me with any questions!

So my question this week..."How and when do I prepare my child with safety tips and strategies?"

From the time children begin to be mobile you can let your children know what they are doing is safe or not safe. Putting dirt and twigs in their mouth, "not safe", going down backwards on the stomach on the stairs, "safe". We use the terms on a constant basis hoping to teach our children what safety is about. However, safety is ambiguous and it's about making choices which comes with experience, learned responsibility and time. That does not mean that you can't get your children practicing and learning some basic tools starting at age two and a half:

Know the basics:
Your child should know their address in full by the age of 4, parents and care givers full names, home and/or a parents cell number and what individuals they may go to and with, in case of an emergency. Have your child practice giving you this information a few times a week starting at about 3 and half and continue quizzing them especially before you enter a crowded place where you might lose each other.

Make a Plan:
What if you get separated? What will you do? I tell my children if we get separated they are to find a mother with a baby (not a police officer or security person) and tell them they are separated from their parent and could they please dial mom for them on their cell phone for them? I remind my children they are not to leave with this person but just have them call right where they are standing. Other techniques include making a meeting place at a certain time (if your child tells time) or in the case of getting separated on public transportation - to take the train or bus to the next stop get off and wait for me. If they get left at a stop they are to stay put until I get back to them.

Tell Your Child To Confirm When Plans Change:
I was very proud of my son recently, when he was told by me that his dad would pick him up from an after school program. At pick up time, I get a call from a friend of ours (who is also our emergency contact and has picked up my son on other occasions), saying "Your son wants to make sure he is supposed to be picked up by me." I was confused myself. It turned out that my husband had missed his stop and could not get to pick him up on time, so he called our friend to get our son. Even though my son knew our friend well, he remembered that his dad was supposed to pick him up and made our friend call me to confirm before he left with him. When I realized what was going on, I had my friend put my son on the phone and gave him my okay to go home with our friend. Tell your children that if a plan changes, even if they know someone or something seems strange, call a parent and confirm or tell another trusted adult that they were not aware of a plan change.

Leaving Your Child Home Alone:
There are laws about this and it is different for every county. Depending on your child's age (6 and up) and maturity you might leave your child alone in your home in a pinch. I am not talking about leaving your two year old for a whole day or going out while they are asleep (this is not safe!). I am talking about that quick run to the laundry for all us NYC parents who have to run to the building's basement or the quick run to the neighbors to borrow some sugar. Even though you might be gone for less than 5 minutes make sure you give your child some safety tools .

- First they not only need to know your cell phone but HOW to dial it. Have them practice it until they can quickly and confidently dial you up.

- No eating and drinking while you are not there (if they choke or drink poisonous liquid who will help them?

-No climbing or horseplay. Stay in one place and keep your activity simple, watch tv, play with your baseball cards, DSI or your dolls.

-Do not open the door for anyone. If it is the police or other authority they are to call you on your cell phone.

****Have a family password that signals danger or something is not right. Teach all members of the family this password and when and how to use it. Do not share the password with anyone but the immediate family!*****

-Do not answer the phone unless they hear your voice on the answering machine.

-Know what to do in case of fire. They need to know your escape route and to close the door after they leave to stop the fire from spreading.

-Tell your child when you will be back and stick to it. They can call you if they get scared or worried.

-Another option is to set them up on a phone call or web chat with a family member or trusted adult friend until you get back.

Be Honest and Be mindful with how much Information you give:
Unfortunately, we live in a world with new dangers that seem to pop up daily. The internet, texting and phone dangers, dangerous games , drugs, etc. Talk honestly with your children on a need to know basis about the dangers that can really affect them. Empower them with knowledge so that they can get through tough situations. If you need help on how to approach your child about a difficult subject consult a school social worker or guidance counselor.

Be safe and have a super week!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beyond Bullying...

Last year, I wrote a post addressing the 10th anniversary of the tragedy at Columbine High School. Eleven years later and just today on the news they ran a story about two students from Miami who were brutally beaten in separate incidences but attended the same school. As well we see and hear the echoes of the devastating story of Phoebe Prince, the girl who committed suicide as a result of extreme bullying. I am re-posting this story because we as parents, teachers, school administrators and as students, are missing something. Our children are in terrible pain and it's not just the victims but the very offenders, the inflicters of this pain, are in pain themselves. I think many of our fellow parents are afraid to parent, are afraid of their children and for some, really don't know or don't care who their children are becoming. We are not learning as a society how to look for cues and communicate effectively based on those cues. The country has acted swiftly yet again with bullying seminars but I think we need to look beyond this. These incidents reflect the essence of what we are not talking about. Bullying is rooted in low self-esteem and it's not just the victim but the bullies themselves who have low self esteem and believe me, it is not school alone that creates these feelings of inferiority. We are raising a generation of children with little confidence and lots of anger. We must look at our children and ourselves and watch closely. I think we, as a culture, need to rethink what we feel we are entitled to, how we cope with stress, prioritize our wants and desires and develop some real strategies for how we deal with disappointment. Making sense of, or categorizing, these egregious tragedies is complicated and I am not going to try to explain why they may have happened but I know I can play my part and you can play yours too.

This week again marks the anniversary of the Columbine massacre. While I will not attempt to analyze the actions of the boys responsible or debunk any theories of why this terrible tragedy took place, I will comment on what the situation and other situations like this make me think my responsibilty is as an educator and parent.

Know your child

One of the greatest mistakes I see parents make is not understanding who their children are. This creates an inability to parent effectively. To be an effective parent we must try and learn who our children are and provide them with encouragement, access to tools and therapy to help them establish their self esteem and yes, provide them with discipline. Contrary to what many believe, discipline is not a "punitive" word, it comes from the Latin meaning, "to teach". We must teach our children, if they are to succeed. We must not be afraid to address our children's undesirable behaviors in an effective and honest way without cutting them down. Children need to learn what will be tolerated and practice acceptable behaviors. If we don't try to look objectively at our children, it is much harder to provide them with what they need.

Kids are different and we need to parent differently

If your child is aggressive and angry, then you must acknowledge it, discuss it and get professional help for both you and your child, if need be. Anger needs to be channeled into positive avenues and power and control need to be discussed as responsibility. If your child is shy or has social anxiety you must build them up and encourage them to be stronger. Look to find activities that they can succeed at, hook them up with strong mentors and coaches and provide opportunities to make friends that make them feel good. Discuss honestly about tools that will help your child so they are less likely to be a victim of bullying.

I have three children and their personalities are completely different. I sometimes try (I don't always succeed), to make decisions based on my child's individual needs rather than what might work for the group. For example, one of my children felt uncomfortable when we went to the playground on the weekends and going up to classmates and asking "do you want to play?" So I began allowing him to bring walkie-talkies, remote control cars and other inexpensive activities so that the group came to him. It helped break the ice and he left feeling good that he provided the day's activities. Parents need to think outside the box and try different strategies to reach their children. Your ideas won't work all the time but don't stop searching!

Teach Responsibility Now

While adults are the leaders in a child's life it is not too early to begin impressing upon school aged children that everyone is responsible for their own safety and behavior as well as those of our peers. Teach children that they don't have to feel alone or isolated and this little gem: "Tattling is to get someone into trouble, telling is to get someone out of trouble." When we make children responsible for their behavior we help them to develop self confidence, the root of of all happiness in its greatest form.

Media is not real life, teach the difference

My college education and technology professor said "It's not just the shows that are too much for kids, these days; it's the commercials that make promises to kids that are undeliverable." Every moment I feel we are marketed to and sent the message "you need, you want, you should be like, you have to have." And, if I don't get or don't become, I'll be left out. If I feel this way I know my kids feel it that much more. Be your child's reality check; not every icon, toy, video game or celebrity has it all. Talk about unrealistic incidents that are depicted on a show or in a movie, discuss unrealistic expectations, point out why you find a celebrities behavior inappropriate. Discuss honestly about why certain items are allowed into your home, certain articles of clothing won't be worn by your child and why some television shows or movies get a nod and others are forbidden. They may disagree but having an honest discussion does a lot more than just "I am the parent, that's why."

So in reflection of this heartbreaking tragedy and unfortunately the many others that have followed with terrible outcomes, I look to parents to learn, to know, to accept, to discipline and love their children so our children can learn, know, accept, discipline and love themselves.

I wish for all our children the ability to be confident. Only then, will they be happy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Friendship, Friendship, just the Perfect Blendship

It has been a crazy week. I have been out every night this week including a Mom's Night Out. It was fun and as one mom exclaimed while I danced with great zest, "you can tell you really needed a night out!" No arguments here.

Question of the week, "What do you do when you don't like one of your children's friends?"

I think this is one issue that all parents have to deal with many times over and it usually is a slippery slope. I am answering this only in terms of the pre- school/ elementary school years since middle school and high school friendships have a host of other complicated factors.

Children are drawn to each other for many different reasons. Sometimes children become friends because their parents are friends or because they have certain likes or hobbies. Sometimes children become friends because they are opposites, one might be outgoing and the other a bit quiet, but it works. Friendships in young children tend to have their ups and downs and change as children mature. Parents tend to be very involved in the early years with whom their child plays and how often they see each other outside of school. It is hard to not want to micro-manage your child's rolodex of friends or to speak for your child when you feel that they are treated unjustly by a friend. As well, telling your child that you don't like their friend and don't want them to be around them will do little to give your child the tools to handle relationships for the future. Talking and modeling with your child about communicating and coming up with a plan for certain social situations are important strategies for your child to develop. The hope is that they will eventually be able to decide for themselves when a friend is no longer meeting their needs.

I have one basic rule with regard to keeping my nose out of my child's friendships. When something happens between my child and their friend on the school yard or on the playground out of ear shot of an adult, I encourage them to work it out on their own or help develop a plan for a future incident. If an incident occurs right under my nose and it is getting out of hand, I try to use the situation as a learning opportunity and try to give suggestions or model appropriate ways for my child ( and sometimes their friend) to better communicate their needs and behave.

Dealing with the parent of the child in question is also a really slippery slope. I lost a potential close friend that I thought would handle her son's questionable behavior in much the same way I would. I saw a consistent pattern of aggressive behavior towards my child and finally I set up, what I thought would be a teachable moment for both boys. What I did was offend her, so much so she never wanted to talk again. While I am not completely sad that our boys don't play anymore and I don't miss having her as a friend, it could have been much harder for me if I had offended someone who I might have cared deeply about. I have also heard about countless parents who call and tell other parents about what their child had supposedly done based on their child's account. The only time I would do this is if my child came home from a drop off play date and my child claimed they were hurt or very unhappy. I would call to find out if the parent or nanny knew anything about it and address it from there. Know that even your sweet angel, can misinterpret and get the facts wrong. If you are not present and did not see first hand what happened, don't be too quick to accuse another child of wrong doing. It's a surefire way to become enemies with the parent.

There are are a variety of different approaches you can take to deal with your child's friendship that you may not happy with, here are some ideas:

The Uneven Power Struggle:
In some friendships there seems to be one child that has a stronger will and often directs what will happen every time the children play together. While the more submissive child may agree to this at first over time, they tend to feel "ignored" and may even begin to get angry. Practice and role play with your child appropriate language like "I feel like you are not listening to me and it makes me upset." Or, "I'd like you to play one of the games I suggest this time". Children become worried that if they speak up their "friends" won't play with them. Our goal is to get our children to understand that if they are consistently ignored by their "friends" then maybe they are not "friends".

The Fresh Mouth Friend:
Everyone had one friend that taught them all the "bad" words. My parents still blame her for my filthy mouth! Kids usually learn the major curses by the end of kindergarten and can even begin to use them on each other. I remember when my son came home from pre-school and told me that a young girl (whose mother is still a friend of mine) told him "sh*t was a bad word." Instead of being outraged I said "Yes it is. Make sure you do not use the word at home and do not use it on other people." It was the best I could come up with. The fact is that kids will experiment with these words and we can just set firm parameters around when and how they use them. If you feel your child's friend is way too inappropriate be firm in telling your child that play-dates and other events will be limited if they cannot control themselves around their friend.

The Wild Child:
He taunts other kids, she is a "mean girl" and when your child hangs out with them they are virtually unrecognizable. This is one situation where parents have to make it clear for their child that they will not tolerate the behavior and have a firm talk about being "influenced" by another. I try to be pretty honest with my kids and pointing out that they are allowing someone to turn them into an unlikable person sometimes. Words and terms like "follower" and "making the decisions they know are right" , "leader" and even what's called an "I" message: "When I see you behave this way with your friend it makes me feel disappointed", can send a strong message that this relationship is bad news. Talk about options and what you child can do to monitor his own behavior and how she might remove herself from the child.

The Frenemy:
Many of us have been in toxic relationships. We want to be liked and accepted by those we deem to be "cool"or "popular". We hope to feed off their mojo and feel "cool" or "popular" too the more we hang out with them. This is the friendship that looks like it's tight but there is a lot of jealousy, competition and back stabbing going on here. Your child may come home angry, aggressive, moody or sad after a play-date. Your child will a feel a great deal of confusion around this relationship and getting out of it may cost a lot more then just this friend but a whole group. This is a tricky situation and the best we can do is talk about what is really going on and help our child to cope setting friendly limits. Learning the hard lesson of what friends they can really trust and who might be just an acquaintance will take time, practice and a bit of heartbreak but it is an important lesson to learn.

Finally, encourage your child to be friends with children from different groups and to not only count on just one other child but a few children. Continue to encourage and make it possible for children to have a play-dates and attend events with children that are positive. Continue to remind your child that friends should make you feel good. There will always be one in the crowd that you don't love. If your child continually falls into the wrong crowd or you think they are missing blatant social cues and your conversations are not helping, consider professional help such as an occupational therapist, child psychologist or developmental pediatrician.

Perhaps another post will address the friendship problem of "Nice Parent, Nasty Child" but for now I hope this post lends enough friendly advice!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day Care Decisions

As soon as you find out you are pregnant and step into any Baby mega store, you realize very quickly that you are going to be faced with a lot of tough choices. It can be pretty overwhelming whether to buy the Graco or the Britax car seat or to choose the right type of bottle or nursing bra, and that is just the beginning, it gets worse! Finding a day care (if you can get passed the choice not to go the nanny route) can be downright daunting if you don't put it into perspective. As a mother of three children, 2 of whom went through day care and one to begin this fall, I've put together a post to help other parents know the types of day care out there, what they should be looking for and the right questions to ask. In the end, you'll be repeating this process over and over again if you stay in New York City. From what I hear, the Middle School, and High School application process put both parents and kids sanity to the test. Look for a post (most likely a rant) on that topic in about 3 years!

There are two main types of day care programs found in New York City:

Center Based Childcare – Usually a chain serving children ages 2 months - 4 years. Children are grouped by age. Full day programs often with additional hours if needed before and after school regular hours (for a fee). There will usually be 2 teachers per class; one head teacher with a bachelor’s degree and one assistant with an associate’s degree or less. Often a large facility with a Director that serves as both an educational head and sales associate. Assistant Director deals with administrative tasks. Tends to stay general on philosophy.

Family or Group Childcare – Usually established and run by an individual in their home. Children’s ages are often mixed but may have age requirements. May have limited flexibility in terms of hours and may close during school holidays. It is often a small and intimate setting, often in an apartment. Owner is usually the head teacher (may not have a degree in education) and there is at least one assistant. Usually mission of program is very strong and director looks for both children and parents who are the right fit.

Questions to Ask:

What time does the day begin? End?

How long can parents stay after drop off? Are parents allowed to visit throughout the day? (Just remember, if they allow you to do this, all parents can do this. This can create a lot of disruption throughout drop off and throughout the day if there are not limits put on this practice)

How is separation handled? Is there a phase-in period?

How is discipline handled?

What is a typical day like for children at this program?

Do children go out everyday? Where do you usually go? If they are very young do they play or go on the swings or do they just go for a stroll?

Do children receive music, movement, or visual arts time?

What is the food policy at the school?

What is the procedure for dealing with children with allergies?

Can I call a former parent or have them call me?

Keep in Mind:

No program is perfect.

Every program loses an administrator and/or teacher at some point.

An educated individual does not always equal a great educator.

Just because your child is shy or withdrawn does not mean that day care is not an option.

Working with teachers is an important task for the duration your child’s school career. Use every opportunity to listen, learn, grow, discuss, exchange ideas, find solutions and disagree with grace.

Children get sick, some more than others. It is not uncommon for children in their first year of day care to get sick often.

What to look for:

Clean, fun and safe. All programs in NYC are managed by the Department of Health and must require all staff to pass a CPR course, child abuse and a basic health course.

Are they certified by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children)? A national, voluntary accreditation system to set professional standards for early childhood education programs – This is not necessary but if the school has this accreditation it has gone through a rigorous process.

Bright, decorated and updated holiday / monthly walls, all toys should have a place; room should not be too neat but should looked organized.

Varied materials and equipment made available for indoor and outdoor participation.

Teachers should be of mixed ages.

You should feel happy dropping your child off and so should your child.