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!