Carpe Diem

Hold your hand up like this to make a model of your brain. Source: Flickr/ Eleonora Carrus Hand (September Photoshoot)

Sometimes we have to stop, get off the treadmill and reevaluate.
Source: Flickr/ Eleonora Carrus
Hand (September Photoshoot)

I have been on a bit of a hiatus. We decided it was a good idea to move right before Christmas (it’s not!) I knew it was going to be stressful, but I did not realize how stressful it was going to be. However, like most things I think it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In order for it to work out we had to move in with my parents for a couple of weeks. I made that decision in order to keep the move as stress free as possible for my children. I think children seeing things in boxes and their things taken apart, especially at 2.5 and 4 can be very stressful. So I decided that we would stay with my parents for Christmas. A place that they are familiar with and a place that is very consistent and comfortable for them as we are fortunate enough to live close by and visit often. I thought I was doing it for my children, but it also greatly benefited me. It is so interesting how easy it is to both forget and reject how we are raised. I think we all do it, however, when you spend some time at your parent’s house after you have children you have a different perspective. You are given the gift of two perspectives; the perspective of seeing your parents through the eyes of a child and the perspective of an adult/parent trying to remember how your parents instilled the same important values you want for your own children.

For my parents, the preparation and the wonderment of the holiday season was what was important. There was not a lot of emphasis placed on the material things one received for Christmas but rather on the preparation for the joyous birth of Christ and the quality time spent with family and friends. Though my children are young I have tried to focus on the same things, but it is difficult. I cannot lie and say that I do not feel the pressure of what my children will find underneath the Christmas tree from Santa Claus (especially now with Facebook, thanks to all of the pictures people took of their Christmas trees with the myriads of gifts for their one child), and sometimes it even gets the better of me. However, this year was a bit easier as I could step outside of myself and have a somewhat more objective perspective. I could watch my mother decorate her house with my 4 year old, talking with her about each special decoration, baking cookies with Christmas music playing, and feeding her excitement and wonderment about the season. It was reminder enough that those gifts underneath the tree are not what Christmas is about. Those material objects are not what are going to feed her soul. My mother reminded me of the fact that no matter how many presents are under that tree children have the same reaction, “What’s next?” Nothing really stops them in their tracks and feeds their soul like the preparation and time spent with family and friends. I knew she was right, but sometimes we need reminders. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the temptations and the “busy-ness” of life. We caregivers need to be nurtured too.

That is what happened at my parent’s house. I was reminded of the mother I want to be by how I was nurtured and mothered again. When I feel lazy, tired and stressed, I find myself wanting to forget and reject what I thought was a strict upbringing because it is easier. It is easier not to battle with my daughter about nap time or that she is filling up on snack food rather than a proper meal. However, those strict routines are what made me feel so safe and secure. It is part of what made me who I am today. I now watch it with my own children. They feel so safe, secure and happy at “Grammy and Pop’s” house. I was reminded of the lifestyle I want for my own children, one where we are outside often for a bit of daily exercise and a dose of nature. We were always outside enjoying what God made because God is in everything and everyone. We rarely had the television on and you know what? My children easily adjusted to no television. My eldest daughter was even asking for it to be turned off at times. There are so many small temptations in life that slowly and subtlety bring us farther away from God, the person we were raised to be, and each other.

This time of year many of us ask each other about our New Year’s resolution. Mine is exactly this: I hope to bring the excitement, wonderment, and joy every day to my own and my children’s lives. That is no easy feat especially with all of the small temptations in life, but I am willing to try. It is definitely about putting down the I-phone, TV remote or whatever other distraction and being present. Every day is a gift (especially when one has children). Carpe diem.

How do you explain the differences between boys and girls? Source: Flickr/ Modestas Jonauskas Guste & Robertas II

Simple Pleasures
Source: Flickr/ Modestas Jonauskas
Guste & Robertas II

Why Are We So Judgmental?

Diversity is good. This to me is America.  Source: Flickr/ hepingting CB106492  Group of Friends Smiling

Diversity is good. This to me is America.
Source: Flickr/ hepingting
CB106492
Group of Friends Smiling

By Caitlyn Pearson Dunn

Why are we so judgmental? In a society plagued by political correctness, everyone has to fit into round pegs or else you are labeled as “different,” an aberration. But different does not have to be bad, it is good. Different is what makes the United States so great. We used to appreciate and cherish our differences. I worry that is no longer the case. I did not want to get political in this blog, but sometimes it is inevitable with regards to parenting because it is impossible to parent in a bubble. What happens in our society and in this world, affects our children and how we parent. Of course I am loosely referring to the Ferguson unrest. It seems to be dividing people when it should be bringing us together. Although I myself have never experienced racism, I have experienced sexism as well as the sensation of feeling different from others. Who at some point in his/her life has not felt different from others or like an outsider? It maybe naïve, but I do not think the national debate is only about black versus white, I think it is about a broader issue of a lack of empathy and a lack of appreciation of each other’s differences. Let’s face it; capitalism is not very conducive to either of these values.

Why are we trying to make everyone the same? This week’s entry started in this way because I am very frustrated at my job right now, but I think it also relates to the Ferguson situation. I find our educational system to be structured in such a way that it only caters to the children who fit into “round pegs” so to speak, but what about those of us who are not round pegs? There is no flexibility or wiggle room for a child who learns in a different way or who does not behave according to the educational system’s standards. There are different ways of learning besides through visual and auditory means. There are also kinesthetic learners. There are also a lot of assumptions within the educational system. It is neither sustainable nor viable that every child going through the educational system is going to become a lawyer, scientist, teacher, doctor, or financial person. I understand the good intention of trying to level the playing field, but it is not level and it is never going to be level. People have varying abilities according to their genetics and environment. We need carpenters, construction workers, plumbers, electricians, janitors, waiters/waitresses, artists, and chefs just as much if not more than some of those other so called “prestigious” careers. However, as of now our educational system and capitalistic driven society does not value those other careers. The United States needs creativity and ingenuity. We need to emphasize a love of learning for learning’s sake, not this one size fits all approach that turns off many to school and to learning, and who are sometimes left on the outskirts of society because of it.

What if you are a square peg? Source: Flickr/ s3aphotography Master Mind (3)

What if you are a square peg?
Source: Flickr/ s3aphotography
Master Mind (3)

We also have to admit that there is not a level playing field in the United States and do something about it. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego investigated the link between childhood trauma and long-term health and social consequences. The investigation is called The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Read more about it here. It was one of the largest investigations ever conducted in order to assess associations between childhood trauma and later life health issues and general well-being. One of the important findings was that childhood adversity is very common. It is not just in “those” neighborhoods. It is not someone else’s problem. (Even as I write that sentence I am reminded of Ferguson and that it is collectively our problem). The study found that at least 66% of the 17,000 participants experienced at least one type of childhood trauma, that is two-thirds! Yet, teachers are not trained in how to manage children with traumatic pasts nor are social-emotional curriculums made a priority. When schools have to make budget cuts, one of the first positions they cut are school social workers, the very people who work on the “front lines” with many of these traumatized children and their families. Many early childhood programs focus on academics rather than teaching social emotional skills, the very thing children at this age need the most.

So why are we so judgmental? For a society that strives to be so nonjudgmental and politically correct, we fail miserably. Why does everyone have to fit neatly into one category or another? And if they do not, we fear them rather than appreciate and learn about them? Differences are good. Our differences are what make us interesting and special. I want to teach my children that lesson and we are their models. People and relationships enrich our lives. As cheesy as it sounds we are all one race, the human race, and we need to start caring about each other.

Source: Flickr/ BK We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race  We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.   - Kofi Annan (more love quotes and sayings)   This is also featured at OM | Rekindling the Light Within   Original photo credit: Guy Sie

Source: Flickr/ BK
We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race
We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.
– Kofi Annan (more love quotes and sayings)
This is also featured at OM | Rekindling the Light Within
Original photo credit: Guy Sie

Anger

How do you help your child calm down? Source: Mindaugas Danys scream and shout/Flickr

How do you help your child calm down?
Source: Mindaugas Danys
scream and shout/Flickr

By Caitlyn Pearson Dunn, LCSW

My daughter and I have been having a tough time these past couple of weeks. Her temperament is different from my son’s. He tends to be very even keel especially if he eats and sleeps regularly. My daughter also needs a schedule, but she is more sensitive and aware of the details and nuances in her world and therefore, I believe she is more susceptible to the moods of others around her. She feels the stress and tension, but does not know exactly what to do with it. So lately she has been very angry and she has been spending lots of time in the “calm down” chair for let’s just say inappropriately displaying that anger. I have noticed that she is calming down faster, but I have been wondering if I am really helping her learn how to deal with her anger.

I will admit that I am not the best at handling my own anger and no one knows how to bring out my angry side more than my daughter (maybe my husband, ha). I am more even keel and I tend to internalize, keeping my feelings inside, hence the recent neck/back issues. In some ways I admire my daughter in the way that she is able to feel that anger and express it outwardly as I definitely think it is better for one’s health. Internalizing anger brings with it high blood pressure, bodily aches and pains, and some even believe cancer. The only problem is that I need to help her express her anger in a healthier way.

Since I am not the best with managing my own anger, I did a bit of research online. I know the first step is labeling the feeling then identifying the reasons for the feeling, but after that I am a bit lost as to what to do. I always try to say, “I see you are angry, and I think you are angry because you are tired, hungry, or frustrated,” which is a good start, but I want to do more for my daughter. The goal is that eventually your child can tell you his/her own feeling and why he/she is feeling that way. So in my research I found a blog post with a great idea. It is so funny because the idea is very similar to suggestions I make at work to almost every teacher which is to have a cozy corner, but I did not think to use the strategy in my own house. One of my go-to discipline strategies when talking to parents before I had my own children was the “time-out.” As I worked more with parents and I had my own children, I realized that I do not really like “time-outs.” In my house I have adapted it to the “calm down” chair because that is the basic premise of a “time-out.” I do not think it should be about punishment, but rather it is about teaching your child how to stop, and think before acting. The “time-out” is simply a chance to calm down, reflect and think about what they have done. The problem is that most use the “time-out” in a punitive way instead of a learning tool, myself included. However, with my daughter’s angry outbursts increasing I have been wondering if she needs more than just the “calm down” chair because she calms down, but I am not helping her to replace the inappropriate behavior with something else. She is learning how to calm down faster which is great, but she is not learning more appropriate ways to handle her anger. She is still hitting and throwing insults in anger. Then I came across this blog post here. I feel like a lot of these ideas could help me as well. I love the ideas: the calm basket including books, ideas of how to calm down and a mind jar. Mind jars are great. I have seen teachers use them with children in the classroom with great success.

What do you think of these ideas? Do you have other ideas you use to help your children learn how to calm themselves down?

Then just let it be and feel it.  Source: Nickolai Kashirin Road meditation/Flickr

Then just let it be and feel it.
Source: Nickolai Kashirin
Road meditation/Flickr

Putting Your Oxygen Mask on First

Put Your Oxygen Mask on First Source: Flickr/ David Crane may vary  lga to dfw

Put Your Oxygen Mask on First
Source: Flickr/ David Crane
may vary
lga to dfw

Something that you hear about a lot in the mental health profession over and over again is how important it is to learn how to take care of yourself first. I must admit it is a concept I have always had trouble putting into practice in my own life. At first I just thought that seemed a selfish concept, take care of you first, that seems contradictory to any sort of kindness or empathy. However, after the past several weeks of stress my back went out a couple of times. I was stuck on the couch unable to move for multiple days because of stress and because I was not taking care of myself first. I was so angry with myself. It reminded me of something a former work colleague always used to say, “You have to put on your oxygen mask first.” I thought it was a great analogy. When you take a trip on an airplane, and you listen to the safety procedures before taking off the flight attendant reminds you that if for any reason the oxygen masks should deploy to place the oxygen mask on yourself first then your child. Of course when you think about it in this situation it makes more sense, if you put the oxygen mask on your child first you may pass out in the meantime, and then you are no help to anyone. It is the same thing in life; we need to put on our own oxygen masks first before we can take care of anyone else or even think about being kind or empathic.

As I said though this is much more difficult to put into practice than one would think especially when you have children. In order to take care of yourself first you need to figure out exactly what you need in order to take care of yourself and then you have to make the time to implement it. People gave great ideas last week in response to dealing with stress, running, venting to a good friend, exercise, fresh air, and making shorter to-do lists. I would add that taking care of yourself might also include a date night, going to a movie, getting a coffee with a good friend, going to a museum or show, taking a hot bath or shower, listening to music, reading, or writing. It is getting back to doing those things that remind you of yourself and what makes you “tick.” Perhaps if I had been making time to do some of those things my back would not have gone out. It is easy to blame others for our stress, but really it is our job and no one else’s to figure out what we need in order to manage that stress.

However, in order to put on our oxygen masks first it is not just about figuring out how to take care of ourselves and finding the time to do it, it also entails asking for help. Ah, …asking for help, one of the more challenging tasks for most. Most of us do not like to ask for help.   During my masters program I had to write an essay about a time that I had asked for help. It was problematic even thinking about a time that I had asked for help. Asking for help is hard because it puts us in a state of vulnerability, but sometimes it is the only way to take care of ourselves.  Once we figure out what we need in order to take care of ourselves then we need to ask for help from our partners, friends or other family members. For instance, “I had a really tough day today, I need to take a nice hot shower, would you mind putting the kids to bed?” Even that question is no simple task, especially for a mother, whose guilt is always following close behind. All you can do is tell yourself that nice hot shower alone is taking care of you and filling up your bucket so to speak so that the next day you will have more to give your children (and your partner for that matter).

Take care of yourself first, not only is it beneficial to you, it is also beneficial to your family and especially your children. Your children then learn how to take care of themselves including learning how to ask for help. If they are able to take care of themselves and ask for help when they need it, then they will easily become more generous, kind and empathic.  Can you think of a time you had to ask for help? What was the experience like for you?

This captures some of the essence of a mother's love Source: Andreas Møller Kiss/Flickr

This captures some of the essence of a mother’s love
Source: Andreas Møller
Kiss/Flickr

Stress and Parenting

What do you do when you're stressed? Source: Flickr/ Christopher Meredith Stress  This started out as a throwaway test shot for my shiny old Promaster manual lens, but I was struck by the contrast between the serenity in the face and the tension in the body language. Tonemapped and vignetted to highlight the emotion.

What do you do when you’re stressed?
Source: Flickr/ Christopher Meredith
Stress
This started out as a throwaway test shot for my shiny old Promaster manual lens, but I was struck by the contrast between the serenity in the face and the tension in the body language. Tonemapped and vignetted to highlight the emotion.

If you have ever been pregnant or had a newborn baby, you know what I am talking about when I say “baby brain.” Basically it is the feeling of having so much going on at once that you feel like you cannot function. I have been thinking about this because we are presently in the middle of selling our home and purchasing a new one. I know that information is going into my brain, but sometimes I am not sure where it is going. With so many moving parts each day, I literally feel like I have to orient myself every few hours; what day is it? What am I supposed to do today? Where am I? Where are my children? It sounds ridiculous, but if you have ever been under a lot of stress you know the feeling. You feel like your mind is going to mush. So what is this feeling about?

I remember my friend telling me about a conference she had been to on this very topic. The speaker gave the audience a 7-digit phone number to remember (without writing it down) and then continued with his lecture. Before the break he asked the audience if anyone could remember the number he had given them in the beginning of the lecture. Some people remembered 2, 3, maybe 4 numbers, but no one could remember the whole phone number. During the lecture he talked about how one’s short-term memory has the capacity to remember 7 pieces of information at a time, so why couldn’t anyone remember the whole phone number? It is because of “interference” in the encoding process. Many people may have tried to continually repeat the phone number in their heads in an effort to remember, however, a sudden distraction or “interference” like someone chewing behind them, a thought about something that happened in the morning or a pertinent comment by the lecturer may distract from the encoding process. So it is not as if the information has been erased from your brain, but rather it is that it was never properly “programmed in” to begin with. Your brain tries to remember the information but if something more pressing arrives, that something has to give. Read more about that here.

I am in awe of all of the mothers and fathers out there working full-time. I remember when I did work full-time and I had an infant at home. It is as if you put in a full day before you even get to work. Then you arrive at work and you are told about a meeting at 10 am. Meanwhile you think about whether you forgot to tell the babysitter something, why your baby did not sleep so well last night, the doctor’s appointment you have to make, the fight you had with your husband, what you are going to make for dinner, the laundry piling up at home, and the project for work due next week. These stresses of everyday life interfere with the encoding process and so the meeting at 10 am easily slips your mind.

We all have good days and bad days as parents. There are the days when you feel like the best mother ever and other days when you do not. The level of stress one feels definitely makes a difference in parenting. I think this is because stress makes it difficult to be present and in the moment with our children. Most often when children are around one is multi-tasking and multi-tasking and focusing do not mix. Of course the simple solution is keeping stress at bay as much as possible, but how do you do that? Easier said than done.  What do you do when you are feeling stressed?  I’d love to hear from you. Do you talk to a friend? Listen to music? Dance? Take a walk?

Beach for guided imagery Source: Flickr/ Izu navi Shirahama Ohama Beach  Shirahama Ohama Beach

Beach for guided imagery
Source: Flickr/ Izu navi
Shirahama Ohama Beach
Shirahama Ohama Beach

My Little Renaissance Man

Halloween is a time to be free and try on different identities. Source: Flickr/ liz west halloween  Back when kids made their own Halloween costumes, my kids really got into the spirit of things.

Halloween is a time to be free and try on different identities.
Source: Flickr/ liz west
halloween
Back when kids made their own Halloween costumes, my kids really got into the spirit of things.

This entry is in honor of Halloween, a time when we can be free, express ourselves and try on different identities. I always thought it must be the worst feeling in the world to have to hide your true identity from the outside world, to lead a double life, in a way. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted for exactly who they are. I noticed while looking for costumes for my children how most animals like tigers or giraffes are marketed towards boys and girl’s costumes were mainly princesses or fairies. What do you do if your daughter wants to be a giraffe and your son wants to be a princess?  How do you teach your children to be true to themselves when society sometimes dictates the opposite?

My 2.5-year-old son loves to play dress-up and he carries around dolls wherever he goes. He spends most of his time with his older sister, mother, and grandmother, -all women. He adores his older sister. It makes my husband uncomfortable that he dresses up in dresses for pretend play. He even bought him some pirate and other more “masculine” dress up clothes, but to no avail. My son prefers the dresses. It does not bother me, at some level I think it is about semantics. We talk about “dressing up” or “getting dressed,” which I think to him implies that one wears a dress (makes sense). I think it is also mostly about trying on different roles because sometimes he is pretending he is a princess going to a ball, but other times he is going to work or to the grocery store. I think his imaginative skills are phenomenal and I think that is due in part to the fact that he is able to explore dramatic play with his sister; many boys are not afforded that privilege. My son also does not know yet whether he is a boy or a girl. He does not understand that concept yet, and it has made me realize what a complex concept it is. Whenever I try to explain the differences between men and women beyond anatomy, I am at a loss, as I do not want to put one gender down in order to explain another one. My husband likes to remind him that he has a penis and that makes him a boy and boys do not wear dresses. However, he always asks, “why can’t I wear dresses?” Not an easy question to respond to without putting femininity down. I love to watch how happy it makes him to put dress-up dresses on, jewelry and high heel shoes. He has a joy on his face. He is pretending and having fun. Often I think adults sexualize children’s behavior when it does need to be. Kids are just being kids. Any sexual connotation attached to play behavior is coming from adults. Play is how they make sense of their world. The other day when we were at the mall some older boys were making fun of my son and laughing at him for carrying around an Elsa doll, but frankly I do not understand that reaction. Do we not want our sons to love and respect women? I take it both as the highest form of flattery that he prefers to walk around with a woman and that he is becoming a caring, nurturing little boy. I frequently tell people I am raising a “Renaissance man.”

I remember learning in a college psychology course about a theory stating that masculinity and femininity should be thought of more from the framework of a continuum rather than as polar extremes, and that feminine does not equal female nor does masculine equal male. It also did not equate masculinity and femininity with sexual orientation. Every person has some characteristics, values, and behaviors from each perspective. Meaning that if a man has more effeminate characteristics than masculine characteristics, it does not automatically make him a homosexual. The theory made sense to me then and it still does today. I have met many men who have some effeminate characteristics as well as masculine, likewise I have met women with masculine and feminine traits. It feels wrong to me that in order to instill masculine values into a child with male anatomy, people often do so by denigrating the female sex. How often are crying boys told not to be such a “girl” or a “sissy”? Or why does a little boy look silly in a dress, but a little girl looks fine in a cowboy outfit? Right away from when a child is very young it sets up a power deferential. North Americans value the masculine gender norm over the feminine; it is more desirable to be assertive, independent, or even aggressive rather than submissive, dependent or nurturing. However, in other cultures the opposite is true. So our concept of masculinity and femininity is extremely influenced by the society in which we live. It even begins in the womb; people react differently upon hearing whether a pregnant woman is carrying a boy or a girl. One has to be extremely careful in the way that they explain and model the differences between men and women. If not, there is a direct correlation between strict gender roles and the incidence of domestic violence. Growing up in a household where there are strict gender roles is a risk factor for becoming either a batterer or victim of domestic violence. So there should not be any discussion of “women’s work” versus “men’s work” in the household, but rather it should be shared tasks of the household.

How do you explain the differences between boys and girls? Source: Flickr/ Modestas Jonauskas Guste & Robertas II

How do you explain the differences between boys and girls?
Source: Flickr/ Modestas Jonauskas
Guste & Robertas II

So how does this polarizing way of thinking continue to be perpetuated? Marketing is one answer. (It always goes back to capitalism). Why is pink for girls and blue for boys? Most of what we believe regarding the characteristics of masculinity and femininity are societal constructs, even very subtle ones like pink for girls and blue for boys. University of Maryland researcher and historian Jo Paoletti discovered that the pink for girls blue for boys phenomenon only started in the United States around the 1950’s. For example, the June 1918 issue of the Infant’s Department, a trade magazine, said:

“There has been a great diversity of opinion on this subject, but the generally accepted rule is             pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy; while blue which is more delicate and dainty is prettier for the girl.”  Ahh, the power of marketing…. However, Paoletti believes why the opposite stuck was because of the influence of French fashion which dictated pink for girls and blue for boys. Read more about this here  What is interesting now is that pink is considered the delicate daintier color while blue is the opposite. It is fascinating how things change and the subtlety of it over time.

Why is being “gender normal” so important to us? Why do we want to neatly fit into just two categories? Why does a girl wearing a tiger costume and a toddler boy wearing a princess costume threaten us? I like this line from developmental psychologist Roni Cohen Leiderman,

The fact that your son enjoys playing with girls’ things is an indication that you’ve been open and supportive and that you’ve provided him with opportunities that go beyond typical “boys'” play — and not an indication of his future sexual preference. The truth is, he may grow up to be gay or he may not, but playing with Barbies at age 2 or 3 isn’t going to “make” him anything other than an imaginative child. (http://www.babycenter.com/404_is-it-normal-for-my-preschooler-a-boy-to-like-girls-clothes_69414.bc).

Changing Your “Screen Time” Habits…

With this new age of technology, “screen time” is really a hot button issue. People seem to fall on one side or the other, either absolutely against technology for children or technology is the end all be all. As I find with most things in life, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. I can see the merits of both sides, however, in my professional life I mostly see the downfalls of overexposure to technology. There are many young children who are not able to pay attention, sit still, transition from one activity to another or regulate their bodies and emotions. Of course there are many possible causes to these issues, however, one thing that I have noticed that they all have in common is that they spend lots of time in front of the television, video games, I-phone or I-pad aka “screen time.” I do not discount that many of these children are probably very “busy” biologically to begin with and screen time is one of the ways that gives poor old Mom or Dad a break, but when meeting with parents I always argue that putting children in front of a screen is a quick fix and later in the day, week, month, they will pay for that “screen time.” I have seen the effects of television first hand with my own children. The amount of television they watch is inversely proportional to their behavior.

When is it too much screen time? Source: Flickr/ Jim Champion Barnacles!

When is it too much screen time?
Source: Flickr/ Jim Champion
Barnacles!

Let me explain, most of the research coming out of Harvard and Yale has been focusing on the brain and how the brain is structured and developed. In the 1990’s Italian researchers discovered mirror neurons. Using monkeys, the researchers found that the same part of the brain (down to a single neuron) is activated when one performs an action as well as when one watches an action being performed by another. Mirror neurons prove why we learn so well through mimicry and why we are able to empathize. We are literally hard-wired for it. More and more lately I have noticed in my daughter’s play and her interaction with her brother that she copies me down to minute details, my speech patterns, even my mannerisms. Children need partners in their social emotional development. Social emotional development includes emotional self-regulation, empathy, paying attention, making friends, cooperating with others, following rules and transitioning from one activity to another. (Track your child’s social-emotional development with this helpful chart from PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wholechild/abc/social.html) These social emotional skills cannot be learned through any type of technology. The only way one learns these skills is through personal one to one social interaction.

Many people disregard the importance of social emotional development, however, its development is critical to any type of higher learning. The brain’s structure is hierarchical. The best metaphor I have heard is to use your hand as a model for the brain. Look at the inside of your hand and think of the part from your wrist to the base of your thumb as the brain stem or “primitive brain” which forms first. Then cross your thumb over towards the middle of your palm, that is the midbrain which houses one’s fight or flight responses and also stores old memories. Finally, fold your fingers over your thumb that is the cortex. The cortex is the only place where problem solving and self-control happen. What happens if a child or adult becomes anxious or angry? When a child or adult becomes angry or anxious (flip your fingers up), the “midbrain” takes over or your fight versus flight responses and old memories. This is referred to as “flipping your lid.” It is not an easy task to try to teach, to reason with or to problem solve with someone who has “flipped his/her lid.” I see children all the time at work that are constantly “flipping their lids” because they never learned how to self-regulate. I actually think technology is an obstacle in a child’s social emotional development. Things like television, video games, apps, etc. are continually stimulating the child’s brain, however, the child has no output for all of that stimulation, so the child is not able to regulate him/herself. The only visual I can think of to explain this process is continuously filling up a balloon with air to the point that it can no longer withstand all of the input so as the air is released the balloon begins “crazily” bouncing off of the walls and floor. It is the same for children with technology there is constant stimulation without any release. Hence, the larger number of children who have symptoms similar to “ADHD.” When a child is interacting with another child or another adult there is a two-way exchange happening, so that some of the energy can be released through the social interaction, and the child can regulate himself/herself as well as learn other skills.

Hold your hand up like this to make a model of your brain. Source: Flickr/ Eleonora Carrus Hand (September Photoshoot)

Hold your hand up like this to make a model of your brain.
Source: Flickr/ Eleonora Carrus
Hand (September Photoshoot)

So how do you change your family’s “screen time” habits? First of all I think the first step is to think about your own “screen time” habits. What were the rules around television, movies, computers or video games when you were growing up? Did you have any rules or was technology viewed as a right rather than a privilege? How do you use technology now? Is the television always on as background noise or are you discriminating in which shows you watch? Do you turn on the television or look at your phone for social media or email when you are bored instead of picking up a book or newspaper/magazine, engaging in a hobby, calling a friend, or playing with your children? Do you put any limits on your own “screen time?” Since children learn by watching they are observing your habits as well so a good place to start is changing your own habits before working on your children’s habits. After you decide what kind of rules you want around “screen time,” then it simply takes commitment.

I did a little experiment this week myself as I was thinking about what I was going to write. I am guilty of telling myself I cannot get anything done unless I put the television on for my children. That is only partly true. So this week my experiment was not turning on the television in the morning. I like to sleep in a bit and I often put the television on for my children so I can sleep in ten or twenty more minutes (Mommy confessions, ha). However, this week I did not put the television on. I still slept in a little bit, but it was not a disaster! My children played together and we were actually on time this week, no rushing. My children got ready and ate breakfast faster than on the mornings when I keep the television on. We were on our own timetable instead of the televisions, and there were no distractions. I find when the television is on at times my children become “zoned in” and are not aware of anything else around them including me.

The answer lies in committing to turning off the “screens” and again, routines. I have learned so much from working in a school. Children’s behavior improves at school because they are engaged and they know exactly what to expect. They do the same thing everyday, yet there are so many things going on. Make your home the same way. Infants to preschoolers do not need much to be entertained. They mostly love spending any sort of time with their caregivers. Some activities are drawing, making collages, painting, dramatic or imaginative play, reading books, cooking or baking, taking walks, running around outside, playing catch, exploring, dancing, singing, board games like Memory or Candy land or games like “Simon says,” “I spy,” “What’s Missing?” or “What time is it Mr. Fox?” to name a few. You can also make games out of everyday chores as well. My daughter likes to help me sort the laundry. It is entertaining to her and she is learning about colors and sorting. When I have to vacuum we pretend the vacuum is a shark or alligator and it tries to “eat” my children. It takes a little longer to get my cleaning done, but they are usually laughing and having a good time.

When my children do watch television or movies, I am always in the room watching it with them. Children usually have many questions about what is going on throughout the program. I answer their questions and we talk about the show or movie. I am also very discriminating in my television choices. Almost every show now has a rating, which is great. For example, there is a rating of Y-7 which means the television show is for children seven years or older, not for four year olds. Mainly what is appropriate for preschoolers is “G.” I like PBS kids, Disney Junior, and Sprout the best. I press the “info” button to find out the rating normally or it appears on the upper left corner of the screen. I also watch the shows with my children because I want them to have my values, not the values of the people writing the shows. I will tell them, “Mommy does not like that,” or “We do not do that in our house,” or I might ask them what the character could have done instead. Preschoolers can begin to understand that there are different rules for different places. I may be in the minority, but I actually prefer movies or DVDs to television shows. When we are going to have any “screen time” I prefer Disney movies or educational DVDs we borrow from the library which I watch with them as well. Even after watching shows or movies many times they still have lots of questions. I like movies and DVDs because there are no commercials, and they are time-limited. The television sometimes has the habit of staying on longer than you want when it goes from one show to the next. I also find that my children begin to act out the movie. They do not sit down, glued to the screen. They will watch for a little bit and then they either sing with or act out what is happening on the screen, releasing some of that pent up energy.

Get on the floor and be silly!  Crystal Sanchez Funny Face - Day 5/365  2-21-2014/Flickr

Get on the floor and be silly!
Crystal Sanchez
Funny Face – Day 5/365
2-21-2014/Flickr

The real danger surrounding the use of technology or “screen time” is that frequently the child is left in isolation with the screen. We as parents need to get something done or we just need a break and it is easier to put a child in front of a screen, but is it? Turn off the screens and let children play together and be social. I cannot help but think that the increase in mass shootings and incidences of bullying in the United States has something to do with the increase of screen time. More screen time leads to more isolation and less empathy.

Getting Children to Sleep

Getting Children To Sleep Source: Flickr/ rachel CALAMUSA It's time to sleep  "Its time to sleep,its time to sleep, the fishes croon in waters deep. The songbirds sing in trees above,"its time to sleep my love my love." From the book: Its Time to sleep,my love By Eric Metaxas and Nancy Tillman

Getting Children To Sleep
Source: Flickr/ rachel CALAMUSA
It’s time to sleep
“Its time to sleep,its time to sleep, the fishes croon in waters deep.
The songbirds sing in trees above,”its time to sleep my love my love.” From the book: Its Time to sleep,my love
By Eric Metaxas and Nancy Tillman

Sleep makes a huge difference in our lives. There is a reason people often give the advice, “sleep on it.” When we get a good night’s sleep the next day we have a completely different outlook on life. The opposite is true when we do not get enough sleep, we feel tired, it is difficult to concentrate or even think straight, and we feel irritable and cranky. Sometimes we feel as if we will not make it through the day, luckily for us there is coffee. Lack of sleep for children feels the exact same way they become little “hot messes.” It is recommended that infants to preschoolers get 12-15 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period (for newborns it is more 15-18 hours). So how do we get our children to sleep?

Routines. If children know exactly what is coming each day it helps lower anxiety. Not only that it helps give them a sense of time. If every night around the same time they have dinner, take a bath, read a book, then go to bed, their bodies start to “know” when bedtime is approaching and they will become sleepy at the same time every night. The same is true for naptime. If they have lunch, watch “The Wiggles,” read a book, then take a nap the same time each day their body will become used to it. The body loves routine and consistency. It makes sense since one of the body’s biggest jobs is to maintain homeostasis. If one day they nap at 11am, the next day they nap at 2pm and the third day they nap at 12pm, then their bodies are confused! It also helps to create routines around your children’s cues. If you notice that everyday around 10am-11am your child is yawning, laying down on the rug or couch that is probably when he/she needs to nap. Many parents tell me their children just are not tired. Honestly, I do not think that is true, I think parents often miss their child’s cues and then the child becomes overtired. Once your child is overtired, forget about it, it is near impossible to get him/her to sleep because overtired quickly becomes hyper. Observe your child and identify his/her cues. Some examples of cues are: rubbing a tummy, ear, head, or teddy bear (it is sometimes called, “silking,”) yawning, or sucking on a thumb or finger. Plan your routines around those cues. They say it takes three times to form a habit, so breaking the routine one day is not a big deal, but breaking the routine two to three times more and the habit is broken; i.e. no more naptime.

I never had one of these that just fell asleep while playing! Source: flickr/ Mark T Joey Asleep on Floor  He was so tired that he fell asleep on the tile by the front door

I never had one of these that just fell asleep while playing!
Source: flickr/ Mark T
Joey Asleep on Floor
He was so tired that he fell asleep on the tile by the front door

The other question to consider is how does one get to sleep? It is really about being able to soothe oneself, be calm and meditative in order to arrive at a “sleepy” state of mind. We have all had those nights where we are staring at the ceiling thinking about everything going on in our lives and throughout the day. When our minds are racing like that, it is not conducive to a restful night of sleep. Again it is the same for children. They have to be taught how to soothe themselves, have calm bodies and clear their minds before bedtime. Personally I am a big proponent of bath time before bed. My children love bath time and water is very soothing and calming. A nice, warm bath also tires the body. In order to maintain homeostasis your body’s temperature has to adjust to the outside temperature in the bathtub and that is “work” for the body. The other thing that tires out the body is physical and mental activity. Children do not become tired from watching television all day long or even playing video games. Children need social interaction and free playtime where they can work out any unfinished business from the day, not to mention breathe in the fresh air. Play tires children out, but it also allows them to be able to clear their minds because play is how they work out any anything that may be troubling them. I hear from many parents that once their children start a full day school program, their children are asleep as soon as they hit the pillow. That is purely because they are being mentally, socially, and physically stimulated and challenged all day. I believe babies need similar mental, physical and social stimulation as well. They need to “play” and be exposed to new people, places and situations. A word of caution though because I was guilty of this with my first child. I would over stimulate her and babies get overtired very quickly, then once they are overtired it is very difficult to get them to sleep. Some of the signs of overstimulation in babies are if they start to turn away from you, stare into space, and begin to look distressed, have heavy breathing, or begin a crying fit.

We may not realize it, but I am sure that all of us have some sort of bedtime ritual. Children need this as well. It is a period that helps them to calm down and prepare themselves for bedtime. Normally about a half hour or so after dinner before bath time I dim all of the lights in our place. Many of us are light sensitive. For me I know that I have to be in a very dark room in order to go to sleep, any bit of light wakes me up. I think that both of my children are the same way. It is about setting up an atmosphere conducive to sleeping. At bedtime I use lots of reminders about having calm bodies, not running around and I try to use a softer voice around bedtime. Some of our bedtime rituals include: reading books, rocking in a chair, listening to music, hugs and kisses, and certain phrases I say to them every night. Children need these little details to feel safe and loved. Usually while I am rocking my son in the chair we review their day and they ask last minute questions they have about the day or something bothering them. Lately my son asks about the beast, and where the beast is. I assure him that the beast is very far away and that all of the doors and windows are locked and that the beast cannot come in. We also have a very large, toddler size teddy bear that protects them from the beast, monsters and spiders. Sometimes my daughter has trouble settling down and that is when I have used some of the principles from guided imagery or meditation. For example, in a soft voice I give her ideas about happy thoughts, like the beach describing slowly what she might see and feel at the beach, or a birthday party or playground, etc. Then she thinks about it in her head to get to sleep.

Beach for guided imagery Source: Flickr/ Izu navi Shirahama Ohama Beach  Shirahama Ohama Beach

Beach for guided imagery
Source: Flickr/ Izu navi
Shirahama Ohama Beach
Shirahama Ohama Beach

Many of the rituals we used for bedtime when they were babies have carried over like being rocked, hugged closely, talking softly, rubbing backs and listening to music (I used to sing or hum when they were babies). I believe in routines and responsive parenting, but I do not buy into “sleep training.” I do not believe that letting a baby cry to the point where they are so distressed they give up and go to sleep is in a child’s best interest. In my opinion that is only teaching a child to have mistrust of the world, “I cry and no one comes.” I did let my children cry, but only to the point where I could take it or I felt they could take it, and never before 6 months of age. I would go in, comfort them to the point where they calmed down, then leave. I do not think you can spoil a baby. If I did let them cry (mostly no more than 5 minutes) I also tried to give them a tool with which to be able to soothe them like a teddy bear or “blankie.” When I began to have more trouble with my daughter going to sleep at night, I believe around 9 months or so, I introduced her teddy bear. First at naptime while I rocked her I put the teddy bear between us, then transferred her to her crib with the teddy bear once she fell asleep so when she woke up she had a comfort object with her.

Getting children to sleep is no easy task! It is a lot of trial and error and sleepless nights. I would say for parents it is about 2 years of not getting much sleep. The good thing is that they still nap at this age; the bad thing is that most parents work full-time now so they cannot also partake in naptime. There is no magic strategy to getting children to sleep. It is a lot of time, patience and commiserating with other parents!

Sibling Rivalry

How to Stop the Sibling Rivalry Wandering Istra Sibling Rivalry/Flickr

How to Stop the Sibling Rivalry
Wandering Istra
Sibling Rivalry/Flickr

My cousin passed away this week. He was much older than me, but still quite young which always makes a loss more difficult. He leaves behind a mother, a brother, two sisters, and a niece and a nephew. I would not say I enjoy attending funerals, they are difficult to say the least, especially watching people you love and care about grieve. However, I find that funerals offer a time to reflect on one’s own life. If I die, what will I want my impact on the world to have been? During the eulogy, my aunt and cousin talked about how my cousin was a family man. He did not have a family of his own, but he was always there for his sisters, brother, mother, niece and nephew. And it was true he would have done anything for any one of his siblings. Friends are great and important but there is nothing like close family (of course when they are good, healthy relationships). I never asked my aunt how she fostered her children’s’ relationships or if she even did, but I know that I want to foster a healthy sibling relationship between my two children. At work, many parents ask me about handling sibling rivalry. So far my children are very young, but they do get along very well, so I will share what I have implemented thus far with them. My mother always said that the relationships one has within his/her family would be replicated outside of the family.

To help with sibling rivalry it really starts right when you bring that newborn baby home from the hospital. I realized this the hard way as a few days after I brought my son home, when no one was looking; my daughter bit my newborn’s finger. She bit it hard enough that he shrieked in a way I have never heard from a baby before! I knew I had to be proactive. Right away I began “partnering” with her. He became “our baby.” I would talk about everything I was doing for the baby for the baby’s benefit as well as my daughter’s. I taught my daughter that a baby’s cry is his/her only form of communication. It was how he told us what he needed. As he grew my daughter at only 2 years old was often better than me at knowing what he wanted. As he began to smile or laugh, I would let her know that it was his way of showing her how much he liked her. There was also a lot of “selling” on my part. I would “sell” to her how much better it was to be a big girl rather than a baby. I tried to point out all of the things she could do that a baby could not. Believe me, sometimes it was a hard “sell” because babies get a lot more attention than “big girls.” So the most important thing is somehow making sure the older sibling does not feel that difference in attention (as well as explaining why a baby does need more attention). Somehow try to find at least 10-20 minutes of one on one time a day you can give to the older sibling whether it is while the baby is napping or you have to enlist help to get it done that one on one of undivided cuddling time will help ease the transition.

Babies are not blobs! Source: Flickr/Marcos de Madariaga La infancia tiene sus propias maneras de ver, pensar y sentir; no hay nada más insensato que pretender sustituirlas por las nuestras.  Childhood has its own ways of watching, thinking and feeling; there is nothing more foolish to try to replace them with ours.   Strobist info: 1x160 W thru white umbrella pointing to roof, on the right of the camera.

Babies are not blobs!
Source: Flickr/Marcos de Madariaga
La infancia tiene sus propias maneras de ver, pensar y sentir; no hay nada más insensato que pretender sustituirlas por las nuestras.
Childhood has its own ways of watching, thinking and feeling; there is nothing more foolish to try to replace them with ours.
Strobist info: 1×160 W thru white umbrella pointing to roof, on the right of the camera.

I also always had the baby with us (my daughter and me). Babies are not little blobs! (Check out the research they are doing at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/multimedia/interactive_features/coreconcepts/). Even though they cannot yet communicate verbally they are little sponges taking everything in. So I always put the baby very close to us, watching us play. I helped my daughter to teach him things and play with him whether that meant songs and finger play or even being silly making him laugh. Children learn what make babies laugh quickly. They will even make themselves fall over if it makes a baby laugh. Once he got older and more interactive, to help my daughter share with him we did a lot of trading or exchanging. I would say to her, “Okay, you want the toy he’s playing with then you have to go find another toy for him first.” Then as they were both talking we still used the trading technique and if they could not work it out then no one got to play with the toy. I also do not make them play together all of the time. The majority of the time they want to play together, but sometimes my older daughter wants to play by herself and I think that should be okay. We all need our alone time and it teaches them about respecting other peoples’ space.

Something else I do to help foster their relationship is that I let them comfort each other. Often my daughter will become upset that her brother is upset because he is being scolded about something. I tell her that she can comfort him if she would like and she often does. And I think it is great. Just as when he was a baby and sometimes my daughter knew better what he wanted than me, it seems to be the same now. Often she can comfort him more easily than I can. For instance, it is often difficult to get my son to leave the house in the morning. He will throw a tantrum, I will be running late, and tempers flare. It is a huge disaster. My daughter will ask me what is wrong and I will tell her that we are trying to leave so I can take her to school, but we cannot go until her brother gets ready. Then she will go and she will talk to him. Magically he will snap out of it, calm down and get ready. It is amazing. He has the same power over her as well. I have learned that with my daughter she simply needs time and space to calm down, however, often my son can talk to her and snap her out of a tantrum.

I am also big on emphasizing empathy and respect. Often if one sibling hurts another I will ask him/her to look at the other’s face and say, “Look you hurt him, he is sad. I know it was an accident, but what could you do to show him that you care about him because we care about each other in this house? You can ask him if he is okay.” I also use the words respect and consideration a lot with them. I know they are big words and at first they do not understand what they mean, but with repetition they do. I will identify when they are and are not being considerate of each other. I also talk about respect in the way that if you want him to listen to you, you need to listen to him (that goes for parents towards children as well). He asked you to stop doing that, so if you want him to listen to you, you need to stop, that is part of being respectful. Like everything, it takes lots of repetition. Most importantly, I try to treat them like the individuals that they are. My children are different, one is not better than the other they are just different. They even have different temperaments. What works for my daughter does not always work with my son. I have to recognize that and adjust accordingly. In my experience, I have found that siblings can grow to resent each other when they are treated like they are all the same. Not to mention that when their parents are able to appreciate their differences, then they are able to do so as well. They learn that his/her sibling is not exactly like him/her but that is okay because they are both great in their own way.

The types of relationships we have within our family are replicated in the outside world. Everyone would like to be treated with respect, consideration and as an individual. I think the only way for that to happen is if it begins at home, so to speak. What a difference it would make if every person had the commitment to being a “family person!”

Let them comfort each other. Source: Flickr/Jen's Art & Soul Brotherly Love  This is one of my most favorite pictures ever. Taken a few years ago of my youngest two sons.

Let them comfort each other.
Source: Flickr/Jen’s Art & Soul
Brotherly Love
This is one of my most favorite pictures ever. Taken a few years ago of my
youngest two sons.

 

The Play and Walk Away Technique Continued

Get on the floor and be silly!  Crystal Sanchez Funny Face - Day 5/365  2-21-2014/Flickr

Get on the floor and be silly!
Crystal Sanchez
Funny Face – Day 5/365
2-21-2014/Flickr

After reading some great responses and comments to last week’s entry, I realized I failed to mention a crucial ingredient to the success of the play and walk away technique. The key ingredient is that children have to be taught how to play. I had always assumed that children just knew how to play until I began working in a Head Start program and encountered so many children that simply did not know how to play. I was really staggered by this realization and the worst part was that at first I was not sure how to teach them. It is something I have been thinking about a lot ever since in both my professional and personal life. I wanted to make sure my own children knew how to play. I took a lot of time to try to remember how I used to play when I was a child and what I used to play with. I even asked my parents and siblings about my childhood to jog my memory. Here is part of what I have come up with about play, because I think play is so important in a child’s life. I believe it is the foundation for all other life skills, especially crucial in learning how to manage and express feelings.

I think the first thing children need to be able to play is a stress free environment. I always strive for making today better than yesterday for my children. I admit this maybe a bit easier for me in my line of work because I have the motivation every day. Almost on a daily basis I am flabbergasted by what children are privy to in their homes. I do not want my children to even have an inkling of the pain some children suffer on a daily basis. We have plenty of time to be adults; I want my children to have a childhood. The second thing is giving your child time and space to be able to play. On the other end of the spectrum from children being exposed to too much “adult stuff” are children that are completely over-scheduled all the time. They have no free time to just play or even be alone with their thoughts. Finally, like everything in life, they have to learn how to play and then practice playing. I always thought play was something instinctual, but it is not exactly. They need a little help.

 

Children need help to play. What should we build? How is it going to stay up? sciencesque the grabbing hands…  grab all they can/Flickr

Children need help to play. What should we build? How is it going to stay up?
sciencesque
the grabbing hands…
grab all they can/Flickr

Before you can attempt the play and walk away technique, you need to teach your children to play. The best way to teach and learn anything is by example, so you have to play with them. I believe I left that part out, I do play with my children, not every second of every day, but I do try to make time to play with them. Children need adults to help them play. At first I throw out ideas like let’s have a picnic, let’s make a fort or let’s be pirates. I get play ideas from books we have read together or television shows or movies we have watched together. Believe me, your children will let you know whether they are into the idea or not. Then I simply ask open-ended questions: what do we need for a picnic? Where should our picnic be, in a field, at the beach or on a mountaintop? How will we get there? What else do we need to bring for the picnic? Should we have …… for our picnic? Let’s put out this blanket here? Is anyone else invited? I try not to assume anything, let them tell you what they are doing or pretending. Think of their play like a story, they are telling a story. I ask lots of questions to help them expand upon their play and there are no wrong answers. Remember, you are playing! Try to keep your grownup self out of it. This is a hard one for me, I catch myself wondering if I should let them pretend to hit someone, but then my daughter will come out of her character and say, “Mom, it’s just pretend.” And she is right it is just pretend, it is a safe way for her to explore, experiment and express herself. It not only helps children expand their play by asking open-ended questions, but it also helps expand their vocabulary. You may have brought in a new setting they had not previously thought about and then there is all of the new vocabulary that goes a long with that new “story.” Teachers call this “scaffolding.” As they get “good” at playing there is often a beginning, middle and end to their play, which is a necessary precursor for learning to read and for reading comprehension as well as writing.

It's fun to try on different "masks" and become someone else! gnuckx Venetian Carnival Mask - Maschera di Carnevale - Venice Italy - Creative Commons by gnuckx/flickr

It’s fun to try on different “masks” and become someone else!
gnuckx
Venetian Carnival Mask – Maschera di Carnevale – Venice Italy – Creative Commons by gnuckx/flickr

I am a reserved person, but I do like to play! It is a time I do not have to be that quiet, reserved person. In the comfort of my own home, I can be theatrical and channel my best actress-self while I play with my children. I think we all have that ability inside of us. Who does not like to “try on” different voices and characteristics? Children love funny faces or voices, the sillier the better. They genuinely enjoy adults being goofy because when else do they get to experience that? Also, when they see you letting go, then they are able to let themselves go and lose themselves in their play as well. Adult life is stressful enough, I enjoy getting into different characters and forgetting about all of the responsibilities that await me for a while. It is a healthy escape, but I will say that I think it takes practice for adults too. When I first started my job, play therapy, it had been so long ago that I had played that I had forgotten how to play! I just felt kind of silly at first. I continued to practice playing, but it is my children that have really brought out the actress in me. My daughter has such good ideas and such an amazing imagination that it feeds me. I feel like I can lose myself in play with her. There is also no better feeling than when your two children have huge smiles on their faces while you are playing with them and then when you are being silly and you get those deep belly laughs that just express their pure enjoyment of the moment. There is nothing better! It is the beginning of establishing and strengthening bonds that will last forever.

Strengthen the parent child bonds Wilson X BXP46603  Child Reaching for Mother/Flickr

Strengthen the parent child bonds
Wilson X
BXP46603
Child Reaching for Mother/Flickr

Play is so important in a child’s life. It is how he/she makes sense of his/her world. When you ask most people what they wish for their children most answers are about happiness, self-esteem, self-confidence, intelligence, creativity, critical thinking, sociability, communication or even perhaps compassion or empathy (all things they learn through play). It is few and far between that a person responds that they want their child to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company (perhaps they are thinking that and do not share it), but even so I would argue that play lays the foundation even for that possibility. Play is the foundation for many enduring life skills. This entry only scratches the surface in describing the benefits of play for children. What type of play do you enjoy most with your child? What do you do that gets that “belly laugh” from your children?

“When you ask me what I did in school today and I say, ‘I just played.’Please don’t misunderstand me. For you see, I am learning as I play. I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work.  Today I am a child and my work is play.”

Anita Wadley, 1974