Dear Sarah: Helping Our Teens Take Responsibility

Dear Sarah: Chores

 

Dear Sarah,

What do you think is a good age at which to start giving children chores? Should chores be a requirement for getting an allowance?

Signed,

Uncertain in Belchertown

Dear Uncertain,

Ah, chores! This is a hot topic among many of the parents in my practice and one that I have struggled with myself, over the years. I am a big fan of chores for several reasons:

  1. Chores teach children to be contributing members of their families, which is the beginning of learning to contribute to their teams, workplaces, and communities.
  2. Chores provide an opportunity to teach children to do a task on time, thoroughly, and without complaining. These are important skills for holding down a job someday.
  3. Requiring our children to help in meaningful ways protects them from the overwhelm, exhaustion and resentment that their parents feel when parents try to do it all alone.
  4. Learning new tasks and mastering challenging jobs help children to build confidence and competence.

If you ask three different parenting consultants you will probably get three different answers, but I will share with you what works for me at my house. My 14 year old daughter, who is not a big fan of chores, might not agree that my approach “works” for her! As I say to her, “That’s ok, I don’t like all of my chores either. You don’t have to like them, you just have to do them.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: First Day Blues

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Three years ago I wrote a post about (daycare / preschool drop-off) separation and how to make it an adventure. This year, I am the mom, not the not the teacher, and it is far from an adventure; closer to a nightmare.

My three-year-old daughter had no interest in the big adventures her new preschool had to offer. She consistently woke up in the morning adamantly protesting the plans we had made for her. In my mind, I see her sweeping into the classroom with pride and confidence, greeting her teacher and friends. Instead, I was kissing and reassuring, and then ducking through smiling faces trying to escape the sirens of my child calling for me from her teacher’s arms.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: When My 1st Grader Asks About Sex

Consenting to Questions

It starts simply enough. These conversations do. We pull onto I-91, skirt Northampton afternoon traffic to the edge of town to get my allergy shots.

Mama, why do they throw away the needles? Why don’t they use them again?

My practice is to answer my child’s questions when he asks. The trick is answering only the question he has asked. Questions beget questions.

I explain about contamination, how my blood is on the needle and could share germs with somebody else if the allergy nurse used it again. I can’t recall now whether he asked what germs or whether I volunteered information, but within a quarter mile I was explaining HIV.  How scientists haven’t figured out how to fix the disease from those germs so the best thing is to not get it.

How do you get it? Of course he asks.

Not through sneezes or spit like colds, but from blood and …. take a deep breath as silently as possible so he doesn’t notice the pause before I answer honestly… from the liquids from your penis or vagina. (Yes, I know, not from pee. But I was improvising at 65 mph!)

Which of course begs the question how those liquids get shared. And suddenly I‘m talking about sex with my first grader. Again. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: 20 Welcomed Bits of Advice for New Parents

Solicited Advice

I recently exchanged emails with a friend from yoga teacher training. Ten years younger than I am, she now lives on the opposite coast. Facebook keeps me up on her world travels, recent wedding, yoga for refugees and cancer survivors. But a personal email these days feels as rare as a handwritten letter.

“How’s your private work going? And raising a kid in Western MA? My god, how old is he now? Six?! Are you making a manual on all the great things you’re doing to bring up a kid in today’s crazy world? I’ll memorize them by heart when we jump down the family path :) lots of love”

I started a wry response, naming the importance of deep breaths and good wine. But then recognized, knowing her, she was serious. In a world of unsolicited advice, she was asking.

And I realized I have ideas to share!  Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Coping with Your “Child” going to College

Five Things You Don’t Do The Day After Leaving Your Child at College

By JlsElsewhere at en.wikipedia. Later version(s) were uploaded by Wasted Time R, Stewart715 at en.wikipedia. [Public domain], from Wikimedia CommonsAlthough he’s twenty, just last week, Son1 went “off” to college for the first time. For the past two years, he’d been attending classes at our local community college trying to figure out what he wanted to do. This past spring, all his hard work there paid off and he was accepted to many colleges and universities. He chose a college in Connecticut. (Not a huge surprise since Magicalfairyprincessgirlfriend goes there as well.)

Since this is a first for me, a child leaving…really leaving the nest…I had no Hindsight to lean on, and so I had to rely on my gut instead. The week before, I kept checking in with myself on how I was feeling with all this moving away to a new state, new city, hours away from his family. And well…for the entire week before…heck even while I was setting up his chic dorm room my gut said that I was just fine. All I was feeling, seemingly, was pride and excitement. This move ultimately was what every parent strives for while raising their children. He was unfurling his wings, moving into adulthood with grace and assurance. I am proud. I was and am excited. Even as I said goodbye, the pride swelled in me. “Off you go first born love of my life. Go and live this experience to the fullest.” Then I got in the car…Then I got home. Then…then I woke up the next day and well, the pride and excitement was still there, but so was this distinct melancholy; a weepy sort of lonely feeling that got worse as the day went on. I realized very quickly that the day after dropping my child off to college was going to feel worse than the day of. Tear triggers were everywhere and I learned the hard way the top five things NOT to do the day after dropping your child off at college… Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: A Child’s Growing Independence Brings Change

The Winds of Change

She swings by herself. Grabs the chains that hold the brown plastic rectangle that serves as a seat. Her muscular arms pull her up deftly and her bottom plops down. Her legs that are a full two inches longer than they were in June start to pump. Feet flex as her legs straighten and toes point as legs fold. Soon, very soon, actually unbelievably soon, she has a momentum that would satisfy any child. I am sitting in the swing next to her and she is chattering away about the dog and his bone and the hole he dug, but I am lost in the sight of her wispy hair and the way it covers her round cheeks as the swing takes her back and wiggles in the air like an octopus’s tentacles as the swing moves her forward.

“Slow down,” I long to say, but I know it isn’t about the swing. It’s not about the swing at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Your Introduction to Sacrifice & Life on the Back Burner

Best Laid Plans

The spitting camel has wangled his way into the summer schedule!

We’re halfway through the summer. We’ve had a week of a vacation to the most popular destination in the country. We’ve had major Pinterest wins and Pinterest fails (don’t try the water blob…unless you want to sweat and swear…then by all means go right ahead.). We’ve had lesson after lesson; music, equine, swimming, OT and PT. We’ve begun the process of “real reading,” on the request of my daughter herself. We’ve gone to beaches, to parks, to fairs, to bouncy palaces, to zoos (where the camels got close and up front spitting on me for good measure) and to fancy schmancy concerts where we got to sit on the lawn and listen to the likes of James Taylor and our favorite Beatles tribute band. We bought an amazing sprinkler made up of individual flowers that spray water out at gentle angles and even put the kiddie pool directly underneath the kitchen window so that we could fill it up with warm water from the tap. Pretty successful huh? Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all…so why is it that the moment I realized we were at summer’s halfway point, I got a ginormous pit-of-death smack dab in the middle of my solar plexus? Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Helping Toddlers Form Authentic Friendships

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Fostering Friendships for Toddlers

By encouraging your toddler to be a good friend, they will make good friends and have lasting meaningful relationships into their later years and even adulthood!

Watching toddlers and preschoolers grow and mature is a beautiful and amazing thing. It is such a small window and one day it swings open and the toddler who was waddling and whopping with his friends just six months ago, is now the preschooler with a strong moral compass and a kind heart. It is remarkable how fast this transformation can be and it is even more incredible to be apart of it. Watching early friendships form, fostering a child natural longing for meaningful relationships, is awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time.

Laying the Groundwork: The Foundation of Friendships

Younger toddlers do not yet have the ability to see the world from others perspective. So often it is hard for them to play “with” other children. They often play “alongside” them instead. It’s not that they don’t like or care for one another, it’s just where they are developmentally. Children even at birth love one another; love spending time together.  We are social creatures; it is what we do. Put two infants face to face and anyone can see how that interaction is special in itself. However, babies and young toddler haven’t really developed a sense of what is a friendship. It is not a give and take yet; it is more a large game of take. Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: Best Parenting Advice

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

Best parenting advice for Shannon Malone Kopacz, “Let them be.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

As a parent, what’s the best advice you ever received?

  • Corinne Shaw writes:  You will make mistakes… breathe… explain and forgive yourself.
  • Teresa Barents Van Bramer writes: Take the time to enjoy them when they are little because they grow up so fast. I wish I had listened.
  • Kett Lawrence writes:  Trust your gut.
  • Jessica Day writes:  Teach your children to be kind, gentle, and friendly. (My dad tells my girls this all the time…I love it.)
  • Mark Pollard writes: Buy yourself a bottle of vodka.
  • Sally Campbell Galman writes: Don’t worry about doing great things. Just pat yourself on the back at the end of the day if the children are still happy, alive and in one piece.
  • Sandy Soderberg writes: Early on it was sleep when the baby sleeps. Now – Bigger kids, Bigger Problems. Both are true.
  • Gayle White writes: She will eat when she is hungry and stop when she is full.
  • Shannon Malone Kopacz writes: Let them be.
  • Jude McGowan writes: Not to listen to ANY advice, but to trust your instincts!
  • Tamara Sharples Zayas writes: To think each problem or irritating behavior through instead of just getting annoyed and come up with a consistent, flexible plan. If it doesn’t work, don’t get frustrated, just try something else.
  • Jennifer Scalise writes: This too shall pass…(talking about phases kids go through)
  • Tonya Lemos ‎writes: Take the time to make your own meals. Don’t eat your kids left overs or else you will start feeling like left overs!!
  • Susan Rees ‎writes: “Be nice to your child, then s/he will be nice”. Worked!
  • Anthony Mateus writes: A 3yr old is just a 2yr old with practice.
  • Jennifer Shiao Page writes: Do what works for you (i.e. your family) until it stops working.
  • Robin Sidel writes: Small children, small problems…
  • Amanda Saklad writes: ‎”You are the boss, not your child”

Share the best parenting advice you ever received too.

Leaving Your Child Home Alone

THINGS TO CONSIDER

It is natural to be nervous about leaving your child home alone, but if both you and your child are prepared, this can be an experience that boosts his confidence level and increases his sense of indpendence and responsibility. It is generally recommended that children under 10 years-old should not be left at home alone. However, even if your child is older, it really depends on many factors, including how responsible and mature you feel your child is, how comfortable both you and your child are, and the length of time your child will be alone at home.

Preparation and communication are key

Talk it over. Make sure your child is comfortable with being left home alone. Leave a list of do’s and don’ts and any information your child might need. Go over situations that might come up and how to handle them. Make sure your child knows where you will be, when you will be back, and how to reach you. Make sure you are back on time, and talk to him afterwards about the time that he was home alone.

Try it out. Before you leave your child at home for a long period of time, you might want to do a test run. See how it goes for you and for your child when you go out for an hour or so to run an errand. Check in once or twice while you are out, and talk to your child afterwards about the time she was alone.

Safety first. Go over some important safety information with your child. Make sure he knows not to open the door to anyone, even if they are familiar, and not to tell telephone callers that he is home alone. Discuss how he can exit the house in an emergency: there should be at least two ways he can exit. Make a list of important phone numbers, such as that of the police and fire department, doctor’s office, and a trusted relative or friend he can call if you cannot be reached, and make sure he knows his full name, address, and telephone number. You can ensure that doors and windows are secure, check that smoke alarms are working, and store anything dangerous that your child could get into, including firearms, car keys or alcoholic beverages. Put together a first aid kit with your child minor cuts or scrapes, and make sure he knows what to do.

Ground rules. Set and discuss limitations on having friends over, TV and computer time, kitchen and cooking, and the safety information mentioned above. Discuss what your child might do while you are gone. You can ask that she does her homework, read for a certain length of time, or finish some chores. Having a schedule to follow while you are gone will occupy time safely. When you return home, discuss with your child what she did during your absence.

Be available. Let your child kow that you will call to check in once in a while, and that he can always call you (or a relative or neighbor on the list) if he is lonely or feels unsafe.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: