Creating Holiday Family Traditions – Personal Post

Creating Holiday Family Traditions – Personal Post

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I grew up in Egypt celebrating it every
year with my parents, godmother, close family and friends.
 One of my favorite holidays growing up I remember it not for the presents and toys but more for the people, food, activities and memories.

Whatever holiday or occasion you are celebrating, having family traditions is a wonderful way to create long lasting memories for yourself and children.Today, I’m sharing with you some of my fondest memories for the holidays that are in my family tradition.

Food

Food is such a big part of most cultures and definitely a huge one in Egypt. For my family our tradition was making Christmas cookies with my Godmother. As a young child my role was to meticulously decorate every gingerbread man to make each one unique! As I got older I learned so much about making other holiday dishes and brought my own twist on some.
Today our family tradition in my little family is making Christmas cupcakes, also decorated with great detail. The best thing about cooking or baking is sitting at the table with everyone else and sharing.
Cooking and baking are fun ways to involve your little one. Kids really enjoy decorating cookies, pie toppings or helping out with peeling onions. Any simple task can help your little one feel like they have an important role.

 

Special Parent-Child Activity

Most of my Christmas activities were done with my godmother but I do have one special memory just for Christmas with my mom. Every year we would take the time and sit together and make stockings for every person who was joining us for Christmas dinner. We’d cut, sew and stick each one and finally fill them with all sorts of stocking goodies. Being a working mom it was a great treat to have my mom take the time and do this with me. For your family you can do any craft that you both enjoy; stockings, ornaments or cards. In the end the point is really about spending that special time together as a family.

 

Family Photo

This is not a custom I grew up with but I love this idea. My brother’s family send us a family picture with their Christmas card every year. It’s a great way to update family or friends that don’t live close. For me it’s great to see how my nieces and nephew are growing and changing over the years and feeling connected as a family.

 

Thank-Yous

Every year after Christmas my godmother takes the time to write thank-you letter to everyone. As a child I was always encouraged to join and write my own thank-yous and got my own thank-you notes stationery to help me out. This is one thing I’m still not good at but greatly cherish and value. It’s also a great way to teach children to be and show thankfulness after the holiday rush is over.

 

Those were some of my family traditions. What are yours?

Image courtesy of bplanet/Free Digital Photos

The Gift of Gratitude

The Gift of Gratitude

 

 

How do we get our kids to focus more on what they have instead of what they want? There’s so much available in stores, supermarkets and even most homes it can be a challenge at times to help children look beyond their little world of games and toys. Young children tend to be egocentric, which is a normal part of development. They usually start showing outward behavior of thankfulness or appreciation by the age of 3.

There are however a lot of things you can do to help your child start practicing gratitude in the early years. Here are a few of my favorites to get your started.

 

 

Make a Giving List

Sit with your little one and talk about the idea of making a giving list. For every item he’d like for Christmas have him think of something he can give. It can be something handmade, bought from his allowance, giving away one of his toys or clothes and even just helping someone out with something. For your young child keep it simple and help by offering choices and suggestions. For older kids give them time to be creative and think of things themselves if they’d like. Kids can surprise you. Talk about who would be happy with these gifts. Someone in the family, neighbors, friends or maybe look further beyond in your community to local shelters. Encourage your child by modeling and having the whole family join in.

 

Give Experiential Gifts

Both children and adults tend to focus on giving toys and other material gifts on most occasions. These are great and fun of course but kids tend to lose interest in toys pretty quick especially if they have too many options. Consider giving an experiential gift instead. It can be something simple like a Make a Volcano Kit, a nature magazine subscription or a fun outing with friends and family to the zoo. It can also be something more complex like going to camp, horseriding weekend camp or a family trip. According to psychologist Jeffrey Froh, a gratitude researcher, kids get to feel happy and fulfilled with these experiences because they feed their personal growth or their interest. Kids get to feel more appreciation and create more meaningful memories than just receiving a toy.

 

Visit those Less Fortunate

This may be a cliche but most of us even as adults have a tendency to take any privileges we have for granted will we come across those who are less fortunate. Children are the same, especially if their circle of friends come from similar economic backgrounds. Talk to your children about what they think they can do to help others in the community or even beyond. Maybe choose a few toys or clothes they don’t use anymore to pack for the local shelter. Take a trip to a child friendly shelter (if possible), children’s hospital, animal shelter or any other place of need. Don’t just make this a drop off but try to spend a couple of hours to volunteer. Read stories for children at the hospital or help groom the shelter pups. It’s all about having a real experience helping your child be a giving and empathetic person.

 

Talk about Receiving

Gratitude isn’t just about empathy or giving. It’s also about being thankful for what others have done. Instead of asking your child to just say “Thank-you” when she gets a gift talk about how nice it was for grandma to remember that she liked soccer and made the trip to the special sports store to get her the ball. Your child will start to realize there’s more to it than a gift she wants appearing magically. This way the Thank-you comes from the heart.

 

 

Appreciate Effort

We don’t always get what we want in life and that can be very disappointing and hard to handle for young children. Gratitude is also about being OK when things don’t go as planned. This is a tough one even for grownups but it’s a good habit to model and practice. For young children it can be hard to grasp what they should be happy about when it rains and they don’t get to go play outside or if they get sick and can’t go on the school trip. These are perfect opportunities to help them think about the positive side; “If we hadn’t decided to play inside today we wouldn’t have gotten to spend such a fun time together making this puzzle that we’ve decided to frame”. Model this in situations when you yourself are disappointed that things didn’t go as planned as well. Children learn best when we practice what we preach ourselves.  

 

Make Gratitude a Family Habit

Finally, gratitude isn’t something to focus on just during the holiday season or around birthdays. Although those are yearly hot spots, it’s a habit to practice year round. Simply have a gratitude conversation once a week during dinner where each member of the family talks about something they are thankful for.

 

For further reading on raising a thankful child. Read my article published in The Daily Crisp

 

Image courtesy of Claire Bloomfield/Free Digital Photos

OPINION: The Positive Parenting in Baby Led Weaning

OPINION: The Positive Parenting in Baby Led Weaning

This is a new series of Opinion entries which will be different from the research based articles I usually post.

When my son turned 6 months like all parent we began looking into how to introduce solid foods to him. Like most people I knew about starting with fruit and vegetable purees and had already bought a couple ( OK maybe more than a couple) baby cookbooks with all these puree combinations and meal plans. We were ready to start!

Then I came across Baby Lead Weaning (BLW). I had come across the (misleading) title before and ignored it because we had no plans to wean our baby any time soon. On further inspection it has nothing to do with weaning per say and everything to do with introducing solids in a very interesting way.

BLW  (a term attributed to Gill Rapley ) is basically about allowing your child to self feed and skipping purees altogether and going for appropriate finger food. You can read all the details and guidelines about BLW here on their official website.

Going through the process with my own son it made me realize how much BLW supports the philosophies we try to follow in Positive Parenting:

  • Choosing an age appropriate activity for your child:
    One of the first guidelines of BLW is waiting till your child shows signs of readiness. Is he sitting up independently? is he reaching for objects and interested in putting them in his mouth?
  • Supporting your child’s development:
    Children at that age naturally place things in their mouths. Self feeding is a natural extension to this instinct as well as exercise fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
  • Helping your child develop positive eating habits: 
    Feeding himself allows your child to regulate how much food he eats when he’s hungry and stop when he’s full on his own. He also gets to practice his independence by choosing what to eat and what not to eat. There is no “last spoon” to finish off, just his own self monitoring.
  • Avoiding feeding power struggles:
    Mealtimes can turn into real struggles as parents negotiate with their kids to finish their food, eat one more bite or threaten no dessert. Practicing BLW helps you learn to trust your child and his food intake. He may eat very little for breakfast but have a good dinner or he may have a lousy day eating but eat double his portions the next day. An article I read once on baby and toddler eating had very good advice; it said it’s always best to look at how much your child is eating within the week. That is a fairer estimate than judging day-to-day eating.
  • Avoiding raising a picky eater:
    Children are people like the rest of us, they like and dislike different things, and sometimes they change their minds! By placing diverse and healthy choices in front of your child you are teaching them how to value food and decide for themselves what they want to eat. Don’t be discouraged! Reintroduce rejected foods over and over again, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when your child starts eating them!
  • Eating together as a family and creating a positive habit:
    Often times I see families experience this scenario; parents eat separately then baby is fed alone either before or after parents. Sometimes it can last an hour feeding the child and it can feel like a chore! Other times parents let their children roam feed. But at a certain point and age you are going to start requesting that your child “grow up” and sit at the table and eat “properly”. So why wait to introduce this? Babies and toddlers learn instinctively through imitation. When you model eating and proper dinner behavior they’ll pick up on it and be encouraged. That’s not to say they won’t fling food or throw their spoons. These are all natural behaviors that children do as they explore the world and their limits.

Finally, I have to say starting off with BLW sometimes isn’t always easy. On our first day of feeding I found myself wanting my son to have more of the spoon instead of just a taste as he’s supposed to. Parents are told that suddenly children should be consuming several spoonfuls of food 1-3 times a day and that can put a lot of pressure. I believe the biggest issue to overcome is the parent’s own emotional one of letting go and trusting your child and the process. That being said, sometimes BLW doesn’t match your child or your family’s needs and may not be for you. Sometimes a blend of spoon feeding and BLW is what works. I spoon feed my child when he gets lazy or is tired as well. These are all natural. The important point at the essence of positive parenting is to keep a flexible mind about things; some days baby will eat well and others not, sometimes he’ll self feed and others need help, he may love carrots today but hate them tomorrow for no apparent reason. In all cases there is no need to feel pressured or stressed, ask yourself these questions:

  1. At the end of the week; did my child eat well?
  2. Did he have a diverse selection of healthy choices?
  3. Was mealtime a pleasant and stress-free experience for everyone?
  4. What can be changed for next time?

It’s an ongoing process. Here area a list of references I’ve found useful on young children and eating.

Choosing Childcare for your Little One

Choosing Childcare for your Little One

Choosing a childcare center for your child is a big and exciting step. It can also be a daunting one for a lot of parents as they leave their child for the first time. Whether you’re looking for full-time or part-time care it’s important to start your search early as most daycares have limited space and a waiting list. Make sure you give yourself enough time to make this decision. Here are a few pointers to look out and to guide you in your search.

Some points in this article may be specific to the Netherlands but you may still find the equivalent information in your country.

 

Scheduling an appointment:

Make sure you schedule an appointment in advance so you can get a chance to talk to the daycare location director and see the place first hand. Many daycares may prefer to schedule parent tours at a “quiet” time such as mealtime or when one group is napping so the teacher can talk to the parent more freely. Make a mental note of that and maybe come back again during a more active time such as outdoor or free-play time to see how the child minders handle children in an active situation. Also feel comfortable to stay as long as you wish during your tour even after the designated time to observe how the teachers interact with the children till you get all the information you need.

Does the daycare feel like a “good fit” for you and your child?

What is the atmosphere like? Is it calm and warm? Is it active and loud? What do you think would suit you and your child’s temperament more?

Is this school accredited?

Before you look any further check out if the daycare is accredited and approved. Every daycare is issued a report stating how their evaluation went. This should be posted on their website for you to view freely and if not you can always ask for their latest evaluation report.

About the child minders:

Don’t be shy to ask what the teacher qualifications are. Child minders should have a background in childcare to work with young children, does this daycare meet those qualifications? In the group your child is likely to join, ask how long has the teacher been working with children and at the center? Is he/she a full-time or part-time employee? Who else will be involved in directly looking after your child. Go ahead and spend a few minutes in their classroom to chat and get a feel for the teachers that will directly be involved with your child.

What educational philosophy does the daycare follow?

Does the daycare follow a certain educational philosophy? If so, read up on it before your visit so you know what to look for while you’re there. Have the teachers received any training specific to that educational philosophy? Is there time for reading, puzzles, free play etc.? Think about if that way of learning suits you and your child. You can read up about educational philosophies for young children here.  Bottom line is; will your child be getting the time and opportunity to experience age-appropriate play during his day?

What is the teacher-child ratio?

This is an important point to consider. Teacher-child ratios are part of preschool regulations so that each child gets enough one-on-one attention and to comply with safety guidelines.  In the Netherlands the Dutch CAO Kinderopvang 2014 (p.150) guidelines the regulations are:

At day care, the ratio between the number of professionals and the actual number of children present is at least:

a. one practitioner for every four children under the age of one year;

b. one practitioner for every five children aged one to two years;

c. one practitioner for every six children aged two to three years;

d. one practitioner for every eight children aged three to four years.”

The day program:

Is there a schedule they follow for play, rest and mealtime? Will your child get enough outdoor or rest time? What kind of meals do they serve? Is there time for free play and structured play? What kind of activities does the teacher initiate with them?

What are the discipline policies?

How do they handle discipline and misbehavior? What happens if your child hits another child or refuses to have lunch? How do they handle this and communicate these situations to parents? Discuss this openly and decide if their techniques match your parenting views and values.

Communication with parents:

What is the daycare policy on communicating with parents? Will you get a chance to speak briefly with your child’s child minder during pickup? Are parent meetings scheduled regularly for updates? In case of a minor accident or situation with your child do they inform you immediately or at the end of the day? When can you meet with your child’s teacher if you want to discuss something? Daycares should have an open door policy;  can you drop in at any time to visit and observe your child in the environment? A provider that doesn’t have an open-door policy is a red-flag. A confident and good provider will not only let you in at any time but will also invite you to be part of the daycare events and activities.

 

Safety:

Are any of the teachers trained in first aid for young children? What is the procedure in case of an emergency? Does the daycare have a protocol to follow? What if you want someone else in the family to pick up your child?

Ask around:

Ask friends or family who go to the daycare what they think of it. Be precise in finding out what exactly they like and dislike. It’s also good to get a chance to talk to parents who have walked out of the daycare center. Walking out might mean that it just wasn’t a good fit not that there were negative reviews so it’s always important to get information first-hand.

Trust your instincts:

If what you’re hearing and seeing looks good on paper and checks all the boxes but you still don’t feel good, trust your instincts. They are telling you something isn’t right here for you and your child. You need to feel comfortable and secure wherever you leave your child and if you are anxious every day during drop-off your child will pick up on that as well.

 

I hope these guidelines and tips will help you choose an appropriate daycare for your child.

Limit Screen Time By Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline

Limit Screen Time By Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline

I recently gave a new workshop on using media with young children. Naturally I was very happy to get this post from Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen in my email this morning titled Limit Screen Time. The article has some great tips AND apparently a NEW book out on using screens responsibly with young children!  You can find the original article here

Limit Screen Time

For more on screen time and how to find a balance that works for your family, check out the new ebook, “Help! My Child is Addicted to Screens (Yikes! So Am I.)” by Jane Nelsen and Kelly Bartlett.

Children are now faced with increasingly more options for screened entertainment, leaving families disconnected and disengaged. Learn Positive Discipline tools that will help you and your children connect more with each other and find a balance in your family’s media use.

There was once a segment on Oprah in which families where challenged to give up electronics for a week, including TV. It was interesting to watch how difficult it was for parents, as well as their children, to give up all of their screens. One scene was particularly difficult to watch. A five-year-old boy could hardly stand it to give up playing video games. His temper tantrums were quite dramatic. His mother shared that she was embarrassed when she realized he had been playing video games for five hours a day. The good news was that after the whole family went through “media withdrawal,” they discovered how to replace screen time with family activities that increased their family closeness and enjoyment. Take a look at this video from the Today Show about one family who gave up all screens for six months.

Would it surprise you to know that 2-5-year-olds watch more than 32 hours of TV a week? (Nielsen) Children ages 8-18 spend more than 53 hours a week online and almost 8 hours of media use each day. (Keiser Family Foundation) In today’s digital world, families are exposed to more screen time than ever before. Smartphones, tablets, YouTube and the ever-popular game, Minecraft are just a few of the many sources of electronic connection that vie for time and attention from both parents and children.

But what does this mean? Is it good? After all, aren’t children who grow up using electronic media learning skills that will keep them connected and current in in a technologically driven world? Or is too much technology a bad thing? Does it prevent kids from learning important interpersonal skills like live conversations and social graces?

There is research that demonstrates how the brain develops differently with excessive screen time, so it is true that screen time does affect a child’s development. But my guess is that you don’t need research to know that your children are on their screens too much each day; you know this from your own wisdom and intuition. Maybe you’re not sure what to do about it, or you’ve avoided doing something about it because…

  1. You don’t like to admit that it is nice to have your children so easily entertained so you can have some time to yourself.
  2. It involves such a power struggle to get the kids to disconnect from their devices. It is easier to just let it go.
  3. You don’t realize that screen time is addictive.
  4. You justify it with the benefits technology brings: “Look at all the skills my child is learning.”

The key lies in finding a balance. Yes, kids are keeping up with technology and learning new skills that will help them if their lives. And yes, too much media use does prevent them from becoming proficient in person-to-person communication skills. What you can do to help your kids find that balance of screen time with “real life” is to work together to set limits around daily media use…including your own.

Try these Positive Discipline tools to help manage your family’s screen time so it doesn’t manage you:

  1. Have a family meeting. Get the whole family involved in a plan for reducing screen time. Part of the solutions should include things to do in place of screen time. It is more difficult to give something up when you don’t have plans for what else to do.
  2. Create a “parking lot” for electronics—have a basket or charging station in a central location in the house at which family members “park” their electronics during certain times of day.
  3. Establish new routines. Start with one time of day to be screen free (such as dinner) and periodically add on other times of day.
  4. Stay close with your child with special time. Children will listen to your limits about screen time when they feel understood and that you “get” them. Spend regular one-on-one time together to keep your relationship strong.
  5. Hold limits with kindness and firmness. Changing a screen time habit is hard; be ready for disappointment, anger, and sad feelings. Hold your limits by empathizing with a child’s feelings and sticking with the limit you’ve set.

– See more at: http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2012/04/limit-screen-time.html#sthash.RZhWfqjy.dpuf

 

This article is property of Positive Discipline.
Early Years Parenting does not claim ownership of  the above mentioned article.