Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Being Thankful for Who Our Children Are Becoming



We all want so much for our children.    We hold our babies and instantly want to protect them from every disappointment and sadness.  We want them to have the most perfect, happy and carefree life.  All of us picture that life differently.  Some people imagine that they will grow up, marry and have children.  Some imagine successful careers in booming industries.  We hope they will go places we didn’t and have success beyond ours.  We set a path that we hope they will follow as we teach them about the values and traditions that matter to us.  

Then, our children discover that they can function independently and are not a direct extension of us. They begin to come into their own.  They behave in ways that we used to shake our heads about when we observed other people’s children.  Young children have tantrums and challenge our patience as they refuse to do what we ask.  Some children have a harder time than we’d hoped with reading or writing.  They show no interest or talent in the activities we’ve loved.  They do what they are supposed to do.  They find their own likes, dislikes, interests and preferences.  Parenthood becomes busy and complicated as we try to keep up with their growth, experimentation with new hobbies and ever changing moods.  Too often, we don’t take time out to tell our children that we understand that they are finding their way and we love them.  When we do express our affection, we should tell them what we love about them.  We need to help them not only to complete homework, get to lessons and arrive on time for sports activities.  We need to help them see their value so they develop a sense of self-worth.

This Thanksgiving, take time to celebrate the people your children are becoming.  Instead of going around the table listing what things or people you are grateful for, name the traits that make them unique and endearing.  Perhaps you are thankful for your child’s sense of humor or willingness to try new things.  Perhaps you are grateful for how nicely your child gets along with others or shows love for a sibling.  Be specific.  Tell your children that you are glad not only for their existence but for the gifts they bring to the world.
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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
                                                      
Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
 
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stop the Elf on a Shelf & Mensch on a Bench Trend: Put the Magic Back in Christmas & Chanukah for Our Young Children



Resist continuing the Elf on a Shelf & Mensch on a Bench trend!  Take a moment before you follow the crowd and consider what this commercialization of holidays is doing to the magic and how it is warping the lessons you really want to teach your children.

Young children, until approximately age 8 years old, have a difficult time differentiating between fantasy and reality.  Their pretend is real to them.  They become the mommy, daddy, teacher, firefighter, princess and even the dog in order to understand what it is to be those powerful figures.  It is through pretend that they develop empathy, an understanding of relationships in their world and early literacy skills.  It is because they cannot separate what is real from what is not that we can enjoy tales of the tooth fairy and Santa Claus for a short time in their lives.  

Santa Claus – a mixture of myth, legend and history – fires a child’s imagination.  He is a jolly man, larger than life, who lives in a place full of the magic of winter.  He can see all the children all over the world and cute little imaginary elves help him to prepare toys for those who are nice.  Children imagine his reindeer and sleigh as he flies overhead.  They listen for his flight and his hearty “Ho, ho, ho.”  Oh no – wait – he actually can’t do it alone.  He has to send an elf to your house.  Not an elf that fires the imagination like trying to picture Santa Claus.  The elf comes out of a box and actually sits & stares at you.   The elf will do exactly what we tell young children not to do – tattletale.  The elf will report back to Santa and determine if you are worthy.

Santa Claus isn’t the only victim of this lack of understand about why children pretend and how they use that imagination to learn.  The Maccabees and Chanukah have fallen prey too.  Jewish children grow up with the tale of a miracle.  Judah Maccabee, an underdog and hero, leads the army to defeat the Greeks.  When they do, they want to re-dedicate the temple but find only enough oil to light the menorah for one night.  A miracle occurs and the oil lasts eight nights – enough time to get more oil so the menorah can stay lit.  The festival of Chanukah celebrates this miracle of the oil.  It is amazing and is a tale of miracles & faith.   The commercialization of this festival is a symptom of assimilation.  We are living in a society where gifts are given for Christmas at the same time of year.  Gift giving has spilled over into what is really a minor Jewish festival.  It does, however, enhance the joy of celebrating the miracle, gives us a chance to give as well as get and offer the opportunity to give to those less fortunate.  But wait – maybe there will be no gifts!  That Mensch on a Shelf is holding the shamash – the helper candle that lights the others – and if he doesn’t like your behavior, he will refuse to hand it over.  Let’s review – the festival of Chanukah really has nothing to do with gifts. It celebrates a miracle.  Gifts are an added practice and, when done well, brings families together & allows us to be givers as well as receivers.   Now, a doll on a shelf shifts the focus onto the commercialization and away from the story of faith and miracles.  Mensch on a Bench might withhold the candle so you get nothing.

And parents nationwide are relieved because they can take their good & decent parenting skills and put them on the shelf right next to that elf or on the bench next to the mensch. Parenting is hard work and it may feel good to hand it over to a doll but think about what you are doing.  You are literally handing over your role as your children’s teacher and guide to a doll.  You work all the time to help your children to internalize the lessons we teach about respect of others and appropriate behavior.  They need to learn that their actions have consistent consequences.  They also need their desire to receive positive reinforcement nurtured.  Then you take a product out of a box and say, “This will determine if you are worthy.” 
Some parents have told me that their children really enjoy it.   They see Elf on a Shelf or Mensch on a Bench as a fun game.  They have to find it in the morning and enjoy playing along.  Actually, children under the age of about 8 can’t usually be sure if there is any truth to the tattling story or if that old man doll might really be able to prevent the lighting of the menorah.  I’m pretty sure they would think making videos of themselves and posting them on the internet would be fun too but you don’t let them do that.  

Understand that I am not trying to ruin one of the most fun times of year.  I want to reclaim it.  I want children to imagine magical places and miracles.  I want the lessons to be about the wonder of giving as well as receiving.  I want the focus to be on the teachings our religions and not the sales in the newspapers.  I want companies to stop making money at the expense of childhood.  I want Christmas and Chanukah back…
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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
                                                      
Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Preschoolers & Strangers in the Family: Do You Force Affection?



The autumn and winter holiday season is upon us and families are planning gatherings. It is wonderful when extended families get together. We want our young children to know their relatives and feel loved; yet, we put them in the oddest situations. We want our children to perform all their tricks – singing, dancing, saying the funniest things – for people they barely know. We want them to hug and kiss people they rarely see - though we’ve taught them to keep their distance from strangers. I remember when I was a little girl and was forced to kiss Great Aunt Rose. I saw her only at special occasions. I saw her as a huge, imposing woman though I was small so she probably wasn’t as big and scary as I remember. She had a distinct aroma which I now know was some combination of bad perfume and, perhaps, moth balls. I was intimidated and never voluntarily approached her. I’m sure she could have been a lovely person but all I remember is my parents and grandparents saying, “Did you kiss Aunt Rose? Kiss Aunt Rose.” Perhaps you have a similar story.

If we want children to feel warmly about family, we need to give them a chance to feel secure. We may know every distant relative but they are strangers to children who cannot differentiate between our conflicting messages. We give our children time to get to know other children, teachers and friends. We need to show the same understanding at family gatherings and ask well-meaning relatives to give our children time to get to know them. After all, that is the goal. We want our children to feel comfortable enough to get to know them. When the children feel comfortable, they will perform and will say the cutest things. When they feel intimidated, they will not. As your young children encounter new relatives, be sure to:
  • Introduce them. “Kiss Aunt Rose” is not an introduction. Just as you would in any other situation, introduce your child to the new person. “Cindy, this is Aunt Rose. She is my aunt, too. Aunt Rose, this is Cindy” will make a child feel more comfortable. 
  • Let your children see you affectionately greet people first. Your children trust you. If you are warm with family, they will learn to be, too. They are far more apt to give the relatives a chance if they see you hugging, kissing, conversing, laughing and relaxing with family. You are their role model. Give them the opportunity to observe your behavior. 
  • Privately ask your children if they would like to sing or dance rather than in front of everyone. When we are respectful of our children’s feelings, they learn that their feelings matter. Healthy relationships with our children depend upon honesty and validation of feelings. Avoid embarrassing them (at least until they are older and you can pull out those awkward baby bath pictures). 
  • When departing, ask them if they would give people hugs and kisses rather than demanding it. They get to decide who touches them in every other arena. When children in the playground try to hug them and they are uncomfortable, we give them the words – “Tell him to stop.” When siblings get into physical altercations, we give them the chance to say and demonstrate that that they don’t like that. They should always have a choice about intimate touching. 
Remember that love and affection build over time. I may ask if I can have a kiss or a hug and if the answer is no, so be it. I recognize that children who rarely see me will not have the chance to know me and I really don’t know them. They get to treat me like a stranger – after all, we are strangers. I keep a fair distance, smile at them and let them approach me. I want children to want to show me their skills because they are proud of themselves and want to make me smile. When children hug me, I want it to be because they know and like me. It is about their feelings of warmth and security, not mine. Encourage your family to help you teach about relationships, comfort, respect, socialization and self-worth by giving your children the space to feel safe and comfortable. The rest will come.
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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
                                                      
Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Teaching Children to Cope With Change



We know that young children feel safe and secure when they have a steady routine.  Knowing what comes next is how they measure time.   They feel more self-assured when they are with people they know and trust in a familiar environment.  The same is true for older children and adults.  Rare is the adult who thrives from the knowledge that change is coming.  Even more unusual are those adults who institute change.   It is so unusual that we have come up with names for them - “change agents.”  But then life changes and we look at each other and say, “Change is hard” as we commiserate.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could raise children who cope with change better than we do? 
                               
In the course of my career, I have watched many parents try to protect their children from change.  I’ve seen parents afraid to tell their children a beloved pet died so they make up an elaborate story of where the dog or cat went.  I’ve had parents who are miserable in their marriage tell me that they stay together for the children.  Surely, young children perceive the tension and unhappiness in the household.  People resist moving when it makes logical sense.  Most commonly, I’ve watched parents struggle to make sure nothing changes in the life of their preschooler when a new baby is born.  It isn’t reality.  Life changes.   Births, deaths, job changes, family situations – they will happen throughout your child’s life.  Parents need to carefully consider when staying with the routine is best or when they should use life’s twists and turns to teach their children an important life lesson. 

Every situation is an opportunity to teach.  We need to consciously guide them through change.  Acknowledge that new situations will bring change and give your children permission to feel their emotions.  Just as consistent routines are empowering, so is the validation of their feelings.  Whatever emotions they are feeling – anxiety, sadness, trepidation – will pass.  It is an important lesson that emotions pass.  Observe your children carefully and give their feelings words.  Say to them, “I see you are nervous” or “I see you are worried” and assure them it is fine to feel that way now while reassuring them that they won’t feel that way forever.  They will settle into a new routine. 

Speak to your children about what the change will likely mean in their lives.  Talk to your children about the simple truth – things will be a little different.    A new baby will need you.  Tell your preschooler that there will be times when you have to care for the baby but you will still make sure to have special time together.  You can take care of the baby together.  Sometimes, we may do things differently but different can be fun too.  When the beloved pet dies, acknowledge that death can be sad.  Tell your child that is okay to be sad but the sadness will become less over time.  Allow your child the ability to mourn and move forward.  Separation and divorce bring the opportunity to teach about the importance of finding happiness and peace.  Tell your children that they will always be loved and you are changing the family to try to make it happier.

Be a role model of courage.  Children are very intuitive about the emotions of the adults around them.  When we are afraid, they become afraid.  Fear is a valid emotion.  You are a positive role model when you acknowledge that you are a little scared too.  You aren’t fooling them when you don’t acknowledge it.  When you have honest conversations about being afraid but you powerfully forge ahead, you are a model of bravery.  Watching the important adults in their lives commit acts of bravery is far more powerful than watching superheroes on television.  They learn that bravery is real.  While you may not have superhuman strength that allows you to lift buildings, you do face challenges calmly and with hope.  They can learn to do the same from watching you.

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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
                                                      
Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

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