Like many kids, I grew up with pets. There were hamsters and turtles and fish and cats and dogs and chickens. Yes, chickens – remember I was a farm kid. So I tried to remember what it felt like when the pets died. I have vivid memories of some pets like my dog Boo and others not so much.
When a pet dies, the amount of information or what you say, depends on the child’s age, experiences, and maturity level. Offer your child a clear and simple explanation. Let your child’s questions guide the details you reveal.
Tell the truth. Use the actual words “death,” “dying,” or “died.” Be sure your child understands the pet’s body stopped working; it died; and will not be coming back. Do not say Baxter ran away when he really crawled in the garage and died. Do not say Penelope went to sleep and won’t wake up. Children take literally what you say and false statements will confuse them. Eventually your child will figure out you lied and that starts to complicate trust issues.
Sometimes there is a chance to say goodbye and if a child able to do so, that can be helpful. The family may want to observe the pet’s death in a special way. I remember wrapping pets in cloth, putting them in shoe boxes, and burying them in a special place. Every pet, no matter type or size, always got a burial ceremony. We talked about our pets, remembering the funny stories and antics.
And here’s one last tip. Don’t immediately get another pet. We don’t want children to think pets and people are replaceable. Wait until your child asks to get a new kitten. Then you can talk about how welcoming a new furry friend into your home is a way to honor the life of the pet that died.
Do you have a memory of a pet that died? How did your parents handle the situation? What have been your experiences with your own child?
When a child says, “I know Grandpa isn’t really dead. He’s just asleep,” how should a parent respond? As adults we know that death is an inevitable part of the life cycle. We go to funerals, send sympathy cards and offer support. Somehow we come to reconcile death as a part of life and learn to live with that knowledge. Children, too, will encounter death, but they don’t have adult coping skills. It is up to the significant adults in their lives to help children understand their feelings when a family member, friend or beloved pet dies.
Join us as we blog about how to help children as they encounter death.
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Ok, it’s true confession time. I always maintained that I would age gracefully. I have wonderful role models in my family and community who exemplify the “older person I want to be.” So what am I learning about this aging gracefully concept?
These aging adults have one thing in common – generativity. That’s not a word we use often, but it is a concern for others developed during middle age. It is a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation. Adults often do this by being active in their communities.
We’ve seen the generativity idea reinforced by participants in the Mid Life & Beyond program. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/midlife-and-beyond Enrolled communities start with study circles using a guide, A Community for People 45 and Beyond. It is an opportunity for people to talk together and find ways to make their community a place where people can live successfully as they age.
This brings us full circle back to the children. Aging adults who remain active and want to guide younger people are serving as aging gracefully role models. How does the idea of generativity fit with what you know about older adults?
Yes it’s true, children form stereotypes about the aging process and older adults. Often times children may have negative stereotypes based on limited interaction with an older generation. To help children form positive stereotypes of the aging process authors Kaplan and Crocker offer some ways to help children develop more positive ideas about aging.
Kaplan and Crocker share that it is important to do more than just ‘talk’ about or share information on older adults. It is important to share experiences and promote opportunities to engage children with older adults as well. Spending time together allows children and adults to share stories and learn more about each other first hand.
Programs that offer the opportunity for youth and older adults to do activities together are called ‘intergenerational programs’. We would love to hear about intergenerational programs you have had experience with? How has it positively impacted your children and their thoughts about aging?
Click for more information on Age-based Stereotypes
Last week I spent an evening helping my granddaughter with an assignment for a college aging class. She needed to interview a person about a variety of issues relating to aging and I was the lucky one.
Her opening comment, “this class is so boring” immediately caught my attention. I wondered if the topic of aging seems boring to most young people. Caught up in the excitement of youth, do they look at people my age and think life must be boring for us?
However, as my granddaughter asked me questions she quickly identified me as active and engaged. She said I have a job, travel, enjoy hobbies, spend time with friends and family, and am involved in the community. Whew – at least maybe I’m not so boring.
Adult development was one of the final topics we discussed. That was a revelation as my granddaughter had not considered that adults continue to grow and development. So I got to thinking – do most young people assume that once you are an adult, that’s it?
All in all, an interesting discussion for both of us. I can’t wait for her next assignment in this class. I have the perfect opportunity to increase my granddaughter’s understanding of people’s lives as they age and how it is anything but boring.
When parents worry about gray hair and wrinkles or complain about getting older, should they also wonder whether their children are listening? During February, we will discuss children’s attitudes about aging. Research shows that family influences are among several factors that can impact how children view aging and older people. We’ll also look at the impact from TV, movies, books and jokes, and everyday language and experiences.
Join us as we blog about how to help children view the aging process in a healthy and realistic way.
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Finding research on the impact of arguing in front of children was easy. Wrapping my head around how to talk about it was harder. As we come to the end of the topic for the month, I think we could probably agree that it comes down to a word we have all heard before. Respect. We are not always going to agree with the adults in our children lives. That is a fact. It is important however, that we learn to agree to respect each other in front of our children. Children learn about respect from the adults around them. The most important role model they have is you. I encourage you to do your best to role model respect. It’s easier said than done sometimes but is so very important in the long run.
What are some thoughts you head about our topic this month? We would love to hear from you!
conflict, divorce, parental relationships
You remember them don’t you – the old tan rough looking sacks. Stuffed in the corner of the shed, barn, or garage, these sacks were used for storage. So what do gunny sacks have to do with conflict between spouses or partners?
We recognize that conflict happens and does not predict couple or family problems. But research does tell us that dangerous patterns of thinking and behaviors can lead to serious problems. One of these communication patterns is gunny-sacking. Very simply, this is keeping things in and then dumping them all at once. Picture all the unkind words, slights, perceived wrongs, and accusations stuffed into the gunny sack. Then one day when you go to stuff one more thought into the bag, it is full. So you turn the gunny sack upside down on the floor and all the hurt, pain, and anger spill out – right onto your spouse or partner. The next picture isn’t going to be a pretty one.
Managing Conflict: Escalating and De-Escalating is just one of the lessons in a series, Together We Can: Creating a Healthy Future for our Family. This program is for single parents or couples who are in conflicted or unstable relationships and have young children. Go to http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/content/together-we-can for more information.
Conflict between human beings happens. It happens between adults, between children and even between adults and children. So how do we learn to fight fair?
An article I found from the University of Texas at Austin gives some great ideas on how to have conflict in a ‘fair’ way.
Here are some of their suggestions:
- Deal with only one issue at a time: Stay focused on only one topic. Focus on that one issue until you have resolved it agree to disagree. Then move to the next issue.
- Avoid accusations: Like Donna talked about last week, use the ‘I messages’ and talk about how it makes you feel. Refrain from using the word ‘you’ as much as possible.
- Avoid clamming up: Get the issue out. When you stop communicating about what the issue is it can’t possibly be resolved. Shutting down or becoming silent doesn’t make the issue go away. Keep talking. If you need to take a break, do so but commit to coming back and finishing the conversation.
For more suggestions read the whole article from the University of Texas at Austin.
Share your ‘fighting fair’ techniques with us here!
parenting, positive parenting, temperament
Let’s jump right in with what I see as one of the best tools for improving communication with your spouse/partner. And in turn that will likely reduce disagreements. It is as simple as using “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
Here’s an example for a “you” message. “You forgot to pick up milk on your way home from work. How stupid can you be?” Or, “I can’t believe how stupid you are. You forgot to get the milk again.” That second set of statements is what we call a “hidden you” message.
Now let’s try a true “I” statement. “I need milk for dinner. There is none left in the refrigerator.” Do you see the difference? When we drop the accusatory and blaming words (and tone), we have a much better chance of getting the problem solved. In this example, what I really need is milk. This isn’t worth a full scale argument between two tired adults at the end of a long work day.
Using “I” statements is a respectful way of having a conversation. It helps you focus on the immediate problem or need, instead of escalating into a battle and bringing in more issues.
Have you tried “I” statements? Do you think this communication tool might work?
Fighting in front of the children creates a family life where conflict is the norm – and this conflict can negatively impact the kids. Fighting with your spouse or partner – or ignoring him or her — will affect your children. As we blog this month, we will explore ways for parents to reduce disagreements with each other. We will also talk about the complex issue of parental conflict and its effect on children. Join us and share your thoughts and experiences as well.
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Teen mood swings are about as notorious as the tantrums of a two year old. The seemingly instantaneous rise and fall of their happy and sad, the rushing tide of mad and glad followed by the rolling waves of its not fair. As I pondered how to talk about mood swings of teens I found a great resource on WebMD. Their fitTeens Mood Handbook shares 6 ways that teens can turn a bad day into a good day. I listed a few idea below. Click here for additional resources found on the WebMD fitTeens website.
“Reset your mood by doing something fun”…. I love the ideas here. Playing with the dog and reading a book are my favorite.
“Get creative”…… Writing, drawing. painting, singing are all ways to work through the mood blues.
Sharing some of these ideas with your teen or even sending them to check out the rest of the site might be a great way to slow the rushing tide of emotions they feel daily.
What are some ways you help your teen deal with their emotions? We would love to hear from you.
fitTeens by WebMD
Teens love to hang out together – in large groups, small groups, and couples. As parents, we’re happy they have friends. But then we start to worry when the friends turn into boyfriends and girlfriends. Our immediate reaction may indeed be, “no dating until you’re 30!”
Realistically we know that’s not likely to happen, so how can we approach the dating decisions? Let’s return to one of the five basics of parenting adolescents. Monitor and observe means that you let your teen know you are aware of their activities and relationships.
In the beginning, there may be direct supervision. Perhaps you volunteer to chaperone the school dance or let some dates happen in your home. You might give the teens a ride to the movie, mall, or game. As the teens get older and have more experiences, your monitoring becomes less supervision and more communication. Ask where your teen is going, who is the date, and what the couple plans to do. When this is done in a conversational way, rather than an inquisition, you are more likely to get an honest answer.
Another important strategy is to build a network with other parents and adults in the community. Be willing to let each other know of the good things happening as well as any troubling trends or events. Watch for signs of troubled relationships or abuse.
Dating is a natural evolution in relationships. While this issue may always strike angst in the heart of parents, dating is another step on the road to adulthood. Supervision, communication, observation, and networking with other adults are the keys to successfully traveling that road.
What family rules do you have for dating?
I want you to know that not everyone is going to like you. I want you to know that you can fail and I will still love you. I want you to know that I am not perfect. I want you to know…
I find myself thinking and saying this phrase a lot. I have two teens and one nine year old that thinks she is a teen. There is so much I want them to know but so much that I don’t always say out loud. Yes, I want them to know, but I also know that sometimes they will ‘hear’ it louder from someone else. What resources can I share with them so they will find the answers I want them to know?
Below are some of the resources I have share with my teens so far. And yes, it was via text, email, Twitter or Facebook. I’ll use any means I can to share the information I want them to know.
I Am In Control
What have you shared with your teen? I would love to know!
family time, friendship, parenting, raising teens, social-emotional
Yes, parents still matter in the lives of their teens. Teens do care about you even though at times you may wonder. And – you’re not done modeling. In the podcast we shared the five basics of parenting adolescents with one being model and consult.
So you might be thinking – give me some specific strategies. The obvious one is to set a good example with your habits – eating, drinking, physical activity, risk taking. That old escape line of “Do what I say, not what I do” really doesn’t cut it with teens. And certainly you can model adult relationships - with employers, friends, partners, and spouses. Your teens will learn from how you interact and treat other people.
Here’s another strategy – answer teens’ questions. It’s ok to express your personal opinions on issues. Your teens may not agree but you are modeling different viewpoints and how to talk with people who take different positions. In our house we had the rule that we could talk about anything as long as people were respectful. Worked pretty well for us and it’s a strategy I continue today now that the kids are adults with teens of their own.
Have you considered that establishing or maintaining traditions is a form of modeling? During the holiday season families observe lots of traditions – some silly, some serious, some sacred. Traditions are often a tangible expression of values. For example, going to the grandparents’ home for a holiday meal and celebration models the importance we place on family. Attending a religious service on Sunday morning demonstrates spiritual values. Buying toys for an Empty Stocking program says we care about those less fortunate than us.
Now you get the picture. Teens still need their parents to provide information, teach by example or modeling, and carry on conversations about relevant issues. That’s a tall order but you are raising teens and these final years under your care are setting them on the path to adulthood.
parenting, raising teens