Parents: Are you hungry, angry, tired, or lonely?

November 13th, 2015

woman juggling fruit

I survived my early years of motherhood with support and advice from some very knowledgeable, and observant mentors.  I still remember and heed their words.  “Take care of yourself so you can take care of others”.  “Years from now, you will never remember having a dirty sink”.  “Motherhood is a marathon, pace yourself”.  “Get enough sleep.  Everything is worse when you are tired.”  Interestingly their advice focused on me, not my children.  The advice seemed to focus on meeting some basic human needs in order to fulfill my role as a parent.

There advice alone wasn’t enough to meet my needs as a parent.  I signed up for a parenting class and I learned about the HALT acronym.  Like the word implies—HALT requires one to stop, pause and think through one’s behavior.    The acronym stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired.   The philosophy of HALT is that when children are hungry, angry, lonely or tired they will be more likely to misbehave and act out.  But I also knew that as a parent I had also experienced the effects of HALT.  When I felt HALT—hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness—I too, became short fused and not at my best.   The technique suggests that parents also “halt” and think about their personal emotional status and wellbeing.

Let’s think about applying the HALT principle to ourselves as parents.

HUNGRY—When we think about hunger, we usually think about how we feel when we are lacking food.  But we can also be emotionally hungry.   We may be hungry for attention, for understanding, friendship, or comfort.  Just as food satisfies our physical hunger, we need social and emotional supports to satisfy our needs.

ANGER—Many of us are uncomfortable at expressing anger and many times it comes out in very unproductive ways—yelling, slamming doors, criticizing, or resentment.  If we have unresolved anger, our relationships with our children suffer.  Physical activity, mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, breaks, and professional help can all help a parent cope and resolve feelings of anger.

LONELY–  Parents can easily find themselves isolated and alone.  It’s important to reach out and interact with other people, especially other parents.  Isolation and loneliness can lead to depression.  A depressed parent will have difficulty responding positively to their children.

TIRED  Parents must often deal with interrupted sleep and many parents ignore tiredness.   Physical tiredness can impact our wellbeing and can leave one vulnerable for accidents and conflicts.  Naps, when possible and going to bed earlier can all be solutions for the sleep deprived parent.  Parents can also experience exhaustion from taking on too much or being overwhelmed from leading overly busy lives.   Solutions that I have tried include:  prioritizing, paring down my expectations of myself, and taking a break.

So the next time you are feeling stressed or you find yourself not enjoying parenthood, consider the HALT acronym.  I’ve found it a wonderful tool to gain insight into my children’s behavior, but even more insightful into understanding my own.

Janet Smith

Human Sciences Specialist

Family Life


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Balancing Life and Parenting

November 5th, 2015

Many parents report feeling rushed, stressed and unable to do everything they have to do at work and at home. However, parents don’t have to live with constant chaos if they take care of themselves first. In an emergency on an airplane, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. That’s true in parenting, too. Caring for yourself is one of the most important — and most often forgotten — things you can do as a parent.

Join us this month as we will explores way to prioritize parenting responsibilities and avoid parenting stress. We also will share ideas on fun breaks you can take that will refresh your parenting ability.


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More than half of us have had ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’

October 20th, 2015

This week we welcome our guest blooger Kristi Cooper, Human Sciences Family Life Specialist.

Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s

I love this quote from the program “Lemonade for Life” – “You can’t rewrite the beginning of your story but you can change how it ends.”

Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) affect a child’s neurological, social-emotional and cognitive development. ACES may eventually manifest in chronic health conditions in adulthood.

I’m part of the 55% of Iowans who have more than one ACE. When I think of the chaotic times in my childhood, I’m grateful for the touch points that kept me ‘on track’. The research on Adverse Childhood Experiences tells us these touch points are called resiliency factors. These resiliency factors include individual capabilities, attachment and belonging with caring competent people and a protective community, faith or cultural process. Let me share a few of these touchpoints from my own life and maybe you can see how resilience can be woven through the fabric of our lives.

I am grateful for the elementary school nurse who never questioned my stomach aches and always had clean dry clothes for me to wear when I had an ‘accident’. I’m grateful for my 3rd grade teacher’s calm, caring approach and the interesting hands-on projects she had us do. She introduced me to creative writing which became an outlet for me whenever I felt life was overwhelming. I’m grateful for my grandmothers who loved me unconditionally and were always interested in me. I’m grateful for the routine of Sunday church followed by dinner at Grandma’s house with its comfort food, safety, hugs and laughter. All of these helped me feel normal and sane when life felt scary.

Spending time outdoors with cousins was an important touchpoint for me. Our many adventures catching tadpoles and crawdads, jumping the bogs in the pasture, riding bikes for miles, building snow forts and climbing in the empty corncrib took my mind away from the hurtful times. Music was another touchpoint for me. I saved my 4-H and birthday money and bought a guitar. With the creative writing gift from Miss Ihnen and my new instrument, I made it through a few more turbulent years.

All of these touchpoints helped to reset my stress response – all it takes is a 20 minute activity to reduce heart rate, regulate breathing again and re-focus the mind. As an adult I use meditation, yoga, journaling and sewing projects to reduce anxiety, keep depression away and help my mind think clearly. I have a therapist I consult when I need to sort things out. I’ve used my early experiences to change how I parented my children, hopefully, changing the course of my grandchildren’s lives. These individual resiliency practices combined with positive social relationships and trauma informed community resources help heal the impact of adverse childhood experiences and to reduce the impact of traumatic events.

What are the touchpoints that help(ed) you survive and thrive?

Kristi Cooper

Adverse Childhood Experiences, communicating, corporal punishment, education, parental relationships, parenting, Resiliency, social-emotional , , , , , , ,

Science of Parenting Adds Texting Option

October 11th, 2015

The Science of Parenting

The Science of Parenting blog now is available via text message. It’s another way you can access research-based parenting information from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

It’s easy.  Simply text the keyword sciparent to 95577 to be added to our distribution list.

The Science of Parenting’s Web-based texting program operates much like an email service.   After participants text sciparent to 95577, they are added to the Science of Parenting texting schedule and will begin receiving text messages with parenting information on a regular basis. Sometimes the messages will include links to photos or videos hosted on the Science of Parenting website. Participants can text their replies, as well.

Let us know what you think…..

Janet and Lori


What is this thing called resilience?

October 8th, 2015

Once people understand what ACEs are they ask “what now?” What’s next is the idea of resiliency. Resiliency allows us to be able to move past the negative consequences of adverse childhood experiences. Resiliency allows us to have hope in the future. Our desire to create resiliency leads us to search for ways to support and help families and communities.

Three powerful ways to create support are tapping into individual capabilities, attachment and belonging with caring competent people and a protective community, faith or cultural process. We know that individuals can lead successful thriving lives despite their ACE score. These three protective factors above are why they can overcome the damage from their ACEs and lead healthy happy lives.

Explore your communities for positive supportive protective systems. What do the protective symptoms look like in your community? Are there places to grow support  your systems?

Share with us your ideas.

Don’t forget to sign up to receive a text when we post new blogs. Text the word sciparent to number 95577.

You can also share your responses with us by texting sciparent and your comments to 95577.


Lori Hayungs


What Hand Were You Dealt? Happy or Turbulent Childhood?

October 1st, 2015

Four Aces

In many ways life can be a lot like playing cards and unfortunately many of us as children were dealt a hand that was less than ideal and loaded with “ACES” or adverse childhood experiences.  The experiences of our childhoods—both the good and the not so good influence the adult we become.

From our childhood, we develop traits and skills that prepare us to be effective in the world. We also develop the capacity to adapt in the face of challenges.   We call this capacity to respond in a positive way— resiliency.  Resilience is complex; it is possible to be resilient in one setting and to do very poorly in another. It is our ability to bounce back when faced with a variety of challenges.

Research is clear that the effects of negative early childhood experiences don’t end when a child becomes an adult.   The more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that a child experiences, the greater the risk for health problems, mental illness, and substance abuse as an adult (Felitti et al., 1998). It can be easy to blame your childhood, to get stuck on situations and circumstances that were beyond your ability to change.  We need to learn that one cannot re-write their childhood history but writing your future and your child’s future is possible.    There is hope.  Change is possible.  Communities and families can learn to break the cycle of negative childhood experiences from one generation to the next.

All parents want a better life for their children.  But many parents are not always sure how to create a better life.  Fortunately, early childhood advocates are starting conversations to help parents achieve resiliency and develop a plan for a better life for themselves and their children.  .

There are numerous conversations starting in Iowa around the concept of adverse childhood experiences and creating a resiliency culture for adults and children alike.  I encourage you to reach out and find out what your community is doing.  Get involved!

Janet Smith

Human Sciences Specialist-Family Life


Adverse Childhood Experiences, Resiliency

Break the Cycle of Childhood Trauma

September 14th, 2015


More than half of us grew up in families that were marked with challenges, but we don’t have to pass those experiences on to the next generation. The cycle can be broken by developing safe, stable and nurturing relationships that heal the parent and the child. The keys to success are developing healthy relationships and building resiliency.

Traumatic, or adverse, childhood experiences can include neglect as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Other family issues that can contribute to a traumatic childhood include substance abuse, divorce, hunger, domestic violence, mental illness and incarceration.

Children who are exposed to many adverse childhood experiences may become overloaded with stress hormones, leaving them in a constant state of fight or flight and unable to focus. They learn adaptive and coping behaviors in response to these experiences.

This month we will discuss ways to build resiliency in children. We also will discuss ways that communities can begin to support all children and families in reducing the incidence and impact of adverse childhood experiences.



Autonomy vs Diminished Skills

August 24th, 2015

This week e welcome a guest post from our ISU Extension and Outreach Human Sciences Family Finance partners. If you have additional thoughts or questions we welcome the conversation.

Autonomy vs Diminished Skills

Most days Dad cannot add or subtract or figure out if he has enough money in his pocket to pay for something. I try hard to never say, “NO”, because that leads to reasoning with Dad, and there just is no such thing as a logical discussions when Alzheimer’s is involved. My goal is to make Dad FEEL good. So, Dad now carries a wallet with $30 to $50 in it most days. With the exception of a walk down town to have coffee with the neighbor (who is also in his 80’s and lives with his daughter), dad goes nowhere without me. So, why does Dad need that much money in his wallet? Because, that is what he has ALWAYS carried in his wallet. It is NORMAL for him. It makes him FEEL good. More than once he has lost his wallet and I have always found it…in a pair of pants in the laundry basket or in a drawer in his room. I have no concern that he will REALLY lose it because he never goes anywhere without me. Dad’s wants are few and inexpensive. Having $30 – $50 in his pocket means he never has to figure out if he has enough to pay for something. If I know he wants something that will cost more than he has in his wallet, we swing by the bank and pick up some extra cash so he can manage the transaction without my help.

As Dad’s disease progresses, he gets younger in his mind and in his behaviors. While picking up stuff for our vacation, Dad began grabbing snack items for our trip. He grabbed an armload and ran to the check out to quickly pay for them. Why the hurry? Why not continue shopping with me and we all check out at the same time? As a kid, that behavior would have made Dad ask ME if my money was burning a hole in my pocket. It occurred to me that, HE wanted to pay for these things to share with everyone on the trip. Had he waited and checked out with me, I may have insisted on paying for it all together.  He wanted the joy of being the provider. So, in the future when we shop, I will send him to pick out the fruit and let him pay for it while I take care of the rest of the purchases.

My financial goal with Dad is to keep him safe, secure and happy. I don’t always get it right the first time (At first I didn’t let him carry cash for fear he would lose it), and we all paid the price. The good news is, he has no short term memory so he doesn’t remember my unsuccessful attempt at making him happy. Alzheimer’s always lets me have more than one try at getting it right.  ~Brenda Schmitt


When a Grandparent Has Dementia

August 11th, 2015

When a grandparent has dementia, the grandchildren may not understand why grandma or grandpa is becoming forgetful, mom or dad is stressed out and everything is different than it used to be. However, parents can help their young children and adolescents learn to cope.  The most important message is to be as honest as you can. Offer clear explanations and plenty of reassurance. Try to get a sense for how much information each child can cope with, and tailor your discussion accordingly.

This month we will discuss ways to talk to children and adolescents about dementia and share ideas about how to help children cope. Research has shown that dementia can dramatically change the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, but it doesn’t have to be all negative.

Join us  as we talk about caregiving adults with dementia and the impact it has on young children.


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Thank you from Science of Parenting

August 5th, 2015

I thought this might be a perfect ‘blip’ in our regular blogging timeline to say THANK YOU for reading our blog. We enjoy reading your emails and comments back to us and appreciate your insight.  Thank you for sharing our blog with others. We are grateful for the trust you have in our information. As a way to say thank you, I wanted to take a moment to share the other great blogs my co-workers have been working on.

When I went to our ISU Extension and Outreach blog homepage, I was reminded how much fabulous educational information is right there at my fingertips! A blog on Iowa vegetables? Where did that come from? And all that great information on connecting to the environment! I needed some connecting! Oh yes, and the Answer Line! how could I forget that one? We ALL need answers!

I’m not sure about you, but I must also take this moment to confess that I am starting to look for my educational information in bite-sized pieces. Smaller snippets of information designed to grab my attention and then draw me in to the deeper stuff.  Educational blogs represent bite-sized information for me. Bite sized is important but my ‘bites’ also need to be from reliable, valid and trustworthy sources.

As I looked through the blogs that my co-workers create I couldn’t help but smile and think “Wow, that’s a whole lot of perfectly sized trustworthy education for the public right there!” And it’s for EVERYONE! It’s for child care providers, business owners, teachers, farmers and families in general! Perfect blog-sized, bite-sized pieces!

So, THANK YOU for reading and sharing our blog with others, we truly enjoy providing our blogs for you!

Now sit back and click a couple links, read a couple bites and enjoy the trustworthy, educational information.

Lori Hayungs



Science class: 24/7, 365

July 23rd, 2015

iStock_000003889494Small[1]Helping_1One of my favorite things to say about young children is  “their life is like science class 24/7, 365 days a year”. I love watching young children (especially infants and toddlers) explore their world.

Infants take in EVERYTHING. They can’t seem to get enough of looking, touching, tasting, shaking, and smelling everything in sight. Toddlers do the same, with just a bit more gusto.

Everything is a discovery session. Everything a science experiment. They wonder, “What happens if I drop the cup milk off the high chair?  What does it sound like if I shake the bowl of cereal? If I chew on my mom’s arm what does she sound like?”

It seems like everything they do can be based around science! The discovery of cause and effect. The observation of the ‘law of gravity’. The exploration of mass and volume.

I’m sure you’ve witness hundreds of science experiments at your house. Some experiments turn out very successful. Other experiments may have been less than stellar. No matter the outcome, fantastic learning has probably taken place.

How have you seen your children take in information from their every day experiences and turn it into scientific discovery? How did you encourage them? (and my favorite part, active participation)What did you do to partake in the experimentation with them?

Share with us what everyday science exploration you have done.

Lori Hayungs


STEM at the fair

July 13th, 2015

It’s summer time! That means it’s county fair time. Do you know how much science, technology, engineering and math happens at a county or state fair?

Confession time, I was not a fair kid growing up. I thought that if I went to the county fair I would just see my friend’s farm animals and the cookies they had been practice baking for months. No really, that’s what I thought! I have come to learn however that it is about amazing fabulous STEM opportunities and experiences. Even as a visitor, your opportunities to experience STEM are endless.

When I searched ‘what to do at the fair’ I found an endless list of activities for families. From milking cows, to using robots, to participating in food demonstrations (read EAT), from creating your own artwork, to learning about wildlife and insects.  And these were just the 3 links I found from 3 different states! Not to mention all the counties in those various states that were sharing their fair activities.

Take a moment and think about how you might be able to encourage STEM activities in a fun and family friendly environment with your children. Most fairs are low cost or have discount days/times. They cater to families with children and want to create an engaging family focused time for you. Get creative while you’re at the fair. Create family challenges or mini-competitions at the exhibits and demonstrations. Enjoy the demonstrations and talk about how you might do something similar in your own home. Take the fair boards up on their offer, find a fair close to you and show your kids that you know a little about STEM too.

We would love to hear about your favorite fair experiences.


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Help Kids Learn about Science

July 6th, 2015

Not all parents feel confident having “the talk” with their children — when the topic is science, technology, engineering and math. However, it’s an ongoing conversation parents and kids need to have.

STEM — Science, technology, engineering, and math — is a vital part of our kids’ education and their future and parents play an absolutely critical role in encouraging and supporting their children’s  STEM learning at home, in school and in the community.  This month we will discuss how to create a science-learning friendly home. We’ll also talk about how parents can be more actively engaged with their children’s teacher and school.

Want to receive texts Science of Parenting information via text?   Text  sciparent  to  95577



Parents take lead for summer learning

June 15th, 2015

A child only educated at school is an uneducated child

—George Santavana

School is out and many educational experts would say learning is on hold.    So parents…… it’s up to you!   Remember, learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom.  How, and when do children learn?   Learning…can be anytime, anywhere, on demand and individualized.  Parents as their child’s first and foremost teacher can be in a position to assist their child in 24/7 learning.    Learning is most optimal when it can be as individualized as the kid.  Teachers know that this is important, but struggle to achieve this with increased class sizes and academic achievement.  But parents can, if they take on the challenge.  With a little planning and researching, parents can fill their child’s day with many brain boosting activities and strategies.

To quote philosopher George Santavana—“A child only educated at school is an educated child”.  Lifelong learning goes far beyond the classroom setting and summer can be the perfect time to set your child on a journey to authentic learning.  Let’s start with the notion that learning can and should be fun.  Ideally, we can learn to capitalize on our child’s ideal learning style.  Many kids prefer hands on learning and traditional classroom teachers are challenged to find the time and resources to provide learning activities are geared for hands on learners.  Hands on learning can be both academic and fun.

As parents always remember to vary activities.  Remember that a little fresh air is the best way to wake up a sleepy summer brain. Get them outside. Get them moving. Keep them reading. Keep them learning.  Summer can be a great time to discover music, attend outdoor concerts, boost music lessons, write songs, make instruments or try a new instrument.  Consider an outdoor talent show in your neighborhood.

Make your home “learning friendly”—fill with books, newspapers, games, how to manuals, magazines,  and access to the internet. Be a learner yourself.  Let your kids see you researching how to do things, and see you reading.   Remember to TALK.  Ask questions. Ask probing questions for deeper meaning and thoughts.  Challenge each other.   Learn from each other.

It has also been said that “Necessity is also the mother of invention”.  Consider a hands-on project and the research that is necessary to complete it.  My son-Cole has been a project kid.  We have learned all sorts of things through his persistence and ongoing projects.   We have taken on projects like survival skills including:  catching water in a catchment system, making char cloth, constructing a fish trap, creating snares, beekeeping,  willow whistles, blacksmithing techniques,  fishing lures and fly-tying—(flies mimic insects actually found in nature, understanding of fish and entomology) as well as the perfect homemade dough bait prepared in my kitchen! We attempted engineering challenges like catapult creations, mobile ice house construction,   leather making, knots and lashings, and coin collecting—just to name of view of his own-going learning bucket list.  Has he traveled this learning journey alone?  No—his father and I have learned alongside.  As a parent I have also learned to take his lead.  I’ve learned to support and encourage what he is interested in.  As parents we have learned that lifelong learning is about giving kids learning experiences.  It’s about asking questions.  It’s about being mindful and observing their interests.  It’s about letting them fail and learning from those failures.  It’s about encouraging curiosity and not squelching ideas.  It’s about asking thinking questions.  It’s about knowing your child and where their interests lie.

Take time this summer to look at learning as a life time of exploration not only for your child but for yourself.  Learning shouldn’t be a chore!    Take time to let learn with your child!

Janet Smith


Science and Math in 4-H?

June 15th, 2015
Science of Parenting guest blog
Cindy Gannon, Northwest Iowa Marketing Coordinator
Of all the possible clubs and organizations parents and kids can choose to belong to, a 4-H club should be number one on the list. What do you know about 4-H? Some think it’s all about farms. And animals. Period.
We know it’s so much more. All the activities are and always have been STEM focused, meaning the members are engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematic principles. Members of 4-H who belong to a 4-H club are immersed in STEM activities.
But, what if your child isn’t in 4-H? How about trying a summer camp? Most camps are open to all youth in the area. Those who attend will have much to write on “What did you do this summer?”
Examples of some camps ISU Extension and Outreach offer:
Robotics Camp I, II and III
Free Style STEM
1st Steps Vet Science
Explorations in Vet Science
Next Steps Vet Science
CSI:  Learn to Investigate
CSI:  Unsolved Mystery
Jelly Genes and DNA:  Biotechnology
Food Science
Green Thumbs, Dirty Fingers
Or, how about:
Photography camps, NASA Mars rover camp, nature STEM camps, sewing camps, explore medicine camps, and more. Many of the camps could not happen without community partnerships such as area hospitals, school science teachers, NASA astronauts (yes, really), and many more.  
Want your child to Join 4-H? Contact a county office near you.