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Disco Creates Drive

October 24th, 2014

dance Ok, disco music doesn’t really create the drive to do things but it sure can HELP! Elizabeth’s blog last week, got me thinking about all the ways that I utilize (or have utilized) music to accomplish or complete different things throughout my life. It’s a pretty long list, but I thought the ones below were worth sharing.

  1. Playing the Top 40 on the radio to study my high school geography notes and connecting locations to the lyrics of the songs (…her name was Rio…).
  2. Using a Disco Micky Mouse record (yes a vinyl record) to help my three year old classroom kiddos expend their energy before nap time.
  3. Gathering multiple cd’s to take to the hospital when they told me it could take more than 24 hours to birth my child and I would want to be distracted.
  4. Downloading an hours worth of music to my music player to help convince my body it wants to keep moving and work up a good sweat.

From live radio to recorded downloads music can motivate us, relax us, energize and calm us. It connects to our feelings and emotions in a way that can keep us moving forward. Driving us to accomplish and complete.

As you reflect back on your life and the music in it, we would love to have you share with us the different ways that music has supported or helped you to ‘finish’.

Lori Hayungs

miscellaneous

Is it Magic? Or is it Music?

October 16th, 2014

So do you ever wonder why when you tell a 3 year old to “clean up”, they completely ignore you, but once you start singing that oh so popular “Clean Up Song”, that same 3 year old happily and energetically starts cleaning up? Is it magic or is it music? That’s the question we asked guest blogger Elizabeth Stegemöller, PhD and Board Certified Music Therapist from the ISU Kinesology Department.

Join in on our conversation with Elizabeth below.

..”Well, of course it is the music. Believe it or not being involved with music, be it music listening, instrumental playing, singing, or dancing has many benefits for a child’s physical, mental, emotional, and social development. Children learn to coordinate fine motor movements of the hands when learning an instrument. In fact most instruments require you to do completely opposite actions with each hand. Yeah, you remember how hard it was to get that left hand to do anything productive on the piano. Dancing includes the coordination of larger muscle groups of the whole body. Then there is the mental/cognitive aspects that include reading and pairing symbols with letters and meanings, leaning a whole new language (I mean what does forte really mean, how about adagio), and then somehow translate all of this into a motor command for your fingers or voice. Now, what about the emotional responses to music. Music is a mechanism to appropriately express feelings. I mean give a teenager some headphones and if you dare a drum set, and watch out! Finally, making music together teaches children how to work together to produce a final masterpiece. Really, there is no part of the human brain that isn’t involved with music.”

But what is it specifically about music that holds this power over human behavior? How can music encourage a toddler to clean up or help them learn their ABCs and why does this even matter?

“Interestingly, it starts with the rhythmic and harmonic structure of music and how the brain processes this signal. First, by nature music is a “cleaner” signal. There is less noise in a music signal than in a speech signal. And the brain likes a “clean” signal, especially a developing brain. Second, precise temporal stimulation of neural structures leads to plasticity (making new connections in the brain). Basically, if the brain (neurons) fires together, it wires together. Music is a highly organized rhythmic structure that allows for synchronization of multiple brain areas. Most importantly, music listening increases dopamine in the brain. Guess what, in order to learn anything, you need dopamine! So, stimulating the brain with a clear and synchronized signal along with the increase in dopamine is precisely what is needed for neural plasticity (i.e. learning).”

Now, back to that 3 year old cleaning up. Why did music work?

“Well, singing was a clear signal that was easier for the child to process and make the neural connection and or association that the signal meant to “clean up” regardless if they processed the meaning of the actual words or just the musical tune. But what about the ABC’s? Well, music synchronized neural activity along with increased dopamine and established new connections for alphabet order. Now just imagine how many neural connections are being made by playing an instrument, dancing, and making music as a group! Music is magic – brain magic!”

 

Share with us how you have used music in a way that seemed magical!

Lori Hayungs

miscellaneous

When Do I Start?

September 12th, 2014

Sure we want our kids to be able to make good decisions. But how do we get from point A to point B? The simple answer is – slowly but methodically. The process begins early, as early as when our kids begin to assert themselves.

In the podcast Lori talked about how children between 4 and 10 often find it hard to make decisions. So, here are some ideas to slowly help young children make decisions.

  • Offer a choice only when there is a choice. Don’t say “what do you want for supper?” when you’ve already got the tater tot casserole in the oven.
  • Offer just a few choices. Too many choices are overwhelming and confusing. Ask, “do you want an apple or string cheese for a snack”” rather than “what do you want to wear today?” and then throw open the closet door.
  • Offer safe choices. Young children don’t have the knowledge or experience to always know what is right or wrong, what is safe or unsafe. An example of a safe choice is, “do you want to hold Daddy’s hand or Mommy’s hand while we cross the street?” Asking “do you want to hold my hand to cross the street?” is not a safe choice to give a young child.
  • Offer your support. As a parent you can help your child think things through before she or he makes a decision. Chelsey is at the store with you and wants to send $5.00 she has been saving. But she can’t decide whether to buy a dress for her doll or some sparkly markers. Talk to Chelsey about what she will use the most, how long the items might last, etc. You are teaching her how to think things through and each time the decision will come a bit easier.

What have you done to help a young child begin to make decisions?

Donna Donald

decision making, miscellaneous

Put that phone away!

August 15th, 2014

It’s decided; your child has a cell phone. So what happens next? My suggestion is this – time for a family meeting to set ground rules. Sit down together and go over how and when the phone will be used. Will there be some whining? Maybe. Will it make a difference? Yes.

Limits are a good place to start. Depending upon your family phone plan, the minutes may be set or unlimited. And even if you have unlimited minutes, do you want your child on the phone all the time? Talk about what happens when he exceeds the set number of minutes or texts. Who will pay for it? Does she know how to keep track? Are there times and places the phone needs to be turned off? Examples might be: classroom, meals, bedtime, restaurants, worship services, while driving (teens).

Now here’s the kicker – you need to follow the same limits. Kids see how their parents use cell phones and will mimic the behavior.

  • If I want my grandchildren to carry on a conversation during a meal, I have to silence my phone when I ask them to do the same.
  • When I’m driving and my children or grandchildren are with me, I must ignore calls and texts or pull off the road to respond.
  • I can’t send texts or post messages after bedtime if I support a rule of “no after hours” phone use.

Think role model! Teaching your child how to use a cell phone is now as basic as teaching him how to make a bed. Perhaps not too exciting but ground rules will help prevent continuous conflict.

What are some of the rules you have in your family around cell phones?

Donna Donald

 

media and kids, miscellaneous, parenting

Making a difference….. Strong Families

July 31st, 2014

Reading Donna’s post last week about the word ‘no’, reminded me of a fabulous program that we have all over the United States (and even internationally)..

Created right here at Iowa State the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 has made a difference in thousands of families in all 50 states and in over 25 countries.

I want to share this quote from the website:

“Parents want to protect their children, but it’s challenging. Youth need skills to help them resist the peer pressure that leads to risky behaviors. Research shows that protective parenting improves family relationships and decreases the level of family conflict, contributing to lower levels of substance use. ”

Sometimes taking the time as a family to participate in programs like SFP 10-14 seems daunting… but if we knew that by participating we could help our teens gain skills that might help them make good decisions when we weren’t around, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Find out more about the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 here .

If you have been able to take part in an SFP 10-14 program we would love to hear from you!

 

Lori Hayungs

miscellaneous, parenting, peer pressure

Peer pressure. It’s not a ‘teen’ thing.

July 14th, 2014

A University of Maryland article called “Peer Pressure Starts in Childhood” caught my attention last week.  A study in the May/June 2013 issue of Child Development shared that as soon as children enter elementary school and begin forming friendships their peers begin to influence their decisions.  A couple of quotes that I have been pondering on include:

“… Children begin to figure out the costs and consequences of resisting peer group pressure early. By adolescence, they find it only gets more complicated.”

and

“Children may need help from adults when they face conflicts between loyalty to the group and fairness to outsiders. They may be struggling to ‘do the right thing’ and still stay on good terms with friends in the group, but not know how. ”

As parents it’s important for us not to take early elementary friendships lightly.  Talk with children about the games they are playing at school. Ask who else participates. Find out the conversations that are occurring. Share stories about games and groups that you participated in and the feelings you had during those experiences. You may be surprised at how long your child will talk with you about their own peer group interactions and the insights they are having.

Share with us some insights you may have had after talking with your elementary aged child about their friends.

Lori Hayungs

 

miscellaneous, peer pressure

A treasure hunt vacation? SIGN ME UP!

June 20th, 2014

SandraGeocachingGuest Blogger, Sandra McKinnon

Geocaching: A Great Family Activity

Geocaching is a world-wide treasure hunt where you electronically use longitude and latitude to locate the “loot.” It is a great low-cost family activity. It is easy to catch on to and you can do it anywhere you are.

My adult son introduced me to the game. We used his handheld GPS unit and went searching in a nearby park. What we found was a camouflaged box full of trinkets. He explained we could take a trinket, but if we did we were to leave another of at least equal value. We signed the log that was inside the box and carefully put it back where we found it. Then we went along our merry way as if nothing had happened.

How did he know that the box was there? He went online to geocaching.com and searched near his home for a cache. He plugged the coordinates into his GPS and we left the house. When we were back to the house, he went online to log the find.

Now, the electronic treasure hunt is as easy as getting an app on your smartphone. You simply search near where you are, choose the level of difficulty and terrain you feel appropriate, and then off you go geocaching.

Since the time with my son, I have logged caches in several states. I have also introduced geocaching to several friends, relatives and colleagues. My 4 year old grandson and I have gone hunting together. We searched for one that was easy enough to get to and to find. He delighted to find the treasure! And no one saw us – which is a trick sometimes! You see, the caches are secret so you don’t want anyone to know what you are doing.

I’ve enjoyed traipsing stealthily all over the U.S. It is a quick activity to stretch your legs or get children out to run a bit when the family stops for a break on a trip. Or plan a picnic and day out exploring wherever you are. Hint: many geocaches can be found at safe places like rest areas, parks and cemeteries.

Maybe you’ll find a cache that I have hidden. What will be inside it?

To learn more about the rules and courtesies of the game, and to search near you, visit geocaching.com.

education, family time, miscellaneous, play, positive parenting, relationships , , , , , ,

A Museum, No Way!

June 12th, 2014

When our kids were growing up, there wasn’t much time or money for family vacations. But somehow one summer we managed to load the five of us in the Suburban and head to Chicago. Looking back I think all of us had different ideas about vacation. The girls wanted to swim in the pool at the hotel, my husband looked forward to interesting food, and I couldn’t wait to get to the museums. During the road trip, we started talking about possibilities and I realized I needed to think fast (something which Moms do pretty well).

d14db7fd3dHere is my solution. Each person got to choose one thing he or she really wanted to do. Then the rest of us would agree and participate. We didn’t have to like it but the rule was – no whining and no complaining. Now the interesting part. I chose the Museum of Science and Industry. A stern look was needed to silence the complaining that was about to erupt. We entered the museum and began to look at the exhibits on the first floor. And then the magic happened. After 30 minutes the girls were still enthralled in the first couple of exhibits. I had to keep encouraging them to move along to see more. Fun and learning and family time all got wrapped up into one wonderful afternoon. The discussions about what we saw and experienced extended well into the evening and later on the trip home.

A couple of takeaways here.

  • Mom doesn’t have to do all the planning. Everyone can have a voice in what the family does on vacation.
  • An afternoon at the museum can be a fascinating way to learn – in this case, science.

I still have a couple of the plastic cups we got at the Brookfield Zoo while on this vacation. Every time I use one, the fond memories come flooding back.

Donna Donald

education, family time, miscellaneous, school , , ,

Do we get to help them choose?

April 24th, 2014

choice. choose. select. decide.

When it comes to children and religion who gets the the choice? Who gets to choose, select or decide?

I grew up  in a family that had religious rituals like Donna described last week. Religious rituals were always a part of my life. I was so comfortable with religious rituals that when I was a teen I decided that I would ‘change’ where I practiced those rituals. I yearned for more options and activities for teens, so I began to practice down the street with my friends (similar religion, different location). My family supported my decision with the rule that as long as I attended and participated I could go with my friends. It was my choice. I sometimes wonder what I would have done if my parents had said it wasn’t my choice. They were very brave to allow me the decision. I wonder if they were looked at ‘sideways’ for allowing me to select?  I wonder if they worried about telling me ‘no’ and feared that I would turn away from religion? Ironically, thirty years later, we all practice at the same place once again, my parents, my family, and my children. I sometimes think about what I would do if my teens asked me to practice elsewhere.

What might you do if your teen wanted to practice a similar religion at a different location? Share your thoughts with us.

Lori Hayungs

 

family time, miscellaneous, parenting, religion , , , ,

Rituals in the Home

April 17th, 2014

I can still hear my grandmother saying the prayer before a meal. I can still hear my father saying the same prayer. I taught the same prayer to my children and grandchildren. In fact if I am rushed before a meal and forget, one of the grandkids will remind me of the prayer. Do you have a similar ritual in your family? So prayerwhat’s my point?

It is really a simple, yet powerful, concept – rituals. Do not minimize the importance of rituals in your home. These rituals, similar yet unique in each family, have a significant impact on a child’s development of faith.

Let’s think about some other rituals you might observe. Perhaps you set up a Nativity at Christmas or light candles at Chanukkah. Maybe there are bedtime prayers or a scaled down activity schedule on the Sabbath. Religious symbols might be placed in the home. Some rituals revolve around food – eating kosher, having fish on Friday, giving up chocolate for Lent. This is just a small sampling of rituals in the home but should give you an idea of what I mean.

Granted, religious services can be part of a child’s spiritual training. But what happens in the home is part of a child’s daily life; it’s up close and personal. Home rituals also give you as the parent a chance to model (notice how I weave that concept into most topics) your own beliefs.

Donna Donald

miscellaneous, moral, spiritual

Does Religion Matter?

April 2nd, 2014

Questions about religion can be challenging for parents. You may be at ease explaining your own beliefs. But are you equality at ease with probing questions, especially about a religion or belief system different than your own? How parents respond when children ask questions about religion and spirituality can impact their youngsters’ behavior.

During April, we will discuss how parents can help children as they begin asking spiritual questions. As we discuss the research on this topic, join the conversation on the blog. Tell us about your own attitudes about religion and how you are guiding your child in developing a belief system.

 

 

miscellaneous, moral, spiritual

Kids and Funerals

March 21st, 2014

funeral 2Ok, here’s a big question for parents – should your child attend the funeral of a family member, friend, classmate, or neighbor? Maybe we should begin with why we have funerals. Funerals are a ceremony, a ritual that serves important functions. It is an occasion to celebrate the life of a deceased person and acknowledge the reality of his or her death. Funerals are a step in the mourning process.

Let’s be honest. Funerals are difficult for adults and that impacts our feelings about children’s attendance. Whether you should take your child to a funeral depends on the child and the situation. If your child is old enough and wants to go, then being included can be helpful. And depending on who died, it may be important for you to have your child present.

The big issue is preparation. Explain to your child what will happen at the funeral. This includes visitation (if attending) plus before, during, and after the funeral.  Talk about the setting, music, flowers, service, casket. Let your child know people will be sad and some may cry, including yourself. If you have spiritual or religious beliefs, share how death is perceived. Depending on your own relationship with the deceased, you may want to have another family member or friend be with your child. Above all, don’t leave a child to experience the events alone.

I found that taking a child to the funeral home ahead of the visitation or service is a good step. Then the child can look and ask questions. This will help both of you find comfort and meaning. Likewise, a trip to the cemetery ahead of time can relieve fears. A funeral and burial is NOT a time for surprises. Don’t assume that once the funeral is over that’s it. Set aside some quiet time to hold your child, talk about the experience, and provide a feeling of safety and comfort.

Donna Donald

 

grief, miscellaneous ,

Did Someone Die?

March 2nd, 2014

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.

 

miscellaneous, podcast

Harness the Energy

October 1st, 2013

Children often see no reason to conserve their boundless personal energy when they’re running or playing. Likewise, they seem to think electricity is in endless supply when they stand in front of the refrigerator with the door wide open. During National Energy Awareness Month in October, we will talk about getting kids to understand the impacts of their energy use. What they are doing now by conserving or not conserving energy is likely how they will live as adults. As parents we have the opportunity and responsibility to help them understand how energy usage impacts the world in which we live.

This month we’ll blog about some of the ways we can help our children be energy conscious and gain ideas on ‘living lighter’.

 

Eco Family – connecting family and the environment

http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/isuecofamily/

 

Harness the Energy

miscellaneous

It’s Easier to Do Myself

August 23rd, 2013

Ok, I confess. On more than one occasion I decided it was just easier to do a job myself than deal with a kid who didn’t want to run the vacuum or empty the dishwasher. She was busy or tired or just not interested. Never mind that I was also busy or tired or not interested. I think this is one of the biggest obstacles for including children in household chores. They resist and we end up doing the task ourselves because it’s easier. Then we end up feeling like everyone’s personal maid and being resentful.

So how can we get out of this trap? An important piece is to remember that we are teaching life skills. By having realistic expectations and providing guidance, we can get there. One really good rule of thumb is “don’t do things for children they can do for themselves.” Let me give you an example. When a child is young we dress him and tie his shoes. As soon as he is capable we teach him how to dress himself and applaud his efforts to tie his own shoes. The same thinking applies to household tasks. We make the bed for babies and toddlers. But once she can climb in and out of her own bed, she can begin to put the pillow in place and pull up the covers. If we teach children how to do something and continue to offer support, we are on the way to raising responsible kids who can take care of themselves.

Check out Inspire Children to Help with Chores for more practical tips.

Donna Donald

chores, miscellaneous, parenting ,