Juggling work schedules, kids’ commitments and the family budget may make some parents wonder if a family vacation is worth the effort. But before giving up, consider this: the kids might learn something from the experience. Families take vacations for many reasons – to spend time together, have some fun, or rest and relax. However, research shows these opportunities to visit other people and places and see something new can actually boost your child’s academic achievement.
Join us during June as we talk about summer vacations and academic achievement.
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education, family time, podcast
Have you ever been homesick? Well I have, and it’s an awful feeling. You just want to be back at home where you feel comfortable and secure. And kids who go to camp – no matter how much they want to be there – aren’t immune from getting homesick. So how do you handle this challenge?
Let’s start with prevention. Last week Lori talked about writing letters ahead of time and having the camp counselors deliver one each day. That’s one great idea! We also talked about a child practicing being away from home overnight. That’s another great idea. Another is to work as a family in selecting the camp, packing the bag, and talking through what to expect. It’s okay to mention the possibility of missing home – parents, siblings, pets, food, bed, etc. Just don’t promise that you will go pick up a homesick camper!!
Instead, talk about what your child might do at camp when missing home. Let your child come up with some ideas and then add things like:
- keep busy with the activities, don’t stay in the cabin
- talk with a camp counselor or other kids
- make a list of all the fun things you want to tell your parents when you get home
Camp is all about having fun. But it’s also about kids developing confidence and gaining independence. A little struggle with homesickness may be painful but can be overcome and helps shore up confidence.
So Mom – when you get a text from your son pleading to come home after the first day, don’t hit the reply button with a yes. Dad, when you get a tearful phone call, agree that you too are missing your daughter. Then quickly steer the conversation to what’s happening at camp, not what’s going on at home. Could it be that camp helps foster some independence for Mom and Dad too? How have you handled homesick kids at camp?
Note: check out http://www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/camping to learn all about Iowa 4-H camping.
Last summer when my youngest daughter was almost 9 years old she went to her first over night camp (for three whole days and two nights!). I’ll admit I was anxious. She had only stayed with close friends and family members up to that point. It was really important that I not show her my level anxiety because the reality was that I was probably more anxious than her. Luckily, the camp must have dealt with anxious moms before. Camp leaders told us to write letters ahead of time and they would hand deliver them to the kids each day. That helped me. I felt like at least these short daily written messages were a way my daughter could connect with me, even though I wasn’t personally be able to connect with her. At the end of the three days I was thinking “I’m never letting her leave for that long again!” I pulled into the camp, she came running and giggling with all her new friends saying “I’m coming back next summer! And guess what? I’ll be old enough to stay for a WEEK!!” (I’ve been buying antacids on sale all year so I’m stocked up and ready!)
How have you encouraged your child to join in camp type activities knowing that you will be anxious without them? What tips do you have that worked to help ease the transition for both parent and child?
camps, positive parenting, social-emotional
Your child really wants to go to camp this summer and after careful thought, you are ready to give it a try. Then the next question may be – day camp or sleepaway camp? This is a pretty big decision that can impact how successful the camping experience is for your child. While many children around the ages of 9 or 10 are probably ready for being away from parents and on their own, there are several factors to consider.
Let’s start with the obvious. Does your child stay overnight with grandparents or friends? Can he get through the night without calling you to come get him? Has he been away from home, and you, for more than a night or two?
It’s not a good idea to pack a bag and send your child off to camp for a week if she’s never slept away from home on her own. Instead this might be the summer to sign her up for day camps and plan a sleepover at a friend’s house.
However, if your child seems okay with being on his own away from home, go ahead and explore sleepaway camp options. Start with camps that have a shorter duration – of a week or less. If all goes reasonably well, then you can look at longer time frames next year.
As you’re making camp decisions, remember to take into account your child’s ability to take care of herself. Can she get up, find her clothes, and make it to events on time?Does she make friends easily? Is she willing to try new activities and foods? Do unfamiliar places, routines, and people cause anxiety? The answers to these questions will help you determine what types of camps are better choices.
Once you’ve explored these questions with your child, you’re ready to help pack the backpack for a day camp or the duffle bag for a sleepaway camp. Then let the fun begin!
camps, friendship, social-emotional
I remember every summer camp experience I had. I only had a few but I REMEMBER! There were pivotal things that happened at each one. They shaped me. They were so important to me that as an adult I have attended a camp with my children for the last 5 years in a row. Not so much to create an experience for them, but to create experiences for all of the children attending. I LOVE CAMP! Can you hear me practically dancing on the keyboard as I type? You should have seen/heard me trying to speak slower for the podcast! My excitement over the possibilities that children have during camp experiences knows no boundaries. I’m even rambling now. So many organizations understand the importance of camp that they have scholarships, grants and monetary support systems to ensure children have opportunities.
Share your camp experiences with us. And if you really want to make a difference – find a camp near you and help a child enjoy it!
family time, nature, positive parenting, social-emotional
The 4-H camp, sports camp and music camp brochures are arriving and the kids are begging for a summer adventure. But other than fun, is there any value to camp?
According to the American Camping Association, more than 8 million kids attend summer camp every year. So obviously camps are an attractive summer activity for many families.
We’ll take a look at some research on whether camp experiences can contribute to the healthy development of young people.
During May, we will examine the research and discuss how to help children choose an appropriate camp. Join us!
camps, friendship, nature, social-emotional
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.
family time, miscellaneous, parenting, religion
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 what’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.
miscellaneous, moral, spiritual
Spiritual development in children… yep it’s part of their natural development. It’s part of their moral and cultural development. We didn’t just pick this topic randomly. We selected it purposely because just like physical development and social development, it is a part of your child that will continue to grow and develop over time. It’s the part of your child that plays into how they begin to make sense of their world and the people in it. It’s the part of their development that shapes their values and beliefs about their families, friends, communities and nations.
How then can we foster a healthy spiritual development? How can we help to answer their questions about their world in a positive way? How can we nurture values and beliefs and children’s spiritual development? Spiritual and moral development can be a daunting and abstract concept but as I was looking through various resources I came across this poem and thought I would share.
What is Spirituality?
delighting in all things
being absorbed in the present moment
not to attached to ‘self’ and
eager to explore boundaries of ‘beyond’ and ‘other’
searching for meaning
open to more?
Spirituality is like a bird; if you hold it to tightly, it chokes; if you hold it too loosely, it flies away. Fundamental to spirituality is the absence of force.
Rabbi Hugo Gryn
What are ways that you nurture spiritual development in your child?
education, family time, moral, parental relationships, parenting, positive parenting, spiritual
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.
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miscellaneous, moral, spiritual
Ok, 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.
As Donna and I pondered the topic this month, we wanted to make sure that we talked about the fact that many things die. Animals. People. Plants. Flowers. Bugs. Fish. All living things die. The most important thing when talking about the topic of death is to remember the child’s age. The age of the child is what guides your conversation. Here are a couple of age related guidelines directly from the extension.org article “Loss and Grief: Talking with Children”.
- Infants. Children under a year old seem to have very little awareness of death, but do experience feelings of loss and separation. Infants might show similar signs of stress as an older child or adult who is coping with loss: crankiness, eating disturbance, altered sleep patterns, or intestinal disturbances.
- Toddlers. Children between the ages of one and three generally view death as temporary. That’s why it’s very important to state simply and directly that the person has died and to explain what that means.
- Young children. Children between the ages of three and six might believe their thoughts, feelings or actions can cause death. Feelings of responsibility and guilt can arise. It’s important to tell children what caused the death and be attuned to any sense of responsibility the child might convey.
- Older children. School aged children begin to develop a more mature understanding of death, seeing it as both inevitable and irreversible.
- Teenagers. Teenagers are going through many changes and life in general can be very challenging. During a time of loss and mourning, let your teenager know that you’re there for her/him. Be present while also allowing space and privacy. Respect your teenager’s feelings, listen well, and let them teach you about their grief and how you can help.
To view the whole article : Loss and Grief: Talking with Children
How have you talked with children about the loss of living things and people? Share your conversations with your children about loss and death here.
Additional resource for talking with children about death are below:
Talking to Children About Death
Helping Your Child Deal with Death
Children and Grief
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?