How did Bobby’s parents manage?

This summer while on a trip back to my childhood community, I visited a cousin who is now 90+ and living in a care facility. Eloise and I took a walk through the hallways and I was surprised to run into Bobby who is also a resident.

Bobby is the brother of one of my high school classmates. His family lived on a farm near ours, went to the same church, and was just always a part of the usual activities in the community. So, why do I mention Bobby? Well, it’s because Bobby has special health and behavioral needs. As a child and teenager, I didn’t think too much about Bobby – he was just Bobby and everyone helped take care of him. But as an adult, I look back and think, “How did his parents manage? How did they take care of Bobby and his brothers as well as give time to their marriage and personal lives?”

My guess is that while Bobby’s parents had their ups and downs, they took care of themselves. Providing care for a child with special health and behavioral needs means that the parents/caregivers are in it for the long haul. The caregivers must take care of themselves first so that they can take of their child.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a program for caregivers of children with special health and behavioral needs. Caring for a child with special needs changes parents’ lives. In this program parents learn tools to manage self-care. Here’s an example of one tool – taking action with stress reducers.

Participants in the classes learn to identify their personal warning signs and sources of stress. Then they think about what they have done to successfully reduce stress. People share things like: walk, visit a friend, listen to music, read, not try to do everything, play a sport, etc. Stress reducers are personal and what suits one person may not suit another.

The important point is to find ways to reduce stress – something that is enjoyable and works for you. Even little things can make a big difference for parents. As I remember, Bobby’s parents found ways to reduce stress. They were a part of church activities, Bobby’s dad played horseshoes with the neighborhood men, and Bobby’s mom tended pretty flowers in their yard.

If you’re interested in learning more tools to help you thrive as a caregiver of a child with special health and behavioral needs, check out Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes in your area.

 

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

Another Step on the Journey

Life is a journey. There are many steps, twists, and turns along the way. Some we plan and others just happen. But together, these steps make our journey our lives. In 2011 I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Science of Parenting team. As a family life educator, parent, and grandparent, I found this an exciting step. It’s been a joy to work with Lori as we shared timely topics via the podcasts, blogs, and webinars.

Now another turn in the path takes me to a different role within Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. Janet Smith will now work with Lori to move Science of Parenting forward. I will occasionally respond to blogs because I plan to continue reading and learning.

Parenting is also a journey. While planning is helpful, life with children is full of surprises. Science of Parenting is designed to be an educational support along the way. Enjoy the journey!

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

The School Can’t Cut the Music Program – Can They?

bandThe call goes out – help save our music program! When school districts face tough financial times, music is often one department on the table for cuts.

A first reaction may be to focus on arguments like: music is important for a well-rounded education; music is the only thing that keeps some kids interested in school; music teaches kids concentration, coordination, and perseverance; and performances are an important part of athletic events and school functions. Well, that’s all true but then the same could be said about other departments.

You might want to hone in on how music can help children with both reading skills and math. In a nutshell, the researchers who look at cognition, think that participation in music increases both the brain’s efficiency and effectiveness. The strongest studies support the value of music-making in spatial reasoning, creativity, and generalized math skills. Other studies link music education to helping children improve reading skills. Now you are beginning to talk the language that could influence the decision makers.

Sometimes parents assume the role of advocates for their children. And if that time comes for you, it helps to focus on facts rather than only emotions. Has your school system struggled with financing the music department? What has helped keep music a viable part of the school your children attend?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

Do I Have to Practice?

pianoThose old upright pianos – you’ve seen them in church basements, gathering dust at the back of stages, sitting unclaimed at auctions. While they’ve been replaced by smaller pianos and keyboards, these music instruments provided the setting for early music lessons for many kids. I remember staying in town after school a couple of times a month to walk to a home for music lessons. Then there was the daily practice in an unheated room pounding away on an old piano donated by a great aunt and uncle. My great aunt was the church organist and maybe she thought I might be her replacement someday. Each year I learned my pieces for the recital and managed not to humiliate myself.

So did I become an accomplished pianist? Nope – quit the lessons in high school. Were the lessons worth the time and money? I like to think so. Did I ever wish I’d continued lessons? Well, many years later as an adult I took lessons again for a year. The funny thing is I found I still wasn’t very good at playing and I still didn’t like to practice.

The point of my story is that I did learn a couple of important life skills. I found out quickly that it took a lot of patience on my part (and the teacher’s) to learn to play an instrument. It did not come easy; it was not always fun; and no matter how much I practiced, I still made mistakes. Learning to play a piano was my introduction to perseverance. The list is long of all my life experiences where it was not easy or fun and I made mistakes. But I kept working and practicing and did my best.

Want to know the rest of my story? In the living room, I have an old player piano that belonged to my grandmother. I taught the 3 daughters how to read music and they all played it to varying degrees. The grandchildren took their turns. And on a quiet afternoon or evening I am sometimes drawn to the keyboard where I play for my own enjoyment. Patience and perseverance and now relaxation – that’s a pretty good return on the investment.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

That Wasn’t the Smartest Choice

“Why in the world did you do that?” “Didn’t you think about what you were doing?” Ok, I’ve heard these words and I’ve said these words. Sometimes kids make bad choices and sometimes parents and adults don’t make the best decisions.

If we ask kids why they make some of the choices they do, responses might be:

  • It seemed like the thing to do at the time.
  • I just did it. I didn’t think about any consequences.
  • Who takes time to think?
  • I wanted to be cool with my friends.
  • We just wanted to have a little fun.
  • I don’t need my parents telling me what to do all the time.

These aren’t exactly what parents want to hear, but let’s face it. Kids will do unwise (even stupid) things as they grow up. That is one way they learn. It is important for parents to help ensure that kids do indeed learn and don’t repeat bad choices.

So how does this work? Well, one important piece is to let kids be held accountable and bear the consequences. Turned in homework late – lost points on the grade. Didn’t do assigned chores – have to miss favorite TV show to catch up. Broke curfew for football team – sit on the bench for a game.

If a child’s safety isn’t compromised, most of the time parents can allow the consequences to teach the lessons of making decisions. How have you responded when your child makes a bad choice?

 

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

When Do I Start?

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

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

Cell Phones as Learning Tools or There’s an App for That!

Child and phone at schoolI just read an interesting report titled “Living and Learning with Mobile Devices.” The report from Grunwald Associates LLC focuses on what parents think about mobile devices for early childhood and K-12 learning. Many parents see the potential and value for mobile devices (smartphone, tablets) and apps as learning tools.

Some of the learning benefits are: promote curiosity, foster creativity, teach problem solving, teach reading, teach math, teach science, and teach foreign languages. Early in the “mobile era”, schools often fought the battle of keeping cell phones out of the classroom. Now it appears, teachers are beginning to embrace smartphones as a teaching tool.

Occasionally I think about the evolution of tools and techniques. I learned to type on a manual typewriter and take shorthand. Now I type on a smartphone and use shortened words or initials to communicate a message. Different times – different ways – but still communicating and learning.

The kids are coming home from school with assignments so how about one for you parents? Check with your child’s teachers about use of mobile devices in the classroom. Are they permitted? Are they encouraged? Are they used for learning or communication? If mobile devices are used for learning, what provision is made for students who do not have these devices?

Go ahead and share what’s happening in your school with others reading this blog.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

Put that phone away!

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

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

“No” is Such a Simple Word

Think about it. “No” is a two letter word, one syllable, easy to pronounce. Easy – to use, that’s another matter. Remember last week when you got a call to do something you really didn’t want to do but you did it anyway because you thought you should. You didn’t want the rest of the parents or your friends to think you badly of you. You gave in to peer pressure even though you wanted to say no.

It works the same way for our kids. One or more friends (or maybe just acquaintances) will ask your child to do something she doesn’t want to, but the “no” gets stuck in her throat. A little practice can help children and teens feel more confident in belting out the two letter word or using refusal tactics.

Role play just what to say and how to do it. “No, I don’t want to.” “No, my parents won’t let me.” “No, you go ahead without me.” “No, that’s not me.” Other ideas are things like: start another activity, change the subject, leave the situation, and find new friends.

Let’s go back to that phone call I mentioned earlier and my favorite mantra of parents as role models. Does your child hear you saying “no”? Does he see you giving in and doing things you really don’t want to do? Show by example how to stand up for yourself and not get pressured.

Do you have ideas on how to teach a child to say “no” or even how you’ve learned to say “no” yourself?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

It Has To Do With Friends

Peer pressure and friends – it’s a combination that can be good or bad. I remember my best friend from those elementary grade years. We played together, sat by each other at school, rode the school bus, and had a great time at sleepovers. If one of us wanted to do something, so did the other. Fortunately we both grew up in families with similar values. Our parents knew eahappy-childrench other and saw that us kids had fun – but within their guidance and supervision.

Parents, get to know your kids’ friends. Make your house the inviting place for everyone to hang out. Then be visible and interact with the kids. Note how your own child responds to others. Is he a leader or is she a follower? Do the kids seems to get along well or are there troublemakers?  Talk to the other kids’ parents whenever you get a chance.

You can gently steer your child to friends you see as positive influences. Arrange play dates or have the whole family over for a BBQ. Enroll your child in clubs or activities with children who you think could be good friends. As children grow, parents have less and less influence over this part of their child’s life. Be cautious about pushing too hard on getting rid of friends you think are a bad influence. Kids will often rebel and do just the opposite of what you want.

That good friend from my early years – well, as we entered high school, our interests changed and so did our friendship. I found new friends and new experiences. Happily these friends never pressured me into doing anything I didn’t want to.

So parents, keep tabs on your kids’ friends. Know what is going on. It’s a key piece of peer pressure.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

From Maps to Apps

Vacation day arrives bright and sunny. As the car pulls out of the driveway, you glance into the back seat to be sure the kids are settled. And settled they are – completely engrossed in whatever their smartphones and tablets have to offer. Is this what you had in mind for family vacation? Are you going to be nagging everyone (maybe even yourself) the whole trip to put the phones away?

mapIt is well to remember that learning can happen in many ways. While the days of counting cars and playing the ABC sign game may be a thing of the past, family fun continues.

Here’s one example. Reading maps were a big deal when we traveled as a family. Someone would trace the route with a highlighter. We would use the legend to figure the distance in miles. Another person would check the population of towns we passed through and compare them to our hometown. Maps even had information about historical sites.

Now there’s an app for everything we used a map for – and more! Have the kids take turns with finding directions, checking out places to eat, sharing fun things about places, etc. You can make this into an electronic scavenger hunt (that dates me). The amateur photographers in the family can be responsible for taking pictures and creating a virtual album.

The point is to turn smartphones and tablets into a useful, learning part of vacation rather than a battle. And it’s still ok to occasionally have some “phone free” time. This too can become a game. Each family member gets to pick time during the awake hours each day when phones and tablets are taboo.

How do you handle this issue on your family vacation?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

A Museum, No Way!

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

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

No, I Won’t Come and Get You

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?

Learn all about Iowa 4-H camping.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

Help me pack my bag

duffle bagYour 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!

 

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

Rituals in the Home

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

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts

Subscribe to our blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner