Spoiling Grandkids

This week we welcome guest blogger Kristi Cooper. Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life and new grandma.

were grandparnetsI had no idea I’d be taking my own advice years after I wrote about the overspending of grandmothers and aunts on new babies. I’m very excited to provide my 11 month old granddaughter with as many new experiences as she can handle.  Her parents are practical and their home is small so the oodles of toys, clothes and other baubles that are bestowed upon her by well-meaning relatives create stress. Besides, my grandgirl is pretty happy with simple household surfaces to pound and pull up on, and a human or two to keep her entertained.

Marketers of baby stuff focus on female consumers – aunts and grandmothers in particular – because their hearts are as big as their wallets. By keeping our wallets closed and our hearts open we can avoid turning our grandchildren into beggars and entitled teens. Here are 5 ways to love those precious little ones without creating strained relationships, stress over stuff and maintain our financial wellbeing.

  1. Gift of Talent/Skills We all have the need to contribute to our family and community. Share age-appropriate activities with your grandchild or grand babyPlay together – Teach a game from your childhood such as kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
  2. Gift of Words Talk Together – Encourage grandchildren, nieces, and nephews by highlighting the positive values you see in them. Ask about their goals in life. Talk about how they can reach those goals. Point out the characteristics that you admire in them.
  3. Gift of Time Nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention – sharing conversation and activities. Work together  Do household chores, homework, bicycle repair or volunteer in the community with your younger generation. Working together teaches skills, work ethic and the value of contributing to others.
  4. Gift of Objects – We all like to receive objects that have been thoughtfully selected just for us. Keep material gifts to a minimum and consider the life-span of the object.  Create together – Choose toys  and consumables like art materials that stimulate critical thinking, imagination and are age-appropriate. Ask yourself, who is doing the thinking – the child or the manufacturer?
  5. Gift of Touch/Self Care – Wrap these gifts in plenty of hugs and kisses, bedtime backrubs, tickles and laughter. Practice relaxation techniques so you can be fully present for your grandchild.

YOU are the best gift your grandchild can receive!

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Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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Overwhelmed by the holiday rush?

Where you overwhelmed by the holiday rush? Did you have a ‘to do’ list a mile long and no time to do it? Are you sitting in a pile of dirty dishes, unfolded laundry and unfinished chores? Do you have no idea where to start? Even if you answered ‘yes’ to one of those questions I have a solution for you.

Breathe. Yep, that’s it, just take a deep breath.

Stop everything and just breathe. Give yourself permission to take 10 slow, deep cleansing breaths. You may have to hide in the front closet to get them all in but really shoot for 10 uninterrupted.  Take some deep breaths. Refocus your ‘thinking’ brain by giving it some oxygen.

Who knows? When you revisit the list you may find that the items on it you were trying to balance may not all have to be done exactly ‘right now’. You may just find that acronym HALT like Janet talked about in our last blog is once again interfering.

After deep breathing, it sometimes helps me read ideas from others. Below are several resources that share ideas on how to balance and cope during times you may be overwhelmed.

We would love for you to share your ideas as well. Let us know your tricks for balancing everything you have to get done.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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

woman juggling fruitI 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

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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Parenting..More Than a “To-Do” List

ThinkstockPhotos-476027825 (3)I have two children that have graduated from high school and the youngest will start his sophomore year in high school this fall.   So my parenting years are dwindling. Do I have any regrets?  Well…I’m sure like many busy mothers; the years seemed to fly by and most of the time, I was blessed with children who were typically “easy” and didn’t demand intensive parental intervention.   Somewhere during those early years I remember reading a book by William Doherty, Ph.D. about being “intentional”. Doherty’s book helped me to realize the importance of everyday rituals that could strengthen our family and marital relationships.   I learned that I couldn’t do it ALL.  But I also learned that being intentional meant setting priorities.   And I learned that if I didn’t set goals, things just wouldn’t get done.  But sometimes, I just got tangled up in the never ending details of family life and responsibilities.  My kids have always been good at keeping me centered on what was most important.  I learned that when they were most unlovable, they needed love the most.  And when they were quiet and happily playing alone, they needed me just as much as when they were whining and pulling at my leg for attention.  We have attempted to make our family communication a two way street.  I know that I have learned as much from my children, as they have learned from me.  One of my most treasured “ah-ah” moments for me came from a mother’s day gift—from my then 12-year old daughter.   She framed a Dove Chocolate wrapper—with the fitting quote, “Life is more than a to-do list”.  How shaming, yet so very spot on!  I was taken back by her subtle communication tactic.  But I took her advice to heart and I still have the chocolate wrapper as a reminder of the most important things in life.  Be intentional and remember to take time for what matters most.

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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