It’s Never Too Late to Say Thank You

Mom reading a book to two children.
For many families, the last week or so may have been filled with gift giving and celebrations including good food and holiday cheer. When others spend so much time, preparing just the right holiday celebration, a hearty thank you is in order! So before the New Year rings, how about helping your children learn the skill of giving thanks to the people in your family and those friends who have made the last few days very special for all! Giving thanks has never gone out of style! In fact, good manners are reflected in the thanks that are expressed!

We often take for granted the people that mean the most to us. With out the preparation by mom and dad and extended family members, who work overtime to get the house ready, the presents purchased and wrapped, the groceries bought and delicious meals cooked, the holidays would lack that something special, they always seem to have!.
Giving thanks can take many forms. Writing a note, talking by phone, listening and sharing conversation with someone face to face! The effort we make in showing thanks will spread cheer and good will for many holidays to come!
If you are trying to teach children about writing thank you notes, here are a few helpful hints:

Greeting: Dear Aunt Karen,
Express thanks: Thank you for the new books and puzzles. I love reading.
Discuss use: I can share the puzzles when my friends come over to play.
Say it again: Thank you for remembering me with this gift.
Regards: Love, Susie

So get busy, get yourself some stationery, plain note cards or a selection of attractive postcards, and proper postage. Store all of these items somewhere easily accessible and preferably in plain sight, so you won’t forget! People like being appreciated, and if they feel you actually notice the nice things they do for you, they’re more likely to repeat their generosity.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Developing Conflict Resolution Skills

One of the goalKneeling mother and son discussing conflicts many parents have for their children, is to watch them grow into independent young people. Independence, however, comes with its own set of challenges. Children, from a young age, want to do things “on their own”. Watching a crawler, learn to stand, or perhaps even take a step is exciting. Mastery of skills along with independence is achievable, and requires parents to practice some patience!   As young children are learning independence, there is the potential for conflict. Conflicts are a normal part of everyday living. Although we usually think of conflicts as very negative, conflict can also be positive because it can help us grow and develop skill.

The ability to resolve conflicts is learned. Parents, as the first educators of their children can foster an environment of learning and discovery that can include healthy resolution of conflict.  It is true, developing the skill to resolve conflicts comes with age. We have to think in terms of readiness. Two-year-old children may not readily understand how to resolve conflict, but over time, can learn problem-solving techniques. Helping youth to recognize opposing points of view is important; as is learning that actions have consequences.

When children learn that their behavior has direct impact upon others, they learn to manipulate situations in both good and bad ways. Helping children to identify solutions to conflict is important. Parents can model good conflict resolution skills at home, so that children too, learn the skill and can practice it at home, school and into their future.

Talking through conflicts when they occur is a good way to make sure that something positive can come from the situation. Letting children explain how they see the situation and then making sure that all parties listen to all sides is the first step in creating peace in the situation.

Additional information for parenting preschool and elementary children can be accessed here. 

Resources for guiding teens can be accessed here.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Practice Kindness Today

 

Smiling School Age Girl Holding Globe

We thank our guest blogger, Cheryl Clark, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach for reminding us about kindness and its impact on those around us!

Another day, another act of incivility, anger or violence. Ever-pervasive attitudes of self-centeredness and disregard for others seem to symbolize our times. But what if we could flip the script from callousness to kindness?

Did you know, Nov. 13 is World Kindness Day, according to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation? The internationally recognized nonprofit provides free online resources to educators and others to encourage acts of kindness across the globe.

“Simply be kind,” said Clark. “Remember the old adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. This can help us more fully appreciate the unique and diverse aspects of our world.”

The Center for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at the University of Missouri suggests that people seek first to understand. For example:

  • Read a book about a different person, culture, country or experience.
  • Listen to local, regional, international or a different genre of music.
  • Explore your heritage, family history and personal cultural worldview.
  • Visit a local cultural center.
  • Interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures by becoming a language partner.
  • Challenge yourself to learn 10 new words in another language.

For more ideas from the center, visit diversity.missouri.edu.

“Another critical component to kindness is how we speak to and about each other. Being respectful of self and others in our words and actions is living kindness,” Clark said.

Clark offers the following techniques to build an atmosphere of respect:

  • Listen to others actively and intentionally.
  • Speak from personal experience and use “I” statements.
  • Withhold judgment and ask genuine questions for understanding.
  • Check your biases and assumptions.
  • Seek to understand your own communication and conflict style.

“Finally, take good care of yourself. This may seem to be at odds with ‘making the world a better place.’ However, we must care for ourselves in order to have the stamina, energy and desire to live kindness. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, connect with friends or family, and engage in spiritual practices,” Clark said.

“If you find yourself overwhelmed with the negativity, seek professional help. A counselor can help you in a trusting, non-judgmental setting. Call Iowa Concern at 800-447-1985 for help,” Clark said.

ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge.

In addition, “All About Stress: Taking Charge (PM1660 A)” is available for free download from the Extension Store. The publication offers tips for coping with stress, managing stress and building resources to help.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Back To School Communication

As children prepare to head back to school, parents are getting ready as well. Buying school supplies, registering their children for activities and arranging for transportation are among the activities on many parents’ to-do list. However, another necessary item for back-to-school planning is open communication, which will ease everyone’s first-day nerves.

All children will not react the same way to the beginning of the new school year. Set aside some time to talk with your child about the upcoming year.

Parents take the time to ask your children what excites them about the beginning of the new school year, and what they may be curious or worried about.

If your child is anxious about school, acknowledge those feelings. Remind your child that you are always available to talk through any situations that may be worrisome. The time you spend communicating will help to alleviate fears that both of you may be feeling.

Let me provide a few helpful suggestions:

  • Remind your children that you care for them and are proud of the many new things they are learning and accomplishing.
  • Try to find some alone time with each child to explore the day’s happenings and how he or she is adjusting to school.
  • Family mealtime offers another opportunity to explore the school day.
  • Talk about your expectations, but offer support and guidance. Let your child know that you are open to solving problems together.
  • An older sibling also may provide support and information about school transition.
  • Establish a good relationship with your child’s teacher. When you have concerns, check-in with your child’s teacher to get a wider perspective.

A new school year brings opportunities to participate in many activities. Be aware that over scheduling can increase stress for everyone.

As a family, make some decisions about after-school activities that are meaningful to your children and that make good sense with the time available.

When you communicate and plan together, the new school year can be a year of success.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Same Girl, Different Year

Recently, I attended a professional Childhood journal entry from 2001development opportunity on the DiSC personality profile, which categorizes you into one of four areas – dominance, influence, conscientiousness, and steadiness (read more about specifics here: https://discprofile.com/what-is-disc/overview/ ). The day consisted of activities that better helped us to understand our personality type, the type of those with whom we work, and how to best interact with one another. According to the assessment, I’m an ‘I’ – which basically means that I try to make good impressions wherever I go, appreciate working with others, and like to… uh…  talk a lot. According to the assessment, I also lack the ability to be organized (who? me? nooooo).

The very next day after this training, my dad handed me a stack of papers he found tucked into a book in the basement: journal entries I had written in second grade. Entries included, but were not limited to:

  • “Things I love to do is draw, decorate, create, write, type, and pretend to teach.”
  • “Iowa state rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
  • “My vacation was fun, I stayed over night at my friends house”
  • “I never want to go to jail.”

As I was reading entries written by an 8-year-old me, all I could think was “that is totally me!” I love to draw and design, I work for Extension (where I get the chance to educate), enjoy spending time getting to know others (and appreciate vacations with others around), and I’m a huge Iowa State University sports fan. Lastly, I never want to go to jail – I’m convinced this stems from my fear of disappointing others.

This all got me to thinking –if I have the same personality I did 17 years ago, and we’re getting trained to acknowledge those traits in ourselves and others in the workforce – why aren’t we better at acknowledging the differences in the kiddos in our lives, so we are more equipped to help them succeed? In child development, we often refer to different personality types as ‘temperament.’

I like to think of temperament as a riddle – why do people act, think, and respond the way they do, and how can we make all the pieces fit together? Sometimes I, an emotional, social, person, have to stop and remind myself that my four year-old nephew might not like me demanding him for answers, but rather, might need to let him process while he plays alone with his toys before he responds. For my niece, the ultimate sass master, I can ask her a question and know what to expect (because she is exactly like me).

For more information on temperament and tools to work with a variety of small-but-mighty personalities, check out prior blog posts written by Lori and the team by searching ‘temperament’ in the search bar on our Science of Parenting site.

Side note – I’d love to hear stories of memorabilia you’ve found from your childhood!

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Recent Family and Consumer Sciences grad and Human Sciences Program Coordinator serving four counties in Northwest Iowa. Background editor and occasional contributor of the "county perspective" for the Science of Parenting blog.

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Don’t Judge Me! I’m Busy Parenting!

Do you ever get the feeling people watch your every move and judge you? Well sometimes, while parenting, we can feel people’s eyes on us as we interact with our children. And, it is wonderful when our interactions with our children are positive, but that is not every day. We all have days that we are reminded how hard it is to be a parent. We are reminded that parenting is a skill set that grows with each passing day….

Recently, our Science of Parenting team began a new guidance and discipline ‘campaign’ because , well parenting in challenging moments is hard. Remaining calm, cool and collected is even harder. For months (many months) we talked about how we could help parents in the heat of the moment. How could we share with them that we understand their frustrations, challenges and even their fears? We wanted parents to know that “we get it”, “we’ve been there” and most of all “we are not here to judge your parenting”.

We began to write a long list of everything we ourselves had tried. We sifted and sorted and played with the words. And then we stepped back. We stopped. We began to take deep breaths and we talked. And it hit us. As parents, of children at any age (infants to grown children) THAT is how we can best handle parenting in challenging moments. No matter what our child is yelling, screaming or doing. We the adult, the parent can ALWAYS stop breathe and talk. We are the role models, we are their rock, we are their foundation of trust.

Our campaign for parenting in challenging moments looks like this:
Stop. Take a moment to think about how you really want to respond to your child.
Breathe. Consider what is happening with your emotions. Take a deep breathe or two to calm down.
Talk. Once you have gathered your thoughts, be intentional with your words to help guide your child toward the outcome you really want.

Parenting is difficult. We at Science of Parenting want you to know we understand that. We are here to help. Check out our resources at www.scienceofparenting.org

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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I Love My Child. I Love My Child…

“I love my child. I love my child. I love my child.”

Seriously, I do love my child, but sometimes I have to remind myself in the heat of the moment. For example, right now my daughter is in this phase where she stands at my feet screaming while I try to cook supper. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the kitchen for three minutes or thirty, I can count on her to find me and whine “Momma, Momma, up, up, up!” and then proceed to cry when I can’t hold her while simultaneously cooking on the stove. It can be seriously crazy-making. (I think the part that makes me craziest is that she doesn’t do it to my husband when he cooks supper!).

But here’s the thing – I know she is doing it because she wants to be with her momma. I know her behavior is worse than usual right before supper time because she is hungry. I also know there might come a day when she is older that she doesn’t want to be with her mom all the time. I KNOW all of those things, and yet in the heat of the moment in front of the stove I’m tempted to lose my cool (again). I hear my voice go from “hey silly goose, can you go play with your blocks for a little bit?” to calling to my husband to “get her out of here” much quicker than I’d like to admit…. Sometimes I’m proud of how well I do during these moments in the kitchen, and other times I wish my patience had lasted a bit longer for me. But one thing that is consistent – every time I choose to Stop. Breathe. Talk. instead of go with my first reaction, I do better. Sometimes I remember to pause and take a deep breath right away when I start to feel frustrated, and other times I don’t remember until I’ve already gotten more irritated than I should have. But it doesn’t matter how far into the situation I am – when I take that extra moment to think about what I want to say and how I want this interaction with my child to go, I know it helps me be a more effective and responsive parent.

 “I love my child. I love my child. I love my child”.

Seriously, we do love our children, and sometimes we say this phrase to ourselves because we are beaming with pride or soaking in a sweet moment – like watching your child take their first steps, or having a warm conversation with your teenager, or hearing your school-age kiddo was kind to someone. These amazing moments help make up for the not-so-good ones. But the reality is that the journey of being a parent is a mixture of amazing moments with challenging ones sprinkled in between. Maybe your challenging moments look like mine where your child is really testing your patience and you are about to lose your cool (or already started to). Or maybe your moment is something bigger like navigating your new role as a stepparent or responding to your child being bullied.

Whether your challenging moment is one where you forget to think or one where you’re thinking a lot, Science of Parenting wants to help. We believe that you love your kids and want to do what is best for them, so we want to help you find trustworthy information that is based in research so that you can know what you are doing is helping your child. If you are experiencing a challenging moment, go take a peek at our Parenting in Challenging Moments page to see what the research might say about what you’re experiencing.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Routines Promote Healthy Emotional Development

I catch a glimpse of the calendar and know that school will begin shortly, and that means many families will get back into a routine that will include hustle and bustle to get family members to school, day care, work, and sporting events.

For children, settling into a routine that includes school, homework, sports, playtime and family meals is very important. Children and youth do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent. When we eat and sleep with regular consistency, our bodies adjust and we feel good! Conversely, when we avoid sleep and eat the wrong foods, we pay the price in how we feel!

A study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics reports that family routines support children and their emotional development. And it is the social / emotional health that enables children to thrive in the classroom.

Routines that include singing, bedtime snacks, storytelling and connection with family caregivers are helpful for a good night’s rest. The nurturing we do to help children adjust to “back to school” is proving to be helpful in long term adjustment in both school and home settings.

Talking about the upcoming school routine can help alleviate any anxiety your child may have. Keep communication lines open with your child so that they can feel comfortable discussing with you the fears or questions they may have about the new school year. As a family, your routines are making a difference!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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A Look at Corporal Punishment

Last week we talked about how consistent discipline builds trust. This week we asked Dr. Carl Weems PhD, Professor and Chair of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University about the effects of corporal punishment and its impact on youth’s ability to regulate their emotions.

In the study, Parenting Behaviors, Parent Heart Rate Variability and their Associations with Adolescent Heart Rate Variability, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Dr. Weems and colleagues looked at the associations between parenting behaviors and emotion regulation.

Tell us a little about what your study looked at:

Emotion regulation is associated with positive social functioning and psychological adjustment among youth. Emotion regulation involves both the automatic and voluntary control of negative and positive emotions using physiological, cognitive, and behavioral means to achieve goals. Resting heart rate variability (i.e., the natural variability in the time between heart beats while an individual is at rest) is a physiological index of an individual’s emotion regulation. In our study we fund that certain parenting behaviors were related to this.

How did corporal punishment impact your findings?

Inconsistent discipline and corporal punishment were negatively associated with adolescent resting heart rate variability. Suggesting that corporal punishment is associated with diminished levels of emotion regulation. Theoretically, the extended use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary technique may be especially harmful for youth with low heart rate variability because it may cause youth to view their home environment as threatening and decrease their sense of control over their environment, which may exacerbate existing emotion dysregulation and maintain low heart rate variability levels.

Did you find impacts of positive parenting as well?

Positive parenting and parental involvement were positively associated with emotion regulation-suggesting these are associated with increased emotion regulation ability. Inconsistent discipline and parental involvement also influenced the relationship between parent and adolescent resting heart rate variability. Such that that in the context of low inconsistent discipline (i.e., consistent discipline), there was a positive association between parent and adolescent resting heart rate variability.

If you were to share one important message from this study what would that be?

This finding suggests that consistent discipline may entrain parent and adolescent heart rate variability (i.e., make parent and adolescent resting heart rate variability more similar). The findings provide evidence for a role of parenting behaviors in shaping the development of adolescent resting heart rate variability with inconsistent discipline and parental involvement potentially influencing the entrainment of resting heart rate variability in parents and their children.

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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Gratitude Diaries

Little girl looking at her mother
Little girl looking at her mother

I’m reading the Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and loved the chapter on Raising Grateful Kids.  Her stories about UN-grateful preteens and young adults who resented the sense of obligation that comes with “thanking” their parents made me think about how we approach gratitude with our kids.  Do we demand that they be grateful for all we do for them?

 

Modeling appreciation is the best way to teach gratitude.  How often does our family hear us express gratitude for our job or coworkers? For the checker at the grocery store? For access to safe, nutritious food? For the privilege of transportation to get where we need and want to go? When was the last time your kids heard YOU say thanks to their other parent for something that just gets done at home? Have your kids seen YOU handwrite a thank you note to a friend for taking time to have lunch together? or bringing in the garbage cans that blew down the street?  Appreciating the small things keeps us from taking things for granted. Learn more ways to raise grateful kids in this video Teach your kids the gift of giving.

My granddaughter signs ‘Thank you’ to her Papa when he gets her a drink of water.  My heart swells when I see her learn this simple act of gratitude.  It starts early and extends throughout our life.  I started using the Five Minute Gratitude Journal to keep me focused on looking on the bright side of life.

Thank someone this week for who they are, or what they did, or that they are in your life. . .  and tell us what happened to YOUR heart. To their attitude. To the relationship.

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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Screen Time and YOU

technology-momSTEM – or Science; Technology; Engineering and Math are classes that students will be introduced to as they become school ready. Many children have had plenty of access to technology through their use of a computer, gaming device or cell phone. These devices are preparing them to observe, think, navigate, and negotiate among other things.

A recent non-scientific poll hosted on our Science Of Parenting twitter account asked parents about how much screen time they support for their children ages 5 – 10 and 61% indicated 1 – 2 hours daily. 18% said less than an hour daily and 12% reported between 3 – 5 hours daily. It’s not hard to contemplate that much screen time when you consider schools use computers for some instruction and homework; along with television and gaming devices all popular with kids.

Adults too, are faced with decisions about their own screen time. And really, because technology has skyrocketed, screens are used in most all professions including medicine; education; agriculture and manufacturing, to name a few. When we asked adults about how many hours a day they were in front of a screen 76% estimated they were in front of a screen between 4 and 8 hours a day for work alone. In addition, 46% of respondents indicated they may spend an additional 1 – 2 hours daily in front of a screen viewing social media. And don’t forget the TV, adults reported viewing an average of 1 – 2 hours of television daily.

Managing screen time and finding a healthy balance for the entire family is necessary! If you should like to read more about screen time and health and wellness of your children, check out this Science of Parenting publication: Video Games and Other Media: Pros and Cons

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Kindness is learned by feeling kindness

friendsAs I was reading about kindness I became fascinated by the brain research. I sat there thinking “Well of course, the brain is in charge of our feelings. Why wouldn’t it be the center of this conversation?”.

Our brains are in charge of our emotions and our actions. Our brains take the input we receive from others. Process the information. Tell us how to emotionally respond. And our actions become the response. Makes perfect sense. The brain is in charge of kindness.

And then I read this, “our brain learns best about kindness when it FEELS kindness”. There is was.

How should I teach my children about kindness?  Help them FEEL kindness.

Children learn kindness when they ‘feel’ what its like to make someone else smile. And their brain learns.

They learn about kindness when they share with others, when they comfort others, when they give to others. And their brain learns.

Suddenly writing this blog topic wasn’t rocket science, but is was brain science. It was simply thinking about all of the ways that children can be kind to others and understanding that while they do this – their brain learns.

 

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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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!

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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Avoiding Distractions to Achieve Goals

Happy boy with raised armsIt is a New Year, but my “to do” list is a mile long. Are you someone that makes lists of the things that you must accomplish? As a family, do you make a list of your dreams and wishes for the year? Something I learned early in my 4-H career, was that if I would write down my goals, and continue to review them throughout the year, I was more likely to see success.

A to do list is something that helps us stay on track. It is very easy to get distracted at work, home and even at school. My sister refers to distractions as “shiny objects”. As a parent she has learned to limit the “shiny object” distractions so that her boys can stay on track.

I wonder how many of us have the same “shiny object” distraction syndrome. Attention deficit is what some folks may call it. We have so many competing opportunities that it makes it hard to keep focused on just one task at a time. I do believe that if we learn skills in time management and work alongside people who have similar goals and work ethic that we can achieve so much.

Prioritizing our plan may be a needed step! If you have a list that must be prioritized, how do you go about deciding what to accomplish first? Some say to do the easiest tasks first and cross them off your list. Others would advise to do the most difficult tasks when you are at your freshest. Some folks are best and brightest first thing in the morning. Others feel that the morning is a time for waking up and these folks get their energy in the afternoon. Try to identify the time you work best and then get at it and use your energy to tackle your list.

As parents, help your children learn to set their own personal goals. Take some time as a family and visit with one another about what plans would help your family feel more organized in the New Year. Maybe look at the calendar, and make some decisions about your schedules. Planning ahead will help you to feel in control of the hectic schedule that many families experience. Another way to avoid distractions is to set down our mobile device.

Have you noticed how addicting our mobile devices are? The cell phone is a phone, calendar, instant messenger, quick connection to the Internet and certainly a distraction. The cell phone is something that is also getting in the way of some of our most important human connections. People are more likely to text someone than to visit face to face. We have a whole group of students that are unable to write a complete sentence or spell correctly, because we have become lazy by texting and hiding behind the ease of the cell phone.

We can do better! We must do better. Plan to communicate with your family today, develop your yearly plan and remember to review it throughout the year! Together your family can steer the ship in a new direction in 2016!

Happy New Year!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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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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