Be Kind and Feel Better, Research Shows

Doug Gentile
Doug Gentile

I wanted to take the opportunity here in our blog to share research by our very own Science of Parenting co-founder, Douglas Gentile. Gentile was instrumental in launching ISU Extension and Outreach’s Science of Parenting. In 2011 Science of Parenting began with audio podcasts and a blog, and we have now grown to a one-stop, online source for trustworthy research on popular parenting topics. Gentile and his team recently published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

 

Kindness means being friendly, generous and considerate. The definition focuses on what an individual can do to make someone else feel better. However, Iowa State research shows that thinking kind thoughts about others can improve your own mood.

Gentile, professor of psychology, senior lecturer Dawn Sweet and graduate student Lanmiao He tested the benefits of three different techniques intended to reduce anxiety and increase happiness or well-being. They found that simply wishing others well for 12 minutes could improve a person’s mood.

“We asked students to walk around campus and either wish for others to be happy, to consider how they might be similar and connected, or to think about how they might be better off than others. Any of these could possibly make people feel happier, but there were clear differences,” Gentile said.

“Wishing others well reduced anxiety and increased happiness and feelings of social connection. Considering how connected we all are increased feelings of connection, but had no effect on happiness or anxiety. Thinking about how we might be better off than others had no benefits at all,” Gentile said.

Gentile noted that this study didn’t require people to do anything other than to think how they wish for others to be happy; so it can be done without requiring any actions or even for the other person to know about it.

For more information on the study click here.

 

As families, we can practice kindness in many ways — with our children, other family members, our friends and other people with whom we interact each day.

  • Practice simple manners. Saying please and thank you are easy ways to teach young children the beginnings of kindness.
  • Send short notes to others. Leaving short notes of affirmation at random can be done quickly and create opportunities for connecting with others when they least expect it. Younger children can decorate a note, while early writers can practice their language skills.
  • Offer random acts of kindness. Doing random, unexpected, small acts for others can bring children into an action that teaches social skills and connects positive feelings to their emotional development. Simple things, like sharing or helping, show children how to be kind.

We would love to hear ways that you have seen how showing kindness impacted your mood and happiness!

 

Find additional ideas in our Dare to Excel newsletter – March “Service Learning”

Help your children grow through service learning as they apply classroom knowledge to meaningful and needed services in the community. Includes ways to give kids a chance to experience personal responsibility and positive social behavior while developing a closer bond with their school and community.

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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101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family: Family Connections & History

Last week, I gave you some hobbies and activities to try in order to celebrate your family and create #greatchildhoods. Want to dig a little deeper? The next step beyond immediate family activities is family connections and family history. These are the ideas that will help parents connect their children to those who came before them and helped to pave the way. Remembering, celebrating, and reflecting on history is a great way to bond with one another across generations!

Ideas in this category included:Parents reading a book with their daughter

1 – Read a book together
4 – Say “I love you” to one another
8 – Visit a relative
26 – Sing old songs
36 – Take cookies and visit an older neighbor or friend
42 – Look at old family pictures
43 – Tell old family stories
49 – Give everyone a hug
52 – Celebrate your heritage
62 – Watch an old black and white movie
68 – Talk to older persons about their lives
72 – Bury a time capsule
73 – Dream about the future
77 – Start a journal
81 – Begin a wisdom list of quotations, sayings, and advice
82 – Fingerprint family and compare and contrast any similarities or differences
90 – Plan a family feast
91 – Write notes to each other in the family
93 – Give a compliment
100 – Create a special events calendar
101 – Enjoy one another

What other ways have you embraced family connections and embraced your family history?

– Adapted from 101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach –

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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101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family: Hobbies & Activities

April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month. The national organization Prevent Child Abuse (PCA) America’s theme this year is “Do more of what you love to create #greatchildhoods,” which I LOVE. It embraces the idea of finding a passion – or finding things you enjoy doing – and using them to spend quality time as a family.

In a recent office cleanout, I happened upon a couple of folders with information from 2000-2002. I think the universe pulled me to them. I swear. Inside this folder I found a handout from 2000 entitled “101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family.”

What a perfect fit! This list appeared to help us find some things we might enjoy doing as a family!

This handout is exactly what it says it is – a list of 101 ideas for your family to be engaged in what I narrowed down to three categories –

  • Hobbies and activities
  • Family connections & History
  • Community Engagement

The first category – hobbies and activities – are fun undertakings, some costing money, some cost-free, and some of the items are ones we’d often consider ‘chores,’ but can be made fun if you’re doing them with family. Personally, I think this would be a fun “to-do” challenge for a family to try to cross off all the activities by the end of the year. Or maybe this list will spark other ideas for a to-do list of your own!

This category contains 59 items, so I’ll stop explaining here and let you explore the ideas for yourself:

Family On Cycle Ride In Countryside Smiling At Camera
Family On Cycle Ride In Countryside Smiling At Camera

3 – Turn off the television
5 – Enjoy a ride in the country
6 – Plant a flower garden
7 – Have a garage sale
9 – Bake cookies
10 – Start a “Once upon a time…”story and everyone add to it
11 – Go to a movie
14 – Visit a local museum
15 – Go on a picnic
16 – Fly a kite
19 – Make a homemade pizza
21 – Attend a local sporting event
22 – Go on a bike ride
24 – Jump in a pile of raked leaves
25 – Do homework together
27 – Clean the garage
28 – Go Horseback riding
29 – Take a hike
30 – Visit the library
31 – Play leap frog
33 – Enjoy a concert
34 – Go caroling
35 – Have a banana split party
37 – Go swimming
38 – Play a board game
39 – Roast marshmallows
41 – Experience your farmer’s market
44 – Go to a lake
45 – Lie on your back and watch the stars
7 – Skip up and down your block
50 – Talk about a television program
51 – Plan a concert
54 – Put together a first-aid kit
55 – Blow bubbles
56 – Cook out
57 – Go fishing
58 – Play cards
60 – Go to an airport and watch the planes come and go
61 – Have a scavenger hunt
63 – Gather wildflowers

64 – Splash in the rain
65 – Collect fall leaves
66 – Do your own exercise video
67 – Visit a zoo
69 – Have a band with kitchen pans
71 – Put a puzzle together
74 – Make, repair, paint, or refinish an object that would make your home nicer
75 – Hike on a fitness trail
76 – Watch a sunset
79 – Make a collage with magazine pictures
83 – Rent a movie and eat popcorn
85 – Look under rocks in your yard
86 – Design your holiday and birthday cards
87 – Plan an herb garden
88 – Create a snow sculpture
89 – Go skating
94 – Roll down a hill
95 – Make homemade ice cream
96 – Whistle a song
98 – Draw pictures

Which one are you going to try this week? Look for more ideas on how to connect with your family on our Science of Parenting EVERYDAY PARENTING page!

– Adapted from 101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach –

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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Can we talk?

father son talking and walking
Father and son in public park

Talking. Conversation. Communication. I have been having some thoughts on those three words recently, so I thought I might come here to share them with you. This may take several posts but I don’t think I’m the only one with these thoughts.

Talking. Let’s start with the obvious one. And let’s just go ahead and start at the top with the big kids. I’m talking about you and me. The adults.

Talk. We talk out loud. We talk with our hands and body language. We even talk inside of our head where no one else can hear. Sometimes as a parent don’t you feel like you are constantly talking and no one is listening? I can’t help but wonder however, if the reason we think no one hears us is because the talk from our mouth isn’t matching the talk from our body language or even the talk inside our head?

     We say out loud, “Stop IT!”

     Inside of our head we hear “Stop jumping on the furniture”.

     However, our body language shows that we aren’t really interested because we are looking at our phone.

We, in fact, are talking, but no one is listening. Could it possibly be that we are talking but not truly communicating? When we talk are we truly conveying the message we desire.

Example: Looking at my phone I say to the child, “Stop IT!” OR I turn and look at the child and say, “Stop jumping on the furniture and go jump outside”. It seems obvious and pretty clear cut that the second option actually conveys what we want to say. So simple, yet.

I actually had this exact scenario happen in my grown up life with another adult. I was the one saying “Stop IT”. The other adult looked at me and said “Stop what?”. I was stunned. Wasn’t it obvious what I was asking? Actually, no, it wasn’t obvious to anyone but me. Since that time I have found myself constantly recognizing and identifying what I call the ‘Stop IT’ syndrome. Some type of talking that is too vague to the listener but completely obvious to the talker. In the end however, no one is actually communicating.

So how do we remedy this ‘Stop IT’ syndrome? It’s up to us the adult to take the time to be clear about our expectations. Why are we making the request? “I don’t want the furniture to break or have you get hurt.” What is the desired outcome and what is it we what to see instead? “I don’t want you to jump on the furniture, please go jump outside”.

Talking. It seems simple but actually takes some energy and thought to have others hear what we say.

Check out our Guidance by Age resources here.

 

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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Help we are all inside-TOGETHER! Stop. Breathe. Talk.

oP Stop. Breathe. Talk.

Those of us here at the Science of Parenting are snuggled deep in our blankets and sweaters. Realizing that most of you probably were too, we decided that it might be a good time to revisit the idea of Stop. Breathe. Talk. With the long cold spell and the possibility of cancelled events and schools there may be a multitude of people inhabiting enclosed spaces and perhaps even getting on each other’s nerves. Full disclosure my children are all at home and currently not speaking to each other for this very reason. I decided that not only could I implement Stop. Breathe. Talk. myself (model it for my children), but I could also actually TEACH them the technique. I realize that yes, my children are teens and are better able to understand and logically (sort of) think through the process, but honestly even when they were younger I utilized the technique as well. It just didn’t have the NAME then. It is always OK to help a child at any age learn to stop and take a deep breathe to help calm them down.

 

Stop. Actively recognizing that the situation or current moment has to change. This is a conscious decision to change the direction of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. We just plain recognize that something right this second has to change. And it starts with us.

Breathe. Literally showing them the biggest deepest breathe you can (because they need to SEE you do it) can slow their heart rate (and yours) in a way that can begin to cool down the intense moments.

Talk. Finding and using the calm, cool, collected voice also helps to reduce the tension in the shoulders and jaw allowing the opportunity for our face to show a sense of peace.

Guidance and discipline, when intentionally planned in thought and action, can be effective for your family. Remember to look through our resources on the science of website parenting to see how you can be purposeful with your child. Also check out our resources for parenting teens. And in the meantime, STAY SAFE AND WARM!

 

 

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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Celebrating Thanksgiving

Beautiful African American woman and her daughter cooking in the kitchen

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, Science of Parenting would like to offer you a few resources to assist you in creating a memorable holiday for your family. Many families celebrate Thanksgiving by preparing foods that are not only traditional but that are meaningful to members of the family. Recipes passed down through the generations and lovingly prepared by relatives who gather to celebrate with one another. May we suggest a review of our Iowa State University Spend Smart Eat Smart website for a whole host of recipes including videos to help you prepare for your meal.

When the house is full of family, friends and extra guests, children may feel overwhelmed. Keeping a schedule, familiar to the children, will help them manage the holiday expectations more smoothly. We do have a resource you might review, Managing Stress in Young Families.

Giving thanks for one another and for our gifts may be another family tradition . Showing appreciation to one another is one way we can model good thanksgiving habits! Calling someone by name, sending a greeting card of thanks, doing a favor for someone and simply doing what we say we will do are all ways of showing appreciation for one another.

This Thanksgiving, think of a way to give thanks on a daily basis! Who are the people in your life that you love and appreciate? Who are the people that cheer you on, encourage you to do your best, support and guide you through the rough patches? If you can begin to show appreciation to these folks, giving thanks will become a habit.

As a Science of Parenting Team, we thank you for interacting with us and wish you a wonderful holiday.

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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Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development

colorful hands raised with white backgroundAs a nationally recognized youth development program, 4-H has a one hundred year history assisting youth to develop into competent, contributing members of society! Through participation in a variety of activities, educational opportunities and club meetings, youth are developing the ability to make good decisions, improve their communications skills and learn to lead!

Over the years, the “magic” that is 4-H has been summarized into “essential elements” or building blocks of healthy development.

The safety of all 4-H members is a priority. Every club leader receives training to ensure that the leader is capable of providing an appropriate 4-H program. Extension staff work alongside the club leader to provide guidance and suggestions for club development. The need for “belonging” is strong and with this in mind, the club setting meets the need for belonging.

Another essential element is the need to experience “mastery.” As we age, we all desire mastery, whether in our work life or family life. The way we experience mastery in 4-H is through our 4-H project work. The 4-H club experience will give youth the chance to develop a set of skills with many opportunities to master the learning environment!

Gaining a sense of “independence” is the goal we each strive for every day! Parents provide the love, boundaries and environment necessary for youth to gain independence. With the support of friends, family and the community, youth can learn to be self-directing, making choices based on their own skill and ability. 4-H project selection supports youth and their ability to choose the activities that meet their needs. While members of the 4-H club make decisions about subjects to study, they may also choose to complete group community service projects.

Community service allows 4-H members to learn to give back and to practice “generosity”! Many 4-H clubs participate in community service projects that provide youth the experience of helping others while learning valuable decision making, communication and service skills.

4-H continues to meet the needs of youth, why not explore how 4-H can benefit your family! Learn more about Iowa 4-H! Reach out to your County Extension Office.

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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Celebrate National 4-H Week

Each year, during the first full week of October, National 4-H Week is celebrated! As parents of young children, you may wonder why so many people have joined 4-H over the years. The answer is as varied as the learning experiences offered in 4-H! Some join to learn a new skill; others join because they know friends who have joined; others join 4-H because of the adult volunteers who organize the clubs. You see, 4-H is over 100 years old, making it one of the longest running, most recognizable youth organizations for boys and girls nationwide. Nationally six million kids are enrolled in 4-H, through-out the United States.

The learning opportunities in 4-H are centered around the essential elements necessary for positive youth development by providing youth with supervised independence, a sense of belonging with a positive group, a spirit of generosity toward others and a wide variety of opportunities to master life challenges. 4-H is safe and supervised, something all parents would agree is important today.

4-H involves “learn by doing” experiences that will encourage youth to experiment, innovate and think independently. 4-H clubs are involved in community service projects, livestock projects and leadership and citizenship projects all designed to assist members in developing skill and ability in a variety of areas.

In addition, quality youth development programs like 4-H evolve around the following five traits:

  • Connection – helping youth connect to peers, adults and their community
  • Character – helping youth show respect, loyalty, responsibility and integrity
  • Competence – helping youth to achieve mastery in social and academic areas
  • Caring – helping youth develop empathy for others
  • Confidence – helping others and an ability to make a difference.

Parents, if you are looking for a meaningful investment, why not give 4-H a look! Contact your local county Extension office. Find your county Extension office. Follow this link to get more information on 4-H! Learn more 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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Music and Child Development

We’ve talked about music in terms of resilience and mental health – but what other benefits can children gain from experiencing music?

According the Environmental Rating Scales Institute, children can gain language skills, fine motor skills, social skills, balance and coordination, expressing emotions, creativity, a sense of rhythm, and listening skills through music and movement. It can also promote group learning in settings like a small group, child care, or preschool. Awesome things for our kids, right?!

Plus, music can also support cultural diversity for children. According to our publication Supporting Cultural Diversity, which can be found under any age on the Everyday Parenting page of Science of Parenting, music supports cultural diversity through “instruments, music, folk songs, and dances from different countries. Music activities are great activities for building relationships and learning English and other languages. The repetitive nature of songs allows children to become familiar with new words and phrases.”

With all of these benefits related to music, the next question is, “now how do I help my child get all of these benefits?” Well have we got some good news for you – music can be super easy to incorporate into your child’s life. Some simple strategies can include listening to (age-appropriate) music together in the car together, singing your child’s favorite songs before bed, encouraging your child to use instruments (simple ones like maracas for your younger kiddos or having an older child involved in band), or even just having dance parties on the weekends.

Learn more about the science behind music and the child’s brain from our previous blog, Is it Magic? Or is it Music? from guest blogger, Elizabeth Stegemöller, PhD and Board Certified Music Therapist from the ISU Kinesology Department.

After all this music talk, let us know how you incorporate music throughout the day to encourage your child’s development!

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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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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Gift Giving at the Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, many of us find ourselves looking at the calendar and making checklists, of things that require our attention, like baking; cleaning; holiday school programs, and gift shopping.

If you are someone who has a list of people that you shop for at the holidays, then this time of year is a busy one for you. Depending on who you are shopping for, the gift buying experience can be stressful. You may wonder if you have saved enough money to buy all the items on your gift giving list. You may also be filled with stress trying to find all the requested gifts your children seem to have this time of year.

Research reported in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that for many, it’s better to provide an experience, than just a gift itself. In fact, the research suggested that these experiences may in fact strengthen relationships between people! During the holiday season, instead of giving gifts that may need to purchased, wrapped and delivered, maybe we can re-think our gift giving strategy. What if we were to give a skill or a helping hand to someone we care for?

Could we offer our TIME, to wrap someone’s holiday gifts? Could we offer to address Christmas cards? Could we offer to go to the grocery store or shopping mall and shop alongside someone who may need extra time or attention? Consider spending a day at the senior center and visiting and listening to the stories of the residents. These are the priceless gifts of attention that so many of us can give, and others will certainly appreciate.

Don’t forget, caregiving can be the special gift you give to your family this season. Focus on helping your family members eat healthy; get plenty of sleep and exercise during the holidays! The caregiving we show to one another today will be repeated for the good of all for years to come. Stay in touch with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach your Human Sciences Specialists for information on family finances; nutrition and wellness and caregiving. Happy Holidays!

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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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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Enjoy Summer Garden Bounty

It is summer time and I am thinking about foods that we find plentiful in the garden. Sweet corn here in Iowa is something to treasure. Our gardens are also bountiful with tomatoes; lettuce; squash; beets; potatoes and so much more! Harvesting each of these delicacies and finding delicious ways to prepare them, may be more challenging for us! Do your children find the foods I just mentioned, appealing? If not, it may be because they are foods that have not been on the dinner plate lately!

Introducing new vegetables, especially when in season, is one way to help children learn to enjoy and consume these healthy foods. I want to encourage you to take a peek at our Spend Smart Eat Smart website! This site is full of delicious recipes your family will want to try! In addition to recipes, this website features videos and information to help you when you are shopping, including unit pricing!

We have even launched an APP – for Spend Smart Eat Smart, so that you can access the site from your smart phone, while you are grocery shopping for your family. Happy eating to you and your family this summer!

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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Three Presents

I received a wonderful message from a reader of our blog. I asked the writer for permission to share.   I love when our readers let us know that something has touched them personally. 

Beautiful little girl child with shopping colorful paper bags in

Listen in on Laura’s thoughts….and thank you Laura for being willing to share.

When I was growing up, each of us seven kids in my family received three Christmas presents from Mom and Dad, under the guise of Santa Claus: a toy present, a clothes present, and a book present. There may have been discrepancies in the total cost of each kid’s gifts, but that didn’t matter to us. We each had three packages to open. It was fair.

This system also helped Mom and Dad administer their Christmas budget. They were not the type to go into debt; if they couldn’t pay for it, they didn’t buy it. But they could plan ahead – quite necessary when dealing with 21 presents (seven kids times three)!

In addition, they taught us kids a lesson about finances. They told us that parents would leave money on the kitchen table for Santa – to pay him for the presents. They said some parents could leave more money for Santa than they could, while other parents couldn’t leave as much. Santa then considered each family’s Christmas list against the money and provided accordingly. That made sense to us and was a simple way to explain why some of our friends might get more, or fewer, presents than we did.

But most important, my parents were sharing their values. We learned we couldn’t have everything we wanted – we had to make choices. Sure we may have wanted three toys, but we also needed socks or a new pair of pants – we learned to understand limits. We also grew to enjoy and value reading.

I took my parents’ three present system to heart, and my husband and I followed it with our own children.

I can’t quote the exact research that supports my parents’ – and my – approach to holiday gift giving. But it seems to be in line with the concepts the specialists’ teach: treat children fairly, practice love and limits, promote literacy, and stick to your budget.

Laura Sternweis

Laura is a communications specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has a B.S. in communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and an MS in rural sociology from Iowa State. She’s a former farm kid and the parent of two young adult 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.

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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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