As we continue to share about children and money, we would like to highlight this blog from fellow Human Sciences teammates in the Family Finance arena.
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.
The beginning of the new school year can be an anxious time for parents of a child with special needs. Parents may worry about whether their child will be accepted into a new classroom. They may also worry about their child’s classmates and the teacher that is assigned. The school year is a long time, so every child deserves an environment that is suitable for learning and growing.
All children have the need for belonging, and yet, for children with special needs, they can often be left out by their classmates or left behind in their classroom studies. Having a learning disability doesn’t mean a child cannot learn, it simply means, the approach a teacher takes must be intentional so that the child CAN learn.
A few strategies that can make a big difference in the classroom include:
- limiting distractions – teachers who are organized ahead of time, who can limit the number of interruptions or distractions can help a child stay focused on the learning.
- breakdown instructions – teachers who will keep instructions short and who will repeat the instructions help students who need that reinforcement.
- devise opportunities for students success. It may not seem important, but when students with special needs experience success in the classroom, it creates excitement that will reinforce their desire to try again! It is the support of the teacher, acknowledging student success that can make all the difference.
So parents, as school draws near, advocate for your child and watch your student succeed!
As I started thinking about chores and my childhood I was struck by a memory. I remembered how my sister and I divided our chores as pre-teens. We would take mom’s list, write the chores on small slips of paper, put them in a stocking hat and shake shake shake the hat. We then took turns pulling out the slips of paper. Groaning or cheering soon commenced followed by contemplative silence.
It was in this silence that I believe our ‘true’ learning happened. Imagine us analyzing our list. Carefully calculating how long the tasks would take. Considering the impact the list was about to have on our play time. Silently we would also process each other’s list in our heads. Deciphering if it might be worth it to try to trade out tasks to fit our play time plans better. Tasks, total time and overall effort became part of the chore equation.
I would like to say that our tasks always got done… but we were just kids after all. Sometimes we spent too much time on the processing, negotiating and trading. Other times we called in the neighborhood friends to help us finish faster and it actually took much longer than expected. Its also possible that every once in awhile mom may have shown up before the stocking hat selection even got started.
Regardless, we learned. We learned how important we were to our family unit. We learned and were proud. Proud of our creative process, our innovative ideas and our ability to negotiate to meet our own individual desires and needs. Chores weren’t always fun, but they were always at least a bit interesting. (I wonder where that stocking hat is?)
As 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.
This week we welcome guest blogger Kristi Cooper. Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life and new grandma.
I 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.
- 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 baby. Play together – Teach a game from your childhood such as kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!
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.
- Managing Stress: in Young Families
- Managing Stress Parenting Teens
- Managing Stress: Taking Charge – Spanish
- Managing Stress: Taking Charge – English
We would love for you to share your ideas as well. Let us know your tricks for balancing everything you have to get done.
I 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.
This week we welcome our guest blogger Kristi Cooper, Human Sciences Family Life Specialist.
Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s
I love this quote from the program “Lemonade for Life” – “You can’t rewrite the beginning of your story but you can change how it ends.”
Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) affect a child’s neurological, social-emotional and cognitive development. ACES may eventually manifest in chronic health conditions in adulthood.
I’m part of the 55% of Iowans who have more than one ACE. When I think of the chaotic times in my childhood, I’m grateful for the touch points that kept me ‘on track’. The research on Adverse Childhood Experiences tells us these touch points are called resiliency factors. These resiliency factors include individual capabilities, attachment and belonging with caring competent people and a protective community, faith or cultural process. Let me share a few of these touchpoints from my own life and maybe you can see how resilience can be woven through the fabric of our lives.
I am grateful for the elementary school nurse who never questioned my stomach aches and always had clean dry clothes for me to wear when I had an ‘accident’. I’m grateful for my 3rd grade teacher’s calm, caring approach and the interesting hands-on projects she had us do. She introduced me to creative writing which became an outlet for me whenever I felt life was overwhelming. I’m grateful for my grandmothers who loved me unconditionally and were always interested in me. I’m grateful for the routine of Sunday church followed by dinner at Grandma’s house with its comfort food, safety, hugs and laughter. All of these helped me feel normal and sane when life felt scary.
Spending time outdoors with cousins was an important touchpoint for me. Our many adventures catching tadpoles and crawdads, jumping the bogs in the pasture, riding bikes for miles, building snow forts and climbing in the empty corncrib took my mind away from the hurtful times. Music was another touchpoint for me. I saved my 4-H and birthday money and bought a guitar. With the creative writing gift from Miss Ihnen and my new instrument, I made it through a few more turbulent years.
All of these touchpoints helped to reset my stress response – all it takes is a 20 minute activity to reduce heart rate, regulate breathing again and re-focus the mind. As an adult I use meditation, yoga, journaling and sewing projects to reduce anxiety, keep depression away and help my mind think clearly. I have a therapist I consult when I need to sort things out. I’ve used my early experiences to change how I parented my children, hopefully, changing the course of my grandchildren’s lives. These individual resiliency practices combined with positive social relationships and trauma informed community resources help heal the impact of adverse childhood experiences and to reduce the impact of traumatic events.
What are the touchpoints that help(ed) you survive and thrive?
The temperament experts—describe three temperament types—feisty, slow to warm up and easy. I have blogged about my feisty 15-year old son, my slow to warm up 20-year old daughter and now I am going to share with you my experiences raising my 21- year old “easy” son. Has parenting him always been easy? Not in the least!
My first born son—Jared has always been an easy temperament kid. He really never cried. I fed him every four hours because that’s what the doctor said. He didn’t demand it. But I knew I should. He didn’t use a pacifier. He was content on his own. He smiled at everybody. He adjusted well, despite his parents’ inexperience. He was simply the most content, happy baby. His easy temperament was a good match for my sometimes “feisty” temperament.
My concerns with his physical development started at 10 months of age when I noted that he couldn’t sit up on his own. And at 18 months, I really began to worry because he still wasn’t walking. I remember our family doctor looking at him as he referred to a child development book and said, “Hmm, he really should be walking. “He looks strong enough”. As a first time mom I wondered, “ was he just “too easy-going?” , “ was he lazy?”, or “could it be something else?”. But his easy going style, and a long waiting list for the developmental clinic kept these questions in my mind for several months. And still he couldn’t walk.
Then at 20 months of age, Jared had his first of several febrile seizures. Most twenty month olds wouldn’t have tolerated that EEG cords, the IVs and the liquid epileptic medications. But Jared did. He Smiled, and actually seemed to enjoy the interaction with the nurses and lab technicians. The testing went on for a couple of months and then just prior to his 2 year birthday, we received his diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a progressive neuromuscular disease that typically effects only males, because of the x-linked genetic mutation. Boys are sometimes slow to develop physically, sometimes have speech and cognitive challenges as well as cardiac and pulmonary issues, and lose the ability to walk around the age of 12. So at the same time that we celebrated his first steps, we mourned the losses that lay ahead his first future knowing that he would permanently lose his ability to walk. His easy going temperament has been the key to our acceptance. He has never expressed his desire to do anything physical that he wasn’t able to do. His positive attitude is infectious. His easy temperament is an asset. I hope that you can see the temperaments that your children have as an asset too!
Oh oh…. I said it out loud (well sort of). The feisty child one of my favorite temperament types! I just can’t help it! I love interacting with a feisty temperament. I know that sounds silly but even as a preschool teacher I was always at my best when I was engaged with the feisty kiddo. Maybe ‘favorite’ isn’t the right word to use. I guess it was just that ‘I get them’. I understand the feisty traits. I ‘get’ where they are coming from.
Now just to clarify, I’m pretty sure my parents would not have labeled me as feisty. My feisty traits were sprinkled with a whole lot of adaptability. Which, for me, held the negative parts of feisty in check. So when it comes to feisty temperaments I understand that sense of being determined. Of wanting what I want. Of being persistent. In the moment of feistiness, I know how your ‘gut’ feels. What your stomach is doing. How fast your brain synapses are firing. I understand that, I get it.
So what did I learn about interacting with a feisty temperament? Most importantly, that a calm, cool and collected demeanor is the best way to approach the feisty child. You see, amidst their feistiness they won’t be able to hear your ‘reasoning or logic’. Their feistiness is in the way. It’s too loud in their head, they literally can’t hear you. But, they can still see your reactions.
That’s about all that you can do sometimes. SHOW them. Model for them how you want them to respond or behave. There’s little time or room for long drawn out liturgies and lessons on appropriate language or the use of gentle touches. Feisty kids need that ‘extra‘ moment to see calm cool and collected from you. They are looking for you to ‘show‘ them how to tame that feisty feeling that has overtaken their body.
So very hard sometimes yet so very vital to teaching them self-control.
What are some techniques you have ‘shown’?
…that’s the phrase that came to mind when I thought about this week’s blog. Which, when it comes right down to it, I do want my child to be unique. A customized order. An individual. Not a cookie cutter replica of her friends. Having said that, I guess I should then expect myself to parent her as if she IS customized.
While we search for THE right answer to our parenting questions,we really do come realize that there isn’t just ONE right way, not even in a family with multiple children. Parenting is all about understanding each individual unique child and beginning to dance with their customized self. In the moments where parenting is frustrating, I have learned to give myself permission to be frustrated while at the same time learning to appreciate that I have created something unique. Customized. Created by me with input from her, her friends, her neighbors, her community and her world. Taking all those pieces and watching and wondering at the same time.
Sometimes its important as a parent to step back and let the child lead the dance that we have been talking about over the last several weeks. Other times it’s important to be the adult and make the decisions (and follow through). Parenting is a back and forth, leading and guiding and following all at the same time. THAT’s what makes it customizable. It shouldn’t look just like the next door neighbors family, or your own childhood experiences or the tv show on a popular network.
You and your child should customize your world together and enjoy the journey along the way.
How have you customized your journey?
When my oldest child was one year old, I was introduced to the world of ‘Temperament’. I remember thinking at that time, “She’s already 1! Am I too late! What if I already ruined her by not knowing her temperament!?”
It sounds silly now, as she teeters on the brink of 18, but back then all I could think about was the year I had missed BT (Before Temperament). I can tell you this with 100% confidence. It is NOT TO LATE! Learning to understand your child’s temperament, along with your own temperament, can happen at any time. It can happen right now regardless of your child’s age.
This month we talk about taking the time to learn your child’s ‘temperament style’ and then parent according to that style. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’. Taking care of any child (grandchild, neighbor, niece, nephew, sibling) isn’t even close to ‘one size fits most’. Building relationships with children means taking the time to learn to appreciate what their genetics granted them, find a way to build their confidence and self-esteem and guide them into social competence.
Where can you start? By learning about their style. By appreciating the unique characteristics of that style. By implementing one thing to show them you understand that style. Here are a couple of GREAT places to start.
- ISU Extension and Outreach Understanding Children publications
- Lets Talk … Child Care : Temperament
- Preventive Ounce
- Temperament: Understanding Behavioral Individuality
What is that ONE thing that you will do to parent ‘to their unique style’. Share with us!
I like to think of learning about temperament as ‘cleaning off a window’. The window is the way we can ‘see into’ who our child is and how they respond to their world. At first, the window may be dusty or clouded and we aren’t able to see through it clearly. As we learn about our child’s temperament, we begin to clear the cloudiness off the window and can begin to anticipate the child’s responses or even predict a particular behavior. A clear view through the window can help us understand why they do what they do.
Like Janet said last week, allowing time to give the ‘slow to warm’ or ‘shy’ child a chance to ‘get used to it’ is important to supporting their self-esteem. The same can be true for allowing them extra time to learn new routines, try new foods or get acclimated to new clothes or shoes. It’s important to remember that for this temperament ‘newness’ of anything really IS a challenge. Allowing them the opportunity to try, test and experiment can be an easy way to show them you support their hesitant temperament.
One of my favorite things about temperament is that it starts with genetics. Ultimately our children respond the way they do based on the genes we gave them. As they grow, their temperament genes can be influenced by how the adults in their lives respond to them. As we encourage, support and dance with their temperament, we are guiding and influencing how they continue to respond to their surroundings. A supportive environment begins to create a ‘good fit’ between the adult and the child. That ‘fit’ becomes a piece of the foundation of the child’s self-esteem.
Share with us how you have encouraged and supported a ‘slow to warm’ or shy temperament?
My daughter is the ultimate “wallflower” when it comes to dancing through life. I am fortunate to have had the personal experience of parenting a “slow to warm up” temperament child. I will share some parenting strategies or “dancing steps” that I have learned over the years that I think have enhanced our relationship and her development.
First—as a parent I know Hannah well. I know when she is stressed. I know when she is scared. I know when she is apprehensive. I have learned when she needs support and when she needs a little push. I have learned how to support and not hover. This ability to read our kids temperament is the first and most important step in creating the “goodness of fit” that we discussed in our latest Science of Parenting podcast.
I lovingly call her my “wallflower”. Many times she was overlooked in classroom or in social activities because she was quiet and easily over powered by those with more eager, robust temperaments. She required more time to adjust to new situations, new environments, and new people. She was and continues to be highly sensitive to sounds, food, smells, and textures. She requires time to observe, and become comfortable. Large groups, busy places, and surprises were hard for her to adjust to. I learned early in her life—to provide early notification and discussion of what she was going to experience. Coaching and communicating were important for her comfort. She is almost twenty now, but still finds comfort in familiarity.
When parenting a “slow to warm up” child, it is important to nurture their development and self-esteem. They need acceptance. This means encouraging strengths ( for example- ability to play on her own, or to observe what’s going on around her carefully), and providing support when she needs it (visiting and exploring a new class in child care to help her feel comfortable).
When you notice and appreciate the similarities and differences between you and your child, you can adapt the way you parent in order to meet your child’s individual temperament needs. This helps your child feel loved, confident, important, and capable. Sensitive parenting helps your child know and feel good about themselves as they mature. Lastly, encourage your child to engage in activities that they enjoy. Avoid the “shy” labels. Give ample time to help them get used to the idea of doing something new. Advocate, coach and encourage.
American society tends to view sensitivity and “shyness” as negative traits, but as a parent of a —slow to warm up now adult child I have learned that they have much to offer. They are perceptive, observant, caring, empathetic and deeply in touch with their feelings and emotions and importantly those of others. Traits not always easily found in others. Love and value your kids for who they are. I love my wallflower….Hannah.