Try This Trick to Improve Family Communication

While families continue to find themselves together under one roof, as they are “staying home”, it may be the time to involve everyone in a family meeting. Family meetings are a great way to communicate honestly with one another and can help all members feel safe during these very uncertain times. Routines have shifted, school is happening in different environments and parents may be working from home. The new ways we are accommodating to the Coronavirus is shaping how we can continue to be adaptable in the future. With all of these factors in our new realities, it’s important to make sure to check in with all family members and a family meeting is a great way to do it all at once!

A family meeting may sound formal, but it is really quite simple. Agenda items for the family meeting might include:

  • Menu planning – what food do we have in the refrigerator and pantry, and who would like to help prepare and serve the meals.
  • Computer usage – who needs the computer connections for work or school projects and how can we share so that everyone can have access for what they need.
  • School projects – can older siblings assist younger siblings with any additional school projects or work?
  • Family game time – each family member can take a turn picking a game to play
  • Question and answer session – provide some time for individuals to share their concerns or ask questions. Ignoring situations that are on the news is not helpful, but always consider the age and appropriateness of shared information.

We also suggest beginning each family meeting with a round of compliments. This helps all family members feel appreciated and recognized for being an important part of the family.

It may sound corny, but family meetings are a simple way to get everyone in the family on the same page and enjoy some quality time together!

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 the Joys!

As we get closer to the end of our first season, we find ourselves reflecting on the role of parenting being a tough one. Tough yes, but so worth it as well.

Our research tidbits from one of the largest studies of the joys and problems in child-rearing revealed that by and large, parents get what they hope for out of parenting. In fact, the study also reported that parents reported twice as many joys as problems. On our tough day, THAT is a very reassuring piece of information. Listen in as we also talk about some of the most common joys described by parents.

And don’t forget that next week is our very next Facebook LIVE. We will wrap up our Parenting Foundations during that live and give you a sneak peek into Season Two.

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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It’s Okay to Ask for Help if You Need It

The last few months, we have focused quite a few blogs on parenting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you have found our tips and strategies helpful so far. However, we recognize that some parents and children may still be feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you feel like tips and strategies are enough to get you through the feelings of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty.

We all have different challenges, obstacles, opportunities, and resources during this time so it is natural that we would each have a different reaction to that. Our team at The Science of Parenting wants you to know that however you are feeling is okay. Like I tell my preschooler, I also remind myself and YOU that it’s okay to have “big feelings” or little feelings about all that’s going on around us. But I also want you to know that if those big feelings are overwhelming there is support available! It’s good to seek extra support when we need it – in fact it’s essential to our parenting. In Iowa we are fortunate to have hotlines and resources that are available 24/7.

If you need additional support during this time Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential 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. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or, visit the website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or, email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.

211 is a free, comprehensive information and referral line linking Iowa residents to health and human service programs, community services, disaster services and governmental programs. This service is collaborating with the Iowa Department of Public Health to provide confidential assistance, stress counseling, education and referral services related to COVID-19 concerns.  

We hope you will seek the information or support that suits you best at this time. Please take care of yourself so you can continue to care for your children. If you have questions for The Science of Parenting team, you can email us at parenting@iastate.edu.

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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Just Say No to Judgment

My reality is not your reality. But somehow I still want you to think I’m a good parent. Ugh. Parenting can be so hard when we are always WONDERING if others view us as competent. This week’s podcast dives into the judgment zone.

Research tells us that 9 in 10 parents feel judged (90% of moms and 85% of dads). That’s a whole lot of hard feelings folks. Pew Research also tells us that “parents care a lot about how others perceive their parenting skills”. Particularly, their co-parent and their own parents. We want people to believe that we are good parents. It’s important to us.

So how do we take these feelings and acknowledge they exist while at the same time not letting what others think impact our confidence in ourselves and our own parenting decisions? One thing we can do is recognize that when we feel competent in our parenting we actually treat our own child as being more capable and resourceful, and we generally show them more positive feelings.  The reciprocal relationship between our parenting confidence and our belief in our child’s competence is important.

You are reading our blogs and listening to our podcasts because you want to find the tools that fit your family’s needs. Part of what you are doing is looking at and listening to the research we provide and you are applying them to your reality.

THAT my friends should give you confidence. You are looking, listening, and practicing how to fit research into your reality. Keep INVESTING IN the parenting work, many won’t but you are here and your relationship with your child is worth it.

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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Positive Coping Strategies for Kids

Text: "Adults who can practice social empathy and show positive coping skills with be encouraging to family members also feeling stress."

Has your family had lots of questions about the most recent corona virus pandemic? If you follow the news stations, they will provide information around the clock. We don’t all interpret what we are hearing in the same way, so having honest conversations, at the level that individual family members can understand is important.

The most important message we can provide is that as a family, we will do everything we can to stay safe, including hand washing and sanitizing all surfaces we touch on a regular basis. We can practice social distancing and we can reach out to our neighbors by phone or our friends by video chat.

As we grow, we all learn to navigate our emotions and experiences in different ways. We know that children will watch their parents and siblings for ways to respond. Adults who can practice empathy and show positive coping skills will be encouraging to family members also feeling stress.

Children may need to have a list of appropriate responses that they can choose because one of the many needs a young person has while growing up is independence. Being able to choose from a list of suggested coping techniques can be very helpful. For example, could we do some yoga or deep breathing exercises? Could we get out the art supplies and do some creative art? Maybe we are piano players or have music that we can turn to as a calming coping mechanism.

Older children may need to get more physical exercise, an outdoor run or a walk in nature may be a great idea. Other children may enjoy journaling their feelings, special journal paper, pens or a book is a great way to encourage getting the feelings onto paper.

Another family activity can be found in the kitchen. Find a recipe that could become part of the family meal and together, practice some math and science skills as you create a delicious meal together. Check out our Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart Eat Smart website for recipe ideas and helpful cooking videos!

If down time is needed, suggest a rest period. Our body needs eight or more hours of sleep each evening to perform at our best. When we are overwhelmed with anxiety, frustration, disappointment or plan stress, we don’t sleep well and that too can impact how we feel and react throughout the day.

We are all in this together and caring for one another and modeling good coping skills is up to each of us! More coping information can be found on the CDC’s web page, “Stress and Coping.”

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 Not Perfect

This week our podcast shares the reality that sometimes as parents we lose our cool. We’ll share how to get back and reconnect with our children after our emotions get the best of us.

A Zero to Three National Parent Survey revealed that 40% of parents reported they wished they could do a better job of not yelling or raising their voice so quickly with their children. Of parents who say they use harsh punishment frequently, 77% share that they don’t think it’s one of the most effective methods of discipline.

Zero to Three also reminds us that sometimes we have a disconnect in our expectations and the child’s abilities. This ‘expectation gap’ may lead to frustration on both the adult and child’s part. The reality here is that sometimes as parents, our emotions become hijacked and our logical thinking goes out the door. When we find ourselves ‘flipping our lid’ it is important that we have tools in our parenting toolbox to regain our self-control.

Two tools that are referenced in this week’s podcast include: mindful parenting (noticing our own feelings, learning to pause, and listening carefully to the child’s point of view) and the 4 A’s of Communication Recovery (accept, acknowledge, apologize, adjust).

Remember, parenting is about our overall relationship with our child- and we talk about practice, not perfection. We know there is no such thing as a perfect parent but we CAN make a plan for how we will reconnect when our emotions get the best of us.

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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Keys to Cooperation

We hope you were able to join us for our second Facebook LIVE, but if not, we have shared it with you here!

The last several weeks we have been talking about more parenting foundations such as slowing down, defining our parenting styles, managing meltdowns and keeping our head. If you missed any take a quick peek here.

During our LIVE episode we focused on cooperation. We first defined it as a a way to balance our needs with someone else’s. A joint effort. We talked about 4 strategies we can tap into to gain cooperation from our children.

  1. Keep instructions specific and clear. “I’d like you to ______” instead of “Stop it”.
  2. Offer a small choice. “Would you like to do _____ or ____ first?”
  3. Use suggestions versus commands. “You will need a hat” instead of “Put on your hat”.
  4. Use inductive reasoning – which means explaining why you want what you want. “It’s cold outside, you will need a hat. Do you want to put your coat or hat on first?”

And finally, we shared a great guidance tool from the Program for Infant Toddler Caregivers (PITC) by Ronald J. Lally. This tool can be used for children over 18 months of age. I have loved this tool since my children were young and I still use it with my teen and twenty year old!.

We have loved sharing resources and stories around Parenting Foundations and would love to hear from you on how our information has been impacting your parenting. Share here or join us on Facebook and Twitter.

You can subscribe to us on any podcasting app to tune in to our weekly episodes, or keep an eye on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you stay caught up.

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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Time to Check in With Your Teens – Resource List

Science of Parenting

Relationships

SFP 10-14

4-H

Broad Extension Resources

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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In the Heat of a Meltdown

Navigating emotional responses to behavior is an important parenting skill. Children reveal many messages through behaviors and even meltdowns. Parents who explore the “why” of the meltdown, will learn many lessons that children are eager to reveal.

Regulating our emotions is not always an easy task. As adults, our early experiences shape the way we respond to adversity or challenges. We must be aware that the kids around us are watching how we respond, react, or behave when faced with challenges.

They too may learn to respond, by how they see us responding, so having an awareness of our own coping techniques will be helpful.

Neuroscience research tells us that there is a set of underlying core capabilities that adults use to parent effectively. These include planning, focus, self-control, awareness, and flexibility.

Have we ever thought about the impact our planning can have on our ability to control our emotions? Have we ever considered that our own self-control impacts how we respond to challenges? Have we ever stopped to think about how being flexible can impact our own parenting effectiveness?

When emotions get high, our ability as the parent to self-regulate can assist other members of the family to find peaceful ways to self-regulate.

It doesn’t mean we won’t have times when we are upset or challenged, but it means that we will need to call upon appropriate techniques, and that can be really hard to do.

Stop. Breathe. Talk. is the technique we have been highlighting because it gives the brain time to re-focus energy from the limbic portion of the brain, where our emotion sensor is, to the prefrontal cortex, where our rational, decision-making portion of the brain can kick in.

Helping kids move from the meltdown, into the calm down stage means they too, must have time to re-regulate. The wiring of their brain must re-focus back to the pre-frontal cortex, where they can think about how they want to respond.

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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How To Talk with Kids about COVID-19

We are parenting in an unprecedented time, and that means our kids have unprecedented questions and concerns. Knowing how much to tell them is seriously tough. What is appropriate to tell my three year old? And what am I supposed to tell my school-ager who wants to go over to a friend’s house? And how do I talk with my teenager about all rumors they have heard floating around?

Well at The Science of Parenting we focus on sharing research-based information that fits your family. So we have put together some trustworthy resources that guide you in having these tough conversations with your kids. Check them out below (and look for more information on our COVID-19 webpage for parents).

Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTalking with Children about Coronavirus Disease 2019 General tips for talking with our children based on the most current facts we have about the pandemic

Department of Family Science from the University of Marylandthese pages provide parents with specific questions to ask and words to use based on your child’s age.

Zero to Three Answer Your Young Child’s Questions about Coronavirus
This website provides specific language parents can use to answer questions that young children may have.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (free download of PDF on the right side) – Talking with Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
This resource looks at how children of different ages may be reacting to the outbreak and provides tips for talking with each age group.

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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How to Manage Meltdowns

The process of growing from childhood into adulthood is filled with milestones! We celebrate the birth of a child, the first steps, new teeth, first words, and then we discover the first meltdown, or perhaps a full-blown temper tantrum. Children need the help of the adults in their life to help them manage the big emotions that come with exploring their ever-changing environment.

Children learn through play, and that play can be frustrating when they realize things may not always go their way. When they reach their limit, they are likely to go back to those raw behaviors like crying, screaming, grabbing, pinching. These are the earliest ways children know to communicate, and they become the way to communicate to adults that something is wrong.

Parents using an authoritative style of parenting may wonder “what” the child is trying to communicate through the “melt down”. (Check out last week’s post to learn more about parenting styles). Parents who explore why the behavior occurred can help their child work through the situation. A meltdown or tantrum can be triggered by many things: being in a new or challenging situation; a change in routine; hunger, lack of sleep, even the inability to communicate verbally. 

Even adults can experience sensory overload in the environment including: crowds, noise, mass media and technology. When we feel overwhelmed, it may send us into an emotional meltdown.

Parents will usually be able to identify some of the early warning signs of an impending emotional meltdown. Identifying the triggers can help to ease the outcome. The Science of Parenting hosts share several strategies for preventing a meltdown before it starts in this week’s podcast episode. A few simple ideas include having a snack available, a place to rest, a place for quiet time; keeping the routine in place; providing verbal warnings of expected changes; and teaching feeling words.

In addition, offering your child choices may help them feel in control. And when all else fails, parents who can offer children acceptable alternatives to screaming and hitting or pinching, will model that it is ok to have big feelings and that we can find ways to manage without hurting another.

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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Guilt Free Routines

Routines – this word may make you feel confident or queasy. Simply put, Wolin & Bennett back in 1984 defined family routines as “patterned interactions that are repeated over time”. Those things we do regularly because we have to do them and often don’t give too much thought to. Notice this definition is NOT saying routines is about having strict schedule of your day in thirty minutes increments. (Though if having a schedule is helping you – more power to you!) Routines are simply about the parts of your day you can do with some continuity to create some consistency for your kids. This could include things like bedtime, mealtime, wake up times, or even watching television or chatting with a relative.

It’s okay if your normal routines are totally out of whack right now. All of us (parenting included) are processing a lot around what’s going on with COVID-19, and disrupted routines is a very normal part of this stress. I tend to fall into the group of parents who enjoys regular routines (which is DIFFERENT than a strict schedule – more on that in the podcast), but Lori shares that sometimes the conversation around routines have made her feel guilty. Her natural temperament is a little more spontaneous and flexible, while mine tends to be more regular. Another consideration for this difference is that my kids are younger and Lori’s are older… This is just one more example why, at The Science of Parenting, we talk about a pluralistic approach to parenting, which basically just means that we believe there is more than one way to raise great kids.

Routines are ONE TOOL in our parenting toolbox. For me, having some regular routines provides me and my kiddos some feelings of consistency and normality around bedtimes, mealtimes, and wake times in the midst of the chaos with COVID-19. For Lori, she shares that the one routine she has chosen to focus on is wake up time. Both approaches are great, and even small routines can help provide some comfort and consistency to our kids.

An example from awhile ago when I used routines as a tool for my parenting is about a year ago when we were having battles and meltdowns every day when it was time for sleep. I mentioned it to my good friend Lori (ironic, I know), and she suggested maybe developing a little sleeptime routine and visual plan could help smooth the process out. Developing some consistency of what my daughter could expect at bedtime and nap time helped reduce the disagreements!

So if you are feeling like you are floundering around during this unprecedented time, consider if developing (or revisiting) some simple routines of comfort for you and your family could help you feel better. If it feels overwhelming to you to tackle lots of routines at once, it’s great to even just start with one. Remember to give yourself some grace during these unprecedented time. You are the expert on yourself, your kids, and your family, only you know what’s best for all of you during this time. You’re doing great work.

Hear more about the research and reality on routines in our bonus podcast episode.

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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Limiting Media Blasts When it’s Overwhelming

The new “normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic is round the clock briefings on how fast and furious the virus is spreading. The details can be too much for many, including children. Even adults can be overwhelmed with the hourly updates provided by every news outlet, on radio and even on social media.

Because there is so much “unknown” about this virus and it’s impact, helping children to feel safe, and secure is important. Talk with your children about the fact that this medical situation is new and that many health professionals are working to find solutions. Share only sound bites of information in doses that they can understand. They may have worries about their grandparents becoming sick; Children may wonder if their parents who may still have to go to work daily, will come home with the virus.

Have a family meeting and talk to your children. What questions do your children have about what they are hearing, and take steps to answer honestly, within reason, for what they can understand. If you are all home together, practicing social distancing, be sure to limit the amount of media that your children have access to. This may be the time to put the tablets and mobile phones away and find alternative board games, books, music and puzzles to complete.

If your children ask for television, perhaps family movie afternoon or evening could turn into some family fun. Limiting the hourly news feed will give everyone in the family the break they need and a chance to focus on fun as a family.

For additional information about how to tell your child about closure and postponements of some of their favorite activities, be sure to read, watch, or listen to “Talking to Your Kids Who Are Missing Out on Big Moments.”

Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential 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. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or, visit the website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/ to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.

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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Tips and Tools for Living and Working in the Same Place

I wanted to take a quick moment to share a couple of great tools while we navigate these ‘everyone is together all the time’ waters.

Balancing Workplace and Home

First is a great article with four quick tips from our Behavioral Health Specialist Dr. David Brown. In this article, Try to Balance Workplace and Home When Workplace and Home Are the Same, he shares four ways that we can set boundaries between work and home while they both exist in the same space.

  • Setting Boundaries
  • Setting Routines
  • Enjoying the Advantages
  • Accessing Resources

Online Opportunity for Couples

Second I want to invite you to join our Human Sciences specialists LIVE as they share tips, tools and tricks to elevate and improve your adult relationships during this time. For the next seven Wednesdays, 12:30-1:00 p.m. CST via Adobe Connect, specialists will share tools from ELEVATE, a relationship education curriculum developed by the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network. For more information, see the news article Empower: Helping Couples Take Care of Themselves During COVID-19.

Finding Answers Now

For all things Human Sciences specifically related to times of disruption (like COVID-19), refer to the Finding Answers Now site.

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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It’s Never Too Late to Set a New Year’s Resolution

Post it note with "March 1" on it

As I was looking forward to what’s to come with Science of Parenting while trying to think of a blog to write today, I started to look at one of those lists of “National __ month” topics.

At the top of that list, it noted that in Ancient Rome, March was the start of the new year because of the spring equinox (an interesting historical fact that I did not know!). As someone who hasn’t done too well on my New Year’s resolutions … I like the idea of starting anew in March as the weather warms up! The crazy thing? It’s a leap year – so we get a special day to LEAP into this ‘new year’!

If you failed to make a resolution back in January amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s never too late to start! Join the Science of Parenting team in setting goals and making changes in the Roman New Year.

In this new year, the Science of Parenting’s resolutions are:

  1. Get a new wardrobe. Our old looks are starting to feel a little outdated.
  2. Deliver messages to parents in new and exciting ways.

If you follow us on social media, you might have some insight on how these goals will manifest in the month to come. If you don’t follow us on social media, you should do it NOW!

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Aunt of four unique kiddos. Passionate about figuring how small brains develop, process, and differ. Human Sciences Specialist, Family Life in western Iowa with a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and Design minor.

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