Emerging Adults

Each stage of life encourages all of us to learn skills and adapt to our surroundings. Teens finish high school and make plans for the next big adventure, whether it is college, trade school, or entry into the world of work. These milestones in the life of an emerging young adult are just the beginning of their dreams for a bright future. Parents with emerging adults in the home must navigate a household where more than one or two adults now reside.

The emerging adult is likely to want more freedom and may even explore moving out and getting their own place to live. This independence is part of the natural progression of growth and development. Financial independence from their parents is just one goal forward for many emerging adults.

Strategies for living with emerging young adults include:

  • Renegotiating the roles, instead of “always being the parent”, now as both adults, you must learn to co-exist.
  • Helping your emerging adult take on more responsibility and leaving the door open for the big discussions that may need to happen as they begin making more decisions.
  • Practice ACCEPTANCE, your child is likely to do some things like you do and other times will not.
  • As the parent of a child who has left the nest, be sure to find time to do some things you once enjoyed! Now is the time to celebrate both the grown adult children you raised and the newfound time you have to enjoy your own life journey.

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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Teens

Parenting is a journey. It is not a sprint to the finish, rather, a daily walk with those in our care, until they are launched as independent young adults. And then, parenting continues. Some parents look forward to the day their children leave the nest, knowing they created an environment that helped them learn the skills and abilities necessary to navigate our great big world.

If you are parenting teens, then you know this stage of life can be pretty unpredictable, depending on a number of factors including: a teen’s temperament; a teen’s age; family structure; available resources; education; peer support; and so much more.

The teen years are a time of growing independence. Homework, sports, afterschool activities, a part time job, time with friends all seem to take these teens away from the family home many hours of the day. And when the teen is home, are they hiding out in their room, or are they gathering with other family members for meals, tv, and other family routines? Navigating this sensitive time in development is important. 

While a teen is experiencing many physical and emotional changes to their growing body, their brain is not quite fully developed, so the decision-making ability of a growing teen may not match the ability of someone older.

The Science of Parenting hosts discuss some specific strategies for the teen age years including:

  • Being available to your teen by responsive listening and communication.
  • Serving as a role model of responsible behavior.
  • Continuing to provide boundaries and enforcement of safety rules while supporting your teens growing independence.
  • Communicating family values.
  • Encouragement of healthy decision-making.

For more helpful information for the teen years, check out The Science of Parenting resources.

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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Pre-teens

The milestones that make up healthy growth and development of children are used by parents, health professionals, and early childhood experts as guidance for what to expect as children grow. No two children will experience the same growth pattern. Each of us grows in our own timing, however, the milestones help us to prepare for what may be around the corner!

The pre-teen years can leave parents with many questions about navigating the emerging physical and emotional changes with their child. While desiring to have more independence, a pre-teen may seek more time with their peers than with their family. They may also be listening more to their peers, so making sure the peers that surround your child are ones you trust and who have similar values and interests as your child is important.

The pre-teen years are time for honest, open conversation about family values and expectations for behavior in school, home, and with friends. Discussion about sensitive issues related to growing sexuality, alcohol or drug use is important to have early and regularly so that your child knows the boundaries and can have honest conversations with you.

Showing respect for your pre-teen and taking an interest in their school and extra-curricular activities will help parents continue to stay engaged with their teen. Talk about the future with your teen. Talking about the hopes and dreams you have for your teen will help them explore their own hopes and dreams. Helping teens set goals for the dreams they want to accomplish is another strategy to stay connected and engaged with your teen.

The Science of Parenting Website is full of resources developed by Dr. Kim Greder! We hope you will explore the information on understanding your teens physical changes and emotional changes too.  

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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Parenting Children with Special Needs

While recording Season 5 on children’s milestones, I couldn’t help but think about all the parents who listen in and say, “but what if they aren’t?” or “but what if my child never will?” These are hard questions for a parenting educator to answer. As the parent of a child with special needs, I also recognize how difficult it is to be brave enough to ask these questions: the wondering, the worry, the self-doubt, and even the self-shame. I wanted you to hear us say, “We hear you. We see you in the back. We acknowledge that you have questions too”. While every child’s ability is different, and every child’s temperament is different, so are specific diagnoses and conditions. We hope that our short message here gives you the sense that your child is amazing no matter when they reach their milestones (or even if they never will). We want you to know that your parenting journey will need a set of special tools. Most of all, we want you to know that there is more than one way to raise great kids, and you have us to lean on.

Children with Special Health Care Needs (iowa.gov)

Family and Educator Partnership (FEP) | Iowa Department of Education (educateiowa.gov)

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) – Home Page

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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School-agers

Now that the kids are in school full time, we may really notice how they begin to manage their continuing gross motor skills, emotional management, and budding friendships with classmates.

Have the kids in the neighborhood been riding bikes? Or have the children expressed an interest in some of the formal team sports like soccer or softball or baseball? These types of activities help a child to fine-tune their ever-increasing gross motor skills. Parents can often be heard encouraging children to “get outside and play.” The outdoor environment is full of opportunities for children to learn tasks for growth and development. 

As children’s cognition and language development are increasing, we may need to begin to offer more explanations or more “why” answers – rather than simply giving a simple yes or no to requests. Helping children learn that our decisions are based on keeping them safe all while providing realistic expectations for their behavior may be a conversation we must have. School-agers are beginning to understand others’ perspectives and are learning to listen to other people’s ideas and suggestions.

Kids in school are developing more memory strategies; Learning to read and then reading to learn. In fact, they may be focused on MASTERY of school and extra-curricular activities.

As parents we may have to be ready to adjust to the different range of emotions that may be apparent during this time frame. We may need to be ready to keep the lines of communication open, so that when the emotion doesn’t seem to match the situation, we are ready to explore WHY….and brainstorm potential solutions or strategies for emotional support.

A few tips for support during these school-age years include:

  • Show affection for your child and recognize their efforts and accomplishments.
  • Ask about school with questions like “tell me about your school day”. “Tell me about your friends”.
  • Do fun things together as a family, such as playing games, reading, hiking outdoors and going to events together.
  • Talk with your child about using money wisely.
  • Praise your child for good behavior.
  • Support your child in taking on new challenges.
  • Encourage your child to solve problems. Brainstorm possible solutions together. 
  • Talk with your child about their homework and discuss any help your child may need or request.

The school years are a time of budding independence. Be sure to show your parental support for that growing independence all while providing the love and limits needed for optimal growth and development.

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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Preschoolers

Can it really be that time? The time for our children to have a preschool experience. It seems like they were only born yesterday, how can they be ready for school? These are some of the comments that many parents have about their child and the next stage of life! All parents have big decisions to make as they evaluate their child’s growth and development and readiness for the next big milestones like school.

How is your child doing with both gross motor activity and fine motor activity? Do they enjoy using a crayon and drawing and coloring? Do they use chalk and write on the sidewalk or chalkboard? Have you noticed your child walking, running, and maybe even learning to hop, skip or jump? These are the actions of a child who is learning to develop those gross motor skills.

You may also notice that your child has learned many more words and uses them to communicate with you and others around them. The more words a child hears, the richer the child’s vocabulary becomes, which has a profound impact on the child’s school performance, IQ, and life path. Vocabulary development is increasingly acknowledged as a sign of school readiness at kindergarten, and these vocabulary skills are dependent upon the amount and quality of language exposure in earlier years.

The Science of Parenting co-hosts share some great suggestions for preparing the preschool age child during this stage in life:

  • Continue to read to your child. Nurture the love for books by visits to the library or bookstore.
  • Let your child help with simple chores. They can stack their toys or help to put them in a container.
  • Encourage your child to play with other children to learn the value of sharing and friendship.
  • Give your child a limited number of simple choices (for example, deciding what to wear, when to play, and what to eat for snack.

The ages and stages that make up the preschool years are filled with discovery and exploration. For more information be sure to follow the Center for Disease Control pages on child development.

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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Encouraging Toddler Curiosity

The toddler years!

Parents of active toddlers will often say, “I have to keep my eyes on that child continually,” and how true this can be. Toddlers are learning to use their newfound motion to explore their environment. Touch is one way they learn and grow. Because they are now crawling and getting around on their hands and knees, parents do have a bigger job in protecting their child from hazards and anything that could be a potential concern! As we consider parenting children of different ages, we are looking at developmental milestones –which are things most children can do or are doing by a certain age. We know that each child develops at their own pace! Some children are early, some are on time, and some a little later.

From studies by Goodnow, J. J. (1988); and more recent studies like Bartlett, J. D., Guzman, L., & Ramos-Olazagasti, M. A. (2018)– across the board the research shows that parents who understand developmental milestones are more likely to have age-appropriate expectations, have higher quality interactions, and use more effective parenting strategies. Be sure to listen to the podcast at the 10 minute mark to hear about how brain development impacts how a child continues on their growth journey.

The toddler years may be filled with emotion for many kids. As they are just learning about who they are becoming as individuals, we note that they have very little emotion regulation skills. They are learning to express their needs but can become frustrated when they cannot communicate effectively and we may see the toddler meltdown, or tantrum.  The meltdown could also stem from too much stimulation in the environment.

A few great ideas for engaging with your toddler during this life phase include:

  • Spend time reading to your toddler daily.
  • Ask your child to name and identify body parts and objects.
  • Play games with your toddler, like shape sorting, simple puzzles, or follow the leader.
  • Teach your child simple songs and rhymes.
  • Give your child attention and praise when following instructions and showing positive behavior and limit attention for defiant behavior like meltdowns.
  • Encourage your toddler’s curiosity and include field trips as opportunities to keep learning!

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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Oh, Baby!

The arrival of a new baby into the home can bring so many emotions, including joy, anticipation, worry, and delight. These emotions may stem from realizing that as parents, keeping the newborn safe, alive, and well-cared for is essential. Parents will monitor a new baby’s growth; they will watch how much a new one eats or sleeps, or even coo’s and cries. Each of these actions can produce a reaction on the part of the caregiver. Infants rely on their caregivers to provide so much of their daily care. This is a time when the attachment bond is securely formed. A child who cries and their needs are met will learn to rely on someone to provide for their needs.

Infants are discovering movement through head control and noticing their hands and fingers. As they grow, they learn to roll over, sit up, and eventually crawl. Brain development is efficiently creating neural pathways that are critical windows of opportunity. As parents take the time to talk to their babies, this enhances the brain’s development. A child hearing more words in the first years of life benefits the child when they begin school.

A few great ways to engage with your infant in the early stages of development include:

  • Talking and reading to your baby.
  • Repeating your words and responding to the baby talk and sounds your infant makes will provide reassurance to your little one.
  • Give lots of attention and stimulation to your baby.
  • When they begin noticing their hands and fingers, be sure to provide toys and sound makers that will encourage their use of their newfound hands.
  • Keep the baby safe by taking a close look at the environment and removing any hazards that could be potential trouble.
  • Children are naturally curious and will put most items in their mouth. Be sure to check for small items that could cause a choking hazard and remove those toys.
  • Wash and clean mouthed toys often.
  • Most of all, show love and affection to your baby and enjoy this stage of development. 

For additional information on your child’s growth and development, please explore a free series of electronic newsletters delivered to your email inbox based on your child’s birthday. They are called the Just In Time Parenting newsletters. Delivered once a month, the newsletter is filled with information about what you can expect of your child’s development, tips for how you can support your babies growth and progress toward their next milestones, tips for handling those common challenging moments, and some great suggestions for you, as a parent, to practice self-care.

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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Choosing Positive Discipline

Guiding and directing children as they grow and develop is a serious endeavor for parents. We know family values are usually at the heart of all rules, boundaries, and limits that parents set for their children.

Research in family science has a lot to say about what works around discipline. According to two decades of research by Elizabeth Gershoff & colleagues, physical punishment like spanking has been shown not only to be harmful, but also ineffective.

Discipline and punishment are two very different things. Discipline is meant to help children learn to regulate their own behavior as they are gaining more and more independence. Parents who use positive discipline approaches are teaching their children what behaviors are desired and then using natural or logical consequences when necessary to guide and direct their children.

Blaming and shaming parents for the choices they make in guiding their children is also not helpful. When we look at the research around harsh parenting, we can choose to avoid harmful and ineffective techniques and utilize approaches that are less threatening and more positive! We can do this most effectively by encouraging behaviors we do like, communicating our messages openly and honestly, and by utilizing Stop. Breathe. Talk. for keeping our cool in the heat of the moment.

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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Protect and Prevent

Protecting our children and setting boundaries for safety is something that most parents would agree is essential in raising happy healthy families! The boundaries help support growth and development and children learn they can count on their family members to protect them.

In each life stage, prevention measures must be considered. For infants and toddlers, child-proofing the home, covering outlets, providing baby gates, and anchoring bookshelves are examples of how parents prepare the environment for health and safety.

When children are school-agers we encourage wearing a bike helmet when riding; we may teach children to ask permission before leaving to play at another friends home. 

As teens we may teach “peer pressure” refusal skills so these kids can have a few tools at their disposal for protection and safety. And providing a few explanations of “why” rules and boundaries are established can help children and teens know we value safety!  

Prevention is something everyone can practice! Communicate honestly and frequently with your family members about how and why safety and prevention are important and valued! The lessons learned through shared communication can be the first step in prevention education.

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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Supporting Children When There is Scary News

We wanted to share a great article written by our fellow Human Sciences Family Life Specialist, Malisa Rader. Thank you, Malisa for allowing us to share your words.

All children are born with a unique temperament. Some will be more sensitive to scary news stories or worrisome about their safety and the safety of their loved ones, says Malisa Rader, a family life program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“We need to be mindful of what we are watching and discussing when small ears are around,” Rader said, “while also making sure we take time to listen and pick up on cues our child might be sending us. A change in behavior like clinginess or crying might be a signal that your child is anxious over recent disturbing events in the news.”

Parents, teachers and caregivers can help children that are feeling distressed about safety cope with their fears, Rader said. She recommends the following actions:

Keep regular routines. Stick to your normal schedule and events. Children take comfort in predictable daily activities like dinner at the kitchen table and bedtime rituals. Knowing what will happen provides a feeling of security.

Watch your emotions. Parents everywhere are shocked and saddened when children are victims of a tragic event. Children that are sensitive to emotions can pick up on this and become concerned for their own safety or the safety of others. When adults maintain a calm and optimistic attitude, children will also.

Have conversations with your child. Find out what your child knows and what questions he or she would like answered. Young children might express themselves through drawing or in their play. Provide reassurance, clear up any misconceptions and point out to your child the many helpful people in emergency events like law enforcement and medical professionals. Talk with your child about what is happening to make him or her safe at home, school or in the neighborhood.

Limit your TV viewing.  Monitor what is on the television set and for how long. Young children may not understand that scenes repeating on news stations are all the same event. Choose a favorite video to maintain better control over what is viewed by your children.

Find healthy ways to deal with feelings. Taking a walk together, reading a favorite book, or playing a board game can be comforting to both you and your child.

Take action. If your child continues to show concern, he or she may be feeling a loss of control. Doing something such as sending a donation or writing a letter can help bring back a sense of power and help your child feel a part of the response.

Seek professional advice if needed. If your child shows symptoms of distress such as a change in appetite or sleep patterns, speak with your child’s physician or a mental health professional. You can also contact ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline at 1-800-447-1985.

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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Revisiting: Calm, Cool, and Collected

As the NEW YEAR looms, I am eager to welcome the start of a new season! Before that happens, enjoy this podcast featuring the temperament trait “intensity”. The Science of Parenting team has dedicated their podcast episodes to revealing temperament traits and helping parents learn strategies to support their family members. “Intensity”, a trait defined as the amount of energy exhibited in emotional expression is highlighted here.

We can think about intensity as our ability to express emotion. Like joy over something very happy, or sadness and regret when something unfortunate happens, is what keep us human! We don’t and won’t all experience the same set of feelings when similar things happen to us. Because of our lived experiences, we will approach our reaction to situations very personally.

The connections young children have with their parent will help the child to be able to manage the emotions they possess. A parent may have to regulate their own emotions first, before helping a young person try to manage theirs. In fact, we may even have to step away from each other for a time, when emotions run high, before we can come back together to address an intense situation.

In this podcast, Mackenzie and Lori offer several tools to help with the challenges an intense temperament might present to parents.

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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Revisiting ‘Missing Out on the Big Moments’

Earlier this spring, when the word “pandemic” was still relatively new to our vocabulary, our team released a bonus episode on Missing Out on the Big Moments. We were hearing about the emotional toll that missing out on events and rites of passage was having on our kids. Now, several months down the road, this concept of missing out because of COVID is a common experience for kids and adults alike.

In the midst of a pandemic and the holiday season, the research around “missing out” and family rituals from this episode is still incredibly relevant. In this episode, you hear our co-hosts define rituals as events that are symbolic, emotionally affective, and having meaning across generations. Many of the holiday traditions families practice meet this definition! We know that tough conversations and emotions can be apart of our family interactions during the holidays in this pandemic as we all try to adjust.

In this episode, you’ll hear about ideas to adjust family rituals. Even if you already heard it this spring, we hope you’ll consider listening with a new perspective. Now that we have been in this pandemic a little longer you may have new insights and questions. Also, you may want to focus more on your own emotions around adjusting these family rituals.

Please join us in revisiting the topic of Missing Out on the Big Moments by examining research around family rituals!

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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Revisiting ‘How to Find Balance’

Each year, the holidays bring a rich set of traditions for many families. This year however, while living with the Covid-19 pandemic, our family traditions may take on a new reality. Instead of large gatherings, we may have smaller intimate gatherings. Instead of spending time together in one home, we may gather around our computers and share stories via video chat. We can continue to celebrate the holidays, but we may need to be creative to keep all family members safe and healthy!

The many responsibilities parents encounter as they prepare for the holiday season can be stressful! One challenge is identifying household tasks and finding time to complete those tasks and still have enough time and energy to respond openly to your children and family. During this podcast, the discussion reveals research around how household division of labor is managed in many homes.

There is some evidence (Meier, McNaughton-Cassill, & Lynch, 2006) that mothers report managing more of the household and childcare tasks than their co-parents. Join the Science of Parenting team as they explore the research behind sharing the tasks that are so important to raising happy, healthy families.

Lori and Mackenzie share evidence that suggests parents who feel appreciated for the household tasks they perform are more likely to continue to complete the tasks. Most everyone will admit it feels good to be noticed or recognized for doing well or accomplishing a task. Families will find they have more time together if all members share the housekeeping load.

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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Revisiting ‘In the Heat of a Meltdown’

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.

Especially now, during times of pandemic, as our routines and schedules have been interrupted, we may see behaviors from our children that may indicate they are struggling with the mounting pressure of having to socially distance, study from home, or put aside their desire to be out and about with friends.

These pressures may be revealed in a variety of ways. We may see tears; yelling; or even meltdowns because of the mounting frustration.

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 hard to do.

Stop. Breathe. Talk. is a technique which 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 is and can engage.

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.

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought families together in more ways than one. Let us use this time together to build family resilience, reengage our communication with one another and support one another until we can say the pandemic is gone.

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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