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!
Confession. I am not a gardener. Well, I’m not a vegetable gardener. I can grow a mean hibiscus and a lovely tulips but vegetables stump me. Its not that I don’t day dream about growing a bountiful garden, I just haven’t quite figured out how to get started. So in an effort to set the stage for the rest of the month I want to first say, “you don’t have to do it all”.
If you had a chance to listen to the podcast you heard about all the great things that children learn from gardening. Truth be told, they can also learn many of those things while caring for flowers and house plants as well. So before you say, “This month isnt’ for me”, consider the live plants that you may already have. Consider the flowers you may currently be watering. Substitute them for the gardening ideas (except for the eating part).
Share with your children how to keep they happy and healthy. Teach them how to put them in sunlight or shade. Ask them questions as you thin, separate and re-pot them. Tell them about the benefits of growing green plants in an indoor environment as well as outdoor. And most importantly don’t give up on the the fact that you really are a gardener. I haven’t.
Let us know about your green thumb.
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.
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?
When a grandparent has dementia, the grandchildren may not understand why grandma or grandpa is becoming forgetful, mom or dad is stressed out and everything is different than it used to be. However, parents can help their young children and adolescents learn to cope. The most important message is to be as honest as you can. Offer clear explanations and plenty of reassurance. Try to get a sense for how much information each child can cope with, and tailor your discussion accordingly.
This month we will discuss ways to talk to children and adolescents about dementia and share ideas about how to help children cope. Research has shown that dementia can dramatically change the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, but it doesn’t have to be all negative.
Join us as we talk about caregiving adults with dementia and the impact it has on young children.
It’s summer time! That means it’s county fair time. Do you know how much science, technology, engineering and math happens at a county or state fair?
Confession time, I was not a fair kid growing up. I thought that if I went to the county fair I would just see my friend’s farm animals and the cookies they had been practice baking for months. No really, that’s what I thought! I have come to learn however that it is about amazing fabulous STEM opportunities and experiences. Even as a visitor, your opportunities to experience STEM are endless.
When I searched ‘what to do at the fair’ I found an endless list of activities for families. From milking cows, to using robots, to participating in food demonstrations (read EAT), from creating your own artwork, to learning about wildlife and insects. And these were just the 3 links I found from 3 different states! Not to mention all the counties in those various states that were sharing their fair activities.
Take a moment and think about how you might be able to encourage STEM activities in a fun and family friendly environment with your children. Most fairs are low cost or have discount days/times. They cater to families with children and want to create an engaging family focused time for you. Get creative while you’re at the fair. Create family challenges or mini-competitions at the exhibits and demonstrations. Enjoy the demonstrations and talk about how you might do something similar in your own home. Take the fair boards up on their offer, find a fair close to you and show your kids that you know a little about STEM too.
We would love to hear about your favorite fair experiences.
I have two children that have graduated from high school and the youngest will start his sophomore year in high school this fall. So my parenting years are dwindling. Do I have any regrets? Well…I’m sure like many busy mothers; the years seemed to fly by and most of the time, I was blessed with children who were typically “easy” and didn’t demand intensive parental intervention. Somewhere during those early years I remember reading a book by William Doherty, Ph.D. about being “intentional”. Doherty’s book helped me to realize the importance of everyday rituals that could strengthen our family and marital relationships. I learned that I couldn’t do it ALL. But I also learned that being intentional meant setting priorities. And I learned that if I didn’t set goals, things just wouldn’t get done. But sometimes, I just got tangled up in the never ending details of family life and responsibilities. My kids have always been good at keeping me centered on what was most important. I learned that when they were most unlovable, they needed love the most. And when they were quiet and happily playing alone, they needed me just as much as when they were whining and pulling at my leg for attention. We have attempted to make our family communication a two way street. I know that I have learned as much from my children, as they have learned from me. One of my most treasured “ah-ah” moments for me came from a mother’s day gift—from my then 12-year old daughter. She framed a Dove Chocolate wrapper—with the fitting quote, “Life is more than a to-do list”. How shaming, yet so very spot on! I was taken back by her subtle communication tactic. But I took her advice to heart and I still have the chocolate wrapper as a reminder of the most important things in life. Be intentional and remember to take time for what matters most.
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!
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.