Have the conversation…now

Wow, it is August! Each year, right at this time, families begin carefully thinking about the beginning of a new school year! They may be curious about school teachers; school supplies; transportation; sporting events; and after-school programming. Well this year, as a nation, we are experiencing the unexpected! We are experiencing a pandemic that is altering every notion we have of how to prepare for the school year.

father and child

We are now exploring alternative school schedules; masks; social distancing; sanitation,  health and safety like never before. When we first learned of the pandemic, we may have thought we would return to our regular schedule by mid-summer. Now we are learning that the pandemic may be impacting our schedules much longer.

With that reality, I wanted to encourage parents to continue to check in with your children and other family members. Take some time to really sit and listen to the feelings your family members may be experiencing. Are they feeling sad or depressed because they miss interacting with their friends? Are they feeling anxious about starting a new school year and don’t know what to expect? Was their summer interrupted, were they unable to go to camp; county fair; or other routine events cancelled? All of these situations can bring a level of disappointment and talking it all out could be one step in the healing process.

Keeping our family members healthy during this pandemic is a priority. When we have honest conversations about why our schedules have been interrupted, we can begin to plan for alternate ways to respond. Keeping the lines of communication open and discussing positive coping techniques to use when we feel upset are critical! We don’t have to know all the answers, but we can reach out for support! Consider the following resources:

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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Getting After Stress

The uncertainty around many of the situations that families may have been experiencing lately can cause us to experience the “s” word…also known as STRESS! While stress can take many forms and it can be considered both positive and negative, all of us, at one time or another, have probably experienced stress!

Over time, each of us must find an appropriate set of coping techniques to use so that when we feel a little panicked, or stressed, we can indeed cope! None of us likes to feel out of control, so being able to manage our stress is important. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction.

Take a listen to our podcast as Mackenzie and Lori discuss how “stress” can be managed while also caring for your children and the family. The Science of Parenting team takes pride in providing resources and education that can assist anyone manage and cope with the stress they encounter. Begin your stress relief journey by visiting our parenting resources for helpful information whether you are parenting an infant, preschool child, or teen, help is just a click away.  

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, 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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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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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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How to Help Kids Cope and Contribute during COVID-19

The new “normal” that many families have endured recently includes limiting their time engaging with friends and neighbors in an attempt to practice social distancing. This experience is probably very new for many people. Not only is it new, but it can also be very lonely and disappointing. Children who want to play with friends, but who are told they cannot, may really have many questions. Their emotions may spill over with fear, anger and even anxiety as they try to adjust to this situation.

Providing additional parental hugs of reassurance that the boundaries and limits that are being followed at this time will not last forever. Taking the time to listen to children as they express their emotions will help them to brainstorm solutions for how they can cope with limited time with friends and neighbors. Young children may have an exaggerated response to being separated from their friends, so talking and reassuring your child is important. Perhaps using a social media platform to check in with the neighborhood playmates may help to ease the separation anxiety.

Even older teens may feel lonely or isolated or even experience the FOMO “fear of missing out” on what their friends are doing in their own homes, practicing social distancing. Visit with your children and let them know that their concerns might be turned into something positive. For example, if we are missing our friends, could we each keep a simple journal to highlight our days, and how we spend time as a family?

If we had concerns about a neighbor who lives alone, could we make cards of greeting and well wishes? Even a daily walk to enjoy the fresh outdoor air can make a difference and lift our spirits.

Our situation may not change overnight, but our response to it can! We can choose to communicate with one another and find ways to support each other through the covid-19 pandemic. We can listen to the emotions our family members have, and brainstorm helpful solutions.

As a reminder, we always encourage families to remember to Stop, take some deep breaths, and then Talk with intention to one another. Listen to our Science of Parenting Podcaster Mackenzie Johnson as she describes the benefits of the STOP BREATHE TALK method.

In addition, the following additional resources may be helpful to you and your family.

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

oP Stop. Breathe. Talk.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Celebrating Thanksgiving

Beautiful African American woman and her daughter cooking in the kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Practice Kindness Today

 

Smiling School Age Girl Holding Globe

We thank our guest blogger, Cheryl Clark, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach for reminding us about kindness and its impact on those around us!

Another day, another act of incivility, anger or violence. Ever-pervasive attitudes of self-centeredness and disregard for others seem to symbolize our times. But what if we could flip the script from callousness to kindness?

Did you know, Nov. 13 is World Kindness Day, according to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation? The internationally recognized nonprofit provides free online resources to educators and others to encourage acts of kindness across the globe.

“Simply be kind,” said Clark. “Remember the old adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. This can help us more fully appreciate the unique and diverse aspects of our world.”

The Center for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at the University of Missouri suggests that people seek first to understand. For example:

  • Read a book about a different person, culture, country or experience.
  • Listen to local, regional, international or a different genre of music.
  • Explore your heritage, family history and personal cultural worldview.
  • Visit a local cultural center.
  • Interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures by becoming a language partner.
  • Challenge yourself to learn 10 new words in another language.

For more ideas from the center, visit diversity.missouri.edu.

“Another critical component to kindness is how we speak to and about each other. Being respectful of self and others in our words and actions is living kindness,” Clark said.

Clark offers the following techniques to build an atmosphere of respect:

  • Listen to others actively and intentionally.
  • Speak from personal experience and use “I” statements.
  • Withhold judgment and ask genuine questions for understanding.
  • Check your biases and assumptions.
  • Seek to understand your own communication and conflict style.

“Finally, take good care of yourself. This may seem to be at odds with ‘making the world a better place.’ However, we must care for ourselves in order to have the stamina, energy and desire to live kindness. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, connect with friends or family, and engage in spiritual practices,” Clark said.

“If you find yourself overwhelmed with the negativity, seek professional help. A counselor can help you in a trusting, non-judgmental setting. Call Iowa Concern at 800-447-1985 for help,” Clark said.

ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline provides 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.

In addition, “All About Stress: Taking Charge (PM1660 A)” is available for free download from the Extension Store. The publication offers tips for coping with stress, managing stress and building resources to help.

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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Did you say STRESS?

We have been talking teens, and that means we may also need to talk about the “s” word…also known as STRESS! While stress can take many forms and it can be considered both positive and negative, all of us, at one time or another, have probably experienced stress! You know the feeling, your heart starts to beat a little faster, you may begin to sweat just a bit, you let your mind wander and before you know it, you may even be close to panic mode.

Over time, each of us has to find an appropriate set of coping techniques to use so that when we feel a little panicked, or stressed, we can indeed cope! None of us likes to feel out of control, so being able to manage our stress is a skill that is worth its weight in gold. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction.

Some folks have used exercise as an antidote! People who exercise regularly will tell you how much better they feel. They will also tell you that the energy they derive from exercise can be used to “think through” or manage the stress that comes their way. If you were to park your car as far away from the entrance to the buildings you go into, that would be one way to increase your exercise. If you were to take the steps, and not the elevator, that too would increase your opportunity to get a little exercise. Do you like to dance, or do Yoga, or to meditate? These are also examples of coping techniques and exercise strategies that can be helpful in overcoming stress.

Parenting can be stressful and at Science of Parenting, we take pride in providing resources and education that can assist anyone manage and cope with the stress they encounter. Begin your stress relief journey by visiting our parenting in challenging moments link https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/scienceofparenting/guidance/

We are committed to empowering people and growing lives!

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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The Stress of Special Needs

iStock_000005759838Small[1]Downs_1 copyThe demands of parenting often are multiplied for parents of children with special health and behavioral needs. However, these parents will be better able to provide care for their children if they also take care of themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 15 percent of U.S. families have a chronically ill child with special health needs. The extra demands cause stress that affects the whole family.

Caring for a child with special needs can require additional time, which can mean you have less time for your other children, your spouse or aging parents, who also need your attention. Maybe you’ve been criticized or judged by others who simply do not understand your child’s condition. You may feel isolated from other parents, because how could people who don’t have a child with special needs possibly know what you are going through?  Parents often are trying to learn about their child’s disability and find treatments and resources. They’re coping with the emotional and physical challenges of providing care as they coordinate healthcare treatments, advocate for their child and pay for necessary services. No wonder parents of children with special needs often are exhausted and even depressed,

Join us this month as we self-care tips and resources that can help parents cope. We will discuss ways that family members can support each other and we’ll also talk about when and how to reach out for assistance. In addition we will explore resources for reducing stress that are available through ISU Extension and Outreach.

August 2016

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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What Do Children Really Want? What Do They Really Need?

Beautiful little girl child with shopping colorful paper bags in

The cost of raising children is expensive.    It’s an art and  a skill to balance the child’s wants, needs, and desires, with your financial means.  But, sadly the emotional and social impacts of these decisions is often ignored. The parent experiences stress and the child-parent relationship is sacrificed for increased work hours in order to provide.  We have to wonder is the cost worth it?

What children really desire is a close personal relationship with their parent, and because parents are often overextended, parents tend to compensate for their absence utilizing their wallet. They buy, and buy and buy, and might just over extend their bank account. What children and teens really want is attention from their parents. So the next time you feel compelled to purchase something that your child might not really need, instead, schedule some one on one time and consider the cost: PRICELESS!

 

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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Balancing Life and Parenting

Many parents report feeling rushed, stressed and unable to do everything they have to do at work and at home. However, parents don’t have to live with constant chaos if they take care of themselves first. In an emergency on an airplane, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. That’s true in parenting, too. Caring for yourself is one of the most important — and most often forgotten — things you can do as a parent.

Join us this month as we will explores way to prioritize parenting responsibilities and avoid parenting stress. We also will share ideas on fun breaks you can take that will refresh your parenting ability.

Related Resources

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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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Break the Cycle of Childhood Trauma

lonelinessMore than half of us grew up in families that were marked with challenges, but we don’t have to pass those experiences on to the next generation. The cycle can be broken by developing safe, stable and nurturing relationships that heal the parent and the child. The keys to success are developing healthy relationships and building resiliency.

Traumatic, or adverse, childhood experiences can include neglect as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Other family issues that can contribute to a traumatic childhood include substance abuse, divorce, hunger, domestic violence, mental illness and incarceration.

Children who are exposed to many adverse childhood experiences may become overloaded with stress hormones, leaving them in a constant state of fight or flight and unable to focus. They learn adaptive and coping behaviors in response to these experiences.

This month we will discuss ways to build resiliency in children. We also will discuss ways that communities can begin to support all children and families in reducing the incidence and impact of adverse childhood experiences.

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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Helping Kids Understand Health Threats

Daily news reports about Ebola infections, quarantines and death may have children worried that they may be stricken by this disease or other illnesses. Research shows that too much unsupervised media viewing can cause children unneeded and unintentional stress and fear. One way to alleviate that fear is to talk to your children about what they’re seeing and hearing in the news. Find out what they know and what questions they would like answered.

In November, join us as we blog about ways that parents can reduce children’s anxiousness related to health threats like Ebola. We also will look at how parents can use the situation to teach children important skills about illness prevention and world health issues.

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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Delete…Re-Write…Stuck Brain

So I wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote again this blog. I think I just couldn’t decide what it should really be about. Should it be about brain development like the podcast? Should it be about learning to breathe like Kristi’s last blog? Or should it be about Thanksgiving because that is what happening right now? Nothing came to me. I even contemplated calling Donna and begging for her to take this week for me.

Was this writer’s block? (or is it bloggers block?) I was overwhelmed and stuck. My brain wouldn’t budge. I wondered if that’s what’s it like when kids become overwhelmed with everything that goes on over these next several weeks. Their brain becomes blocked. With all the hustle and bustle and here and there and fast and slow I wondered if their brain becomes so overwhelmed that they to end up wanting to  ‘delete and re-write’ like I did. Not literally writing and deleting but more through their behaviors, actions and words. Maybe there is more crying and clinging? Maybe there is interrupted sleep and more aggression. Whatever it is their brain is overwhelmed and stuck with all of the busy-ness of the adults in their lives.

As we look ahead to the next several weeks I think it becomes important to remember the brain development podcast – we are in charge of growing their brains. Be kind and gentle to their brain. Understand that all of this busy-ness may overwhelm their brain to the point of ‘waving the white flag melt-downs’. Remember to breathe over the next several weeks AND breathe with your children. They are never too young to learn to take a deep breath for relaxation. And finally ponder what the whole holiday season means for you and your family. Share those thoughts outloud with them as you walk through the next several weeks together.

How has your child shown you when their brain is stuck? What have you done to help them get through it?

I’m not deleting and re-writing this one……  🙂

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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