Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Should You Watch Over Your Tween Online?

April 16, 2015

How to walk the fine line between giving them personal space and keeping them safe.
Originally posted on WebMD Magazine

In the early 1980s, in the evening after dinner, you could often find my 11-year-old self looking for privacy under my father’s desk — the looped phone cord stretched taut — talking to one of my girlfriends, Jenny, Amy, or Caitlin.

What we talked about — crushes, clothes, classes — is much like what our daughters are “talking” about today. But they’re doing it with their fingers as they engage in text messaging, IMs, taking and sending photos, and online chatting. And, like many parents I know, I often feel intimidated by these tools, even a touch afraid. Who might be trying to communicate with my kid? Will my children’s private texts and emails be forwarded? How exactly is IM used?

Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, says helping young people navigate these new social landscapes requires a rational head and engaged parenting. Willard is the author of Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly. The good news is she believes the risk of predators and other dangers is wildly overestimated in the public’s imagination.

Teaching Your Kids Online Values

While it is true that many of today’s parents are “technological immigrants” — accommodating but not fully at home with new communication methods — Willard says the core values parents strive to teach children about social interactions remain the same: consideration, respect, and kindness.

Staying involved in your tween’s communications is step one, Willard says. “If your daughter is texting, you need to be one of the people she’s texting,” she says. By being in the mix, you are better situated to know whom your kids are communicating with and what they’re communicating about. And you will be more likely to be aware of a bullying text or an intrusive IM.

“It’s all about teachable moments,” Willard says. Help your children learn how to handle a bully’s email, just as you would offer them strategies for dealing with a bully on the school bus.

Another important element is to avoid overreacting if something goes wrong – for instance, if your child forwards a gossipy email or posts an inappropriate picture. “Your child needs to know that he or she can come to you and you’re going to work together to solve problems,” Willard says.

Three Digital Do’s for Parents

Think, then send.“The more embarrassing or damaging the material you post, the greater the likelihood it will spread widely,” Willard says. Parents need to teach kids not to write or type anything they wouldn’t say to someone face to face.

Face your own fear.Being hyper-concerned about kids’ texting and instant messaging can be dangerous. “Fear is interfering with the positive relationship we need to have between parents and kids to protect them,” Willard says. “It’s causing kids not to report because parents overreact.”

Get involved.“One time, some boys were sending my daughter sexually harassing messages,” Willard says. “I told her, ‘If you get a message from any of these people or about the situation, I need to see it so we can look at it and make sure you’re resolving it.'” When your child needs help negotiating a situation, be there.

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Talking to Children About Race – Where to Begin

March 26, 2015

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Originally posted on Nanny Magazine.

When we encourage children to ignore the ethnic and racial differences around them, we often hope that this will result in creating a “color-blind” child.   There’s nothing wrong with wanting children to recognize the shared humanity in one another, but this “color-blind” approach is flawed for several key reasons.  First, it ignores the fact that children notice difference all the time.  Young children often sort their toys and other materials into color groups, and children of all ages are asked to engage in this kind of sorting and categorizing in school.  The lack of open discussion around race can also inadvertently contribute to the formation of biases and stereotypes.  On the one hand, children are told that race is a superficial difference that should be ignored.  On the other hand, they observe real inequities across racial lines, such as more people of color living in impoverished neighborhoods in their communities.   They are left to draw their own conclusions, which will most likely not be based on a historic or systemic understanding of racism.   In order to promote equity and inclusivity, we would do better to give our children a basic understanding of race and racism from early on.

Developmental guide to talking about race for ages 3-8.

3-4 year olds

At this age, children are full of curiosity about the world. Read picture books that celebrate all the different shades we come in.  Some of my favorites are: The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler, All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka and Skin Again by Bell Hooks. Emphasize that the diversity of skin tones makes the world a richer, more beautiful, and interesting place!  Go to a paint store and get all different colors of paint chips.  Compare your skin tones to the paint chips and use these names as inspiration for poetry or artwork. Use the book Tan to Tamarind by Malathi Michelle Lyengar to explore poems about the color brown, a color often left out of children’s poetry and songs.  After reading the poems, use brown spices such as cinnamon, cloves, coffee grounds, and nutmeg to make art.  Help children come up with descriptive language around how these spices feel and smell.  The result is a collection of beautiful associations with the color brown, and this activity can work to combat and prevent any biases that may be forming. 

5-6 year olds

At this age, children begin to voice their questions about why we are the way we are. Read books that give a more scientific explanation of where skin colors come from, such as All the Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger.  This is also the time to give children language they can use to be inclusive with one another, and to build their empathy around differences.  For example, when a child expresses curiosity about a friend or classmate’s hair, take the opportunity to read books about different hair types in order to teach about why we have different hair and why it’s important to appreciate and respect this difference.  Two good books for this are Hair Dance by Dinah Johnson and Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros.

It is also important to talk explicitly about racism, so that children can recognize situations of bias and racism when they occur.  Use puppets to act out scenarios of exclusion around skin color and engage children as problem solvers to come up with inclusive solutions.  As they learn about the Civil Rights Movement, help children make sense of the larger themes around social justice by connecting these themes to something familiar and personal.  Read children’s books that have “change-makers” in them.  The Lorax by Dr. Seuss is a good one!  Also, seek out stories of key figures of the Civil Rights Movement of all races, genders, and ages, in order to help children appreciate that diverse groups work together to bring about big changes, and to allow all children to find anti-racist role models.  Learn about Claudette Colvin, the black teenager who refused to sit in the back of the bus, James Reeb, the white pastor and Civil Rights activist in Washington D.C., and Ruby Bridges, the young black girl in New Orleans who attended an all white school in 1960.

7-8 year olds

At this age, children should have a basic understanding of where skin color comes from, how to be inclusive with one another, and how to recognize bias or racism when they see it.  If they don’t have this basic understanding, go back to the section on 3-4 year olds and start there!  Think of it as how you might approach helping a child gain a basic understanding of math in order to be prepared for higher math classes.  There’s no shame in “skilling up” in any important learning area, whether it be math or learning about race, racism, and empathy.

Help children find books to read that feature characters of all different races, and not just the books that tell stories around racism, though those are important.  It is also important that children see characters of all races in “every day” books, experiencing relatable problems and situations.  This will help expand their ability to empathize with all different kinds of people.  This is especially important as children begin to pay attention to, and receive more, messages about people of color in TV shows, advertisements, and movies that are not always positive or affirming.

It is also important to monitor the media that children are watching, and to point out instances of stereotyping when they occur.  Ask children to think critically about the characters in the movies, television shows, and music videos they watch, or the video games they play.  Are there an equal number of characters of color and white characters?  Who are the “good” characters and the “bad” ones?  Who gets to be the main character?  One of the best ways to prevent or combat biases is to become critical thinkers, rather than passive absorbers, of the often explicit, and at times, implicit, media messages about race.

Continue to create space for children to ask their growing questions about race and racism.  And if you don’t know the answers or how to respond, it’s okay to say, “I need to think about that and get back to you,’ and then do some reading to increase your own knowledge.

10 Things You Should Never Say to Your Kids

March 20, 2015

l_101765248Originally posted here.

You probably wouldn’t use old-school phrases like “Wait until your father gets home” or “I wish you were more like your sister” with your kids. But there are lots of less obvious ones that you should avoid, for their sake and yours.

1. “Great Job.”

Research has shown that tossing out a generic phrase like “Good girl” or “Way to go” every time your child masters a skill makes her dependent on your affirmation rather than her own motivation, says Parents advisor Jenn Berman, Psy.D., author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids. Save the kudos for when they’re truly warranted, and be as specific as you can. Instead of “Super game,” say, “That was a nice assist. I like how you looked for your teammate.”

2. “Practice makes perfect.”

It’s true that the more time your child devotes, the sharper his skills will become. However, this adage can ramp up the pressure he feels to win or excel. “It sends the message that if you make mistakes, you didn’t train hard enough,” says Joel Fish, Ph.D., author of 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent. “I’ve seen kids beat themselves up, wondering, ‘What’s wrong with me? I practice, practice, practice, and I’m still not the best.'” Instead, encourage your child to work hard because he’ll improve and feel proud of his progress.

3. “You’re okay.”

When your child scrapes his knee and bursts into tears, your instinct may be to reassure him that he’s not badly hurt. But telling him he’s fine may only make him feel worse. “Your kid is crying because he’s not okay,” says Dr. Berman. Your job is to help him understand and deal with his emotions, not discount them. Try giving him a hug and acknowledging what he’s feeling by saying something like, “That was a scary fall.” Then ask whether he’d like a bandage or a kiss (or both).

4. “Hurry up!”

Your child dawdles over her breakfast, insists on tying her own sneakers (even though she hasn’t quite mastered the technique yet), and is on pace to be late for school — again. But pushing her to get a move on creates additional stress, says Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., coauthor of Baby Minds. Soften your tone slightly by saying, “Let’s hurry,” which sends the message that the two of you are on the same team. You can also turn the act of getting ready into a game: “Why don’t we race to see who can get her pants on first?”

5. “I’m on a diet.”

Watching your weight? Keep it to yourself. If your child sees you stepping on the scale every day and hears you talk about being “fat,” she may develop an unhealthy body image, says Marc S. Jacobson, M.D., professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Nassau University Medical Center, in East Meadow, New York. It’s better to say, “I’m eating healthy because I like the way it makes me feel.” Take the same tack with working out. “I need to exercise” can sound like a complaint, but “It’s beautiful outside — I’m going to take a walk” may inspire her to join you.

6. “We can’t afford that.”

It’s easy to use this default response when your child begs you for the latest toy. But doing so sends the message that you’re not in control of your finances, which can be scary for kids, says Jayne Pearl, the author of Kids and Money. Grade-schoolers may also call you on this claim if you turn around and make an expensive household purchase. Choose an alternative way to convey the same idea, such as, “We’re not going to buy that because we’re saving our money for more important things.” If she insists on discussing it further, you have a perfect window to start a conversation about how to budget and manage money.

7. “Don’t talk to strangers.”

This is a tough concept for a young child to grasp. Even if a person is unfamiliar, she may not think of him as a stranger if he’s nice to her. Plus, kids may take this rule the wrong way and resist the help of police officers or firefighters whom they don’t know, says Nancy McBride, executive director for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Florida Regional Office, in Lake Park. Instead of warning her about strangers, bring up scenarios (“What would you do if a man you don’t know offers you candy and a ride home?”), have her explain what she’d do, then guide her to the proper course of action. Since the vast majority of child-abduction cases involve someone a kid already knows, you might also adopt McBride’s favorite safety mantra: “If anyone makes you feel sad, scared, or confused, you need to tell me right away.”

8. “Be careful.”

Saying this while your child is balancing on the monkey bars at the playground actually makes it more likely that he’ll fall. “Your words distract him from what he’s doing, so he loses focus,” says Deborah Carlisle Solomon, author of Baby Knows Best. If you’re feeling anxious, move close to spot him in case he takes a tumble, being as still and quiet as you can.

9. “No dessert unless you finish your dinner.”

Using this expression increases a child’s perceived value of the treat and diminishes his enjoyment of the meal itself — the opposite of what you want to accomplish, says Parents advisor David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and author of Ending the Food Fight. Tweak your message along these lines: “First we eat our meal and then we have dessert.” The wording change, though subtle, has a far more positive impact on your child.

10. “Let me help.”

When your child is struggling to build a block tower or finish a puzzle, it’s natural to want to give him a hand. Don’t. “If you jump in too soon, that can undermine your child’s independence because he’ll always be looking to others for answers,” says Myrna Shure, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia and author of Raising a Thinking Child. Instead, ask guiding questions to help him solve the problem: “Do you think the big piece or the little one should go at the bottom? Why do you think that? Let’s give it a try.”

Is My Child Ready for Preschool?

March 16, 2015

Getting-ready-for-preschool-1500x1000Originally posted on webmd.com.

Experts agree that preschool helps kids socialize, begin to share, and interact with other children and adults.

Your three-year-old is out of diapers and seems to enjoy playing with peers. But is he or she ready to start preschool? Are you ready? And just what are the benefits of preschool? For most kids, it’s an experience that should not be missed, experts say.

“I believe that all three- or four-year-olds should have the opportunity and advantages of attending preschool,” says Anna Jane Hays, a child development expert in Santa Fe and author of several books, including Ready, Set, Preschool!and Kindergarten Countdown. “It’s just too valuable of a beginning, now that we know children are capable of learning at such an early age. The consensus is ‘the sooner, the better’ in regard to a structured opportunity for learning.”

Getting Prepped for Preschool

When you think it’s time for your child to try preschool, experts recommend doing plenty of research to find the best atmosphere to provide the benefits. “Talk to the director and the teachers, and see what the preschool’s goals are for children that age,” says Hays. “Look at the classroom and facilities, and briefly observe how comfortable the children seem to be.”

Get your child ready for preschool by building anticipation instead of anxiety, Hays says. “Introduce them to the idea of preschool because when kids know what to expect, they feel more secure,” she says.

Specifically, in the year leading up to preschool, visit the classroom. “It’s best if the child can see the classroom, meet the teacher — and if you can, seek out children who will be in the classroom,” she says.

“I advise parents to talk to their kids about what will happen in preschool, what they will do, how much fun it will be, and how many friends they will make,” she says. “It’s about getting your child to have a positive attitude about preschool.”

Another tip: “Don’t just get everything ready yourself,” Hays says. “Let your child pick and pack their backpack and choose a special snack. Invite the child to help because this helps build positive anticipation and makes preschool more of an adventure and something to look forward to.”

You can help them get ready to learn too. “Point out letters and numbers on streets and buildings, and shapes and colors in architecture. The more you talk to your child and the more you read to your child, the more vocabulary they are building,” says Hays.

Helping your child become self-sufficient is another important step. “Encourage this by allowing your child to brush their hair, put on their own pants, button some buttons and zip some zippers,” Hays suggests. “It’s good for a child to have that sense of accomplishment, and this will translate into other areas, including using the potty. Self-confidence is the most important thing a kid can go to preschool with. And when they know how to do things by themselves, they will feel accomplished and capable and comfortable going into this big new world.”

Saltz agrees. “It is beneficial if can they can manage themselves in terms of eating, toileting, and activities of daily living,” she says. “Some parents, in a totally well-meaning way, may keep doing everything for the child. Then they send them to school where it’s embarrassing because every other kid is zipping, buttoning, and snapping — while your kid is just waiting for the teacher.”

10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play

March 4, 2015

2girlsOriginally posted here.

1.  Children learn through their play.
Don’t underestimate the value of play. Children learn and develop:

cognitive skills – like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store

physical abilities – like balancing blocks and running on the playground

new vocabulary – like the words they need to play with toy dinosaurs

social skills – like playing together in a pretend car wash

literacy skills – like creating a menu for a pretend restaurant

2. Play is healthy.
Play helps children grow strong and healthy. It also counteracts obesity issues facing many children today.3. Play reduces stress.
Play helps your children grow emotionally. It is joyful and provides an outlet for anxiety and stress.
4. Play is more than meets the eye.
Play is simple and complex.  There are many types of play: symbolic, sociodramatic, functional, and games with rules-–to name just a few. Researchers study play’s many aspects:  how children learn through play, how outdoor play impacts children’s health, the effects of screen time on play, to the need for recess in the school day.5. Make time for play.
As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your children’s learning. You can make sure they have as much time to play as possible during the day to promote cognitive, language, physical, social, and emotional development.6. Play and learning go hand-in-hand.
They are not separate  activities. They are intertwined. Think about them as a science lecture with a lab. Play is the child’s lab.

7. Play outside.
Remember your own outdoor experiences of building forts, playing on the beach, sledding in the winter, or playing with other children in the neighborhood. Make sure your children create outdoor memories too.
8. There’s a lot to learn about play.
There’s a lot written on children and play. Here are some NAEYC articles and books about play. David Elkind’s The Power of Play (Da Capo, 2007 reprint) is also a great resource.9. Trust your own playful instincts.
Remember as a child how play just came naturally? Give your children time for play and see all that they are capable of when given the opportunity.
10. Play is a child’s context for learning.
Children practice and reinforce their learning in multiple areas during play. It gives them a place and a time for learning that cannot be achieved through completing a worksheet. For example, in playing restaurant, children write and draw menus, set prices, take orders, and  make out checks.  Play provides rich learning opportunities and leads to children’s success and self-esteem.

Love Language: The 5 Love Languages of Children

February 12, 2015

imagesOriginally posted here.

Storybooks and television tell our children that love is a mushy, wonderful thing that’s all butterflies and romance and rainbows. But as adults, we know that loving others—whether a spouse, a family member, a friend or simply your neighbor—is more often an exercise in self-sacrifice and putting others first. Butterflies are optional.

Dr. Gary Chapman says knowing your child’s love language can make all of the difference in your relationship.  Here, he shares descriptions of the five love languages. Look over the 5 Steps for Discovering Your Child’s Love Language.

1. Physical Touch. Hugs and kisses are the most common way of speaking this love language, but there are other ways, too. A dad tosses his year-old son in the air. He spins his seven-year-old daughter round and round, and she laughs wildly. A mom reads a story with her three-year-old on her lap.

For children who understand this love language, physical touch will communicate love more deeply than will the words, “I love you,” or giving a present, fixing a bicycle, or spending time with them. Of course, they receive love in all the languages, but for them the one with the clearest and loudest voice is physical touch. Without hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and other physical expressions of love, their love tanks will remain less than full.

2. Words of Affirmation. In communicating love, words are powerful. Words of affection and endearment, words of praise and encouragement, words that give positive guidance all say, “I care about you.” Such words are like a gentle, warm rain falling on the soul; they nurture the child’s inner sense of worth and security. Even though such words are quickly said, they are not soon forgotten. A child reaps the benefits of affirming words for a lifetime.

3. Quality Time. Quality time is focused attention. It means giving a child your undivided attention. Quality time is a parent’s gift presence to a child. It conveys this message: “You are important. I like being with you.” It makes the child feel that he is the most important person in the world to the parent. He feels truly loved because he has his parent all to himself. When you spend quality time with children, you need to go to their physical/emotional level of development. The most important factor in quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together.

If quality time is your child’s primary love language, you can be sure of this: Without a sufficient supply of quality time and focused attention, your child will experience a gnawing uneasiness that his parents do not really love him.

4. Gifts. The giving and receiving of gifts can be a powerful expression of love, at the time they are given and often extending into later years. The most meaningful gifts become symbols of love, and those that truly convey love are part of a love language.

Most children respond positively to gifts, but for some, receiving gifts is their primary love language. You might be inclined to think that this is so for all children, judging from the way they beg for things. It is true that all children—and adults—want to have more and more. But those whose language of love is receiving gifts will respond differently when they get their gift. Remember, for them this is love’s loudest voice. They see the gift as an extension of you and your love.

5. Acts of Service. Some people speak acts of service as their primary love language. If service is your child’s primary love language, your acts of service will communicate most deeply that you love Johnny or Julie. When that child asks you to fix a bicycle or mend a doll’s dress, he or she does not merely want to get a task done; your child is crying for emotional love.

If your child’s primary love language is acts of service, this does not mean that you must jump at every request. It does mean that you should be extremely sensitive to those requests and recognize that your response will either help fill the child’s love tank or else puncture the tank. Each request calls for a thoughtful, loving response.

Taken with permission from The Five Love Languages of Children by Dr. Gary Chapman.

Teaching Children to Donate

December 23, 2014

packing baby food for hurricane sandy victims

Whichever holiday you are celebrating at this time of year, it typically involves gift giving/receiving. If your child’s wish list is as long as my kids’ lists were when they were young, your play room will be overflowing with toys after the holidays. My husband and I took advantage of this time of year and created a rule; for every new toy that was received, an old toy had to be given away. This is a good rule for birthdays too!

Limiting your child’s wish list is a challenge for parents. Children want the current hot toy of the season, the latest movie paraphernalia, or the newest game system. They try their hardest to convince you that all of their friends have “it”, and they must have “it” too; in fact, they can’t live without it!

We were lucky enough to know one child who greatly appreciated our hand-me-downs. He was the youngest of six children whose carpenter father was struggling to start his own business. You may not personally know someone in this situation, however, there are several organizations that appreciate and welcome used toys.

Your child will learn an invaluable life lesson, along with learning they don’t need to keep all of their “stuff” in order to be happy. I am also extremely thrilled that neither one of my children became a hoarder!

Here’s a list of some local organizations that accept used toy donations.

Family Services of Westchester
This nonprofit program’s Big Brothers Big Sisters trucks will travel to your home for a scheduled pickup of your old toys (and clothing, house wares, furniture and small appliances).  From Peekskill to Pelham, Bronxville to Bedford, call 1-877-399-2570 to arrange for free home pickup of donated household items. To schedule a pick-up online go to www.bbbsdonate.org.

Salvation Army There is a Salvation Army in White Plains (16 Sterling Avenue; 914-949-2908) and one in New Rochelle (562 North Avenue). Head to either one to drop off your old toys Monday through Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. until close. Call for business hours.

Goodwill Industries
Goodwill has a location at 380 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford; 914-347-1510. But there are other drop-off spots that will accept toys. Call for information.

Your Local Church
You’d be surprised how many churches would be thrilled to take a toy donation. Stop by your local church and ask if you can donate for the next thrift sale fundraiser, or ask your pastor on Sunday. Churches always know someone in need, and you may end up getting to drop off the toys to needy families yourself.

Donate Toys to Veterans – PickUpPlease.org

With Pick Up Please, helping America’s Veterans with your donations has never been easier. You can donate clothes, furniture, toys and other household items through a convenient donation pick up at your home. Pick Up Please can pick up your donation within 24 hrs. in most locations.

Cyberbullying: A Nanny’s Guide

October 23, 2014

A Nanny's Guide to CyberbullyingOriginally posted here.

Cyberbullying is the intentional and repetitive mistreatment of others perpetrated through the use of technology.

Cyberbullying can cause tremendous emotional stress because it can be ubiquitous, far-reaching and is often committed anonymously. In a 2013 survey of 12-18 year olds, 24% of youth reported being cyberbullied in their lifetime[1], and 88% percent reported seeing someone else be mean or cruel on social media[2].

A nanny and other adult caregivers have a responsibility to support not only targets of cyberbullying but to help foster a sense of cyber-civility and kindness online. An important start is to have conversations with youth about the topic, which can be difficult because the majority of youth report that they don’t tell adults in their life about their experiences with cyberbullying[3].

Many youth believe there will be negative repercussions if they tell an adult about what is happening to them, especially if that adult holds power in their life. Among the range of negative repercussions youth fear are ineffective adult intervention as well as limiting or taking away their technology, which for many youth means taking away their social life.

Tapping into one’s own experiences with bullying can be useful in showing empathy and starting a conversation about addressing hurtful behavior.   From there, here are some suggestions about what adults can do to intervene effectively and positively in incidents of cyberbullying— and some things not to do.

  • Don’t tell the child to ignore the bullying. Cyberbullying can happen at any time of day with or without the actual presence of the target. Ignoring it does not stop aggressors from posting or sending mean or bias related comments. They shouldn’t reply to the messages, but rather work with them to strategize ways to address the situation.
  • Resist trying to provide a rationale for why it is happening by oversimplifying the issue or rely on false information or myths. For example, one myth is that all aggressors in bullying suffer from low self-esteem. In reality, there is data to support that people who bully actually have high opinions of themselves.
  • Provide support and encouragement, rather than blaming or shaming a young person.  Often targets are blamed for the bullying because they act in ways that are perceived as “different” or because they are unabashed about their identity.  Bullying based on differences is the result of the aggressor’s bias against that kind of difference, not because the target provoked it.
  • Don’t agree to untenable solutions.  Often youth will beg adults not to report the situation or do anything at all.  Listen to their needs and include their opinions in your process, but do not agree to solutions which do not work towards resolving this situation and ending the bullying. Threats and any exchange of nude photographs require contacting the proper authorities.
  • Be familiar with the variety of strategies available to address cyberbullying.  Confronting the aggressors is only one of the many possible solutions for addressing online cruelty. There are many ways to report and address cyberbullying, often anonymously.
  • Encourage the target to develop coping skills, but do not encourage them to retaliate physically or online. Most schools have policies that punish everyone involved in violence and retaliation usually only results in escalation.
  • Read these Internet Guidelines for more technical assistance on how to keep youth in your care safe online.

For more tips on how to prevent or intervene in incidents of bullying and to download some strategies for youth, please visit our bullying and cyberbullying resource page.

8 Things Teachers Wish Parents Knew

October 8, 2014

Originally posted here.

The parent-teacher relationship is indeed a special one. When you’re both on the same page, you can pave the way for a (hopefully!) smooth school year. But often parents don’t realize it’s their own common misconceptions that are causing bumps in the road. So we asked teachers what they’d tell parents point-blank if they had the chance — and some of their answers might surprise you.

1. “Attending back-to-school night can really help us both.”
It’s not just the same spiel every year. Often, your child’s new teachers will also have new policies and procedures to tell you about. If you miss out, you might not know to look in your kid’s backpack for important papers each day (like information on picture day or the school play) or what sort of homework schedule to expect.

2. “If your kid’s having a bad morning (or a bad week, or a bad month), let me know when you drop him off.”
You don’t have to go into detail, but it can make for an easier day if your child’s teacher knows that he might be feeling a little bit off.

3. “I can tell when your kid isn’t getting enough sleep.”
Teachers are noticing that kids just don’t have bedtimes like they used to. If your kid stays up too late watching TV or playing on the computer, it can affect how he feels and acts during the day.

4. “I buy school supplies (with my own money) for a reason.”
It’s a sad truth, but many schools just don’t provide teachers with the budget they need to help their classroom activities run smoothly. So take care to not lose that sturdy folder (filled with helpful memos) that the teacher sends home with your kid every day. And if he or she asks you to chip in for classrooms supplies, do what you can.

5. “If you have younger kids, you can’t trust them to tell you everything that happens at school.”
So check their backpacks for homework assignments, permission slips, or notes home. And take advantage of parent-teacher conferences to get some undivided time with the teacher.

6. “When your kid gets older, it doesn’t mean you can start being less involved.”
In high school and middle school, you might be tempted to ease off the gas when it comes to checking in on what your child does at school. But teachers report that setting a positive example, and taking interest in your kid’s education, is still critical in the later years.

7. “I work on the weekends.”
If you still believe that teaching is a part-time job, educators would like to remind you that they regularly put in extra long days and catch-up on classroom prep on the weekend.

8.  “You can ask me anything.”
If there’s one thing teachers want from their students’ parents, it’s more communication. Teachers view education as a collaborative process between them and the parent, so if you have a question or concern, definitely speak up! The clearer you are with other, the easier and more productive the year will be.

5 Simple Tips For Stress-Free Homework Time

September 25, 2014

homework-tips1
Originally posted here.

We all know how hectic after school time can be and getting kids to sit down and focus on their homework is a daily battle that we all have to face as parents. I’ve so been there! After nagging, reminding….even forcing my kids to sit and get their homework done for too long, we started to make some changes that have helped our family.

Below you’ll find some simple tips that have made homework time more manageable in our home.

1. Have a snack.  Having a snack prepared for when the kids get home has made a big difference for us in cutting down on the chaos that comes with after school. I like to have a few healthy choices laid out on the table when the kids get home, my preschooler loves helping me set this out and when everyone arrives home I can focus on them and not snack. Snack doesn’t have to be elaborate. I like it to be something simple and healthy that the kids can eat while they work on their homework. Pretzels, apple slices, grapes, cheese strings. Sometimes I make a yummy batch of their favorite muffins. Getting the kids refueled after school is important and having a snack prepared ahead of time helps us get right down to business and get homework done!

2. Keep Homework supplies handy. Keeping homework supplies well stocked and in a central location has really helped us cut down on the amount of time we spend doing homework each afternoon and eased the stress of after school time. When the kids came home they used to spend 5 or more minutes searching for a pencil or other supplies they needed to complete their work, not to mention getting distracted at some point during their search. I set up a very simple and inexpensive homework station in our home that houses all things homework related – from filing the kids school paper work, to supplies like clipboards, pencils, erasers, crayons, rulers, etc. Everything is located right next to the table where we do homework and the kids know where to find everything they need.

3. Have clear expectations. Our kids know that when they get home from school it’s clean up and put away their school things, have a snack and complete their homework before screen time or playing with friends. After countless battles with getting kids to turn off the tv, or trying to gather them in from outside playing with friends to finish homework, this is what works for us. Without the distraction of tv or screens, homework gets done quicker and getting to watch a favorite show or go play with friends is just the incentive they need to stay on task and get their homework done quickly.

4. Activities for younger siblings. If you have preschoolers in your home it can be tricky to devote your time to helping older siblings with homework. What I’ve found works for my preschooler is to have an activity book set out with us at the table while the big kids do their homework. This is a special activity book that only comes out at this time of day and it’s become a special daily ritual that she enjoys!  She loves feeling like she’s a part of everything and doing her “homework” with the big kids, all the while she is occupied so that I can focus my attention on the older kids.

5. Develop a routine. Find an after school routine that works for you and stick with it. The key to having a stress-free after school time for our family has been having a regular routine, which includes putting shoes, backpacks and lunch supplies away first thing when the kids arrive home. Placing homework and papers at their spot at the table where we do homework. The kids sit down for snack and start on homework while they eat. We’ve fine tuned this routine and practiced it. We keep things the same and consistent and because the kids know what’s expected when they get home from school it’s taken the nagging from me out of the equation.


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