Friday, November 30, 2012

Behavior Management: Tips You Can Use

Behavior Management: Tips You Can Use

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Ben Franklin

Ben had it right. I’d rather put in effort to prevent issues than work at having to put out the flames of misbehavior. Behavior management is more than discipline it’s setting up children for successes and being proactive in providing those opportunities.

Be Observant – Be aware of what is going on in each child’s age and stage of development. Know what new challenges are before them and how they are managing those challenges. Take an assessment of their physical needs – sleep, nutrition, activity level or general comfort. Do adjustments need to be made? Be watchful for stressors – irritations, frustrations, worries or changes in schedule. These can make a big difference to how children react to situations. Are you noticing a child who is over or under stimulated, overly rushed or bored? These can be signs pointing to schedule issues. A child who is well rested, hydrated, eating nutritious meals, participating in a varied routine and at a minimum stress level has a much easier time coping with their world.

Environment – The physical environment can contribute to the child’s success or struggles. Assess play spaces. Is there enough space to engage in activities and play, access to age appropriate toys or activities, system for keeping toys or activities stored and organized, play space is clean and safe? Is there a place for active play that won’t interfere with another child choosing a quiet activity? Can a child find a quiet spot to read with an adult comfortably for both? Is the lighting appropriate for chosen tasks? Many children are sensitive to bright lights, textures, sound or other environmental components that can affect their behavior. You may find that some very simple changes will make all the difference.

Routines – Schedules ground children. Knowing what they can expect from the day is important and for some children it is critical. Regular meals and snacks, rest time, active time and quiet play, are all important in establishing the daily routine. When special activities or outings are planned keep the child’s routine in mind. Try to maintain meal time as close to normal as possible. Provide for some rest or nap time as close to their usual schedule as possible. Pace your outing so that no one, including you, becomes over tired or exhausted. Prepare children for outings or special activities. This could be as easy as simply introducing the plan at the start of your day. Briefly outline the activity, when you are leaving, when you’ll return home, some details about what they can expect from the activity, and answering their questions. Reminders throughout the activity about the plan can help everything flow well.

Recognize Good Behavior – When children are behaving well we need to give them positive feedback to confirm to them they are on the right track. They need to get positive reinforcement so those behaviors are firmly established. It’s as easy as saying “I like the way you are playing with your Legos!” It might be tempting to just leave them to it while they are doing well, but this is the time to pour on the praise. Make sure that your recognition is real and sincere. Children can spot “phony” a mile away. Even after the fact you can provide positive comments – “I was just thinking about how well you shared with your sister yesterday. It was so nice to see that!” This kind of feedback empowers better behavior.

Choices – Children are building autonomy starting in those early toddler years, but they need our guidance. Providing them with appropriate choices lets them have some control within limits. The younger the child the fewer the choices offered to them. Start with two and build from there. You are encouraging decision making and problem solving skills while limiting tantrums and breakdowns. Make sure that the choices you offer are reasonable and appropriate, and that you can back them up.

When you offer options you are telling the child that their opinion matters, you value their decision and that you can be counted on to follow through.

Redirection – This proactive technique is very effective for young children, especially toddler and young preschoolers. I have to admit to also using it on school age and teenagers as well. To use redirection effectively, you must be observant of the child for signs that their behavior is about to change (and not for the better). Once you hone in on their behavior signals you’ll be able to redirect the child to other activity choices or to shift your routine to accommodate them. If playing with a particular toy is frustrating to a child offer a more pleasing option that provides them with a sense of accomplishment. If you see that they are more tired than usual suggest a quiet activity that will allow them to recharge. If they need to blow off some steam then shift gears to a more physically active choice. As the children got older I explained how I could see their behavior changing and asked for their ideas to help things turn around. They often had great ideas that were easily implemented, and even better they were beginning to recognize their own behavior patterns.

Limits that Make Sense – Setting limits that make sense allows for cooperative behavior. Obviously when children are very young limits are set by the adults in their lives. It’s vital that all the adults are agreed about what those parameters are; nothing is more frustrating to a child stretching and experimenting with their boundaries to find that there are different rules depending on who is “in charge.” Children are adaptable and can accept differences in caregivers styles but it really helps them to have consistent expectations regarding behavior. Limits should be clear and simple. Boundaries need to be modified as children get older. Including the older child’s views in the modification of boundaries encourages cooperation.

Listening – Good listening habits start early. We expect children to listen to us, but we also need to model listening skills. You may hear some important feedback about things that are working or not working in relation to expectations. This feedback can help to rethink limits and boundaries that will work best. The children in my care got to know that if they came to me with a suggestion or idea that I would honestly listen and consider their point. They felt valued and appreciated which led to better behavior. Being heard has power.

Take 5 – This technique uses either giving children a break or having children take a break when an infraction has occurred or better yet before it happens. I introduced "take 5" to young toddlers as a way to take a break after we've tried other things like redirection or changing activities. Toddlers often demonstrate their frustrations with tantrums. If possible I would have them take a break before we got to that point. A break really is just a time to breath deeply and move away from the action but not out of the room. They needed time to regroup and start again so I never put a time limit on the break. Usually just a few seconds to maybe a minute was all they needed. Once they got used to the "take 5" they would sometimes annouce they were going to "take 5" without my input at all. I can still remember the middle child, he'd just turned 3, announcing to me that he was getting "flusterated" (a good description of his situation) and needed to "take 5". As they got older they would sometimes want to "take 5" in their room or in another location. When they rejoined the activities we moved on and didn't dwell on past behavior but moved forward with a positive attitude.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Celebrations Anytime

While this is the season for all kinds of holiday celebrations, traditions and special events to enjoy, there are celebrations that you can have anytime of year. You don't have to wait for a special event to have a party. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about making ordinary days unique.

Puppy Drama
Puppy Party - Whether celebration your pet or a favorite stuffed animal this party has gone to the dogs. Pin-the-tail on the Pup game, "pupcakes", puppy chow snack, pups on parade (which could include a neighborhood walk), and 101 Dalmatians video time are just a few fun ideas. We've even eaten our meal or snack from clean new plastic pet dishes.
Ready to Build!
Construction Party - This is great for the child who lives trucks, building or digging. Snacks can be served from new plastic dump trucks, everyone can wear a kid sized construction hat and enjoy Dirt Cake. We've taken over the family room with Lego buildings and craft foam roadways. We had a video about construction vehicles that fascinated them when they were younger. Also there are great books out there for all ages on the theme and makes for a nice quiet time activity.

Under the Sea Party - Create an ocean scene under the kitchen table with streamers, fish cutouts and a tropical beach towel. Just laying on the floor under the table was fun to do. A card table can be a nice alternative to using the main table. Enjoy magnetic fishing game, create an ocean scene using crayon relief with watercolor, followed by fish cracker snacks served from a clean new fishbowl, and quiet time with the Little Mermaid storybook.

Magnetic Fishing Game
What other creative themes can you come up with to may an ordinary day extraordinary? Have fun and share your idea with us hear!!

Party Idea Details:
Pupcakes - frost your favorite cupcake with white frosting top with peppermint patty and chocolate chips for a paw print. Simple but delicious as a fun treat.

Dirt Cake
   1 package (15-1/2 ounces) Oreo cookies (or other sandwich cookie)
   Option: Clean dump truck toy or other container
   1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
   1/2 cup butter
   1 cup confectioners' sugar
   1 teaspoon vanilla
   3 cups milk
   2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix or you can use chocolate pudding.
   1 carton (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
Crush cookies until they resemble potting soil. Divide the crumbs - half go in the bottom of the container and half are used on the top. Reserve top half for finish.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. In another bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes (mixture will be thick). Fold in whipped topping. Gently fold into cream cheese mixture until blended.
Add filling to containers; top with reserved crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.  Yield: 12 servings
This is also a great recipe for a Garden Party - serve in new clean pot and "garnish" with garden tool or silk flower (both new of course).

Magnetic Fishing - attach a small magnet to the end of a string that has been tied to a wooden dowel or wooden skewer. Cut out fish or other ocean creatures from construction paper or felt. Place a paper clip on the fish near the mouth area and go fishing! If you want to make a "pond" from a container or mat that adds to the fun. This game has many teaching options as well - letters, numbers, shapes, etc.

Monday, November 26, 2012

First Teacher - That's You!

Do you remember your first teacher? I'd be willing to bet that you are thinking of your Kindergarten or first grade teacher. But did you think of your parents, preschool teacher or nanny? In fact our parents and caregivers were our first teachers, and now we are teachers ourselves. Teachable moments abound in those early years and we have the privilege of taking advantage of them.

Teaching the children in your care doesn't need to have a formal feel. What's so wonderful about teaching young children is that much of it is done spontaneously or incorporated into activities we are normally doing with them. Encouraging the natural curiosity of children is a great place to start. Taking their interests to new levels is where we can incorporate trips to the library, museums or events, projects in art or science, use of dramatic play and even snack time.

Although you don't need a formal lesson plan or curriculum, planning is needed. Using themes can be helpful to your plan. You also want to consider the children's ages, abilities and interests. Including a balance of activities supports learning and keeps the child's attention (and ours as well). Have movement activities or games balanced with quiet time. Offer both large and small muscle development, creative expression and specific skill practice along with the inclusion of music, literature, food fun and experimentation provides for enjoyable learning for everyone. Children will undoubtedly offer plenty of input as you expose them to new ideas and concepts. Being ready to change gears and take advantage of the "spark" of interest can bring even greater enrichment.

Modeling is another way that children learn. Sometimes we don't realize how much they watch us until we hear them use on of our expressions or quote us. We often think of modeling good eating habits or appropriate speech, but remember that they are watching us under all situations. What are you modeling when you are stressed or frustrated? How we express emotions, spend our free time, interact with others are all being carefully observed. If this gives you pause, it should. Children are like sponges and we should be continually asking ourselves what are they absorbing from us. Sometimes the most important life lessons are ones we learned just from watching others.

What a privilege it is to be a teacher. Embrace this opportunity and see the wonderful difference you make in a child's life.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Music is for Everyone

Although every culture has had a highly valued musical history, it has only been through the research of recent decades that we have come to understand the greater value of music in our own lives. Music has been linked to increased verbal skills, better test scores and stronger memory. And while we may look at this data as a positive vote for music in our lives, it is  perhaps the emotional connection with music that we can relate to best.

As infants we were soothed with quiet tunes and lullabies that sent us off to sleep. As young children we discovered the pure job of simple songs that we could sing ourselves. The rhythm, pitch and lyrics drew us into the music with an undeniable emotional component that lingers into adulthood. I'm sure you've had the experience of hearing a tune or song that reaches back into your memory recalling events, people, feelings, and it brings a smile to your face just to hear it. Music has a power all its own.

While music is entertaining for children it is also helping mold their mental, emotional, social and physical development. This is evidenced when we see the happy face of a child bouncing, dancing, clapping, and singing with someone they trust and love. While they are having a wonderful time they are also heightening spatial awareness, improving listening, concentration and speech. Music has also been linked to jump starting reading and language skills.

Music can:
  • Stimulate brain growth prenatally and is the first form of communication
  • Be the basis for understanding the physical world through sound patterns
  • Reduce stress or physical pain, even in infancy
  • Enhance motor development
  • Strengthen and improve language and communication skills
  • Open emotional expression and creativity
  • Improve pre-academic and academic skills - particularly reading, writing, mathematics and memorization
  • Introduce the joy of community and strengthen self identity
Regular music instruction has been particularly linked to increased test scores throughout the school years. Early childhood programs rely on a strong musical component to each day. As a nanny I have made concerted efforts to expose the children to a variety of music daily.

We have been known to sing through our whole day, all verbal communication was in song (we thought it was fun to create our own opera). Music has been a tool to encourage quiet time. It was a great transition to nap time and as they grew out of naps a way to allow for quiet activities such as reading or working a puzzle with gentle music in the background. Even now as young adults they use music to relax or de-stress and so do I.
All the children that I've nannied for have been enrolled in instrument instruction from an early age which has given them another tool of communication and is a source of real joy to them. Music instruction can start with fun programs designed for infants, toddlers and preschoolers which expose children to rhythm, pitch and patterns in a playful environment. If children show an interest in playing an instrument there are a number of child friendly methods and teachers available. Although, interest in an instrument should be child initiated it often falls to the adults to encourage the required practice. Music programs that work with the whole family are helpful in offering strategies to make practice time more fun with games, goal setting and positive reinforcement techniques. For some children and families formal instruction comes to an end for various reasons, but the value of that experience stays with the child well into adulthood.

I find it amazing that music, which has been available to us our whole lives, can have such a powerful effect on the mind and body. Truly music is for everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Creative Thanksgiving Ideas

 You know how much we like Family Fun. If you are looking for some creative Thanksgiving crafts, games, recipes and more check out Here are a few of the many ideas from the website. Enjoy!
Not only can this festive bird really dress up a Thanksgiving table, it also does double duty serving up your dinner rolls.

   Large brown paper bag
   Piece of corrugated cardboard
   Paper plates
   Mod-Podge glue
   Colored paper
   Orange or red balloon and googly eyes
   Glitter, stickers, or other notions
   Craft clothespins
   Tacky glue
  1. Turkey Table Topper - Step 1 The Turkey's Body:
    Trim the bag so that it measures about 8 inches tall. Then fold down the sides so that they are half the height and double the thickness. Cut the cardboard to fit in the bottom of the bag and insert it. Next, fold a paper plate in half and fit it inside the bag where the tail will go, bending the sides as needed.
  2. Turkey Table Topper - Step 2 Staple the plate in place. Then staple a second plate (don't fold this one) to the outside of the bag behind the first plate. For wings, fold 2 paper plates in half and staple one to each side so the bag is sandwiched between it.
  3. Turkey Table Topper - Step 3 For the turkey's head, fold and staple another paper plate, as illustrated. Decorate all the paper plates, including the head, by gluing on torn bits of colored paper. Then add a balloon wattle and googly eyes.
  4. Turkey Table Topper - Step 4 The Feathers:
    Have your kids glue colored paper shapes on paper plates, layering different prints or creating bold patterns if they like.
  5. When the glue is dry, cut feather shapes out of the plates and stick a craft clothespin to the back of each with tacky glue so your child can attach the feathers to the paper plates. For an extrafancy finish, they can add decorative notions or even their names.

The leisurely pace of Turkey Day can be challenging for small celebrants. Keep spirits high with this fun game. The dexterity test fills downtime between courses (and may have kids hunting for runaway game pieces).
What You Need        Chopsticks
       Unshelled walnut
       Small plate
Give each player a set of chopsticks and place an unshelled walnut, an acorn, a cranberry, and a pea on a small plate next to the oldest player. She begins by using the chopsticks to pass each object, from largest to smallest, to the person on her right, who receives it with chopsticks and passes it along to the next player. The object is to try to get all four objects back to the starting plate without dropping any of them. Players unable to manage the chopsticks can use a teaspoon instead.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Media - Friend or Foe?

     Thinking back 20+ years to when the children in my charge were young, we limited the amount of television that they watched to a few shows during the day which were usually educationally based. They loved Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Blues Clues - it was the type of programming that we all felt good about and we watched together. We listened to a variety of music including classical, jazz, show tunes, and culturally diverse choices. Our video choices were varied as well including character building themes, classics and just for fun titles. We pre-screened commercial movies before taking the children. We made sure the books we selected were content rich and age appropriate. We were careful about all media choices. Our goal was to plant seeds that would bloom into a well rounded background that didn't rely on TV, DVDs or video games as a base of entertainment or education for the children.

     Some of those seeds did indeed bloom and produce fruit. All three children love a variety of music, they enjoy playing instruments and singing. They have shared their music with others, performing as a community service. Their interests in literature, music and films are all well rounded. All three have been involved in drama and theater in some way. We never found a way to filter out all the "junk" from their media diet. As they got older they started exploring the "popular" TV programs and movies. Not all of these came with an endorsement from me or their parents but we were able to make some compromises that gave them some control which is what teens are looking for. Often I'd watch these shows with them so they we could talk about issues or what could be considered objectionable or acceptable.

     Like many of you, I feel television has taken advantage of children's programming. If you've watched Cartoon Network or even the Disney Channel you know what I mean. Not only the shows content or attitude are only part of the problem. The hard hitting commercials aimed at kids are unrelenting. Sometimes it's hard to tell the program from the commercial. All age brackets are covered - earlier afternoon/evening programing is aimed at younger children, prime time and later for teens. We all talked openly about this type of advertising being honest about what is really going on.

      There are some provisions that we set in place before any media is used. Homework must be completed along with any household or personal responsibilities. For the most part they were not to watch shows unless an adult was around as well - whether or not the adult was watching with them. The "adult present" rule provided a supervised monitor. While we have more than one TV in the house they are all in common rooms so supervision was available.
     The same thing went for video or computer games. There was a time limit and adult needs to be supervising. Some games are engaging have had elements that are positives - problem solving, strategy, role playing, actions / consequences - which can all be learning experiences with adult guidance. I confess I still like the ones where your race against each other and build skills to the next level. I have never enjoyed battle type games and usually didn't play them. Interestingly, those are the ones that they lost interest in over time. I intentionally told them how much I like playing a particular game and why. This encouraged them to play those games over others.

     We set appropriate limits when they were young and as they matured the limits were adjusted accordingly. Part of growing up is exploration of options, but they need to know that adults are there to advise and guide them, and ultimately have a final decision. When they were toddlers they had the choice between a blue cup or a red cup at snack, as teens they had more options but through it all the adults worked as a team to help guide them. Because we live in a media saturated world which is expanding daily, we need to be aware of what messages children being exposed to. These children are now all out on their own as young adults. While media is part of their lives I know it doesn't control their lives. I believe this is due, at least in part, to the thought their parents and I put into guiding them when they were younger.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Family Friendly Game with a Personal Twist

Ask Me Anything

by Amy Brown, Photograph by Joe Polillio from Family Fun Magazine 
Just how well do you know that grandma of yours? This easygoing question game may yield some surprising discoveries.
You'll see the link in the setup section to a set of pre-made questions that you can print and use or will give you some ideas for your own questions.

  1. The Setup: Make a basic game board (we recommend dividing a piece of sturdy cardboard into about 30 spaces) or simply use a board from a game you have on hand, such as Candy Land. On index cards, write questions that will help uncover interesting facts about your family members (find a set of questions here).

    Place the question cards facedown in a pile and assign each player a game piece.
  2. To Play: The first player draws a card and reads the question aloud to the player on his right. The player writes down his answer while the questioner writes down what he thinks the answer will be. Both players then read their answers aloud. If they match, the questioner rolls the dice and moves his piece that number of spaces, then draws another question to ask another player.

    If the answers don't match, the next player draws a question. The first player to reach the designated end space wins.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Promoting Healthy Habits

It's that time of year again - cold and flu season. Here are a few reminders on promoting healthy habits in children that can help them through this time of year with less illness.

Hand Washing: There is no substitute for thorough hand washing habits. Using soap and water is the best method for preventing the spread of illness. The keys are friction and time. Introduce young children to hand washing with constant motion using soap and water while singing the ABC Song through two times. Even better make up your own hand washing song that will give children ownership of the experience. While hand sanitizers are fine when nothing else is available they don’t compare to soap and water. In order for a hand sanitizer product to be effective it needs to contain 90% alcohol – most do not contain this much. At 90% alcohol it can mean that skin will suffer from extended use of the product – not very child friendly.

Sneezes and Coughs: We all know by now that catching sneezes or coughs in the crook of your arm or at the shoulder away from others is the best method for avoiding spread of illness. Practicing with children when they are well reinforces behaviors when they are sick. You can demonstrate what a sneeze or cough does in the air by using a spray bottle with water. They can see how water droplets shoot out into a room.

Eating Right: Promoting healthy food habits is an important part of illness prevention. When we have a balanced diet, good snack choices and plenty of rest our bodies work with us to resist illness. Choose foods that support health – include plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit fats and sugars, and go with water over sugary drinks. Having a special treat now and again is no problem for those who get a good balanced diet.

Exercise and Outdoor Activities: Encourage plenty of activity each day which features outdoor time. Spending time outdoors can mean walks, active games, art time, sand and water play, science and nature activities, and more. Time outdoors as weather permits, promotes a healthy appetite, encourages deeper sleep/nap and enhances overall wellbeing. When the weather doesn’t permit outdoor time don’t forget that physical activities can take place indoors as well. Indoor obstacle courses, dance, and action games can help on those days. While all children can benefit from being outdoors and active play, it’s especially true for children that are behaviorally challenged.

There is a lot we can do to promote healthy habits and prevent illness. Starting early forming these habits will lead to healthier, happier children.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Candy Bar Cookies

by Kelly Miller

Are you looking for a way to use extra Halloween candy?  I made these cookies last week using M&M's, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Reese's Pieces and Hershey Chocolate Bars.  Be creative, and let the kids pick out candy that they think would taste good together.  (Alternatively, you could use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and add the chopped candy bars in place of chocolate chips).  I suggest using more than the 6 oz of candy that the recipe suggests.  The cookies disappeared quickly at my house!

Monday, November 5, 2012

How Do I Stop My Child from Hitting?

by Samantha Sawyer, M.A.
CCC-SLPOwner, Brightening Connections LLC

Is your daughter’s kindergarten teacher sending home notes about her behavior, calling you at work, or (yikes) trying to schedule a parent-teacher meeting? If so, then I can imagine that life at home right now feels pretty serious. You’re doing your best to teach your child and trying everything you know to do as a “good” parent. You’re following all the appropriate steps, you:

§  Talk about the problems at school, grilling your daughter for all the details in order to make sense of the situation;
§  Use logic to reason with her so she can see her mistakes;
§  Talk about feelings – your daughter’s, your own, and those of her peers and teacher;
§  Come to an agreement on how your daughter will behave tomorrow and end with a sense of understanding.
However…the next day at school it happens all over again. All the patience, time, and energy you spent with your daughter seem to be for nothing. This time when you review the day with her, you aren’t as controlled or contained, and you say, “I will not allow my child to continue this behavior!” Sound familiar?

It’s true that part of your job as Parent is to teach your child so she develops good behavior and social skills, but sometimes we adults have misinformation on how to do this in a “good” way. Luckily, no one is to blame for this (nope, not you, your child or her teacher).
Kids who hit others at school are expressing a message other than simply, “I don’t like you; get away from me.” It can be an emotional message (I’m frustrated), an internal message (I’m tired) and/or a sensory message (It’s too loud in here). When we understand what your child is expressing we can truly correct the core of the problem.

One of the “jobs” of children is to develop a strong sense of “we” to balance out the perspective of their usual “me.” When children have good perspective taking skills they’re able to get along well at school and make friends. “I already know this – that’s what I’m doing!,” you might think. If so, you’re on the right track! However, children require less logic and more experiential learning. Unfortunately for us, we mostly know to teach “we” by sitting children down and logically explaining all sides of a situation.

So how do I bring in experiential learning? Experiential learning is in-the-moment teaching. For example, if your child accidentally drops a gallon of milk, spilling it all over, the best way to use this experience as learning is to comment on her emotions. You could say, “Oh no – all the milk spilled; I can tell you’re upset right now!” By labeling your child’s emotions it regulates the stress chemistry in her brain and gives her access to the words she needs to describe how she feels inside. The trick here is to stay silent after acknowledging her emotion so that her brain has a chance to integrate first her emotions and then come up with a solution. It’s tempting, and sometimes easier in the short-term, to react in anger and/or punish your child immediately for her mistake. This is called the “easy-hard” solution, meaning you react in a way that’s easy but over time your relationship and her development become strained. Giving her as many opportunities as possible to label her emotions at home and come up with a solution will pave the way for success at school. Putting the time and effort in on the front end is the hard-easy solution, meaning it’s hard at first but it ultimately makes life easier and better for your child and your family.
Give yourself permission to try this technique, called “name it to tame it” (from Dr Daniel Siegel’s book The Whole Brain Child). This works great for children who:
§  Primarily react with anger;
§  Blame others for their mistakes;
§  Use hitting as a problem-solving technique.
You’ll be helping your child’s brain to integrate and become flexible in responding to problem situations. Plus you’ll rest easy when the tension has finally released.
Want more personalized strategies like these? Sign up for your free consultation with Brightening Connections today!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Helping Children through Difficult Times

We felt this previously posted article about coping with difficult times could be helpful to nannies and families in light of hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.

Difficult times for children can include personal issues but also world situations. They hear about earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, flooding, protests, government transitions, terrorist attacks and more. Whether these are close to home or on the evening news, our children feel the loss and pain of these tragedies. Children are trying to cope on different levels and they are looking to the adults in their lives for stability, security and perspective.

Keep lines of communication open and be ready to listen. Hear their concerns, fears, observations and questions. While we may want to downplay their fears and concerns we should respect their feelings. Answer questions honestly and clearly while providing support and reassurance. You may need to ask some leading questions to help them verbalize. “Tell me more about that” is great statement to encourage sharing. Children who are showing distress but not talking about it may need your gentle guidance to conversation.

It is appropriate to let children know your feelings about these tragedies so they realize that their feelings are normal. Share your coping strategies with them. What do you do to address your fears? Help them see that society has changed to address uncertainty and make their lives safer. For example, talk about tightened airport security, review what your child's school has done to improve safety and security, and help them to see that they have a role to play in their own neighborhood and community. If you are in an area that is not prone to some types of natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, let them know that the risks are low. If you are in a higher risk area, remind them about how your community is prepared.

Children may want to learn more about situations and how they can help. Participate with them in this endeavor. You may discover ways to take action that will help process concerns and refocus toward a positive outcome. We know how it feels if we are able to make a difference in the lives of others and children also appreciate being able to participate in a constructive way.

We all hear and see the news reports, multiple repeat stories, as well as reviews of disasters or tragedies. It is hard enough for us, as adults, to manage all the exposure. Children really struggle with too much information, so limiting exposure is important. When children are young we can do this quite easily, but for school age children this can be difficult. Maintaining regular routines and normal expectations while considering others allows children to feel supported and secure on a daily basis.