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Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians, which we call Scribit Veritas.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

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Keep Record

Keep recordMy daughter turns six months old tomorrow and I can’t believe how fast time has gone by since her birth. My husband and I sat together last night and tried to relive our favorite memories of our daughter. To our dismay, we had forgotten a lot of sweet moments with our baby as time had passed. We vowed then and there to begin writing down memories as they occurred so they could be treasured throughout life.

As much as we would like to think that we will always remember precious moments with our family members our memories are sometimes far from perfect. Recording these moments in a journal allows us to remember and relive experiences that have shaped our families. It is also a way to leave a legacy for our posterity.

Journaling is a great way to learn from our successes and mistakes of parenting and marriage. As I write down my struggles as a mother it helps me work through my thoughts and get a better view of the situation. I am able to see things more clearly. As we write down the events of our lives, we can go back, read and learn from them.

I am always telling my husband how much I want to freeze time and keep our daughter little. At the same time I’m so excited to watch her grow up and become the person she will be. Journaling is a way to have the best of both worlds. My entries allow each precious moment to freeze onto the pages of my journal to be read again and again.

 

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Homework Help

homework helpHave you ever looked at your child’s spelling words and thought, “I can’t spell those words off the top of my head” or looked at their math homework and felt inadequate to help them with it? My own mother told me that she found herself in similar situations more often than she would have liked. My mom graduated high school and attended some college which means she probably learned most if not all of what my siblings and I learned during school. The problem is that as time passed, she forgot a lot of what she had been taught.

Jessica Shepherd, education correspondent for TheGuardian.com reported from a survey that, “Some 37% of [the] children said they were sometimes unable to finish their homework because there was no one at home who could help them.” She also added that, “Some 83% of parents with nine to 13-year-olds admitted to pollsters that they had been unable to do homework tasks set for their children.” So how do we become parents who are capable of helping our children with their homework? My advice is to start learning or relearning things your child is studying at school. Education should be a lifelong pursuit. One thing I have started doing is printing out my own spelling words to hang on the fridge with my daughters. We take turns quizzing each other.

Of course, as parents we don’t usually have a lot of time on our hands to take on another task like learning algebra. The rule of thumb should be to do only what you have time and energy for. There are other ways to help children with school work, too. Andrea Stanley, writer for Parents.com, lists five tips here. They include:

  1. Don’t Fake It. Don’t try to muddle through homework you don’t understand.
  2. Ask Professor Google
  3. Create a Homework Hotline
  4. Don’t Mix Dinner and Diagrams. If you’re attempting to make dinner while trying to master the order of the planets in the solar system, there is guaranteed to be a mix-up along the way.
  5. Invest in a Tutor

Image uploaded from http://www.parenting.com/article/help-kids-with-homework

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React vs. Respond

I considered myself a patient person until I had kids. Kids are one of our biggest blessings but sometimes they can stretch us and try us until we think we’re going to break.

The first time I realized that I wasn’t as patient as I had always thought was when my first child refused to sleep at night and spent hours crying, unable to be consoled. I didn’t foresee the surge of emotions that would come after hours and hours of trying to calm my baby. If I was going to cope with parenthood and give my baby the best care possible I was going to have to learn quickly how to respond rather than react.

Nicole Swarz, a parent coach with a license in family therapy has said, “Reacting means that you meet your child’s emotionally-charged behavior with your own emotionally-charged reply. Responding, on the other hand, gives your child permission to express their big emotions, ideas and feelings without criticism, shame or guilt.” It definitely takes practice to train ourselves to respond to our children. It’s also important to forgive ourselves and to keep trying if we mess up and react in an emotional way.

This principle can also apply to our marriages. We all have buttons that when pushed, cause us to react in a negative way. If we can train ourselves to respond even then, we may just save ourselves a lot of time, energy, and frustration.

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Words Can Hurt

words can hurtI love my dad but he has a red hot temper. When he gets fired up about something he can say some nasty things. As a child I was affected deeply by the things he would say. My sister said something interesting to him once after he apologized for saying some hurtful things to her in the heat of an argument. She said, “I forgive you but I won’t be able to forget what you said.” My dad has taken that statement to heart and has worked on thinking before saying anything he wouldn’t want his kids to remember.

According to a study by Martin H. Teicher, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues, “Vissing et al. found that 63% of American parents reported one or more instances of verbal aggression, such as swearing at and insulting their child. Children who were the target of frequent verbal aggression exhibited higher rates of physical aggression, delinquency, and interpersonal problems than other children.” As parents, we are among the most important people in our children’s lives. When choosing how we speak to our children we should remember the impact we can have on them.

We all find ourselves in situations where our patience is tried. Kids are hard! I find it helpful to keep a broader perspective when I’m tempted to say something to my child I would regret. In twenty years will it matter that I made my point and got my child to listen to me or will it matter more that my child remembers me as making her feel secure and loved? Practice pausing before speaking next time you’re upset with your child and think about the impact what you say will have. It may change the way you communicate with your kids.

 

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Traditions

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I read the cutest story the other day about a family who started a spontaneous family tradition by celebrating Christmas on Labor Day. The family spent Labor Day doing a lot of things they normally do on Christmas including decorating a small tree, buying gifts for each other (at the dollar store), drinking hot chocolate, and watching a Christmas movie. Each child in this family has never forgotten the day they celebrated Christmas on Labor Day.

I think it’s good for all of us to ask ourselves if we are making memories that our children will cherish throughout their lives. Family traditions bring us together and give us an identity as a family. Children often look forward to certain times of the year because of them. They are important! What’s so great about family traditions is that they can be simple and easy and still have a great impact on everyone involved. Family traditions can also be daily, weekly, monthly, during holidays, etc. If you need help brainstorming, there are many ideas that can help you get started here.

Our children will inevitably grow up, leave home, and may start families of their own someday. What a joy it will be to relive the memories of when everyone was together, taking part in special family traditions.

 

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Overscheduled!

overscheduledWhen our three boys were 6, 8, and 10, we had them signed up to play T-ball, baseball, and soccer, as well as piano lessons and Cub Scouts.  Every day after school, we were loading them up in the minivan and taking them to practices, lessons, or meetings, rushing through homework, chores, and frequently getting fast food to eat.  Family dinners had become a rare occasion and unstructured playtime was a thing of the past. Every Saturday was devoted to attending three different games, sometimes having to split up to have family representation, because two games were happening simultaneously. After one particularly hectic day, we sat down to have a talk with our boys.

“Just how much do you want to play soccer (the current sport)?”  They all answered that they wanted to continue. “The cost to sign up is $50 each, plus uniforms, shin-guards and soccer shoes.  Would you be willing to do extra work around the house and in the yard to earn the money to pay for this?”  Two of our boys quickly answered in the negative.  “I don’t want to play that much!”  My first thought was, “Then why have we been doing this?”  Only the youngest said that he would be willing to work because he really loved the sport.  The other two gave up all sports, and never expressed any regrets.  In fact, they both told me later that they really enjoyed having time to just relax, play in the backyard, or read a book.

As parents, we want the best for our children and we want to give them the opportunity to try new things, build new skills, and experience as many aspects of life as possible. We sign them up for dance, music lessons, drama, gymnastics, sports, art, and whatever else is offered.   However, children need time to just play, to use their imaginations, or even to do nothing.  According to http://kidshealth.org:

“Sooner or later, kids who are too busy will begin to show signs. Every child is different, but overscheduled kids may:

  • feel tired, anxious, or depressed
  • complain of headaches and stomachaches, which may be due to stress, missed meals, or lack of sleep
  • fall behind on their schoolwork, causing their grades to drop”

So before we schedule our children for multiple activities, just because their friends are all doing it or because we think it is good for them, why not first schedule in some play time and some family time.  Being able to just relax a little and spend time with our families is more important than any soccer game.

 

 

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Befriending Children’s Friends

Befriending Children’s Friends               While traveling a few weeks ago, my husband and I stopped at a fast food joint to get a bite to eat. While sitting down eating our meal, I couldn’t help but notice the peculiar group sitting next to us. The group consisted of about six teenage boys and one middle aged woman. After picking up a few lines of their conversation I learned that the woman was mother to one of the teenage boys and the rest of the boys were his friends. What I found interesting was the way the boys and mother were talking. It was as if they were all friends with each other. It didn’t seem weird to any of them that a mom was hanging out with them. At first I thought to myself that this was a weird situation but after thinking about it, I realized that this wise mother was on to something.

        When you know the people your child spends time with it can give you a unique window into who your child is. You may learn more about your child’s interests, communication skills, fears, and dreams. Befriending your child’s friends might also be beneficial because you can rest assured that you know what types of people are influencing your child.

        Growing up, my parents would oftentimes sit down with me and my friends and have a conversation about just about anything. Later, after my friends had left, my parents would talk to me about each individual friend and ask questions about them, being careful not to be too intrusive.

        While befriending our children’s friends can be very beneficial, there are certain things we need to be cautious about. Dr. Gwen Dewer writes about how parents need to be an authority figure first and foremost and then a friend. She says, “Parents can build close, personal relationships with their kids and still remain responsible adults. Not every friendship is based on sharing equal status.” The same is true when befriending other children. To them, you need to be a parental figure first, and then a friend.

 

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He’s Breathing My Air!

teasing

He won’t leave me alone!”  “She started it!”  “Did not!”  “Did too!”  “He touched me!”  “Well, she’s breathing my air!”  “Don’t look at me!”

Ah, the beautiful sounds of my children spending time together, playing together nicely, and communicating their love for each other. According to the Center for Parenting Education, there are several myths about sibling relationships:

  • Siblings shouldn’t fight with each other.
  • Siblings should know how to play fairly.
  • Siblings should act lovingly toward each other.
  • Siblings should be able to manage their anger toward one another.

If you believe this, you might want to give yourself a reality check. Sibling rivalry is inevitable. But you can work to reduce the frequency and intensity of the conflicts that naturally arise.

  1. Be a facilitator instead of a judge – Ask questions such as, “Why are you mad?”  “What do you think he really wants?”  “What do you think is fair?”  “What do you think that your brother/sister thinks is fair?”  “Do you have any ideas how to solve this?”
  2. Stay calm yourself. When you yell, you set a poor example for your children to follow
  3. Don’t allow them to physically fight. Separate them, sit them down, and explain (calmly) that we don’t ever physically hurt others. Ever!
  4. Don’t compare your kids. Comparisons make a child feel unloved and unappreciated. If you say, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” the child will build resentment toward you and toward their sibling.
  5. Recognize each child for unique talents and abilities.
  6. Plan fun activities to do together. This helps them to create bonds and memories to share.
  7. Plan one-on-one activities with each of your children. This will help to build self-esteem, knowing that they are individually important and helps to reduce jealousy over the time you spend with the siblings.
  8. Treat children fairly, not equally. Instead of giving children the exact same toy, give them different toys that suit their interests and ages. Punish according to what works best and is fair for each child.

Remember, sibling rivalry has a plus side, too. Children learn to negotiate and compromise. They learn to assert themselves. They learn when they have gone too far, a very important social skill. They learn to be resilient. They learn to recognize that others have feelings. And when they see a sibling being attacked by others, they come to their defense, because, after all, they really do love that annoying pest.

http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/sibling-rivalry/will-two-cut-ins-outs-sibling-relationship/

Image retrieved from http://www.michaelwilliamscounseling.com/wp- content/uploads/2014/07/sibling-rivalry.jpg

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It’s Not a Competition

competitionIn my family, like in many others, my husband and I share different roles. Generally I’m the nurturer and he’s the provider. There are also different tasks we complete. For example, I cook and deep clean while he folds laundry and bathes the baby. When things get stressful and tiring we oftentimes find ourselves playing the “who does more?” game. Of course this leads to frustration and feeling unappreciated on both sides.

To help your marriage run more smoothly try getting rid of the competition. When you feel inclined to stack up your efforts against your spouse’s, instead recognize what they are doing. Tell them you notice and appreciate what they do. I recently started writing down small things I notice my husband doing to help our family to function throughout the day. It has changed my perspective tremendously. I am noticing things I had never appreciated before. As I have shown more appreciation for my husband, my feelings have been reciprocated too.

In marriage, you and your spouse are teammates, not rivals. If we work together, the things we can accomplish are great.

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Family Councils

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I grew up in a family of ten children. We were all involved in different activities and had different schedules. Now that I have a family of my own I realize how difficult it must have been for my parents to keep track of everyone’s weekly activities. A great way to keep everybody on the same page is family councils. My parents discovered family councils when I was in high school and it made a huge different in the function of our family.

M. Russell Ballard has said, “In a family council we talk about the needs of the family and the needs of individual members of the family. It is a time to solve problems, make family decisions, plan day-to-day and long-range family activities and goals. It is a time to share one another’s burdens and joys and counsel together, to keep each family member on the right track…” Family councils are a great way to involve children in family decisions as well. It almost seems like a natural response for children to gripe a little bit when asked to do chores. During councils you can have your children help decide what needs to get done which may help them feel more enthusiastic about chores and such.

Family councils can be very helpful for stepfamilies. There are many families working hard to blend together. My family was a blend of 7 of my dad’s children and 3 of my step mom’s daughters. In family councils we were able to bring up thoughts and concerns about our new family. We could brainstorm ideas that would make everyone more comfortable. Family councils really helped bring us together.

My husband and I love to use a template for our family councils. A great example of a family council agenda can be found here.

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