The Child Who Wants to Join Everything

We’ve all heard about parents who “overschedule” their child and keep the child running all week from lesson to lesson or sport to sport, or a combination of the two. The other side of that coin happens too. What if your child wants to join everything? When does a parent draw the line and set some limits?

The answer to those questions can be different for different ages or personalities. A few points to consider as you evaluate what’s right for your family:

  • Does your child enjoy the activity and look forward to it?
  • Is your child overly competitive or hard on themselves if they don’t meet their own expectations?
  • How much expense is involved in the activity? Is that expense reasonable for your family budget?
  • How does participation in the activity affect the rest of the family? Does it require travel or excessive time commitments that take away from other family activities?
  • Is your child’s school performance negatively affected by the activity?
  • Is the activity safe? Is it well supervised?
  • Does your child have a balance of active and more relaxing activities?

Having a child who is ready and willing to explore many new things is a wonderful thing. Children need some opportunities to try out a wide variety of interests and see what clicks for them. Children who try a range of different things may come across a talent or skill that can become a lifelong source of satisfaction for them. Other children get caught up in wanting to do whatever various friends are doing out of some anxiety or feeling of missing out on something if they don’t get to do it all.

As with most things, balance is the key. Answering the above questions is a great way to start to sort through what is right for you and your child. Don’t forget to allow unscheduled time for everyone in the family as well. In a busy world like the one we live in today, we all need some time for quiet contemplation and relaxation.





He Gets To – Why Can’t I?

If you’re the parent of a preteen and you haven’t heard those words come out of your child’s mouth, they will.  (Be honest – a few years back you said them to YOUR parents.) As preteens are starting to put together a better sense of self and their place in the world, they often question what they see as unfairness.  If a friend has certain privileges or possessions that they do not, they can feel they are being denied something they have a right to.

When your child expresses this frustration in an accusatory way, it can easily put you on the defense. It’s a natural reaction for a parent but it generally just sets up an atmosphere of further conflict. Taking a little time to ready yourself for these questions can help you to keep a cool head and yet maintain your own standards for your family.

All families have their own rules, expectations, and financial considerations that play a role here. Some parents allow “riskier” behavior and later regret it, while some feel strongly that allowing some controlled risk is an important step in the growth and decision making process for children. When you can let go and to what degree is a very personal decision that comes with knowing your child’s abilities, reactions to peer pressure, daily environment, etc. Your job is to make the best possible decisions for your own child about what this looks like.

When you set boundaries and limitations for your children, it’s a sign of love, concern, and parental responsibility. Children obviously don’t always view it as that. Be calm, firm, and consistent. Practice a few of these statements to say to your child:

“This is what works for our family.”

“I have put a lot of thought into what is best.”

“I don’t expect you to always agree or understand. I DO expect you to respect my decisions.”

“I understand that you’re unhappy with my decision, but it stands.”

The job of being a parent isn’t an easy one. Keep in mind that your job is not to be your child’s best friend. Your most important job is to be a role model and help them be ready for greater independence as their ability to make wise choices grows stronger.



Preventing Summer Slide

The last day of school. The LAST DAY of SCHOOL! Most of us remember that amazing feeling that the whole summer was stretching out ahead of us, and life was GOOD. While summers are a great way to relieve some of the pressures and expectations of the school environment, it can work against some children who may find school more challenging. A little planning can keep your child from losing too much ground on their hard-earned academic progress while still experiencing the joys of summer. You might want to consider some of these tips:

  • Summer Camps – Some are designed to be heavy on specific subjects like math or science, but many summer recreational camps and programs incorporate academics into their program in fun ways.
  • Library Reading Programs – Most communities fortunate enough to have a public library run programs for children to earn prizes or other incentives for summer reading.
  • Book Clubs – Connect with a few of your child’s friends’ families and start a book club for your kids. Let the children take turns selecting titles to read. Schedule a meeting time to discuss the books and incorporate treats that reflect a theme related to what they read.
  • Summer School – Don’t rule it out! Many summer school classes are packed with fun activities while still supporting your child’s weak subject areas.
  • Vacations – Assign your child some questions to research about your vacation destination. Along the way, show them how to calculate distances travelled, estimate arrival times, track fuel expenses etc.
  • Little Free Libraries – Map out locations of Little Free Libraries in your surrounding area and visit as many as you can. Select books to read and then pass them back on to a different Little Free Library afterwards.
  • Plan a Party! – Use the party as an opportunity to make lists, send out invitations, track responses, create a menu and estimate amounts needed, and research games to play.
  • Get Cooking! – Practice those math skills by following recipes, estimating quantities, doubling recipes, and comparing ingredient prices while shopping.

This summer, try a few of the ideas above and when September arrives (and it always does) your children will find it easier to jump back into school!



My Child Has No Interest in Sports

Parents often express concern when a child shows no interest in sports. Is that in fact a problem? If you have this concern yourself, one of the first things you may want to do is to take an honest look at why it bothers you. Did you play the sport yourself and enjoy it? Were you envious of others who were athletic if you were not? Do you feel it builds character? Is it a good way to be sure your child stays active and gets exercise to maintain good health?

Not all adults participate in sports or even enjoy being a spectator. Likewise, not all children have an interest in sports. According to a poll from the National Alliance for Youth Sports cited by the Washington Post in 2016, around 70% of kids in the U.S. stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 because “it’s just not fun anymore.” That statistic gives us a lot to think about as parents.

If your primary concern is that your child gets some physical exercise, it’s a real concern in this time of sedentary children and a high rate of childhood obesity. Look for options that might appeal to your child. Many children shy away from competitive activities but might enjoy a sport or active hobby that involves bettering their own scores or times. Sometimes, the barrier for children is that a parent is too intense or intimidating about participation. In the heat of a game, many parents exhibit some over the top behavior that can cause a child to feel pressured or embarrassed. Your answer to more exercise for your child could lie is something as simple as being a more active family – taking walks together, biking area trails, or swimming regularly.

Socialization is another answer many parents give as to why they want their child to be involved in sports. They want their child to develop teamwork skills and learn about taking on a project as a group, reasoning that it’s a skill they will likely need in the workforce someday. Again, look for other options to develop this skill. Some children enjoy scouting or participation in youth groups that get involved in community service projects. Science or math clubs can offer challenges to work out as a group also.

Part of being a parent is respecting individual differences in our children. Still wishing your child was more interested in sports? Leave the door open. As your child grows, they may develop different interests than they have now. Even if they don’t, there are many ways to help your child find what is right for them as they grow into a confident and balanced young adult.



Leaving Your Child With a Babysitter the First Time

When you become a parent, you experience a lot of “firsts” in your life. The first night your baby sleeps through the night, the first time the child runs a high fever, the first time your child takes a step on their own. One “first” that can cause a lot of parental anxiety is deciding when you are ready to leave your child with a babysitter for the first time out as a social being again, or when you are ready to break in a new babysitter.

All situations are different and we’re all different in our comfort level for doing this. Following are a few things to think about to help you ease into this next part of your life.

How old is the babysitter and how much experience have they had? In some cases, you may want to hire the person first as a “mother’s helper” and be in the home while they care for your child. By doing this, especially with a very young or inexperienced babysitter, both you and the sitter can ease into the situation.

Keep it short at first. Start out by having the babysitter there for an hour or two while you run errands, meet a friend for coffee, etc. Try not to have the time include putting the child or children to bed until they are more comfortable with the babysitter. While many children enjoy the company of a new babysitter while they are actively involved in playtimes, bedtime can bring on fears or renewed separation anxiety. If children are old enough, you may want to pre-plan an activity for the sitter to do, like a movie or new board game.

Provide pertinent instructions and information.  Does your child have any allergies or other medical issues? Particular fears?  How can you be reached if needed? When will you be returning? Does your child need a meal or snack prepared? Is there a back-up adult to call in case of an emergency? What is your child allowed to do? Not allowed to do? Can friends play at the house? Do you allow the babysitter to have their friends over?

Prepare the children if applicable. For toddlers and older children, don’t take them by surprise. Let them know a babysitter is coming over, who that person is, what will be happening while the sitter is there, and when you will be home. Remind children what you expect of them as well in terms of behavior.

Your cell phone is your friend. In most cases you can be reached almost instantly if a situation arises where the babysitter needs to speak with you. A simple text can be a great way to check in also if you need periodic reassurance that all is well.

Children pick up on adult anxiety. Set the stage for success by preparing in advance and then project confidence to your child that there is no need for concern. Planning adult time away from children benefits both parents and the children themselves. A little time apart can be refreshing for all involved.