Lowering the Odds: Risky Behavior and Teens
Liz Pearce, Children’s Museum of Richmond
So much teenage behavior is all about being impulsive, and not about making a rational decision of right and wrong.
The latest research tells us that It also has to do with what type of person they associate with the behavior. For example, if they have a favorable image in their head, of “cool kids” doing something, it’s more likely they will do it. If they associate a “dumb kid” doing something, it’s more likely they won’t do it.
For Example: IF the image is of cool kids knocking down mailboxes, then they will likely do it. If the image is of dumb kids knocking down mailboxes, then they likely won’t do it. The bottom line: They don’t yet have the capacity in their brains to be thinking of ruining their college plans, getting arrested or any of the reasons we have laid out for them. They know what the dangers are, and can recite them to you by chapter and verse. But that knowledge may not be enough.
What DOES work? YOU! Even when teens are confronted with risks, 9 times out of 10 they still want to please you, the parent, and not disappoint you. They are going to make mistakes. It’s inevitable. If you take the mistakes in stride, and teach them how to fix their small mistakes, you’ve got a better shot at avoiding some of the big mistakes.
1. Provide loose structure during down time – Take the time to learn about your child’s interests, other than school. If they aren’t already, get them involved in loosely structured activities on the weekends, or a couple of days after school. This will help them learn to regulate their unstructured time.
2. Supervise who your child hangs out with. Introduce yourself to the kids that your child brings home. Look them in the eye, and introduce yourself. If you can, meet the parents of the kids your child hangs out with. Monitor their activities. Try not to stalk them, but be alert to the possibility of your child stretching the truth about his or her activities.
3. Provide freedom in small increments - Don’t just drop your kid off at the mall when he turns 13 and plan to pick him up when he’s 18. Start slowly. First he takes the grocery list and gets 5 items while you wait in the car. Next, he goes to the middle school chaperoned activity and you drop him off and pick him up. If he gains your trust, meeting you at the appointed times, doing what he is asked, being where he says he is going to be, and keeping his attitude in check, then you give a little more freedom.
4. Set boundaries, and stick to them. A teen driver with a car full of her buddies is just as dangerous as a teen who drinks and drives. We talk all the time about drinking and driving, but imagine your child driving a car with four other teenagers, a blaring stereo and a cell phone. If your rules are broken, you keep the keys.
The longer we can prevent them from getting into risky situations, the better. In addition, the more tools we can give them to get themselves out of risky situations, the better. That's a skill they will keep for life!
When Spring Fever, really means, Spring FEVER
Liz Pearce, Director of Parent Engagement
Children's Museum of Richmond
· So Junior woke up sick today, and you’ve got a mile-long list of things to do??
First of all, DON’T Panic. When they are sick at home, some TLC is definitely in order, and depending on the age of your child and severity of the illness, you may need to be in the same room with your child, but it’s okay to plan activities for them that they can do on their own, without help from you.
By the way, it’s not necessary to park them in front of the TV for 10 hours either. Everything in moderation is a good motto for the sick day.
A few ideas:
1. Brainstorm some quiet activities that can be done in bed with a few modifications.
a. Play dough, jigsaw puzzles, coloring and building blocks work great when you have a tray with raised edges, or use the top of a cardboard box.
b. Choose something that is easy for your child to do, and won’t frustrate him when he’s not feeling great – this is not the time to offer a toy or puzzle that is above his level.
c. Check out the various arts and craft websites, such as Crayola, for printable activities
d. Dig through the bottom of the toy box, or back of the closet for lost treasures or hidden gems that may not have gotten playtime yet.
2. Let your child know when you will have undivided attention time for them, whether it’s every hour for the first 10 minutes, or checking in on them periodically. For younger children, set a timer that they can see or hear.
3. Pick up a project that can be started and stopped at leisure. Got 100 photos that need to go in an album? Enlist your older child to help you put them in the album. NOTE: Let go of the outcome … they won’t be organized as you might have liked, but they will be in an album.
4. Have older kids? Let them organize the music on your Ipod, or photos on your computer by season, or subject, or date. (Whether they admit it or not, many kids love looking through old pictures.)
5. Use your child’s sick day as a moment to slow down yourself. Embrace the forced opportunity to prioritize, and take a few minutes to discover what your critical tasks are, and which ones can be delegated or deleted.
Above all, remember that the sick day won’t last forever, and you’ll be back to your manic schedule in no time.
LISTEN TO PARENT TALK!
“Mahhhhh-mmmm, I’m soooo bored!”
How’s your summer plan shaping up? Do you have every hour mapped out from sun-up to sun-down, or are you ready to let the kids get creative and manage a bit of their own free time?
Chances are you’ve got a child that gets bored easily. Research shows that some children are more prone to boredom than others. Additional studies show that kids who don’t know how to overcome boredom are more likely to become depressed, anxious or fall into patterns of risky behavior. Some kids believe that joy and entertainment come from the outside in, rather than the other way around. They have trouble seeing that their own actions, commitment, and engagement is connected to their own personal life experience.*
It’s not easy to hear kids whine about being bored, so before the doldrums set in, get ready to change your tune when kids start complaining about being bored.
· Children are often bored during “down time” and before we know it, they will need to manage their own down time without us around to make suggestions. Talk with them about utilizing down time for rest, for planning, for organizing projects or for honing a new skill.
1. Avoid telling them what to do – DO give them a variety of ideas to cure their own boredom.Helping a child deal with boredom does not mean that the parent has to play trains for an hour. Instead, help your child find interesting things to do or work together on something that you both enjoy.
2. Avoid yelling or getting angry – DO let them sit with their boredom. If they are whining or complaining, it may be a good idea to find something that will distract you and keep you occupied, so that you aren’t paying too much attention to their discomfort.
3. Avoid denying their negative feelings – DO express empathy for your child’s struggle to learn a new skill. Say, “You seem really bored today.” Then, encourage them with words of support, such as, “I know you are unhappy and bored right now, but I’m confident that you can find something to do.”
4. Avoid getting stuck in a rut yourself – DO model ways to combat boredom. Explore new activities, find new challenges, change up the routine, get active and get your heart pumping.
5. Choose toys that allow for lots of open-ended play. Look for non-electronic toys that can be used for imaginative play. Building toys, like Legos, allow for creativity. Dress-up clothes and props let children use their imaginations in new ways.
* from “I’m Bored” – Coping With Your Child’s Ennui, Cathi Cohen, LCSW, CGP,http://www.insteppc.com/articles/Bored.pdf
Lite98, Parent Talk
April 17, 2013
Liz Pearce, Director of Parent Engagement
Children’s Museum of Richmond
If you are the parent of a junior or senior in high school, you are likely knee deep in decisions with your teen about what to do after high school. Work? College? Technical School? All three are valid paths to a successful adulthood, and you, as parent, are in the home stretch of day to day parenting. It’s a stressful time for everyone involved, but you will survive! As you consider the journey ahead, consider these points:
You may be paying for it, but they will be going to it. Regardless of which path is chosen, your child (soon to be an adult) is the one who will be setting off on the adventure. Your adventures are on a completely different trajectory. Consider upgrading your communication software (also known as Skype)
Practice your standard response for the grocery store, Friday night cook out or ball field. When you run into Nosy Nellie who is trying to pry information out of you, it’s easy to start getting anxious about your child’s post-high school choices. Flash a big grin and announce, “This is such an exciting time, isn’t it? Can you believe they’ve grown up so fast?” and Move ON.
Support your child through the testing and application process. The pressure to succeed intensifies during the second semester of junior year through January of senior year. Teachers and guidance counselors are doing their best to help your child across the finish line, but it can really make your teen feel like they are living in a fish bowl. Throw in a few 5 hour standardized tests at 8 AM on Saturday mornings and you’ve got a prickly, irritable teen on your hands. Give them space, when you can.
Utilize all of your best organizational skills. Deadlines, applications, online registrations, parent meetings, school ceremonies – it can get overwhelming. Keep lists, use your smartphone, post a calendar – just pick a system and stick to it.
So… freak out in private, or at least limit the amount of freak-outs in front of your child. Find a friend and share all your worries and anxieties with them. Your child is counting on you to be the calm one during this process. They are the ones who are supposed to be anxious, remember?
You can do this, I know you can!
When children are approaching kindergarten age, they are beginning to understand more complex situations, and are able to play more independently. Four- and five-year-olds are learning new skills every day, and are becoming more aware of the world around them. Their view on the world moves from being egocentric (“The world revolves around me, and me only!”) to ethnocentric (“The world revolves around me, my family, and my community.”)
Kindergarten teachers are trained to understand that development in kids will vary. And they are ready to partner with parents to make each child’s transition to kindergarten a success.
When assessing children’s emotional readiness for kindergarten, remember that it helps when children are able to do the following before entering school:
Social Expectations for Kindergarten Preparedness
Before entering kindergarten, children should reach the following social milestones:
Here’s what you can do:
1. Help your child use words to describe his or her actions and feelings – (For example, Did that make you angry or sad? You have been really frustrated by that puzzle.)
2. Create opportunities for successful group interactions by providing adequate supplies, and expectations for working together. (It’s okay to set a few simple ground rules when friends come over to play. Ground rules help kids feel safe.)
3. Encourage your child to problem-solve independently when conflicts are encountered. (If this is challenging, you can prompt your child with a question, “Would you like to hear what other kids have tried?”)
US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed: 3/06/08
University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets #3. Kindergarten Readiness. Accessed: 3/06/08
Lite 98, Parent Talk
Kids are very impressionable and well aware of what is going on around them. It may be awkward, but it is best to speak as a family about money, whether speaking of concerns or benefits. You’ll be relieved of the burden by teaching good saving and spending habits when they are young.
Based on the age of your child, you will present the information differently.
· Children under 5 are most concerned with their own little world and need assurance in simple and concrete terms that they will be cared for. They can be content with short term rewards and gifts such as stickers, and may contribute by helping around the house.
· Children aged 6-9 can understand the concept of waiting or saving to buy more expensive things at a later time. On shopping trips they can learn to read labels critically and to comparison shop.
· Children aged 10-12 - can put facts together in more complicated ways and understand that sometimes the family has to cut back. They can understand everyday effects of having to economize and can contribute ideas to budget planning.
· Teenagers may feel pressured to keep up with the latest fashion or what their friends have, but can understand the need to prioritize when there’s a limited amount of money. Teenagers are capable of understanding the ramifications of the economic crisis and can discuss issues in more detail, understand more subtle effects of having less money, and be active in problem solving.
Benefits of tighter financial times:
Children naturally want to help. Here are some ways to encourage children to help:
REMEMBER: When everyone has a stake in the success of the family during tough times, then everyone can share in the success of the family in good times
Compiled with information from Nextwave Finance, Melissa Schoor, Elizabeth Tracy and Anita Gurian
Lite 98, 3.13.12
Liz Pearce, Director of Parent Engagement
Children’s Museum of Richmond
I’m one of the lucky moms who has been both a stay-at-home parent and a gainfully employed parent. When the debate comes up about which lifestyle is better for parenting, you won’t find an easy answer from me. In my opinion, each lifestyle has pros and cons, of course, and are fairly equal in terms of workload and responsibility.
My philosophy is that we are all “working parents” whether we are compensated with a paycheck or not – our “product” is an adult, ready for society.
So why are many parents wracked with guilt? Ask an insomniac parent what keeps the brain churning in the wee hours of the night, and you’ll likely hear that it relates to all the “Un-Done” tasks of the day. We worry that they aren’t getting enough sleep, we haven’t given them nutritious meals, we aren’t pushing them to study hard enough, we are pushing them to study too hard, we should give them a better home life, etc. We run through our litany of “If Only” statements, and come up feeling guilty. The To-Do list never ends. Here are a few tips for letting go of the guilt:
· Ellen Galinsky, author of Ask the Children: What America’s Parents Really Think About Working Parents, (2001)suggests that instead of seeking balance, we should consider the notion of navigating the world of work and family. She found that “many parents didn't like the notion of "balance." It sounded to them as if they had arrived at a perfect state, a state where work and family were equal.” She notes that “With navigating, there can be good weather and stormy weather, just like parenting.”
· Write down what you feel guilty about, and make a plan to move past it. Feel guilty that you aren’t working hard enough to buy a bigger house? Set a realistic goal, and in the meantime, make the space you live in work better for you.
· Write down the things you can control. Guilt can be amplified by feeling overwhelmed, and we feel overwhelmed when we feel we have no control. Writing it out can be a visual reminder of to gain perspective.
· Know that children will remember more of the small everyday moments than the big special events that we stress over so much. A bedtime routine, eating breakfast together, going to the park on the weekends – these are what kids remember 20 years from now.
· Avoid people who encourage the guilty feelings, and surround yourself with more positive colleagues or friends.
· Believe in the choice you have made. "You know yourself and your family better than anyone and know what decision is right for you. Don't take the judgment of others as the truth. Instead, tell them your reasons and ask them to support you."
As a general rule of thumb, I think we can all support each other more on our parenting journey.
Liz Pearce, Director of Parent Engagement
Children’s Museum of Richmond
As we know, babies, toddlers and preschoolers need active time balanced with quiet activities. If you can’t go outside, you’ll need to have a selection of activities at hand that are educational and fun. Right now, in and around your home, you can strengthen critical thinking skills, boost creativity, strengthen gross motor skills, fine tune fine motor skills and improve literacy. Without much effort, you can increase their language skills, science exploration, and healthy movement. Grab a bowl, and start jotting down ideas on scraps of paper. Put them in the bowl whenever you think of them, and when a cold day comes, you’ll be glad to have 5 or 10 ideas within reach. Here’s a few to get you started:
Cold, Colder, Coldest – Hunt for items around the house that are cool or cold, such as grapes from the refrigerator, ice cubes, a cup of cold water, or some rocks from outside. Arrange them from cold to coldest, and use descriptive words – like “freezing”, “icy” or “chilly”. This game is a literacy builder, by using descriptive words, and a math concepts booster, with comparisons and sorting.
Ice Play – A toddler is ready to play with ice cubes on her high chair tray, and she will enjoy playing with shaved ice or chopped bits of ice in a shallow pan. Add spoons, cups and ice cream scoopers for measuring and dumping. Eye-hand coordination and fine motor control are happening during this type of play. Early math concepts of size, amount, shapes can also be learned here.
Recess – Push the furniture against the walls, and clear a space somewhere in your house, basement or garage where children can dance, move and play. If you have a safe, uncluttered area in your basement or garage, allow kids to wheel around on their scooters or roller blades (protective equipment still needed!). Your child will be strengthening gross motor skills, such as rolling, grabbing or reaching, and using their imagination which boosts resourcefulness.
Build an indoor fort, or better yet, create a tunnel for your toddler to crawl through. Pretend your exploring a cave and play hide-and-seek with stuffed animals. Beyond the creative outlet, your child will be setting up an environment that allows her to set the amount of risk and stress she is ready for. Early math and science concepts can be observed, such as determining what size blanket will cover the fort, and comparing the amount of space a that child occupies in the fort with an adult’s space needs.
Freeze Play – Similar to Freeze Tag, but without the chasing, children start dancing or jumping or moving, until the leader calls “Freeze!” This will teach self-regulation skills such as self-control, waiting, and impulse control. Add music to keep the energy level high, and take turns being the leader.
Wear layers and Avoid Tight Clothing
Tight clothing, contrary to popular belief, does not keep you warmer. Tight clothing actually inhibits circulation so the body will not warm itself as efficiently. In addition, there is less chance for warm air to be trapped in the clothing for insulation.
(Information gathered from “Zero to Three National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families” and the SixtySecondParent.com)
Why is Literacy so important and when is Read Across America Day? Read Across America Day is being celebrated on March 1st in most schools, and March 2nd at various community locations. (You can visit The Children’s Museum of Richmond to meet the Cat in The Hat this Saturday!) Reading is a critical skill we all need to function as independently as we can. Reading is not only a method of taking in information, but also builds self-esteem and boosts creativity. Watching TV and videos is a passive way of gathering information, while reading is an active method that stimulates more brain activity. Remember, your brain is a muscle and it must be exercised with challenging tasks like reading.
In addition, early literacy skills have a direct correlation on future behavior. While young children are listening to a story, they are learning to be able to remember the content of spoken language for a short time. Why is this important? Because one day soon, they will need to listen to and remember multi-step instructions from their teacher (clean-up your table, put your materials away, and stand in line for lunch) or from their future boss (create an excel spreadsheet, merge these two documents and email it to the entire staff).
When reading happens between parent and child, the impact can be even greater. The bond formed between parents and children can enhance creativity. A story leads to a dozen of eager questions asked, which show that the child's mind is racing ahead of the verbal drama unfolding in front of his/her imagination.
Parent and child bonding is essential to each and every child, and reading with your child is a simple way to establish a strong and nurturing parent and child bond.
Did you know children absolutely adore stories about animals? Here’s why: according to teachers, it’s “because they can cut loose from all limitations and rules of their own civilized lives and from the control of their parents. They dream of running free in a forest, living in a hollow tree, flying with the birds and creatures who don't scold or make you wash your hands before each meal.”
But what if your child doesn’t like to read? Take what you can get, even if it’s 5 minutes. Then consider this:
As your child grows, story time can become a bonding, connected time that your child can count on. The emotional security that can grow from taking the time to sit down and read together is truly priceless. It lets your child know first that she’s important to you and second, that reading and learning are fun.
http://www.wisedude.com/expert_advice/reading_children.htm - Lots of interesting info
http://www.readingfoundation.org/parents/toddler.jsp - Great tips and list of books for toddlers
http://www.readingfoundation.org/parents/schoolage.jsp - Full of great information