Straight Talk on Fatherhood – Man to Man

Fatherhood Straight Talk Parenting for Dads Title -Support Edmonton- Help Families Canada

A Dad’s Reflection on His Own Reality and Role in Parenting

Guest Post

This is the time of year that Father’s Day is celebrated and I want to share some thoughts as a husband and father of our two young children – a boy just about to become 11 years old and a 6 year old daughter.

Being an “everyday-kinda-guy” seeking to provide for the family, meeting the non-financial needs of our kids as a father is not easy. I am growing to realize that what my kids need emotionally from me is not the same as is expected from Mom. They want me to play with them and do stuff with them when I feel like doing something else. Many times I get home from work feeling the need to emotionally get away to my own world to unwind. Life itself can feel so emotionally draining at times in just trying to deal with my own concerns of providing for their future. The danger is that my concern for the future makes me deny my kids of the attention they need from me now in the present.

We Do Make An Impact On Our Kid’s Lives

Research suggests that in the area of play, fathers spend a greater percentage of their relational time with their kids in play activities in a style that tends to be more physical and exciting than the ways mothers tend to interact. Our tendencies towards “horseplay” , for example chasing them around the house as a “scary bear”, or lifting and twirling them over our heads for an “airplane ride” allows them to experience the thrill of being just a little scared, but amused and aroused at the same time. This bit of information was taken from chapter 6 of the book “Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child” by Dr. John Gottman with Joan Declaire . I was pleasantly surprised to relate 100% to these comments as it pertains to me and my children. My little girl would make you think she is being really scared but her excitement and laughter confirms that she is also having fun at me being the scary-bear-or-some-other-such-creature. They definitely don’t look to Mom to chase after them or for “horseplay” – in our family context.

Dads, Kids Need To Feel Our Presence As Much As Seeing Us There

I read further along in chapter 6 of the above mentioned book in which one Levant was quoted as stating (and countering) the observed traditional stereotype that

“……a father is someone who works hard, who isn’t around much, who criticizes more than he compliments, who doesn’t show affection or any other emotion except anger – no longer applies”.

 The quote from Levant goes on to state that

“…men are supposed to be sensitive, caring, enlightened dads who are really there for and involved with their kids…the only problem is many men don’t know how to be that kind of father, for the simple reason that their own dads weren’t that kind of father to them.”

 I am sure many dads can relate to these statements to some degree and if nothing else, it should inspire food for thought as we reflect on our own parenting situation.

I think there is a beckoning for us dads to not only be there physically for our kids but be there emotionally as well. Emotional involvement includes enjoying an activity together and also getting into their world through empathy. We should seek to connect with how they are feeling about the moment and not just enjoy the moment from our dad’s point of view. We can come away with having had fun with our kids and never realise the impact the time has had on them. We can think they had a fun time so mission accomplished but missed out on appreciating the impact or imprint the time with us has had on their minds and hearts. Quality emotional presence with our kids can help us get grounded in life and take our appreciation of family to a higher level. I am realising that sometimes when I come home and want to get away by myself,  if instead I were to take a few moments to forget about myself and unselfishly throw my emotional attention into my kids’ world and “smell the roses” in their world, I would feel much better. It reminds me that the world is not just about me and my perceived problem in the moment. It doesn’t mean that reality stops but being there emotionally for them really helps to keep life in perspective.

Be Aware Of Your Kid’s Everyday Needs As A Father

We should always seek to stay tuned in to our children’s everyday needs as they grow even as we try to find a balance between work life and home life. The authors of “Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child” also encourages that as dads we should seek to do this regardless of the nature of the relationship we may have with the mother of our kids. I totally understand this point as all household relationship dynamics vary but our kids still need us in spite of our imperfections living in an imperfect world. We are their dad and contrary to what many may say or want us to believe, our kids need us physically and emotionally in their lives.

But hey, this is just a brief thought from a dad who like many of us, never had a chance at a practice run and then return to the real world to be the father to your kids; never had a chance to pre-clone them to sharpen my skills to become confident and experienced at this thing and then return to real life to be the most emotionally caring super-dad…but it’s a life long journey of learning.

As fathers we can become so preoccupied with providing for our family that we can unintentionally loose sight of how important spending meaningful time with our kids is to their development and emotional character. They may be disappointed in the moment that we can’t buy them the coolest stuff their friends may have. However, if we stay emotionally connected to them while we explain why they don’t have these cool things and be there for them while they deal with the alternate reality – be it a “lesser” present or an activity together instead of the “perfect” gift. However, dads we are demonstrating to them that we care. We are letting them know that in spite of their feelings of disappointment(s) they do matter to us and that their feelings of disappointment affect us too. After the immediate moment of disappointment has passed, quite often our kids will remember feeling loved, feeling that they mattered and that you actually care.

Quote Tip Quality Time Dads -Counselling Men as Fathers -Help Families Canada

Related Post for Fathers

Read: The Legacy of A Father’s Love

Do You Want More Coaching , Training & Support?

Help for Families Canada offers practical hands on training for fathers in our Parent Training ProgramCustomised Support is available for step-fathers, single fathers, and married fathers in Southside Edmonton. Click on the link below to schedule a time to talk a therapist.

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Surprising Tools Your Dollar Store Has To Help With Homework

Items A Parent Of A Child with ADHD or a Learning Disability Must Have

Source: Clipart Pal (PD)

Source: Clipart Pal (PD)

Homework time can feel like Hell. (Pardon me for the language, but if you live it, you know what I mean). As a former special education teacher, and a mom with a child with attention and hyperactive behaviours, I know how challenging it can be to get an unmotivated, unfocused, easily frustrated child to start, and (dare to dream) … complete a homework assignment. Until the school boards approve homework in video-gaming app format, here are some cheap, easy to find Dollarstore items (#tools) that will help ease the agony. (#adhd, #learningdisabilities)

  1. Ear plugs — Useful to minimizes auditory distractions.
  2. Dry erase board— create weekly calendar of when assignments are due. For the child with a learning disability you may colour code by subject (blue – Math, Yellow – Language Arts). #dyslexia
  3. Checklist pad — task manager. Itemize steps or tasks involved with doing larger projects
  4. Small Squishy Ball — small air or foam filled balls for squishing and fidgeting while working.

Related Post: Stressed Parents’ Guide to Homework Without War

 

5. Digital Kitchen Timer — Necessity for ADHD child. Set time goals for them to complete segments of their assignment. Set time for movement breaks or approved off-task breaks.

6. Foamcore boards or 3-Paneled Project boards — Create a personal space zone at desk or table to reduce distractions. Very helpful you have siblings working together in same space (e.g. shared kitchen island)

7. Chewing Gum — Provides oral stimulation, (repeated motor action)  which may help some children focus.

Email Counsellor Edmonton

Find  Local  (Edmonton) Dollar Stores for Homework Tools

Wondering what are the dollar stores serving your neighborhoods of Ellerslie, or Summerside in Edmonton? Check out

The Dollar Tree

–         2 locations: Calgary Trail and 28 Avenue

Dollar N Plus

–      Heritage Valley off 111 Street

Dollarama

–        South Edmonton Common

Live in another city in Canada or the US? Find one in Google Maps

 

 

Help for Families Canada offers counseling support to children with ADHD or learning disabilities as well as parent skills coaching. Through various play therapy strategies children learn skills to regulate their energy and attention and how to work through feelings of failure and frustration so that they have more confidence and become higher achieving students. Click below to find out more.

 

Email Counsellor Edmonton

 

#Education #School-aged  #parenting #yeg

Posted in Parenting, Parenting 6-12, Therapy | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Stressed Parent’s Guide To Homework Without War

Suggestions from an elementary/middle school teacher & tutor

 

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H.O.M.E.WOR.K, defined by kids as “Half of My Energy Wasted On Random Knowledge”.  Homework is a sore point with many parents and students. For students, they feel as if homework should be non existent and takes up too much of their time. On the other side at home,  homework is also a  torture that many parents would love to wish away too.

Why Do Families Hate Homework?

Homework has been associated with:

book-icon-green-source-emojibase-com  Increasing the stress levels in children

book-icon-green-source-emojibase-com Inducing more frequent and more harsh conflict between parent and children

book-icon-green-source-emojibase-com Reducing children’s access to personal recreational and other social experiences

book-icon-green-source-emojibase-com Robbing families of opportunities to engage together in fun, relationship enhancing activities.

 

Homework should not be a burden but rather should be a continuation of work done  during the school period. Unfortunately  many schools pile on too much homework which really isn’t necessary. As a result, often times children are turned off and parents  end up doing their children’s homework.

Read More: How much homework is too much? ( Filed Under” Notes” on Facebook Page )

So what really is the point of homework?

According to research studies done, Dr Harris Cooper, University of Missouri, homework had no measurable effect on achievement for elementary students though it did for high school. Cooper recommends that homeworkhelps elementary students develop proper study skills which, in turn, influences grades.”

Others have argued that homework helps children practise, learn, and retain concepts taught in the classroom. But, “If the kids haven’t learned the concepts by the time they leave the classroom . . .the homework is pointless”- Heather Broos, Cnn.com

 

Parents should not get stressed over helping their children with homework but should rather take it in strides. As a teacher and private tutor, one of the things I encourage parents to do is, if they come across a concept that they do not know, instead of stressing over it, either tell their child to ask the teacher to explain more,  or they set up a meeting with the teacher. But in my classrooms, it was quite okay for homework to not be completed in that moment. However, not all classrooms are as lenient so here are some ideas to help children and families better cope with the realistic demand of homework.

 

Help for Parents and Families Trapped in Conflicts

3 Mistakes To Avoid

  1. Doing the Work. Parents should guide their children with homework and not give them the answers or do it for them. What is meant to be a learning process for children ends up being all too easy which leaves children without learning important skills on how to access information or even acquiring correct study skills.

 

  1. Allowing Shortcut Methods. With technology at our fingertips it is very easy to access information but having this simple access is often misused as parents log on to the internet to get answers to their children’s homework. Discourage children from going to Google to search for answers. If your child does not know the answer or how to solve a problem, chances are that the concept was not grasp correctly, therefore children should be encourage to speak with their teacher.

3 . Competing with the Teachers’ Methods. Moms and Dads, do not be afraid to let your child know that you do not  know the answer. And,  if while you’re trying to help, your child complains: “that is not how it is done by the teacher”,  sigh, don’t feel embarrassed, let them complete the assignment as for the teacher. Then, as soon as possible, make arrangement to talk with the teacher so that you are on the same page with how your child is taught. You will then have consistency which is important to a child’s learning pattern.

Parenting Homework Advice Walker Quote

 

Four Helpful Habits for Productive Homework Times

  1. Find A Good Location. Children should have a desk or sit around a table when doing homework. Try to cut out the distractions around. No television in the background or ipods on. Tablets and smartphones are used as work tools at homework time; engagement in text conversations and checking social media sites should be discouraged. Provide all the tools they need to work at their homework station.

Watch DIY Video: Make Homework Caddy by Home Organizing Alejandra

2. Set A Consistent Schedule. Children should be encouraged to do homework at a certain times on weekdays and during the weekend. Avoid waiting until the last minute, i.e., late in the evening, late Sunday afternoon, or the day before the deadline. Procrastination stimulates more stress for both parents and children.

Read: 4 Steps to Stop Procrastination. Diane O’Reilly. (Teens with ADHD)

  1. Make Appropriate Accommodations. Children with learning disabilities should not be overwhelmed with all the homework at once. Rather, divide and introduce the homework in small portions at a time. For such children structure is very important and breaks should be given in between. For example, alternative methods of delivering the ideas of the homework might be considered – audio powerpoint presentation versus the traditional 4 page typed report.

(#adhd, #learningdisability)

Read More: Tools Help ADHD Kids with Homework

  1. Recognise & Seek Help If Needed. Always remember that you learn best by doing and children need to learn how to learn. If helping your child with homework is stressful then seek help either from the teacher, a tutor, or another family member who may have more patience. Occasionally, a child’s chronic struggle with homework may be a sign or symptom of a learning disability, or a deeper level emotional issues of perfectionism or performance anxiety. While there are self-help references for parents to support school-aged children with perfectionism, such as Leah Davies, Perfectionism in Children. However, the delicate process of unpacking the underlying web of beliefs associated with the fear of failure often requires interventions led by a child or teen therapist (cognitive behavioural therapy or mindfulness).

 

 

The essence of homework should be to practice and build on concepts learned. It should not be a burden or should not be stressful to children.

About Author:

Charmaine Walker is an educator, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She may be found on Twitter or LinkedIn.

 

 

Bonus Additional Information – T. Bryan

Where to Get Local Homework Help for Kids

The struggles with homework for children and parents have been recognised and there are now many services in your community that help families, both paid and free. These include professional individual tutors, small group tutoring programs, volunteer individual help. Please do your own research on the credibility of all tutoring services. Below we mention some local Canadian services in Edmonton & Beaumont.

In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

# Edmonton Public Schools – Study Buddy Program

# Edmonton Public Library. Their interactive website has tools to help kids – Online Resources – homework help. Check out the availability of quiet reading or study rooms at Riverbend in Terwillegar. There is also the Reading Buddies Program – available for kids in grades 2-4 where reading support is provided by high school kids.

In Beaumont, Alberta, Canada

Beaumont Library

 

 

 

Help for Families Canada offers counselling support for children struggling at school. With the application of various play therapy techniques, your child will have improved study and organisational skills and become an independent, more confident, and better performing student. Parents will also receive coaching in how to get more cooperation from their child (addressing the homework conflicts and beyond).  

 

Email Counsellor Edmonton

 

 

 

 

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How This Mom Makes Her Kids Get Along

Parenting Advice to Reduce Sibling Conflict 

Parenting Advice Sibling Conflict

Source: Unsplash -Brandon Morgan

Guest Post Author: Ellie Hirsch  

Ellie Hirsch is the founder of MommyMasters.com, a resource

 

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Unmasking Money Problems In Relationships

Discovering What The Fights Are REALLY About.

Masked couple -Standard png

Conflict can be deceptive. Intense, frequent, irresolvable fights in a marriage relationship may cause feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, and hurt. According to CBC News, 2010, 40% of Canadian marriages end in divorce. Money problems is one of the most frequently reported contributor to marital breakdown in many studies. (This applies to those with lots of money as well as those with little). When couples’ fights about money escalate and persist they may feel hopeless. They can mistakenly focus on the dollars and cents thinking, … “If we can get this debt down, we will be happy again”. Or, “If they will stop spending out the money, we would have enough to enjoy our lives”. They blame the money. Some couples do resolve the money issue and still find themselves in divorce. What if money is not the problem?

 #money #love

 

Money Problem Rationale

 

Hidden Sources of Conflict

People, and therefore the relationships they form, are very complex. Things are rarely as they appear. As a counselor I have seen couples who come in complaining that they fight all the time. “What do you fight about?” I ask curiously. “Money” they state in chorus. However on further exploration of how the arguments occur I uncover that there are often other problems underscoring a couples disputes about money. The following are some of my own observations.

1. Unresolved baggage.

Individuals bring values about money and finances from previous experiences within former relationships, whether a former partner or their own parents. In this case the distrust does not originate from any actual action, belief, or values of their present partner. An expectation is projected onto a loved one based on another’s actions. It is like holding an innocent party accountable for another’s crime. The fears are real, but sadly so is the jail around the accused; this punished party may feel enslaved by guilt they cannot resolve. It inevitably drives a wedge in the relationship.

2. Power difference.

There might be a difference in the power to influence the decisions within the relationship. One person has a stronger voice, or their actions are less questionable than the other. Sadly, many women fail to recognise that monetary control is one form of spousal abuse. If every dollar that you spend is regulated and rigidly monitored, that’s a big red flag. Men, if your wife is frequently buying designer handbags at over $1K each racking up your credit card debt in the process, and she persists regardless of your expressed displeasure, she is definitely in control in your relationship.

In some instances spending is one partner’s way of reclaiming their personal power in the relationship. Have you ever gone revenge shopping? No judgement here because this is a widespread practise. Once, a lot earlier in their marriage, Joy (alias) was so hurt by her husband’s actions that she went out to a high end store (one where she’d never shop at) and bought 2 leather jackets and a handbag. While charging it at the cashier, she felt recompensed as she thought “There… you pay for that”.

Partners are not living from the power of being securely loved by an equally valued partner. The aim is not to perpetuate a cycle of domination but to find ways for each person’s voice to be heard and valued,  strengths to be incorporated into the relationship with a culture of “we” instead of I vs You.

 

3. Low Faith in Relationship Sustainability.

Someone is reluctant to share or partner equitably with the other because there is an underlying fear that the relationship will not last. Persons whose parents had a bitter divorce or who previously experienced a torn relationship may be vulnerable to these feelings of doubt.

4. Low Trust or Belief in Partner’s Financial Competence.

Simply, one partner does not trust the other with money. This could be because of their partner’s history of gambling, or high accumulated debt, a perceived irresponsibility to pay their own bills on time, or a perception of their ‘over-spending’. The root of this condition may be a real, evidence based problem, or it could be a matter of perception of the differences in money values.  Scott & Bethany Palmer talk about 5 different personalities that people have regarding their values with money (saving, spending, risk taking, security, and the casual flyer). Effort to conform a partner to another’s personality is commonly met with resistance. Seek to find and focus on your partner’s strengths and avenues in which they have grown financially.

5. Unforgiveness.

Commonly this springs from the other partner’s previous errors of money judgement or mistakes. For example, s/he quickly invested in a quick-rich scam which cost you substantial loss or the memory of the cost of funding their now resolved addictive habit (drugs, gambling). The innocent partner is still holding on to the feelings of distrust and blame for the previous incident(s). Forgive. (Often this is hard and you may need support, reach for it).

6. Unmet Emotional Needs.

Sometimes stuff is used to fill the emptiness and void in the heart. There are many ways in which people receive love and appreciation and when our partners’ emotional needs are not being met they seek to fill the gap with other things. In many married relationships this can become an unbalanced focus on the kids, striving in ones career, or sometimes spending money on desirable items. There is a thrill or “high” that is experienced when one is shopping. This dynamic is one of the most challenging to admit to. To reveal my emotional unhappiness is to risk your rejection and judgement, the pain of that exposed rejection is more than the pain of living with the quiet sorrow with being unfulfilled in our relationship.

 

Relationship Advice

Each of these conditions is highly complex and I could not begin to address real solutions in a brief article. (Wait, don’t search “South Edmonton’s divorce lawyers” just yet). The purpose of this post is to increase your awareness of some underlying issues that are commonly unrecognised in a relationship. Many couples only see that they are fighting about money and not see what the fights about money are really about. The best recommended remedy for these relationship issues is to seek individual or couples counselling. While couples counseling might be best, and most efficient, it is sometimes difficult to agree upon or arrange.  If you are recognising these issues in your relationship and you are motivated to be a source of growth and change, it could be beneficial to talk  with a therapist yourself.

#relationship #counselling

Quote-Couples Fight Money -Whats Really Problem

 

Actions You Can Take NOW.

While you wait for your scheduled appointment with your counsellor here are a few things you can do.

  1. Read together the book: Smart Couples Finish Rich- David Bach. (Edmonton Public library has e-book and print copies).
  2. Connect with The Money Couple – Scott & Bethany Palmer. Their website has great resources for couples dealing with financial differences and difficulties.
  3. Browse our Facebook posts & Notes on Family Money Tips for more practical advice on how to budget, monitor funds, save more money, debt reduction, apps to help with money management, etc.

4. SUBSCRIBE to this Blog to continue to receive tips and tools to help you …                                Build a Happy, Healthy and Successful Family.

 

Help for Families Canada serves South Edmonton – Summerside, Ellerslie, Heritage Valley,  Terwillegar,  Beaumont & Leduc. We offer counseling appointments in the evenings and Saturdays.

Child Play Therapy, Parenting

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Winter Family Fun

 

Parents & Kids Enjoying Winter  Together – A Customised Guide

Winter walk city

Snow, Sub-zero winter for 6 moths a year. Not all family members love that. According to Environmental Canada, snow fall can occur from October to April. Temperatures can range from 10degrees to -35degrees. Darkness is a companion. Many individuals become inflicted by lower motivation and energy, rallying family members to get together may require more creativity. Yet, there are numerous activities you can do with your family to have fun and bond together. Here I suggest activities for all types of interests in the family. Gardner developed the multiple intelligence model to help build awareness of the different ways children learn based on their natural interests and learning style. I used this 8 multiple intelligences model to develop  family fun activities which are relevant to your family members. My hope is to help you avoid that whine, “That’s boring, I don’t want to do that”. (Feel free to scroll through to your children).

 

Family Fun with your Physically Active Children

  • Build a model together. Visit your local hobby or craft shops for model kits – pieces for cars, places, buildings, etc. Or, you can carve out a car or plane with soft wood. Adding a new peice every year becomes a proud collection to display. Later, it may become an heirloom to display and pass on to your kids when they grow up.

 

  •  Visit the indoor rock-climbing facility for some active fun together. (In South Edmonton: Vertically Inclined Rock Gym)

 

  •  Visit an indoor amusement park (here in Edmonton we have Galaxyland). Alternatively you may visit a neighbourhood indoor play centre (e.g. Play Gym in Summerside, Ellerslie), book time at the local recreational centre gymnasium for an hour family hoops. Some community recreational centres  (e.g., Terwillegar) have drop in/ playrooms too.

 

Coming soon : Oudoor winter family fun

Family Fun With Your Social Children

  • Have them help host a family (or family & best friend) themed party for the holidays. It could be Boxing Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, the last Saturday night of the holidays, whatever time works for you.
  •  Play family party games: Charades, Taboo, Cranium, & Pictionary, are just some of my favourites. I am sure you kids have ideas for other trendy party games so be sure to ask for their input. Maybe select a family member to chair family game night on a rotational schedule.
  •  Take your child out on a one-one date. It could be to the local coffee shop for hot chocolate or checking out the latest released movie at the cinema.

 

 

Fun With Your Talkative/Expressive Child

  •  Take your children out for a night-time drive to look at the holiday lights and displays. Engage in and enjoy the conversations that emerge (or that you, well,… initiate).

 

  • Read aloud a classic or contemporary book. Read a chapter or 2 together aloud at night before bedtime. (Trust me, even the disengaged teenager, warms up to listening to a good story, but keep your expectations low, s/he is not gonna “show” it). Some of my favourites are: Anne of Green Gables, Little Woman, Chronicles of Narnia, Oliver Twist, Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and The Christmas Carol. Ask your local librarian for suggestions. I recommend if you want to borrow the book from the library to place it on hold. (The last 2 years my family has been reading from the Chronicles of Narnia, I always have to place on early hold on the book at the library. Preview the book first before introducing it to the family. One year I brought in Treasure Island but the old-sailor-english was impossible for us to follow, even though it was a good story. That’s the teacher in me)

Family Fun With Your Analytic, Systematic Child

  • Visit your local hobby shop or bookstore and purchase a logic puzzle book for the season. You can solve puzzles together. If you are competitive (which is okay to be) you may purchase multiple copies of the same book and race to see who solves the puzzle first.

 

  •  Recruit your logical/analytical child to help support your social child in planning any family gathering parties.

 

  •  Play strategic games together. Some great traditional board game are Chess, Mancala, Monopoly, and Chineese Checkers. Many of these are available as apps. Two cool websites to check for online smart games are coolmath-games.com and sheppardsoftware.com.  Two other apps you may check out are Unblockme and Elevate.

Coming soon related: Family time apps

 

Family Fun  With Your Musical Child

  • Create a CD of your favourite holiday or Christmas songs. Host a Holiday Karaoke party.
  • Attend a Christmas pageant or play at a local church or school. If you have teenagers you might consider visiting a show in a distant, unfamiliar neighbourhood. Try this to avoid losing your family time to your teenagers’ friends.
  • Re-compose a favourite holiday song as a rap, country or a reggae tune. This is especially fun if you incorporate musical instruments. (An electrical keyboard often comes pre-programed with beats representing various styles of music – NO musical talent required – I don’t have any myself ).

Family  Fun With  Your Artistic Child

  • Make your own ornaments together. It may be as simple as cutting out shapes from foam sheets  and stringing it with pipe-cleaners (from dollarstore). Craft stores also offer a range of wood-cut outs, papermache or ceramic ornaments to personalise.
  •   Create a snow-globe together. Each person places an item in the globe which represents a special memory they had with the family this year. This memorabilia can be made of modelling clay.
  •  Create a holiday scrapbook or blog. Take pictures of special events and experiences over the season. You can create a few scrapbook pages with printed pictures, or you can create a family digital album. Dedicate a time every year to look over previous holiday memories.

 

Family Fun with Reflective/Service Oriented Child

 

  •  Volunteer with a shelter or food bank to help pack hampers for families.
  •  Celebrate Positivity & Kindness – encourage conversations where family members share a story about something inspirational or encouraging to them. It could be a quote, a story of someone else act of kindness, or an experience they had helping someone recently. Sit around in a circle and pass around a symbol which gives the holder sole speaking rights.
  • Family Ladder time – Ladders are symbolic of climbing towards reaching a desired item or goal. Winter is a great time to reflect on how our lives have unfolded in the last year and visualise about what you would like to become in the new year. Host a family meeting and invite each of your children and teenagers, and adults, to set goals for their personal development. Write each down on a 3X5 index card and post them on a foam-core board. In family therapy, I invite families to draw a ladder with 4 rungs representing every 90 days. In a family counselling session families review their goal cards and tell in honest accountability where they are in their journey (what challenges they’ve had, changes made, success stories). After each person shares they move themselves to the next rung. (Sharing a short version of one of my play therapy activities with you).

Fun  with your Nature Loving Child

  • Go for a nature walk, collecting your own greenery for homemade wreaths of garlands
  •  Go for a walk around your neighbourhood in the full-moon. Look up on almanac when the next full moon will be. Bring along a mug of hot chocolate.
  •  Collect the sand castle molds and shovels and go out in the snow and build snow castles.
  •  Sit by a park lake and watch the animals. Squirrels can be very entertaining, at least,… for a while. Or, if you have really young kids hunting for cloud pictures is always. Or, play a game of 10 questions with young teens.  The whole idea is to be outside enjoying nature together. Do whatever you love to do together.

Final Thoughts.

Our children have naturally different interests, as wise parents we will try to consider their individuality in planning family time with them. If you have more than 4 children you might need to have multiple activities in a family time, or have family times more frequently. It is impossible to please everybody all of the time but do try to please everyone at least once in awhile. It will go a long way to helping build a sense of belonging, reduce conflict, and protect your family from needing interventions from counselling professionals like myself.

For more  family fun ideas read some of our other posts

Share  your ideas, what do you do with your family in the winter  months? Do you have a child with special needs, how would  you adapt any of these to fit your family?

 

Help for Families Canada offers an one of a kind parenting program. We are passionate about helping families come together and enjoy each other more. Msg us if we could help you.

 

Posted in General Family, Parenting, Parenting 0-5, Parenting 6-12, Parenting Teens | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Reduce Conflict at Family Holiday Gatherings

Family fightsBeing With Family You Don’t Like.

For many families the holidays are special times to connect with loved ones they don’t see often but, it can also be stressful as a backdrop for opposing personalities to collide. What if you could get together for hours with your siblings, in-laws, step-family members, (and others) over a holiday meal and leave without arguing or fighting explosively with anyone? Here are some tips to help you have a happier family holiday this year.

Family conflict signs

Signs of Conflict

Look for the warning signs. If you see any of these behaviours unfolding in your conversation with a family member you might be on the edge of another unfriendly dispute. (Based on the conflict research by Dr. Rob Kendal, Psychology Today)

  1. Blaming. Energy is focused on assigning blame on the other for the problem instead of seeking a solution.
  2. Intensity. Emotions take over, the intensity rises, voices raise and threats and insults are hurled.
  3. Dismissal of the other’s ideas and feelings. (“Yes, but…”). The other party’s opinions and feelings are ignored because they differ from the speaker. Persons therefore become argumentative and defensive in order to get heard or to win the debate.
  4. Domination and control of the conversation. This may look like interrupting, completing the other’s sentences, steering the topic and flow of the conversation, etc.

 

How to Turn Things Around (Relationship Repair)

Okay, what if you tried to swerve around conversation dangers but you still find yourself in a dispute with your family nemesis? Here are a few strategies to try to reduce the damage and avoid ruining the party:

Help for Families iconExpress appreciation. According to J. Gottman (renowned relationship expert) taking a moment to acknowledge appreciation for the other person’s experience or willingness to express their differing ideas has been proven to soothe escalating persons. Say something like … “I didn’t know that you saw things that way, I’m glad you told me”.

Help for Families iconFocus the conversation on finding a solution instead of the complaints and blaming someone. Ask yourself and the other person, “What can I do to help the situation…?”

Help for Families iconRepeat what you’ve heard the other person saying. Hold back on putting forward your own perspective. Let them know you understand their position. Desist from offering your best, well-intentioned advice (even if it is also widely proven and endorsed by experts Smiling counsellor).

Help for Families iconAccept some responsibility. Look for how your actions or words might have contributed to the argument/fight. It is the more courageous, more mature position to say, “Can I take that back?” or, “You’re right, I could have been (more/less)…..” You can prove to be the better person and not make them bitter too.

Help for Families iconFinally, Escape. When you hear the argument intensifying and becoming hostile find a reason to excuse yourself. You could go get another helping of pie (or something), or help the host with a chore, or refresh yourself in the washroom.

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7 Keys to Disciplining Your Anxious Child

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Transform Your Parenting From Doubtful to Confident & Effective

Some parents of anxious children have become anxious about disciplining their child because they have been told being ‘harsh’ induces anxiety in children. Here you’ll gather a few simple keys to help you as a parent address this sensitive matter.

One Parent’s Story: Can You Relate? 

Tamika (alias), a mother of 2 children, 7 year old and 13 year old,  came to see me for help supporting her 7 year old son who had “become clingy”,  and “demanding of reassurance” and she was second guessing her every decision she made with them. Her older child was assertive, socially engaging, and tended towards being risky. She was torn in how to support  her son. She wanted to protect him and build his confidence, she spoke words of encouragement but she constantly, silently questioned if she was “babying him”. She was also feeling restricted by his need to be with her, but, of course, she couldn’t withdraw herself. When he didn’t do his chores, for example, he would complain it was too much, too hard, and she was “being too bossy”. She hesitated with being firm about him completing them independently. It was easier to help him. Tamika learnt the seven keys to #discipline and, not over-night, but within 6 months had learnt how to say no with love and without guilt, how to parent to the different needs of her two different children, and how to support her son’s confidence in her love and presence.

So here are some of the tools that Tamika learnt in parent coaching sessions. (There was more but I can only give a limit in a blog-post, but this is enough to make a significant step in changing your parent-child relationship). Take and implement one key at a time; be kind to yourself and allow yourself room to master (which includes making mistakes) your own transformation.

  1. Set clear rules and expectations. Give your child a vivid description and experience of what your expectations and standards are. You may role-play out your rules and procedures. When communicating your rules talk about the underpinning values so that they understand why the rule exists and the importance of respecting it. For example, we don’t have cell-phones at the dinner table because spending time focusing on family relationships is important. And, discuss the process of communications – how warnings and consequences will be given and implemented. Knowledge is security for your anxious child.

 

2. Consistency is key. Inconsistency is anxiety provoking for any young child. Set up regular routines – a predictable pattern of when, where, and how things are done. Predictability increases their sense of safety.

 

3. Be a good role model of stress & emotional management. This is self-explanatory but worth mentioning. If you remain calm and are disciplined in your approach to life and problems your child will model your behaviour in his life. The best way for your child to learn discipline is by experiencing at home.

Parenting Anxious Child Calm

BE CALM.
Source: Lukasz Szmigiel -Unsplash

4. Communicate unconditional love. “Make sure he knows that although you want and expect him to do better next time, you love him no matter what” (Foxman, p.99). This is significant for your child as they are prone to having perfectionistic standards and judging themselves worthy based on their ability to please others. They are likely to view a single incident of displeasure from you as a global rejection of themselves. Your anxious child often needs frequent assurance of your unconditional love and acceptance of them. One suggestion to support this is the occasional offering of grace. That is, every once in a while, surprise them by pardoning their act of indiscretion – no preaching, no consequences, just forgive and forget it. When they receive grace they learn to be gracious to themselves.

 

5. Ensure your expectations are developmentally “reasonable”. Statistically speaking, parents of anxious children are likely to either underestimate or over-estimate their child’s abilities, coping skills, and stress tolerance. Your child may already have unreasonably high expectations of themselves (which they worry about meeting), ensure you are not compounding this by having unreasonable standards too. Consult with teachers or parent educators or research about what behaviours and discipline procedures are appropriate for your child’s age. For example, the homework of a 16 year old should require less monitoring than an 8 year old. By over-monitoring a 16 year old, one may be communicating a lack of confidence in her and denying her the opportunity to develop the self-discipline skills she needs to independently succeed in life.

 

6. Discuss or offer a positive alternative the next time a similar situation occurs. Children do not always know the right thing to do in a problematic situation. When correcting them include a statement of instruction on appropriate ways to behave. For example, “we do not run away from the classroom when we do not want to read in class, instead we can… (a), ..(b), or …(c).” With older children you can guide them through the problem solving process by asking them to tell you a number of possible solutions and selecting the most appealing.

 

7. Establish your authority as a safety net. Because of their need for personal safety many anxious children become the little directors and authorities in their families. Their controlling behaviours, which may include some non-compliance, are often problematic for parents who do not understand the security need behind it. The misconception most parents develop is that children need to be in control to feel safe. However, what your anxious child needs is for you to affirm yourself as the competent authority figure in their lives; they need to know you are capable and trustworthy of being in control in their lives. This doesn’t mean becoming dominant or controlling but it does mean having clear limits, and standing confident in your enforcement of these limits. Based on their own personalities and personal issues, some parents need support as they begin to assert themselves, either from a counsellor or partner.

 

The task of discipline is primary in the role of being a parent but though it has it’s challenges (learning by trial and error and retrial) you can be successful in helping your anxious child develop the self-discipline he or she needs to be independently successful in life.

Additional Anxiety Resources For Parents

Anxiety Disorders Association of America

Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada -Find your local province chapter for more resources.

Mistake Monday– A Challenge to reduce perfectionism in families. This is an illustration of the types of playful approaches that I use in family play therapy to help support the family system.

#playtherapy #edmonton

YouTube Video on Childhood Anxiety

 

Help for Families Canada offers play therapy (counselling) for children in South Edmonton who suffer from excessive worries, difficulty separating from parents, appear socially withdrawn (shy), or is driven for perfection. We also coach parents in how to manage these behaviours at home and in the community (parent skills training).

Invitation to Help Other Families & Parents

YOU are also an Expert. I would love to hear your thoughts about these 7 keys.

  • Which keys do you agree with?
  • Is there a key point that you’ve tried but found unfruitful?
  • Which key would you be the most challenging for you to implement now?
  • What other keys would you add to the list?
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What’s Reasonable to Expect from Your Child’s Social Skills? – Info and Tips.

Selman (1981) proposed an idea of how children’s skills and perspectives on friendships develop over time. Outlined here as well are suggestions for how you, as a parent, can use this to guide and support your child’s social skills and strengthen your family relationships.

Stage 1: Friendship Based on Proximity  (3-7 years)

Definition: Anyone who is sharing the physical space can be a ‘friend’ in that moment. They express no sense of “loyalty” to friends. They are easily distracted by the new kid in the room with the newest toys.

Parenting Implications: 

This is a phase to be very relaxed about your expectations of your child’s relationships. Planning play-dates for them around your convenience and even your friends is acceptable. Don’t be disturbed if they express no sense of “loyalty” to friends. Teach your child how to enter and exit a playgroup graciously. Additionally, talk about and “practise” different ways to manage being left behind or excluded in a playgroup.

Similarly at this stage “family” are those people around me that play with me. To begin to lay core family relationship values I encourage you to spend time with them in their space sharing a similar activity with or alongside them.

Stage 2: One-Way Assistance  (4-9 years)

A friend is someone who does what you want them to, who helps you and “shares” some interests  (or, at least, offers little resistance to one’s interests).

Parenting Implications :

Teach children how to share with and help others.

Begin to introduce children to the basic process of how to talk to their friends about what they feel, want, and need. The first step is to help them to identify their own feelings and wants so that they can communicate these to others. During family interactions describe to your child what you think they are feeling and wanting in the situation and then seek clarification from them about the accuracy of your understanding.  Be patient however with your expectations of them genuinely empathising with the needs and views of others, this often doesn’t develop until age 9+.

As a family do things together that is fun for everyone. Promote routines such as chores as a way to help and share the responsibilities in the family.

Stage 3: Fair Weather Cooperation (6-12 years)

Friendship is conditional on “getting along”. Friendships easily ‘dissolve’ once there is a disagreement or conflict.  Children now describe their friends in terms of personal characteristics or qualities.

Parenting Implications:

Speak to your child about the value of commitment in friendships. This is an important phase to talk with your child about the qualities that make a “good friend”; encourage them how to be a good friend and recognise a good friend. Point out that good friends are hard to find and worth keeping in spite of differences of opinion.  Watching and commenting on the relationships in the media is a non-intrusive way to explore these values. You may also use family relationships, such as siblings,  as model for how relationships endure over differences.

Continue to support your child’s problem-solving skills.

Discuss with your children the core values underlying the family rules and routines you establish.

Stage 4: Intimate & Mutually Shared Relationships  (9-15 years)

Intimacy and getting to know each other begins to develop in friendships. They begin to share their problems, concerns, secrets with select friends. They can resolve conflicts. They may be very possessive of their best-friend or “bff” at this stage. Cliques may develop and become exclusive.

In adolescence, the ups and downs of friendships may have significant impact on youth’s emotional well-being.

Parenting Implications:  

Model and structure more egalitarian styles of relating for youth in your family relationships. Ensure that youth have the basic skills of how to be open and communicative of their thoughts and feelings and to be empathetic towards the thoughts and feelings of others.

If your  teen has a good quality friend, trust them and take comfort in it. Don’t take it too personally if your child is sharing more with her bff than you, at least you know she/he has someone to share with.

Set limits on special family time as exclusive time too.  Explain that special family times are times with them when you do not want to share them with their “other friends” whether it be virtual  phone/internet/text or physical.  Negotiate with your child how you set these limits. Some families have no phones at dinner time, some families have scheduled exclusive family activities.

Continue to reinforce in your tween’s values what defines a “good friend”, how to be one as well as recognise one.  This can be done quite casually be describing and commenting on other observed relationships you see in the media.

Stage 5: Autonomous Independent Friendships (12-adult)

Friendships can still be intimate and supportive but they allow individuals more freedom to have other friendships and relationships.

Parenting Implications:

They are forming their own support system now and are growing less reliant on you for support. This does not mean that you are no longer important to them or that you are not a significant source of support but you may have to become more accepting of their other relationships. This is a time for you as a parent to expand on and strengthen your own social relationship.  As your older teen (17+) develops more independence and maturity you will find your relationship transition into a more equal relationship where you can disclose more about your own life with them.

In regards to family relationships, you can continue to sustain a routine of family time as you have had but should now be involving your mature teen in the decision making about family activities. Ask them to plan a family night? Ask them about and show consideration for their schedule when planning family activities?  Be open to including a special friend or romantic partner in what would have been an exclusive family activity.

 

Additional resource

How Cliques Make Kids Feel Left Out

 

What other strategies have you used to help your child expand their social circle and keep them closely connected to your family. Please share your thoughts below.

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Love Relationship: Should you breakup?

  Most Critical Dating Advice for Women Online

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