What Does that Growth Chart Mean?

Today’s post is brought to you by Prakar Poudel, International Medical Graduate, Future Pediatrician!

Growth is what makes children unique.

Everyone from Grandma to your neighbor watches the growth and development process from the moment your child is born until they become a fully mature adult. Natural laws dictate that the growth of each child is a unique, continuous and orderly process, although the different parts of a child can grow at different rates!

It is essential for your pediatrician to monitor the growth of your child until they are through adolescence, because changes in growth could be a sign of medical illness.

The most common measures to track are weight and height. However, the eruption of teeth and measurement of head circumference, chest circumference, mid-upper arm circumference and body mass index are other measures for tracking growth.

In general, a child:

  • doubles birth weight by age 6 months
  • triples birth weight by 12 months
  • quadruples birth weight by 2 years

Similarly, a child’s height:

  • will be around 50 cm (~20 in) at birth
  • will gain an additional 25cm (~10 in) by 1 year
  • 12.5 cm (~5 in) by 2 years, and
  • 10 cm (~4 in) by 3 years of age

One important note is that if growth in height is less than 4 cm (~1.6 in) per year after the age of 4 years, this suggests the child has a poor growth rate and needs a pediatrician’s visit.

The head circumference of a baby also increases at the rate of 2 cm (~.8 in) per month until 3 months of age and 2 cm per 3 months until 12 months of age.

If the measurement of the mid part of the biceps (upper arm) is below 12.5 cm in a newborn, the child also needs immediate medical attention. Average biceps size is in the graph below:

Lastly, teeth can also be considered a vital measure to track the child’s growth. As the child grows, primary (temporary) teeth erupt and fall in synchrony with the eruption of permanent teeth. All the temporary teeth fall and get replaced by permanent teeth by the age of 12 years.

Each child’s growth rate and velocity will be different and unique, so the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has created growth charts for weight, height and head circumference for each sex and age to monitor the overall growth of your child. The charts shown below are an example of growth charts of weight for age in boys and girls. All other kinds of growth charts can be found in your nearby children’s doctor.

A single appropriate growth chart is used for each child. The important part of plotting in these charts is that your child should be following a consistent percentile for it to be considered adequate growth. If your child’s weight crosses at least 2 percentiles – say falls from 75th percentile to the 25th – your child may need to see a pediatrician.

Any worries? Pediatricians love this stuff – call yours!

How to Help Children in Times of Trauma

We try to protect our children from as much as we can, but sometimes life has other plans.

The murders in Uvalde have taken over our thoughts, our conversations at home and with friends, the internet, and the television waves. Our children are being bombarded by the nightmare in front of the TV at home, in conversations with friends, and with questions asked by their peers. It can be too much for a child to deal with.

Your child’s experience

Your child’s experience of an event will vary depending on their age,  personal style,  life experience, and  closeness to the disaster. A toddler will only care that his or her parents seem to be upset. Older children will hurt for the people involved, worry about friends and relatives that are not within their sight, and worry that it could happen to them sometime, at some other event. One child asked her mom, “What picture of me will you show?”

What seemed exciting to discuss with friends during the day becomes frightening after the lights go off.

Listen to them

Listen to them talk, and be patient when they ask you the same questions over and over. Reassure them, let them know that such things are extremely rare. Answer questions truthfully, at their own developmental level. Never lie.

Monitor what your child sees and hears

Monitor what your child sees and hears – adult conversation and the media can magnify fear and confusion and increase their trauma. Repetition can intensify anxiety; pictures can get locked in their heads.

What to watch for

After the event symptoms of post-traumatic stress may appear, even in children not directly involved. They may be sad or moody, easily angered or irritable. They may be afraid to go to public venues. They may have trouble sleeping or sleep too much. Appetites may suffer. Your child may be anxious when his or her people are not all nearby, and wake from nightmares.

Children frequently have concentration problems after a trauma, and their grades will suffer. They may regress developmentally: your independent youngsters may become clingy, or need help doing things they had been able to do on their own. They may avoid activities they previously enjoyed, and withdraw into themselves. They may become anxious at the thought of going to school, or of being separated from mom or dad.

They can also develop physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches. They may try to exercise more control on their environment, setting up their toys in a particular way, wanting their schedule to be predictable, or demanding activities they find reassuring. Teens may act out or try alcohol or drugs in an attempt to feel better.

How to help

Helping them may be as simple as listening. Be available and receptive but don’t push. A younger child may open up and tell you his story when you break out toys or art supplies; an older one may talk if you tell her a similar story about yourself, when you were scared or worried. Schedule time for just the two of you, and wait.

Children may try to hide their symptoms: they think they should be stronger, they don’t want to be a burden, or they think they are abnormal for having the problem. They may even feel that the disaster was their fault; children are not always logical. Allowing them to bury their symptoms will only erode their spirit from the inside.

Also, be a good example. Take care of yourself, eat healthy food, sleep, and discuss events calmly. Turn off the TV and stay off the web. Exercise. Take breaks to play, read a book, and do something unrelated to… it.

Keep to recognizable routines– routine is reassuring and safe. Require reasonable behavior: if they still get in trouble for using that bad word, then everything must be OK. They may test you with bad behavior just to get that reassurance. Don’t spoil them with extra treats, because it will frighten them. Things must be really bad if The Parent gives me toys or lets me eat candy.

Lend a hand to other people. It will help to know that you have the power to help and comfort.

The traumatic symptoms may last quite a while. Triggers like parents going out at night or a security guard at a local festival may bring everything back. Fear of it happening again may linger. An anniversary will renew their anxiety.

If time passes and stress is affecting their lives, think about having them see a counselor or getting them into a peer group with similar concerns. We all need a little help sometimes.

My mom also used to say, “Time heals all wounds.” And with a little help from their guardians it always will.

Words on Guns: A Pediatrician’s Perspective

As a pediatrician I have been fighting for sensible gun law for a while. I lost 3 of my small patients to gun violence. So, useful info on how to discuss guns with gun fans:

An AR 15 is an “Armalite Rifle,” after the manufacturer Armalite. Gun nuts will ask you what AR stands for. Don’t say assault rifle or they will dismiss everything else you say.

The problem is the high velocity bullets (they go through a child’s body so rapidly that they destroy tissue 6 inches around a bullet entry), rapidity of fire, and high capacity magazines (more than 10 bullets in a magazine is not necessary unless you want to kill humans). Use those terms.

If they talk about there already being background checks? Only licensed gun dealers are required to do them, and reporting is not mandatory. We need universal background checks with mandatory reporting.

They talk about how Chicago has gun restrictions but still has gun violence? It is because Indiana, across the road, has no restrictions. Easy to cross a road.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”? That’s why we want background checks on the people, not the guns.

“Car accidents kill kids too”? Yes, that’s why we require driver training, a license, registration, and liability insurance. Also why we have traffic law to regulate their use.

We need:

  • to require safe storage of guns.
  • to keep bump stocks and kits that change semiautomatics into automatics illegal.
  • either magazines that cannot be exchanged (rather, need to be reloaded), take more time to replace, or take 2 hands to replace.
  • to limit the amount of ammunition people can buy, like we do pseudoephedrine.
  • to require licensing, registration, and liability insurance. Let the insurance companies pay for the mental health check and decide which guns are too dangerous to insure. The gun lobby and the insurance lobby can have a conversation.
  • red flag laws, the same in every state.

It is generally impossible to sue shielded gun manufacturers (although one case recently did succeed), and was previously against the law for the CDC to fund any research into gun violence – very unusual restrictions passed purely to protect gun manufacturers. The Dickey Amendment, passed in 1996, was recinded in 2018, but we lost decades of research.

The NRA funnels money from gun manufacturers to politicians on both sides – mostly Republican, but some Dems. There is dark money given that is untraceable, so we really don’t know who is on their payroll. The NRA actually supported Bernie Sanders when he first won office because he promised to never vote for any law that put in a waiting period for hand guns (and he never has).

The top ten traceable donations:

  • Mitt Romney $13,637,676
  • Richard Burr $6,987,380
  • Roy Blunt $4,555,752
  • Thom Tillis $4,421,333
  • Cory Gardner $3,939,199
  • Marco Rubio $3,303,355
  • Joni Ernst $3,124,773
  • Rob Portman $3,063,327
  • Todd C Young $2,897,582
  • Bill Cassidy $2,867,074

We need to educate ourselves to even begin the push for change, because what we are doing now is not working.

Gun lobbies only care about sales, while kids are dying.

Lets do this.

The Science of Learning – 5 Research-Backed Techniques that Work

Today’s blog is brought to you by Russell Michelson, the Director of Outreach for Better Speech.com. I thought it wold be especially useful since many people are learning at home these days! Here goes:

The modern world we live in is a continually advancing sphere with new skills becoming available all the time. To keep pace with rapidly evolving technology, you must upgrade your skills and abilities from time to time. Although learning at a younger age is more effortless, picking up new information is equally easy for adults. The human brain is an incredibly complex organ capable of great things. With the right learning techniques, you can accomplish just about anything. Here are some of the most effective strategies that have been scientifically proven to work.

  1. Practice and Repetition

Practicing a skill over and over again or trying to remember information trains the brain to perform better. Studies conducted by neuroscientists at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. have noted that when a person makes an effort to learn new skills with practice and repetition, the activity fires up brain cells. 

These neurons communicate with each other via electrical and chemical messages passed through axons. Each time an action is repeated, these axons are strengthened, and they become more efficient at relaying signals. After adequate repetition, the brain can perform the moves without consciously thinking about them. That’s the reason why the world’s best athletes, musicians, and experts in any field give flawless performances that are so impressive.

  1. Concentration and Intense Focus

Yet another technique for firing up neurons is concentration. If you focus intently on the materials, the brain has a higher probability of retaining them. Distractions like taking calls, responding to texts, and letting your attention wander divides up the brain’s attention. For this reason, you’ll take longer to retain a particular topic. If you can eliminate all distractions and concentrate entirely on a specific concept, you’ll have better retention after studying for a shorter time. 

Effective learning techniques are about avoiding any kind of multi-tasking, including study-related emails. If you find your attention is breaking or thinking of something else, make a conscious effort to focus on the task at hand. 

  1. Repeating Aloud to Ensure Understanding

Trying to learn by rote is one of the most ineffective methods. Cramming is essentially memorizing without understanding the concept. The chances are that you’ll forget everything soon. But, if you can actually make sense of the text, it’s easy to develop an in-depth view of how the idea functions. Committing it to memory will be a lot easier, and that’s where language skills come in. 

Talking about what you just reviewed helps you retain it better. That’s primarily why many students seem to perform better in group studies where each learner presents their version of the concepts.

Students should be able to read, comprehend, and repeat back what the material is all about. The inability to express and communicate is a critical issue that gets in the way of learning. Students who find language skills to be challenging can benefit from the therapy of a certified speech pathologist. In person or online speech therapy can help learners develop proper language skills for more effective study habits. 

  1. Retrieving Information by Testing

Testing and exam-taking are viewed negatively by many students who dread having to take them. In fact, asking questions trains your brain’s ability to retrieve the information it has memorized. If you cannot come up with answers, that’s an indication that you need to go back to reviewing the material and trying to remember it. 

Taking practice tests relevant to the coursework helps identify which concepts are not entirely clear. Or that you have trouble recalling them. You can go back to relearning them until retrieving the information is smoothly done. Practice testing has another crucial advantage. The brain transfers the materials from short-term memory to long-term memory. In this way, you’ll ensure retaining the skills for life. 

  1. Interweaving or Distributed Practice

Adopting this learning technique is ideal for students who find it hard to concentrate on a single concept for too long. If you develop a mental block after an hour or so, refresh the mind by switching to another unrelated course. For instance, if you absolutely cannot review another chemical reaction, move on to solving math problems for a while. Giving your brain a break after short sessions is a perfect strategy for improved memory.

Adopting the right learning techniques that work best for you provides that all-essential edge when picking up new skills and courses. Choose the method that helps you retain materials and stay with it.

A Guide to Self-Care For Breastfeeding Moms

Today’s blog was written by Leslie Campos at Wellparents.com.

Image Credit: Photo via Pexels.com

Breastfeeding is meant to be a positive experience for both mother and baby. However, in my years of working with families, I’ve seen that the physical and emotional exhaustion of breastfeeding can interfere with what should be a joyful experience. It’s important, therefore, for nursing moms to invest in their own self-care. Here are some simple yet effective ways to do so.

Make your comfort a priority.

Whether you’re pregnant or already nursing, comfort can be hard to come by. This is why you need to take extra measures to allow yourself this kindness. Case in point, as you get ready to give birth, you want to be sure that you come prepared with a comfy delivery gown and a robe. Nursing pajamas and nursing bras will especially come in handy as you and your baby get into the groove of nursing. You’ll be surprised at just how much these simple pieces of clothing can ease the process. 

As you nurse, you will find that breast care is a must. Again, wearing a breathable and supportive nursing bra is necessary, as is the use of breast pads. Good hygiene is definitely a given. Above all, make sure that your baby latches on properly as this will help prevent pain on your breasts and, in turn, keep you less stressed and more comfortable.

Focus on nutrition.

For the first few months of your baby’s life, you are their main source of nutrients when you breastfeed. Needless to say, you need to watch what you eat, drink, and take for your baby to receive the nutrients they need to grow and develop. The good news is, breastfeeding nutrition is also just as good for you, too, as you work on getting your health back, going back in shape, losing weight, etc. 

Fundamentally, it’s ideal to consume around 300 to 400 more calories a day. But before you reach for that candy bar, it’s only smart to make the most of this by choosing nutrient-rich food items. Foods that are rich in fiber, protein, and other minerals are highly recommended. Meanwhile, sugar should be minimized, while it’s best to avoid caffeine altogether.

Staying hydrated when breastfeeding is also crucial. Essentially, you need to replace the fluid (milk) that your baby consumes, so drink a bit more water than you need to quench your thirst. And while a bit of lemon or lime in your water is fine, fruit juices are highly discouraged for the sugar content, which can contribute to weight gain.

Get some sleep.

A new baby comes with a multitude of demands, which leaves moms exhausted and overwhelmed. You need to rest more than ever. However, this is often easier said than done, but the reality is, sleep deprivation can affect both your physical and mental health negatively.

It’s important, therefore, to grab every possible opportunity to rest when you can. If the baby is sleeping, for instance, you will be better served by skipping the laundry and taking a nap instead. 

Be kind to yourself. 

Yes, the pressure of taking care of a little human being can be great. Know that you will need to work hard at not expecting perfection and avoiding self-blame when things don’t go as planned. Live in the moment with your baby. Instead of being frustrated after being woken up in the middle of the night or having your ‘me’ time disturbed, touch, breathe in, and look at your baby to remind yourself of this miracle. It helps to let go of some control, too, so accept help from your partner and loved ones. You also don’t need to do everything by the book.

Ultimately, there is joy in breastfeeding, which you’ll find far outweighs the pain, frustration, and exhaustion. I invite you to ask me questions and follow my blog for more Practical Parenting Advice.

How to Fight with Your Child: Quarantine Edition

The most basic principle of conflict resolution, that both parties in the conflict have to be treated as equals, flies out the window when that conflict is with a child or between children.

Equality is a tricky area in parenting. Yes, this child is in every way your equal in humanity and way ahead of you in potential. He or she is undeniably not your equal in size, power, or – for a while – intelligence and experience. If we allow a child equal power in a conflict what we get is a spoiled, obnoxious child who will put his or her own future in jeopardy by making bad decisions.

Equality is likewise tricky between two children, because we cannot count on children not to take advantage of their greater size, intelligence, or experience. A referee is needed.

When we are in conflict with our children, or they are in conflict with each other, we must treat them with respect as the complete human beings they are, while we decisively withhold the power they are grasping for.

The standard steps to conflict resolution apply, but they must be adjusted for the relative sizes of the combatants:

 

First, listen.

It is all too easy to dismiss a child. You are the parent, you know what they are going to say, and you know what your decision is going to be, so why waste the time, right?

How did that attitude make you feel the last time you were on the receiving end of it?

Take a moment to listen to their side, even if it is ridiculous, because just knowing they are being listened to is a win for a child. This is much easier to do when your 4 year old is explaining to you why she thinks she should have ice cream for lunch, than it is when your 13 year old is explaining why it is not a problem that you caught him smoking. Give them the time to speak, no matter how tempting it is to cut them off.

Actually focus on them and pay attention to what they are saying. Don’t let your mind wander into thinking about what you will say next, or the errands you have to run.  The prize you get for listening is a better understanding of your progeny; as a bonus, they then have to listen to you, to be fair. Another win!

Sometimes it helps to set a timer prominently between you and give each person a minute to speak without interruption.

After one contender has their moment to speak, their opponent should repeat back what they heard. Sometimes what we mean to say is not what comes out of our mouths, and sometimes what we hear is not what was actually said.

 

Communicate, and insist that they communicate.

Don’t fling insults and accusations. Don’t bring up past history. Don’t yell, because yelling looses it’s power quickly. Don’t threaten with ultimatums – they backfire. Never denigrate your child and never label them: labels stick, and children sometimes try to live up to them.  Sit down at their level, look them in the eye, speak at normal volume, and stick to the subject.

 

Don’t make assumptions.

Or jump to conclusions. Slow down and give yourself the time to fully understand, or mistakes will be made.

 

Summarize.

After everyone has had a chance to make their points, sum them up. Name the problem, list the arguments on each side.

 

Start with areas of agreement.

In every discussion there are points of agreement. Start with those points, and work from there. We agree that ice cream is delicious, and it does have calcium in it for your bones, but…

In the end, you are the parent and must make the decision that you feel is best. Listening to your children along the way does no harm, strengthens relationships, will make them feel valued, and will nourish their self esteem. Understanding their thought processes and point of view may also help prevent later conflicts. Avoid the pitfalls – jumping to conclusions, towering over your child, name calling – and you will not have damage to repair later.

The experience of being treated fairly and with respect will carry forward and encourage your children to demand respect as they become adults. And learning how to argue without destroying a relationship? Priceless.

How to Fight about Your Children: Quarantine Edition

Quarantine is hard.

We are locked in with the same people all the time. Eternally. 86,400 seconds every. single. day.

Time for a remix of the blog on how to fight in a productive way, particularly about those small, ever-present, demanding, bored aliens in your home. So:

Conflict Resolution Basics:

The first, most important, and absolutely non-negotiable concrete foundation of conflict resolution between parents is that parents are equal partners, and have to respect each other as such. You chose to have a child together. It is the privilege and responsibility of both of you to parent. It does not matter if you are married, partners, or single, or if one parent is taller, stronger, richer, smarter, more talented…. That child belongs to both of you and needs both of you.

I once saw a child in the post office with a parent on either side holding onto an arm and pulling. Don’t do that. Your child is not a rope in a tug of war.

Conflicts can only be resolved by compromise. If one side wholly wins, the other has no choice but to keep fighting. Both sides have to give a little; both have to feel that they have won something.

None of us is always right; we can afford to be flexible.

In the end it is far more important that your children see that their parents respect each other, can listen to each other and discuss problems, and are able to compromise, than whether or not their bedtime can be changed or if they have to get their chores done.

If parents cannot respect each other as equals, that is the lesson their child will absorb, and someday he or she might accept something less than respect from their partner.

 

The Framework:

The structure we build on that respect is agreement on common goals. It seems, going into parenting, that we should all have the same obvious goals. We want our child alive, healthy, happy, self-confident…

Obvious, yes?

It’s amazing how much variation there is within these bounds.

Ideally, parents discuss and agree on goals for their children before they actually have any. In reality, many parents discuss religion and that they want kids, but not much else.

So, ten things to talk about with your partner before things go ka-BOOM:

  1. Where you will live: Having a child is a lifetime commitment, so this means 20 years of where you will live, not just right now. Talk about location, type of home, whether you want to be near family, if you will move for a better job…  whatever is important to you. Things change, and it is nice to know where your partner stands on the subject ahead of time.
  2. Finance: Children need security to feel safe enough to explore and grow. Financial worries can plant their lives on shifting sands. Sit down together and figure out how much money you make, what you will spend it on, and how you will save for an emergency and the future. Make a budget. Your child does not want to loose a parent over the electric bill.
  3. Diet: You want them to be healthy, right? Not to have diabetes at 12, back pain at 15, and heart disease at 40? That means agreeing on what to feed them, and on being a good example yourself. It also includes not using food for emotional support or rewards. And don’t get me started on using food so that your child will like you better than the other parent.
  4. Routines and schedules: How obsessive are you going to be about homework, meal times, and bedtime routines? Routines can be incredibly helpful: kids don’t argue over something (like bedtime) that is a habit. On the other hand, routines can become rigid and squash all random opportunities and creativity. Where do you stand on that line? Routines work only if both parents are in agreement on them, so talk.
  5. Sleeping arrangements: I have seen more than a few marriages end in an ugly divorce over this one. There is really no moral right or wrong on it, but you must both agree. Just don’t co-sleep with a baby under 6 months. I’ve lost two small patients that way, and never want to lose another. Just don’t.
  6. Education: How important is school? Are some subjects more important than others? Do actual grades and the particular school matter, or is it learning and inspiration that is important? How about learning technical skills versus book learning? How about “useful” skills versus not so obviously useful? (I have an a degree in anthropology that I’ve never used, and I am married to a very practical engineer. We have discussions.)
  7. Careers: Which career choices are acceptable, and which are not? You might want to write these down and then switch lists – surprise! When I was a child, my options were nurse, teacher, or housewife. My mother had crossed “nun” off the list and not replaced it with anything. I was a big surprise.
  8. Athletics: How important are sports? Life ending? Or just done to be well rounded and get exercise? Any particular sport in mind?
  9. Criminal behavior: This is a biggie. Children start out as small barbarians, travel through self-involved, and wander into insecure before they become adults. They will try out hitting, biting, lying and stealing along the way. How will you react? What will you do to discourage this behavior?
  10. Privacy: Children have no legal right to privacy. They have what you give them, and they deserve your protection from their own … lack of insight, so their privacy cannot be absolute. Where is that line? How much do you trust before you verify?

So, I have managed to write a blog on conflict resolution without ever discussing how to resolve a conflict.  First and foremost: respect your partner and set common goals. Once you have that foundation and framework, everything else falls into place more easily. With a little nudge. Or two.

Build that foundation. If parents endlessly argue and fight, marriages self destruct; if parents cannot treat each other with respect and decide on common goals, children self destruct.

Have that conversation before you need it.

And check out last week’s How to Fight like a Parent for practical advice.

How to Fight Like a Parent: Quarantine Edition

Lost and alone

Children thrive in a home where they feel secure: security that is based in large part on their parents being sane and reliable.

It can be terrifying when parents argue. If Mom or Dad act crazy when they fight then their daughter, watching from around the corner, or son, lying in bed with a pillow over his head, will believe their world is falling apart.

As a result, an important part of parenting is learning how to discuss and resolve differences of opinion without devolving into screaming insults and accusations.

The goal of any parental conflict is to reach a compromise where both parties feel they won something, and both parties feel that they have given up something. If one party wins everything the compromise will not last because the other will have nothing to loose – their only options are to either keep fighting, or just give up. We are looking for a win-win.

Parents are individuals first, with unique histories and priorities. There are bound to be disagreements over the decades it takes to raise a child. (Check out common areas of disagreement; and how to fight with a child.) Since these disagreements happen between two people, the personalities of those people will impact the process. A little self examination is in order before we begin.

There are three common personality styles that can negatively affect – umm- discussions:

  • The avoider: this person will not bring up the problem, will change the subject when they can, try to make jokes, deny that there is a problem… The problem will not get solved unless they can be brought to ground. (My husband is nodding and pointing at me.)
  • The nice guy: this person will give until they can’t give any more and then they explode. They will yield all points and agree to whatever their partner wants. Said partner will be completely blindsided when the divorce papers come.
  • The competitor: this is the person who will argue for points they don’t even care about, because they just want to win. Sometimes they can go over the line and and get nasty, flinging insults and accusations.

Parenting is too important to allow personality style to impact decisions. Figure out how you and your partner argue, and realize that your child is important enough to force yourself out of your comfort zone and let go of whatever habits you have indulged in until now. Face whatever the issue is, stand up for what you think is right, but don’t steamroll over your partner. Discuss the issue with the goal of compromise and cooperation.

People smarter than me have studied how to resolve conflicts in politics and business. The same principles work for relationships and parenting. The process can be divided into steps:

  • Listen. This means not interrupting until your partner in life, that person whom you love most in the world, has made his or her point. So hush! If you have trouble staying quiet, place a timer prominently between you and give each person a few uninterrupted minutes. Listening also means hearing and trying to understand what their words actually mean – difficult to do when all you are thinking about is your own point of view and what you are going to say next. You need to know how your partner in life sees the problem in order to fix it.  Sometimes it helps to repeat back what you heard, because what one person says is not always what the other person hears. “I’m frustrated and angry because we can’t pay our bills” can sound like “I want out of this marriage” if you are not careful.
  • Communicate. Talk about the actual issue. We want the best education for our child, but we can’t agree  on priorities. Don’t detour over to how you feel, other issues, or past history. Don’t try to assign blame. We never should have moved, or You should have taken that other job, won’t help.
  • Summarize. After you’ve both had a chance to make your point, sum it up. Name the problem, list the points on each side. Write it down if it helps.
  • Start with agreement. In every discussion there are points of agreement. Start with those points, and work from there. We both value education, but we know we cannot afford the private school we love… You want to work more so we can come up with the money, I want you home more and think we can teach them by reading, traveling, going to the library.
  • Don’t make assumptions, or jump to conclusions. Slow down, give yourselves the time to fully understand. Don’t let emotions and the thrill of drama get the better of you.
  • Realize that you must come to an agreement, there is no other option. We can work a little more to pay for math camp during the summer, and carve out extra time to hit libraries and museums.

Both sides must give a little and both sides must win a little, because you are in this together. One partner cannot overpower the other, or the partnership will not last, and your children need your partnership to last more than they need whatever you are arguing about.

In a conflict between parents either both parents win or both, in the end, lose.

How Using Mindfulness Can Help Your Kids Now

Mindfulness has become mainstream. The InnerKids Foundation in LA has been teaching mindfulness to inner city kids since 2001. The Goldie Hawn Foundation sponsors a program called MindUp that has trained thousands of teachers. In all likelihood, mindfulness is coming to a school near you, with very good reason. Mindfulness works.

MindUP has shown a 90% increase in children’s ability to get along with other children; an 80% increase in optimism; and a 75% improvement in planning, organizational skills, and  impulse control when kids practice. Several studies have shown that mindfulness practice brings a sense of well being and decrease in stress.

Our world has gone crazy, and our children are having problems with anxiety, stress, depression, and the resultant physical symptoms: stomach aches, headaches, and chronic tiredness. Anxious, stressed out kids build stories in their minds that circle, grow, and separate them from what is real and manageable. Mindfulness can help.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a meditation practice that we in the west have stolen from the Buddhists and warped to our own purposes. Through mindfulness practice a child can achieve a state of mind where they aware, focused on the present, and calmly accepting of  themselves and the world around them, without judgement.

Does this not sound like exactly what we want for our kids? Kids who learn to practice mindfulness have in their arsenal a tool that will help them deal with anxiety, stress, impulsiveness, and any number of damaging emotions–with no side effects and at the bargain price of free. No need to join a religion, and anyone can learn it.

How do we do it?

There are many internet sites that can lead you through mindfulness practice with your kids. I particularly like Renee Jain, MAPP, but there are many out there. There is even an iPhone app! The basics are really very simple:

  • First and most important, do it with your child.
  • Find a peaceful, quiet place, sit comfortably (the crossed leg/hands on knee thing is optional).
  • Focus on awareness of one thing.
  • Notice that thing–a sight, or sound, or feeling-any one thing.
  • Acknowledge that thing, then let the thought drift away, without judgement.

Babies are naturals at mindfulness. Stick mushed peaches in their mouths and they will taste them, look at them on their hands, rub them all over their faces, and smell them. They are in the moment and focused on those peaches. We can learn a lot from babies.

Older kids need to be brought back to that sort of focus. Sit with them in a quiet, comfortable place, and guide them to think about one thing. Use something they can hear (a bell or a shaker?) or taste, or smell. Teach them to notice that thing, then let that notice float away. Be aware and focused, but don’t try to conclude anything about what they are focused on and don’t pass judgement. Just hear, or see, or smell-and then let it go.

As kids get older, they can learn more traditional meditation techniques: breath coming into and going out, awareness of their bodies and of passing thoughts, and letting go so that they can be in the next moment, without attachment to what is passed and gone.

There is no one right way to meditate: the point is to be peaceful and live, for that time, in the present without attachment and without judgement. People meditate by arranging sand, by doing yoga, by coloring, by going fishing–whatever works for you and your child.

Why practice mindfulness?

Meditation can teach kids how to break the spiraling cycle of anxiety; how to develop a more positive and optimistic viewpoint; how to live without pronouncing judgement on everything they encounter, and on themselves. It can help them feel better about themselves and learn to regulate their emotions and impulses.

Imagine your child coming home stressed because someone was mean, they have too much homework, or they are last picked for a team. Imagine if they could find a quiet place, trace that stress to its origin, transform it into a color or a breeze in their minds– and let it go.

Better than sitting, stewing in the stress, and letting it spiral and grow until it takes over their evening, yes?

Create a habit of daily meditation.

Take a few minutes every evening and make meditation a routine–maybe right before homework or bed? Reward them for practicing with a hug or a few minutes more of your time, as you reward any behavior of which you want to see more.

Mindfulness is a skill, like riding a bike. If your child practices every day, when he or she needs it they won’t have to think about how to get their feet onto the pedals and make the bike roll forward. It will just be there for them.

Mindfulness works. Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve kids’ coping skills and their sense of well being. It can improve memory and learning by teaching them to pay attention and focus. It can teach them to be aware of their feelings, accept them, and then let them go, so that they can make wise decisions with their minds rather than poor ones based on overwhelming emotions. They can learn to self regulate and control their own emotions and actions.

Give it a try. Everyone can use a few minutes of peace in their day.

FREE Fun & Educational Activities for Kids Stuck at Home

Coronavirus got you stuck at home with the kids out of school? I have an idea for you!

You can find challenging and creative educational activities at Education.com. The site was built with the contributions of thousands of teachers, and they have FREE activities for kids from preschool through 6th grade–activities that help them succeed in science, math, reading, writing, and social studies.

They teach with games, songs, worksheets, interactive exercises, hands-on activities, and more.

For example, Education.com let me use the printable word search below to celebrate St. Patrick’s day. Doing word searches helps kids with reading and writing skills, which are at the heart of learning–they apply to all other aspects of education whether that be understanding analytical math texts or practicing creative expression through poetry. Kids learn while they think they are just playing a game.

Check out Education.com while you’re stuck at home for great resources for every age child, from helping kindergarteners create stories to geography challenges for sixth graders.

And no, they are not paying me to write this–it’s just a great site.

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