You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

It is a New Year…New Beginnings for 2017

2017….What are your hopes for your family?


Here it is the 3rd of January and I am just beginning to think about this New Year!  Our holiday season was filled to the brim with family, fun and wonderful memories.  The time certainly went quickly and suddenly it is the 3rd of January 2017!  There really is no magic to the first of January (or January 3rd!), but this time of year always brings me to moments of reflection (after the holiday chaos calms down!).  I usually have thoughts of ways to improve, some new goals and maybe a new mindset.  However, the first of January really is no different from the start of every day, it is simply a new beginning.  New beginnings are wonderful; it is a clean slate…a chance to do better or be better, a chance to enjoy more…a chance to love more.  So here is to new beginnings…whether it is January 1st 2017, January 3rd 2017, or even the new beginning of every morning! (I love the idea of starting over each day…kids are great at this!)  Here are a few hopes/goals that I have for families in 2017….(and that includes my family!)

  1. Families will begin each day with excitement and end each day with gratitude. My mantra this year will be “Grateful no matter what!”  I believe every child should go to sleep thinking of the good things of that day and wake up with thoughts of the good things to come.
  2. Families will put down the phone, IPad, or turn off the TV increasing time for creativity, imagination, discovery and reading both for parents and children! Children need to see us be creative and read…I am going to read at least 6 books strictly for pleasure this year. (I now have it in writing….with witnesses!)
  3. Families will all live and love in the moment, realizing that parenting is a process over many years.  One success or one failure does not determine our effectiveness as parents! Children have good days and challenging days…every day presents moments to love, teach, and cherish.
  4. Families will use words to build up each other …positive words results in positive feelings and actions. Less yelling and more praising.
  5. Parents will share positive parenting stories. So often I feel we pull each other down when we only talk about negative parenting experiences. Let’s help each other be positive about our lives as parents and families!  Share today what makes your family wonderful!
  6. Families will eat together at least a couple of times a week and will try some new and healthy foods! I have a few new healthy recipes ready to go…new grains and vegetable combinations in many of them! (I will report back…there was a bit of groaning with the recipe I am trying tomorrow!)
  7. Families will embrace the temperament and personality of each family member, building on strengths and uniqueness and accepting each others’ weaknesses and challenges. After all, this is how the world works!
  8. Families will find ways to foster service. Together we will look for opportunities to volunteer, serve others, and help children to develop a passion for doing good for others.  This can only result in a better world in which to live. Find one new way to make someone else feel good this year…do it as a family!
  9. Parents will take time for themselves both individually and as couples. They will nurture adult relationships and friendships, and take the alone time that is needed for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Happy parents make happy families!
  10. What is your hope for parents and families in 2017???  Share your ideas for number 10!!

Let us all start each day with the resolve to love more, enjoy more, smile more, be grateful and be our best.  That mindset will allow us to parent in the best way…one moment at a time.  Happy New Year!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Keeping the Fun in the Holidays, and the Stress Out!

Every year when the holidays approach there is a “to do list” that can seem daunting.  The fact is, your child will enjoy the season more, and you will too, if you limit that list and some of the stress that comes with it! 

This year, promise yourself to enjoy the season and its magic with your child….here are a few suggestion that might help your level of holiday stress.  Share your tips with us too!

  1. Set priorities.  Sit down and discuss which traditions, decorations, parties truly matter to you and your family.  Sometimes more fun results from doing less!
  2. Accept help.  Consider if you really need and want to host family gatherings this year, and if so split the responsibilities with others.  Remember, a clean house only lasts a minute when you expect a houseful of guests!  Make your home presentable but not necessarily ready to pass the white glove test!
  3. Plan ahead.  Break big jobs down into small steps.  Try to be realistic about how long it takes to get things done with young children in the house and allow for the unexpected.
  4. Stop negative thoughts.  If you find yourself feeling inadequate or thinking that you are letting others down remind yourself that your little one is who is most important.  You are a Mom or Dad first!
  5. Keep a sense of humor.  Even the worst holiday disasters have the makings of great family memories.  Everything looks more perfect when looking back!
  6. Keep your child’s age and temperament in mind when planning the schedule.  Do not schedule too many special events in a row.  Try to be sure that your child has quiet time or “down time”.  Touch can calm stress in a child and you.
  7. Shop on-line. Buy the same gift for as many people as possible. (Think picture gifts…your child smiling face is the perfect gift for so many!)  Think about limiting your gift list now.  What about a family name draw? White elephant gift? Shopping takes patience and shopping with a young child takes a saint!  Try to swap babysitting.  Have a plan when you do shop, children do best when on the move.  Bring plenty of snacks and know when it is time to stop.  Be the adult, don’t melt down when your child does!
  8. Make Santa a solo event! If a visit to Santa is in the plans, do just that!  Visit Santa when your child is well rested.  Children that have entered the stranger anxiety phase, which can begin around 7 to 8 months and last into toddler hood, often don’t enjoy the Santa visit.  Read about Santa, talk about Santa, wave at Santa from a distance and then try a visit.  TRY…don’t force your child to sit on Santa’s lap if there is anxiety and tears. Stand next to Santa for the picture or sit on his lap with you holding your child.  If all fails…photo shop Santa into your picture!  www.icaughtsanta.com  Love this website!!! 
  9. Make 12 dozen of the same kind of cookie rather than 12 different types.  Concentrate on the people rather than objects.  It is more important to have fun making cookies than have beautiful cookies.
  10. Make your tree child friendly!  I am often asked if I think a tree is worth it when there are active toddlers in the house.  ABSOLUTELY, remember family traditions glue your family together.  Make your tree family friendly.  Decorate it from your child’s eye level down with safe unbreakable ornaments with plastic hooks.  Let your child explore those ornaments.  (Our tree was redecorated from 2 feet down on many days!  That is what made it so beautiful!)  You might think about anchoring the top of your tree with fishing line to the wall, which will prevent a little one from pulling it over.  A wide based tree stand is a must.
  11. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or your extended family.  Family visits are not times to reform your nieces and nephews or discuss parenting views!  Your child is your responsibility!  Any comparisons of children are not important.  If your child or you are criticized, ignore, if you or your child is complimented…enjoy!  Do not pick battles with family members during gatherings, those battles are seldom worth it to you or your child.  Be flexible!
  12. Exercise, breathe, remember to eat well and take a break each day. 
  13. Include your child in holiday activities—it creates roots, bonds, and traditions that will strengthen your family and will create joy and many memories.  Appreciate the moments, they are but a moment!

What are your tips to enjoy more and stress less???

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



Does your child have “selective hearing”?

Selective hearing?  Yep, every kid has it!

Selective hearing…every child has it, (some adults too!)  I can remember thinking one of my children in particular may have had a hearing deficit, but it only showed up sometimes!  Asking her to pick up her shoes resulted in a no response, but she could hear my husband and I whispering in private from upstairs!  Children often learn how to “tune out” certain conversations during the preschool and school age years, but there are a few things parents can try in order to help them switch their hearing to the “on” position!

1.  Don’t give too many details at once…or no details at all!

Kids can only pay attention to a few instructions at the same time, but if there are no details children may ignore your request because there is no specific instructions.  When you are asking your child to do something, keep it simple.  “Put the book away, go upstairs, put your p.j.s on, brush your teeth and crawl in bed.” will not work but neither will “Get ready for bed.”  Try breaking your instructions down into two parts.  “Put your book away it is time for bed.”  “Now let’s head upstairs to put your p.j.s on and brush your teeth!”  Dwelling on a topic for too long with lots of instructions will make your child “tune out” and giving no direction may result in your child either not taking you seriously or skipping important steps (like tooth brushing) in the process.

2.  Deliver the message with your eyes and hands!

Children “hear” you better if you engage more than just their ears.  In other words, make eye contact and use touch.  Face your child when you are speaking, maybe even getting down to his eye level (or up in my case now!)  and put your hand on his arm or shoulder when giving instructions.  This will help your child put his focus on what you are saying.

3.  Ask your child to repeat what you said.

Often children will say “O.K.” and have no idea what they just agreed to!  If you want to be sure your child has really heard what you said, ask him to repeat.  This will prevent the claim that he never heard you!

4Don’t get stuck on “replay”!

If you continually repeat the same instructions over and over with no consequences, kids get conditioned to the sound of your voice and realize that they may be able to wait to respond until the 5th request before you get serious.  Give instructions, if there is no response, repeat them with a consequence tagged on the end.   If there still is no response…the consequence must happen.  “Time to pick up the toys for dinner, please.”  No response…”If the toys are not picked up now, they will be put away for tomorrow.”  No response…the toys that are out are in “time out” for tomorrow.  If this happens consistently, then your child will learn to listen the first time.

If your child does respond on the first try…be sure to compliment the good listening he had!

5.  Make listening fun.

Try adding a few “fun” instructions in the mix.  “Time to head to bed, let’s leap frog to the stairs.”  Be a little goofy…put some fun in your life, add goofy instructions and get a laugh and a child who really concentrates on what you are saying.   Try listening to other sounds too.   Let your child “tune” their ears in by listening to music, birds on a walk, the crunching of leaves, the sound of water…point out other sounds in the world and develop your child’s listening skills.

6.  Try whispering.

Really?  Yes!  I found that sometimes the quieter I spoke, the more important my children thought the message was!  If you get good eye contact and speak softly…children have to stop and really listen.  My kids knew that if I was talking quietly, I was serious…and I usually got some results!

7.  Set a good example.

Think about it…how often do you give your child undivided listening?  How often do you simply respond, “In a minute” or “Maybe”.  How often are you on the computer or your phone when your child is trying to talk to you?  If you don’t show your child how to pay attention and truly listen, then your child may not see the importance or develop the skill.  Focus on communicating with your child…that means no texting as your child is trying to tell you about his day!  Make eye contact, respond to his words, and ask questions.  Your child will feel valued and will understand what it feels like to have someone engaged in their words if you take the time to really listen to him.

So try these tips for the “selective listener” in your house….hmmmm my kids are gone, but I may have a husband that this may work on too!  🙂  Happy listening!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


What I think every child should have in their play room…

How many toys does your child need?  Your child does not need lots of toys…just toys that will be used a lot!

We have talked a lot about play and its importance.  Now take a look around, what toys do you have in your home that encourage play and all the benefits that come with it? I recently walked through the toy section of a big box store and completely understood why parents and grandparents have a difficult time deciding what toys are the best choices to purchase for their child or grandchild! The shelves were filled with electronic toys and the “newest and best” toys based on the latest TV show or movie. The educational aisle had so many choices, it was overwhelming!

Number one, it is not necessary to purchase the biggest or most expensive toy to get the best!  In fact, some of the least expensive toys provide the most bang for your buck!  So what toys on those store shelves are worth putting in your cart?  Here are my toy picks for every home with children.  Many of them are “classic” toys…that does not mean “old fashioned” because many of the more classic toys today have new twists that make them even more fun.  Classic toys simply mean toys that can be played with in many ways using your child’s creativity and imagination.  So here are my picks…do you have any to add?

1.  Dolls or stuffed Animals

How many homes with children don’t have at least 10 of these?  They sometimes seemed to multiply over night in our house. (Can they breed?!)  However, they are valuable to children, yes boys and girls!  Dolls and stuffed animals give children an opportunity to model caring loving behaviors they see in other people.  Rocking, feeding, and even practicing bedtime routines and house rules.  I had one daughter who often had her doll in “time out” “thinking about it”; wonder where she heard that?

2.  Blocks

Blocks and lots of them are the perfect toy for children.  Young children can play with blocks by picking them up and mouthing them (be sure they are large enough not to be choking hazards), toddlers begin to stack blocks and knock them over (learning cause and effect here!) and soon you may have a little architect on your hands building elaborate castles, roads for cars, and houses for Barbie.  Different types of building blocks are great to have around, the favorite Lego Blocks, Tinker Toys, Bristle Blocks, and any other building set that tickles your child’s creativity.  With the three girls in the house and a boy, we had a set of very popular pink Lego type blocks that eventually made their way into the classic Lego Blocks…some interesting buildings were built with those multiple colors!

3.  Puzzles

A puzzle provides quiet activity, fine motor development, stretches your child’s patience and gives your child a real sense of accomplishment when the puzzle is complete.  There are many different types of puzzles and children as young as 18 months will learn how to complete chunky, easy to manipulate, wooden puzzles.  Here is a tip I learned…if you have a lot of different puzzles.  Give each puzzle a number.  Number the back of the pieces and the board with that same number and it is much easier to find the right pieces for the right puzzle if all of them happen to get dumped out! (Or should I say when they all get dumped out!)

4.  Playhouse or Tent

Every child likes some small “house”, it will become a fort, cave, house, store, school room…and the list is as big as their imagination.  Even young babies love to crawl in and out of a small tent or playhouse and play peek-a-boo and older school age children will still use it for their “club” meetings.  You can build a tent with a blanket and card table, buy a collapsible tent, use a big cardboard box with a door cut out, or purchase a true “play house”…but your child will use this toy for many years in a multitude of imaginative play scenarios.

5.  Shopping Cart

There are few toys that are more of a favorite than a shopping cart.  If the cart is wide based and sturdy, it can be used for a pre-walker learning to balance. Of course it will be used for pretend trips to the grocery store but you will be amazed at its other uses.  It will become a gathering cart; toddlers love to gather items throughout the house or outdoors.  It could become a doll or stuffed animal stroller, a car, or even help with clean-up of toys!

6.  Musical Instruments

Children love music and they love creating it too! (Although there were times that I would argue that it wasn’t music!) Banging, shaking, cymbal clanging, guitar playing, and horn blowing will build a child’s confidence and maybe ignite a passion for music.  Rhythm in music has been shown to improve math skills down the road too.  Complete sets of musical instruments are in stores, but often an oatmeal container, a pot with a wooden spoon, or a water bottle filled with dried beans (with the lid secured tightly with electrical tape) will serve just as well.  Start your own tradition of marching in a band to bed or to pick up toys, put on a show for Grandma, or play along with your favorite music on the iPod, but ignite your child’s love of music.

7.  Dress up clothes

What a better way to play pretend than by dressing up like someone else.  Keep those Halloween costumes out all year and let your child be that super hero, monkey, fire fighter, Mommy or Daddy, nurse, doctor, or anyone else they want to “try on”.  Dress up helps a child explore different roles and expand their imagination.

8.  Play Animal Set

Most children love farm and zoo animals and often learn animal sounds before animal names.  Driving tractors and manipulating the different animals and people will develop fine motor skills, imagination, and language.  Who doesn’t remember playing with the red barn that “moos” when the barn door is opened?!

9.  Play Kitchen

A play kitchen is a favorite toy of boys and girls alike.  Children love to play with pots and pans and play food.  Both boys and girls will “cook”, practice manners, plan healthy or not so healthy meals, learn about hot and cold, serve dolls and you many a meal, and will play pretend over and over again.  Pretend kitchen type toys are one of the best toy investments for your child.

10. Tool kits and Work Benches

A hammer is a must for girls and boys.  Noisy banging, using a screwdriver, and “fixing” all kinds of things is great fine motor and imaginative play.  This type of play just may ignite a child’s curiosity about how things work. Our girls were happy simply pounding the wooden pegs with the hammer…our son ended up with a “play” screwdriver and unscrewed the bottom door hinges on our bedroom doors!

11. Ride on Toys

All children need some type of ride on toy and a toy that they can eventually pedal.  Children need the gross motor development but it will also help with imaginative play.  Hopping into that car and waving good-bye when “going to work” or buckling that bear into the seat for safety or going on some exciting trip will all develop your child’s imagination and creativity.  Going on a bike ride in your neighborhood and discovering the other side of the block is a great adventure…and a great way to ensure a good nap that afternoon!

12.  Cars and Trucks

Big dump trucks, front loaders, and any kind of car are important for girls and boys.  What child doesn’t like to maneuver a car or truck and go “four wheeling” over the grass or in a sand box or dirt?  Cars and trucks are great for fine motor control, learning cause and effect, imaginative play, and constructive play.  Our girls didn’t think Barbie looked bad in a front loader either!

13. Items for an Art Box

Paper, chunky crayons, washable markers, paint, play dough, glue, glitter, stickers, pom poms, feathers, jewels, bottle caps, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and so much more can be put in an art box for your child.  Let your child get messy and creative.  Provide free art time and watch your child get excited about what he can create.

14. Water or Sand Play

Children love to pour, scoop, and dump water, sand, or raw rice.  You can purchase a sand or water table or make your own with a plastic container.  Let your child see what floats, how much water fits in a cup, pour rice or sand into containers, watch how ice melts, dig and find treasures and enjoy learning many spatial concepts while playing.

15. Balls

What toy box is complete without a ball?  All types of balls are available now.  Find balls that are easy to grip for younger children and balls that are big enough to kick and catch.  A simple game of ball helps a child develop gross motor skills, hand eye coordination, cooperation, and turn taking…not to mention being introduced to team sports.

16.  And of course… Books

No child’s area of play is complete without books…lots of them.  Books that can be chewed on, books that have flaps and pop ups, classic books, new books, colorful books, silly books, and most important, books that you read often to your child.  Reading is the key to academic success in the future and opening up the world in general to your child.

There is my list of toys for your play area…most are classic toys that will last and provide many hours of fun and learning for your child.  I bet they will even bring back some happy memories you have of playing as a child!  You don’t need lots of toys; just toys that your child will use a lot!  What toys do you remember were your favorite?

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Why Being a Parent is at the Top of My Gratitude List


I am sitting this morning in the quiet, sipping my coffee, and making a gratitude list.  I must admit, it is very long.  It is so good for me to actually list what I am thankful for because in my everyday life, I often overlook some of my simple daily blessings.  My life with my husband who is best friend and love of my life and our four children and our son-in-law definitely tops my gratitude list.  Everyone will be home by Wednesday and the house will be lively.  Life is good.  I am grateful.  This time of year always turns my thoughts to gratitude, and I realize that simply because I am a parent, my blessing cup overflows. Our children have brought me a greater joy than any other aspect of my life.  I am grateful for so much in my life, but some of the reasons that I am grateful to be a Mom include:

The Experience of Parenting Love. 

From the moment I “fell in love” with each of my children, the definition of love changed. It was a mix of responsibility, awe, pride, exhaustion, frustration and wanting more for them than myself and an immense, heart expanding love.  All of this has a overflowed back to me. A total gift…so much more than I have given.

Enjoying the wonder of Life. 

Being able to enjoy the moments of childhood wonder again, reliving those moments of awe and magic. Experiencing the world new again, even participating in those school projects that I actually learned more from the 2nd (3rd and 4th) time around! (I finally know the state capitals!)  I continue to enjoy the wonder even now as young adults finding their passions in life….the world is completely open to them!

Learning that there is more joy in the accomplishments of your child than in your own.

The greatest pride is in the accomplishments not of yourself but of your child, and the greatest accomplishments are not material but that moment that you realize your child is a wonderful human being.  There is nothing better than seeing your child become a caring, passionate, adult you respect.

Remembering the hugs, kisses, smiles, high fives, and “the looks” I have gotten from each of my kids that showed me I was loved.  Experiencing now, the “I’m home” hugs as they return home from their world now.

There is nothing like feeling loved.  Those beautiful wet toddler kisses, the quick hugs from my teenagers so no one would see, the high fives after a game, the looks from across the room that said “Thanks I love you Mom”, and the wonderful hugs and kisses as they walk in our door now as adults…that is the love I hold in my heart.

Loving my husband more. 

Children expanded the love I have for my husband.  I loved him with my whole heart before children, but even loved him more and yes maybe differently when I saw him become the amazing Dad he is.  I continue to love him more each day in our life as he continues to “father” our children in each season of their lives.

Remembering the sticky fingers, skinned knees, messy bedrooms, late night “emergency talks” and yes loads of college laundry that have made me feel like a Mom.  There is nothing like feeling needed….

Kids definitely come with messes…but those messy times hold a special place in my heart.  I am so thankful I was the one who was blessed to put the bandages on knees, clean up sticky messes, and work through life’s problems.

Realizing that my children have helped me appreciate my own parents.

Until you are a parent, it is difficult to “get it”.  As the years pass, I realize over and over again what sacrifices my own parents made for me; the lessons they taught, the love they lavished, and the roots they gave.  I think that by becoming a parent, you realize more the blessing of your own parents.  There becomes this special bond…a kind of “parenting club” where you finally “get it”.  I am more aware each year of the blessing of my own parents, and am more grateful than ever for their example to me.

Realizing that my children have made me a better person.

Our children have brought me challenges that have made me stronger, they have made me admit my weaknesses and accept them; they have focused me on prayer and have helped me ever expand my capability to love. Yes….each has made me a better person…

Yes, being a parent is at the top of my Gratitude List this Thanksgiving.  My heart is full…Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, may your hearts be full of gratitude too.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



The Holidays are Approaching….Need Tips on Coping?

Tis the season of great joy, happiness, perfect family togetherness,…..not always! 

The holidays are quickly approaching and for parents of young children this season can be wonderful, but also full of challenges.  If you are looking for the perfect holiday experiences, you are destined to be disappointed.  You can have a wonderful season with family friends, and sanity if you start with your expectations.  Most disappointment starts with expectations that are unrealistic.  The reality of most houses is that the turkey may be over done, the children have spilled on their outfits, the tree is leaning a bit and the gifts may be wrapped with duct tape!  The truth is that the holidays are all about the relationships, not the details.  That is a big statement from me, because I can certainly get caught up in the details!  If parents are stressed, who else becomes stressed???  Your children…

Let’s look at some tips for decreasing your stress and helping you and your child enjoy this wonderful time of year.

  1. Holidays can be very difficult for a child especially if they tend to get over stimulated like infants and toddlers.  Provide quiet “touch time” with your child each day, and remove stimulation if your child becomes very fussy or clingy.  Try to plan just one major activity a day.
  2. Know your child’s developmental level–handling excitement and managing disappointment are sophisticated skills for children under age 8.  Know that socially unacceptable behavior may occur!
  3. Think about how you handle stress in general and holiday stress in particular.  Children observe our behavior and learn from what they observe. Model good coping skills for your children.
  4. Encourage thinking of others and our many blessings.  Talk about the gifts and blessings that your family enjoys and the importance of sharing with those less fortunate.  Removing some of the “I want” and replacing it with “I am thankful for…” can reduce stress.
  5. Provide structure and routine.  Children behave better, sleep better, and are less fussy when there is routine.  That doesn’t mean that you have to stick to your every day routine, but make sure you are planning for nap time and planning for quiet times.  Be your child’s advocate, when your child needs down time, insist.
  6. When visiting family and friends, there may be many new faces for your child.  Introduce unfamiliar people slowly.  Hold your child as they get to know others.  Do not let your baby be passed around among many new people.  Stay where your child can see your familiar face.  Your child may be happy being held by others if he or she can see you.
  7. When spending the night away from home.  Try to keep the familiar bedtime ritual used at home.  Be sure that you have a safe sleeping area for your child.  Bring a pack-n-play or be sure that the crib that is provided is safe.  Don’t forget that special “lovey” or book that your child needs to sleep!
  8. Be careful introducing lots of new foods in your child’s diet and your diet when nursing.  Tummy aches can be a problem when there are lots of new foods, but relax; the holidays bring some extra sweets.  Teach that cookies and treats are fine in moderation.  Allow your child to indulge!
  9. Set appropriate boundaries and limits.  Toddlers need limits in order to feel secure.  If you must discipline, be respectful of your child, especially older children.  Discipline in private.
  10. Carve out quiet time with each child.  Quiet time in the evening is a must after an active day.

Tips on family gatherings, shopping, Santa visits and more to come…what tips do you have to help families enjoy the holidays?

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



Trick or Treat….Safely!!

There are few more fun times for a child than Halloween!  Make sure the fun is safe fun!  Our little clown had a wonderful time!

I was at Target today buying my Halloween treats for my little trick-or-treaters that will visit our house this next week.  (May be a bit early….I have a history of eating the first round of treats I buy!)  I remember fun Halloweens when the kids were little.  Our little clown was scared of herself at first when she looked in the mirror! As soon as we took off her “clown hair” and showed her that it was still her under that wig the tears stopped and the fun began. “Painting” your child’s face while they watch in the mirror may help that…a lesson we learned!   I bought some healthier options like Halloween pretzels, raisins and Play-dough, but also stocked up on some chocolate (maybe quite a bit of chocolate).  Remember, everything in moderation is fine!

Halloween is an exciting night for most children, but we want it to be a safe night too.  Here are some tips to think about:

  • Think about using a glow stick, flameless candle, or flashlight in your Jack-O-Lantern.  A little ghost kicking over a candle lit pumpkin could be dangerous!
  • Keep your porch light on and be sure that your front porch is clear of any “tripping hazards”.  Falls are the most common injury on Halloween.
  • According to www.safekids.org only 1/3 of parents talk to their children about Halloween safety!  Every year we need to remind our children about basic safety…children, cars, costumes, candy, and dark can be a dangerous mix.
  • Adults, we need to be extra cautious and slow our driving down.  Children dart quickly when there is excitement and candy.  S-L-O-W is the name of the game when driving.
  • Our little ghosts, princesses, super heroes, and goblins need to have safe costumes.
    • Only about 18% of children have reflective tape on their costumes.  This is an easy way to make your child more visible and safe.
    • Costumes are safer when there is no mask.  Let your child’s cute face show with a little bit of Halloween make-up…a much better choice for safety.
    • Safe shoes and well-fitting costumes will keep your child from tripping and falling!  Costumes that are big and flowing can be a fire hazard with Jack-O-Lanterns and candles.
    • A Flashlight is fun at night and helps your child see and be seen.
  • Make sure that an adult is with your child until at least 12 years of age.  Trick-or-Treat in neighborhoods that are familiar.  Carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
  • Teach your child to cross at the corners and look both ways.  Be sure cars have stopped before your child ventures into the street.  Stay on sidewalks when possible.
  • Check your child’s treats for choking hazards and to be sure that they are safe and wrapped.  Discourage your child from eating treats until you are home and the treats are checked.
  • Make sure your child knows not to enter a house unless you give them permission.
  • This is a great time to practice manners….a “thank you” after a treat is great practice!
  • Have a healthy dinner before going out.  Fill your child’s tummy with some nutritious food to balance the snacks later!
  • Relax…being a kid includes eating Halloween treats.  Teach the healthy view of moderation.  Allow a few treats over the next few days…those memories of treats, costumes, and after dark walks through the neighborhood are precious, make sure your child has some!  I miss my four little goblins!!  🙂

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Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Break the Ice and Let a Child Warm Up…It Helps with Stranger Anxiety and Separation!

christy and noa

My Sister Christy and her sweet Noa….I finally got a snuggle from Noa after “breaking the ice” with a few high fives and singing “Pony Boy”.  

This past weekend we had a family gathering and I was able to visit with my youngest sister’s children. I don’t see them often, but when I do I can’t wait to give both of them a snuggle and I love to steal some time with them. I always have to “restrain” myself because my first inclination is to swoop them up and give them a big hug and kiss. I know better…but it is so hard to resist those cute little cheeks and big brown eyes. I learned quickly again this weekend that starting slowly is the key and being satisfied with a “high five” at first might be the best way to some real snuggle time later.

Separation anxiety and stranger anxiety is real in children. It can vary between kids, but most infants and toddlers experience some degree of it. There are some children who will melt down if Mom is merely out of sight and some children who are more social butterflies. Some children begin with tears as an infant and struggle through the preschool years and some children react intensely but for only a few months. All of this is normal…none of this means you as a parent are doing anything wrong. Separation issues actually mean that your child has a wonderful attachment to you! Knowledge of that doesn’t make it any easier to see your child cry and reach for you as you leave or see your child cry as a loving Grandma, Aunt, Uncle or dear friend attempts to love on them. So how do we help our kiddos get through it?? Here are a few milestones….

  • Infants develop separation anxiety around the time they develop object permanence at about 9 months. Some infants will display this as early as 4 to 5 months but most are later.  Stranger anxiety begins around the 5 to 7 month age.
  • Toddlers experience the peak of separation anxiety at about 18 months of age. Their separation anxiety can result in temper tantrums, loud tears, and physical acting out… they are difficult to handle!
  • Some preschoolers will still show anxiety when Mom and Dad leave, but are much better able to handle the separation. Parents should definitely work with being consistent in leaving preschoolers and develop rituals that are meaningful when they leave and return.

So what does a parent do when an Aunt (like me) goes to swoop up their child resulting in lots of tears??

  1. Introduce slowly. Warn friends and relatives that your child is struggling with some separation or stranger anxiety. Introduce new people when you are holding your child. Don’t force the issue. Suggest a slow “get to know you” with giving a high five rather than a hug and kiss at the beginning or sitting on the floor playing or simply smiles and conversation in the safety of your arms. Adults need to understand that forcing a child to come to them only increases the anxiety!
  2. Develop some good bye rituals that you and your child own. Special kisses, snuggles, secret handshakes…whatever you develop that is special to you and your child will work. Keep the good-bye brief and consistent each time. Never sneak away, always say goodbye with a promise that you will return.   Use “kid time” meaning telling your child a time that he or she understands. “When you wake up from your nap, Mom will be home.” “After you eat your snack, I will be home.” If you are going to be gone for a couple of days, speak about it in terms of number of “sleeps” and leave a calendar to mark off or a construction paper chain that can be torn so your child can visually see when you will be home again. Remember, they do not have a concept of time, but children do know their routines! Be sure if you make a promise of when you will return, you keep it!
  3. Practice makes perfect. Children need to practice separating from parents. Go to the gym, use a babysitter, leave your child with Grandma or a trusted friend, practice your good-bye ritual and then return with lots of hugs and kisses. Learning that Mom and Dad leave but always come back is an important lesson for your child. It is great practice for you too! Sometimes our anxiety when leaving our child is transferred to our child…remember your child reads your anxiety and if Mom and Dad are nervous, then your child will be too!

After giving my sweet niece some time, a few high fives, and a little “Pony Boy song” she finally came to me for some snuggles before the night was over. Most likely I will have to start over the next time I see her…but practice makes perfect! Watching her with my sister and brother-in-law, it is easy to see why she thinks her Mommy and Daddy are pretty special…I agree with her!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


How to handle separation anxiety…or how to leave with a child holding on to your leg!

Nothing worse than leaving a child screaming for you not to go…but most kids will have separation anxiety at some point!

I watched a poor Mom try to leave her toddler in the child care area of the place I work out in the other day.  The toddler was screaming, hanging on her leg, and Mom looked like she felt like the worst Mom in the world as she pried the child off her leg promising she would be back soon.  I smiled at her and said, “It is hard, but I am sure he will be happy by the time you get a ½ mile in on that treadmill.”   She peeked her head back in just a moment later (I know she couldn’t have run a 1/2 mile that fast!), and he was playing happily.   I remember that feeling of dread when I would leave especially with our 3rd daughter; she always melted down and was totally pitiful.  I remember resorting to promising all kinds of fun activities and treats when I returned.  Not sure that was the best tactic, but it helped my “Mommy guilt” a little.

Separation anxiety is a given in most children.  Some children experience greater anxiety than others, and almost all parents feel just as bad if not worse than their screaming child when they leave.  Separation anxiety can start in infancy, peak in the toddler years, and then hopefully decrease by the end of the preschool years.

  • Infants usually will not start to show separation anxiety until they develop the concept of object permanence at about 9 months of age.  Before that point, out of sight is out of  mind for an infant.
  • Toddlers will usually experience separation anxiety, even if they did not seem to experience it as an infant.  Separation anxiety will be at its peak between 18 and 24 months of age.  Toddlers will express their dislike of separation very loudly!
  • Preschoolers will start to be able to handle separation a bit more easily.  Some 3 and 4-year-olds will learn that their expression of discontent when parents leave will have an effect on Mom and Dad, and often will manipulate parents when they find out it works!


  • Always say good-bye.  It is tempting to sneak out when your child is involved in an activity.  This makes it easier on you, but harder on your child.  Sneaking out can actually increase separation anxiety in a child.  A child will start to become anxious every time he doesn’t see you fearing you have left.  Always say good-bye but keep it short and sweet, the longer the good-bye, the greater the anxiety.  Be sure that you give your child a hug, kiss and  your total attention before leaving.  Do not be multi-tasking as you say good-bye.
  • Tell your child you will return and give them a “time”.  This means “kid time”.  Tell them what time by what they will be doing.  “I will be back after you sleep.”  “I will be back after snack time.”
  • Separate often.  That is the key to getting over separation anxiety.  A child will learn that Mommy and Daddy leave, but they come back.  Separation does not have to be long, but it needs to happen enough that your child can remember the last time.  If you are a stay-at-home-Mom, you need to plan time away from your child.  It is good for you and your child.  If your child is starting daycare or preschool, practice being away and leaving your child for periods of time.

Soon your child will learn that he or she can handle the world when Mom or Dad is not always in eye view, that means you will have to learn that your child can handle the world without you too.  I am still learning that lesson.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Simple steps to prevent childhood obesity…we can do it!

We all have heard that childhood obesity is a major health issue in our country.  Children who are overweight will be more likely to be overweight adults and develop significant health issues.  We hear so much in the media about what to eat, what not to eat, how to cook, how much exercise we all need, and frankly sometimes it is simply overwhelming to parents.  We all are busy and many times the drive through at the fast food restaurant just calls our name at the end of a long day.  We can develop healthy patterns as families to guide our children to healthy lifestyles.  These healthy patterns can be simple…it is just getting started.  So, parents….let’s get started!

Breastfeed when possible and no solid foods before 4 months of age…

  • A recent study showed that with children who were breastfed for at least four months, the timing of solid food introduction did not affect the obesity rate of the child at age 3.  Children who were never breastfed or who stopped breastfeeding before age 4 months and were given solid foods before the recommended 4 months of age were 6 times more likely to be obese by age 3.

Know where your child is…(know where you are too!)

  • At your child’s 2 year old well child visit, your pediatrician will calculate his body mass index (BMI). This is a better indicator of weight issues than simply where your child is on the growth chart.  A child with a BMI greater than the 85th percentile for his age and sex is overweight, a BMI greater than the 95th percentile determines that your child is obese.
  • Children that have parents who are overweight have an increased risk to become overweight too.

Know what a serving size is….

Remember, children need child size portions!  A tablespoon per year equals a serving.  This is a simple guideline.  For a child age 2 to 3:

  • Grain Group: About 3 ounces of grains per day, half of them whole grains. That is about three regular slices of bread or one slice of bread plus 1/3 cup cold cereal and ¼ cup cooked rice or pasta.
  • Vegetable Group: 1 cup raw and/or cooked vegetables per day. (no ketchup is not a vegetable J, but tomato pasta sauce counts!)
  • Fruit Group: 1 cup fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.  Juice should be kept at a minimum.  Whole fruits are better than juice!
  • Dairy Group: 2 cups per day. Whole milk is recommended for children younger than 2, low-fat after age 2.
  • Meat and Beans Group: 2 ounces total per day. Options include one ounce of lean meat or chicken plus one egg or 1 ounce of fish plus ¼ cup of cooked beans (black, pinto, etc.).
  • Oils: 3 teaspoons or less per day of liquid oil or margarine.
  • For more information about eating plans and serving sizes for other aged children, visit MyPyramid.gov.

Provide two healthy snacks a day…

  • Unhealthy snacks fill up small tummies so children don’t eat the nutrient dense foods they need.  Try giving fruits and vegetables as snacks.  These foods are low-calorie, high fiber, and full of vitamins and antioxidants.  Giving these foods when your child is hungry encourages your child to give them a try.
  • Juice should be at a minimum…and no soda at all!
  • Keep healthy snacks in plain sight.  A bowl of fruit on the counter, fresh cut up vegetables on the first shelf in the refrigerator, dried fruit and trail mix in the pantry.
  • Don’t let your child eat because of boredom.  If your child has eaten well and had a healthy snack but still is begging for more…then suggest another activity.  Ask you child what he would like to do besides eat.  Help your child distinguish between “I’m bored” and “I’m hungry.”
  • Make snack time planned…no grazing throughout the day.  Have your child sit on the floor or at the table for snack time.  Mindless eating is an unhealthy habit!

Provide healthy choices at meals

  • Serve whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Whole milk until age 2 and then low-fat or skim milk after age 2.
  • Full fat yogurt until age 2 and then lower sugar and low-fat yogurt.
  • Serve lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish and lean beef cuts and pork cuts.  Remove fat and skin.
  • Bake, broil, poach, grill, or steam when preparing meat, fish, and chicken.
  • Use vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, and sunflower.
  • Encourage fresh fruits and vegetables in season, frozen next and canned last.  Have fruits and vegetables at EVERY meal.
  • Limit fast food to an occasional meal only.
  • Treats can include frozen fruit bars, frozen yogurt, low-fat pudding, angel food cake, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, and of course…the occasional Oreo!  Balance and moderation are important to teach children so they do not “binge” later.

Don’t force your child to be members of the “Clean plate club”…

  • Forcing children to eat everything that is put on their plates often leads to overeating.
  • Focus on the quality of the food your child eats and no the quantity.  Let your child learn what it feels like to be full and what it feels like to be hungry.

Get your child excited about healthy food….

Eat breakfast every day…

  • Start every day out right with a healthy breakfast.  Children often eat their best meal of the day in the morning.  Include healthy grains, fruits and proteins to give your child a great start.
  • Children and adults who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.

Establish good sleep habits…

Get your child active…60 minutes of active play at least every day…

  • Get outside every day.
  • Choose developmentally appropriate activities.  Be careful about organized sports too early…burnout can happen.  Let your child just be a kid and play!!!
  • Provide active toys.  You should have balls, jump ropes, bikes and other active toys.
  • Be a role model.  Build physical activity into your daily life so you can keep up with your children and feel better!
  • Turn off the TV and limit computer time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time a day after age 2.  That includes video games, TV, movies, and computers.

There is so much that parents can do to prevent childhood obesity and lifelong weight issues and medical problems.  Outdoor play, limited TV, limited fast food, healthy food choices, teaching appreciation for good foods, and soon everyone in the house is feeling better, having fun, and living a healthier lifestyle. We can do this Moms and Dads!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


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