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Ways to Create A Strong Family Atmosphere and Unit

Families come in all shapes, sizes and colors. It might be a traditional family with a mother and father, a stepfamily, a single-parent family, co-parenting by sharing custody of the children, or one with 2 moms or 2 dads. Regardless of the specifics, successful families thrive on creating a positive atmosphere. Studies show that working to create a good family relationship is the best thing that parents can do because it makes children feel more secure, loved and have greater self-esteem.

Some of the critical key components to establishing a caring, loving and strong family are as follows:

1. Placing a high value on family unity. In a strong family, priorities are established that emphasize members of the family come first, then work and other responsibilities. The family sticks together, each person is important and people do not hold grudges that destroy relationships, but forgive each other for common mistakes. There is give and take with an overall common goal. Family traditions are established, celebrated and held dear.

2. Effective communication. Members spend time listening and talking to each other about things big and small. No topic is off the table.

3. Encourage each other with praise. They vocalize their appreciation for one another and try to be non-judgmental. This includes daily acts of consideration like thanking members for cleaning up the kitchen or filling the car up with gas. The home is established as a supportive safety net for times of individual failure or sadness, as well as a place to find each other’s biggest fans.

4. Loyalty. Family members don’t listen to gossip outside their unit. They stick together and support each other during bad times and good. They have each other’s back.

5. Work together as a team. Family rules and guidelines are established so everyone is clear about what is expected. Household chores are shared so everyone feels included. Appropriate and inappropriate television, movies, books and video games are discussed. Parents ask for and include their children’s opinions when making some of the decisions that affect everyone.

6. Spend time together. Strong families make it a priority to eat meals together, go on mundane errands, relax, exercise and go on fun outings as a unit. They don’t let peer pressure take over but instead make a point of spending quality time together even as the kids become teenagers.

7. Conflict resolution. Everyone acknowledges that each member is unique and has his or her own personality and interests. Everyone doesn’t have to act or think in exactly the same way, but when members don’t get along, they communicate differences in a respectful manner. Members learn that they can’t always “win” and they learn to share and compromise to get over daily obstacles.

8. Strong parental role models. The caregivers in successful families set the tone to guide members on a positive moral path. This includes contributing to the local community, becoming involved in church or temple related activities, and displaying acts of honesty and kindness. These parents “walk the walk” because they know their children are watching everything they do.

Cyberbullying Ramps Up During Middle School Years

A parent called our office today in complete distress. She had become a stepparent to a now 13-year-old girl when she married her husband 3 years ago and now has two-year-old twins. The difference in ages of the children has thrown her for a loop and she hasn’t had much time to focus on the older one in the past year. Everything seemed to be going as smoothly as could be expected until her stepdaughter started middle school this year. In the past couple of weeks, they noticed that she had taken to spending a lot of time in her room and seemed quiet and sullen at the dinner table when she previously was a happy, lively kid. The mom had chalked it up to the end of summer blues until the girl left her cell phone on the kitchen table while taking a shower. Her mother noticed a great deal of texting activity popping up and couldn’t help but look at what was going on. Immediately she realized that the discussion was mean, condescending and directed at her daughter. These so-called “new friends” she had started hanging out with were not only asking her for all the questions on the history test she had taken earlier in the day, but some comments were exchanged via group text about an upcoming birthday party. Immediately the stepmother got a knot in her stomach and felt ill. She knew that her stepdaughter had not been invited to the upcoming party and felt horrible at how she would feel when she read the string of online conversation. She wanted to delete the whole thing, but knew that she had already invaded her privacy and couldn’t possibly let on to what she had read.

When the girl came downstairs to retrieve her phone, the mom played it cool and gently asked how things were going. This is the same question she had been asking everyday after-school, but this time the twins were in bed and her stepdaughter had her complete attention. She broke down and started to cry. She told her everything that had been going on and finally showed her some mean comments that were made on her Ask FM account. The parent listened closely and suggested that they shut down the account for the time being. She then suggested that instead of going along with this bullying behavior and becoming a victim, she either confront these girls or walk away from it for a nicer group of girls. She deeply wanted to call the parents and let them have it, but instead left the decision up to her daughter. She knew it would be best if the teenager decided what to do.

In the meantime, the mom told me she had done some research and found out that her daughter’s experience was not uncommon. In fact, a recent study as reported in Healthday News shows that girls in fifth and sixth grade experience a surge in cyber bullying. The good news is that it does taper off with maturity, but this is a time when it’s extremely important for parents to be supervising their kid’s online activity. Especially since for many girls, social bullying is a way of generating buzz, alleviating boredom and gaining attention for themselves. The moral of the story is that if you notice your teenager acting quiet, depressed, or anxious, take a look at what’s happening via social media websites and texting. This particular mom was savvy but it got by her strictly because of her own daily distractions. In order to supplement her parenting skills, this mom decided that some online parenting classes were in order as soon as possible. She was happy to learn that she could sign up and take them at her own convenience and that the classes address all ages and stages of childhood.

What Is Your Role As A Parent?

Clients call in to our help desk all day long asking questions about our online parenting classes. Many people are interested in taking them to fulfill a court requirement for divorce but just as many sign up simply because they want to improve their own parenting skills and the harmony in the household. Yesterday a new student decided to take an Advanced Parenting Program because she and her husband were expecting their first set of twins and were arguing about what their responsibilities as parents were. Both of them grew up in big families and didn’t feel that they had a particular closeness with their parents because they didn't have time for them, and if they did, it was rarely alone time. Now that they are getting the chance to raise their own kids, the wife had one set of ideas about what was important while the husband had another.

Family and child psychologists agree that there are some basic parental responsibilities that good caregivers provide. They include:

1. Safety. Somehow the moment that child is born, most parents go into hyper drive for the next 18 years to make sure the child is safe. This includes putting away or even locking up unsafe objects or medications, installing smoke alarms, making sure the child is fitted with a sturdy car seat or seatbelt, and installing gates around pools or dangerous spots around the house. It also means getting to know the people who will be taking care of your child while you are at work so you are comfortable that he or she will be free from physical or emotional harm.

2. Stability. Children thrive on routine so work with your spouse to create a schedule that works best for your family. If possible include time for each of you to hang out together reading or playing, eating meals together, bathing at a certain time and a set bedtime that they can depend on.

3. Basic essentials. This includes food and water, a clean place to live, clothing, education, medical attention, and socialization. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy them the most expensive designer clothes, video games, or technology like their friends have. What kids will remember more than anything is your love, care, encouragement and support.

4. Values. Whether it’s through your local church or temple or in the privacy of your own home, provide your kids with positive examples of honesty, respect, responsibility, generosity, and compassion. Be a role model for them by taking time to stop and help someone who is disabled carry their bags to the car, or by listening patiently to an older person gripe about their ailments. Explain the results of bad behavior so they can understand the bigger picture. For example, “If you don’t share with your friends, they eventually won’t think it’s fun to come to our house and will turn down play dates with you.” Your kids will learn by your example that possessing good morals will have successful consequences for them.

5. Discipline. While you might remember having a great time over at the friend’s house where the parents didn’t care what was going on, in the long run, what kind of adults did those friends turn out to be? Children need to learn rules, respect and responsibility starting in the home. Establish limits and make clear what the consequences are for breaking those rules. This includes things like being kind to one another, house cleanliness, using each other’s things, screen and video time and eventually curfews. Be sure to follow-through on punishments or the child will learn that it’s all meaningless and they can get away with whatever they want.

6. Education. Every study shows that the more involved the parents are in the child’s education, the better the student does. Talk to your child each day about what he’s learning, who his friend’s are, or what his teacher is like. Set aside quiet time to be available to help with homework. Praise him when he’s making progress or for specific achievements.

7. Communicate! Make time to spend together when you are devoted to listening. Due your best to respect his or her feelings and opinions and try not to judge. Making yourself available all throughout their childhood will lead to better communication during those difficult teen years.

Effective Parenting Skills For Student Homework Success!

The beginning of the new school year is an exciting time. Kids look forward to seeing old friends, meeting new teachers, getting new school supplies and clothes - the general feeling of starting fresh. However, with this also comes the dreaded homework. After years of ramping up, many school districts across the country have adopted policies in the past couple of years to reduce the amount that teachers require, especially in the elementary grades. As a parent, we’ve been happy to notice that the homework assigned has been less busy work and more effective at reinforcing the lesson plan.

So, what is the point of torturing children and their parents with homework night after night when they could be focusing on their extra-curricular activities or just helping around the house? The purpose of a good assignment is to teach kids organizational skills, practice what they’ve been taught in school, learn to read and follow directions on their own and how to manage their time. It’s also meant to give them a sense of responsibility and pride in a completed, thorough and neat job well done. Studies have shown that when children have the attention and support of their families in regards to their homework, they perform much better in school.

As a parent or caregiver there are a few quick tips to bring peace to your home when it’s time to get to work. To start with, sit down with your kids at the very beginning of the year and explain your expectations. Include your child in the conversation by having her set one or two goals. When everyone is clear on what the plan is, there can be no argument half way through the semester that he or she didn’t know they had to attain particular grades, academic achievements or classroom behavioral results.

Once the homework starts coming home, set up a consistent time each night that you all sit down for learning. It’s usually best to give them about ½ an hour after school to eat and unwind. This time shouldn’t include video games or television because it will be way to hard to pull them away. On your end, instead of chatting on the phone with friends or checking Facebook, take this time to read a book or help them with their work in order to model the importance of this specific time each day. Have them help you pick a good place that is distraction free and has the supplies they will need to get things done. Designate this the “homework spot” and keep it neat and organized. Be available to help out only if your child is asking for it. If you try to intrude or reteach what they learned in class, it can backfire on you by confusing them even more. Also, parents that do the homework for their kids take away their sense of independence and pride in their work. The student ends up less prepared for tackling obstacles on their own and generally have lower faith in their own abilities.

Lastly, focus on what the child is doing right rather than what is wrong. Catch them doing things properly and praise them for it. If you begin to notice consistent learning problems, get the teacher involved. And, most importantly make sure that your child is getting enough sleep each night! Sleep helps to improve memory and lower stress and anxiety. If you notice grades dropping and that your child is acting up or becoming more emotional and dramatic about homework, it could be correlated with a lack of enough sleep.

Parenting Tips To Ease Back To School Jitters

Many school districts across the country are reopening for the 2014 – 2015 school year on Monday. The end of summer often brings anxiety as kids get prepare to get back to school after the long break. For some, entering the next grade level means a transition to a new middle or high school. For others the nervousness is tied in with not having seen friends over the summer and where they will fit their peer group in when school resumes. Most will transition into new classrooms with a teacher they haven’t had before and then there’s the family that had to move due to a parent’s job requirements and the child will be starting all over. No matter what the situation, the transition can be stressful and it’s completely normal if your child is feeling anxious. As a caregiver there are certain tried and true parenting techniques you can do to ease the tension as much as possible.

First, encourage your child to open up and talk about his concerns and fears a few weeks prior to the first day. Revisit this discussion as the time gets closer and then set a regular time at least in your own mind, to talk about their feelings each day after school for at least the first two months. Sitting down face-to-face might make them feel uncomfortable, so try the car ride home or if they need time to unwind, walking the dog together after dinner works well. During this time, pay attention to how you are acting. If you are stressed and talking about the negative aspects of a particular teacher, this will transfer to your child’s feelings. Be understanding; yet take this time to reiterate your confidence in the school, the teachers and their peer group. Remind them that it is normal for things to take a couple weeks to get used to.

Furthermore, children of all ages do much better when they feel like they are entering the new school year with a strong friend group. Take away the worry of who they will eat lunch with by setting up play dates for the younger ones and encouraging the older ones to reconnect with old friends. Host something at your house or enable them to meet up at the beach, a park or the mall so they can get reacquainted.

Another key ingredient is to get your house organized! Set up a spot to hang up or put their backpack everyday, a comfortable study area, a place where all the school supplies are kept and an alarm clock to help wake them up in the morning. Kids thrive with routine and knowing what to expect. This also teaches them good skills to carry without them throughout life.

Finally, make a dry run through a couple of times before school starts. Drive the route you will take or walk with them to show the way so you can predict how much time is needed to get their safely on time. Walk around campus and find their classroom, the cafeteria, their locker and where the bathrooms are. The more prep work you do prior to the first week of school, the more confident and prepared your child will feel to face the new challenges of the upcoming academic year.