Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Check Out Our "Ask the Experts" Column in Ann Arbor Family Magazine


The Overscheduled Child:
5 Tips to Avoid the Pressure Trap


We were thrilled to be asked to write an Ask the Experts column for Ann Arbor Family Magazine. We wrote about ways parents can identify whether their child is overscheduled and what to do about it if they are. We will be writing more columns for the magazine so be sure to check back.

Learn about whether your child is overscheduled and
what to do about it. 
Link to Ann Arbor Magazine Article


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Monday, November 28, 2016

The Challenge of Finding Gifts for the Instant Gratification Generation

Remember when your kids ran to the tree on Christmas morning, looking at the carefully wrapped presents with wide-eyed merriment? There is nothing like seeing those boxes as evidence that it is Christmas morning and the festivities begin. While there is so much more to the celebration of Christmas than gifts, there is no denying the jubilation seen on children's faces or anticipation parents feel at that moment.

Parents try very hard to continue those nostalgic moments. However, finding gifts that inspire that much excitement is becoming more difficult. The challenge of raising kids in the Instant Gratification Generation is that they receive so much gratification from what their devices offer. Board games don’t get the same wide-eyed excitement as an iTunes gift card to be used for a new game on their phone or tablet.  Whether it is time texting, Facetiming, or Snapchatting with their friends, watching YouTube videos, or playing games, many parents find their kids aren't looking for much outside their devices. That leaves fewer options for those carefully wrapped boxes and parents who seek any option to fill that void.

Avoid Buying "Filler" Gifts

Here are some ideas to avoid falling in the trap of buying "filler" gifts your kids won't use or spending too much money on electronics.

1. Give family gifts. Kids love gifts that the whole family can enjoy! Our family favorites are activities, such as tickets to the fancy movie theater to see the new Marvel movie or a concert. Family outings like a trip to an amusement park or weekend adventure are also great! If you have a family trip coming up, maybe there is an extra excursion the family would enjoy. Last year our family gift was a river rafting trip the next summer. They can include activities that can happen any time in the year. Family gifts can also include things such as a new T.V. or computer.

2. Make gift cards fun. Let's face it, kids love gift cards. If you are going to give gift cards, make them fun and wrap them in stacking boxes. Many kids ask for gift cards for a specific purchase. You can print pictures of those items or include a catalog for the place the cards are for, such as Game Stop or Target.

3.  Emphasize giving to others. Remind your kids that gifts for Christmas are to show your appreciation for others. Kids have just as much fun giving gifts as receiving them if they are included in the process. Even giving them free-range to wrap the gifts in silly and fun ways gets them excited about giving. Whether it is giving gifts to friends and family or charity, include your kids and invite their ideas. Share your enthusiasm, they will learn from you.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How to Talk to Your Kids about the Presidential Election Results


     This election was one of most divisive in recent political history. The lack of etiquette and a 24-hour news cycle elicited strong emotional reactions from even those who had never been so passionate about an election before. Because of that we are getting many questions from parents about how to talk to their children about the results. The best approach for parents is to reduce the stress of their kids while educating them about the political process.

Here are ways to talk to your kids about the election:
            Many People have Different Beliefs
1.     Whether your kids support Trump’s perspective or Clinton’s ideals, this election offers parents the opportunity to talk with their kids about the fact that many people in the country have different views. Trump won the electoral vote, yet, Clinton won the popular vote. That means that no matter what their views are, many people think differently than them. Help your kids to be prepared if difficult conversations about the election come up.

You can tell your kids, “While many people in our community (family, group of friends, or whatever fits) believe certain things, we see from this election that other people see things differently. Because we are surrounded by people who believe the same things, it is easy to forget that we are a very diverse country. Sometimes when we talk to people, we hear opinions and ideas that are very different than ours. We might disagree with them very much. Other people might even say mean stuff about things you believe in. How might you react in that situation?”

You will be Okay
2.     This isn’t the first time the country was divided and it probably won’t be the last. It is part of having a democracy and the freedoms that come with it. Talk with your kids about checks and balances, including the process the president must go through to make policy changes. It’s important to communicate to your kids a sense of optimism about the future and their role in it.
You can tell your kids, “The strength of our political system is that even the president doesn’t have absolute power and needs to go through the House of Representatives and the Senate for the most important decisions that impact the country. Also, a lot of the control over decisions about what happens in our city are made by representatives of our state and politicians where we live. Whatever changes occur, happen gradually.”

Show Respect for the Process
3.     Whether you support the outcome or not, it is very important to communicate respect for the process of voting and the freedom to do so in our country. It is important to model for our kids how to be respectful of the process, while at the same time encouraging them to be educated about the issues so they can vote to make changes when they are of age.

You can tell your kids, “We should celebrate the opportunity to participate in the process of shaping our government whether you like the outcome or not. It is important to learn about the issues and exercise your right to vote so you can support the things you believe in.”

Do Something to Support Your Beliefs
4.     If your children don’t like the outcome or how people are reacting to the results, find a cause to support those they feel are being treated unfairly. If they feel the outcome may take away benefits from the poor, help them volunteer to support families in need, serve food at a Soup Kitchen, collect toys for the holidays, etc. If they feel the protests impacted businesses in the community, help them support those businesses with helping out or even writing a card or letter showing their appreciation for what they provide for the community.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Back to School, Ready or Not

Back to School, Ready or Not?

5 Tips Not on Any Other List to Prepare Kids for School

 

Ready or not, the summer is coming to a close and the school year is fast approaching. Some kids are excited to see their friends, others are anxious about the academic and social demands. Whatever position a parent is in when sending kids back to school, there are ways to ease the transition.

1.      Set Academic Goals Together

It is the goal of most parents for their children to be a “good student.” It is also the goal for many kids. However, most families don’t talk about the specific expectations until there is trouble. Instead, this year, sit with each child individually and talk about what his or her expectations are for the school year. Ask questions such as, “What grades are you working for?” and “How will you know you are trying your best?” At that point, parents can set their expectations. Include in the discussion, what you expect your children to do when they are not meeting those expectations. For example, if a class is particularly challenging and your child is not meeting the expectations, he or she needs to come to you and let you know with a plan to improve it (meet with teacher, work with tutor, study with you for next test, etc.). You want to promote the idea of being proactive when things are challenging, not waiting until they get in trouble before addressing it.

2.      Develop the Plan for Homework and Morning Routines

From the very start discuss the evening and morning routines. Most parents need time to adjust the new schedules too. Don't wait to figure it out as you go along. Set the family up for success and have a plan ahead of time. Talk about things such as expected times for homework, (this may change as outside activities change, that is okay), bedtimes, wake-up, breakfast, putting backpacks together, leaving for school, etc.

3.      Get the Bedtime Routines Back

As much as your kids resist, it is time to get them back on track with bedtimes. Try to have dinners earlier and wind down for the night at set times. This is just as important for teens as it is for younger kids. For younger kids this may mean re-establishing bath time, reading, and lights out. For all kids this means having them unplug from electronics (including phones) at a set time. Turn off TV, iPads, video games, and phones to allow them to wind down from the stimulation electronics provides.

4.         Talk About a “Check-In Basket”

If you have kids who have electronics in their rooms, it is very tempting to use them after bedtime. If you have teens that bring a phone to bed, chances are they are on it after the light goes out. Checking it in at a designated time can be an important routine to establish, a charging station in the kitchen perhaps.  If it is established from the start, it removes the temptation and establishes a healthy routine.

5.      Plan End of the Summer Fun

Preparing for getting back to school doesn’t have to be all drab. Plan an end of the summer activity with some of your kid’s friends. This is not only fun, but it is a great way for them to reconnect to peers after a summer break. For kids who feel anxious about going back to school, this can be really helpful. Talk to your kids about what they think would be fun. It can be something easy, like a movie and pizza or sleepover with a friend or two. It can also include something like a BBQ, beach day, or park.
 


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Monday, July 25, 2016

Old Fashioned Summer Fun

How many times have you talked about summer memories that included being outside, riding bikes, and playing tag with friends?  We find that our kids wake up and hit the couch, to which they are happy to stay if there are no other plans. When we suggest they call a friend or find something to do, they respond with an, "okay", but don't move.

We understand that it is summer and our kids need their down time. Everyone deserves to be lazy at times. But, with this generation of kids, their phones and electronics suck them in and the time passes without them even realizing it. We found a series written in the New York Times to change that pattern.

Check out this article by New York Times Well Family journalist KJ Del'Antonia. She poses an "intentional summer challenge" that invites families to bring back old fashioned fun. She poses a new challenge each week.

The New York Times Intentional Summer Challenge


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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Teaching Kids to Think Won Silver Award

We are so excited to share that Teaching Kids to Think won the Silver Award from the Nonfiction Book Awards! 



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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

School that Banned Cell Phones Saw Test Scores Go Up



In a classroom observation this week I sat in the back of the class and saw students texting, shopping, playing games and looking at YouTube. When there was a break in discussion over half the students looked at their phones. I am in the classroom a lot, and this is not uncommon. I observe private and public schools, small and large schools, traditional and non-traditional schools. The pattern is the same. When teens have a free moment, it is an automatic response for most of them to look at their phone.

It is not surprising that a study completed at the London School of Economics and Political Science showed a significant increase in test scores for schools that banned cell phones. They found "schools that didn’t allow students to carry cell phones saw overall test scores go up by 6.4 percent. More specifically, the students who didn’t perform well increased their test scores by 14 percent after these bans went into effect (2015)." In addition, the authors reported, "banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days.”

While I see the issue of distractions caused by cell phones in the classroom as a pervasive problem across schools, I do see a difference depending on the teacher's policy. In classrooms with teachers who have a rule that no phones will be out during class, I see the distractions much less frequently. In fact, students are more respectful about asking to use their phone to take a picture of notes on the board or a homework assignment. The students are more engaged in discussion and are thoughtful in their answers to questions, rather than looking to Google to give them the answers.

The research by Beland and Murphy is powerful and shows the magnetic affect cell phones have to many teenagers' (and adults') attention. It can significantly impact their learning and performance in school. At the same time, my experience showed me that teachers have a lot of power in the classroom to change the focus to the essential information being taught in the classroom.

For the whole study go to:
ARTICLE: Communication: Technology, Distraction & Student Performance

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