Relationship Stress: Connecting With Your Teen

What happened to the sweet innocent child that wanted your attention all the time? They couldn’t wait to tell you about their day! Teenage years can be a difficult time for you and your teen and make relationships stressful! They will push limits, may seem moody, and can be the Kings and Queens of one word answers.  Connecting and building healthy boundaries can be challenging, but not impossible. Creating healthy boundaries and a healthy relationship can help your teen gain independence, feel safe, and make good decisions. Boundaries can be important for parents to have a sense of control, let them know they are cared for, while giving the teen their own autonomy.  How to deal with stress in your relationship and connect with your teen? There are factors to keep in mind while connecting with your teenager and keeping healthy boundaries.

Connect and Empathize

Spend time with your child to connect with him or her. Find an activity that you both enjoy and keep asking until they accept the invitation. Teens may be hesitant, but this one-on-one interaction is important for maintaining healthy relationships.  Make it a time for positive conversations, not a time for addressing concerns or problems. Creating an environment for open communication will help build mutual trust and respect. Set aside time with no electronics or distractions and be present with each other. Listen before responding and respond instead of reacting. Resist the urge to fix things and just be there to listen and validate.

Many times parents shrug off their teen’s stress as no big deal and don’t take them seriously. Remember how it was to be a teen. Think about your own barriers you had to telling your parents about personal things. Empathize how complicated life can be and validate their feelings. Stay away from saying, “I know how you feel”, imply that their feelings don’t matter, or that they will just change.  Acknowledge their feelings and needs and actively listen before sharing your own thoughts.

Natural Consequences

Problem solving is an important life skill that requires practice. If your teen is bailed out of every mistake, they miss out on the opportunity to practice. Let your teen face natural consequences as a result of their actions. Sometimes the natural consequences of their action are more of a learning moment then taking away the electronics. This will also help deter any power struggles that might come about when assigning consequences and make the relationship less stressful for both.

You are still the Parent

As we know, teens consistently push the boundaries that are set. This is the normal process of striving to be independent and there are still rules that need to be consistently applied. However, boundaries and rules can change in time or as trust and independence increases. Remember that you are the parent and they still need you. Even in the hardest days of crying and screaming, they will need to know you love them unconditionally and to feel your support and approval. Boundaries allow for structure and safety and remind the teen that they have your unconditional love. Try not to yell or scream, especially in front of their friends. Use set consequences infrequently and use rewards instead.  Figure out consequences and incentives together before any incidents happen. This way, they have a part in the discussion and have a “buy-in” to respecting the boundaries.  Teens look up to their parents. Research shows that parents have great influence on adolescent choices, including risk-taking choices like smoking or drug use.

Respect each other

Respect is another important factor in any relationship. Teens will more likely respect others when they feel they are respected. Even though teens may be dramatic and act silly, it is important to take their concerns seriously. Don’t belittle or dismiss them when they share a problem that seems trivial to you. Validate their feelings and let them know that you get it. You won’t always agree with them, but hold your compassion and respect for them as you disagree. Get to know your teen’s friends while not putting a negative label on them. Respect your teen’s privacy yet keep an eye on what is going on. Acknowledge your teen’s strengths and build them on. Let them know what you need from them, instead of what you don’t want your teen to do.

The Don’ts

We are all human with emotions that might take us to places we didn’t want to go. We want to show teens that emotional management is possible and can be done with healthy coping skills. We don’t want to show them disrespect by letting our emotions get the best of us. It is normal to get angry and frustrated and when this happens, respond instead of reacting and try not to yell and scream, especially in front of their friends. Setting up consequences is important, but don’t rely on just consequences. Use rewards and build on their strengths.  When you feel your emotions getting high, walk away. Model how to manage high emotions in a healthy way.

 

Stress in your relationship with your teen can be stressful at times! Teens can be moody, dramatic, and sometimes make poor choices, but they are just striving for independence, self-awareness, and figuring out how to navigate life. They need direction, support, and boundaries to feel safe and find the ability to make sound decisions. Listen, learn, and connect with your teen and build the relationship by listening and validating, not just trying to solve their problems. Have positive interactions with them, not just the negative interactions. Remember, it takes 5 positive interactions to balance out every negative interaction.

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When I Don’t Like My Child- A Letter to Mamas

Tears streaming down her face, she looked up at me pleadingly ‘I don’t like my child- help me. I am terrible’.

Hey Mamas- let’s talk. Real talk. Let’s talk about the moments no one prepared you for, the moments when you no longer recognize yourself, the moments you think ‘I have failed- I don’t like my child’.

Everyone’s story is different; some are full of tears for the first few weeks of infanthood, others feel the burden set in later. There are those who seem to parent effortlessly without failing, without fear, but I’d like to remind you, and encourage you that life and your child-, they are both full of different seasons and stages.

Do you remember when you first got married? No amount of books could prepare you for physically living with this particular person; the amount of dirty laundry left on the bathroom floor, the dishes left in the sink. Some fall into the pattern of cohabitation easily, others find it harder- but the truth is that it is an adjustment for all, and it gets easier.

The day you brought home your first puppy. He was scared. You were scared. After a few days of puppy bliss, you began to face the reality that your puppy missed his mother; he hated to be alone, his teeth hurt, he wasn’t house broken, and he peed everywhere. Now look at him, standing guard and keeping your family safe.

Then come the babies. The perfect little bundles of joy that were wished for, longed for, prayed for. The sweet angel adorned with love, kisses and the perfectly fitting name upon her arrival. Fast forward to sleep regression, sleep training and the IV of coffee in your arm. Was this what you signed up for?

Oh wait, this little person calls you “Mama!”. He dances when you come through the door. Long forgotten are the sleepless nights of infanthood. We are now into the ‘terrible twos’ the ‘I-do-it-myself-threes’ and here you are, a puddle of tears on the bathroom floor. No matter, pour yourself a glass, call a friend, dry your tears, and remind yourself tomorrow is another day.

Kindergarten; new friends, new rules, no nap. Crying for Mommy. (For help on separation anxiety, click here)

You get through it. You stand back and give your son a hug so tight you can still feel it when you close your eyes. Battle of the wills; who is this child? I don’t recognize him. I don’t like him. But you love him. And before you know it, its middle school, high school and college.

Mama, parenthood is hard. Every time you master a new stage, your child is on to the next one. Some days its lunch money, and other days you pat yourself on the back for packing lunches the night before! Infanthood is hard, but it does not last long. Pre-school may be full of tantrums, but it doesn’t last long.  (For help on taming tantrums, click here). You love your job, but somedays are harder than others. You love your children, but some days, you are lacking in the liking them department.

Please know that you are not alone; please call a friend and let them tell you their own horror stories until tears of laughter stream down your cheeks. Please reach out to the brand-new mama struggling with diaper rash, bottles and sleeping. If you are struggling day after day, and would like professional help, please check out the knowledgeable therapists at North Shore Family Services, and their blogs.

You can’t be a pro all the time; you are allowed to have days that feel too hard. But at the end of the day, remember to tell your children ‘I love you’. Today, this week, this season is hard- but I promise it won’t last forever.

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But It’s Just Weed! Teen Drug Use Today

Smoking trends are changing at a rapid pace, especially among the teen population. Even though smoking and teen drug use looks a little different these days, the risks are still there. I often work with teens who seem to think these new devices are better than smoking an actual cigarette, but is that true? “It doesn’t smell, it tastes good and smells good, it’s better for you, it’s electronic so it doesn’t go to your lungs.” Those are some of the phrases I often hear. To take this e-cigarette trend a step further, they are now being filled with marijuana. What does all of this mean? Here’s some information that may be helpful in terms of understanding “vape talk,” and knowing how to talk to your teen about this phenomenon.

Vape Talk

E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are also often referred to as “vapes,” “vape pens,” “hookahs,” “e-cigs,” and “Juuls.” They are battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine and other additives through inhaling. There are now increased reports that teens are vaping marijuana through these devices as well. Vaping THC oil (THC is the chemical in marijuana that gives the mind-altering effects) is odorless, which is very different from smoking marijuana through a joint, pipe, or blunt.

Juuls

“Juuling” came from the Juul electronic cigarette company. Juuls look just like a USB flash drive, and there’s cartridges called pods that go into them that contain liquid nicotine. Since 2015, these have become the most popular way to vape. They can be charged like a phone or laptop, and teens are now switching out the liquid nicotine for liquid marijuana. They are often so small that they fit in the palm of your hand, so kids often hold them in their sleeves, tuck it in their backpacks, and take “bathroom breaks” at school during classes.

Liquid Juice

This refers to the liquid nicotine that can come in a variety of flavors (some of the flavors literally sound like ice cream flavors – bubble gum, chocolate, vanilla, and more!). There’s actually over 500 flavors available!

What We Know

  1. There’s been an upward trend of vaping for ages 12-17 since 2011.
  2. According to the US surgeon general, there has been a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2001-2015, and the numbers are continuing to rise.
  3. Nicotine is addictive and bad for your health. The earlier kids start using, the harder it is to stop.
  4. The brain is continually developing and maturing during the adolescent years, and nicotine negatively alters that development.
  5. Cravings occur almost immediately when nicotine reaches the brain and gets the pleasure and reward centers very excited, which can result in addiction.
  6. When teen drug use involves vaping marijuana, there tends to be a higher consumption of THC, especially for inexperienced smokers, so the “high” is intensified.
  7. According to the Centers for Disease Control, marijuana use interferes with brain development and can cause slower learning, short-term memory loss, and lung damage.
  8. There are aerosol components, more than forty-two chemicals reported to be found in the vaping products, which is the piece that is reported to be most harmful.
  9. Even though federal regulations make it illegal for kids under the age of 18 to be able to purchase e-cigarettes, they can be purchased online, which makes it easier for under-aged kids to get these products.
  10. Second hand smoke from vaping exists.

What We Don’t Know

  1. We still do not know the long term health effects of e-cigarettes, but there is an increase in research studies being conducted. To read about some of the recent studies that are available regarding the current trends of teen drug use and vaping, you can go the American Medical Association’s website to access online journals.
  2. When using THC in e-cigarettes, it is unknown as to how much THC is being consumed.
  3. Much of the research available on the cognitive effects of marijuana tend to focus on heavy users, so it is still unclear as to whether or not there is long-term brain damage, and if there’s a level of usage that is considered to be safe.
  4. Many people say that e-cigarettes are a safer way to smoke, and that it even helps people stop smoking cigarettes. Again, there is not enough information available to confirm or deny this, but from what’s currently available, it is said to be that they aren’t as harmful, but still harmful.

Tips for Parents

  1. Educate yourself and do the research to know and understand what information is available about vaping. Hopefully this blog will be a great start and guide you in the right direction. For more information, you can access the website mentioned above by the American Medical Association, or go to the Surgeon General’s website.
  2. Learn about the side effects of marijuana since there has been an increase in vaping THC oil in vape pens. If you suspect that your teen is using marijuana and also recognizing some of the common side effects in your teen, it may be time to have a talk.
  3. When talking to your teen about teen drug use and vaping, avoid lecturing and work towards an open dialogue where you are patient and ready to listen without criticism. Keep the lines of communication open and work towards talking “with” your teen and not “at” your teen.
  4. If you are unsure on whether or not your teen is vaping, approach them with curiosity. “What’s your take on vaping?” or “Do a lot of kids at your school vape?” or “How are teens even getting vape pens being underage?”
  5. If you are the type of parent who feels that there needs to be set rules and consequences around vaping, let them know that it is their choice, but that there will be consequences for their choices.

 

If you are concerned that your teen may be struggling with addiction, reach out for help. You can start with contacting your child’s pediatrician, or go directly to an addiction specialist. You can also contact SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).​

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Couples Communication Tips

One of the biggest complaints I hear from couples is that the communication in their relationship is in dire need of fixing. I am often told from my couples that it seems as if their partner no longer “gets them” and they feel as if daily arguments have become the new norm that they cannot figure out how to overcome. These couples come to therapy desperately seeking more effective ways to resolve conflict and reconnect with their partner. Whether it is miscommunication, lack of communication, or simply not understanding how to talk about the “tough stuff” in the relationship, practicing the following couples communication guidelines can drastically change and improve the interactions with your spouse or partner.

Timing is everything when discussing difficult issues

 While this is not new, couples often overlook this crucial detail in their communication dynamic.

  • While it may seem difficult, giving one another some space to calm down, regroup, and return to the conversation at a later point in time is beneficial when discussing “hot” or difficult issues.  I tell my couples that if they feel they are ramping up and losing their temper, call for a break, walk away, and come back at a designated time.
  • I recommend that couples take no longer than 24 hours to return from their break.
  • The partner who called the time-out must be the one to re-initiate the conversation.
  • The partner who did not ask for a break must respect the other partner’s wish to step away, knowing that if the conversation continues in a heated moment, their communication will only deteriorate more rapidly and most likely cause more damage.
  • Regularly scheduled check-in (at least once each week) can also be a great way to structure more difficult issues and allow some space and time before discussing them.

Feelings First

When feelings aren’t addressed first, couples communication can suffer. It is imperative to:

  • understand your significant other’s feelings
  • validate their feelings
  • utilize active listening skills
  • Go one step further than simply saying “I understand.”
  • Be specific as to how you understand their feelings. If you have felt a similar way or have had a similar experience, you can relay your understanding and care for your partner’s feelings.  Saying something like, “I completely understand feeling unappreciated by my boss at work and I never want to make you feel that way in our relationship,” can demonstrate that feelings are heard and understood.

When both parties feel that they are heard and their feelings are tended to, much of the tension can be defused and resolution can be achieved more effectively.

Pay Attention to Your Tone and Language

A conversation can drastically change if the tone of your voice is unpleasant.  The tone of voice you choose can either communicate care and concern, or it can communicate resentment and bitterness.  So often couples communication is derailed because the “tone” of the conversation is negative.  Negative tone causes important messages to slip through the cracks and leads to misinterpretation of information.

The language you choose to use is just as important as using a calm tone of voice. I recommend eliminating these three communication styles from your interactions with your partner. Ditch:

  • All name calling from your vocabulary with one another
  • Any language that belittles or undermines your partner.
  • Yelling and screaming as a means to get your point across.

Sticking to these three rules of tone and language promotes understanding and decreases distress and defensiveness. This might be difficult to do in the heat of the moment, which is why it is so important to time your conversations at appropriate times.

Communication is More than Words

Communicating your love and care through your actions is vital and is just as important as the words you choose in your relationship.  While communicating in a calm and open manner during difficult times is extremely important, so is showing your love on a regular basis.

  • Give your partner small gestures to demonstrate that you notice and appreciate them. Perhaps a note in your partner’s lunch, a meaningful playlist of your favorite songs, planning a date, or tackling a household task that they have wanted to accomplish.
  • Be specific in your compliments to your partner. Let them know what specifically you love about them: their enthusiasm, their thoughtfulness, their charisma; it will communicate that you are invested in them and in your relationship!
  • Learn about your own and your partner’s love languages and demonstrate your love how your partner feels loved and ask for what you need.

 

Remember, your nonverbal communication is just as vital as the verbal.  Actions often speak louder than words.

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The Custody Agreement: 4 Tips to Make Co-Parenting Easier

Where am I sleeping tonight? Whose picking me up from practice? You’re ruining my life! Do these sound familiar to you? If you are a parent in the middle of a custody agreement or divorce, chances are you have heard these statements before. As a therapist, I have guided parents through this difficult time and made it a priority to focus on the kids’ needs first.

 

Kids Needs

Although it may be a very emotional and stressful time for a parent, children have described feeling scared, confused, sad, angry, and guilty when their parents tell them that they are getting a divorce. Developmentally, kids are not able to process the information the same as adults. At the beginning, it is important to remember to eliminate any negative feelings towards the other parent when talking to your children. Children are a product of both parents and have described feeling personally attacked when parents talk bad about one another. The goal during this time is to make the difficult transition as smooth as possible and cause the least amount of harm to your child. Below are 4 tips to make co-parenting easier during both custody agreements and the divorce.

 

Open and Honest Communication

When you tell your children that you are getting a divorce, it is important to have open and honest communication with them. Questions about why it is happening and statements about trying again are common phrases that are used. As parents, sit down prior to talking with your children and discuss a plan about how you will answer the “why” question and what the conversation will look like. You want to present a united front and show support of one another (even if feelings are not mutual). Again this time is about putting your child first. It is important not to lie and rather phrase the truth in a kid friendly way. For example, if you are getting a divorce based on years of arguing, you may find yourself telling the children that “Mom and Dad struggled with communication.”

 

Validate Emotions

Although your first instinct might be to tell your children “I know how hard this is for you,” this phrase can often make children more upset. In the moment, you can’t understand how your child is exactly feeling in that specific situation. In order to validate their emotions and promote more open communication of emotion, parents can use a different phrase when discussing the divorce. Instead of saying “I know,” you can say, “I can’t imagine how you are feeling” or “Can you tell me the emotions you are feeling?” Children will feel more validated, supported, and connected to their parents when these phrases are used.

 

Educate

Children don’t always understand all the “adult words” when it comes to a custody agreement or divorce. There are several questions about where they are sleeping or how many days they will be with their parents. Remember to educate them on terms that you use rather than assuming they know. As parents, you have the opportunity to define custody agreement or divorce agreement for them rather than them assuming or hearing from their peers or TV shows. Be specific and provide details so they can concretely think about what is to come. If children are younger (2-6 yrs old), use stuffed animals or toys to describe what is happening).

 

Calendars and Visuals

Reducing any anxiety is key to ensure that your child’s needs come first. There is a lot of “unknown” when children are going through a custody agreement or a divorce. They communicate their fears and worries, but don’t know how to get rid of them. Calendars and visuals are a great way to reduce stress and anxiety about the confusion and provide them with more control. I have recommended having a family app for both the parents and children to see. Our Family Wizard is one that I have recommended in the past and have seen successfully used. Google calendars or phone calendars can work as well. If children are younger (2-6 yrs old), use a visual calendar in their room and have a symbol for Mom or Dad. These will not only be successful tools for co-parenting, but also provide your child with peace.

 

Now, you can move forward and have a confident approach to answering and responding to these questions. Remember the kids do come first and their needs are the most important to address. If you need more guidance, our team of therapists are all trained to be a support during this process.

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The Calm Down Box: Helping Kids Self-Regulate and Capture the Quiet Moments

Our child only wants to play on my phone. My daughter can’t play by herself. Our kids say they are bored. My son can’t entertain himself. I want my child to go play outside but he only wants the iPad. Do these sound familiar to you? As a therapist my inbox and voicemail are flooded with them daily. Recently I’ve been introducing The Calm Down Box to families and it has been very successful.

The Calm Down Box

So, what can be done you ask? Plenty! A few years back I was introduced to The Calm Down Box. In its original form, The Calm Down Box was created to help children with sensory needs learn to self-regulate. Over time, The Calm Down Box has taken on many creative names and identities such as The Quiet Time Box, Quiet Corner Kit, Solo Activities Box, Road Trip Kit, Time Out Box, etc. So, what’s the point of this magical box? Self-regulation, quiet play, independent play, sensory break and non-screen activities.

What to Put in a Calm Down Box

Here are some of my favorite items to put into a Calm Down Box. Remember, all boxes can be modified for specific needs:

–Coloring pages and crayons- quiet and soothing activity

–Fidget cubes/stress balls/playdough/ kinetic sand- keeps hands busy

–Favorite book- quiet activity

–Race cars and other small toys – independent play

–Crunchy snacks- great for sensory needs and blood sugar regulation

–Legos- great for sensory and creative play

–Bubbles- calming activity

–Puff balls and pipe cleaners- great for creative play and sensory breaks

–Small stuffed animals/squishies- soothing and comforting

–Feeling chart- self-regulation tool

 

Below are additional resources, and tips for creating your own kit:

6 ways to make a calm down jar

–What to put in a calm down kit for kids

–Sensory cheat sheets

How to Implement The Calm Down Box

Again, Calm Down Kits can be used for a variety of needs, however the main idea is to gather several calming/soothing items into one place and prompt your child to use the kit in order to learn self-regulation, engage in independent play and non-screen time activities.

Pro tip: Encourage children to use their box for 10-30 minutes each day; make it a family event by declaring quiet play and setting a timer. The more they use the box when calm, the more they will gravitate towards it in moments of dysregulation.

Creating Your Own Calm Down Box

Here is what you need:

–Box- think old shoebox, treasure chest, etc.

–Markers, colored paper, stickers, etc. for decorating

–A list of items to include

Pro tip: Allow your child to decorate the box, this will encourage ownership and pride. In addition, engage your child in finding items from around the house that they would like to include. The more the child is involved, the more likely they will be to utilize the box.

Once you have all your items, it’s time to get busy! Decorate your box, fill it with items, and practice family quiet time! Remember, it’s never too late to teach your child self-regulation, independent play, or the importance of down time, and now you have your box full of tools to do just that!

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3 Ways for Kids, Teens, and Spouses to Wow Mom this Mother’s Day

They say a woman’s work is never done, right? As a mom of a toddler, I know first hand what that really means. Being a mom is an honor, a privilege, AND exhausting. One minute we are laughing and celebrating the moments and milestones that fill our hearts with so much love and joy. The next, we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the constant changes and surprises children bring just as soon as we get comfortable and into a routine. This Mother’s Day, why not show Mom how much she is appreciated and loved. Do something a little different. Prepare ahead of time, get the family involved, and make it a Mother’s Day to remember.

Schedule time for love stories

Love stories? What’s that you ask? Well, this can be whatever you make it, but here are some ideas. Whether it’s just your immediate family, or you want to get extended family involved, schedule a time for each family member to share a story with Mom about a time they felt extra loved. This can be scheduled every hour (depending on how many people will be involved), or over a few set times throughout the day, whatever works with your schedule.

Gifts are great, but to hear loved ones share personal experiences that are memorable to them will be sure to melt Mom’s heart. Prepare ahead of time and write it down. Try to provide as many details as possible so that Mom can go down memory lane with you…and probably shed a tear or two!

Plan the ultimate staycation

We all love a little getaway don’t we? Sometimes it’s not that easy to actually “get away.” Life gets busy and just as the thought crosses your mind that a vacation sounds perfect, it’s not always possible. So, plan a staycation for the day, or make a weekend out of it this Mother’s Day. Has Mom mentioned somewhere that she really wants to go? Has she been reminiscing about returning to one of her favorite places? Take elements from those places and incorporate them into a staycation. For example, maybe Mom loves a relaxing, island, beach type of vacation with snorkeling, swimming, and fruity island drinks. Look into your local park district or an indoor water park nearby to enjoy some swimming together as a family. Visit the aquarium to see the fish and maybe a dolphin show. Make Mom one of her favorite drinks (have and adult purchase anything that contains alcohol) and serve it to her at home. Ask Alexa to play some island music so Mom can really put herself in vacay mode.

Let Mom off the hook

At the end of the day, Mom will appreciate the fact that she can have a day where she doesn’t have to plan or prepare. Plan everything for her, or plan nothing and just enjoy the day together with no worries about a schedule. You know your mom best, so think about what she would like to do, or not do. No laundry, no planning, none of that! The laundry can wait. Mom’s probably been washing the same load of laundry for 3 days because she keeps forgetting to put it in the dryer…or maybe that’s just me! It’s the little things, so really tune in to what Mom does day to day. You know, those “mom” duties, and try to take care of those items on your own. Let her sleep in. Bring her coffee. Tidy up the house (you’ll get brownie points if you clean the house for Mom, just sayin’). Plan dinner, even if it’s just picking up takeout, and let her just enjoy her day.

Celebrating Mother’s Day doesn’t have to break the bank. Get creative and think outside the box. No matter how you decide to express your love and gratitude, the fact that her family put in a little extra effort on her special day will go a long way.

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Video Game Obsession – 3 Quick Ways to Set Healthy Limits

Remember the days when video games were a privilege and something that wasn’t as mainstreamed as a social outing? As kids, we would play outside, ride our bikes, and go to the park with friends. It seems that in today’s society, video game obsession is taking over and causing frustration for both parents and children. Children are constantly asking to play Fortnite or Call of Duty online with friends and spending money buying gear for their characters. Parents are asking their children to go play outside or do something more active. If this sounds like something you have experienced, you may struggle on knowing the appropriate ways to balance and set limits on your child’s video games.

I have often heard the frustration from parents that their children are spending too much time on video games and not enough time helping out around the house. Understanding how to balance fun and recreation with being responsible in the home is an important part of independent growth. Today, I want to provide you with 3 tips to set healthy limits that can help you manage video game obsession.

Time Limit and Routine

It’s important to sit down with your children and come up with a video game time limit. For example, during the school week (Monday-Thursday) they are allowed to play for 30 minutes after school from 3:30pm-4:00pm.  During the weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), they can play for 1-2 hours (depending on their age) in the morning, afternoon, or before dinner. These rules need to be specific and clear. Remember to tell your children about the rules when there are no distractions happening and they are fully listening. Let’s say you want to have extra video game time as a reward. That’s okay to do, but establish this with the video game rules. For example, if they get this reward it’s an extra 30 minutes. Children may ask for extended time in their games or try to guilt you into playing more times a day than you have established. Remember to hold your boundary and to not give into this request.

Size of the Problem

When children have strong reactions to turning off the video games and transitioning to the next event, remind them the size of the problem. Some children tend to have huge reactions towards this moment and as parents it can be difficult to reason with them. We want to help our children self-regulate independently. Challenging their thinking by asking if this is a small, medium, or huge problem can be effective. This can always put things in a better perspective for them in order to realize that their reaction is not matching the size of the problem. If your child struggles significantly with transitions, transition objects can be a positive replacement to use in these moments.

 Social Understanding

Video games have universally become a way for people to socialize with their friends when they are not with them. This can establish healthy social communication patterns between friends and assist with building rapport with peers. It is important to monitor who your children are playing with and making

sure their online friends are children you know. Safety first! Also, it is important to be mindful that your children may be playing online with their friends. Provide your children with the line, “Let your friends know this is the last game.” This will reduce strong reactions and maintain frustration tolerance as well as not damaging their “social” interactions. Remember what we discussed in the first tip! Talk with your children and establish these rules before using them to help you manage their video game obsession.

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How to Keep Prom Events Safe, Simple, and Fun

The flowers are in bloom, we are enjoying more sunshine, and most kids have started their countdown to summer vacation. This can only mean one thing; spring is here! For high school students, this means Prom weekend is approaching.  Parents know that this is an exciting and memorable time for their high school students; however, with the dress shopping and tux rentals come the inevitable stressors. I am sharing a few “prom hacks” concerning how to have fun at prom while keeping events simple and safe.

Safety first

As parents you play a multi-faceted role in your child’s prom experience. In addition to hearing about the creative way that son or daughter asked (or was asked!) part of your role is also to set a few guidelines to ensure their safety.

Start by planning ahead. Once the prom group is formed you can ask your teen to share their date’s and their parent’s contact information. Forming an email chain with the other parents can be a helpful way to discuss pre-and-post prom events, note start and end times, and confirm safe transportation options. Once plans are in place you can make your expectations for the weekend’s events explicit.

Remind your son or daughter that their safety is your first priority.  Discuss prom night rules with your teen; this can include setting a curfew for the evening and asking them to check-in via text or calling once they have arrived to the events safely. Be sure to remind your teen about the dangers of drinking and driving. Consider offering to help them setup a driving service to promote ease and safety. If your teen needs help because of a driver who has been drinking encourage them to call you – no questions asked. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Less stress is best

Think strength in numbers. Once you have your parental email chain in place offer to co-host pre-or-post prom events with the other Moms and Dads. No need to take on full responsibility alone. There are bound to be a few sets of involved parents who are available and willing to help out with weekend events, even in small ways. Divide and conquer the “to-do” list so no single person feels the whole burden. Having extra sets of eyes around is a great way to ensure adequate supervision. If you teen is not keen on the idea of your presence at their party, simply inform them that you are there to help out the hosts. Assure them you want them to have a fun at prom!

Have some fun at prom!

It is prom weekend after all! Coordinating a prom group is no task for the faint of heart. If your teen is stressing about complicated group dynamics, encourage them to put together their own (perhaps smaller) group. This can be a great way to sidestep some of the stress while still making sure they have fun at prom and get to enjoy the company of their good friends all evening long. That is what matters most anyway! Some teens feel overwhelmed by all of the prom-related hype. Remind your teen that the outcome of their evening is all about their perspective. Invite them to notice the small meaningful moments of the night, instead of focusing solely on the things that did not go “as planned.” Take a peek at this this article for suggestions on how to help your teen cope with pre-prom anxiety. Before they head out, let them know that you would love to hear all about their evening and see their pictures once the weekend has ended. Letting your teen know that you care about the things that matter to them builds trust and respect in the parent-child relationship.

 

Prom holds a lot of expectation, which can add pressure to your teen’s experience of the weekend’s events.  By weaving some of these “prom hacks” into the mix, both you and your teen are likely to sidestep some of the unneeded stress so everyone can focus on what matters most; having a fun, memorable, and safe weekend!

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Have a Sense of Humor: 8 Great April Fools’ Jokes for Parents to Play on Kids

On one day every year parents get a chance to let out their fun side and loosen up on the serious job of daily parenting! This April Fools’ Day get silly with your child and play 8 of the greatest kid appropriate jokes on them that will be sure to make them laugh.

Turn Back the Clocks

3 clocksStart off the day with a simple but effective joke of turning back the clocks. Get the kids up and ready for the day hours before they would even be up. In celebration of your victory joke, you can even use those extra hours they are awake to take them out to a breakfast!

 

Cereal Switch

bowl of cerealDo you have a selection of cereals for the kids to choose from in the morning? Well make it a perfect April Fools’ joke by taking your kids favorite cereals and switching the inside bags into different cereal boxes. Watch as they pour out their cereal and look completely baffled as another cereal comes out instead. Parents can alter this joke by choosing a cereal their kids enjoy, pouring it into a bowl with milk, and placing it in the freezer the night before. Frozen cereal for breakfast anyone?

 

Soap Doesn’t Work

nail polishFor a kid appropriate bath time joke, grab their bar of soap and paint it with a layer of clear nail polish. Place the no longer sudsy soap back in the shower and wait for all the confusion to begin. Hey at least when they approach you to ask questions about it you can be proud that they actually use soap!

 

A Solid Drink!

jelloNothing says a great April Fools’ joke like taking your child’s favorite drink, adding some gelatin to it, and refrigerating it with the straw in. When they are ready for a sip of that drink, watch in enjoyment as they struggle to understand why their drink is suddenly undrinkable. Feel free to create different drinks for each of your kids so that they don’t anticipate what will follow. For some April Fools’ Day drink recipes click here.

Why Doesn’t it Work?

TV remoteParents it’s time to use that great sense of humor of yours for this next joke. Just grab some clear tape and get to work taping over the sensors on all your child’s favorite electronics, including the television remote and their video game controllers. Sit back and enjoy some laughs as you watch your child fumble around trying to figure out why they can’t turn on their shows and games. Bonus points if you add to the joke and take the batteries out of the devices too.

The Minty Oreo

oreo cookieSnack time in your house can be an excellent time to try one of your simple kid appropriate April Fools’ jokes. Just take some Oreo cookies, scoop out the original crème center, and replace with some toothpaste! Parents can then be ready to capture the faces made as they bite into their “tasty” snack treats. Be sure to keep some regular Oreo cookies around as well so that they aren’t completely disappointed.

Free Money

stacks of coinsWant to enjoy the weather outside with the kids? Well no worries, here is a great kid appropriate joke to try outdoors! Start by finding some loose change (quarters may be most enticing), and then go ahead and superglue them down to the sidewalk. Watch as your kid struggles to pick up the coins they find. Who said “free money” was easy to come by?

 

They Grow too Fast

toilet paper april foolsFor another great kid appropriate joke, try stuffing a pair of your kid’s shoes with cotton stuffing or tissues. Confuse them about how they outgrew their shoes overnight. For even more fun, add a little more stuffing in one shoe and a little less in the other. Your kid will for sure wonder how one foot got bigger than the other.

 

Getting to share in some fun, harmless, kid appropriate April Fools’ jokes with your children can really help to build healthy family relationships and increase parent-child bonding. So parents please spend this April Fools’ exercising your sense of humor, combined with these 8 great kid appropriate jokes to try and practice on the family. Who knows maybe by next year you’ll have come up with other great jokes to add to this list!

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