When Your Child Can’t Be With Dad on Father’s Day

For many families, Father’s Day is a day to look forward to: a day when kids can celebrate Dad through gifts, fun activities and lots of hugs. However, for kids who don’t have a dad at home on this day, whether due to Dad traveling for work, parental separation, or not having a father at all, Father’s Day can be a difficult time, bringing up unwanted feelings of sadness and loneliness. Here are some tips for helping your child to navigate this tough time, and celebrate the day in way that highlights the uniqueness of your family situation.

When Dad Can’t be There for Father’s Day

There are a myriad of reasons why Dad may not be present for Father’s Day.  Some live in another state, some travel for work, some are away serving the country. Unfortunately, it’s just not always possible for parents to be with their children for every holiday. If this is the case with your family, try to create an alternate way to celebrate Father’s Day.

Make a ‘Virtual’ Gift

Encourage your child to create a poem, song, or a drawing for Dad. Help them to prepare the gift ahead of time, using fun art supplies and a sense of humor. Then plan a time for FaceTime with Dad on the big day. Keep the gift a surprise from Dad until the big moment. For dads who are out of the country, the cell phone app ‘Whatsapp’ allows your family to connect for free (just be mindful of the time change).

Celebrate Another Day

If Dad is out of town just for the day, plan to celebrate a few days before or after Father’s Day. Take advantage of the shorter lines at brunch or dinner spots.  It can be easy to overlook holidays like Father’s Day, especially when Dad isn’t around, but it’s an important day for kids and dads to connect and celebrate their relationship.

When Dad Is Not in the Picture

Father’s Day is especially difficult for children with an absent father, whether due to a father’s death, or not having a father figure in their life. To help children deal with these emotions on Father’s Day, try to create a positive alternative celebration:

Memorial for Dad

For children whose father has passed away, a memorial can be a good way to celebrate their memory. Many families will visit the place of burial on Father’s Day. Another idea is to help your child create a special memorial or celebration at home. Some ideas: encourage your child to write a ‘note to Dad.’ Once complete, roll the note up and put into a small receptacle (biodegradable is great, if possible!). If you live near water, you can throw the ‘bottle’ into the lake or sea. Other fun ideas: creating a photo collage which can be framed or hung on the wall, using a phone app to design a ‘wallpaper’ background for their phone or iPad which commemorates Dad, making Dad’s favorite meal for breakfast or dinner, and sharing stories and memories over the meal.

Alternate ‘Parent Day’

Some families do not have a father figure. If this is the case, use this day to celebrate another figure that plays a similar role. Child of a single mom, or two moms? Have a grandfather or uncle that plays a ‘father-like’ role? Use this day to celebrate that special person. Have fun with it. Make up a fun name, like “Grandpa Jake Day” and make him a cake. Or call it “Mother’s Day 2” and celebrate that mom who has dual duty with a fun brunch.

For children without a father, this day may bring up feelings of sadness. Help your child to cope by encouraging open dialogue and affirming their emotions. Remind your child that they are loved and special, and let them know that it is okay to feel sad, lonely, and even angry sometimes. Find more tips on encouraging a supportive dialogue here.

Whatever your family’s situation on Father’s Day, there are ways to make it a fun and meaningful event. Help your child to develop positive associations with this day now, and you are helping them to enjoy a lifetime of Father’s Days, and teaching them to be creative and resilient in the face of difficult situations.

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Keep Calm During Finals

The summer is approaching, school is almost out, but first there are EXAMS! For many teens, this creates a lot of stress! Teens struggle with the amount of pressure they have in school, and parents struggle watching them! What can you do to help your teen through this stressful time and keep calm during finals?

Stress is a real or perceived threat that causes us to be in a state of mental tension and worry. Feeling stress is a fact of life, but there are ways to manage stress so it doesn’t interfere with our life. We may not be able to take the exams for our kids or shelter them from all of life’s stress, but we can support them and help them manage stress.  On a regular basis, teens may stress about school, relationships, family, friends, work, college applications, money, not having transportation to places, etc. When exams are added on to this stress, it makes it difficult to cope with and they may need extra support.

 Stress symptoms:what to look for

  1. Feelings: anxiety, irritability, fear, moodiness, and embarrassment.
  2. Behaviors: Crying, acting impulsively, nervous laughter, snapping at friends, teeth grinding, increased smoking, alcohol use, drug use, or vaping, increase or decrease in appetite.
  3. Thoughts: self-criticism, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, forgetfulness or mental disorganization, preoccupation with the future, fear of failure
  4. Physical: Tight muscles, cold or sweaty hands, back or neck problems, stomachaches, sleep disturbances, more colds or infections, rapid breathing or pounding heart, and fatigue.

If you notice your teen having any of these stress symptoms, bring it to their attention and have a conversation with them on ways to help reduce their stress.

Strategies to cope with stress

Help your teen identify the stress. Maybe there is more going on with them than just the exams. Help them manage their time, so they don’t feel so overwhelmed. It is difficult for some teens to execute effective time management skills, especially when they are highly stressed. Validate their feelings and offer support.

Encourage them to implement a self-care routine. Encourage them to reach out to friends, exercise, or work on a hobby.  Activities like this will allow their brain and body a break from the stress, even if it is only for a little while. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good. It also allows for a distraction. Instead of focusing on your worries, focus on how your body feels while moving. Take breaks from studying and have some fun. Deep breathing is another way to help put the brakes on stress and bring the mind and body back to center.

Help your teen utilize the 4 A’s

  1. Avoid unnecessary stress. Help your teen build boundaries with people; help them say no. Give them permission to stay away from people that are negative and cause them a great deal of stress. Help them take control over their environment. Having a sense of control can help decrease stress.
  2. Alter the situation. Encourage them to talk about their feelings rather than hold them in. Help them be more assertive, while willing to compromise in some areas with them.
  3. Adapt to the stressor. Exams are not going to go away. Exams can feel like the most important things they have done all year; help them re-frame that feeling so it is less threatening. Help them look at the big picture. Negative thoughts will often lead to negative feelings and behaviors.
  4. Accept things you can’t change. Even though teens cannot change the fact that exams are coming, help them focus on what they can change. Work with them to practice gratitude and look for the upside.

Remember the basics

When we are stressed, we tend to forget about our basic needs, such as sleep and food. Make sure your teen is prioritizing sleep and eating. A healthy diet will help combat stress and help the brain function better. Reducing caffeine and sugar will help to feel more relaxed and sleep better. The National Sleep Foundation recommends teens get 8-10 hours of sleep, but they are getting on an average of 7 hours of sleep a night. During exam week, they get even less sleep. This may impact their test taking abilities.  Help your teen keep calm during finals by encouraging sleeping, healthy eating, and staying away from drugs and alcohol.

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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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Ready to Learn: Getting My Child Ready for Kindergarten

The end of the school year is around the corner, and for many kids the promise of summer is all they can think about. For teachers and parents however, there is much to be done before the end of the school year. If your child is enrolling in kindergarten this fall, here are some tips to prepare them for their new role as full-time student.

Enrollment: Checklists for Mom and Dad

Let’s start simple; although some children enroll on the younger side, and others enroll on the mature end of the spectrum, here are a few things that need to be completed prior to enrollment:

  1. My child is 5 years old, as of September 1
  2. My child is up to date on vaccinations
  3. My child has completed any required medical screenings (eyes, hearing and speech)

My Child is Going to Kindergarten: Now What?

Change can be hard for many kids (and for parents!). Here are a few ways to instill excitement in your child and help with the transition.

  1. Visit the school prior to the first day. Many schools provide a meet and greet for students, families and teachers.
  2. Talk about it. Anxiety is born when children don’t know what to expect. Talk to your child about all the fun they will have in school. New friends, fun teachers, circle time and library hour are all enjoyable parts of school your child gets to look forward to!
  3. Take your child school supply shopping. There is nothing like a new princess backpack or Superman lunchbox to get your child excited for school! Let your child pick out a few personalized items to aid in building up the excitement and help them feel confidant.

Kindergarten Readiness

What is kindergarten readiness? Kindergarten readiness is the what pre-school teachers, guardians and parents evaluate prior to sending their child to kindergarten. The main areas teachers and educators evaluate are independence skills, social skills, executive functioning and recognition of colors, numbers and letters.

If you don’t feel like your child has mastered these skills, don’t fret! Children learn quickly! Spend your summer investing in your child; set aside 30 min per day reviewing their ABCs, numbers, colors and shapes. If your child lacks social skills- get them involved in play groups, summer camps etc. Summer is a great time to socialize and learn!

Fun and Simple Ways to Promote Kindergarten Readiness at Home

Give your child a leg up by working on the following this summer:

  1. Counting 1-10- use visuals to aid in number recognition
  2. Writing their name- start with their first name
  3. Recite the ABCs- sing the song, and point to the letters to aid in recognition
  4. Have play dates! Take time to invest in your child’s social skills. Focus on sharing, nice hands, nice words, waiting their turn.
  5. I can do it!- If not already doing so, have your child practice dressing themselves, focus on outdoor clothing (shoes, hat, gloves, jacket).

If you are worried your child has deficits or is not quite ready, seek out an educator, other parents or your pediatrician. These people are here to help you and are a great resource to give you the reassurance you need.  Remember, kindergarten is a place to learn! No one expects your child to be perfect or have mastered all skills prior to beginning school. Now- enjoy your summer!

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