Putting an End to Summer Brain Drain
May 24, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens · Permalink · Comments (0)

PrintBy Rose Howell, Academic Liaison at Thinking Caps

As the school year comes to a close, your child’s attention will turn to playdates, summer camp and the screens of their iPad, iPhone and TV. The mental stimulation provided at school inevitably takes a dive, leaving many parents wondering how to react. A study from Bell State University shows that Americans now spend more time on electronic devices than doing anything else, and kids are no exception. Further, we now know that excessive electronic usage causes memory loss and waning communication skills (eye contact, interaction) as well as weaker observational skills, language articulation and vocabulary. Too much screen time indoors also underlies health issues such as inadequate exercise, headaches, eye fatigue and tendonitis. Here are some realistic ways for you to combat “summer brain drain,” expand your child’s education and keep their bodies and minds active.

Harness your child’s natural curiosity:

  • Your child is still absorbing his or her surroundings like a sponge. If you move with themomentum of their natural curiosities, you’ll have more success keeping them engaged.
  • Find a special notebook for your child, and suggest that he or she writes down any questions,hopes or musings about a topic of interest. Then, carve out a day or two each week to go exploring within that theme. Take him or her to the library for books on the topic, a museum, or explore the haunts of that famous individual in the city. If your child often has questions about the world that you can’t answer, encourage them to write them down for future investigation.
  • Encourage them to learn more about a topic so they can tell everyone at dinner time what theylearned. If your child is competitive, challenge him or her to learn 10 new things that day. Need an incentive? Have something scheduled at the end of the summer which he or she can attend if they promise to stay active.

Stay strong when it comes to screen time:

  • Of course, this is always easier said than done. However, you are the parent, and your child willthank you later if you’re able to nurture their relationship to reality over mind-numbing hours in front of a screen.
  • Treat gadgets like you treat dessert—they are not a given. Set limits for screen time by being honest with your child about the effects that this time is having on him or her. If your child refuses to give up the gadget, that time will come out of their allotted time for the next day.
  • Encourage your child to engage in imaginative play, exploration in nature and activities outdoors.There are hundreds of places around the city, as well as summer camps that encourage this kind of stimulation. Teach your child to plant flowers, go on a scavenger hunt or play capture-the-flag. Do not be fazed if your child claims he or she is bored—a healthy dose of boredom triggers new ideas. Electronics can rob children of the natural process of brainstorming, discovery and initiation.

Fight the academic slide:

  • Reading is one of the best ways to keep your child’s brain sharp.Go with your kids to a library or bookstore, and let them pick the books they want. If they don’t like to read, read out loud and leave off at a moment of suspense. Before you know it, they’ll begin picking up the book themselves. Also, try graphic novels—they still require the child to read, but provide accompanying visual stimulation. Books on tape are another good trick; any travel time can be an opportunity for learning.
  • Use a workbook series, like Summer Bridge Activities,created by Michele Van Leeuwen, mother of three. Such workbooks often contain exercises for reading, writing, arithmetic and language arts, which can be done in transition moments like breakfast, snack or winding down before bed.
  • Consider tutoring sessions.If your kid is behind or struggles in a certain area, summer is a great opportunity to seek support. At Thinking Caps, we match students with compatible tutors who provide individualized guidance and learning for school subjects, study skills/executive functioning, and test prep. Even one hour per week of support can make a huge difference come fall.

These strategies can provide your child with a fulfilling and substantive summer that will leave them refreshed and prepared for school. There’s no need to let summer brain drain take its toll—it’s time to fight back!

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Shared Custody: The Kids Need Time To Settle and Resettle
April 6, 2016 · Posted in Communication, K-5 Kids, Pressure on Children, Separation/Divorce · Permalink · Comments (1)

When your children move from house to house whether every other weekend or every week, there is always a “settling-in time” at each home that is challenging for kids and parents. In spite of the excitement of seeing a missed parent or a loved bedroom, the switch is a reminder of the split and a heightened jumble of feelings. Kids often misbehave during this time and parents worry it is a sign of a difficult visit with the other parent, or take it personally believing their child isn’t glad to see them. While these are possibilities, the most common cause of acting out in the transition time is because the switch is hard, plain and simple.

Here are a few tips that have helped kids and parents alike:

  • Give them space. Let them settle in and approach you.
  • Don’t ask how their time was with the other parent right away. Let this emerge slowly and more organically.
  • Create rituals. Some kids love to take a bath when they arrive, to relax, to “clear the slate”. Some like to have a snack, some need half an hour in their room.
  • Talk to your child about how hard it is to go back and forth and that you realize they might be “grumpy” or not want to talk when they first get home. Your understanding of how things look from their eyes will help them feel known, loved and soothed.
  • Meet outside for the transition between parents, for instance at the park, or at a diner, so that you and your child re-enter the house together.
  • Handle your own guilt or sadness inside so your children can have room to react without experiencing a need to care for your feelings.
  • Schedule hand-offs with plenty of time before bed so kids can really settle in before having to manage going to sleep, which is for them, another separation.
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Why are our Children Their Worst with Us?
March 24, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

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How many times has your mother-in law said, “She wasn’t like this with me!” Or your nanny comments that your son goes down for a nap like an angel with her. Or you go for a parent teacher conference and the description of the child, “first to clean up, so empathetic to other children, what a helper!” is not the child you know. Parents come in for consultation time and time again embarrassed to report that they are in a deep struggle with their child–but that it doesn’t seem to be going on with caregivers, teachers or with other adults.

This is because our children are at their worst with us! They are supposed to be. Parents are exactly the ones you want your child to be struggling with the most. You mean the most, you are the safest person in their lives, and you are the person that can most teach them lessons about life and relationships.

Why bother struggling with your nanny over nap time? It’s not her that you are fighting sleep to see. Why whine and throw a tantrum with grandma? She is probably giving in to your every whim. Why show your tiredness, worry or frustration in school? Show your mom or dad so they can help without you feeling embarrassed in front of your friends.

The next time the comment tinged with judgement comes, “He was a such doll until you came in!” You can proudly say, “I know, he really knows how to behave out in the world, but with me he can show all his feelings!”

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Holidays: Sights, Smells and Tastes
December 17, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off

images-1The recession has been good for the holidays. This is the second year that the ethos of the holidays consists of getting less, spending less and really tuning into what the deeper messages about the seasons mean. Most parents who toned down the consumer frenzy last year were much more content with their holiday celebrations. Less stories about over stimulated kids ripping through mountains of presents and then demanding more. Less stress in preparing for the holidays.

What people remember most about their holidays as kids are the lights, whether Christmas or Chanukah, the scents of pine or baking or potatoes frying and the wonderful assortment of tastes. Who really remebers what year you got your bike, or a doll, or board games or gameboy? It is wrapping paper and ribbons and rituals we remember. So, when planning your holidays focus on the senses and not on the gifts. Pass on traditions or invent new ones. Those are the memories in the making.

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How to Keep Kids Fit & Focused
September 22, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off

BScreen Shot 2015-09-18 at 5.26.05 PMy Michelle Paget, LCSW RYT

Summer is already over? Wow, that was fast! The school year started, and children are doing their best to get back into the swing of things. After two months of enjoying vacation, camp and free time, children are expected to sit for almost seven hours straight during the school day.

I can honestly say that I know how they feel. As a school social worker, I felt the strain of returning from Summer break- going from being active and free to sedentary and cooped up at my desk all day.

One of my favorite ways to combat the back-to-school blues was with physical activity. I learned that keeping active helped me ease into the new year and even improved my ability to focus. Our children are no different and can also benefit with improved mood and sleep. Read more on WebMD about how exercise can benefit children.

We can help our children transition into their new schedules by teaching them how to incorporate movement and other forms of physical activity. Energetic Juniors provides some wonderful tips in an article below:

Keep Your Child Fit and Active After Summer Camp!

Here is the opportunity for your child to stay active the rest of the year.

How many times have you said,” I wish my child could or would continue being active as he was in camp.” But schoolwork takes over, and tutors, and computers, and online games and winter weather, and suddenly more time is spent being sedentary than being active. Physical activity should be year-round; active fit bodies mean active and more alert young minds and will pay off year after year with a lifelong commitment to active living. Fortunately, there are always- fun ways- to encourage your child to continue being active. For a child who doesn’t like team sports, there are endless possibilities for activities that they can participate in, such as:

Personal Training

Swimming

Running

Tennis

Martial Arts

Dance

Yoga

For the younger children, get them hooked now on physical activity that is stimulating, physical and FUN. The certified trainers of Energetic Juniors  will be sharing with you some active and creative fitness games. Use these games or just let your child’s imaginations and yours create new ones. Use these games as a springboard for endless possibilities. Just keep it safe, physical and FUN.

Get Up! Fitness Game of the Month

Have your child play this simple game.  It requires no equipment, little space and is most of all fun.

What it’s working:  Gross motor skills, balance, core strength

Goal of the game:  Your child will see how many different ways they can get up from the ground into a standing position.

Instructions:

  1.  Designate a small space in your home.  To infuse some excitement turn on some upbeat music.
  2.  Have your child start by lying on the ground.  Tell them they have one-minute to see how many different ways they can get up and into a standing position.  After they have stood up have them quickly lie back down again.  Repeat as many times as possible until the time runs out. Count for your child.
  3.  Once your child has begun to master the game, add challenges.  For example, stand up with your eyes closed, use no hands, stand on one foot, add a jump every time you stand up, or have them hold a ball. Have FUN!

For more fitness games or to learn more about Energetic Juniors, visit their website at: www.energeticjuniors.com.

 

Michelle Paget is a Child and Family Therapist and Yoga Instructor who works with elementary and middle school-age children and their families in the New York City area. For more information about Michelle, visit her website at: www.michellepagettherapy.com and follow her on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/michellepagettherapy.

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Breathing in Mindfulness
August 4, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off

MeeshTreesblogBy Akanksha Sadana-Raswant, Founder of Wholistic Tutoring 

Mindfulness is a powerful word that surrounds us daily, but what does it really mean?

Mindfulness is purposefully bringing awareness to the present moment, and as a result, paying attention to the full experience. Children and parents can learn to embrace their emotions and deepen their knowledge by spending five to ten minutes a day engaging in mindfulness.

In a city where we constantly live in a New York minute – running from place to place, sipping coffee in one hand while emailing with the other, multitasking within multitasking to create the most efficient day, we rarely take moments to focus on ourselves and notice how we are feeling in the present moment. Children pick up on this energy and become overstimulated and stressed. How do we help children stay calm and positive when the adults in their lives are frantic, overscheduled, and exhausted?

It begins with you, the parent. Much easier said than done, but give it a try!

Start with breathing…big deep breaths. It is hard to imagine, but sometimes we forget to breathe properly within our chaotic-filled days.

While you breathe, try to focus solely on your breath. Notice the movement your breath makes within your body. Is your breath deep or shallow today? Is your heart rate slowing down as you breathe? Be kind to yourself, because paying attention to your breath is difficult! Be patient with yourself, because this process takes time. Try to write down the effects this exercise has on you, or make a mental note on the “before and after” that occurs within your mind and body.

For children, the practice of mindfulness starts with breathing too. Have your child sit on a chair or lie down comfortably with their eyes open or closed. Ask them to place their hand on their heart or stomach while they breathe. Touching a body part is a gentle reminder to keep their attention on the flow of their breath. Reassure them that it is natural for their minds to wander, and the intention of this exercise is to catch themselves when their mind is drifting. The goal is to bring the focus back on the movement of their breath.

Breathing sends a signal to our body to calmly and gently slow down. With this activity, we start to pay more attention to ourselves, becoming more conscious of our body and giving more opportunities to notice the emotions that manifest themselves physically. This is the first step to achieving increased self-awareness and purposefully being present.

Happy Breathing!

 

Akanksha Sadana-Raswant is the Founder of Wholistic Tutoring, a tutoring practice that provides academic tutoring with the option to engage in mindfulness for children in grades Kindergarten through Seventh. For more information, please visit www.wholistictutoring.com

 

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When Dad’s Play With Kids They help Their Marriage
June 5, 2015 · Posted in Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off
Click here to find out more!
A study in the Developmental Psychology Journal reports on the correlation between parenting responsibilities and spousal relationships. The study, conducted by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, found that the more play time spent between father and child, the more encouraging and collaborative the parenting relationship would be.
Greater father involvement in play was associated with an increase in supportive and a decrease in undermining coparenting behavior over time. In contrast, greater father involvement in caregiving was associated with a decrease in supportive and an increase in undermining co-parenting behavior.
Children greatly benefit when both parents have a role in the custodial duties as well as play time. Here is one way to reduce the tension between shared tasks like meal-time, bathing and getting ready for school. Recognize your inevitable differences and try not to be so critical and controlling of one another. It will be incredibly helpful for the relationship to accept that everyone has their own way of doing things. And for dad’s – watch and learn from the person who has been, for the most part, in charge of caregiving responsibilities. Much benefit will come from seeing what works for your spouse. Along the way, you will adapt your own unique style of parenting that can compliment your wife’s.
Click here to find out more!
Click here to find out more!
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The Benefits of Hiring a Male Nanny
May 21, 2015 · Posted in Caregivers, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off

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John Brandon is known internationally for founding his first company, NYC Mannies. He has been interviewed on CNN International, Good Morning America, ITV (UK), as well as other major media outlets around the world. Having worked for years as a manny, John brings a unique perspective and passion to the childcare industry. He is a published writer on the subject of caregiving and mentorship. Having grown up without a father, John understands the need for kids to have positive role models in their lives. Visit www.MyManny.com for more information.

 

As the owner of MyManny, an agency for hiring male caregivers, I am often asked why people should hire mannies. I can only answer from personal experience. When I was 14 my father died. I needed older male role models to play sports with me, encourage me, help me with schoolwork, and mentor me as I faced the challenges of growing up.

In 2013, I started working as a manny in New York. I had years of experience working with children as a camp counselor, high school teacher, and babysitter. I wanted to be a “super-nanny” –to teach, educate, mentor, and tutor. My goal was to make a difference in the lives of the kids I was working with. This led me to found MyManny, to provide this kind of service to many New York City families.

Mannies aren’t just great for kids without dads. Most of the parents I work with are married couples that work full-time and need extra childcare support. Mannies are educated and well rounded. They a workforce of young, college-educated men who also tend to be active and athletic. They can tutor in various subjects without charging tutoring rates as well as teach athletics without having to hire a private coach.

Growing up in New York can be challenging. There is so much external stimulation that kids in New York have to navigate. My goal, for myself, and the mannies who work at MyManny, is to form deep one-on-one relationships, help children focus, give them physical outlets and help guide them as they grow. As men, we offer a different and important sense of protection and help to keep children safe.

Being a manny is more than just a job. It’s a chance to make a positive impact on a growing child, and to be a support for the entire family.

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How to Help Your Child Understand Mixed Feelings
April 9, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

Our children’s emotional inner lives are complicated. Even by the beginning of the second year you can see ambivalence emerging. “Pick me up, put me down”, all at the same time. As they grow and develop, blends of feelings, and even opposite feelings can — and do exist at the same time. This can be confusing. Imagine your preschooler wanting to go to a friend’s party and also being scared. Or your school-age child wanting to give up on learning something hard and feeling angry about not getting it easily. How about your teenager wanting to have sex with her boyfriend and worrying about how it will impact the relationship. These conflicts are the stuff of life.

As a parent you can help them by pointing out, “A part of you wants to go, and a part of you is scared.” “A part of you feels like giving up and a part of you is frustrated because this is so hard to learn.” Instead of seeing only one overriding sentiment and overreacting to it, it helps parents to recognize that our child is not, “a scaredy cat”, or a “quitter”, those are just parts of them.

As you teach your child about mixed feelings, they start to find center and are more able to find what they most want to do. “I can hear you have mixed feelings about having sex and I have faith that as you make room for all those feeelings, you will make the best decision for yourself.”  Giving a voice to these different aspects of your children calms them down as they feel known and understood.

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Book Writing with Kids
March 26, 2015 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off

Parents say “Use your words!” to help children turn their raw emotion into understandable language. Here is another way to transform feelings, help children process events and support your child’s love of language, art and books. Make books yourselves, together. Nothing high tech – sheets of computer paper, a stapler and markers are all you need. Turn your life events- moving, saying goodbye, a new baby, fighting with friends, learning to control anger, into a narrative.

Here’s an example. You are moving and a bit worried about how your child will handle it. You want to be able to prepare and discuss, but kids need indirect ways of talking about big things. So, tell your four year old you two are going to write a book about moving. Show her how to make a book by stapling papers together and off you go!

“What should the cover be like? We need a name for our book and a picture. What should be call it?”

“James is moving.”

“Awesome title! I’ll write that and then you draw a picture now for the cover of our book…Is that our building?”

“That’s our house and I want to stay here!?”

“I know, let’s start the book with that. I will write the words and you can draw and write your words. So, page one. James lives at 332 West 24th Street. He has lived there since the day he came home from the hospital. He doesn’t want to move and leave his house! He says, “I want to stay here.”

It is the rare kid who won’t be hooked by the plot line here! You continue your book about moving with your story and blend in the language your child uses in the prose. You translate a life event into a story, and thereby give a way to process feelings for your children.

Let’s cut to the last page.

“So James and his mommy, daddy and Maggie the dog move will move to their new house at 112 West 89 th Street. They will always remember and miss their first house. The End.”

Your child now can look at this book of his own creation, his own words, his designs. He is in charge of his own story, which we all know, helps.

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