Creating a Homework Haven at Home
August 25, 2016 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (0)

logoBy Dr. Colleen Carroll

Back-to-school season can be a distressing few weeks leading up to the first day in the classroom for so many kids. While some of the angst around this return to routine makes sense – after all, days get colder and shorter and we need to get back to tighter schedules and earlier bedtimes – there are also a few things we can do to ease this transition and actually make it an empowering time for kids.

Many kids dread, and even fear homework. Even the word can spark anxiety in some children (and parents!). This is understandable; as kids get older the homework gets harder and the time spent on it gets longer. However, you can be prepared in advance and lessen anxiety by creating a homework sanctuary of sorts for your child to feel safe, even empowered, as he gets his work done.

The following are my top 5 ways to empower your child at homework time:

  1. Create a homework haven in the house somewhere that’s bright, cheery, and full of all the items he needs to get his work done efficiently, with minimal distractions. Consider the kitchen to be close to a helpful parent, or a bedroom if noise can be a problem.
  2. Don’t let it be obvious that you dread this time too. Children pick up on your emotional state. Instead, be as positive as you can about this learning experience, even when things get tough.
  3. If your child is having a rough time on homework, let the teacher know. There is no reason to struggle for hours over a few problems when really the child just needs more instruction.
  4. Get the hardest subjects done first when she is less tired; trying to tackle the hardest at the end is never a good idea!
  5. Set up an afternoon routine to get homework done before other evening activities whenever possible so it isn’t hanging over your child’s head.

Kids crave routine; they (and most adults) do best when they know what’s coming next and they can be ready for it. By having a homework routine and a space that is comfortable and efficient, it probably won’t make homework fun but it will make it easier to accomplish and more organized for return to school the next day. This in turn will definitely lessen the anxiety around homework in general and allow your child to focus on some more pleasurable activities each evening, perhaps even a little reading.

 

Dr. Colleen Carroll works with parents of kids who struggle and hate to read by getting them off the Xbox and TV and onto books, fast. Her international tribe of Innovator parents testify that their kids are now saying, “Mom, I LOVE reading!” after just a few weeks of her techniques. 

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Don’t Overdo the Prep for Going Back To School
August 19, 2016 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments (0)

Finding balance between acknowledging that a new grade begins in a months’ time and reveling in summer fun is hard to strike. Here are some ideas about how to do it:

  • Don’t talk about school everyday. Let your child be in the present, without the new school year hanging over their head.
  • Do answer any questions that come up, like, “Will so and so be in my class?” or “Will you stay with me at school”, honestly and simply. No long monologues.
  • Do go and walk by school the week before class begins. Point out landmarks, like the pet store, the deli etc. so you can look for them on the walk to school the first day.
  • Do get a little back pack or lunch box to bring on the first day.
  • Do expect stomach aches, difficulty falling asleep or grumpiness around the first days of school.
  • Do tell stories about your first days of school.
  • Don’t talk about the beginning of school with your peers and assume the kids can’t hear.
  • Do remember that a parent taking their child to school is one of the most important jobs. Try to adjust work schedules so one parent can do drop off at least a few days a week.
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Top 5 Ways To Keep Kids Active All Summer Long
July 20, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off

family-biking

By Laura Young, Energetic Juniors Youth Fitness Trainer

Did the last day of school spring up on you out of nowhere!? Now the kids are home all day, and all they want to do is park themselves on the couch, watch TV, and play video games. Yet they still need to get the recommended daily exercise and experience those physical benefits. How can you get them excited to get moving without making it feel like gym class or a chore? The trick is to meet them on their level. Each child is unique and has their own interests, so we have to find activities that speak to them. Here are a few ideas for how to tap into their interests and get them moving!

 

  1. Check Out What’s Happening in Your Neighborhood! 

 

There are an infinite amount of sources out there on the web, but I highly recommend checking out sources such as Timeout.com and DNAinfo.com. Both of these (and countless other sites) will update their calendars with local events and fitness-focused activities catered to kids. TimeOut will often list the best parks or local festivals taking place in your area. Playgrounds are an imaginative space for kids of all ages (yes, adults can be big kids, too); taking your child to the playground allows you to see their strength grow in the most natural of environments.

 

  1. Get Sports-Specific Personal Training for Kids and Teens!

 

Just because sports leagues for the school year have finished doesn’t mean your child should lay off training: pre-season conditioning and tryouts are just around the corner. By training for individual sports, they will come back in the fall stronger and better prepared, which coaches will certainly take notice of. Personal training for kids provides individual attention and can lead to seeing visible improvement faster. Kids’ trainers can give coaching tips and techniques to enhance their athletic performance and target their strengths and weakness. Sports-specific training is the most effective method of training for youth athletes. Companies such as Energetic Juniors match kids with seasoned youth trainers.

 

  1. Create a personal challenge!

 

The fitness industry is bursting at the seams with fitness challenges ranging from walking 10,000 steps a day, to drinking a gallon of water, to even yoga pose challenges. Discuss with your child what sort of challenges they would like to complete. It doesn’t have to be one found on Instagram, though that can be a great source of inspiration. Coming up with some on their own will make them feel more committed and likely to follow through with it. A good starting point may be steps challenges accomplished by long walks to a fun destination, basketball shots, making a list of different parks to explore in city, or even star jumps which can be done at home. The options are endless and with a challenge you can always find ways to top them!

 

 

  1. Discover Day Camp!

 

Perhaps because school is out, some of your child’s best friends are away at sleep-away camp or spending the break out of city, and they feel like they can’t have any fun without them. However, unlike adults who may find making new friends more of a challenge, kids more often than not will quickly find common ground with someone. Luckily we live in a vibrant city where there are plenty of day-camp options that have specialty focuses such as: Musical Theatre (http://www.broadwayboundkids.net/), Tennis (http://www.gothamtennis.com/summercamp.html), Tech (https://www.idtech.com/kids/tech-camps/) and Cooking (http://tastebudskitchen.com/). Find a day camp that speaks to their unique interests, and the exercise for your child will follow.

 

  1. Share Your Workout!

 

Some of my best memories as a kid were of early morning bike rides in the park with my dad. Not only were he and I getting in some solid exercise early in the day, but it was a chance for us to spend some quality time together. Your child will remember the time spent bonding and the example of a healthy lifestyle being set rather than thinking of the importance of exercise. As an added bonus you can check off your own thirty-minute cardio requirement for the day! The summer opens up numerous activities that might not otherwise be available year round depending upon where you live such as swimming, kayaking, and rowing. Even utilizing many of the current apps such as Map My Run can be a measuring tool that you and your child can use as visual inspiration. It doesn’t really matter what the activity is so long as you are doing it together.

 

When the summer comes to an end—and it always comes sooner than we imagine it will—, it is important that your kids have some impressionable memories to walk away with. The older kids get, the more distractions they have, and the more likely they are to begin to lose interest in physical activity; but those who’ve enjoyed exercise from a young age are more likely to stay active into adulthood (kidshealth.org, 2016). It is recommended that children get at least one hour of physical activity a day. Kids do not need to go to the gym and target different muscle groups throughout the week like adults may do: they are naturally going to use their entire bodies and physical strength; so this is not say at the end of the day they can’t kick back and play some video games on the couch; it is summer vacation after all! So see what’s happening in your city, try new activities, and challenge them to discover what they’re capable of. This will be a summer they won’t forget.

 

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

 

By Laura Young, a certified ISSA Personal Trainer and ISSA Youth Trainer, and a registered yoga teacher from Atmananda Yoga in Manhattan.

 

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Understanding the Dangers of Social Media Apps
June 28, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Technology, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off

blog2By Hilary Smith

As our young girls and boys enter the tween and teen years, it is essential that we empower them with skills and strategies to safely navigate the digital world. It’s no secret that texting and social media have drastically changed the way our kids and society communicates. We need to try to stay a few steps ahead of our kids as they enter the world of social media.

Our little digital natives adapt to devices with relative ease, often mastering the technology before we can figure out the volume and power buttons. Social media is no exception. Today 71 percent of teens are already using more than one social media site and 70 percent of our children will take measures to hide their online activity.

Given this secrecy and the potential danger online we can help prepare our children for living in a digital environment by familiarizing ourselves with popular apps and the dangers associated with them.

Start with these 4 apps

Line. Line offers a wide range of services including voice chat and the ability to create short videos. Children like this app, because it has a lot of features that works across all types of devices. One area of concern is “Hidden Chats”, that allows users to send disappearing messages that automatically delete after being read. While this fleeting quality can promote authentic communication, it can be a playground for cyberbullying and other undesirable behaviors.

Ask.fm. This is a popular “anonymous” app that hides users’ identities while allowing them to ask and answer questions. At first glance, this app offers a unique way for people to interact. However, in recent years this site has been associated with multiple cyberbullying cases.

Tinder. This very adult dating app admits that 7 percent of the users on the site are between 13 and 17 years old! In the sites defense, they have created a teen section, using filters to sort users by age groups. Unfortunately, many children use false birthdates to register for social media apps that can inadvertently expose them to much older and experienced individuals who are looking for a good time.

Burn Note. This app strives to maintain a user’s privacy by using self-destructing messages and a spotlight feature that only allows a section of the message to be read at a time. Burn Note was created to protect users from prying eyes, screenshots, and forwarding messages making it difficult for parents to catch cyberbullying or inappropriate conduct if a child utilizes this app.

For a better detailed explanation of Burn Note, please check out this video produced from TeenSafe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zl3IYc5tFgQ

 

Hilary Smith has parlayed her love of technology and parenting into a freelance writing career. As a journalist, she specializes in covering the challenges of parenting in the digital age. She loves all things tech and hasn’t met a gadget that didn’t peek her interest. The Texas native currently resides in Chicago, IL and braves the winters with her two children, ages 4 and 7. 

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

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 his or her 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 his or her body and mind active.

Harness your child’s natural curiosity:

  • Your child is still absorbing his or her surroundings like a sponge. If you move with the momentum 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 him or her to write them down for future investigation.
  • Encourage them to learn more about a topic so they can tell everyone at dinner time what they learned. 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 children will thank 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 his or her 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 children 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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