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 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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Why are our Children Their Worst with Us?
March 24, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

images-2

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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Your Mother as Grandmother
March 1, 2016 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments (2)

grandma-16An excerpt from A Mother’s Circle.

With the birth of your baby there is a great shifting of the generations. Just as your transition to motherhood is a passage into a new life phase, so is your mother’s to grandmotherhood. After decades of being the mother, she must now move over, make room for you and rethink her self-concept.

She will also have to rethink her name. Your mother may choose a name to be called as a grandmother. But just as likely, your baby will one day invent the name that sticks. Part baby talk, part association, your mother’s official appellation may become MiMi, NaNa, GeeGee, Rummy, Nonna, Nonie, Nanny, Nanna, Grummy, Mumsie, Vavoa, Puggy, Grammy, Gramma Dot, or MaMa Ginny. Eventually you may call your own mother by her grandmother name.

Being a grandmother can be one of the most life-affirming and joyous periods in a woman’s life. But in this youth-obsessed culture, it can be a jarring reminder of aging. Your mother may already be having a hard time accepting that she is getting older. She may be in the throes of menopause. Or she may have mixed feelings about her landmark sixty-fifth birthday. She may simply not like the way “Grandma” sounds.

By the time she becomes a grandmother, a woman may feel no desire to undertake the nitty-gritty aspects of baby care again. She may feel liberated from those duties, or she may feel out of practice, unsure of herself. Many women report their mothers saying “I don’t have the patience anymore,” or “This is exhausting. I’ve forgotten how hard it is,” or “I like babies better when they’re older.”

A grandchild can stir up the past for the new grandmother as she relives old joys and feels again old regrets. For some women a grandchild elicits strong feelings of well-being, a sense of rebirth, new energy and a fresh focus for their love and affections. Others experience a preoccupation with mortality, sadness and a longing for a time when they were young mothers themselves. No matter how they present themselves, almost all carry inside of them the full range of these emotions.

As a grandmother, a woman walks something of an emotional tightrope. The new mother wants her own mother to be supportive and helpful but not intrusive or domineering; older and wiser and never dependent or needy herself; doting on and loving toward the baby but respectful of the mother’s primary role and authority; happy to pass on family stories, recipes and traditions, but not overwhelming in the role of family matriarch. A grandmother is supposed to be filled with joy at the sight of her grandchild, ready to sacrifice. But, just as the perfect mother is an impossibly tall order to fill, so is that of the perfect grandmother.

If you are in your twenties of thirties, your baby may have come at a time when your mother needs to care for her own parents. Or, if you came to motherhood in your late thirties or forties, your mother may be becoming dependent or needy herself. If this is the case, two powerful life passages will overlap for you—the aging and eventual loss of your parents and your early parenting years.

If your mother lives close enough to be involved on a regular basis with you and your baby, there will be more opportunities for a tangible sense of sharing as your baby grows. There will also be more chances for you to lock horns. A baby can trigger a grandmother’s maternal instincts and she may be unable to take a backstage role.
Sharing your baby with your mother can bring you closer, but a lot depends on how you feel about sharing with your mother to begin with. Competitive feelings are an ever-present, yet rarely acknowledged dynamic in the relationship between mother and daughter. If your mother has always assumed a certain ownership of your life, you may put up defenses when it comes to sharing your baby. If she was more removed as a mother, however, you may want her involvement now more than ever.

The choices you make about your baby’s care and the course of your family’s life affect your mother. She may marvel at your breastfeeding or try to undermine it. She may disapprove of your working or wish she had been able to do that herself. She may become closely involved with you and the grandchildren or she may not. You may be baffled by your mother’s behavior at times. It may be that your perspective as a daughter obscures the complete and complicated woman your mother is. Simultaneously, your mother may be so accustomed to relating to you in a motherly way, that she is not in the habit of explaining herself to you as a woman.

The way you and your mother relate to one another has been changing and shifting from the moment you were born. There have also been dramatic changes in our society’s expectations of women’s roles over the last thirty years. As such, motherhood may be the first truly common experience you and your mother have shared. Most new mothers gain insight into and empathy for their mothers, which they never had before. Almost all report new ways to relate with their mothers that hadn’t before been possible.

When a woman has a baby, there is often a shift in the balance of power between her and her mother. Many new mothers talk about their relationship with their mother in terms of “Before” and “After” the baby. Motherhood can be an equalizing experience, putting both women on common ground for the first time.
It may be as simple as your mother coming to where you live rather than you always traveling to her. Or, that you finally learn to ask her for help. Or that she finally feels comfortable giving it. Or that you are truly communicating for the first time in years. It may be a significant breakthrough in a long-standing stalemate of emotions.

As you reach out to your mother, or she to you, you may feel that you’ve come full circle. Boundaries created when you were younger, which may have once been vital to your emerging identity, may not seem quite as important anymore. The very fleeting quality of your baby’s infancy may inspire a sense of urgency about making amends. If your mother is still alive, you will have the opportunity for a while to be both child and parent. Like a boat gently dipping and rising, you will rock back and forth between being a mother and being a daughter, moving from the past into the present and imagining into the future.

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Healthy Shame and Toxic Shame
January 19, 2016 · Posted in Mental Health, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off

shame2There are two types of shame. Appropriate and toxic.

Shame is defined as:

1.     the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:
2.     susceptibility to this feeling

Healthy shame (or embarrassment) is necessary. It guides us. It corrects our behavior. After yelling at your child–“Wow, I really lost it. I am not the worst parent in the world but I don’t want to do that again!” After over eating–“I totally pigged out tonight, I feel crummy. I need to be more careful to stop eating when I feel full. ” Getting back a paper–“I hate that I got a C on this paper, next time I need to start on it a little earlier.”

Not excusing yourself from accountability but not trashing yourself.

Take toxic or unhealthy shame.  Everyone goes there sometimes. “I am the worst parent!” “I am a loser”, “I am so stupid”. What purpose does this serve? Absolutely none. Toxic shame is an exaggerated, negative and absolute place. It is self-flagellating. It is totally self-involved.  We are lost in an abyss of self loathing and we are not really available to those around us.

Terry Real, an expert on healthy relationships, uses the graphic above to plot toxic shame and grandiosity on a “y” axis.  This visual is a helpful way to conceptualize sinking into toxic shame. Remembering that it’s self-absorbed, or narcissistic, you can more easily yank yourself out and get back to a more grounded place.

When you go to that painful place, remind yourself– “I am in toxic shame, I am being mean to myself and it is also very self-absorbed. I’ve got to get to a more balanced place.” You will get better and better at staying grounded and teaching yourself and your children the difference between learning from mistakes and punishing yourself.

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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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Getting Unstuck
October 22, 2015 · Posted in Discipline, Parenting, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments (2)

imgresIf you are squeamish about scatological concerns you can stop reading now. If, however, you can take on the tough topics of pee and poop, tushies and penises, read on:

At Soho Parenting our approach to toilet training is gradual, developmentally informed, and child-centered. We encourage parents to start this process somewhere between eighteen and twenty-four months. We suggest they buy a potty, let their toddler be naked and show them by example and clear instructions how this natural process works. Toddlers slowly learn to master this basic body function and have the opportunity to take ownership and pride in this new skill. We teach parents that only a small portion of toilet training is physiological. The lion share of toilet training is the emotional work of growing up and tolerating imperfection. Parents need to introduce the concept, provide the materials, give the support, but accept the inevitable ambivalence that young toddlers have about “letting go” in this way.

For many families, toilet training moves along in fits and starts but without too much difficulty.  Often though we meet parents whose children have come to an impasse in the whole process. Three, four and even five year olds can become embroiled in a long and grueling battle with their parents over using the potty. These children are often using the potty regularly to “pee” but are only “pooping” into a diaper. Having learned to hold their poop for days on end, these children seem to have decided that they just are not going to do it. Whether there has been too much pressure or not enough structure- a “window of readiness” seems to have passed. The child has dug their heels in and the parents have all but given up. They have tried bribes and threats and manipulation and even shame and nothing is working. Parents know that their child “can” do it and just “won’t “ and they often come to us with a mixture of worry and fury.

Catherine Lloyd Burns’ book “It Hit Me Like A Ton of Bricks” a memoir of a mother and daughter poignantly and hilariously  depicts this very struggle and  Burns attributes much of 3 year old Olive’s ultimate success to the advice form Soho Parenting.

“Olive and I are going to a gastroenterologist referred by her pediatrician. She has been taking five tablespoons of mineral oil a day for three months and she’s still constipated.  She can’t make a poopy for days at a time and then when she finally does, it is so enormous, it is no wonder she screams in pain.
 The doctor appears and says, “You must be Olive.”
“I are having trouble making a poopy,” she tells him. He ignores her and interrogates me: her diet, allergies, her delivery, when did the problem start, when was her last bowel movement. Olive wants to talk too, “Well, I drink mineroil,” she interjects, but he is not interested.
 “Is she toilet trained? He asks me instead .
“She uses the potty and she uses diapers.”
“She’s not toilet trained then?”
“She uses the potty and she uses diapers, I repeat. She is a little bit toilet trained.”………..
“There is nothing wrong with her. I want you to give her Senacot for two weeks, and she needs to be toilet trained.” I will never tell Dr Spillman any of this but Olive gets Swedish fish for pooping, period—in her diaper, in her bed, on the potty, anywhere- and she gets a present if she does it on the potty without her diaper. The candy is bad for her teeth and it isn’t really working anyway.

She hasn’t pooped for six days…It is time to pull out the big gun. Lisa Lillienfeld. She costs two hundred dollars but she is always right. (Those of you who know and love our own Lisa will know how happy this last line made her.) She tells me I have to potty train Olive.
“The longer kids go, the harder it is for them to do it. I think Olive needs you to help her get to the next level. Take away her diapers and make a weekend project out of it, stop with the presents, and just do it. Tell her you have complete confidence in her. I really think the whole thing will be resolved when she gets out of diapers.”
“Really?”
“I really do. I think she’s having trouble going there on her own so you have to help  her.”

her.”
That night, after her bath, I tell her that tomorrow we’re going to do a project. No diapers all day and we’re going to work on using the potty. She seems excited about the plan and even reports it to Adam like it is wonderful news. We cancel all of our plans for the weekend so we can stay inside and potty train.


In the morning I take off her wet diaper and when I don’t put on another one she freaks out. She starts kicking and screaming and climbs down and gets a diaper from the shelf and tries to put it on herself. She begs for a diaper.
 “Honey remember what we talked about last night? We’re not using a diaper today. You are going to use the potty whenever you need to make a pee or a poopy.”
“Nooooooo! I want my diaper. I want my diaper.”
“Lovey just for today, okay? We’ll see how it goes. We really think you are ready and can I tell you something?  I would never ever ask you to do something if I didn’t think you were ready.”
“No. I want a diaper. I want a diaper! I want a diaper! She is working herself up into a major lather.
“What are you afraid of, honey? You already use the potty sometimes, we’re just trying to get you to use it even more.”
Through her tears she says’ “ I’m not ready. I’m not ready!”
“Olive honey everyone thinks this is going to help with your poopy trouble and we’re going to try it and see how it works. I know you can do it. I promise you can do it.”
“No I can’t!” she cries. Finally she lets go of the diaper and she cries in my arms. After breakfast she announces she needs to pee and she does. She keeps telling us what happened, “I peed in the potty.” She is very proud. Then she needs to poop. So she does. And she poops five more times, in the potty, before the day is done. It’s done and she is cured. All they need is a little help. All I need is to act like I know how to help her. It’s a confidence game, a charade.”

Burns’  depiction of Olive and her mommy’s toilet training travails reminds us all of how hard, and ultimately, important it is to help our children when they get stuck, by firmly, confidently and lovingly and patiently leading the way to the next level. Children respond with relief and pride to having mastered something they had convinced themselves they couldn’t do.  Parents do too.

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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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How We Can Evade Gender Stereotypes By Ignoring Gender-Assigned Colors
August 11, 2015 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off

Liz Greene 300x300By Liz Greene

It was late July and far too hot for me to take my preschool class outside. The kids were starting to get rowdy, so I offered up a question to regain their focus: “If you were a Jedi, what color would your lightsaber be?”

The chorus of colors hit my ears almost immediately: oranges, greens, blues, purples and reds.

From one lone boy, Russell, came the excited reply of pink. Benjamin immediately turned to him and exclaimed, “That’s stupid! Pink is a girl color!” As Russell’s face fell, I was crushed.

How could children so young already have assigned gender to colors?

Where does this pink versus blue idea come from?

From the moment a child is brought into the world, we start imprinting the idea that genders have assigned colors.

From the balloons in the hospital room to the cap the nurse places on his or her tiny head, to the first outfit he or she wears home, everything is divided into one of two camps: pink or blue.

Why? As it turns out, these two colors weren’t favored for babies until the mid-19th century, and not promoted as gender cues until just before World War I.

Most surprising is that, originally, the colors were switched.

“The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” — Earnshaw’s, June 1918

Our current color mandate wasn’t chosen until the 1940s, and like so much of our culture, it was a direct result of manufacturer’ and retailers’ interpretations of American preferences.

That’s right; this whole idea is based on what marketers think we want.


Why is it a problem?

As a country, we’re moving toward becoming an all-inclusive society.

Every day, our ideas on race, religion, cultural norms, gender identity and sexual orientation are changing, yet we still find ourselves raising our children to be subconsciously sexist.

By reinforcing negative gender stereotypes, we’re doing far more harm than we might imagine.

When children are forced into certain gender roles in order to fit in, they lose the ability to determine their own interests and skills.

It discourages young men from participating in cleaning and childcare, and restricts women from choosing roles seen as traditionally “male” such as engineering and science.

The negative effects can go deeper than emotional harm. There are physical expectations connected with these stereotypes, many of which are unrealistic.

The dolls and action figures our kids play with, the cartoons they watch on television and the Photoshopped models they see on the covers of magazines, all can have a profound effect on the idea of what the “perfect” stereotypical human should look like.

If you think it’s not harmful, look no further than the actors who play live-action versions of popular characters and the physical change they undergo to do so.

Lily James said this of the corset she had to wear to achieve Cinderella’s impossibly tiny waist:

“I couldn’t untie it. I wasn’t able to enjoy a lovely lunch or tea. If I ate food, it didn’t really digest properly and I’d be burping all afternoon … I’d have soup so that I could still eat and it wouldn’t get stuck.”

Chris Evans speaks of the routine it took to get Captain America’s super-soldier muscular physique:

“I’m very skinny naturally. I’m kind of a little bony kid, so getting big is tough, you know. It’s hard to keep the weight on.

“The second you stop filming, you pull the plug, and I don’t even think about the gym for months. It’s a really daunting task gearing back up.”

When children unconsciously try to live up to the standards of these stereotypes, they can do physical and emotional harm to themselves.


How can we change?

Getting rid of gender stereotypes starts with how you personally view gender and the conversations you have with your children.

“We need to take a hard look at the way we think and the messages we give to our children. When I was growing up it wasn’t cool for girls to be good at numbers.

“So when I had the opportunity to learn to code I didn’t take it. That was something boys did.” — Leyla Seka in an article from Desk.com

Children learn by imitating their parents, so avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes when you’re at home. Split chores evenly, rather than on the idea of what is “men’s work and women’s work.”

Your daughter is more than beautiful, and your son more than strong; compliment your children on their behavior, intelligence and spirit as well.

Most importantly, point out and discuss the instances of sexism you see when watching television, reading books or wandering the world at large.


Toys and Clothing

It’s also important take a look at the toys and clothing you’re buying for your children.

Although the aisles in most toy stores are more gendered than ever, try to offer a mixed bag for play. Lego setsbaby dollstoy kitchens and science sets can usually be found in a gender-neutral form.

“More meaningful change will require toy companies to think outside of the gender box — and beyond the limiting colors that signify gender.

“Instead of more pink weapons and building sets, toys should be made using a full spectrum of colors (including pink) and with diverse themes, and they should be marketed to both boys and girls.” — Elizabeth Sweet, in an article from the New York Times

Clothing can be a far trickier beast. There are many stores on the web such as Handsome in Pink and Tootsa MacGinty that offer gender-neutral clothing.

However, if you’re more of a brick-and-mortar shopper, there’s no reason you can’t shop the whole store. As a giant comic book geek, I find most of my favorite t-shirts in the men’s section.

It’s not necessary to go completely gender neutral. For instance, if your daughter loves lace and ribbons, and your son wants some camo cargo shorts, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to have them.

There’s also nothing to say your son can’t wear a tutu while your daughter rocks a motorcycle tee.

Ultimately, getting rid of gender stereotypes — and this ridiculous idea of pink versus blue — starts with us.

The more of us who take a stand and push aside these outdated ideas, the more likely the companies manufacturing our children’s clothes and toys are to change the way they do things.

After Benjamin told Russell that pink was a girl’s color, I knew I had to step in. I put my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eye and said quietly, but firmly, “There is no such thing as boy or girl colors. Colors are for everyone.”

 

Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene

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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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Ode To A Bath
July 29, 2015 · Posted in Infant Development, Parenting, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (5)

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One of the sweetest and most treasured memories of our children’s early childhood is the nightly bath. Although tired and spent from the long day, it is a time to sit down and enjoy the wonderful world of a child in water. Pretend play, bubble fun, talk and laughing not to mention the pleasure of watching your child’s beautiful naked body swim around and get squeaky clean .

The never-ending  domestic duties of parenthood – bathing, feeding, bedtime, dressing, walking to school, running errands, giving snacks, refereeing fights,  all can seem repetitive and mundane. And in truth, these jobs are all of these things–monotonous, hilarious, boring, tender, frustrating, and gratifying. One  rarely gets a thank you or any kind of recognition.  These are the jobs that are tempting to put in a category of custodial, and therefore not  important.

Society in general, and parents in particular, need to value the importance of these tasks. They are the  very fabric of the intimate relationship with your children.  During the bath, the walk to school, or home from ballet or karate, relationships deepen, values get transmitted and children feel cared for and known.  In our busy world “quality time” has become synonomous with special activities. These every day routines are special activities and our involvement with them is  meaningful to our children. We are not  advocating that any one person should have to do all of this with no help from other people, hired or otherwise. But  we are reminding us all that these are not just the tasks to be “outsourced”.  They matter and will have a lasting impact.

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