Your Family Rituals

Every family should have activities that they enjoy together and that become a regular, predictable, and integral part of their lives. Some can be serious pur­suits, like attending community functions or religious services as a family; oth­ers can be more lighthearted, like going fishing. Whatever they are, they can help bond a family together. These are some rituals that many families have made parts of their lives:

Important Conversations
Communication between parents and children should be a top priority in your family. Set aside time to talk, discussing the day’s and the week’s activities, sharing feelings and really listening to one an­other.

Respect the privacy of each of your youngsters as they begin to assert their independence during these middle years; they may have certain problems and difficulties they may not want to divulge to their brothers and sisters. You should be able to have a one-on-one conversation with each child without all the other children listening to it. If you honor his wishes for confidentiality, this can build trust between you.

Some families establish a weekly time for a family meeting. When everyone is present, family issues, relationships, plans, and experiences are discussed, and everyone from the youngest to the oldest gets a chance to be heard and to participate.

Recreation and Cultural Activities
Family recreation is an important way to strengthen the family. Sports (participation and spectator), games, movies, and walks in the park are good ways to increase cohesiveness and reduce stress.

Cultural activities can be valuable too. Visits to museums, libraries, plays, musicals, and concerts can expand the family’s horizons and deepen appreci­ation for the arts.

Shopping
Shopping trips can provide regular opportunities for parents and children to spend time together. Whether you are grocery shopping or buying birthday gifts, these excursions can be fun and exciting for youngsters in mid­dle childhood. Let your children make lists, find items in the store, carry the bags to the car, and unpack them once you return home. Allowing your child some choices and assigning some meaningful responsibilities can help build his self-confidence.

Reading and Singing Aloud
Reading and singing aloud as a family promotes feelings of closeness and an appreciation for music and books. Parents should find out what stories their children like to read, and what music they like to lis­ten to. It is lots of fun to take turns reading aloud, and to let the children hear the stories and songs you enjoyed when you were growing up.

Holiday Traditions
These are another source of fun family activities. By learning about the history, significance, and rituals of a particular holiday, chil­dren will feel a greater sense of involvement in the holiday preparations and celebrations.

Spiritual Pursuits
For many families, religion plays an important role in pro­viding a moral tradition, a set of values, and a network of friends and neigh­bors who can provide support. Attending services is something family members can do together.

You do not necessarily need to go to a church, synagogue, or other place of worship regularly, however, to share moral values with your children and help them develop a sense of their history and the continuity of the family. Many families develop a strong spiritual life without the formal structure of orga­nized religion.


Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


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New Year’s Resolutions

Did your children and teens make New Year’s Resolutions this year? Kids and teens sometimes need to make these promises to themselves, and you, in order to organize their goals for the coming year.

Click here to listen to pediatrician David Hill, MD, FAAP, discuss how parents can help their children to make and keep smart New Year’s resolutions to be active and stay healthy.

10 Non-Tech Holiday Gift Ideas to Promote Kids’ Language & Learning

​​Children of all ages are filling their holiday wish list with things like tablets, cell phones, wearables, headphones, and other tech-related gifts. But it’s important to find a balance and ensure that today’s connected kids ha​ve some quality off-line time, too. The holidays are a great time to get back to some of the basics in childhood play that foster communication and social interaction.

Ideas for a Low-Tech Holiday Gift List:

Traditional toys remain superior to electronic toys for children’s language development. For example, when toys talk, parents talk less—and subsequently, kids vocalize less. Blocks, dolls, musical instruments, cars, trains, shape-sorters, and other low-tech toys get kids—and parents—talking, singing, playing, and interacting. These all help build foundational communication skills.

Books always make excellent presents, and sharing the joy of reading is a lifelong gift.

  • ​For infants and toddlers: Books with textures inviting touch are ideal, as are colorful board and picture books.
  • For children learning how to read: Give books appropriate to their skill level to facilitate emerging literacy.
  • For older children: Find engaging chapter books and book series. Family members can take turns reading chapters aloud. This may be the start of a family book club.

​​Board, card, and conversation-based question games are great to enjoy and play as a family. They get everyone talking and laughing and build some great memories. There are games for all age ranges. And what better time of year than winter to begin family game nights for building conversation, connections—and fun!

Costumes and other dress-up accessories allow kids to use their imaginations and foster creativity. Children’s language skills expand as they make up dialogues, tell stories, sing, and take turns.

Building toys, blocks,​ and crafts make for some fun indoor activities to occupy kids on cold days. They also help hone fine motor skills for all ages. For young children, motor skills are closely linked to language development.

Outdoor toys such as balls, sleds, jump ropes, and yard games encourage running, jumping, sports and other active play. Physical activity and movement prime children for learning.

Puzzles—ranging from basic options for young children to complex types the whole family can attempt as a team—spur conversation while building analytical, problem-solving and other skills.

Cooking supplies work as fun gifts for children of almost any age. Involving young kids in making and trying new foods offers a wealth of opportunity for conversation and language-building, including likes and dislikes, tastes, textures, and more. For older kids, cooking together sets the scene for family bonding. Following recipes also helps improve reading and comprehension skills, planning, organization, sequencing, and following directions.

Crayons, colored pencils, coloring books and other writing supplies are a childhood staple, and they help children build fine-motor skills. Coloring also helps young children build their vocabulary and learn their color names.

​Tickets to child-friendly shows, sporting events, or other performances are great gifts, as they allow parents and children to enjoy special activities together. These outings promote family interaction, conversation, and bonding. In addition, memberships to local zoos, museums or aquariums make great gifts for entire families to enjoy!

Of course, technology gifts will likely remain on your child’s shopping lists year after year—the reality of growing up in today’s world. Parents can help their children balance their online and off-line lives. If you do give your child a technology-related gift, use it as an opportunity to lay out some ground rules and make a family media plan.


Source: Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association/ASHA Leader. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Holiday Mental Health Tips

Here are some mental health tips for the holiday season:

  • Try to keep household routines the same. Stick to your child’s usual sleep and mealtime schedules when you can, which may reduce stress and help your family enjoy the holidays.
  • Take care of y​ourself both mentally and physically. Children and adolescents are affected by the emotional well-being of their parent or caregivers. Coping with stress successfully can help children learn how to handle stress better, too.
  • Make a plan to focus on one thing at a time. Try a few ideas to balance the hustle and bustle of things like shopping, cooking, and family get-togethers during the holidays: Stop and pay attention to what is happening at the moment, focus your attention on one thing about it ,and notice how you are feeling at the time. Withhold immediate judgment, and instead be curious about the experience.
  • Give to others by making it an annual holiday tradition to share your time and talents with people who have less than you do. For example, if your child is old enough, encourage him or her to join you in volunteering to serve a holiday meal at your local food bank or shelter or sing at a local nursing home. Help your child write a letter to members of the armed forces stationed abroad who can’t be home with their own family during the holidays.
  • Remember that many children and adults experience a sense of loss, sadness or isolation during the holidays. It is important to be sensitive to these feelings and ask for help for you, your children, family members or friends if needed.
  • Kids still need to brush their teeth twice a day!
  • Don’t feel pressured to “over-spend on gifts.” Consider making one or two gifts. Help your child make a gift for his or her other parent, grandparents, or other important adults and friends. Chances are, those gifts will be the most treasured ones and will teach your child many important lessons.
  • Most important of all, enjoy the holidays for what they are — time to enjoy with your family. So, be a family, do things together like sledding or playing board games, and spend time visiting with relatives, neighbors, and friends.


From HealthyChildren.org


How to Inspire Generosity in Children

It’s important to help our children understand the need to give back, provide, share, and act generously. If we (as parents) act generously in front of children, they will learn how to give more freely.

Children Are More Generous When Others Are Aware of Their Actions

Researchers set up an experiment in which 5-year-olds were tested with their peers under differing circumstances of transparency and differing audiences (ie, if others could see into the container). They set up a sticker machine that in some settings was transparent (the child giving and child receiving could see how many stickers were up for grabs), and other settings in which only the giver of stickers knew how many stickers he could give. They had children give out stickers in both settings (transparent and opaque), being able to see the recipient or not.

The results were striking: children were consistently generous only when the recipient and audience of the stickers were fully aware of the donation options (4 stickers over 1 sticker, for example). Children were notably ungenerous when the recipient of stickers couldn’t see the options whatsoever. Having an audience present (seeing the recipient) and having the number of stickers be transparent affected children’s decisions to give. The researchers wrote, “One striking aspect of our results is that children were considerably ungenerous in our task. Indeed, children only showed consistently prosocial behavior in our study in the condition when they could see the recipient and their allocations were fully visible; in all other conditions, children were statistically ungenerous, giving the recipient the smaller amount of stickers.”

Researchers made the conclusions that children are differentially generous depending on what the recipient knows about how much you are able to give and if people are present to observe giving. Basically, children will be generous when those who are in need know how much they have to give. It seems when children can obscure their “wealth,” they don’t give as much away. When their friends are able to see their choices, children will give peers far more.

At a very early age, children are learning how to position themselves socially. Well before they have a handle on the sociology of their networks and what social reputation really means (normally around age 8), they think strategically about giving as a function of how they can gain a reputation with a peer as a generous citizen or pro-social agent when the recipient observes them.

Fostering Generosity at an Early Age

Recognize that children are influenced by how their generosity is observed and understood. Children may often think about giving under the lenses of competition.

It is known that when competitive constructs are present, children are less generous. So are adults. Therefore, we can help young children understand when competition is present and when it isn’t. If a soccer game really isn’t a tally of total goals, tell children implicitly. Allow them to learn how to pass the ball and share as teammates early and often. When they are set to compete, let that be clear. But allow situations of play and giving not to be about winning too.

Children modify their behavior in response to having an audience. Help children give to others in full view (donations to a school can drive or soup kitchen; delivering meals to families who need support) and in private or anonymously too (dropping off treats or surprises for those in your life with- out signing your name).

Remind children that thank-you notes are lovely but unnecessary to receive. As an adult, I’ve often heard people complain about not receiving a thank-you note. It’s as if the reason to give a gift was to be acknowledged rather than provide something wonderful for another person. When we give gifts or lend help to others, try to help children remember why—to provide something for another. It really doesn’t have to be recognized. When a thank-you card doesn’t come, it doesn’t make a gift any less valuable or meaningful for those who were lucky enough to receive. ​


Written by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP. From healthychildren.org. Source: Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance (Copyright © 2014 Wendy Sue Swanson). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Teaching Children Gratitude

Tired of bickering, jealousy, and selfishness? Kids are naturally materialistic and self-serving – but the good news is that gratitude can be taught. And from gratitude flows joy. Here are some tricks for teaching children gratitude and creating a more joyful home:

  1. Surprise them! Avoid too many choices: Surprises help children see something as a gift, not an entitlement. Having too many choices breeds unhappiness– you are always wondering if you could have something better. One night, we tried to have a conversation with our children about where we might go for our summer vacation. Within five minutes, Disney World was not good enough. Everyone had a better idea, and no one was going to be happy with whatever we came up with. I put a prompt end to that conversation, and about a week later, I announced that I had a big surprise– we were going to Mt. Rushmore! I showed off my plans for our national park camping vacation, and they couldn’t have been more excited. Our low-budget road trip turned out to be a fabulous success.
  2. Talk about the best parts of your day: Find some time each day to talk about what you are thankful for– perhaps at the dinner table, before bed, or while you are driving in the car. Ask your children, “What was the best part of your day?”For older children, try keeping a gratitude journal. Gratitude journals have been shown to be an effective approach to helping children be happier: One study had 221 sixth- and seventh-graders write down five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. Three weeks later, these students had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction compared with kids assigned to list five hassles.
  3. Teach your children their past: What are your family stories of hardship and perseverance? My husband’s great-grandmother ironed for a living– her iron is now a bookend in our house, reminding our children what hard work really means. As a child, my grandmother washed dishes for ten cents per week during the depression. We keep her picture in our study, and tell our children her story. Not sure of your past? Just take a family trip to the history museum, a battlefield, or other historic site. You will return home grateful.
  4. Help your children serve someone who does not “need” charity: It’s great for kids to participate in scout food collections and other community charity programs, but these events only occur a few times per year and you rarely meet the people you are serving. Find someone in your everyday life for your children to serve regularly, even if this person doesn’t really need charity. We have a neighbor who lives alone and appreciates our left-overs so she doesn’t have to cook for one person. Our kids love to bring her food. One night they were all griping about how they didn’t like the dinner I made, until I asked them to bring a plate to our neighbor. Suddenly all the complaining stopped and they were out the door with her food, eager to have the opportunity to serve her.
  5. Focus on the positive, all day: I tell my children several times each day, “Attitude is a choice.” Choosing to have a positive attitude is actually our #1 house rule. It’s an all-day effort to constantly turn around the whining, jealousy, and complaining and instead focus on positive. “I’m thirsty!” needs to become, “Mommy, may I please have a drink?” “Where are my shoes?!” has to change to “Daddy, can you please help me find my shoes?”
  6. Say “Thank you:” Teach young children to say “thank you” as part of a full sentence, for example, “Thank you, Daddy, for making dinner.” Encourage school-aged kids to say thank you throughout the day, especially when you help them get ready for school or drive them to activities. Have them thank coaches for practice and music teachers for lessons.Struggling to get your children to say “thank you” without reminders? For ten years I reminded my children to say “thank you” when they were served at a restaurant, but I just couldn’t get them to do it without prompting. Now, if they forget to say “thank-you” they have to seek out their server and personally thank them before leaving. No more reminders necessary.
  7. Lead by example: How many times per day do you say “thank you”? Have you told your children what you are thankful for today? Our children are watching our every waking move. We can’t ask them to be grateful if we are not. Come home and talk about the happy parts of your day, making a conscious choice not to complain.
  8. Teach “‘Tis better to give than to receive.” Even toddlers can buy or make gifts for others: Take young children holiday shopping at the dollar store. Challenge them to pick out gifts for others without buying something for themselves. It’s hard!
  9. Make time for chores: Most children have about four hours between the time they get home from school and bedtime. During those four hours, they have to accomplish homework, extracurricular activities, dinner, bath, and bedtime. It’s hard to find time for chores. Without chores, children just can’t understand what it takes to run a household– they will take clean laundry and dishes for granted. Find age-appropriate chores for your children, even just 5-10 minutes per day. Consider leaving time-intensive chores for the weekend, such as yard work, bathroom cleaning, and linen changing.
  10. Let big kids take care of little kids: They say you can’t really understand what it takes to raise a child until you have your own children. Perhaps, but giving big kids responsibilities for little kids will start to help them have an attitude of gratitude towards their parents. Pair up big kids with little kids to get chores done or get through homework.School aged children can read books to toddlers or help them get dressed. Your older children will gain self-confidence and a sense of responsibility, and the relationship they build with their younger siblings will last a lifetime.
  11. Give experiential gifts, not stuff: Too many toys? How about gifting a membership to the children’s museum, a soccer registration fee, or a camping trip? Experiential gifts build relationships, not materialism.
  12. Monitor your children’s media: Our children are bombarded with age-targeted marketing that they are too young to resist or understand. Media fuels materialism. It is our job to carefully monitor their media so that they aren’t dragged into marketing and made to feel incomplete or unfulfilled.

Source: http://www.healthychildren.org. Copyright © 2015 Kathleen Berchelmann M.D., FAAP. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Thanksgiving for Picky Eaters

​​Thanksgiving — a holiday full of elaborate food traditions—can be extra challenging for parents of picky eaters. Who wants a holiday dinner turned into a battle zone filled with whispered bargaining? Fortunately, with a little planning, you can create a balanced Thanksgiving meal the whole family will enjoy! Here are some tips to appease picky eaters without sacrificing nutrition, straying from Thanksgiving traditions, or creating a lot of extra work.

Choose at least one food you know your child will like. Whether Thanksgiving will be served at your house or if you will be going to someone else’s home to celebrate, make sure to offer or bring at least one food that you know your child will like. This way, your child is guaranteed to eat something during the meal; it also shows your child you care about his or her preferences when planning meals.

Engage your child in meal planning. Ask your child if he or she would be interested in helping you plan the Thanksgiving feast. Let him or her know you plan to offer at least one protein, a grain, a vegetable, and fruit. You can tell your child about any foods you are definitely planning to include (i.e., turkey as a protein and stuffing as a grain), but ask if he or she has ideas for the other food groups. For example, “What kind of vegetable do you think we should include? How about a fruit?” Then, together find recipes that use those foods as ingredients. A child who helps choose a food that will be offered is much more likely to actually eat it.

Engage your child in meal prep. Invite your children in the kitchen to help prepare your Thanksgiving meal. For example, ask your toddler to help clean the vegetables, or your school-aged child to help mash the potatoes, or your teenager to boil the cranberries. When kids help cook food, they often sample what they are preparing, and are more likely to eat their masterpieces later.

Use food bridges. Once a food is accepted, find similarly colored, flavored, or textured “food bridges” to expand the variety of foods your child will eat. For example, if your child likes pumpkin pie, try including mashed sweet potatoes on his or her Thanksgiving plate.

Make it look, smell, and taste delicious. Many times kids think that they won’t like a food before they actually try it. By making a Thanksgiving dish look, smell, and taste delicious you up the odds that your child will try it out, like it, and come back for more. Do this by adding fragrant ingredients such a nutmeg and cinnamon to cooked apples—for example—or preparing a veggie tray with the vegetables arranged in the shape of a turkey.

Keep the mealtime relaxing and enjoyable. Focus on enjoying your time together celebrating this day of gratitude. Know you have prepared a balanced meal and taken many efforts to engage your children in the process—increasing the chances of there being at least one food they will like. You have done your job. Try not to worry if and what your child is eating.


Source: Section on Obesity (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Connecticut’s Top 10 Hiking Trails

Connecticut today is crisscrossed by hundreds of miles of hiking trails.

According to the Connecticut Office of Tourism, “these hikes run through high land and low, across difficult and easy terrain, and they offer unique insight into the geology, flora and fauna of the state. They also serve as blissful, highly satisfying getaways from the noise and crowds of daily life.” The Top 10 Hikes in the state are:

Mattabessett Trail, Meriden
Mattatuck Trail, Wolcott
Mine Hill Preserve, Roxbury
Farm River State Park, East Haven
Devil’s Den Preserve, Weston
White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield
Appalachian Trail River Walk, South Kent
Tunix Trail, Barkhamstead
Bigelow Hollow State Park, Union
Steep Rock, Washington

CLICK HERE for more about all of these cool places for adventure!

11 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active

exercise

Did You Know?

  • Only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day.
  • Less than 50% of the time spent in sports practice, games, and physical education class involves moving enough to be considered physical activity.
  • Children and teens spend more than 7 hours per day on average using TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices for entertainment.
  • About 1 out of 3 children is either overweight or obese in the United States.
    Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.

Getting Started
Parents can play a key role in helping their child become more physically active. Here are 11 ways to get started:

  1. Talk with your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor can help your child understand why physical activity is important. Your child’s doctor can also suggest a sport or activity that is best for your child.
  2. Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that she enjoys. The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely she will continue it. Get the entire family involved. It is a great way to spend time together.
  3. Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is not ready for weight lifting or a 3-mile run, but soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are all appro­priate activities.
  4. Plan ahead. Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
  5. Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child’s equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe. Make sure your child’s clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
  6. Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes, and other active toys.
  7. Be a role model. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
  8. Play with your child. Help her learn a new sport.
  9. Turn off the TV. Limit TV watching and computer use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, computers, and video games, each day. Use the free time for more physical activities.
  10. Make time for exercise. Some children are so overscheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
  11. Do not overdo it. When your child is ready to start, remember to tell her to listen to her body. Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it. If your child’s weight drops below an average, acceptable level or if exercise starts to interfere with school or other activities, talk with your child’s doctor.

Last Updated 11/18/2015. Source Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics, Updated 10/2015). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

A Dozen Fun Family Rituals

familyritual

Start 2016 off by finding new ways to enjoy time with your family. Here are some suggesting from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Family video night. Rent a movie, order in a pizza, make popcorn. The only difficulty may be agreeing on something the whole family wants to watch (and is appropriate for teens and younger children). Again, alternate choices among family members.

After a big snowstorm, everybody tramp outside to build a snowman or go for a walk together. Then shovel.

Sharing the Sunday newspaper over a special breakfast. This is a ritual with Mom and Dad in mind. Or what about all going out to a restaurant for brunch?

Buy a special dessert to transform dinner into an occasion, and not just on birthdays, wedding anniversaries and graduations. Celebrate family members’ achievements. An unexpected high grade on a test at school or a promotion at work deserves a cake—with candles and an inscription. Be creative!

Spiritual pursuits bring many families together, whether it’s attending services or saying grace together at the dinner table.

Sit around together flipping through old photo albums or watching vintage family videos and home movies. You’ll relive fond memories and give one another hiccups laughing at the sight of certain members’ now-outdated hairstyles and assorted fashion faux pas. “Wow, Dad: Really nice leisure suit.”

Take a car ride. Where? Anywhere. Take the slow, scenic route and stop off at whatever looks interesting.

Go bowling together. Golf and miniature golf are two other examples of individual sports that you can do together.

Build a fire in the fireplace, or at a camping ground, or on the beach, and share stories.

Cook dinner together, with each member of the family taking part.

Play board games, cards, dominoes and so on.

Communal chores or collaborating on a household project can be a lot of fun.


Source Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.