Traveling with Kids

Kid on a leash

Image by cote via Flickr

Note:  This week I will be re-posting two blogs.  I feel that the topics covered will especially help families during the Thanksgiving holiday.  See below for the second post.  I’ll be resuming my posts next week.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Morning,

With the holidays approaching, I think now is a good time to start the discussion about traveling with your family.  Many people know that Thanksgiving travel is the busiest of the year, and with the holidays and crazy travel come a mountain of stress.  It is well worth the extra time upfront to gain confidence and control on the back-end.

Plan ahead
The weeks leading up to your travel are the most important planning period.  Getting laundry ready, snacks bought or prepared, deciding on luggage, and setting out all the things you will need are essential for a low-stress, successful trip.  Make lists to help you remember who is taking what and in which suit case.  Write down everything so that nothing is left or overlooked.

Seek advice
Check out this and other blogs and websites for tips and tricks to make your trip go smoothly.  I will be posting links to great sites at the bottom and sprinkling a few in the blog as well.  Ask friends, family, and school staff for help and advice regarding your child.  The DadLabs site has tons of great video blogs about traveling with the kids.

Car travel
If you are headed to the in-laws via car, you will want to consider several things.  Keep plenty of snacks and drinks handy for the kids to have while riding.  Make sure their seats and travel clothes are comfortable and can go the distance needed to get to grandma’s house.  You might want to travel during nap or sleep times like early morning, late evening, or in the afternoon so that the kids are naturally tired and more likely to sleep.  Plan stops along the way for stretching your legs, bathroom breaks, snacking, or running around.  It is very hard for young kids to sit for long periods of time.  Honestly, it is hard for most people.  Incentivize your trip by giving them treats, money, or toys to play with when you reach certain mile markers, towns, or minutes.  Check that all electronics are working properly before you leave home.  Extra batteries, cds, and movies are smart to have on hand.

Plane travel
Traveling via plane to your destination is somewhat of a different story and requires some different planning strategies.  Many experts say to travel early in the day.  Planes are often less crowded and more likely to take off and land on time.  Make sure your child has a good night’s sleep the night before your travel day.  This will ensure your child is well-rested and well-behaved for the flight.  It also allows them (and you) to better handle rough situations and chaos.  Take snacks, toys, blankets, or whatever your child needs to feel safe and comfortable on the flight.  Be reasonable with these items, ultimately you will be the one carrying your child and all the stuff they bring.  If your child gets motion sickness, you should speak with your doctor about some possible remedies.  I do not recommend self-medicating your child without the benefit of your healthcare provider’s wisdom.

Packing
Take the least amount of clothes and extras as possible.  The less you have to carry and keep track of, the better.  Bring a bib or two that covers your child during meals that you can easily wipe down.  Jeans and dark-colored clothes are easily worn for a few days.  Bring two pairs of pajamas in case there is an accident.  One or two pairs of shoes should be sufficient.  Remember that you can always buy things that are disposable, like diapers and wipes.  Ask friends or relatives to borrow large items such as a stroller, crib/playpen, high chair, and car seat.

I encourage you to take some time planning your trip and considering the needs of your family.  They deserve a vacation just as much as you do, so make it easy on yourself and enjoyable for them.  There are lots of great websites out there that talk about traveling with kids and lots of great products that help parents.  If you know a site or product from which others may benefit, please add it in the comments section below.  I wish everyone safe and enjoyable holiday planning and traveling this season!

Sites that you will want to check out:

Up with kids
15 Holiday Travel Don’ts

How to travel like a kid…

If you found these tips helpful subscribe/like/pass along this blog.

Good Luck,

Katherine

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Taking Stock in the Middle of First Semester

Mathematics homework

Image via Wikipedia

Good Morning,

Here we are at the end of October.  The holidays are just around the corner and we are into the second half of the first semester in traditional-calendar schools.  How would you say your child is doing?

So far you should have been to parent-teacher conferences and established a working relationship with your children’s teachers.  You may have already volunteered at the school or taken part in planning a classroom party.  If you have not done these things, it is not too late.  In the middle of the first semester is an ideal time to take stock and set up a plan for the rest of the school year.  Here are the areas to review and ways to make the most of this school year.

Routines
How are your routines?  Are you getting out of the house on time and with all the things you need?  Are there any areas where you can shave off even a few seconds to make things go more smoothly?  Take a look at this morning routine blog to get some ideas.  How is your nighttime routine?  Are your kids getting to bed on time and getting enough sleep?  Have you established a homework and after-school schedule?  At this point, sports should be scheduled and planned for the rest of the school year.

Academic Status
Many parents sit with their kids and help with homework.  If this is the case, you should know where your child struggles academically.  Many kids say they do not need help and therefore parents do not know the state of their skills.  Sit with your child a few days a week.  Go over their homework with them and answer any questions they might have.  One way to break the ice in this area is to approach them after dinner, while they are doing their homework, with some ice-cream in hand.  Be sure to take some mental notes so you can follow up later.  Doing this over the course of a few days (or weeks) will ensure that you are seeing the correct struggles, and not just one tough assignment.

Communication with Teachers
If you have been to parent-teacher conferences, you have a good idea where your child stands regarding the year’s expectations.  If you have not had the opportunity to organize a one-on-one conversation before now, call and schedule a time for you to meet and talk about your child.  Bring up any concerns you have.  You should see if what you experience at home matches what happens at school.  Ask the teacher for a basic guideline for the rest of the school year so you can prepare mentally to help your child.  If there are areas where your child is struggling, now is the time to ask for help either from the teacher or a private tutor.  Many teachers offer private tutoring after school as a way to make some extra money.  This is an easy way to get some personalized help for your child by the person teaching the materials daily.  If you do not love your child’s teacher, ask around for a reputable tutor.  It is well worth the time and money to ensure your child understands the material presented in school.

Behavior
Every time a friend or acquaintance returns to high school for their reunion, I hear the same story.  People haven’t changed and everyone fell into the same cliques and petty behavior.  It is the same for your child.  They return to the same group of kids every year.  You can expect some of the same unwanted behaviors year after year as well.  If you are one of the hundreds of parents looking at your child’s behavior issues and thinking, “I thought we were over this,”  or “I thought they had outgrown that,” not to worry, there is still time to get that issue resolved.  If your child’s behavior concerns you, talk to their teacher or the school’s psychologist, nurse, or counselor.  If you can admit that you have not been the most consistent with behavior expectations at home, now is the time to get on the ball and take control.  If you need help, contact a Family Behavior Coach, such as myself, in your area.  It is never too late to reach out for some support.

The unfortunate truth is that after Thanksgiving break students and teachers relax academically.  The end is in sight and a long two-week break sounds great.  Be prepared for this letdown.  Rev up your support of your children in order to finish the semester strong.  This will allow all of you to transition to the spring semester with confidence and a plan in mind.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Communication Basics: Couples Time

Couple in love

Image via Wikipedia

Good Morning,

Yesterday I wrote about taking personal time for yourself and allowing the same for your children, along with some of the benefits of doing so.  While I was researching related articles for that post, I came across numerous sites related to couple time.  Couple time entails time away from your kids, with your partner.  It may mean a vacation, date night, or some time together when the kids are at school.

Couple Time Activities

  • Sleep in
  • Intimacy
  • Plan for future situations, vacations, and conversations
  • Evaluate the state of the family
  • Vent about your kids and get some feedback
  • Be around other adults
  • Do adult activities
  • Have an extra glass of wine
  • Pamper/Treat yourselves
  • Talk about different parenting strategies
  • Communicate in an adult way with your spouse

The most important benefit of spending time with your spouse is modeling good relationship behavior to your kids.  Often, after couple time, you will find yourself refreshed and with a renewed commitment to positive communication with your partner.  Communicating effectively to each other while showing respect and empathy goes a long way when teaching your children how to manage their own relationships.  Being in a long-term relationship/marriage is hard work and should be rewarded with a date night here and there.  One of my girlfriends said that when she was young, her mom would fix a stiff cocktail for her dad and sit and talk in the living room for an hour when he got home from work.  The kids were not allowed to bother them for any reason.  This seems old-fashioned to me, but they found a time and made it work.  I also know of parents eating by candlelight together after the kids go to sleep or getting up early together to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.  There are lots of reasons to spend time as a couple, but the most important reasons are your own relationship and modeling good communication for your kids.

More articles related to this topic:

Budget Friendly Date Night Ideas

Top 10: Ideas for Valentine’s day (or other date night)

8 Thrifty Back to School Date Night Ideas

Good Luck,

Katherine

Communication Basics: Singing

Happy Children Playing Kids

Image by epSos.de via Flickr

Good Morning,

After last week’s vacation, I am back this week to provide additional blogs in the communication series.  It is no surprise that singing to and singing with your child offers numerous benefits.  Many parents are aware of the link between child development and singing.  Families have been singing together for thousands of years.  There are numerous examples throughout recorded history of people using everyday items, along with their voices, to communicate through music.

I remember my mother singing to me as a young child, her voice soft and comforting.  Many mothers sing to their children everyday, which is wonderful!  However, there are several easy ways to get more bang for the buck when it comes to singing to your child.  When I worked in the classroom I was constantly playing music that connected to the lessons.  As a Special Education teacher, I was continually surprised my first year by how much the students enjoyed learning through song and dance, and how much they retained.  Many of the best teachers incorporate singing or music into their daily schedules.  Shy students come out of their shell, struggling students take part with ease, and kids with attention issues have an avenue to get out their wiggles.  Singing in and out of the classroom is so much more than words and rhythm.  For many kids it is a link between academics and fun.

Below are some supplements to the ways that many of you already utilize singing with your children.  Making this time with your child really special, and fun for both of you, is the goal.  Practicing language, math, and motor skills is already built-in.  Singing is a way to communicate without formality and allows people to connect on a different level.

Music extensions:

  • Join a music class, invite friends and neighbors to join you
  • Host a kids cd swap at your house or play group
  • Make a playlist or cd with your child’s favorite songs to have in the car or give to friends
  • Make up your own movements to songs
  • Pull out scarves, hats, or costumes to act out songs or twirl while you sing and dance
  • Make up different words to songs
  • Sing before bed time instead of reading a book
  • Reward your child with new music or instruments
  • Sing bath songs in the bath with bath toys/instruments
  • Sing songs for getting ready, eating, going to bed, picking up toys, etc.
  • Put on a recital with your friends with songs and dancing
  • Use songs to help with academics, concentration, relaxation
  • Use different voices/inflections/accents like opera, country, robot, or create your own funny voice to change it up
  • Play electronic games like Rock Band, American Idol or Guitar Hero
  • Put on some quiet or peaceful music to relax after a stressful or angry situation
  • Attend local concerts and music shows
  • Play games in the car- whistle and name that tune, or stop singing and they finish the phrase, drum a song that they identify, etc.

Singing is an easy way to get in some fun time with your child regardless of the weather.  Plan time in your daily schedule during the winter months to play music or sing and dance.  There are many good websites where you can buy kids music.  Ask your child’s teacher what songs they are learning in class so you can practice at home and in the car.  Singing has far-reaching value for your child’s development as well as emotional and physical well-being.

Related articles:

Sing with Your Child with Confidence
How Singing to your Kids Improves Development

The Benefits of Singing to your Baby

The Songs Our Toddler Sings

How the Young Child Learns Music

Good Luck,

Katherine

Nighttime Routine

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Good Morning,

As a followup to this week’s post about streamlining your morning routine, I wanted to give some equally useful tools for a successful nighttime routine.  Creating a time for your family to unwind and prepare for the next day is essential.  Think of a nighttime routine as the day’s closing ceremonies.  Opposite to being on a schedule and working against the clock, this time of day is more relaxed.

If you have not started a nighttime routine, do not worry!  You can start tonight.  Starting a routine takes some time and commitment, but is well worth it.  If you already have a routine, take some time to examine it.  Make sure your routine is the most effective it can possibly be for your family and allow for change within the routine when needed.

One Possible Nighttime Routine:

Dinner Time
In most families dinner time signals the beginning of the end.  Take this time to check in with your child and talk to them about the day.

Following Day Prep
Getting things ready at night is great preparation for being out the door on time in the morning.  Setting out clothes, packing lunches, finishing homework, and putting things by the door will streamline the morning routine.  This is also a time for your child to tell you what they need.  More school supplies, new socks, or finding a coat are all things that are more easily handled in the calm of the evening.

Bath Time
If your children are young, you might still be sitting beside the bathtub helping them get washed.  Bath toys are a great way to sneak in some extra conversation or academics during this time.  Counting, colors, and shapes are only a beginning to the awesome bath toys on the market today.  I recommend bath time coming right before sleep time, in large part due to the relaxing nature of warm water.  Aromatherapy soap, bubbles, and lotions can further aid in relaxation.  If your child bathes him or herself, take this time to help them for the next day.  Setting out after school snacks, making their lunch and packing their bag is often helpful.  I always advocate for responsibility in school age children, but if there is an area that is frustrating for your child or you are trying something new, help them out.

Reading
Everybody knows that reading to your child is an essential part of good parenting.  Spending between 10 and 30 minutes reading to and with your child each day does wonders for their academic skills. Many parents fit this time in right before sleep time, but often if you are running behind schedule this gets omitted first.  One of the best things about kids books is that they are short and to the point.  If finding 30 minutes in a single stretch is difficult, break the time up and read three times over the course of the day.  Read during breakfast, bath time, or right before bed to make sure your child gets the reading time they deserve.

Sleep Time
Getting to bed is the only thing on this list that is time sensitive.  Everything else can go at a relaxed and calm pace, but getting to bed at the right time is absolutely essential.  If you are running late, skip another item on this list and go directly to bed.  If your child is older, check in with them to see if the temperature in their room is good, if the bed is comfortable, and if their pajamas fit properly.  Simple changes can make a huge difference in your child’s sleeping behavior.  For younger kids, reading to them and talking/acting out good sleeping behaviors helps to get their minds focused.  A dark, cool, and quiet place is perfect for most kids.  If you have other family members that stay up later, the sound of a noise machine or humidifier will reduce disturbance.  Closing the door signals to your child to go to sleep and should stay closed until morning.  I cannot stress this enough.  The only times you should go back into your child’s room is if they are sick or hurt.  Going back into their room teaches your child to expect to be awakened, and therefore they do not go to sleep or fall asleep fully.

Having a nighttime routine will ease the stress of the morning rush.  Transitioning from summer’s late nights to fall’s school schedule is usually very difficult and takes time.  Talk to your kids about a nighttime routine that best fits their needs.  Involving them in the process makes the transition easier.

More articles related to this topic:

A Bedtime Routine that Works
Guidelines for Your  Child’s Bedtime
Our Simple Bedtime Routine

Good Luck,

Katherine