Jobs for Kids By Age (Article Review)

Good Morning,

I am a big supporter of kids helping out around the house.  Whether you offer rewards or simply expect your kids to pitch in, this list is a great place to start.  It easily breaks down jobs by age and gives several ideas in each age bracket.  If you start at a young age, these household skills as well as feelings regarding family participation will be better developed.  Long term this means less fighting, nagging, and whining.

What chores do your kids do?  How early did you start a chores system?

I would love to hear your story and address any questions or concerns you have about kids and household jobs.

Have a Great Week,



8 Tips for Step Parents

Good Afternoon,

I believe I have the two BEST step-parents in the entire world.  It absolutely goes without question that I am their child and they love me as if I were their own.  It has not been easy or fun at times, but the hard work and commitment to our family and to each other has been 100% worth it.

Let me make clear the statement, “not easy or fun”.  I was not easy or fun.  The truth is that I was rotten.  I pulled out all the stops when it came to bad behavior.  My parents both remarried the same year and in a matter of months I went from being the oldest child to the third at my mom’s house and the oldest at my dad’s house, with a step-mom who had no kids and had never been married.  It was a little rough.

Let’s fast forward a few years and get to the part where we are a happy family.  Most importantly, I’d like to explain how we got here.  As I mentioned, it wasn’t easy and it took several years, almost 10, to patch up the old hurtful feelings and move on.

The list I have compiled contains the most important aspects of bringing a family with step-parents together.  Read it, digest it, and use the strategies offered.

1.  Time.  It is unrealistic to build a solid relationship or to patch up the past quickly.

2.  Communication.  I believe communication is the key to successful relationships in families and otherwise.  Talk it out, share your feelings, listen to others, and match your body language to your words.  Be explicit and clear with your words and motions.

3.  Plan.  Whether it’s moving in, talking to the kids about marriage, changing the rules, or anything else, thinking ahead and making a plan of action will relieve lots of stress in the moment.  Family meetings are a great way to get everyone on board and committed to the plan going forward.

4.  Be Flexible.  Taking things one step at a time will help to reduce hurt feelings and push-back regarding a new plan.  If things don’t go well the first time, re-evaluate and try again.  Assess the situation from your families’ perspectives and needs and go from there.

5.  The Other Parent.  Be respectful of your child’s other parent.  Talk about them in a neutral or positive light in the presence of your child.  Do not argue, bicker, or bring up old baggage out of respect for your child and the relationship they have with that parent.

6.  Collaborate.  The most important member of your team is your child.  The other members of that team need to collaborate in order for your child to succeed.  Make that happen.  Extend an olive branch to grandparents, teachers, coaches, friends, neighbors, ex-spouses, etc.  Put your pride aside and do what’s right for your child.

7.  Commit.  It takes a huge commitment of time, effort, and heart to make it work.  Juggling all the components listed above while living it day-to-day is difficult.  Commit to your kid, commit to yourself, commit to your partner, and focus on the future of your new family.

8.  Goals.  Set some guidelines and goals to help you along the way.  Make a plan of action and go for it.  Start small and take baby steps in the beginning.  Personal, couple, and family goals are all good components that help keep the ball rolling in the right direction.

Looking back on the first few years as a new family and knowing where we are now, I never thought it possible.  I look back on the time spent trudging through the mud together and think of how awful it felt in the moment.  How angry I was, the horrible things I said and did, and the silent treatments I thought would really work.  Thankfully they didn’t work.  We were in it together and we stayed in it together.

Image  My step dad and dad walking me down the aisle.

Good Luck,


Ways to Foster Honesty through Conversation

Listen to your kids

Listen to your kids (Photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi)

Good Afternoon and Happy Halloween,

So many newsworthy events have been happening lately.  The East Coast weather is on everyone’s mind, the elections are in their final days, and the holidays are just around the corner.  These three things don’t usually have much in common, but as I started thinking about this week’s post all three came to mind for the same reason: talking to your kids honestly.  There are numerous situations where you just wish your kids would stop asking questions, or you hope that they don’t notice something, or you thought they had forgotten about a certain topic.  Unfortunately, this is not usually the case.  Today I would like to offer strategies that help you talk to your kids in a comfortable way when you are in an uncomfortable situation.

Communication During a Crisis

The goal of communication during a crisis situation is get the most information out with the least amount of effort.  There are dozens of different types of crisis situations.  You may have time to prepare and plan, or you may have to act at a moment’s notice.  Being mentally prepared can help in all crisis situations.

  • Talk in an assertive but non-threatening way using the simplest words possible.
  • Keep your voice at the lowest volume possible when giving directions.
  • Give directions in short clips instead of a long train.
  • Give information about the situation that is honest and to the point.
  • Allow your kids to tell you their feelings and ask questions, if there is time.
  • Identify with their emotions in yourself, “I am also feeling scared.”
  • Give them honest reassurance.
  • Model behavior that shows leadership and logic

Communication about Adult Matters

Kids are smart and curious.  They want to know about the goings-on in their parents lives.  Over the past several months there has been lots of conversations about the elections, the economy, women’s rights, finances, health care, etc.  Kids are barraged with ads on TV, mail at the house, conversations they overhear, and billboards all over town.  It is not surprising to me that they are interested and curious to know more about these topics.

  • Decide what information is appropriate for your child to know.
  • Allow them to ask questions in an environment that is non-judgmental and honest.
  • Allow them to have opinions that differ from yours.
  • Ask them follow up questions to further the conversation.
  • Talk about adult topics in simple ways.
  • Relate information back to their personal experiences like earning an allowance, being sick and seeking medical care, incentives that are important to them, etc.
  • Talk to them about what it means to be president and how our country is different from other countries in this way.
  • Encourage conversations about character and what it means to be a leader.
  • Practice the, “no thanks,” conversation to have with phone and door-to-door solicitors.

Communication around the Holidays

Holiday time is usually very stressful.  Tension and anxiety are high, positive communication breaks down and behavior tends to follow.  Lots of families have had a tough year financially.  Hosting guests for the holidays and the spirit of giving can add to the feeling of being overwhelmed.  Having a plan in place to talk to your kids about these things now can save you time and frustration later.

  • Talk to them about budgets and money.
  • Reinforce behavior with conversations and reminders of expectations.
  • Practice conversation starters to use with guests as well as follow-up questions.
  • Practice honest ways to show appreciation towards others, especially in uncomfortable situations.
  • If you give to charities, talk to your kids about why you choose that charity and why it is important to give to others.
  • Start conversations about family traditions, what they mean, and how they got started.

Building a relationship with your kids that is both open and honest is a huge job.  What it boils down to is showing what honesty looks like through your actions towards them and others.  Kids are going to ask lots of questions either way, having those questions directed towards you is the goal.

I would love to hear from you! 

  1. How do you teach your kids about honesty?
  2. What are some situations where you felt you did or did not handle the conversation correctly?
  3. How do you mentally prepare for uncomfortable conversations?

Also, I have started an account on Pinterest just for my readers.  I invite you to check it out and follow me as I add helpful pins for all areas of parenting.

Good Luck,


Family Participation

Good Morning,

Life is full of phases and transitions.  There are always factors at work changing our bodies and behaviors.  Young adults feel these factors more strongly (e.g. puberty).  Although everyone has generally gone through the same phases, it is easy to forget and struggle to connect to your child during these times.

When I was in third grade, I didn’t want to hang out with my family as often as I did when I was younger.  I had new friends at a new school and wanted to fit in and be part of their community.  I begged my mom to drive me to sleepovers or to the mall with friends so I could walk around, talk and look at boys.  I wanted nothing to do with family dinners or weekends shopping with my mom.  Does this sound familiar?  Let me give you a few ideas to help find a family/friend balance with your child.

Don’t Demand
One of the easiest ways to stifle participation with the family is to demand it.  Forcing your kids to talk or hang out with you and the family is the last thing on their list.  However, this phase in their life should be recognized as just that: a phase.  Ultimately, demanding merely creates resentment and anger towards each other.

Find a Common Ground
Pick activities your child enjoys and do them together.  This will help bridge the gap.  Get them involved by asking them what they would like to do, eat, see, whatever.  Give them a budget and ask them to plan a family night out, activity, or class involving the entire family.

Respect Their Decisions
There will be times when your child chooses their friends over their family.  Respect this decision and move on.  Do what you had planned anyway and have a good time without them.  Do not guilt trip them into coming along or brag about the fun times you had without them.  Remember that it is normal and natural for kids to want to spend time with their friends and fit in with their peers.

Invite their Friends
Inviting your children’s friends to join your family is a great way to get your child to come along.  They may want to talk with their friend and somewhat avoid the family, but at least you are together.  This also allows you to meet their friends and get to know the kids with whom they are spending time.

Start Early
Start a precedent early in life by scheduling family time and planning activities together as a family.  If kids are accustomed to hanging out with the family and participating with the family, they will already find value in spending time together.  Do not try to start family time when you see that they are breaking away from the family, start early.

Start an Activity Together
Finding an activity that no one has experienced is always fun.  Everyone starts on equal footing. Take a class, start a sport, travel, or volunteer together.  These are great ways to spend time while trying something new.  I have a few friends that started Martial Arts at the same time their children began taking lessons.

Family Dinners
Many families enjoy eating dinner together.  However, it may be difficult to get everyone to the table at the same time.  Have a dinner out once a week (or month), allowing each family member to take a turn picking the restaurant.  Planning a weekly menu is another great way to spend time with your kids.  Get them involved with planning (and eating) meals.

Question Jar
Having fun and interesting conversations at dinner will get your kids interested in sharing and participating during this time.  Skip the “how was your day” and fill a jar with questions the family can ask and answer.  I love Table Topics and have given them as gifts to parents several times.  There are lots of great websites to find conversation starters as well.

Game Night
Even at the age of thirty, I still love family game night.  We used to play Catch Phrase growing up…we still tell stories of funny situations.  Family Game night can be a board game, putt putt golf, a battle on the XBox , or a jam session on Rock Band.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as you are playing together.

Talk to Them
Sometimes all it takes for your child to participate is some words of encouragement.  Tell them how much fun they are and how great it is spending time with them.  Talk about fun times you’ve spent together and ask when you can do that again.  They may not know how important it is to you that they participate in family events unless you tell them.

Allow your child to have some leeway about when they want to spend time with the family.  Don’t force them, but encourage them and plan things that they enjoy doing.  Helping them find a balance between friends and family will bridge the gap during these growing years.

Check out these great family sites:

Family rock climbing with the The Kid Project
100 Family conversations at Aha!
Surviving family game night at An Exercise in Narcissism

If you have found these tips helpful subscribe, like, or pass this blog along.

Good Luck,


The Joy of Siblings

Two Sisters

Image via Wikipedia

Good Morning,

As a child growing up with siblings, I am not sure how we all made it to adulthood.  There were a few fights that I felt lucky to survive.  While there is some hyperbole here, this is a common sentiment for most people with siblings.  It always seemed that my only-child friends were the lucky ones.  They got all the attention, all the presents around the holidays and did not have to share anything.

My sister has been a major part of the best times of my life as well as an accomplice in the worst decisions of my life.  I am lucky to have her even though I didn’t always think that way.  At times, I know that my parents struggled to treat us equally while encouraging our individuality.  It is not easy being a parent in any circumstance.  Below are some strategies for keeping the peace while maintaining equal and unique relationships with each of your children.

Give each child their own space
Provide a room for each child or a spot in a shared room that is all their own.  It is important that kids have a place where they can go to get away from the rest of the family.  Let them keep some personal possessions there.  Do not let other siblings bother this space, and be sure to treat it with respect.

All kids are equal but not the same
Allow each child to share their strengths with the family.  Foster individuality and self-worth by encouraging each child to seek out and pursue their own interests.  Also, each child may not need the same type or amount of discipline.  Act upon your knowledge of each child in order to tailor your behavior and discipline methods for each.

Model the behavior you would like to see in them
It is absolutely essential to insist on good communication and the respectful treatment of each other from your kids.  Model this behavior by communicating with them and your spouse in a mature way.  Not only should you ask this of them, you should be sure you show this to them.

When to jump in and when to stay out
For many parents with multiple children, the yelling, bickering, hitting, and general fighting can get old.  Help kids by giving them an opportunity to work things out themselves.  Encourage them to talk it out or separate themselves.  Verbally encourage them to do this.  If they cannot work it out or they get physical with each other, step in and mediate or provide discipline.  They should never be allowed to physically fight without consequences.  If you wouldn’t allow your child to hit, kick, bite or hurt another child, you need to maintain consistency when they engage in this type of behavior with their siblings.

What is good for one may not be good for all
Disciplining all kids due to the behavior of one creates undue anger and resentment between siblings.  If one child is not able to behave properly, remove them from the situation or keep them from the event.  Unfortunately, this is not always possible.  If one of your children misbehaves and you are by yourself, my advice is to go home and put the offender in their room while you create a fun activity or treat for the other one.  Don’t allow the well-behaved child to brag or tease the offender.

Take time alone with each child
A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of spending one-on-one time with your kids.  This can be a reward and it can also be a time for you to catch up.  It is extremely important for each of your children to get your undivided attention now and then.  Special dates should be put on the calendar and honored as you would any other appointment.

Having siblings and creating good relationships with them is one of life’s greatest gifts.  Help your kids get past sibling rivalry while forging a meaningful relationship.  It takes time and energy, but is well worth it.

For more help dealing with siblings check out these sites:

Girlie’s Blog has way to reduce sibling rivalry
Great post over at Simple Kids
Suite 101 gives some ideas about Fostering Sibling Love

Good Luck,