7 Tips to Successfully Introduce the New Puppy to Your Young Children

Came across this gem today as I was posting articles to Pinterest. As a dog owner and advocate of the family pet, I really liked how the author talked about meeting the dog’s needs as well as the kids’ benefit to helping with the new pet, like reading books, keeping the area free of debris, taking turns, assigning chores, etc. I read lots of good articles about this topic but this one jumped out at me as one that really thoughtfully summed up the steps to take and the reality of having puppies and kids.





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,


Keeping Rules and Expectations Consistent when you have Guests

Note:  This week I will be re-posting an earlier blog.  I feel that the topics covered will especially help families during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Good Afternoon,

Today I will be talking about hosting guests at your house.  I remember when I was growing up…if we were bad under normal circumstances, we would get the “usual” punishment, but if we were bad when we had guests or were guests, the punishment was so much worse.  I knew the second my mom made “that face…” I was doomed.  I am laughing as I write this, just thinking about my parents and how mean I thought they were.  A little fun turned into a lot of trouble pretty quickly.

Below are some basics for preparing your kids to host guests, whether it be their friends, out-of-town family, or your boss.  The ideas here cover families with kids ranging from toddler to school age.  Use the ideas that best apply to your family.  While I understand that you have had guests in your home before now, a quick reminder is always nice on how to handle talking with your kids about hosting guests.  If you are struggling in this area, now is the perfect time to institute some of the below before the holidays.

Obviously you want to let your children know that you are having guests.  Start by telling them who is coming.  If it is someone they do not know, tell them how you know this person.  Talk to them about what it means to have guests.  This means talking about the expectations of their behavior, including how they act, where they play, and what they say.  If there are other kids coming remind them of the importance of sharing their toys.  Give them feedback throughout the evening about how they are doing.

If you have followed this blog at all you should by now see a common theme: consistency.  Above all else, the rules should not change no matter what.  It ultimately does not matter who is at your house.  If your kids break the rules, follow through with the usual punishment.  Many parents, like mine, even increase the punishment when there are guests at the house.  Ultimately, you want for people to feel welcomed and safe in your home.  Keeping the same high expectations for behavior lets your children know that they cannot get away with unacceptable behavior when guests are over.  I have turned down a few invitations to homes where I know that the kids are wild and the parents do nothing about it.

As always, get your kids involved in preparations for guests.  If you are hosting out-of-town guests have them help clean rooms, make beds, and prepare meals.  Kids love to show off their artwork.  To keep them busy while you get ready, have them create pictures and clay sculptures to show off or give to your guests.

Guests come to your house to see you and your family.  Make it easy for them during their visit by keeping routines and rules consistent.  Talk with your kids before, during, and after, and give them feedback on how they did.  Throw in special treats if they met or exceeded your expectations.  Always involve them from start to finish.  If they know the plan and how they fit in, they will have a great chance to live up to your expectations.

I am certain that all of you reading this will either have guests or be a guest this holiday season.  Have fun!

If you found this blog helpful please subscribe/like/re-tweet/share it.  I have also added lots of good pins to my Pinterest boards, so check them out too.

Good Luck,


Playing with a Purpose

Good Afternoon,

A few weeks ago the family for whom I nanny asked me to start incorporating more academics into our daily routine.  Their daughter, who just turned 4, is really starting to get excited about reading, writing, and general academic concepts.  Although I have been sneaking in academics all along the way, this request really got me thinking about how to add more focused learning into casual play.

I have concluded that you don’t have to change the type of play, just your focus.  I love Pinterest especially for all the amazing ideas people put up for specific learning techniques.  There are tons of ways to introduce math, reading, and writing concepts to your child and people keep inventing more each day.  I also love that parents can go to a website and access lots of these ideas the instant they are stuck or need more strategies to help their child.  Never before have so many wonderful and unique ideas been at our fingertips.  But I am left asking why?  Parents can easily add academics into everyday life without spending money, and even without referring to a website like Pinterest for ideas.  Here’s how.

Focused play is the idea that you are introducing or teaching concepts through casual play with your child.  You don’t have to get super creative or spend lots of time, energy, or money inventing new ways to learn common concepts.

Steps in Focused Play

  • Before engaging in play with your child, set a goal or concept you would like to focus on.  It is much easier if your choose a very specific goal or concept.
  • Communicate with your child that you would like to work on _____.  “While we play with these blocks I want to work on counting.”  This reinforces the goal for you and introduces the concept to your child.
  • While playing ask age/level appropriate questions related to your goal.  “How many blocks do you have in your hand?” or “How many purple blocks are on the table?”  Keep the questions focused and relate them back to your goal or concept.
  • Keep a mental note of how your child does.  Does your child understand your questions?  Do they know how to respond correctly?  Are they responding with the correct answer?  Are there areas that could use some extra work?
  • Don’t force focused play.  I believe that we achieve the best learning when a child is ready, willing, and able to learn.  If they are not interested in what you are trying to introduce, take a break and try again another day.
  • Always praise your child for trying, participating, or accomplishing the goal.  This will earn you points towards another focused play time later as well as make your child feel like they did a good job.
  • Match concepts with those being covered in school.  This will give your child a double dose of the same ideas and allow them to learn in different settings, from different people, and in new ways.

Parents know what activities and toys their children love.  Use that to your advantage and make up new games and ways to play with the same favorites.  Lots of times this is fun for the child and the parent!

How do you incorporate news ways to learn into everyday play?  Chime in below with your ideas.  Have questions specific to your family or situation?  Ask away!  Questions, comments, thoughts, and ideas are always welcome. 

For more great ideas on focused play, check out these links:

Displaying Kids Artwork

Improving Academic Skills

20 Indoor Activities for Kids

Good Luck,



When Your Child Lies

Good Morning,

At some point in life everyone has lied.  It doesn’t matter who you lied to or what you lied about, the fact is we have all done it.  Maybe we lied out of fear?  Maybe we got away with a lie and felt that it was a good way to handle a stressful situation.  Kids lie about all sorts of things.  For most kids lying is like a coat that they try on and take off when it doesn’t fit.  For others it becomes more of a lifestyle.  How do we get kids to stop lying, while simultaneously building a trusting relationship where they feel secure in their actions and words?

Over the past few weeks I have followed other bloggers and family professionals.   I would like to showcase some of their ideas as they relate to this blog and the families that I professionally support. I feel that their work goes hand in hand with my own and that they bring clarity to specific situations while offering concise strategies.

Dr. Bryan Post of the Post Institute has worked with families that have adopted children from abused and neglected situations.  His breakdown of why kids lie and how to handle a situation is very closely related to my own thoughts and process.

  • Kids often lie because they feel stress, fear, confusion, or are overwhelmed
  • Look to the emotion behind the lie to determine the cause
  • When you determine the underlying emotion you can ignore the lie and help the child deal with the emotion
  • When a child lies, check your own level of stress to handle the situation calmly and effectively
  • The goal is to build a trusting and secure relationship where your child feels that they do not ever have to lie

What to do when you are in the situation

  1. Check your stress level: are you able to approach your child in a calm and controlled way?
  2. Approach your child and let them know that everything is going to be ok and things will work out.
  3. Walk away and give your child some space.  Allow them to process your words and body language.
  4. Come back to them after some time and let them know that it hurts you when they lie.  Tell them that they can always trust you and that their safety and well-being is your priority.
  5. Let it rest.

There is no need to bring up the lie, because it doesn’t matter what they lied about.  Becoming upset about the lie teaches your child to become a better liar.  What matters is that your child knows that they can come to you when they are feeling stressed, sad, angry, overwhelmed, etc., and that you will help them through their emotions.

This video by Bryan Post plays out this situation and shows you how to approach your child when they lie.  If you have caught your child in this situation, it is worth taking a look.

As you may have noticed I will be cutting down on the number of posts per week.  I would like to spend less time blogging and more time with my clients.  As always, if you would like my support or strategies for a handling a difficult situation please contact me directly.

Good Luck,



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.

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,


Caretakers – Tips to Make it Work

Good  Morning,

This week I have talked about caretakers for your child.  Finding a perfect match, exchanging important information, and having a nuts and bolts discussion are all key elements to making the relationship between you and your child’s caretaker really work.  The breadth of information that I have covered may not all pertain to you or your situation, but I hope to give you a realistic look at what it takes to find and hire the right person for you, and more importantly for your child.

Today, I would like to end this series with a look at how to make it work.  You’ve found the right person, asked the right questions, talked about the details…now what?  Here are my tips on taking the final step and going from good to great.

  • View the caretaker as a partner
  • Include them in decisions about your child
  • Invite them to milestones in your child’s life, like birthdays and school events
  • Ask them for advice and input
  • Introduce them to family, friends, and neighbors that they should contact and that have other kids to play with
  • Have food and snacks that they enjoy on hand
  • Stick to the schedule you have agreed upon
  • Thank them for their work and commitment – words or small gifts, birthdays, holidays, etc.
  • Coordinate changes to the schedule in advance
  • Keep the house, child’s room and general supplies organized and well-supplied

At the end of the day, go with your gut feeling.  This is probably the single most important aspect of choosing a caretaker.  This person will be taking care of your child in your home, and you need to trust them completely.  I have laid out the ground work for you to take the correct steps in finding a perfect caretaker for your children.  As I mentioned yesterday it is well worth the time, effort, and money upfront to gain a champion for your child.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  Feel free to contact me if you would like recommendations for your specific situation.  I would love to help you find the perfect caretaker!

Good Luck,



Caretakers – Topics to Discuss

Good Morning,

This week I am looking at the four steps in finding and selecting a caretaker for your child.  Yesterday’s post covered the information you will want to know before you invite them for an interview.  Today, I will cover some discussion topics that will be helpful in weeding out the pool of applicants.  If you plan on a family member or a friend taking care of your child, the questions and information exchanged should be the same but presented in a more casual way.  It is very important that you set the stage for a successful relationship between you and your child’s caretaker, no matter who they are.  It is also important that all caretakers know the same information and that the expectations and rules stay consistent.  This benefits your child and allows them to have a positive, consistent experience when someone else is in charge.

Some topics to discuss:

  • Pay
  • Paid vacation days – holidays, vacation days, when you take vacation (full-time)
  • Sick days (full-time)
  • Insurance offered (full-time)
  • Providing food
  • How often and to where your child can be driven
  • Pay for mileage
  • Other duties – baby’s laundry, making food, accepting deliveries, etc.
  • What to do in case of emergency
  • Time sheet
  • Family calendar
  • Reviews and pay raises – how often and using what scale
  • Classes, play-dates, school
  • Babysitter vs. Nanny
  • Overtime, nights, and weekends (full-time)
  • Pet information

You may have other questions that you will add to this list.  Not all topics above will pertain to you and you may not offer things like insurance, paid vacation, or food.  Be upfront and clear with your caretaker.  As I mentioned above, it is very important to set the stage for success.  Create an environment that allows for questions to be asked and respected.  Ultimately, you want to find a person that wants to work for you.  This is important for the well-being of your child as well as the care and respect of your things.

Take the time to do your research and find a person that is great.  It is well worth your time and money in the long run.  Being thoughtful throughout this process will better your chances of finding a perfect fit for your family.

Good Luck,


Caretakers – Exchange of Information

Good Morning,

As I mentioned yesterday, I will be covering the process of finding a caretaker for your child this week.  It takes time, research, and commitment to find the right person for your family.  Exchanging important information is an essential part of narrowing down your prospective hires.  They will have questions for you as well.  Be ready to answer their questions so that they, too, can make sure that the chemistry is right.  Here is the second of four steps you will want to consider when looking for a caretaker.

What you need to know about your prospective caretaker:

  • History with kids and the ages of those children
  • Discipline methods
  • Job history
  • References
  • Driving record
  • Insurance (health, car)
  • Proximity to your house from theirs
  • CPR certification
  • Desired schedule
  • Family situation

What they need to know about you:

  • Schedule – yours and your child’s
  • Your expectations for them
  • Health issues regarding your child

It is helpful to discuss this information with your partner before meeting with a potential caretaker.  Keeping things written down and having a log of discussion points will allow you to streamline the information.  Tomorrow I will be diving deeper into the process of finding a caretaker and offering suggestions on topics to discuss during the interview.

If you are struggling to find a caretaker for your family’s unique situation, please contact me for more personalized strategies.

Good Luck,


Caretakers – Where to Look

Good Morning,

One of the biggest decisions some parents make about their children is who they entrust as a caretaker.  Whether you decide to enroll your child at a daycare or preschool, hire a nanny, enlist a family member, or get a babysitter a few nights a month, it is important to begin the search for the right person with as much information as possible.  I am going to discuss finding the right caretaker for your child all week and I would like to start today with the first step.

To begin the process of finding a great caretaker for your kids, here is a list of places to look:

Friends, family, neighbors, coworkers
Ask around among the people you trust most.  Getting a personal recommendation can save you lots of time and the hassle of going through other avenues.

Facebook and other social media
Putting the word out to people you may not see or talk to as often is an easy way to let lots of people know what you seek with very little work.

A professional service
While this route may be very expensive, the background check, qualifications check, and follow-up of recommendations is done for you.  It may be worth the money to save the time and effort of doing that yourself.

Craig’s List
Putting an ad on Craig’s List is also a great way to connect to people who are seeking this type of employment.  Be ready for the gamut of qualifications, there is no “filter” on Craig’s List ads to weed out completely unqualified candidates.  This is not a bad option, but certainly relies on you to do the legwork to ensure you know the person you are hiring.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is a very important decision.  The final decision of who you choose should be based on multiple factors.  I will cover more of those factors in this week’s blogs.  As always, if you would like more specific suggestions based on your family’s unique situation, please contact me directly.

If you found this blog helpful please follow me on Twitter @KSFamilyCoach.

Good Luck,