Are YOU anxious about your child’s 1st day of school?

Yesterday, I blogged about the fears and anxieties young children have about starting school and how you can help your child approach the first day of school with eager anticipation.

How about YOU?  What feelings do you have about your child starting school?  Happiness?  Sadness?  Fear?  Relief?  Anxiety?  Or a combination of all of those.

In SHOW ME HOW!  BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING, I point out that we help build our children’s self-esteem when we acknowledge and accept their feelings, both positive and negative.  This principle holds true for you as well.  It will help to acknowledge and accept the way you feel about this new stage in your child’s life.  Once you do that, you can think about why you feel the way you do and work towards resolving any negative emotions you have.

What are the top 10 fears parents have about sending their children off to school?  I’ll post a list tomorrow.

Is your child anxious about starting school?

With just a few days left to July, all parents know that school is just around the corner.

Do you have a young child who is anxious about starting school?  Is it his first experience away from home?  These days, many children do have experience at nursery schools, daycare, and other facilities where they have taken part in sports, dance or other activities.  Even those children, however, may be fearful of a new school, unknown teacher, and unfamiliar children. 

How can you help relieve your child’s anxiety?  What can you do to help make that first day of school one of joyous expectation?

  1. Acknowledge your child’s feelings.  We sometimes gloss over their fears and anxieties by telling them, “It will be fine.  Don’t worry about it.”   Worse still would be a response of  “Don’t be a baby!  There’s nothing to be afraid of.”  For that child, there obviously is.  Perhaps it would be more helpful to just listen if they are expressing their feelings.  Maybe you can share similar feelings you might have had as a child.
  2. Visit the school before the first day.  Many schools offer opportunities for new students to spend some time in a classroom before the term starts.  Take some photos of the school, classroom and your child in that setting and hang the pictures in your home.  This will help your child feel more comfortable about going to this “new” place.
  3. Read one or more of several children’s picture books that target the anxieties young children have regarding the first day of school.  During my years as a kindergarten teacher, daycare provider and mother of three, I used picture book stories to help children cope with many of the issues they faced as they were growing up.  Teaming up the story with an eco-friendly craft project and a child-friendly healthful cooking activity is a great way to encourage discussion, build self-esteem, and create a life-long parent-child bond.

Here are 3 books and accompanying activities that might help your child face the first day of school with eagerness and anticipation instead of reluctance and anxiety.

TAKE A KISS TO SCHOOL: written  by Angela McAllister (For the craft activity, you can make a food chart using pictures cut from magazines and pasted on a piece of construction paper. What foods do animals eat?  What foods do people eat?  For the cooking experience, make pita pocket (instead of the coat pocket into which Digby put his mother’s kisses) sandwiches using store-bought whole wheat pita bread, chicken sliced from a baked chicken cutlet, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and mashed avocado.)

BILLY AND THE BIG NEW SCHOOL: written by Laurence Anholt (For the craft activity, you can make a bird feeder using 2 slices of stale bread broken in small pieces, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup chopped carrot or apple and some nuts.  Make a ball, press a piece of string into the center and roll in 1/2 cup wild birdseed.   When hardened, hang on a tree and watch the birds feed.  For the cooking experience, make breakfast granola using 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal, 1/2 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds, 1 Tb honey, 1 Tb canola oil, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Put all ingredients, except raisins, into a large microwave-safe bowl and mix well.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Stir well and microwave for another 2 minutes.  Stir well again and microwave for 1 minute.  Stir in the raisins and let cool.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 4-5 cups of preservative-free delicious granola.)

THE KISSING HAND: written by Audrey Penn (For the craft activity, you can make clay handprints.  I still have the ones my children made almost 30 years ago.  You can use store-bought clay or make your own.  Work the clay into a ball and roll it flat…about 1/2 inch thick.  Put the flattened clay on a piece of cardboard and position your child’s hand, fingers spread slightly, in the center.  Help your child press her hand into the clay.  Let dry overnight.  For the cooking experience, make thumbprint cookies.  Cream 1 cup canola oil and 1/2 cup honey in a large bowl.  Beat in 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla.  Gradually add 3 cups flour and 1/2 tsp salt.  Roll a tablespoonful of dough into a ball and then roll it in a saucer that has 1/2 cup sugar in it.  Put each ball on an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing the balls about 2 inches apart.  Press down lightly on each ball with your thumb (or your child’s thumb) and fill each depression with jelly or jam.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees until the cookies are lightly browned.  Remove from cookie sheet when cooled.  Makes about 4 dozen.)

 I hope this helps parents with children who are anxious about the first day of school.  I know it helped mine.  For more information and support on this issue, go to  http://childrensbooks.about.com/b/2010/07/28/august-blog-carnival.htm where Elizabeth Kennedy is hosting a blog carnival about this topic.

Something for nothing at Lowes

These days, you usually don’t get something for nothing.

Thanks to Lowes (the building supply store), you do!

The program is called Build and Grow, a clinic/workshop for children (ages 3 through 5th grade) and their parents (any age!).  At 10am every Saturday, at many local Lowes’ stores across the country, young builders and their families can work on a wooden project, receive a free carpenter’s apron and goggles, and leave with a project themed patch (similar to Boy Scout merit badges), certification of merit upon completion of the project, and their finished creation.  Upcoming projects include a wooden school bus and a wooden bug box.  The first 50 to sign up (online at http://bit.ly/4Y8atK) and show up are admitted to each session.

If you are looking for a wonderful FREE activity to participate positively with your child, check this one out.  Lowes deserves kudos for providing such an awesome community resource that not only builds a child’s self-esteem, but also helps create a life-long parent-child bond.

6 items or less…in your child’s toy box!

Yesterday I shared my thoughts on applying the “6 items or less” phenomenon to parenting rules.  It hit me that life gets more complicated as we add more “stuff” so maybe if we get rid of some “stuff”, our lives will become easier and smoother.

So, why not take this minimalist idea and go through your child’s toy box and pare down the items to 6 or less.  Have you ever been to (or had) a birthday party for a young child where there are so many presents, the child is overwhelmed and doesn’t even know half of what he has been given or who gave it to him?  And that is just the point, having too much stuff, whether it is kitchen gadgets, clothing, toys or ANYTHING, is just overwhelming and stressful.  Life can be overwhelming and stressful enough without adding to it by accumulating too much.

Just think about it…wouldn’t clean up time be quicker and easier if there were only 6 items for your child to pick up?  What will you and your child choose to keep in the toy box?  If your child is VERY young, put away all the toys except for 6 items that seem to be favorites and are age-appropriate.  If you have doubles and triples of some items, maybe you can donate them to family shelters or local children’s hospitals.  If your child is a little older, sit down with her and talk about what she most enjoys playing with.  If you are also taking this 6 items or less to heart and are paring down your “STUFF”, she may be thrilled to be “doing what mommy is doing”.  Point out how much easier it will be at clean up time…life uncluttered creates a sense of peace and well-being.  Again, box up toys that you feel she will grow into…encourage her to donate usable items that are too immature for her.  If something has great sentimental value, create a memory box and carefully store it in there.

You will notice I haven’t said anything about your child’s books.  Now you’ve discovered MY weakness.  However, in this area as well, there can also be too much…I think.  What’s the sense in having dozens of books, haphazardly stuffed in toy boxes and under beds.  Go through your child’s book collection, donate doubles and triples of any items you find, wean out those in really bad shape, and create a special place (little bookshelf in your child’s room, separate box, etc.) where these treasures can be kept and enjoyed every day.  Could I apply the 6 items or less theory to my children’s books?  I honestly don’t know.  The best I can say is that I would try to keep 6 at hand to be used on a daily basis and rotate the rest.

Depending on your child’s age and maturity, what toys would you choose to keep in your child’s toy box, if you could only keep 6?

And, which 6 books would you choose to put on the bookshelf?

6 items or less…apply this experiment to parenting

Have you heard of the 6 items or less experiment?  It is a global phenomenon that sets out to see if a person can “survive” for 30 days with only 6 items of clothing (or less) from their closet.

As I thought about this minimalist approach to life (and having just watched “The Book of Eli” where Denzil Washington says “people kill for things we used to throw away”), I realized that this 6 items or less theory had a lot going for it and could be applied to many different parts of our lives.

So, today I’d like to list the 6 items I’d pull from my parenting rules closet.

  1. Help your child to master tasks and skills and develop individual responsibility.
  2. Encourage your child to value her own strengths and qualities.
  3. Help your child feel appreciated, loved and valued.
  4. Encourage your child to express his feelings, both positive and negative.
  5. Help your child to acknowledge and cope with her fears.
  6. Encourage your child to respect his body and feel safe in his environment.

Just 6 rules.  Follow them and you will be helping your child develop  a positive self-image.  You will also be building a life-long parent-child bond and creating balance and harmony for your entire family.

How many parenting rules do you have?

Carpet installation fiasco

At 9am this morning, there was a knock on the door.  It was our carpet installers, here to install new carpeting for our downstairs floors.  For the past week, I had been working like a mad-man (or mad-woman) to clear off tables, empty bookcases and clean out cabinets so that the installers would be able to move the furniture in preparation to laying the carpeting.  Of course, it doesn’t help that our furniture is HUGE, a carryover from our days in a 14 room house.  Even though we sold, gave away, threw away LOTS of STUFF when we downsized to a small 6 room townhome, everything we have is BIG.

After the carpet installers came in, they spent an hour moving much of the furniture to other places (outside patio, garage) and they began measuring the floor so they could determine how the carpet should be laid.  When they went out to their truck to call the carpet store and were gone for quite a while, we began to worry.  And, as it turns out, we had good reason to worry.  When they returned, it was to tell us that the man who had done the measuring (from the carpet store) had under-measured the length of the living room by 2 feet!!!!!!  So, they had to move back all of the furniture and the carpet store is ordering a new length of carpet to be laid next Tuesday.  How frustrating!  Will I put back all of the books, knickknacks, and other STUFF that I had boxed up and put in the garage? You bet I won’t! 

I’ll wait at least until the carpet is down on the floor.  And maybe, if we haven’t needed the STUFF by then, we actually don’t need it at all. 

That’s one way to get rid of clutter!

I’d love to hear other carpet installation horror stories…perhaps it will make me feel better.

Dental visits: Pain or Gain?

Yesterday I went to the dentist for my routine cleaning and checkup.  Fortunately, everything looked fine.  It made me think back to when our children were young and we tried to find a way to encourage them to take care of their teeth.  My husband and I came up with an interesting plan:  If their checkup showed no cavities, they got five dollars.  If they had cavities, they had to pay fifty cents from their allowance for each cavity.

Needless to say, all three had very few cavities as they were growing up.  I’m not sure if it was the incentive of receiving five dollars, or if it was having to part with fifty cents for each cavity that encouraged them to brush their teeth regularly and refrain from eating too many sweets.

Our children are all in their 30’s now…two of them have children of their own and are probably dealing with that same age-old issue of getting their little ones to properly care for their teeth.  When I talk to my grown children on the phone, if they mention in passing that they have been to the dentist and have had a perfect checkup, I still send them a five dollar bill in the mail.  Although five dollars can’t purchase the same amount of goods that it could 20 or 30 years ago, it still buys a good dental checkup.

Hey, where’s my five dollars?

I’d love to hear other parent’s ideas for encouraging children to take good care of their teeth.