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Holiday Service Ideas for You and Your Family

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Tuesday, December 12, 2017

At this time of year it is easy to for us, and especially our children, to focus on our list of wants and the material things that come along with the holiday season.  But this time of year also gives us the opportunity for us to teach our children, from a young age, the purpose of giving and of service.  There are many ways that you can give of your time and serve as a family that will make this time of year more memorable for everyone.


Service teaches our children, not only to be grateful for the things which they already have, but also teaches them empathy and compassion for others.  These attributes will help your children navigate through relationships  their entire lives.  Also, service allows families to bond together in ways that traditional family outings will not.  


Many people would like to volunteer with their children but don’t know where to go or what to start with.  


Here are a few suggestions that are family friendly ways to get involved in your community and to have a more meaningful holiday season with your family.


  1. Choose a name off of a giving tree and shop as a family for the child.  Choosing a name of a child that is a similar age to your own will help them relate and make it more special for your child.

  2. Bake cookies and deliver them to a neighbor who may not have many visitors or treats this holiday season.  

  3. If children are a bit older, visit a rest home.  Arrange a small group to sing carols and to visit with the residents. Make sure to call ahead and schedule a time for your visit.

  4. Write and decorate holiday cards and send them overseas to the troops.  This website can tell you how.

  5. Have your children choose some of their own gently-used toys to donate to a local charity like Salvation Army.  When they are giving of their own toys, they learn the joy of sharing with those who are less fortunate.

  6. Stuff new, warm socks or a resealable bag with granola bars and water bottles or other non perishable items to give to homeless men and women that you pass.  Keep these care packages in the car so you will have them handy when needed.


Make sure that you explain the activities to your children and explain what you learned and enjoyed about the activity.  Most of all have fun and celebrate the experiences.  By doing this your children will learn to love to serve and make lasting holiday memories!


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5 Ways to Avoid Family Pitfalls this Holiday Season and Make the Connections you Want

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, December 11, 2017

The holidays are upon us, and for many families that can mean fun, relaxation, time with beloved family and friends, but also stress, anxiety, pressure, disappointment, and irritable and exhausted kids!

Holiday time often brings out the best—and the worst—in us parents, as well as in our children and all those around us. This can seem inevitable as we give up normal routines and structure, try to please and accommodate the needs of many people, put expectations on ourselves to create wonderful experiences and special memories, and sometimes travel long distances to be with those we love.

mom and kids making cookies

It is possible to avoid some pitfalls and make this season truly satisfying for your family with some planning and awareness. Let’s try to focus on and implement some helpful and proven strategies this year:

  1. Have one or more family discussions to review plans, making sure your children fully understand and are prepared for what activities they will be participating in, who they will be with, and any expectations you have for them. At the same time make sure that they have some choices, and that each child has the opportunity for input on some part of the plan.
  2. Maintain bedtime schedules as rigorously as you possibly can. Confirm with your children that in order for them to have the most fun, they will be keeping their regular bedtime even though that means sometimes stopping or leaving an activity before they are ready and willing. If time changes are part of your plans it is even more important to get your kids on a schedule quickly and firmly, even though it might require sacrificing some fun time.
  3.  Simplify by lowering your expectations dramatically. Focus on one to three family traditions that you want to continue or establish, and let go of the rest. This might require some explaining to grandparents or other family members who are extremely disappointed and perhaps judgmental, but it is a good opportunity to remind them that you are doing what is best for your own family now. Holidays can be a wonderful opportunity for practicing setting boundaries!
  4.  Create opportunities for your children to be generous as well as to be helpful and feel competent. This can take many forms, from purchasing and wrapping gifts to donate, working at a food bank or soup kitchen, or making cards and gifts for family and friends. Helping to decorate, cook, serve, and clean up should all be part of their responsibilities no matter their age, or whether you are hosts or guests. Making sure your children are an integral part of the activities and festivities helps them feel connected, important, and grateful.
  5.  Whether or not you practice a religion, or are affiliated with a congregation, this time of year gives us a precious opportunity to create rituals and traditions that exemplify our values and spiritual beliefs. Our children want to know what we think about the big questions, what we hold dear, and what we strive for—in our homes, community, and the world. Sharing these with our children is the true gift of this season!

As we end this very tumultuous year when so many of us have struggled to maintain a sense of hope and optimism for our children, let’s create holidays that are simple, meaningful, and compassionate, for ourselves and those we care for.

Karen Friedland-Brown, MA is the Director of Parents Place on the Peninsula.

posted with permission from Parent's Place


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From the Vault: Four Stress Release Tips for the Holidays

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, December 4, 2017
It's official -- the holiday season is here-evidenced by all those commercials. Does just thinking about all the shopping, entertaining, and decorating and your ever-shrinking budget send you into a tizzy? Relax. With a bit of thoughtful preparation and some helpful parameters, you can achieve the look and outcome you want for you and your family-without being so stressed you can’t enjoy the season.

What are the tips to reduce stress and still enjoy the holiday season?

1. Spend Smarter
Consider a budget. Don’t get caught shopping until you’ve given some consideration to how much you are able to spend. Think of those credit card bills in January-what can you honestly handle? If you love to shop, it may seem to take some fun out of it, but being faced with big bills in the New Year isn’t fun either.

Be specific. Once you’ve put a realistic limit on spending, you know what you have to work with. Are you getting just a few high quality gifts or would it be better to get a number of less expensive gifts so kids and family have more to open? You decide what works best for you. Encourage your extended family to draw names instead of everyone getting gifts for the whole family.

Make a list. You can make it very specific or general. Coming up with ideas of what your family would like gives you a starting point and helps you estimate how much you plan to spend on each person.

Use only one credit card. This will help to keep track of purchases.

2. Shop Shrewder
Start early. Don’t run the risk of being frustrated because they have run out of what you wanted. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of last minute shopping, save it for small gifts such as stocking stuffers or little treats. Get the bigger items out of the way first.

Go online. You are savvy enough to know this can lead to finding things at a lower price. You can also research where to find something if you want to buy in person and save time driving from one mall to another.

Negotiate. It may surprise you to know that it is possible to ask for a lower price. You never know until you try. If you are buying in bulk, one or more could be slightly soiled, or you are in a small store that is owner owned and willing to bargain. They want the sale. Give it a try.

3. Entertain Effortlessly
KISS: Keep it simple sister! As much as possible simplify the event. Make part of the menu take-out items from your favorite deli. Ask some guests to bring their specialty- most likely they will be happy you asked. Invite a family member or friend to co-host. If a fine dining experience is a must, hire some help. Plan to do as much as you can in advance. Setup the table the day before and prepare as much of the menu ahead of time.

How about January? Some social events could be delayed until January. Consider which ones can be postponed. People’s schedules are generally more open mid-January. You may find more people can make it and you will have a better time because you aren’t so tired.

4. Downsize Decorating
Get the whole family to help. Rethink how you want the house to look based on the ages of your children. What can they do so they can be a part of the celebration as well? If much of your decorating is complicated and time consuming, perhaps you want to pare things down a bit until your children are older. The point is to have FUN! And it’s no longer fun if you are up late at night working on hanging, arranging, etc. after everyone is in bed.

Rein in. Count how many boxes you’ve taken down from storage. Sort out those items that you are tired of looking at or that simply look a bit tired. Donate them to a shelter or retirement home. They won’t think they look tired and will greatly appreciate new items to liven up the place. Decide to use some of the boxes and put the rest away. You won’t miss the decorations you didn’t use.

This year make your resolution BEFORE the holidays begin: More fun, less stress!
Use these tips to keep stress at a minimum and enjoy the holidays. Would enjoy hearing from you on any tips you found helpful. Enjoy the holidays!


Janada Clark, MA is a parent educator and teaches Love and Logic at Stanford and public and private schools. Her parent education classes are a well-respected resource for parents. Join her Facebook community and get your parenting questions answered within one day.

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Meet Our Board: Legal Chair, Lisa Liu

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, December 4, 2017

Like many of the 2017-2018 Board of Directors, Lisa Liu joined in 2016, right after her son, Max, was born and soon after her family relocated to Menlo Park. She was interested in getting more involved in the community and thought joining PAMP was a great way to do so.

Now a mom of 2 (her second son was born in July 2017), Lisa, a corporate and business transactions lawyer, will handle all legal issues and questions, including updating agreements, reviewing agreements and tending to ad hoc legal issues.

“I’m really excited to get to know other fun moms and get to work with some pretty cool and talented ladies,” she says. She looks forward to building on the success of PAMP and connecting with other PAMP members.

When not working or tending to her two boys, Lisa says she loves cooking and exploring various culinary experiences, saying the Bay Area is a great place for foodies. Although Max has shown minimal interest in books, television and films thus far, Alice says her absolute favorite childhood book is Kay Thompson’s Eloise.


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Kick Off the Holiday Season with Tree Lighting and Visits with Santa

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, November 27, 2017

December will soon be upon us and with that comes lots of holiday activities to enjoy with your family.  Many local communities are already kicking off the holiday season with tree lightings and visits from Santa.  Here is a rundown of just a few of the events happening soon on the Peninsula!

Half Moon Bay Night of Lights
Head to downtown Half Moon Bay, for tree lighting and parade. Fri., Dec. 1. 6-9 p.m. Main Street, Half Moon Bay. 

Redwood City Improvement Association Tree Lighting at Hometown Holidays
This holiday celebration includes a parade, live entertainment, special musical performances, a visit from Santa, real falling snow and a tree lighting. Sat., Dec. 2. Event runs 10 a.m.-8 p.m. with tree lighting at 5:45 p.m. Courthouse Square, Redwood City.

Menlo Park Holiday Tree Lighting
Visit Fremont Park for the Holiday Tree Lighting presented by the City of Menlo Park and the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce. This holiday favorite event brings the Menlo Park community together to ring in the holiday season. Come enjoy live entertainment, free hot cocoa, and the lighting of the holiday tree. If you have been good boys and girls, Santa just might make a special appearance.  Friday, Dec 1, 5:30-7pm.

Menlo Park Breakfast with Santa
The annual Breakfast with Santa event takes place at the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center. Don't forget to bring your camera so you can get a great photo of your child with Santa. Bring an unwrapped toy for the Fire Fighters Toy Drive and receive $1 off your ticket price. Saturday, Dec 2, 7:30-11 am.  

Cupertino Tree Lighting
Enjoy a countdown to light the tree, music, refreshments and a special visit from a friend from the North Pole. Fri., Dec. 1. 6-8 p.m. Quinlan Community Center, 10185 N. Stelling Road, Cupertino.

Mountain View Community Tree Lighting Celebration
Head to Mountain View for live holiday music, refreshments, children’s activities, free photos with Santa and a holiday tree lighting ceremony. Mon., Dec. 4. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Civic Center Plaza, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. 

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Hassle- Free Holiday Shopping with Kids

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, November 27, 2017

The season is upon us! For many busy parents with young children, it is sometimes necessary to bring our young ones with us to the mall. With this reality in mind, we offer the following suggestions on having successful outings. Whether it is holiday shopping or long car trips to see relatives, preparation is the key to success!

family Shopping
The following suggestions come from the Triple P Positive Parenting Program which offers concrete strategies on how to set yourself up for success in potentially challenging situations.

  1. Pick a good time! While it might seem that the only option is a pre-dinner Target run, you may be setting yourself up for failure. When you or your children are tired and hungry you’re all more likely to be ill mannered, and you’re more likely to give into your child just to keep them quiet and avoid a tantrum. Be strategic and realistic about how long your child can be successful. If there are no other options at least remember to bring along some healthy snacks to tide kids over.
  2. Review expectations in advance. Remind your kids about staying close to you and not touching things without permission. If this is a shopping trip for gifts for others then make that clear in advance and then don’t cave in when your children beg for items that aren’t “on the list.”
  3. Don’t forget to catch your child when they’re doing well. It’s easy to ignore good behavior when you’re focused on getting through your list but whatever behavior gets the most attention is likely the one you’ll see more of. Attend to them when they’re doing well with smiles, hugs, or even stickers and they’re more likely to keep it up.
  4. Avoid escalation traps. If children are rewarded when they begin to act up or get loud, they learn that behavior is the best way to get their needs met. While it may feel daunting in the moment, make sure not to give in to your children when they are at their worst. If you do, you’re much more likely to see that behavior again in the future.
  5. Involve your child in the experience. Ask your children for their opinion on gifts, or for young children, build in games such as “I Spy” or “Count how many red things you see.” Let children help choose gifts for others so they feel the joy of giving and are less focused on themselves.

If you are interested in learning more about Triple P workshops and individual consultations, please contact us at Parents Place.

Happy holidays and good luck shopping!

Rebecca Wood, LCSW, is the Director of Parents Place in Marin County. Contact her for in-person or phone consultations to address challenges and concerns about your children.

Posted with Permission from Parent's Place

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Screen Free Ways to Entertain Your Children while Traveling!

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Sunday, November 19, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Traveling for the holidays?  Many of us enjoy traveling to see family and friends during this time of year, but traveling with children can also be stressful and hard.  How do we keep our kids entertained, especially if you we don't want to let them use screens the entire time?  We've compiled a list of simple ideas, that do not take a lot of preparation, but will help keep your little ones busy and happier during your trip! 
  1. Wrap little toys from the dollar store or happy meal toys and let you kids unwrap them.  If you are on the plane, make sure you only bring toys that you don’t care if they are they get lost or end up under someone else's seat.

  2. Tin foil-  Let your children be creative and make their own creations.

  3. Tape- Don't underestimate the amount of fun a little person can have with a roll of tape.  This a inexpensive and easy way to keep their hands busy.  

  4. Fill a wipes box with little scraps of fabric.  Little ones will love pulling all the pieces out one by one.  Try to find materials with different textures for a more enjoyable sensory experience. 

  5. If on a plane (and have a window seat) purchase window clings from the dollar store or Target and let them decorate.  This would also work in the car if the window is an easy reach from their carseat.

  6. Bring new or special snacks that are special for this trip (if the food takes a long time to eat, that is an extra bonus)

  7. Clip coloring pages or just plain paper to clip boards and let them color and draw.

  8. Books! Don’t forget that these are good entertainment in cars and on the plane.  Bring books that have flaps or lots of interesting things to talk about, keeping them engaged as long as possible.  

  9. Collect monopoly money, old gift cards or business cards and fill an old wallet.  Kids will love a busy wallet!

  10. (If you are driving) Bring a kid’s book on tape or the soundtrack from your kid's favorite movie and sing at the top of your lungs!

  11. (If you are driving) Download a free road trip app that tells you where along your trip that there are play areas in restaurants or interesting pitstops on your way.  Try apps like PlayPlaces or Roadtrippers to help you plan your rest stops. 

Hopefully a few of these ideas will keep your little ones occupied and happier during your travels this season.  

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Beyond Thanksgiving: How to Cultivate Gratitude in Our Families

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving presents families with wonderful opportunities to express gratitude. The traditional Thanksgiving meal offers a pause from the everyday and a rare chance to gather with the express purpose of giving thanks. But what happens when Thanksgiving is over? In the U.S., the holiday season officially begins, and with it often comes a great deal of pressure and stress. We mean well, of course. We yearn to create the perfect holiday for our families, complete with a plethora of gifts. But at what price? Gratitude? Meaning? Joy? Much of that is forgotten soon after the turkey has cooled.


How do we cultivate a spirit of gratitude in our families, during the holidays and year-round, and ensure that it is not just something we proclaim during Thanksgiving?

What is Gratitude and How Does it Benefit Us?

It might help to take a step back to explore gratitude and its benefits. The Greater Good Science Center defines gratitude as having two components. The first is an affirmation of the gifts and benefits we have received. The second is an acknowledgment that the sources of those gifts exist outside of ourselves, that we have benefited from other people—or even higher powers, if that fits your belief system.

That second part is key, say the folks at Greater Good, because its social component heightens meaningful connections with others and stimulates our circuits for pleasure and reward. It also helps with entitlement issues by reinforcing to kids that happiness is a gift from others, rather than an inherent birthright.


People of all ages who practice gratitude consistently report a range of physical, psychological, and social benefits, from stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure to more joy, optimism, and compassion, and less loneliness. Cultivating gratitude, and the happiness that results, is a skill we can teach our children.

10 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

  1. Keep a gratitude journal
    The simple act of recording our gratitude in writing has been linked to benefits such as better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness for both adults and children. Have family members keep individual gratitude journals, or keep a list as a family. Write thee to five short items weekly, naming the things you are grateful for. One exercise is to imagine what life would be like without those components. According to the Greater Good Science Center, journaling one to two times a week is actually more powerful than journaling daily. Focusing gratitude on people is more effective than focusing it on things. You may want to start journals on New Year’s Day and try to write in them throughout the year.
  • Practice expressing gratitude
    Journaling won’t work for your family? Take time before or during meals to share things you are grateful for. The items can be profound or trivial. As with journaling, sharing needn’t occur everyday. The important thing is that kids get into the habit of expressing gratitude regularly. Parents can model gratitude by letting other family members know that they are grateful for them and their specific actions.
    Mornings and bedtimes also present abundant opportunities to express gratitude. Have young children greet the day by thanking the sun for rising, the air we breathe, the beautiful trees, and their family members, teachers, or neighbors. You may wish to sing a thankful “Good Morning” song. Many parents use bedtime as a quiet time for cuddling and asking children to name three things they’re grateful for.Seeking another way to help kids express gratitude for others? See below for a fun gratitude craft.
  • Slow down and create family time
    Studies show that play timedown time, and family time are vital to kids’ and families’ well-being, benefiting every area of physical, psychological, and emotional health. Children who have unstructured time and play are more creative, collaborative, flexible, self-aware, and calm. Families who have unstructured time and play are joyful and close. Slowing allows families to savor the positive feelings and events that are a hallmark of gratitude.
    At holiday time and throughout the year, try to leave some down time in the schedule. That might mean reducing the number of activities each family member participates in, or turning down the occasional invitation. It may take practice to put the same value on “down time” that we do on organized, goal-oriented activity. It may be uncomfortable at first to be idle. If you have to schedule this time in a calendar, do so.

 

 

  • Be a tourist in your town
    Have you ever noticed how tourists are usually delighted? Granted, they’re on vacation together and they have come to their destination to have fun. But they also see everything with fresh eyes. Even if you’ve lived somewhere your whole life, there may be new things to see or do if you decide to do so like a tourist. This is a particularly wonderful activity and mindset for school breaks, when kids are home. As a bonus, there are often special holiday events and activities, like decorated store windows and homes, skating rinks, free music performances, and other things that are joyful, without impacting the family budget.
  • Find adventure in your daily rounds
    At any time of year, you can cultivate gratitude and stimulate positive social emotions by helping your kids see daily life as an adventure. Get up early one day and visit local businesses – watch produce and eggs get delivered to markets and restaurants, see bakers bake bagels and decorate cakes. Or take a walk and stop and say hello to neighbors, shopkeepers, mail carriers, and others who are on their own daily rounds. Feeling a part of the neighborhood and community is very important to children’s senses of security and feelings of gratitude.
  • Along with thanks … giving
    Service is a tremendously enriching act, for ourselves as well as for others. Studies show that people who engage in “pro-social spending” are measurably happier than those who do not. It’s not difficult to find an agency, event, or individual in your area who would welcome your help, whether for one time or on an ongoing basis. Many people especially need our help over the holidays with meal preparation and delivery, toy and book drives, companionship, and other needs. Jewish Family and Children’s Services offers many volunteer opportunities for individuals and families.
  • Create a culture of giving in your family
    Instead of giving traditional gifts, consider gifting in a recipient’s name to a nonprofit or other organization. Research organizations as a family and involve your children in choosing the most worthy and meaningful to them. Have your kids cull their rooms regularly for toys and clothing that can be donated to someone less fortunate, or have kids request that birthday party guests bring new or used toys or books for donation to the charity of their choice, and then deliver those items together. Consider setting aside a portion of your children’s allowances or gift money and having them choose a recipient for a donation. You can even give to Parents Place to help families who may not be able to afford the full cost of clinical services.
  • Get outdoors
    At any time of year, and especially in winter, outdoor time tends to be low on many family’s priority lists. It shouldn’t be. Research shows that nature play has been linked to improved imagination, cooperation, academic achievement, and numerous aspects of physical and psychological health. Nature also provides a terrific setting in which to slow our paces and have new and meaningful experiences that can enhance family bonds, as well as the feelings of awe and wonder that lead to increased gratitude and inner peace.
  • Celebrate the winter solstice
    The winter solstice (December 21 this year) provides a special opportunity to slow down, count our blessings, and experience the turning of the seasons during the hectic holiday time. Mark the year’s longest night by taking a walk, preparing a special meal, or having a family game night. Celebrate the sun’s return by eating oranges or hollowing out the center of an orange and placing a tea light or candle inside. If you have leftover Hanukkah gelt or other chocolate coins, place them in bags and surprise children with them. Take a family walk on December 22 to greet the return of longer days.
  • Create an appreciation “recipe” for a special person
    This craft helps kids convey a special relationship and feelings in a fun, creative way. Help your child create a recipe for a “marvelous mom” or a “delightful dad” or a “fabulous friend” or any other combination using an adjective and the person’s name or role.
    • You’ll need: a piece of construction paper or poster board, markers and crayons or colored pencils, a ruler.
    • Think about the attributes of the recipient that make him or her special.
  • Write a heading on the paper: Recipe for a (fabulous friend or other).
  • Using a ruler, draw six or more lines on which to write your various ingredients.
  • Write the “ingredients” for the person, in recipe terms, such as “6 cups kindness,” “5 tablespoons love,” or whatever else you can think of.
  • Leave space at the bottom to write out your instructions, also using recipe terms, like mix, add, fold, blend, and so on.
  • Decorate the rest of the paper, as desired.
  • My daughter did this wonderful project with her fourth grade class. Here is her “recipe”:


Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz) is the author of Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which grew out of her blog, Slow Family Online. Slow Parenting and the book were named a 2012 Top 10 Parenting Trend by TIME Magazine. Suz has written for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, the Christian Science Monitor’s Modern Parenthood blog, and many other outlets. She is the Social Media Manager for Parents Place, as well as the Children & Nature Network and Bookboard digital children’s library.

posted with permission from Parent's Place

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Fall Bucket List for You and Your Kids

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, November 13, 2017

The crunch of leaves beneath our feet, the rich colors and the delicious flavors of pumpkin and apple are just a few of the best parts of fall! There is so much to enjoy and experience in this short window before the cold and rain of winter is upon us.  Let’s take a moment and enjoy the season with our kids before the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  Check off some of these items on our fall bucket list!

 


  1. Take a drive to view the colorful foliage.
    Try Filoli Gardens 86 Canada Road Woodside, Ca Online: filoli.org
    Or Rancho San Antonio Preserve openspace.org/preserves/rancho-san-antonio

  2. Bake an apple dessert (apple crisp or pie)

  3. Go on a color walk, gathering outside "treasures" in yellow, orange, red and brown.

  4. Roll down hills and listen to crunching leaves beneath you.

  5. Visit the turkeys at Ardenwood Farm (or Hidden Villa is also a good option)
    Ardenwood Farm: 34600 Ardenwood Blvd, Fremont, CA 94555, 10 am- 4pm Closed Mondays, Children 4 and under are fee
    Hidden Villa 26870 Moody Road Los Altos Hills, CA 94022, 9 am- dusk Closed Mondays, $10 parking fee

  6. Have an apple taste-test. Choose different varieties and see which ones are yours and your kids' favorites!  

  7. Make personalized Thanksgiving placemats for your whole family.

  8. Have an apple cider "tea" party.

  9. Paint and decorate pumpkins with glitter, stickers and markers.

  10. Rake leaves for your neighbor (jump into a pile while you do it)

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Raising an Emotionally Resilient Child

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, November 6, 2017

Parents strive to support their children through life’s ups and downs but sometimes it’s hard to know how to help. The following suggestions are based on research from the evidence based Triple P Positive Parenting Program.

In order to raise resilient children we need to first understand what emotional resilience is. It is the ability to manage feelings and cope with day-to-day disappointments, as well as major life stressors. How naturally resilient a child is depends a lot on their temperament, but it can also be taught and encouraged.

mother talking to son

When a child’s temperament varies greatly from his or her parents it can leave parents at a loss as to how to respond. If you feel overwhelmed by your child’s big reactions to seemingly small issues try and remind yourself that your child’s intense feelings are very real to them in that moment even if you can’t relate.

Teach how to recognize, understand, and accept feelings

A key part of emotional resilience is teaching children how to recognize, understand, and accept feelings. Very young children often struggle to identify the different feelings that wash over them and an important first step is for parents to teach children to identify their emotions. This can be done through reading picture books about feelings, discussing the feelings of characters in shows or stories, and role playing different facial expressions and body language.

Teach how to express feelings appropriately

Beyond identifying feelings we need to teach our children to express their feelings appropriately.This takes practice, practice, practice. While you might feel like a broken record, remember you are building neural pathways and that takes time. Those discussions are a worthwhile investment.

  1. Start by asking your child how they feel. Whenever possible stop what you are doing and give your child focused attention.
  2. Once they’ve spoken, summarize back what they’ve shared to make sure you’ve understood them correctly and to help them feel heard. (e.g., It sounds like you felt left out and hurt when you saw Sarah and Tessa leave without you).
  3. Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t try and talk them out of their feelings or minimize their feelings.
  4. If your child seems open to it, encourage them to be curious about others’ feelings and perspective.

Help to develop coping skills

Help your child develop coping skills. By teaching our children the steps of problem-solving we can reduce being overwhelmed and encourage a sense of competency. Notice if your tendency is to fix the problem for your child. While that might be what is requested, remember it’s important that your child learn how to function independently.

  1. Help your child clearly identify the problem.
  2. Brainstorm possible solutions and review pros and cons of each.
  3. Pick one approach and try it out.
  4. Afterwards review how the solution worked and make necessary adjustments.

Be a good model

Expressing your own feelings appropriately is also key. This is where most learning happens as children are always taking their cues from us. The more you can vocalize your own feelings rather than storm around the house, yell, or withdraw, the better role model you’ll be for your child.

What NOT to do

There are several “parent traps” that can accidentally encourage emotional dysregulation.

  1. Talking too much about your own feelings and experiences. Thoughtful, short examples from your own life can be helpful; over-sharing can result in children feeling burdened.
  2. Over-reacting to small injuries or conflicts or dwelling on a child’s upsetting experience.
  3. Showing too much interest in a child’s feelings to the point that they get excessive attention when they are sad or upset.
  4. Encouraging avoidance.
  5. Not giving sufficient attention when your child is content, coping effectively, or being courageous.

Teach Positivity

Encourage optimism and a positive mindset. Optimistic children are more likely to let things roll off their back and not be easily discouraged.

  1. Model optimism for your children. Recognize that what you say in front of them, not only to them, counts.
  2. Help your child identify helpful and unhelpful ways of thinking about a situation (e.g., all or nothing thinking, “shoulds”).
  3. Encouraging early awareness of how thoughts affect feelings is a powerful step in building a resilient child. Encourage your child to develop a short personal mantra to fall back on during times of stress (e.g., “I’ve got this” or “I am strong.”).
  4. Before pointing out what your child could have done better or differently focus on what they did well.
  5. Build in family traditions that encourage appreciation and gratefulness (e.g. at dinner have each family member share something they are grateful for that day).

Recommended children’s books

“Ahn’s Anger” and “Steps and Stones” by Gail Silver

“Cloud’s Best Worst Day Ever” by Kimochis

“When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry” by Molly Bang

“Feelings” by Aliki

Rebecca Wood, LCSW, is the Director of Parents Place in Marin County. She is trained in the Triple P Positive Parenting Program and has a particular interest in helping families learn concrete parenting strategies so parents can focus on enjoying their children and not just managing them. Rebecca holds her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bates College and her MSW from the University of Michigan, where she focused on interpersonal practice with children, youth, and families. Most importantly she has been “schooled” by her two daughters (ages 7 & 5). She can be contacted at RebeccaW@jfcs.org or by calling 415-419-3609.

This article first appeared in the Southern Marin Mothers Club Crier.

Posted with permission from Parents Place

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