How to Recognize Depression in Children

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Children-and-Depression

Happy September! Heather here, from FamilyVolley.com. School bells are ringing for our family and we are getting used to the new routine of the school year. Although to be honest, I am missing the laid back, wear your swimsuit all day, never need socks, days of summer. I love not having to wash socks in the summer because everyone is always in flip flops or barefoot.  Today I want to talk to you about how to recognize depression in children.

 Last week I was at school waiting to pick up our kids, and talking to a friend of mine who was there for the same purpose. As we were talking about our children adjusting, she mentioned that her 9 year old daughter had recently been diagnosed with depression. She mentioned that in hindsight, the symptoms had been there for about two years, but because she didn’t know what to look for, she had missed them. She just assumed she had a really moody daughter. So today, I want to share with you the symptoms of depression, so we all know what to look for and can help our children if they need it.

It wasn’t until about 20-25 years ago that doctors acknowledged that kids could suffer from depression.

Diagnosing a child can be really tricky because the symptoms of depression mimic those of ADHD, and because childhood is filled with so many changing moods and growing stages, it is hard to know if it is growing pains, or depression.

It is very easy to mistake depressed behavior for normal developmental problems. Childhood is complicated and children are developing and changing their personalities all the time. Adolescents can causes changes that may be normal, but are difficult for parents to know how to deal with, and even professionals can have a hard time identifying when the line is crossed from normal development and depression.

So as parents, caregivers, teachers, and grandparents, what should we be looking for?

 What are the symptoms we should be looking for in our children?

1. Persistent sad or empty mood, or irritable moods. These could be self reported or seen by others.

2. Zero interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day, especially their favorite activities. These could be self reported or seen by others.

3. Major changes in appetite and/or body weight.

4. Trouble sleeping OR oversleeping

5. Physical slowing observed by others.

6. Agitation

7. Fatigue

8. Loss of energy.

9. Feeling worthless or guilty, when there is no need.

10. Difficulty thinking or concentrating

11. Indecisive

12. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

 Nearly all research suggests that although the above symptoms will vary, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, when there is no need, MUST BE PRESENT.

So how can we know this is different than a bad day or growing pains?

  • Must last for an extended period of time.

  • Over 3 weeks. Day in and day out.

  • Gets in the way of life. Of school and play.

Now, if we think our child is depressed, what should we do?

First, understand that it is a disease.

When we acknowledge that it is a disease, we will stop blaming our child, stop blaming ourselves, and it will help us stop assuming they are doing it on purpose. Acknowledging that it is a disease will also keep us from telling them to “snap out of it.” We would never tell someone with cancer that it was “their fault” or to “snap out of it.”

 Second, Don’t overreact!

Overreacting is not going to help your child, you, or your family. Realize that over 80% of children who are diagnosed as depressed, are able to heal. But, even with the perfect therapist, if your child doesn’t have supportive, level headed parents, they can’t get better.

 Third, Be their advocate.

We have to believe our children when they tell us they are struggling, and be on their side. We need to speak up when they don’t have a voice or know what to say. Especially at the beginning of the healing process.

 Fourth, Get them help.

Seek out a professional who specializes in childhood depression and get help. Work together with the therapist to do what is best for your child.Although we all hope our children never have to deal with depression, it is real, and we should all know what to look for.

Do any of you have a child who is suffering, or has suffered from depression? What has been your experience?

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.

5 Things You Should Know About Parenting Teenagers

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Hello! Heather here, from FamilyVolley.com. I am excited to share with you some important tips for Parenting Teenagers

Our son just turned 12, and although he is not officially a teenager yet, we can already feel his need to spread his wings, develop, and discover who he is and where he wants to go. He is in the heat of discovering his identity and finding where he fits in. 

The teenage years are often a tricky time for families, but they don’t need to be as scary as everyone says. Here are five tips that every parent should know, to help you as you are parenting the teenagers in your life. 

1.  Don’t survive the Adolescent years, THRIVE during the Adolescents years.

It is time to stop labeling and get rid of the stereotypes. We shouldn’t expect the worst during these years. Not all teenagers become monsters, in fact, most teenagers are great. Give them a chance. We live in a universe of attraction and what we focus on and put our energy on is what will become our reality. We need to focus on how great it is that we have children who are learning who they are and developing their identity.
2.  Love them from the inside out.
Did you know that we respond to people, primarily by how they feel about us on the inside, not by their behavior. As parents, we can make right choices with our teenagers, but if on the inside, we are irritated, feel they are irresponsible, disappointed in them and their decisions, then that is what they will respond to That is actually how they will behave. We will bring out in them, the exact behavior we say we don’t like, when we see them as objects that are making our live miserable. Instead, praise them, compliment them, stop nitpicking them, and love them for who they are. Even if they are different from us. 
If they know we love them, above all other things, it allows us to discipline, communicate, be honest and open, and they will accept it.
3.  Communicate. It is the golden Rule of raising teenagers.
We have to keep the lines of communication open. We have too! There are two times when teenagers are more willing to talk.
1. When we are driving in the car with them. (We don’t have to look at one another and everyone knows there is an end to the ride so they are more likely to talk).
And…
2. Before they go to bed. (They are tired and willing to let their guard down and chat)
We need to be available during these times to LISTEN, and instead of telling them things, ask questions so they can discover answers on their own.
ANOTHER GREAT PLACE TO COMMUNICATE is over common activities. Find something that you and your teenager can do together AND DO IT. It takes all the stress out of communication and you will find that while you are sharing something enjoyable, they will want to talk and open up. They feel you understand them because you both share joy for the activity.
4.  Understand teenage time zones.
We need to recognize that our teenagers naturally, work in a different time zone than we do. This is not bad, or wrong, just different. When we ask them to do something, and they say “sure, “in a bit” or “yeah, give me a while.” Instead of being irritated because they are not doing it immediately, or on our time zone, let’s be glad they have said YES! They said YES. If we respect that, they will not only actually do what we have asked, but they might even do it sooner. 
 
And, given that we know they are working in a different time zone, instead of asking last minute and expecting them to drop everything for our request, we can ask sooner, explain better instead of insisting immediately. That way we are not setting our relationship up for contention.
5.  Be a Consultant, not a Manager.
Up to this point in our children’s lives, we have been the manager of their lives. We manage everything they do. Then, our children hit the teenager years and they fire us as their managers. So parents usually do one of two things. They either abandon their kids…throwing out a ”good luck with everything, hope you make it.”OR they become extra controlling and try to force their kids to do what they want.
Neither are the right way to go. We need to embrace that we are no longer managers and start consulting. Being a consultant is more about influence and less about control. Consultants share their expertise and knowledge to help attain goals and solve problems. And that is what we need to do as parents. 
One way we can do this is to…
ASK, don’t tell.
When we speak to our children we need to ask them for help, ask them for their ideas and opinions, rather than telling them what we believe
they should think or do.  
“What do you think about that.” “How do you think we could handle that.” Etc…
This can be really hard because we have been there, we know what the future holds if certain decisions are made, or not made, but it is their time to learn for themselves. That is our job, to help them do that.
The teenage years don’t need to be terrible. Embrace the growth and enjoy the time with your developing children.

What is your favorite part about the teenage years?

What activity do you and your teenager like to do together?

 
Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.
 



Family Game

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Hello! Heather here from FamilyVolley.com. I am sitting at the computer, with a calendar in eye sight, wondering where in the world this summer has gone. How can it already be the middle of August? Anyone else feeling like the last two months have gone by way too fast?

If you are like our family, you are trying to get in every last bit of summer fun you can. Maybe you are taking a last minute vacation, camping trip with friends or family, or just trying to cross the last few items off your bucket list.

Regardless of your plans for the next few weeks, I have the perfect game for you and your family to play before you go back to school, and before the heat of the summer gives way to the crisp air of Fall.

It is called Raindrop Relay and will quickly become your family’s very favorite game.

Here is what you need.

Two empty Buckets (per team). One of the two buckets needs to have a “fill line” marked on it.

A Heavy Duty Plastic Bag (think Ziploc) for each team.

Water

How to play.

Take a plastic baggie and put small holes in it, all over.

Have players sit in a line behind one another.

Place an empty bucket at the front of the line (with the “fill line” marked) and another bucket at the back of the line, filled with water.

The person at the front of the line starts with the empty baggie and runs to the bucket at the back of the line.

They fill their bag with water and run it to the front bucket. BUT… the CATCH is they HAVE TO CARRY IT OVER THE HEADS OF EVERYONE SITTING IN LINE, DROPPING RAIN, or sprinkling them with the water that is coming out of the holes in the baggie as they go.

The player dumps what water is left in their baggie into the front bucket, passes the empty baggie, and sits at the back of the line.

The next person runs to the back to fill the baggie and take a turn. Dropping rain on everyone in their line and emptying what water is left into the bucket to try and reach the “fill line.”

The first team to fill their front bucket to the marked “fill line”, WINS!

Be sure you have your camera, because this game is picture worthy. Remember, one of the best ways to come closer together as a family, is to play together. The benefits are endless and the memories are priceless.

Have fun playing, and getting ready for school. For some of you, the school bells are ringing already.

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.

Tips to Avoid Overprotective Parenting

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As parents and grandparents, we all want our children to be safe. We worry about them and don’t want them to get hurt, deal with hurtful experiences, or even have to deal with stress and strain. But, if we are not careful, our quest to keep our children safe and stress free, overprotecting parenting will actually do more harm to them, than good.

How? Because being overprotective robs our children of the opportunity to develop all the skills they need to be a strong and successful adult. It has a negative effect on their self esteem, sends the message to children that they are unable to handle things themselves, and teaches them to doubt their own decisions because we are always telling them what to do and they are never given a chance to choose.

Being overprotective teaches our children to be fearful, creates children who turn into adults who are incapable of making decisions, standing on their own two feet, or handling rejection. The grow up without learning to evaluate, handle, and navigate life.

The risks we expose them to, because we have been overprotective are actually greater than what we are protecting them from. We leave them vulnerable, unable to handle the bigger challenges that life will throw at them.

So, how do we know if we are being overprotective?

When we start taking over things that our children should be managing on their own, We are being overprotective. Try to rarely or never do anything for your child that they can do for themselves. 

If they can put on their own shoes, let them. If they can feed themselves, allow them. BUT… in every situation, teach them first. Teach them to use the fork and spoon beforehand, opposed to having them use their hands and throw food on the floor. This will require us to be patient and put their best interest before our own.

How can we avoid being overprotective?


First, Keep the end goal in mind. 

As parents, our goal is to raise the next generation of responsible, capable, useful, happy people. It is our job to prepare them to function without us. We are to love them and protect them. To help them gain wisdom as they grow. And although we don’t ever want them to feel pain, disappointment, or frustration, they are going to. We have to accept that, and instead of trying to keep them from ever experiencing real life, we need to teach them HOW to handle real life.

As we parent and grandparent, we should be thinking, “are my decisions helping my child develop the skills necessary to thrive as an adult”?

Second, we need to assess our motives.

Stop for a minute and think about why we are being overprotective. Is it so we don’t have to do extra work?

Because our parents were overprotective?

Because we don’t want our children to face rejection like we felt when we were younger?

Because we are impatient?

Are we seeking power?

Because we don’t trust our child?

Because we are unfamiliar with the situation?

Because we don’t know enough about our child?

I know for me there are times when I become overprotective because I don’t want to do more work. For example, I overprotect and micromanage the kids when they are outside to keep them from getting dirty, so I don’t have to do more laundry. Or I don’t let our 3 year old climb into her carseat by herself because I am impatient. Or I don’t let our older kids get their own cereal, because I don’t want to clean up their mess or spill (that might occur because they are learning). These are all situations where I am overprotecting. I am doing things for them that they are capable of doing themselves. They are not safety issues, which are different.

 

Third, Respect PLAY!

Play is how children learn. It provides the ultimate school room for learning and development. Kids are meant to run and jump and climb and play. It is through play that kids develop. So let them play!

Let them try new things, build forts, get dirty and get in arguments with the neighbors about a game. Let them solve problems without you stepping in. And teach them before hand what to do if they are playing and there is a stranger, or a new situation.

It has actually been found that kids fall and get hurt LESS when they are left to play by themselves, than with parents who are constantly telling them to be careful and jumping in at the smallest sign of danger. 

Avoid over-scheduling kids, so they can have time to play. One, maybe two activities for each child is plenty. Be sure there is unstructured time each day and let them solve their own problems. Don’t tell them what to do, but instead encourage them to entertain themselves. You don’t need to provide a million toys and games. Let them explore the leaves and dirt and rocks and trees.

Kids who don’t play enough, are less creative, more likely to struggle with depression and mental disorders, less empathetic, more likely to struggle with an anxiety disorder, struggle to play with other kids, solve problems, make decisions, etc…

 

Fourth, Teach them the how and why.

For example, guns and swimming pools. Teach them gun safety and teach them how to swim and be safe by the pool. Because they are going to run into both situations in their life and you cannot always be there to tell them what to do. Teach them so they can handle the situations that they will surely encounter.

The key is to warn them (and teach them BEFORE the situations arise, instead of during). That way you are not overprotecting. For example, if you are going for a walk by the river, teach them before hand of the water dangers and how to be safe, but still explore. NOT when they are in the water and you are on the shore yelling at them to “get back here”, “don’t do that”, “too dangerous, come back here right now.”


What NOT to Do During A Temper Tantrum

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July already? Where is the summer going? Heather here, from FamilyVolley.com, and today I am sharing a few “what not to do’s” when it comes to temper tantrums. Because even though school might be out for the summer, our parenting gig never gets a summer break.

Temper tantrums are a normal part of childhood. For a complete step by step guide on how to prevent and deal with temper tantrums, check out these posts. Temper Tantrums Part 1 and Part 2.

In the heat of the tantrum, there are few things most parents try, that just don’t work. Here is a quick reference guide of 4 things you should NOT DO when the tantrum breaks out.

First, Don’t Ask Questions. Ugh, I find myself guilty of this one. In the middle of a tantrum I want to ask “why are you throwing a fit”, “what happened”, “talk to me and tell me what is wrong.” But, small children don’t have the mental development or language skills to express what they are feeling. So asking them questions in the heat of the fit, will most likely add frustration and prolong the tantrum.

Second, Loose the Empty Threats. Don’t threaten to take away the treat, or put them in their room, or take them to sit in the car, if you are not going to follow through. Just don’t do it. Empty threats actually teach kids to misbehave. Plus, not following through sets us up to loose our position of authority with our children. If we are going to threaten, we have to follow through. Quickly and without emotion. The key is to be consistent. If you can’t follow through with the threat, don’t threaten.

Third, Don’t Use Reason. In the middle of a temper tantrum is not the time to explain to your two year old that eating a 6th piece of licorice is not a great idea because of the red die in the candy. Or that the weather man says it is going to rain and she is going to need to wear the coat she is refusing to put on. There will be time for reasoning and explaining later on. During the tantrum, our children can’t access their rationalizing and reasoning skills. Tantrums are about emotion, not reason, so trying to use reason won’t help us.

Fourth, Don’t Yell. Our kids are looking for attention when they throw a tantrum. They want a reaction and it doesn’t matter if it comes from positive behavior, or negative behavior. Yelling gives them the attention they are looking for, so we can’t do it. Instead we need to take a deep breath, count to ten in our head, and remember that we are the adult, and then act like one. Solid research shows that parents who yell and get angry, have children who demonstrate the same behavior. So when we yell, we are actually teaching our children to yell and be angry too. Teaching them to do exactly what we say we don’t want them to do.

Tantrums are challenging. Instead of yelling and throwing out empty threats, give your child a hug, or stay close to them and assure them you are going to stay with them until “they are done”. Remember, Compassion is always more powerful than anger.

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Family Game

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Happy Summer! It’s Heather from FamilyVolley.com, here again to share with you a fun game to play with your family and friends.

All you need for this game is a squirt bottle full of water.

To Play

Have everyone in your family sit in a circle on the floor.

One person will start in the middle of the circle with the squirt bottle. The person in the middle picks a category (for example, colors, ice cream flavors, Disney movies, Harry Potter characters, breakfast cereals, etc…), and then think of an item within that category. Without telling anyone what they have chosen, they need to go around the circle while each person takes a turn guessing what that item is.

So… if the category is colors, each person would say a different color. Trying not to say the color the person in the middle has secretly picked. When someone does guess the item in the category, they get sprayed in the face with the squirt bottle. And they become the next person in the middle. (In this game you are actually trying to not guess the exact item and become the next person in the middle.)

For example. I am in the middle, the category is colors, and I have secretly chosen the color red. I start with my husband who guesses blue (so he is safe), then our daughter guesses orange (she is safe). And then our other daughter says red (so I squirt her in the face with the squirt bottle-because she guessed the color I had chosen.) She is then in the middle with the squirt bottle. She chooses a category, and then an item in that category (keeping it to herself). And we start going around the circle again. 

Two Rules…

1. If someone repeats a guess that has already made, then they get squirted in the face, so always pay attention.

2. If you take more than 3 seconds to make your guess, you get squirted in the face. No stalling.

This game is perfect for all ages. Kids especially! We are giving them an excuse to squirt one another? What kid doesn’t like that. Our family loves to choose fun and silly categories, but we also use the game to work on our colors, numbers between 1-20, we use it to practice multiplication facts and even to work on vocabulary words for our kids school vocab tests.

Time to grab your squirt bottles and have some fun. With all the heat outside, cross your fingers the family game turns into a family water fight and start making memories together.

So, how many breakfast cereals can you name?
Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Surviving Summer With Kids

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Successful summer break

 

It’s Heather, from FamilyVolley, here to share some tips to help your summer break run a little more smoothly. With the kids out of school, and under our feet, it can be tough to know how to keep everyone sane.

Here are 3 suggestions for Surviving Summer with Kids at your house.

Have Realistic Expectations- We Don’t Have to Keep Up With The Jones’.

Media and the internet tell us that summer vacation must be filled with a million field trips, snow cones every night, crafts, water parks, the aquarium, zoo trips every week, and the list goes on and on. Keep in mind that a successful summer doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, or run your family ragged. The most important thing about these summer months is that your children know they are loved (this is important every day of the year), and that they get a break from the stress they feel during the school year routines. There will be other goals that you family has for summer, and that is good. BUT… Don’t let all the Pinterest pins and blog posts make you feel that you are “less than” if you stay home, run through the sprinklers in your backyard, and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches together on the front lawn. Take a few minutes to talk to you children about what summer break expectations are. Understand how to best give them the stress relief they need for the next few months and then do what is best for your family. Period.

Keep a Schedule

One of my favorite parts about summer is that our everyday schedule is not so strict. I LOVE the fact that I don’t have to have kids to school every morning at 7:45 and 8:20. I love that most of the extra curricular activities that our children participate in are taking a summer break also. I love that no one ever needs clean socks because we live in flip flops and I revel in the flexibility in our days. BUT… Keeping a schedule is still a very important part of the summer months, just like it is during the school year. Although there will be more exceptions, stick to a morning and bedtime schedule (even if bedtime is just a little later). For little ones, stick to that nap schedule as best you can. Keep meal time routines and eat dinner together.  Schedules make things predictably. When things are predictably, they provide stability and security. Children are better behaved and happier when life is stable and routines and schedules are in place. It is a proven fact. So although summer invites a more relaxed lifestyle, we can’t let that turn into laziness, or we will have a bunch of crying and whining kids on our hands. Which translates into a stressed out momma.

Decide what your schedule looks like. There are many different approaches, but here are 3 that tend to be popular. Before you choose the best approach for your family, create a “basic schedule” of how each day will run. (Wake up, breakfast, housework, lunch, play time, reading time, snack, etc… you get the picture). Then you can….

1. Write out a list of all the things you and your family want to do this summer. A bucket list of sorts. Grab a calendar and fill in the days with your bucket list ideas. Creating a summer plan and calendar filled with your ideas. Put the calendar where everyone can see it so they can follow along and know what is going to happen, and when. This will also help with the “Mom, what are we doing today” question.

2. After creating your everyday schedule, assign each day a different theme and them follow along through the summer weeks. For example…

Make it Monday (crafts, creations, creativity)

Time To Read Tuesday (library day, reading time, fun activities or projects related to books and learning)

Wet and Wild Wednesday (anything water related. could be a water activity or game, or learning about how water works)

Thoughtful Thursday (do something nice for someone else)

Fun Friday (time to have some fun)

Your categories can be anything you want. For example, it could be “Take a Trip Tuesday” instead. You could give your kids each a week to plan. Filling each day with an activity that fits the theme assigned for that day.

3. Keep a general schedule and then don’t worry about filling the days with certain things. Keep a few hours open each day and enjoy the freedom of filling your time however you want. With something, or nothing.

Limit Technology

One of the quickest ways to watch the summer slip through your fingers and spend your days with ornery and grouchy kids, is to let technology take over. Technology is a part of life and there are so many benefits to its usage, but too much will hurt us. Make it clear how much technology is allowed each day so that things don’t get out of control. Some families like to allow their kids to earn their technology by doing extra work around the house and yard. Or by doing extra things to serve and help others. However you decide to monitor your technology, be mindful of the time your kids are spending in front of it.

Happy Happy Summer!

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Helping Children Deal with Death (and other stressful life events)

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Hi Idea Room Readers. It’s Heather from FamilyVolley, back to share a few helpful parenting tips with you.

I had something planned for this post, but when I woke a few days ago to start writing, everything changed. My Instagram feed was covered with images of a sweet little boy who was tragically killed last week. His mother is involve in social media, and the community has been posting in support of her, her husband and their family. I haven’t been able to shake the image of that little boy. I can’t help but look at my own children differently and think about my role as their mother differently too. I don’t know this family, but my heart hurts for them.

As I was following along with the story, tears running down my face, our daughter walked in the room. She looked over my shoulder and asked who the little boy was and the conversation about life and death began. It hit, like it does so often, that as a mother, I am there to help them get through tough things. To help them understand even when I don’t. To put aside my hurt, to help them with theirs. I would guess that many of you have needed to have a similar conversation with your children. The how’s and why’s are tough. How do you explain why a child is hurt, or taken so young.

So this weeks post has changed. In an attempt to offer you some answers and some help when these tough conversations arise, lets chat about how we can help our children deal with the stress and uncertainty of death. These tips can be used for any stress our families are faced with, (a new sibling, moving, starting school, etc…)

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First, remember that everyone in your family deals with stress differently. When our children are very young, we can be more limited with what we tell them, but we never want to lie, or deceive. Be honest, don’t make things up.

We want to try and recognize how the stress is affecting our children (and the adults) in our family. Some children become violent or disobey. Some, like our daughter, become very quiet and withdrawn. There are almost always behavioral manifestations when dealing with stress. Be patient. Think about how hard it is to deal with these things as an adult and then put yourself in your child’s shoes.

Now… more specific suggestions.

1. Stick to the basics and eliminate stress. When there is a death or other stress in your family life, we need to do all we can to keep as much stress out of your home as possible. If we can’t keep up with the every day chores, we should ask for help. Eliminate ALL unnecessary activities and events. Get back to the basics.

2. Stick to the schedule. This is one of the most helpful things we can do for our children and for our families. Keep life consistent and keep doing what you have always done. Routines make life predictable. When things are predictable, they make us feel safe and secure. If we change everything up all of a sudden, it creates uncertainty with our children and that adds more stress. It will also make them feel that the death or stress has caused the instability.

3. Be a good example. When my grandmother died unexpectedly, I wanted to yell and scream and spit and throw something. I wanted to be so mad. But I couldn’t. Not like that, and not in front of the kids. We have to stay calm ourselves. Our children will be upset by outbursts and yelling. I could see our daughter watching me this morning as I scrolled through my social media feed. This will not be the last time she has to deal with death, or stress. It is my job to be a good example for her now, so as she grows older, she has the tools she needs to deal with these tough situations. I save my anger and hurt for when it is just my husband and me, and then I can be a little unstable.

4. Be a good listener. It is our job to protect our children. We need to give them a chance to talk, share their feelings, let them cry, be angry, and we need to listen. Listen without telling them to feel differently. We need to just let them feel the hurt and pain and emotions.

5. Teach our children coping skills. This might include how to handle anger, how to communicate and talk about feelings, how to take deep breaths, and how to relax.

6. DO THINGS TOGETHER AS A FAMILY! This is a big one. A really really big one. Do all you can to do things together as a family. When a loved one passes away we usually don’t want to get out and do anything. But we need to. There is solid evidence that shows that it is necessary to feel grief and pain, but that families who get out and do active things together, get over the loss faster and in a more healthy manner. Being active helps us heal.

7. Celebrate life. Help your children and family members do activities that will help them remember their loved one. When our children lost their great grandfather, who they were very close to, they each got to choose a special memento to keep in their rooms to help them remember him. We also talk about him on his birthday and holidays, and frequently pull up pictures of him and recall stories about his life. You can also put together a scrap book about their life that your kids can look through. Find ways to remember them and celebrate their life and the memories you hold so dear.

8. Find personal time to grieve. It can be easy to get so caught up in helping our children deal with death (or stress) that we don’t take time to grieve ourselves. I found myself doing this when my aunt died. She was very young and left behind three girls. I quickly became suto-mom to two of the three. One day I broke down in the shower. Filled with pain and grief. I had yet to take time to process the loss. And although I was needed to help them and my own family, I had to take some time for myself.

This Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothers and women everywhere. Mother’s who do hard things. Who wipe tears, who comfort when children are hurting, and who bring joy and love to children and families. And mother’s who loose children, and still find a way to get out of bed each day and strength the women around them. It is by far, the most difficult responsibility I have ever undertaken. But it is also the most rewarding.

Happy Mother’s Day to each of you, and to the mothers in your life. May we all have more strength and confidence in helping our children deal with the difficult situations life brings us. And may your hearts be light. We are all in this together.

How do you explain death to your children?

How do you help them, when you need to take time for yourself also?

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Helping Children Prepare for End of School Year Testing

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parenting-tips

Hello Idea Room readers, it’s Heather from Family Volley. With the end of the school year right around the corner, it’s time for end of the year testing. Here are a few tips for helping our kids handle test week.

1. Explain to our children why we take tests. Help them understand that tests are used to show how much we have learned. Encourage your child to do their best, but don’t put so much emphasis on them that they feel stressed. Help your child understand that they are not meant to trick or trouble your child. Only an opportunity to share what they know.

2. Practice the test format ahead of time. For example, your child might have to read a paragraph and answer questions. Using one of his text books, have him look at the questions at the end of the section first and then read the passage. That will help him know what to read for and how to find the answers. Maybe the test is going to be multiple choice. Put together a few fun multiple choice questions for your child to answer. Help them understand how you mark the correct answer and how to work through the process of elimination. This will take much stress out of test taking.

3. Limit activities the night before the tests. Most of our children’s teachers are really good about letting parents know ahead of time, when tests are going to be taken at school. But, if your child’s teachers are not sending that information home, ASK. Know when tests are going to be taken and limit the activities that your child participates in the day/night before. Avoid having guests over for dinner the night before, or even consider having your child skip their siblings sporting event if it means they are going to get home late.

4. Get a good night sleep. Although this is obvious, it is a good reminder. Sleep is one of the most important ways we can help prepare our children to take tests. And not just the night before. Sleep builds on itself, so be sure that they few days before those big tests, children are getting enough sleep and rest.

5. On test day, give them a good breakfast, full of energy. Try to include both protein and carbohydrates. So eggs, yogurt, milk and fruit, oatmeal and toast.

6. Ensure a stress free morning. The morning of a test is not the day you want to point out how slow your child is at getting ready for school, or fill the morning with stress and contention. We never want to send our kids to school that way, but on test day in-particular, steer clear of arguments and disagreements before kids head out the door. It will be hard for them to concentrate on their tests, when they are replaying arguments and trying to make sense of the disagreement you just had. It is also not the morning to have to rush. Be sure there is adequate time to get ready and get to school so no one has to rush and push.

Take a few minutes to think about ways you can make end of school year testing less stressful for your children. The extra preparation will help them get ready for the any test questions thrown their way.

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Parenting Mistakes We All Make and How to Avoid Them

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It is really easy to blame our children’s negative behavior on our children. And there are times when their behavior is not a result of something we have done. But… there are also lots, and lots and lots of times when their negative behavior is actually a response to our parenting through some common Parenting Mistakes. Yes, it’s hard to digest, but we actually bring out the misbehavior. We actually bring out the behavior we say we don’t like. Yikes, that is tough to consider. SO, in order to make family life that much better, and if you want to see major improvement in your children’s behavior, avoid these patenting mistakes.

Parenting-Mistakes

Stop the … Paranoid Parenting

Not doubt that there is a lot of negative and horrible things in the world. Many things that could harm and hurt our children. As parents we need to watch over and protect them, but being paranoid is not a good parenting approach. Obsessively controlling our children will not make the world more safe. Constantly worrying about dangers that “could” happen only makes our children afraid. In fact, the tighter the reins we put on our children, makes the more anxious and less confident. It can also make them feel so controlled that they rebel.

Do you hear yourself saying, “Don’t touch that!” “Don’t go over there!” Stay right next to me!” “Don’t do that!” “Don’t go too far!”, “Stay close!, Stop!?

If you are saying these things All. The. Time, it needs to stop. Today’s generation of kids is more paranoid than any other. As parents we need to relax, and let our children deal with life. It is important not to pass our fears on to our kids. Constantly reminding our children of all the dangers in the world is not a good way to parent.

I have been guilty of this. Sometimes more than others. I especially run into this when something horrible happens. A few years ago there was a deadly mall shooting about 40 miles from where we live. My poor kids. They couldn’t even let go of the shopping cart at the grocery store. In fact, if I recall, I made all three of them at the time, get IN the cart. Just so I had them all close. When I watch the local news too much, I become so paranoid I am sure my kids feel like they can’t even breath. Paranoid parenting undermines a child’s ability to make their own decisions with confidence. Not a good way to go about raising kids.

Stop the …. Best Friend Parenting

Kids need parents who set rules and boundaries and don’t muddy the line between parent/adult and friend.  Remember we are their parents, the time to be friends will come later in life when they are grown adults. We need to stop avoiding making the unpopular decisions because we want our kids to “like us.” And stop avoiding disciplining our kids because we don’t want them to resent us. If you want spoiled children, seek to be their “best friend.” If you want kids who are secure, resilient, compassionate and responsible, be a parent.

Set clear limits and boundaries, and be in control. Our children need moms and dads, not best buddies. They will find those at school.

Stop the … Do Everything for them Parenting

Do you solve every one of your child’s problems? Do you finish their homework for them and do their school projects? Are you always swooping in to rescue? Do you finish their sentences and micromanage their lives? Do you answer for them when people ask them questions?

This parenting practice teaches kids to be dependent their entire lives. They grow up to be unprepared to handle life’s difficulties. Kids raised with this parenting technique have trouble developing self-reliance, problem solving and decision making. They also tend to avoid responsibility.

The goal is to be involved, lead, and teach. But not intrude, take over, or do it for them. Then your child can develop independence and live on their own one day.

Stop the … Quick Fix Parenting

Remember last time when you were at Super Target and your child threw a temper tantrum. So instead of leaving the cart and removing your child from the situation, you bribed your child with an ICEE and bag of popcorn? Maybe even a new toy. It fixed the situation that day, but in the long run it will make things worse. We are all guilty of quick fix parenting. We find ourselves willing to do anything, as long as it works right now. We warn, we threaten, and we give in.

Being tired, stressed, and over scheduled can lead to quick fix parenting, as well as being in public. :)

These techniques teach kids to act right…for the wrong reasons. It might be a temporary solution, but never brings lasting change.

We will be most effective as parents, when we take a few minutes to help our children understand what is wrong and make things right.

Stop the … Substitute Parenting

It seems that in this day and age, everything but parents are teaching kids. We are letting someone else parent our children. Media and television. Kids are spending so much time in front of the television, computer, on their phones, and with video games, parents have taken a back seat.

When was the last time you saw a T.V. show you would trust to teach your child? Young children are especially at risk because they believe everything they see and hear.

All this technology means less real time with parents. Technology takes over and as parents we begin to lose power and influence with our children.

This type of parenting makes children vulnerable to outside pressures and teaches them to rely on someone else to guide them, instead of you. They are also more likely to adopt someone else’s values.

As parents, we are the most powerful influence for teaching our children values, attitudes, morales, and appropriate behavior. We need to find more ways to be in our children’s lives. The first place to start, limit technology.

I am guilty on all accounts of the above parenting practices. Some more often than others. But acknowledging I have a problem is the first step, right? Take an honest step back and evaluate when these practices take over your parenting life. And then make a commitment to change some things up. As we eliminate these practices from our families, we will see huge changes in our children’s behaviors and attitudes.

Raise your hand if you have bought ICEE’s and popcorn at Target?

So, which practices are you guilty of? 

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