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Education

Beware the Minecraft Mod

apps, GEAR, tech By November 15, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 38 Comments

Swimming around in the Westin Calgary pool, we were both happy as clams.  My son loves Minecraft (especially computer version) and asked if he could get a new MOD (translated to ‘modification of the original – I think).  Personally knowing the student who had told him about add-ons to Minecraft, I was skeptical but decided to be open-minded.  Daddy and I would research the MOD to see if it was appropriate.

Pushing me, my son explained that you could get a girlfriend and make ‘it’ do things.  Red flag #2.  He insisted his friend said there was a Youtube video that would explain it.  And he wanted me to watch it NOW.

I looked and there were no age restrictions, so we watched it together.

For ten minutes.

And my heart sank deeper and deeper and I knew that we’d entered tech hell, a place that I may have to go back to school to understand because I can’t be a great parent without a full understanding of that world.

In the video (that was like a gender-biased, sexist train wreck I couldn’t stop watching), I learned that ‘mail-order girlfriends’ emerge from a box shipped to the miner.  They do your bidding and their weapons are shoes tossed at the creepers.  If you like, you can give them a sword but must take it back promptly.  They are tamed with a rose and will do what you tell them once they are in love with you. You can dress them in 16 different outfits and if you draw them to water.. wait for it… they will change into a bikini! (Of which there are many styles as well).  Building a dance floor of 5×5 bricks will compel them to dance for you to ensure your happiness.  And finally, to break up with these creatures you just have to give them a dead bush. Hopefully the symbolism isn’t evident to my son.

I was silent.  I asked my son how he would feel if it was me who got out of the box.  He said he wouldn’t like it, but if you marry them with a diamond you can get a baby from inventory and even eat dinner together.  At a table in a restaurant.

I explained that he had not done anything wrong, but that this particular MOD divided genders and included harmful thoughts about women.  He still begged to get it and promised he’d never treat a girl like that in real life.

So I guess he realizes some of the negatives.  But the weaponry, clothing changes and newness is still too enticing.  And now I’m petrified.

This video has over 6 million views.  Developers such as TheDiamondMinecart make or simply video and explain the workings of these MODS. They are certainly not screened for content.  Parents who may think their child is playing ‘Minecraft’ has no idea about the can of worms introduced by coders who want to extend the range of the game.

So much for work.  I’ll be looking over his shoulder from now on.  And before he can download ANY SIM?  He has to learn how to code and build the damn thing himself if he’s still interested.  (Hopefully it will take a few years).  There was a great article on Babble about teaching kids coding.  Spanish can wait.  Coding and the reinforcement of gender equality are next on the list.  And just because you trust what you read about Minecraft and it’s developers, be careful not to consider all-things-Minecraft as kid-appropriate.

In the meantime? Any advice on how to deal with the family of the 7-year old who hyped the Girlfriend Mod would be much appreciated.

by Jill Amery

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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10 Secret RESP Budget Tips

FAM, LIVE, rest, self By September 25, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

10 Secret RESP Budget TipsJuly marked my tenth wedding anniversary this year.  All of our family members wanted to send a gift.  Do you know what we picked?  RESP contributions to our sons’ education funds. Want to know a few more Secret RESP Budget Tips?

Saving is hard.  Especially with groceries costing a fortune, kids wanting to enroll in activities and the odd shoe sale that gets our heart racing and credit card exercised.  While we all earn different incomes, have varying levels of expenses and manage finances differently, UrbanMommies has a few money-saving tips that will help you save sheckles (my Grandmother called them that) for the RESPs.  Because if you don’t save, you’ll be stressed, the kids may not get to attend the school of choice, they may graduate with debt, and (drumroll please) you will miss out on FREE money from the Canadian Government.  Yes, free money.  (The Canada Education Savings Grant will match up to 20% on the first $2,500 contributed annually. That could mean up to $500 a year, up to a lifetime maximum of $7,200.)  i.e. You would feel like a putz if you skipped free money.

10 Secret RESP Budget Tips:

  1. Make it a game.  Develop a budget and see how far under you can come each month.  Split the leftover between a fun jar and an RESP jar.
  2. Once or twice a year, empty bags, purses and make a few forts with cusions in order to find spare change.  (And undoubtedly a few missing lipsticks too).  Have kids of any age separate the coins into piles – by colour, beaver, loon or Bluenose, and use the time as a math game.  Roll the coins and take them to the bank as a family.  Think: pigeon scene at the London bank in Mary Poppins.
  3. Do you have a talent?  Though I’m awful at piano, I can get my head around notes and theory.  I’m planning on committing a year to teaching the little ones piano myself instead of paying for costly lessons.  Maybe a grandparent has karate or swimming skills…
  4. If your kids are young and you receive the $100 per month, funnel all government allowances into their RESP.
  5. I worked for a man in finance once who was on a company benefit plan.  He paid for prescriptions and dentist bills and when he was reimbursed by the insurance company, funnelled all checks into the kids’ RESP funds.  Sneaky.
  6. Coupons.  And not your Mom’s spend-6-hours-clipping coupons.  Buy grocery items on sale and stock up on what you can safely store.  Check resources like the P+G Brandsaver and Cardswap in order to save on what you really need.
  7. Try to clean your house once per month using inexpensive vinegar and baking soda instead of costly brand-name products.  It’s safer for kids too.
  8. We’re the beneficiaries of several cords of wood.  This winter we’re going to try and turn down the heat in favour of real fireplace warmth.  It cleans out the yard, and at the end of the winter we’ll put the difference between what we spent on fuel this year to last into the kids’ RESP.
  9. Craigslist, ebay and Kijiji.  If you have a hankering for an air popper, travel stroller, bedframe or stand mixer, check these sites first.  And then sell the stuff you don’t need.  (We got most of our baby equipment on Craigslist and I sold it after 7 years of kids.  It cost us almost nothing).
  10. The next time you’re in a bad mood, call your cable provider, cell phone company, credit cards, insurance people, etc. and threaten to leave unless they reduce your fees.  You will be surprised.  And even if you don’t save money you’ve probably gotten rid of the bad mood and improved your negotiation skills.
UrbanMommies also interviewed Sandra Hanna, founder of Smart Cookies, who shared other cool ideas.

In terms of the scary world of finance and RESP stuff, get advice.  (RBC who sponsored this post is a great option). It’s easy to start. No need to be overwhelmed. You have the flexibility to use the RESP for university, college, apprenticeship, non-credit courses etc., and if your child doesn’t use the funds, you can use your contributions and earnings to fund your RRSP!

You can find more great tips on saving for your child’s education here:

Rbc.com/education

www.rbcroyalbank.com/resp

www.rbcroyalbank.com/resp/resp-matic

Disclosure: I am part of the RBC RESP blogger program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Balancing Technology Use as a Parent

FAM, health, LIVE, rest By September 9, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

As a writer for the Tech Timeout Challenge by life insurance provider Foresters, I made a huge commitment as summer began.  I set off to up the ante and do a full week without technology with the whole family.  Over the summer, how hard could it be?  It was hard.  And I am embarrassed to say that we did not succeed.  We lasted 3 days.  But in the process we did accomplish the original intent of the program.  We sat as a family for a minimum of an hour a day for the whole summer, talking, playing board games and playing in the sand.  The art of balancing technology use as a parent proved far more challenging than I expected. 

Tech TimeoutI invested in bocce and croquet.  We inherited a bunch of board games from a neighbor and in their attempt to make mommy a ‘Princess’, the boys built me numerous castles made of Lego.

So half of me feels incredible – I bonded with the kids, we talked more as a family and I realized that taking away the tech from my kids wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.  But the other half is ashamed.  Is it society or the high standards I place on myself that make me feel like that?  Not sure.  Perhaps tasking myself with the elimination of tech while I run a tech business with little time off is unrealistic.  Perhaps the tech is my security blanket that allows me to hide when necessary or collect my thoughts when I go through a difficult parenting situation. Using technology

As part of our tech timeout and summer plans, I took my boys on a train to Portland.  My husband was away for three weeks climbing Kilimanjaro and I was having a magical time.  I taught them Crazy 8’s and Old Maid.  Upon arrival we went walkabout.  In a generic corner grocery we stopped to collect fruit, chips (it was vacation) and water.  But then my 7 year-old went down an aisle and there, at eye-level, were at least 15 different pornographic magazines.  We all stopped in our tracks.  He began to cry as the lady behind the counter yelled for him not to go down that aisle.  I became the lioness mother, being strict with her for having no signage or warnings.  We left and I didn’t know what to say.

So I turned to my ‘tribe’.  Which happens to only be accessible online.  I facebooked my son’s teacher to ask how to handle it.  I reached out to another friend to vent.  I texted my husband in Tanzania in hopes that he may be in a freakish serviceable area.  And I put the boys to bed and held them tight and it became intensely apparent that the world we live in is a different one.  It is a world where tech can and should be controlled, but I’m not sure it can be removed.

I was with a few ‘Big Bang Theory’ types this week and we all reached for our phones.  One mentioned that his grandmother would be laughing at us texting, but he also said that our brief sojourn into the keyboards was for the purpose of extending out interactions, increasing the size of our village and working to bring more folks to join us in person.  He had a point.

Tech Timeout 2
So what are my thoughts on our tech timeout?

1.  We’re on devices too much and unless there are limits we can slide into constant use.
2.  My kids get riled up by tech, and yet when it’s gone for a time they don’t notice.  They become more creative, role-play and use boredom to expand their horizons.
3.  To ask of myself to give up all tech for a week was unrealistic given my job, and I realized that women often set the bar very high for ourselves and feel like failures if we don’t succeed.  Moderation and instincts should be given preference.
4.  Placing more importance on sitting around a table and playing actual ‘games’ and talking brought me back to childhood and gave the whole family pure joy.  We’ll be sticking with the games and also making sure the technology never creeps into dinners or restaurants when we are bonding as a family.
5.  Technology can be used to educate your kids and research their questions or find fun things to do in person with them. 

Tech isn’t the devil.  But it can also be useless and addictive.  I think the real challenge as families is to use it for good – to broaden our village instead of shrinking it.

Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by life insurance provider Foresters, but the opinions and images are my own. For more information, visit www.techtimeout.com.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Best Back To School ipad Apps For Grade School Kids

apps, GEAR By August 11, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Back to School AppsSome back to school iPad apps for grade school kids can help children get organized and help parents save money. Breathe…. With lessons becoming more fun and interactive, kids may find them easier and more organized than the traditional modes of learning. Some of the back to school iPad Apps for grade school kids that make school a happier place are listed below. They can help parents and children eliminate that dreadfully long listed of items required to be purchased before school starts every year, saving you not only money but your time.  Feel free to add your own!

Google Drive: This is a good app for students to learn how to archive their work while also collaborating with other students on documents and spreadsheets on different school projects and notes.  They can access their work in multiple places from any computer and also learn how to use the cloud.

ShowMe: A free and dynamic creation and presentation application providing an iPad app to access the ShowMe database. It allows teachers to create lessons, provide remedial assistance and references for review by students and other teachers, allowing its use across different classes and subject areas.

iHomework: Getting organized before school begins by keeping tabs on your courses, assignments, information on teachers, and preparing your to-do list. This app consists of Questia, an online library providing you with lots of readings and references. All you have to do is sync your iPad with this app.

Kno Textbooks: A great app to make your kid’s backpack lighter with more than 200,000 books to browse through at very at reasonable prices. With one click your kids can have access to flashcards and journals and get the benefit of browsing through interactive 3D models, importing PDFs, accessing email, search engines, dropbox and videos.

Evernote: This is an amazing iPad app with a free notes service with loads of features such as text recognition.  We love it for organizing all forms of notes.

World Atlas 2013: This one puts the whole world in your kid’s hands, with geographical information including time zone, satellite, physical, and political maps with a zoom option, compass and country-related details.

Now we just need an app that makes their lunch every day.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Kidoodle: The New Screen-Time Solution

apps, GEAR By June 26, 2013 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

KidoodleI heard a story last week about a phenomenal mom who allowed her 7 year-old son on a playdate.  While the two boys were innocently searching for Lego on the internet, up popped an x-rated video that wouldn’t close with  a simple click. She cried for three days and told me softly that she would never be ab;e to take back the images her son had witnessed.  Horrific.  Enter Kidoodle.TV.  Launched for beta testing in Canada and set to launch across North America this summer, Kidoodle is made just for kids aged 12 and under. With increased parental controls, Kidoodle.TV makes programming safe for kids, with educational and entertaining content, free of nudity, profanity, violence and advertising directed at children.

They are offering a FREE one month trial during their beta test to get feedback from parents like you. Parents can sign up for this beta invitation on their site.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Wonderlab by Toys R Us

GEAR, toys By June 5, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , No Comments
Wonderlab by Toys R UsIt was with delight that my boys and I discovered the new Wonderlab by Toys R Us location at 1331 Marine Drive in North Vancouver, BC.  It was with even greater delight that the Star Wars Lego was on sale and the Deathstar was in stock.  Following in the direction of Mastermind that has 23 outlets with one to come in Calgary, Toys R Us is now opening stores specifically for learning toys.  The stores carry a unique assortment of products that promote learning, discovery, creativity, exploration and role play.  I’m all over the costumes myself, and must say that it was a pleasure to be able to walk into a toy store with a ‘yes’ attitude as I knew the kids would benefit from what we would discover inside.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Why kids need structure

Why Kids Need Structure

FAM, kids By May 18, 2013 Tags: , , , , , 1 Comment

My friends were exhausted. And for good reason. They have a 4 year old and a 1 year old, commute to work, and have to walk the dog. But, wait. Haven’t many people gotten through that? Looking at their tired eyes, and seeing them deal with their children, I remembered numerous episodes of Nanny 911. Structure helps everyone. Many a time I saw the nanny implement the ‘families sit down to eat dinner’ rule. ‘Everyone sleeps in their own bed’ soon followed. I always thought this simply provided structure just for the kids, but seeing this struggling family without much structure for children, it all made sense.

The routine provides clear decision making (or limits the need to make decisions) for parents. It eliminates guilt (I decided last year not to give in to tantrums, and this is a tantrum, therefore I shouldn’t feel guilty for not doling out another cookie) and it assists with family unity. Dinner being ready at 6, all sitting around a table facilitates conversation, and also allows duties such as washing up to follow. With bedtime, when parents can never have the same routine twice or depend on sleep for themselves or their children, a cranky family ensues.

Routines give kids a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline.  Children also naturally fear the unknown, and structure will allow them to handle change within a context of the ‘known’.  These little minds and bodies change daily and the familiar acts as a comfort.

The possibility of handing kids to babysitters and having them be put to sleep without a set routine is stressful and often ruins an evening that you are paying quite a bit for. Leave it to a night when you are exhausted for the toddler to decide not to go to bed, or to get up every 30 minutes. If you don’t have a fairly stricy routine for this, the child gets mixed messages. Parents should be able to parent – to make the decisions and be the ‘alphas’ in their family. Children crave this structure, and look for role models.

We have so much clutter in our brains and structure can eliminate all of those extra decisions.  So get out the calendar and a timer and relax!

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Explaining Breast Cancer To Your Children

books, FAM, GEAR, health By January 2, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Breast Cancer. The unthinkable has happened.  You want to scream, cry and prey that the doctor was wrong.  But before the shock, sadness and anger has even a chance to register, your mind has already gone somewhere else: what are you going to tell your children?

Let’s face it, we don’t want to hurt or upset our loved ones.  Breaking the news about a breast cancer diagnosis may be more difficult than actually hearing the news from your doctor. You may feel concerned about upsetting your family and friends and worried about how they will react. Even worse, you may be afraid that you won’t be able to answer their questions.

Before approaching the topic with your family, it’s important to remember that you are in control of the conversation.  This means that you can decide how much information you may wish to share. The content and the tone of the conversation are entirely up to you and may be shaped depending on whether you are talking to a younger or older child or both at the same time.

Talking to A Young Child

As the parent (or grandparent) of a young child (ages 3 to 9) you might feel that the best thing is to shield the child from the facts. Truthfully?  You may be causing more harm than protecting your little person.  Even very young children can sense when family members seem stressed or anxious, or when usual routines are disrupted. They will notice changes in your appearance and your energy level, and they will know that you are spending time at the hospital. In two words: THEY KNOW that something is wrong.  If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to know what’s going on?  Wouldn’t you want the person (or persons) you trust the most to explain the changes that may occur in your life?

Although young children do not need detailed information, they do need honesty and reassurance from you as well as from their other caregivers. Without any direct explanation from you, children may imagine a situation that is actually much worse than what will really occur. Being honest with your child builds a sense of trust that will be helpful in facing not only this situation, but also other challenges that life inevitably brings.

  • Plan out the conversation in advance. Decide what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. This will give you a framework for the conversation. Involve your partner or another adult the children trust if you think their presence will be helpful.
  • Use direct, simple language to define what cancer is, where it is in your body, and how it will be treated. Experts agree that naming the illness is important — “cancer” should not be a forbidden word. Even very young children can grasp simple explanations of what cells are and how they sometimes don’t “follow the rules” and grow as they should. You might also explain that the doctor has to remove all or part of your breast where the cancer is, and then use special strong medicines make sure the cancer is all gone from your body. A doll or stuffed animal could be a useful visual aid.
  • Make sure children know that the cancer isn’t their fault and they cannot “catch” it. Young children may worry that the situation is their fault or that they did something to cause the cancer. Also, children tend to associate sickness with catching colds or sharing germs. Be sure to explain that no one can catch cancer from someone else.
  • Tell children how treatment for cancer will affect you. Prepare them for the physical side effects of treatment, such as losing a breast, hair loss due to chemotherapy, or feeling sick or tired at times. You might explain that the medicines for cancer are powerful, and that side effects show that the medicines are hard at work inside your body. Tell children that you might feel sad, angry, or tired, but that these feelings are not their fault and are normal. Always alert them when you will need to be away from home: in the hospital or at the doctor’s office.
  • Reassure children that their needs will be met. Experts agree that young children need reassurance and consistent routines in times of crisis. Let your children know that you may not always be available to take them to school and special activities, play with them, or prepare their meals. Hugging, lifting, and bathing them may be off-limits for a while, too. Tell them about the trusted friends, relatives, or other care providers who will be helping out until you feel strong again.
  • Keep usual limits in place. When there is an air of uncertainty around the house, it can be tempting to let children have more treats, watch more TV, play more computer games, or buy more toys. However, maintaining the same sense of structure you always have is likely to reassure your children more than giving them special privileges or treats. Keep their usual routines as consistent as possible.
  • Invite children to ask questions and learn more. Let children know that you will answer any questions they may have. If your children are old enough, you might consider bringing them to one of your doctor’s appointments or allowing a visit during treatment. This can help to take away some of the mystery surrounding cancer and its treatment.
  • Let children know you will still make time for them. Carve out a special time in the day just for them. Simple activities like reading a book or watching a movie can help them know that you are still there for them, even when you’re tired or not feeling well.
  • Set a positive, optimistic tone without making promises.  Even if you are sad or frightened, try to project a positive tone during your conversations with young children. Children may feel overwhelmed if you seem overly anxious or emotional. Make sure they know that your doctors and nurses are doing all they can for you and that most people with breast cancer do get better. Reassure them without making definite promises about the future.
  • Let teachers, school counselors, coaches, and other caregivers know what is going on. Other trusted adults who spend time with your child need to know about the diagnosis. Changes at home often cause changes in children’s behavior in other settings. These adults can help you know how your child is doing, and they can become a source of additional care and support.

Talking To An Older Child

Older children can be just as vulnerable and scared as smaller children but they may not show it.  In fact, their reaction may be more intense because older children are likely to be more aware of the seriousness of the disease than younger children.  While much of the advice for talking to young children also applies to children in middle school and high school (ages 10 to 18), older children actually have additional needs. Most importantly, be sure to talk with your older child and not at her.  She needs to feel that she is part of the conversation.

  • Be truthful about your diagnosis and course of treatment.  Shielding children from the hard facts can harm their sense of trust in you. Even though you do not want to worry them, you need to let them know what is happening to you.
  • Schedule regular family meetings or other discussion times. Older children can be involved in talks about how family activities and responsibilities might change while you are undergoing treatment. You may need to ask them to handle more household tasks than they normally do. A family meeting gives everyone a chance to have a voice in the changes that are taking place.
  • Anticipate children’s questions about the future. Older children are likely to have heard that people can die of cancer. It is natural for them to be afraid that you could die and to wonder what will happen to them. Make sure your children know that most people with breast cancer do get better and live long, healthy lives. Reassure them that, no matter what happens, their needs will be met by the adults in their lives.
  • Anticipate children’s questions about their own health. Your children may fear that, since you have cancer, they may get it too. This is an especially common fear among teenaged daughters of mothers with breast cancer. Even if breast cancer does not seem to run in your family, breast cancer still happens to 1 in 8 women in the United States during the course of their lifetimes. Therefore, it’s a good idea to bring up the issue at your daughter’s next doctor’s appointment. Talk to the doctor together about some steps your daughter can take now — such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking or using alcohol — to help lower the risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
  • Give children permission to keep up with school and social activities. Even though older children and teens can take on more responsibility at home, they are still children. Let them know that they should continue focusing on their schoolwork, other activities, and time with friends. Children need to maintain that sense of normalcy, but they might only do so if you let them know it’s what you want.
  • Realize that older children may express feelings that seem inappropriate, such as embarrassment or anger. Preteens and teens may express emotions that seem unkind or even completely out of line. They may be embarrassed by changes in your appearance, such as hair loss or weight loss and avoid going out with you or bringing friends home. They may be angry about the ways that your illness limits them and their activities. Although their reactions may upset you, remember that teens are at a time in their lives when they value appearances and their growing sense of independence. If you’re able to show acceptance of your own appearance, you can set a healthy example for your child.
  • Connect them with books and other resources. Talking about cancer can be hard, even in families where communication is strong. You may want to look for books or other publications written especially for young people who have parents with cancer. Your child also may find it helpful to confide in an adult outside the immediate family, such as another relative, close friend, or even a professional counselor. Reach out to relatives and friends and ask them if they can be available.

Great books about how to discuss cancer with your children

  1. What Is Cancer Anyway?: Explaining Cancer to Children of All Ages
  2. The Hope Tree: Kids Talk About Breast Cancer 
  3. Because . . . Someone I Love Has Cancer Kids’ Activity Book
  4. Our Mom Has Cancer
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Teaching Compassion Early May Lead To An Easier Time as a Teenager

FAM, kids By November 14, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

What does compassion have to do with having an easier time as a teenager?  What can parents do to encourage and teach to our children to be more compassionate when there are so many other distractions and role models distracting them from learning these lessons?

According to James G. Wellborn, a clinical psychologist with 18 years of experience working with parents and teens.  “The teenage years are unlike any other in a person’s life – it’s a unique in-between period from childhood to adulthood, and it’s helpful to remember that problems during this time are actually normal,” says Wellborn, author of the new book “Raising Teens in the 21st Century: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting.” “But teens still require guidance, encouragement and good ideas to see them through to adulthood.”

According to Dr. Wellborn, “A universally admired trait, spanning all cultures, religion and philosophy, is compassion. A truly compassionate teen will inevitably have a host of other positive qualities, including patience, understanding, sensitivity, tolerance, intuition and more.”

Dr. Wellborn suggests a number of ways that parents (and grandparents) can instill compassion in our children regardless of their age:

  1. Model it: Compassion is largely learned, so be aware of how you act around your children. How did you respond to the request for money from that panhandler on the street?  What comment did you make behind his back, in the presence of your kid? What did you say about that idiot driver who just cut you off in traffic? Your children are watching, listening and modeling your behavior.
  2. Notice it: Point out examples of compassion that occur around you. It comes in many forms. Often, if we take the time to look, we can find those people who quietly, and without recognition, helping others in need, including volunteers of all types. Making a game of identifying instances of compassionate deeds you’ve witnessed may be one way to encourage your child to notice and understand acts of compassion.
  3.  Teach it: As parents, we teach compassion not only through our words but also our actions (See modeling). Regardless of the child’s age, it’s important to teach children how to be empathetic and work on seeing things from another person’s perspective.  Otherwise it is difficult for them to appreciate what another person is going through. Remember what your grandparents, teachers or camp counselors told you: “You can’t know how someone else is feeling until you walk a mile in his shoes!” Perhaps it’s time to pass along that saying?
  4. Anticipate it: Character can be fostered by projecting moral strength into their future. In this way, you will be subtly shaping the adult they are working to become. It’s never too early to remind your child that the lessons he or she is learning at an early age will help them be a self-assured and respected teenager, and later, as an adult.
  5. Guilt it: A personal value system serves as a means of accountability to oneself (your family and community). This begins with the value system parents promote in their kids. Even when we wish we could avoid these conversations, when a child makes a bad decision or doesn’t react with compassion or empathy, as parents, we need to discuss why these actions are not acceptable and offer alternatives that mirror the family’s values. According to Dr. Wellborn, “If they fulfill the promise of personal values it is a source of justifiable pride.” Violating personal values should result in guilt for not doing what’s right and shame for letting other people down. Parents need to help their kids along with this.
  6. Repeat it: Like any lesson, learning often comes with repetition. Once is not enough when it comes to character. Find every opportunity to work it into the conversation. Using all of the strategies mentioned above, you will be able to work character issues into every possible situation in a remarkably diverse number of ways. Okay, so it may drive your kids crazy, but according to Dr. Wellborn, “mentioning character often – at least once every couple of days – and in many different forms will help ensure that these characteristics become values and traits they can carry into adulthood.”

Dr. Wellborn’s book couldn’t have come at a better time in our family. As a perceptive 4th grader, my child is acutely aware of what “the popular” kids are doing and she struggles with whether or not to emulate their behavior (good or bad.)  Often after school, I am regaled with stories from the playground.  Using some of Dr. Wellborn’s suggestions, I try to capitalize on opportunities to turn these stories into lessons about being compassionate and showing empathy when someone is left out of a game or has had a bad argument with another friend.  Hopefully she will learn that, regardless of what others are doing (or not doing), she is strong and self-assured enough to do the right thing.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Dr. James Wellborn’s book, Raising Teens in the 21st Century: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting.  All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

 

 

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Music for Toddlers

grow, LIVE By August 20, 2012 Tags: , , , , No Comments

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Music soothes the savage beast,” and know the benefits of music for unborn and newborn babies. But what about toddlers? If there ever was a savage beast to tame, it would be an unruly toddler. But beyond lullabies, what benefits does music for toddlers bring? Let’s examine some of the ways toddlers are influenced for the better by music, and how to utilize music for toddlers to the best effect.

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