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Back-to-School Transitions

August 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Deborah Gilboa, MDBook Get the Behavior  You Want

“Back to School!” is everywhere right now! Like it or not (and I know a lot of parents are torn about this), we do have to start thinking about a new set of issues. Here are some tips to ease the shift. I’m going to tackle these by topic and age group, the same way I’ve laid out my new book, Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate!

Schedules

  • Toddlers and preschoolers: Kids this age rarely struggle to get up in the morning – usually it’s us parents who struggle! All little ones need is a reminder of the morning routine, so have a few practice runs, when you aren’t time-stressed, so your kiddo can be in the zone before the first real drop-off.
  • Elementary schoolers: Head back to school wakeup time and bedtime, and use that early(ish) morning time to do some things your child actually wants to do. This will make motivating them out of bed easier.
  • Middle schoolers: Push wake up time an hour earlier than it has been during the summer, then an hour earlier. Do this until you are at least in the neighborhood of school wake up time. Go back to eating breakfast!
  • High schoolers: Make a plan this year for wake-ups. You should not be the human alarm clock. Be clear with your child about what you are and are not willing to do to help them get up in the morning and what the consequences will be if they don’t get up. (Remember, you want them to make their morning college classes someday without your help.)

Social Life

All the fun and relaxation of summer can disappear when a child contemplates the first day of school. And even when our kids aren’t nervous, we often are! Talking and strategizing can help, as long as we don’t project our anxiety onto our kids.

  • Toddlers and preschoolers: Most little ones have faith in their ability to make new friends, but first day of school is always easier with some familiar faces. So get a list of kids your child will be with this year and plan a couple of playground meet ups. If you can meet at the school’s playground, it will be even better!
  • Elementary schoolers: Don’t leave it all to chance. Encourage your kids to be pro-active about this. Often kids have no control over who will be in class together, but they can hang out with some friends (new or old) in the couple of weeks leading up to school so that first day doesn’t feel so much like jumping in.
  • Middle schoolers: Role play, by talking through the most common rough spots – such as finding a seat in math or that first encounter by the lockers. Not every tween or teen will do this, but it can be amazingly helpful to “know your lines” when confronted by someone who makes you really nervous.
  • High schoolers: Join a team or group. A unity of purpose or interest can help make new relationships a lot faster than standing with a lunch tray looking for somewhere to sit.

Homework

Cue the heavy music. Here are a few things that might help.

  • Toddlers and preschoolers: Rejoice, they don’t have any! Of course, if they have older sibs, they may ask for homework, but that is their teachers’ problem!
  • Elementary schoolers: Create the space. Where is your child going to do this homework? Get that space ready with a cubby, desk, bulletin board, wall calendar, whatever makes sense to him.
  • Middle schoolers: Plan ahead. Often the curriculum is available online, so suggest to your child that she get a head start by getting books a little early and reading a little ahead. That will mean more hanging out and a slightly less shocking work load the first week or so of school.
  • High schoolers: Write a contract. If you have patterns you want to avoid this year about homework, be clear now. Decide what is up to your child (timing of work, space, music, etc) and what is nonnegotiable (completion, grades, etc). Link your requirements to privileges your child wants (cell phone, friend time, extracurricular, whatever fits your philosophy). Write it down!

MMDG Debi Gilboa 2About the author: Parenting expert, Deborah Gilboa, M.D. aka “Doctor G” is a family physician, mom of 4, international speaker, author and TV personality. She developed the “3 R’s of Parenting” to empower parents to raise respectful, responsible, and resilient kids.Her book, Get the Behavior You Want, Without Being the Parent You Hate will be released September 10, 2014 and is available on Amazon.com. 

 

Are Kids Going to Eat Less Junk in School Cafeterias?

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Ayala Laufer-Cahana, MD

The days of snacking on candy, soda, and chips in schools may soon be over. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new proposed standards for snacks sold at schools. The standards limit the amount of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium of most foods sold at school, and encourage whole grains, low fat, fruits, and veggies. A few examples: Yogurt, granola bars, trail mix, dried fruit and fruit bars, pizza on whole grain crust, and baked potato chips are in. Candy, caloric soda, sweetened fruit juice, and most cookies are out.

Perhaps anticipating the backlash, the proposal exempts fundraisers, after-school sports events, and treats sent by parents—including birthday and holiday party goodies. It also allows for a yearlong transition.

The rules, required under the child nutrition law passed in 2010, are an effort to combat childhood obesity and close an obvious loophole: While the government-subsidized school lunch has to comply with nutrition rules, what’s sold a la carte in school stores, snack bars, or from vending machines, and competes for kids’ stomach share and lunch money, isn’t federally regulated at all, and can be of no nutritional value whatsoever.

Is it going to make a difference?

Is there evidence that stricter rules at school will encourage kids to eat less junk? Since many states and cities have already established regulations regarding foods sold at schools, there are already some comparisons that can be made.

California was one of the first states to implement rules for vending and selling foods in schools; these rules limit the caloric content, fat, and sugar in snacks, and ban soda and sweetened beverages. Last year I reported on a study in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine that compared California high-school students’ daily intake to the intake of students from 14 states without any school nutrition standards, and showed that California kids ate fewer calories—170 fewer—and consumed less fat and sugar per day at school compared with high-school students in other states. And the kids didn’t load up the missed calories after school. The Californian students took in 158 fewer calories a day, overall; a reduction of 158 calories is a big deal because we gain weight very gradually, and reducing even 100 calories a day can prevent weight gain and put a dent in the obesity crisis.

Another study in Health Education & Behavior compared three middle schools that implemented a healthier snack and beverage nutrition policy with three that had no guidelines. Removing these items not only resulted in lower consumption of junk food at school and overall (no compensatory junk eating at home), it also didn’t seem to result in negative preoccupation with weight.

The New York Times recently reported that after decades of rising rates of obesity, several cities are reporting a decline. Philadelphia, my hometown, reported a 5 percent decline and has seen this decline among minorities, not just among high-income families. Philadelphia has implemented broad policies to fight obesity, including a ban on sugary drinks in school vending machines, and school snack guidelines that limit calories, fat, and serving size. It’s hard to credit any one public health policy for the changing trend in childhood obesity rates, but the results are encouraging.

The importance of a healthy school environment

It will take a while until the snack food regulations are installed and even longer until we can see their effects on kids’ diets.

But I think that paying attention and debating the foods sold at schools will have immediate educational outcomes.

As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release, “Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, and these efforts should be supported when kids walk through the schoolhouse door.”

School, or government, doesn’t determine what kids eat, but it can definitely set minimum standards that promote healthier choices, or at least not undermine healthy nutrition efforts by condoning and profiting from the sale of junk within school walls.

Discussing unhealthy snacks, and removing them from the cafeteria, has an educational purpose. I wouldn’t be surprised if it influences the bottom line of what kids actually consume (kids do eat more than half their daily calories at school), but it’s worth doing, regardless.

When the vending machine changes what’s in its belly, kids consciously or unconsciously, notice; this exposure can change minds, and hopefully also what’s in kids’ bellies.

The USDA proposal will be open to public comment for 60 days. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments here.

Full disclosure: I’m vice president of product development for Herbal Water, where we make organic herb-infused waters that have zero calories and no sugar or artificial ingredients. I’m also a pediatrician and have been promoting good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle for many years.

I Hate Homework!

March 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Robyn Swatsburg

I dread homework time.  Despite my attempts to make it a positive happy time, it usually winds up being the biggest battle of the day. I try to minimize problems by having clear expectations and an established time and place for homework. Right after dinner, my nine-year-old son sits at the dining room table— a central location—to do homework. I wash dishes and clean up the kitchen nearby, not hovering/nagging yet still accessible for questions. I try to remain pleasant throughout the ordeal. Yet somehow this does not work for us.

A typical scenario might go like this: Time to begin. Fuss, complain, search for bookbag, more whining and moaning, finally ready. He sits down pulls out a math sheet and looks around lost. “Can you get me a pencil?” “No. The pencil-getting part of homework is your responsibility.” After much moaning and groaning, he finally gets a pencil from the designated homework drawer conveniently located nearby, throws himself back down in his chair, and takes a quick glance at the assignment.

“Can you get me a piece of paper?” It is beyond my scope of belief that knowing full well he was going to need a piece of paper, he wouldn’t have gotten it from the very same drawer while he was up getting the pencil. I repeat with a little more annoyance in my voice. “The paper-getting part of homework is your responsibility too.”

After no less than 10 minutes and 100 “it’s not fair” complaints, he finally gets down to business. “I need help!” he wails before actually reading a word on the page. I drag myself to his side and insist he reads the directions aloud because I know he can do this as well as he can get his own pencil and paper in a single trip. He finally mumbles the directions and either A proceeds to complete the entire assignment in two minutes because it’s easy for him or B the battle continues for upward of an hour if he truly is confused. My help, I discover, is not really what he wants. What he wants is for me to do it for him and this is what I am not going to do. Homework is his responsibility, and it is a responsibility he is going to learn no matter how many painful nights we spend locked in this battle.

But tonight, oddly, homework time found me in a good mood. Maybe it’s because for some magical reason my nine-year-old willingly sat down to homework on his own without being asked. Since he veered off our usual course, I did too. When he asked for help with his homework I said, “Sure what do you need?” And I sat down next to him. Without being asked I read the directions for the first problem aloud. Realizing we would need a pencil to solve this, I walked over and got us a pencil. Possibly being so thrown off guard, he actually attempted the first problem on his own.  After some redirection he got it right and did not yell at me for the redirection. I read the second problem without him asking and found that one required a ruler and a piece of paper. I suggested he go upstairs for the ruler, and I would get the paper (probably could have gotten that when I got the pencil). Up he went without a fuss and returned ruler in hand ready to try the problem. Soon we finished the page with me reading the problems, him trying to solve them, and me redirecting when necessary. It took us less than 10 minutes to complete two math pages. And by the end, he completed every problem himself and obviously understood how to solve those problems.

So what did that happy night teach me about homework time? Sometimes, even when it annoys the heck out of me, I have to give a little to get a little. Even if we both know that he can and should complete the whole homework process on his own, my doing a few nonessentials for him won’t undermine his becoming a good and responsible homework completer. Will I still be gathering his homework supplies for him when he’s in high school? Probably not. I believe that once he knows I won’t entertain every challenge he throws at me over every little aspect of homework time, he’ll lose the need to challenge me. He will do all these things for himself because he knows he can and should do them. On most days at least…

You’re Gonna Miss These Days

May 10, 2011 by  
Filed under J.Reich

My son Tyler (age five) is in kindergarten, and I was so fortunate to be able to his school’s Mother’s Tea yesterday. I cherish every second that I get a glimpse into his school, to see him interact with his friends and what his experience is like. I had a wonderful time at the tea, and I’ll always remember how proud and happy I was of him.

I took my camera along, figuring we’d be allowed to take pictures. I’ve been surprised by new rules though restricting photos such as at my other son’s preschool, but I was hopeful we could take pictures at the tea, and we could. What I bring, though, was my video camera. I was a little sad to see other moms videotaping the adorable songs the kindergartners sang. I had thought briefly about bringing my video camera, but I was afraid that might be overboard. I know I’ll remember a lot about their sweet songs, but I wish I had the video. Plus I would have enjoyed sharing it with my husband. Note to self: Next time, remember the video camera!!

All I Ever Needed to Know…

February 10, 2011 by  
Filed under J.Reich

…I probably did learn in kindergarten. But I forgot it a long time ago, apologies to Mrs. Valentine.

Good thing my son Tyler is now in kindergarten, so I have a refresher course! Earlier tonight, he was in his brother Austin’s room (now three years old). Tyler was teaching Austin one of his teacher’s favorite sayings, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

The Coin Game!

January 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

How do you teach five- and three-year-olds the coins? I wanted to make it fun for my sons, Tyler and Austin, and so I invented the coin game! Here’s how to play.

I set out a penny, nickle, dime, and quarter before each boy. Then they name them. If they get them right, they keep them. Get them wrong, I keep them! Needless to say, they love the coin game and would play it several times a day if I’d let them!

Now we’re moving on to identifying the coin values: 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents. If they get those right, they get to keep the coins.

The One-Emotion-at-a-Time Trick

January 15, 2011 by  
Filed under J.Reich

I tend to be a worrier. (This will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me at all!) Recently, I read that you can only experience one emotion at a time. So when I’m feeling anxious (such as before a four-hour-drive to visit my inlaws), I try instead to think about how I’m excited (such as to see my husband’s family and enjoy my kids spending time with them).

I learned this so very late in life! My one son also tends to be a worrier like me. He often feels nervous before going to school each morning. “Mommy, my belly feels sick. I don’t feel up to going to school,” he’d say. I explained to him about the one-emotion-at-a-time trick, and I worked with him for a few days to come up with things he was looking forward to at school, things to be excited about.

I felt positively joyful, and proud, yesterday when before school, my son told me, “Mommy, you know what I’m excited about today? I’m excited to give my teacher her glue sticks!” (We had bought some glue sticks because she had run out!) I will be very happy if my son can learn this wonderful skill at such a young age–rather than having to wait until he’s 40 like me!

The School Lunch Police

December 9, 2010 by  
Filed under K.Rowell

What’s the first thing you do when you pick up your child from school or daycare? Take a minute.

Many parents do a quick “hello” (some even skip that part) and then launch into quizzing about what and how much the child ate for lunch. Lunch boxes are handed over, opened and examined closely, followed by either,  “Good job! You ate all your sandwich!” or a “Why didn’t you eat your carrots?” I think it’s so automatic for many parents, they don’t realize they do it. What purpose does it serve? What do you do with that information?

One client I worked with around her son’s picky eating (he was basically subsisting on plane rice and pasta when they contacted me, much to his mother’s chagrin) admitted that the first things she did was check the big dry-erase board that listed all the kids and what and how much they ate from their packed lunches.  It was too much information. Her mood was up or down based on what her son ate that day, and she noted what all the other kids were eating and got depressed when her son was the “worst” eater. How could it not feel like a reflection of her mothering? Why was all her effort around encouraging, cooking with her son, begging, bribing and withholding desserts not helping?

The thing is, it’s hard to let go of control with feeding. If we feed with the Division of Responsibility, we put the food in the lunch box, with options that are balanced most days. The child chooses how much from what we pack. That’s it.

Then we plan and serve and sit with our child while they eat snack, and we get to do it again at dinner time. It’s a lot or work, and for parents feeding in the standard control model today, they are also responsible for how many portions of fruits and veggies, and how many calories, and how much sugar actually goes into the child. It’s too much and it’s not helping.

It’s hard to let go of the things we can’t and shouldn’t try to control.

My homework for that client one week was to not look at the dry-erase board. To let go what she could not control. To not let if and what he ate at lunch color her mood, heighten her anxiety and eventually lead to the  pressure, bribes and power struggles that were undermining rather than supporting her son’s learning around food.

Do you do the lunchbox rifling, the quizzing on the way home?

Here’s a challenge. For one week, be ignorant of what and how much your little one eats at lunch.

What would happen? Would you do things differently? Does it make it easier to not pressure or push at meals and snacks? Does your child notice? Wouldn’t it be nice to just start with, “I’m so glad to see you,” instead of,  “Did you eat all your sandwich?”


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