Talking Politics with Kids
Talking to Children about Tragedy
Increasingly with the tragic events locally, nationally and globally the safety of our children is always a priority. This includes their emotional well-being and security. We want to learn ways to shield our children from the trauma of processing events like terrorist attacks or natural disasters.
It is important for us to focus on helping our children feel secure during uncertain times. The news is saturated with features on tragedies that our children need guidance understanding. For this reason, the best strategy during difficult times is to turn off the news on the television and radio.
When this is not possible because your child has already inadvertently seen or heard an upsetting news report; it is best to talk to your child. The first step is to ask your child what he/she knows about the topic to determine what he/she has gleaned from the news and other sources. In this way you can clear up any misconceptions and provide correct simple information. Remember to be honest and feel comfortable sharing that you feel sad and/or scared too. It is also important to give him/her the space to share his/her fears which can counteract an active imagination that can lead to worries. In elementary-age children, the line between fantasy and reality may still be blurred, for this reason your input may be necessary. The key is to reassure him/her that although these events are scary that he/she does not have to worry about these bad people hurting him/her. Also he/she may have questions about his/her safety when he/she is away from you. This is the opportunity to point out that he/she is safe at school and that the school has systems to protect him/her and communicate with you.
To avoid increasing any anxiety your child may have about these topics, please avoid discussing tragic events around bedtime as it may make it difficult for him/her to fall asleep. Also consider limiting their further exposure to news reports about these events as children can tend to become worried as a result of the images and language commonly used during these broadcasts.
For more tips on how to have these conversations with your child visit the American Psychological Association website.
Overparenting and unhappy
Have you cut your child’s food when he was more than capable of doing it, like at age 10? Have you hired a tutor to help your child with homework because she earned a B+ on one test? If you answered, “yes” to one or both you may be guilty of overparenting, an ailment that has plagued the most well-meaning parents. Julie Lythcott-Haims author of How to Raise an Adult and former dean of students at Stanford University, writes “not only does overparenting hurt our children; it harms us, too. Parents today are scared, not to mention exhausted, anxious, and depressed.”
We, as parents, are increasingly setting unrealistic expectations for our children and ourselves. We gauge our success on that of peers- at least what we perceive it to be-leading to benchmarking against unattainable goals. This we do in an effort to provide a happier more fulfilled life for our children.
How often have you thought to yourself I just want my child to be happy?
As Jennifer Senior author of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood astutely notes “raising happy children is an elusive aim compared to the more concrete aims of parenting in the past: creating competent children in certain kinds of work; and creating morally responsible citizens who fulfill a prescribed set of community obligations. The fact is, those bygone goals are probably more constructive--and achievable. Not all children will grow up to be happy, in spite of their parents' most valiant efforts, and all children are unhappy somewhere along the way.”
What can you do to ‘right the ship’ by empowering your child and taking some of the burden off of you?
Julie Lythcott-Haim offers some tips for helping your child build self-efficacy and you to find balance in your parenting role:
In 2016, we are almost two decades into the 21st century and it seems that reminding folks about what it means to be gracious and respectful in these times is necessary. Some manners and practices that are timeless are saying "please" and "thank you" and shaking someone's hand. Other rituals may be adapting to changing times and the advent of 24 hour technology access. As a parent, I am often challenged to remind my children of the importance of greeting others and showing gratitude for any gift or generosity they receive. What I am becoming more flexible with is how they demonstrate this "thankfulness" in different instances. I was vehemently against my children emailing a "thank you" in lieu of a handwritten note but as they have grown I have seen value in the immediacy of an email message. This has been particularly true as my kids have opted more often to include a video message to personalize and make more of an impact with their communication. Please know that there are still instances that a handwritten note is not optional but required. This formality is shown towards those that are their grandparents age while the intimacy of a video message is assigned to family and friends that are closest to us. At the end of the day, manners are a form of showing respect for others.
We should still require our children to be polite but they can share their thoughts with us on how they can most authentically achieve this goal.
Families giving Back
Learning to think about and finding ways to help others are actions children can take, especially when their parents provide a model alongside them through service. Family volunteerism can foster the development of empathy and compassion for others while strengthening the family itself. Children learn to contribute to important causes, while better understanding what their parents value most. They also gain from feeling proud by participating in the volunteer activity and appreciated by those they are helping. Additionally, children have the opportunity to gain new skills from participating in community service.
Parents, too, can benefit from volunteering as a family. In serving your community together you create the opportunity to spend more time with your children, pass on your beliefs and values and share sincere conversations. As Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, writes “Can you imagine anything more energizing, more unifying, more filled with satisfaction than working with members of your family to accomplish something that really makes a difference in the world?”
As an added advantage, with family volunteering, you will ensure that your children will be volunteering into adulthood. A study conducted by the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at University of Texas Austin (2002) found, with a sample group of 1,514 respondents, that children who volunteer are more likely to continue to volunteer as adults. In their sample, 86% of college students who had volunteered in or before high school with their families continued to volunteer as young adults compared to 76% who had not volunteered prior to attending college.
How can you and your children get started?
A great place to start is in your own neighborhood. You can reach out to your school, church or synagogue, by asking them if they could use any help with their initiatives. This is a great way to begin because you will be more comfortable in a familiar environment. Another direction to take is basing your volunteerism on a meaningful cause. You can use websites dedicated to matching volunteers with projects through searching opportunities by interest.
To find your next family volunteer activity visit www.volunteermatch.org or www.http://generationon.org, both have great projects geared towards families and children.
Thank you in advance for serving your community!
Prevention, Observation, and Practice
We (I am a parent too, remember) often want to provide for our children the upbringing we hoped we would have received and are often at a loss on how to deliver it. As parents today, we face many challenges, top of the list are "challenging or defiant behaviors." Below are questions that we grapple with and struggle addressing:
1. What do we do with defiance that escalates?
2. What do you do with an uncooperative child?
3. How do I ease transitions for my overtired/stressed child?
The short answer, "Stay Calm." Children follow our lead and are constantly learning from our example. The more composed we are in handling a situation the faster it will deescalate, making it easier to deal with in the moment. This applies to an uncooperative or stressed child too.
After we accomplish keeping our own emotions in order, we can move to the next step -changing the state of being. This can be done through humor, distraction or nurturing. The trick is to keep it somewhat novel so that it engages your child's "cognitive" brain. (For reasons for why this works check out: The Whole Brain Child ). Once your child is calm you can discuss the situation and brainstorm problem-solving strategies to use in the future.
Typically, the above actions although simple are every effective in minimizing less than ideal behavior in a child. What takes time, effort and practice are the actions you must take to prevent the behavior in the first place. To help parents remember what to do I created a mnemonic device: P.O.P. which stands for Prevention, Observation and Practice. In order to prevent a meltdown from happening we must as adults plan ahead and state our expectations in advance in a clear manner. Also we must be attune with our children by noting their triggers for "challenging behavior" and observing how they handle a variety of situations. Finally, we must practice with our children. I call it the power of the "Redo." Children want to please, especially their parents, and it can be empowering to them to receive an opportunity to make amends. Also role-playing can be a great way to practice a skill in a fun-loving way.
Above all enjoy your children and believe in your parenting abilities. Happy Parenting!
Forgiveness: Why forgiving others is good!
We can approach the topic of forgiveness from many angles; some of us may see it through a spiritual lens while others from that of character development. Regardless of our entry point to the topic, the benefits are the same to the forgiving person: increased emotional and physical health. In 2012, researchers from the University of California, San Diego found that forgiveness can help minimize spikes in blood pressure. Others at Duke University and New York University, in related studies, have found correlations between forgiving others and improved immune systems and overall health. Additionally, according to the Mayo Clinic, those who actively forgive transgressors gain greater self-esteem and build stronger relationships.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, University of California, Riverside professor and author of the book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, defines forgiveness as “a ‘shift in thinking’ toward someone who has wronged you, ‘such that your desire to harm that person has decreased and your desire to do him good (or to benefit your relationship) has increased.”
As parents, it is important that we directly teach our children to forgive others so they may have healthy strong relationships and a good sense of self. Learning to forgive helps children develop the ability to deal with strong emotions, to see the perspective of others, and to gain problem-solving techniques.
With any lesson, practice will ‘make perfect’ as will consistent modeling.
Professor Lyubomirsky suggests that families share stories at the dinner table that can serve as examples of opportunities for forgiveness. To extend the conversation, parents can ask their children: What does it mean to forgive someone? What does forgiveness feel like to you? She also advises that families role-play various scenarios that require children to take the role of the forgiver and forgiven, to help them see the viewpoint of another. Finally, she recommends that parents teach their children how to write a forgiveness letter that states the offense, offers another way the situation could have been handled, and offers a clear statement of forgiveness.
Remember: forgiveness takes strength and practice.
For more resources and information on the topic, visit University of California, Berkeley’s website for The Greater Good Science Center.
Family Work Day- 10/10/15
We were a small but mighty group of parents, teachers and students (current and alum) that tackled Crestview's unruly garden areas. On Saturday, October 10, we gathered at 7:30 a.m. to work in gardens to weed, dig and cut down invasive plants that were crowding our plant beds. This we did to prepare the spaces for our youngest students kindergarden and first grade students, who routinely maintain our gardens and needed a little help before planting their butterfly and edible gardens. Also we dug a space for our new composting area, that our Eco Club members will use for their newly expanded composing efforts. Finally, a team cleared the area nearest the library to make room for a Harry Potter inspired garden. Thank you to all our volunteers we accomplished so much together!
A special thank you to Ms. G for taking all the photos and keeping us all working with her Family Work Day playlist.
Good to Go or Too SIck?
Often deciphering when a child is getting sick can be tricky, so too can deciding how long to keep him or her from school. This is insurmountably harder when your child is under eight and not yet able to fully articulate how they truly feel. It is our job as parents to know how they feel and to know how to make them better. Here are some signs that your child is getting sick and tips for soothing them:
1. Being more tired than usual. One major symptom of most illnesses is lethargy. If your child falls asleep early or begins to lay about you can assume his/her body is fighting off a virus or bacteria. Take your cues from them allow them the opportunity to get the much needed rest. Ballet and soccer will still be there the next week.
2. Cranky behavior or random outbursts. Another common symptom of cold and flu is irritability. This can stem from the body aches, nausea, headaches, or overall malaise that sickness can cause. Be understanding and patient, as challenging behavior may be the only means your child has to communicate that he or she is feeling sick.
3. Red in the face. Children will become flushed at the onset of a fever. Rule out external factors like too much clothing or a hot environment as the cause first and follow-up by checking your child's temperature.
4. Picky eating. Loosing one's appetite can be another symptom of not feeling well. If you child turns down their favorite treat or only eats a few bites of a meal they normally devour chances are they are sick.
5. "My tummy/stomach hurts or my head hurts." Viral infections often cause headaches, vomiting, or diarrhea. Take these statements seriously but take note that these may be immediately followed by vomiting or crying as children often are still developing body awareness and function in the moment. After the bout of vomiting is over make sure to acknowledge that it was probably scary for them and that you to do not like it when it happens to you. The more you talk about it the less abstract and scary the incident will be for them.
Remember you know your child and can tell when something is not quite right. Trust your instincts.
Please find below a few articles that provide further guidance on the topic:
Caring for a Child with a Viral Infection
Is My Child Too Sick for School?
Too Sick for School?
Reflecting and Looking Forward
It is with great pride that I address you after completing my first year as Head of School of Crestview Preparatory School. Though it was a year of transition, together, and through your generosity, we have made progress on many important initiatives: designing the Thinking Lab (flexible learning space for our library and maker space), fostering a community feel and spirit through the Family Work Day and Family Carnival, and learning together at our Townhall meetings and Parent Education series.
Crestview Preparatory School has distinguished itself during its twenty-nine years by implementing the educational philosophy of founder Marge Hanna, providing an academically rigorous curriculum in an environment that respects childhood through balance in learning. To reflect this mission, and thanks to your support of the Crestview Fund, we reviewed our mathematics curriculum and implemented components of the Balanced Math Approach to ensure we were preparing all our students according to their individual learning needs. Next year, we will further differentiate instruction by introducing Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth programming for our gifted students. Further, we revamped our website to echo what the community expressed, through the parent survey, were the core values of the school: Community, Responsibility, Empathy, Sincerity, and Thinking.
As I think about this past year, I wish to reflect back to you some of my favorite memories and observations. I was able to accompany our fourth-sixth graders on their respective Outdoor Education trips to Catalina Island, Ocean Institute and Astro Camp. This time together and away from home, allowed us to bond and provided me the opportunity to see our students represent Crestview well through their exemplary behavior and thoughtful questions. You have much to be proud of as parents.
At our annual Walk-a-Thon, I witnessed our community come alive through hard work and goal setting. Parent volunteers arrived as early as 4:00 a.m. to set up and prepare the pancake breakfast. Children and their families joyful walked and ran to meet the goals they had set for laps around the track. I learned what a fitness-minded school we are, as some students and parents walked (ran) over 60 laps. Two of our kindergartens were so determined they walked over 40 laps!
After a great deal of behind the scenes work by some tenacious third and sixth graders, The Crestview Blast Off, our school newspaper, was born. It was my distinct pleasure to be interviewed for the inaugural issue by some astute student reporters. In their feature on me, Getting to Know Mrs. Baudelia, they learned that I am a mother of two and that I would love to add a Science Lab in the future. Next year, they will expand by adding a journalism class for participants that will cover how to design a newspaper layout, writing interview questions, and developing attention grabber titles and opening sentences.
Personally, I was humbled and honored to lead the incredibly talented and dedicated faculty and staff who teach at Crestview Preparatory School. Bringing these professionals together in cohorts to discuss and address issues pertinent to the school was a strong step towards building collegiality and boosting morale. These groups focused on faculty evaluation, gardening, math curriculum, and technology integration. They were reminded how passionate they each are about education and about teaching at Crestview. Through their efforts, we developed a new faculty evaluation tool, a math scope and sequence, developed lesson for gardening curriculum, and started a tech series for teachers. Next year we hope to continue this work and add character education as another area of focus. Through your support of the Annual Fund, we will be able to increase our professional development budget, in order to allow teachers to attend conferences and workshops relevant to their daily teaching. This summer several teachers are attending the Responsive Classroom training to gain strategies for creating engaging and nurturing classroom environments. Also we will look to introduce Genius Hour, a set period of time during school that provides students a choice in what they learn and explore to encourage creativity and student-driven curriculum. Teachers will beta-test this initiative with Teacher Genius Hour afterschool as a professional development option.
Next year, beyond the teaching and learning, we will focus the development of a new strategic plan to guide us for the next five years and into the future. The board has appointed a Strategic Visioning Committee to organize the process. Several focus groups will be scheduled beginning in January to obtain constituent feedback on the present and future of Crestview. In the spring, we will invite current and alumni parents and students, staff and other community members to review the goals determined by the Strategic Visioning Committee as long-term priorities and plans.
As I look forward to next year, I am grateful to lead a school that is so purposeful in its work and commitment to learning and community. I hope you join me in feeling tremendous pride about what has been accomplished this year. I invite you to help us develop a shared vision for the future of this incredible institution. Thank you all for your support and generosity.
Baudelia Chavez Taylor
Head of School