Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Myth of a Stress-Free Childhood

I was struck recently by two seemingly conflicting articles that popped up in my social media feeds on the same day. One was entitled, Children and Stress--How to Create a Low Stress Environment for your Child and the other title was, "Children Need Some Stress in the Their Lives": The New Science of Resilience. Now, on the face of it, these seem to be two conflicting articles. What is a parent to do--help your child avoid all stress or allow your child to experience stress?

In reality, both of these articles had some really insightful and thought-provoking lessons about the science of stress in relation to child development. We mostly have negative connotations with the idea of stress. People talk about being "stressed out" at work or school. In reality, some amount of stress is normal and perhaps even beneficial. I remember the stress of starting college in a new town, not knowing anyone. It was stressful at times. I remember my heart racing as I went to my first class and met my first roommate. But what if I can avoided this stress and stayed at home? I would not have grown or learned new coping mechanisms and new skills.

Stress becomes negative and even life-altering when it is so intense that it affects your mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. As Miki Dedijers points out in his article, this is the type of stress that parents sometimes experience and the kind that can affect your children. As he says, "When you’re stressed, your child’s small body senses that there’s some unknown reason for her, too, to be on high alert. Her most trusted adult is wound up tight with apprehension."

This I think is the real wisdom we can gain from these two articles. The stress that comes with normal developmental stages or changes is what our children use to propel them to the next level. As Michael Rutter points out in his studies on resilience, "children need some stress in their lives, so they can learn to cope with it. Development involves both change and challenge and also continuity. So to see the norm as stability is wrong.” The typical process of development requires some amount of stress. If you try to protect your child from that, they will inevitably be hampered by it.

They key to coping with stress, in all it's forms, is finding coping mechanisms that work for the individual. What Rutter has found in his research is that relationships are one of the most influential factors in dealing with stress.

For children, the most toxic stress can often be the result of failed or dysfunctional relationships. Children who experience abuse, trauma or neglect at the hands of a once-trusted caregiver are dealing with a type of stress that is at the limit of their underdeveloped mental capacities. This is the type of stress that can be life-altering. However, as Rutter points out, the establishment of even one caring, consistent adult relationship can often be the key to resilience for these children, despite tragic situations they may have experienced.

For us parents too, relationships are one of the keys to coping with stress in our lives as well. As Miki Dedijers describes, overcoming stress is not a quick fix to be solved by a change in diet or meditation. It many times requires a change in lifestyle.  Our relationships help us navigate through changes in our lives. Just talking to someone else whom you trust can be the beginning of coping with stress. Isolation from others can be very stressful. As any new parent who spends hours at home alone with a newborn can tell you, a lack of social relationships can make for stressful living. Positive relationships can help buffer us against the stresses of life.

Ultimately we cannot create a stress-free life for our children. If we really think about it, we know this is not healthy for them either. Some of the stressful challenges many of us have faced have helped us become stronger, more resilient people. In order to help our children, however, we have to keep our stress at a level that is manageable. In doing so, we can help our children learn the skills they need to cope with the inevitable stress they will face. As in many aspects of parenting, you teach best by modeling.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Summer Learning Help: 101 Educational Websites and Apps

Untitled design-45

We are already about halfway through the summer! If your kids are like mine, they like to play outside, with friends, etc. but they also need a little quiet time. I've been trying to sneak in a little learning this summer so my 2nd grader has been spending time on educational apps.

With this in mind, I wanted to share Educents' list of the Top 101 Educational Websites and Apps of 2016. This is really a helpful resource when you are looking for apps or online programs that actually offer some learning and fun.

This incredible round-up of educational websites, apps, online curriculum, and digital learning resources is your go-to guide for continued summer learning and the new academic year. You can browse the guide by subject to find the perfect resources for your kids to brush up on certain skills or learn something new!

There are literally 101 great options to choose from. Here are a few that stand out to me:

1. Kids Discover - Kids Discover Online is an interactive online reading platform, offering 3 Lexile(R) reading levels and over 1,000 science and social studies resources, vetted by subject experts.


2. Farfaria Unlimited Ebooks - FarFaria offers over 1000 ebooks for your children. Each story comes to your mobile device as a colorfully illustrated book that they can flip through, read on their own, or have read to them. If they choose to hear the story, each word is highlighted as a professional actor recites it.


3. Learn to Read App: Lifetime Subscription - With music, games, lessons, and stories, HOOKED ON PHONICS: LEARN TO READ is the simplest, most effective and most fun way to learn to read. Enjoy songs, games and interactive entertainment in a style that has never been seen before in an educational app.


Which ones have you tried or do you want to try? Comment below to let me know which ones are your family's favorites! And share with friends!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Summer Time Means Biking Time

Do you enjoy biking with your kids? We having been biking as a family since our oldest was still in diapers. He always loved motion so it was a big hit.

Now that we have two kids, biking altogether seemed challenging at first. But guess what? Even before our oldest could ride on his own, we managed to bike altogether thanks to all the cool bike carriers and harnesses available now.

The best thing about biking as a family is that it is one of the few physical exercises that you can all do together in which the adults actually get a workout too. From a research perspective, we all know that physical activity is associated with better overall health, especially improved blood pressure and cardiovascular health. We love hiking together too, but as you parents know, hiking with little kids isn't always much of a workout for the adults, since you usually stop about 10 times for every 30 feet you hike.

Now that we live in Colorado where biking is common and there are tons of biking paths, it has become a regular activity for us in the spring and summer.

If you are new to biking with kids, this infographic below is helpful in figuring out what gear might be right for your family.

Get out there and enjoy the feel of the wind on your face and the freedom of pedal power.

Source: Fix.com Blog

Friday, July 1, 2016

4th of July Fun Learning

Independence Day is just around the corner. Do celebrate in the traditional way with a big BBQ and fireworks or does your family have a unique tradition? Our family tends to stick with tradition and do a lot of outdoor activities, a parade and at least a few fireworks. If you have little kids like me, you know that July 4th can be a lot of fun, but also late bedtimes for kids who are not used to staying up late. Mine are finally at an age (7 and 3) where they can recover from a late night within a day.

July 4 is also a unique holiday because it has a lot of learning opportunities tied into it. What a great time to discuss America's independence, freedoms, and pride for our country. Below are a selection of great learning tools and ideas for kids of all ages.
**This post contains affiliate links

1. 4th of July Lapbook Package of 6 (Downloadable)


I can't believe the 4th is Monday already! Thankfully Knowledge Box Central (one of my favorite makers) has a lapbook package that you can download. It covers the Declaration of Independence, important facts about Independence Day (more than BBQ!), Patriotic Symbols and Memorials Activities, and US symbols like the Statue of Liberty in 289 pages. Kiddos learn about the history of our nation and honor the efforts of those before us.

Who it's for: Ages 5-13

Cost: $9.99 (save $20)

Download It

2. 4th of July Hands On Activities (Downloadable)


Keep your kiddos active during the day (so they can rest at night) with 18 hands on activities surrounding the holiday. This set of activities includes color matching, stamp making, necklaces, and loads more. Note it's a downloadable so you'll need to rustle up components like crayons and sponges, but the down to earth ideas won't require a trip to a super store. And you can access it right away.

Who it's for: Ages 2-6

Cost: $9

Download It

3. All 50 States Notebooking Pages (Downloadable)

50 states

Quite the bundle - I love this notebook of all 50 states because it encourages personalized, independent research. Kick off long-term learning with the founding states, and discuss how the United States grew as a nation following the Declaration of Independence. I've found that interest-fueled lessons help kids learn with greater depth and retention - but as they say, creativity loves constraints - and this 50-state notebook creates just the right framework.

Who it's for: Ages 7-12

Cost: $25 (save $275)

Download It

4. Declaration of Independence CD

declaration-ad (1)

This is a tool that will resonate with auditory learners, and one that the whole family can enjoy. Learn the words of the Declaration of Independence through song, and hear them explained by a teacher in terms children can understand. I hold this truth to be self-evident: this CD is a great way to bring historical concepts to life for little learners.

Who it's for: Ages 5+, the whole family

Cost: $11.96 (save $4)

Order It

5. 4th of July Coloring Pages (Downloadable)


How about a little creativity for the day? These adorable pages will let kiddos inner artist shine, while giving opportunity to talk about what's in them. For example, what is the meaning of the Statue of Liberty? You can even talk about how she's green because of copper oxidizing over time, and how pennies are made of the same material. Yes! Arts, History and Science all together! And it's 99 cents.

Who it's for: Kids who love coloring, all ages

Cost: 99 cents

Download It

**This post contains affiliate links