Archive for ‘Parenting’

April 4, 2014

How to Balance Technology in the Home

Contributed by Eva Fleming

kids and technologyEach generation of parents has their own unique challenges and ours is clearly the excess of technology our children are being bombarded with. The problem is so new that the wisdom of the past generation has little to add when this highly addictive behavior is exhibited in their presence. What can we do with this monster that swallows our children’s time, creativity and energy? Instead of falling into despair or admitting defeat, let’s try to find solutions to improve our possibilities of raising healthy children that live in this reality without having to rely on cyber space to find happiness or peace.

To curve our children’s insatiable appetite for technology consumption the first thing we should do is clarify our purpose for their future. What type of people do we want our children to be as adults? My desire is that my children learn how to live a balanced life. I would like them to actively seek to develop all aspects of life: that they would have friends, that their bodies would be well taken cared of, that they would be outstanding students, that they would develop love and empathy for those around them. But a child that doesn’t know his or her world because he/she lives in an alternate reality, cannot achieve these goals. If this your problem, I suggest you become more involved in your children’s daily activities.

It’s important in our technologically driven society that children get opportunities for exercise. This can be achieved through organized sports, spontaneous play between siblings, or activities deliberately planned by a parent. A child’s body needs physical movement, no matter what season of the year it is. In my house I keep a BOSU ball so the children can jump while they watch TV. This ball comes in especially handy those days we can’t get to the park due to bad weather or difficulty in the day’s schedule. During those days, you can also help a child exercise by making them a list of items they can bring from one side of the house to the other. You can say, for example, run and get your laundry basket and bring it to the laundry room in less than two minutes.

In addition to physical activity, children should spend time doing school work and chores. During homework time, don’t allow your children to get distracted with TV or radio. Of course this is easier to achieve if they are younger in age because once they are teens, their habits have been formed and they are difficult to challenge. But while they are still young and you have control of their electronic devices, you can easily put them away during homework time. During the long summer months, or any other special vacation days when they don’t have homework, insist that they spend time reading or practicing an instrument so they don’t neglect the habit of feeding their mind. Chores should have the same importance. There’s a variety of things children can do to help them in their growth, like setting the table, picking up clothes from the floor, putting toys away, helping with gardening, etc.  I give my seven-year old a couple dollars every time he fills up a bag of weeds during the summer months. So I’m not only introducing him to gardening but also I’m teaching him the connection between work and money.

After children have gotten exercise and you know their homework and chores have been completed, then you can allow them to use their electronic devices using your judgment.

Don’t forget to include social activities in your children’s week.  Social activities can be limited to a family dinner where everyone has the opportunity to interact, table games like Monopoly, building LEGOS or playing dolls with friends, as long as the games are supervised. Social interaction is important to teach social-emotional skills. They create an emotional connection that bring personal satisfaction.

In regards to electronic games it is important that you don’t buy your children all the video games they want. You can, for example, buy them an electronic game in the summer, one during spring break, and maybe one during winter break. Limiting them to three games per year will ensure that once they have finished the cycle of each game, they are left with free time to develop other interest. The logic is to do everything with moderation; since excess is never healthy.

As parents, we should always keep in mind that we are raising adults. What kind of adults would we be raising if we allow our children to live only in a cyber world? Begin to train your children in the way they should go so when they are old they don’t depart from it. Begin to take control of the technology your children consume so they don’t become slaves of it. Think that one day they will be somebody’s husbands and wives and that a balanced life is the best gift that you can give his or her future family.

March 31, 2014

Listen With Your Heart

Contributed by Omaira Gonzalez

listen-with-your-heartI remember a time when my daughter and I were getting ready to attend a women’s conference. She had been asked to perform a dance that day. As we were getting ready, I spent moments earlier holding her in my arms consoling her from a heartbreak she had experienced, drying her tears. I didn’t know what to say that would make things better or make the pain feel any less. I remember mumbling words hoping something I would say would stick or would work like Tylenol and ease some of the pain. It felt like a hopeless attempt every time. We arrived at the conference and she put on her strongest face, smiling though you could still see pain piercing through her eyes. I smiled and chatted away, trying to distract everybody from the obvious question everyone wanted to ask. The moment finally came when my daughter had to perform… but how do you do it? How do you give it your all when you are hurting, your mind is foggy and you feel like a part of you is crushed? She stood there and with all of what was left, she gave it her all. It was one of her most memorable and best performances ever. She took the pain inside and used it to fuel her to dance while tears rolled down her face.

This experience brought me to an important realization… When your kids have a  cold, you give them cold medicine; if they struggle with school, you help them with more tutoring; if they fall, you place a band-aid on them. However, what do you do when your child has had a traumatic experience in his or her life? How do you help? No band-aid can fix it, no tutoring or cold medicines can give pain relief. You may even feel a bit frustrated because you don’t have the skills, insight or resources to deal with it at the moment.

Today teens are dealing with more than a heart break. They are dealing with suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, sexual identity, divorce, loss of a friend or loved one, and substance abuse, just to name a few. How we respond to this is as important as knowing when to get professional help when necessary. As a parent, our influence is very important. We need to be prepared to talk to them and walk them through their crisis with wisdom, compassion and the tools to help them heal. A friend once shared with me this advice: “Listen with your heart.” That was one of the best advice she could’ve given me when dealing with my teens and some of the crises I came across. I was so used to always using my head in dealing with their issues that many times I left out the most important part – my heart! I forgot that when you listen with your heart then you begin to connect with them emotionally, instead of trying to figure out the problem and search for quick solutions. I realized that once I started listening with my heart, I had better results. We connected better, because I understood them more and started to see where they were coming from and what they really needed.

Hopeless times may come when your teens face some of the most difficult moments in their lives. Remember that wisdom, compassion and most important— to “listen with your heart”—will help you get through those hard times.

January 7, 2014

Stuck inside? Don’t lose your parenting sanity…

Contributed by Dr. Alicia La hoz

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If you have children, your patience may be tested as you enter into a second day of school closings due to the weather – not to mention having them for the holiday break.  And even if you super bundle-up your kids, it’s even too cold to take them out so they can burn off some of their energy.  Just like the enchantment of the Christmas toys have begun to loose their entertainment value, your children’s sporadic cute phrases and adorable smiles are not helping to taper off your frustration with their tantrums, boredom, and demands for you to entertain them. Besides popping in videos or letting them spend  endless hours on electronics, here are some additional ideas to entertain your kids and to keep your sanity:

  • Make edible art.  Take out your crackers, cream cheese, peanuts, carrots, jam, jellies, peanuts, etc. and let them decorate crackers making shapes, faces to their hearts desire. Then everyone can eat his or her work of art.
  • Take out the board games. Board games can be a fun way to pass a couple hours while also helping to teach your children some helpful skills: to think on their feet, to think strategically, to learn to lose.
  • Work on a challenging puzzle.Puzzles are great for the brain and they also provide endless hours of quiet entertainment. The human mind has two separate hemispheres or lobes –  right and left-brain – with each one dealing in different functions. Right brain deals with emotions and performs tasks holistically while the left-brain functions in linear fashion. When you are able to use both the sides of the brain, you will find that as you try to put together a jigsaw puzzle, you harness both the brain powers.
  • Listen to an audiobook.  Having a book read to you is a great pleasure and helps your children with comprehension, listening and your non-readers may even begin to appreciate books.  There are great audiobooks (many you can rent for free via your public library) that the whole family can enjoy.
  • Dance. Turn on the radio and blast on some fun music and have your kids go at it. Make sure to join them.
  • Work on an album.  For older kids or adolescents, have them help you put together an album of the holidays, birthday or season. You can even do this electronically in websites like shutterfly.com.
  • Happy Crappy App.  Download our Happy Crappy app and work on the activities suggested with your kids.  Download gloo here and check out Happy Crappy.

 Additional Parenting tips:

  • For younger children, keep a room clear of toys and have them bring one toy or activity at a time, as this helps them to focus and will play longer with their toy.
  • Help your get started on an activity child for a couple of minutes. This will help them become interested in it and they will be less demanding of you throughout the day.
  • Instead of just saying “No” to things, try to get in the habit of redirecting them to what you want them to do or how to act.

What other ways or things are you doing to survive being cooped with your children?

November 11, 2013

Dads: Walk the walk. Your kids are watching and they will follow!

Contributed by Veronica Cruz  

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It’s no news that child obesity has become a growing problem in the US.  Kids more than ever are consumed by the use of technology: tablets, phones, video games – you name it! It seems like they’re less inclined to get involved in physical activities. But listen up Dads! Even when technology can be a major influence, you ARE their biggest influence!

According to the CDC, in 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were obese.  Additionally, children and teens who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults and have more health problems.

I’m not a dad, but I do have a friend who chose to change his lifestyle and who has seen positive outcomes in his life as a father and a husband. If he can do it, so can you!

Armando Salazar has been happily married to his wife Adriana for 12 years and has three children, an 11yr old girl and two boys, ages 10 and 4. This H.S. weight lifter who, as he says, “lifted weights to help his self-esteem issues” had lost interest in exercising and lived a passive lifestyle for years, which changed his body and health for the worse. But that changed 15 months ago when, through Facebook (yes, technology!), he was introduced to running through a friend who started a small running group called the Running Peeps. Armando says his life “has drastically changed in a fulfilled and positive way”, since he began running. Even more exciting was the domino effect his new passion had on his family. His wife joined him a week later running in the same group and shortly after decided to make an impact on school-age girls. So she became a coach for their daughter’s running school program called (GOTR) Girls on the Run. Armando says she’s been instrumental and a huge support in his new running passion. She has also changed their family’s cooking habits for the better. Today, he feels lucky to have all-around positive influence & passion in their family & their new (running group) friends. His kids find both mom and dad impressive: “It’s cool and overwhelming when your kids think highly of you & tell you that they want racing medals like mommy and daddy!” He says they’re looking forward to competing when they are able to. Meanwhile, they cheer mom and dad on during their races. But, you see, running has also brought the family together: “This past summer we enjoyed more outdoor activities than in the last 10yrs. We shared more bike rides, family runs, and hiking than ever before. Running has brought our family closer & we have a closer bond because of it.”

Armando just ran his first Chicago Marathon and hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon some day. “I want to show my kids that a goal is always attainable as long as YOU believe and not let life circumstances get in the way of reaching them.” And since sharing is caring, Armando invites dads and moms who want to live a healthier lifestyle to join their awesome running group “Running Peeps,” which have grown from 20 to 350+ runners. Check them out on Facebook.

Dads, we encourage you: Walk the walk. They’re watching, and they will follow.

June 4, 2013

Sibling Rivalry

Contributed by Eva Fleming  |  2013

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The Olsen twins are the most famous siblings I know. When I see them I make two observations: They like high-end fashion and complement one another like fudge on ice cream. I don’t know if this is the reality behind the camera but it is the impression that I and most outsiders get. However, not all siblings share the same genetic origin, and unfortunately for mom and dad, not all siblings have synchronized needs and wants.

After a day of school, the children under my roof are never in agreement. Fighting constantly out of jealousy and competition, they require the services of a referee to help them resolve their conflicts. As summer arrives, I will be among the many parents bracing themselves for the 24/7 squabbling and bickering that children engage in to fill their newfound free time.

There are many different opinions about what to do with sibling rivalry. The opinion that tickles me the most is the ‘don’t get involved unless there’s physical harm’ theory. I think NOT! My suggestion is exactly the opposite: Get involved! Children don’t know anything about relationships and have no idea how to compromise, communicate, negotiate, and consolidate.

The best way to approach sibling conflict is to get involved in the lives of your kids. Being present helps eliminate a sense of competition if your kids are in fact vying for YOUR attention. Your presence helps model peaceful behavior, gives your kids the parental attention they crave, and fulfills you as a parent because you know you’ve done your job. If you are busy when a conflict arises and can’t play referee at that very moment, keep one of the children next to you. I tell my 6-year old when he comes to recount an offense and I can’t deal with it at the moment: “Stay with mommy, she would never be mean to you.” He stays with me for 20 seconds before deciding that what I am doing is too boring for him, and goes back to play with his brother with the mindset that if they don’t get along he will be forced to sit with a loving but boring mommy all day. Somehow learning to get along gets exciting for him fast.

Here are two things you should never do when your children quibble:

  • Assign blame! It takes two to tango.
  • Remove your love and attention from your children.

Sibling rivalry is an element of life. Learn to deal with it rather than dread it.  Just remember to engage with your kids, play and spend as much time with them as your schedule allows. You don’t play children’s games? You don’t have time for all that nonsense? Well, in the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.” So go ahead, bring out your inner parent and love your children through their sibling rivalry.

March 6, 2013

Truth is…Raising Kids today is a Challenge

FamBrid_0251That’s the plain truth according to parents from the Chicagoland area. Whether raising an infant, toddler, preteen, or teenager, the role of a parent or caretaker has become a much more complicated task. Dealing with issues like tantrums, long working hours, technology-absorbed children and adults, teens that think they know it all, and the increasing loss of values, many times parents find themselves wanting to escape from the task at hand. But even then, most parents are willing to face the challenge of raising their children, with everything that comes with it.  No matter what, the love for their children makes parents want to take on this Love Challenge!

We went out and asked real parents and caretakers two questions: What is the biggest challenge of being a parent? And, What is the best part of it?

This is what they had to say, and I’m sure we’ll all be able to relate to at least one of them.

Many parents can feel overwhelmed by what they see as their responsibility to their community. Take for instance Juana who says: “Being a parent is a challenging task. We have to raise kids which are going to be a part of our society in a positive way.”  Maria also expressed: “If only they came with a manual. Our job (as parents) is not just sending them to school and feeding them, our role as parents goes way beyond that.”

Others tackle the daily learning experience of the “new parent” and the effect it can have in the marriage relationship. Luz shared: “It’s not easy. (It’s) fun but stressful, joyful, and each day brings a new challenge that sometimes goes beyond just the kids, but also into our marriage. This is the hardest career one can have because of the many surprises that will come with it.” She encourages parents, “Do the best you can to enjoy your children and show them your love.”

Others deal with matters of the mind and heart of independent and outspoken teenagers. Juan says: “One of my biggest challenges is being (very) patient, especially when they think they know everything.  It’s hard!  But at the same time it’s beautiful because God gave us the privilege of being parents to our kids and to guide them the best way possible.”  While many, and I mean many, deal with the “busy lifestyle” and the fact that technology has come to reshape the way we live and interact with each other.  Catalina said this about her biggest challenge: “Playing catch-up with our own children due to our busy lives. As well as making sure to engage with the kids in this technological world! No iPad, iPod, cell, text, Netflix, Wii, leapfrog or anything else!”  Ana shares a similar view: “It’s very difficult with a 15 yr old and a 12 year old and today’s technology. I wonder what awaits me with my youngest kids who are 4 and 1 yrs old.”

Elizabeth brought up another important view: “(Raising kids) is a blessing. There are so many kids being raised by grandparents, relatives or society and not by parents.”

Benny shared a challenge that many face, “The most challenging for me as a single mom in this economy, is the amount of time I spend away from my boy working everyday crazy hours to bring enough (money) home to pay the rent and cover the bills. But the best is when at the end of the day I get hugs, kisses and ‘I love you’ from my precious angel.”

Another challenge parents expressed was when it comes to beliefs and values. This is what Esmeralda had to say: “Being able to adapt your morals to today’s changing world/society; being able to raise your children to be open-minded and respectful of others while teaching them to be firm in their beliefs and have some kind of spirituality in this many times Godless world. The best part is, knowing you are raising adults with empathy, who will be productive, happy members of society. That’s my goal at least.”

Karina mentioned another challenge: “Setting a good example.” Susana supported that statement saying: “It’s impressive how they learn from our own actions. Parents, let’s set a good example because they’re watching us.”

Juan shared something that seemed to resonate with most parents: “We weren’t born knowing how to be parents, but that was the challenge we accepted when we decided to become parents. It’s a wonderful blessing.” Rayo summed it up to: “It’s difficult, crazy! But I wouldn’t change it.”

In conclusion, being a parent is definitely an every day challenge.  It’s not an easy task, and there is no such thing as the perfect parent.  But we can all learn and strive to be better parents! There are no manuals, but there are tools available to us. So take on the challenge and invest in who matters most.

If you’re up to the challenge, we invite you to participate in our Love Challenge Family Conference on Saturday April 27 from 9am to 3pm, at Carpentersville Middle School in Carpentersville, IL.  Enjoy a day of fun and learning with engaging speakers, dynamic workshops, games, food, and much more! There are separate activities for teens, children, single adults, parents, and couples.  Admission is FREE, with tickets you can get by registering at www.familybridgeschicago.org or 877-412.7434. The conference is delivered in both English and Spanish.

Enrich the relationship with your spouse, family, and community.  At the end of the day, it’s what really matters!

December 3, 2012

Holiday Traditions

PrintCreating and maintaining holiday traditions are far more important to children than most parents realize. Family traditions provide enjoyment that extends far beyond the moment for those who participate; family traditions help define a family.

Activities that are observed and performed by the family year in and year out (holidays, birthdays, annual fishing trips, etc.) help build trust, security and stability. Regardless of what else may happen throughout the year, these traditions will not change.

Traditions also provide us with a sense of identity. They are among the things that make us unique from other families. For example, most families that celebrate Christmas will decorate a tree, hang stockings and fix a large meal. Similarly, Jewish families light Menorah candles during the Hanukkah celebration, also followed by a large meal. However, there are probably nuances to your celebrations…maybe your family opens presents on Christmas Eve, or one of your Hanukkah meals features a particular recipe from a great aunt that is unique to your family; or perhaps you have a blended family and you celebrate Christmas and Kwanza. Every family provides a unique twist on the holidays with ethnic foods, decorations, and special activities – these all help families become distinctive.

A third reason that traditions are so vital is that they provide continuity between generations. When families come together at the holidays, it’s a wonderful opportunity to have the older family members tell stories about what Christmas was like when they were young. Placing ornaments on the tree that have survived a few generations and using well-loved family recipes are great ways to link past generations with the newer members of the family.

Allison Woods, speaker and writer, recommends the following tips to figure out what holiday traditions will work best for you:

  1. Realize that some traditions just happen. Whether it’s building a Graham Cracker Cookie Mansion or decorating a special tree-sometimes the best traditions just magically start one year.
  2. Traditions should include everyone. Even if there is one ‘boy’ tradition with dad and a ‘girl’ tradition with mom, most traditions should include everyone in the family (this includes grandparents and extended family if they are staying in the house at the time).
  3. Choose activities that reflect the spirit of the holiday.Whichever faith you may follow, find the time to attend at least one service during the season.
  4. Choose activities that will serve others. The holidays are a great time to practice and teach generosity to your children. Allow your children to help select what they want to participate in each holiday season so they can develop a clear understanding of the needs of the community. Consider serving meals at a shelter or programs such as Meals on Wheels, Toys for Tots, Angel Tree, or Coat Collection.
  5. Choose activities that are easily reproduced year after year. The importance of the holidays is not to be elaborate but to be repeated every year and passed on to the next generation.

Family traditions need to be emphasized and kept faithfully. If a child or teenager in your household wants to go to a party rather than attend a traditional family dinner, consider saying “No.” However, it is important that you discuss your reasons for keeping the family customs; don’t lose your temper, just explain your reason and maintain your resolve. Years from now you will see your children starting the same traditions in their families. Similarly, if a holiday party at work lands on the same day that you have planned to go get your family tree, again, put the family custom first. As soon as exceptions are made, the tradition dies out and the family has lost what could have been a great moment.

If your family has few real traditions, add some of your own. The more traditions, the more clearly the family is defined. Regardless of what religion or set of beliefs you hold, traditions can and should be a part of the family.

October 15, 2012

How much activity is enough?

Contributed by Eva Fleming

How much activity is enough? Some of us carry our daily activities to a controversial and even harmful level. We are so busy trying to achieve our goals that our disquieted spirits take us from one activity to the next without time for tranquility, intimacy and reflection. We don’t pause to listen – I mean really listen to the people around us. Our children scream: “That’s not fair!” and our answer is prompt: “Well, you know life is not fair, get over it!” We quickly dismiss their concerns because we don’t have time to stop and acknowledge their frustrations.

If you are that person, would you stop today and think about ways you can dedicate yourself to the realities of life that are not cultivated through tasks, work and/or projects?  I have a prescription for you: Take the day off and sit on the couch with a blanket to read books and discuss life with your children; play board games and go for a long walk by the lake holding hands with your loved one. Quiet your spirit, recognize that life is passing you by and smell the proverbial roses.

But there’s another side equally harmful, the person who is extremely inactive. Do you realize no benefits exist without change and effort?  When you allow life to go by while you sit in the sidelines watching television and reading novels, while your children gorge in front of the television and video games, you are feeding yourself and them a big dose of poor self-image. To you, my challenge is: embrace a project that requires your effort and sacrifice; teach your children a skill or encourage them to have a hobby, go for a bike ride with them, take up carpentry, get in the kitchen and together prepare meals for the family or the needy.

You see, both excessive activism and disproportionate idleness are harmful for your growth and the well being of your family. It’s important to find a balance. You must set some boundaries on your activity levels or you will be handing out baggage to the next generation. The key to making good decisions regarding your activities is clear boundaries. Boundaries can only be set when you recognize the need for self control. Stop, check yourself, adjust, and go. Do this a thousand times a day until it becomes second nature. Don’t let your activities or lack thereof rob your children of the most important gift they can ever get, YOU.

September 4, 2012

Back to School: A Teachable Heart

Contributed by Eva Fleming

The long warm days of leisure and enjoyment are over. It’s time to go back to school. Parents plan for healthy breakfasts and lunches, shop for school supplies, go back-to-school shopping, take the kids to get immunized, plan for after school care, arrange homework help, enroll in extracurricular activities, and the list goes on. It can be an exciting time, as well as a stressful one.

If you have already done all these things, you are on your way to a successful year, but there’s still much more to be done. After the excitement of the first few days of school is over, it will be time to help your children see the ultimate purpose of their education, as opposed to the immediate results. It’s time to teach them why they get up in the morning, get dressed with their new clothes, eat their healthy breakfast and walk out the door with their new school supplies. Now it’s time to help them make sense of all these rituals.

Your job is to teach your children that the purpose of education is to attain wisdom, acquire discipline, learn what’s fair, receive knowledge and direction, and apply prudence. Every night they sweat to finish their homework, they are learning discipline. The daily practice of postponing fun for the sake of a job well done, gives way to wisdom. The daily opportunities to treat friends with respect, puts them in the path to fairness. Listening to the instructions of an adult, gives them a chance to practice respect. Seeking answers when questions are difficult, teaches them to love knowledge.

The character that children can develop through their school experience is much more valuable than straight A’s and Honor Rolls (even though those are fun too). School is not only about math, reading and science; it’s about much more than that. Prudence will give a child shrewdness in a confusing world; knowledge will given them the information they need to thrive; wisdom will help them apply what they already know.  You want your children to know, to discern and to receive. You want them to study and develop a teachable heart.

May 16, 2011

Raising Confident Children

Contributed by Brittany Mershon, MA

One of the questions I am frequently asked as a therapist is, “How can I help my child to be more confident?”  Confidence is a multifaceted concept to address. First, confidence is not a feeling, it’s a commitment. Confidence is not the absence of fear, but rather a commitment to seeing a decision through in spite of fear. Raising confident children can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Here is a list of tips to help you through the process:

  1. Model Confidence. Children mimic behavior they observe from those around them, especially their parents. Parents who show confidence, even in the face of fear, will help their children learn to do the same.
  2. Embrace Failures. It sounds counter-intuitive, but children who fear failure are more likely to fail. Children and adults alike who are successful learn to overcome failure early in life. They learn that fearing failure causes one to act more cautiously and fear taking risks that might cause unsuccessful results. Celebrating their best effort and modeling mistakes can be learning experiences that will help confidence to grow.
  3. Embrace Success. Fear of success is a common fear that can cause children to focus on the negative aspects of doing well. Success could mean more responsibility or increased expectations. It is important to share with children the benefits of success.
  4. Embrace Change. Many children are creatures of habit. Much like many adults, the threat of change can be intimidating. Even if the ‘change’ is positive, children often fear the unknown. Seek to understand what it is that is ultimately holding your child back from embracing change, and then work to help them overcome or work around it.
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