Category Archives: Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting: Nurturing Our Children’s Creativity, Joy Bender Hadley

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One of my favorite memories from my childhood was listening to my mother play the piano. I loved how smoothly her fingers went from key to key, playing each note. She furthered my interest with an interactive musical game for my siblings and me. She would play various tunes, each offering different tempos. When she played the faster music, we would dance with quick moves around the whole house. As it slowed, we would too. It was a marvelous way for my mother to introduce us to the world of music. The bonus may have been that it also tired us out eventually. This was the beginning of my love for music and dance. My mother was always finding ways to nurture our creativity. Our house always had a supply of simple visual arts materials, and no end to creative ways to keep our imaginations blossoming.

The impact of the arts on the developing brain is essential.

The brain is stimulated in positive ways while creating art, dancing, or playing an instrument. The research for this is even included in the Search Institute’s forty developmental assets for youth. These are building blocks to help children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. The more assets our children experience, the healthier they will be—not just as young people, but as they transition into adults as well.

By introducing creative activities into our children’s lives, we can help them develop skills that will create healthy habits. The arts can support creative problem-solving as well as celebrate our individuality, uniqueness, and diversity. Creativity encourages self-expression, a way to create something from personal feelings and experiences. This can increase self-worth and self-esteem.

Though here in the Upper Peninsula we may have fewer offerings such as art museums, programs, and concerts than a larger metropolitan area,

we do have abundant opportunities to share the arts with our children in many ways. We have art galleries and art centers in many of our communities. It is my belief that children are never too young to start interacting with or in art. Bring them to an art gallery, outdoor art fair, symphony concert, or take the time to pick up books about the arts at the library and start conversations with your child. If discussing art makes you feel nervous, that’s all right. Learn with your child.

This type of conversation does not have to happen only in a gallery or concert setting, though. You know the game of lying down outside on a blanket and looking up for images in clouds. That is a creative activity that can help stimulate your child’s imagination. Point out what you see and ask your child if they see it. Then ask them to find something. Observational skills are important to your future scientist, mathematician, artist, or engineer. The arts help greatly in fine-tuning those skills.

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Studies have concluded that it’s very important to introduce art education at a young age because children are developing their critical thinking skills.

Our children fine-tune their motor skills while creating art. The cognitive processes involved in learning to draw, choosing shapes and colors, and creating detail in visual work help develop the skills associated with these tasks. The musical arts can translate into better math skills. Musical rhythms can provide a way for students to learn fractions, counting, and patterns.

We do have opportunities to meet artists, musicians, dancers, and performers in the Upper Peninsula. You know the Michigan State motto, “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”? Well, I truly believe if you seek creative activities in this pleasant Upper Peninsula, look about you. Here we are more likely to meet talented artists face-to-face. We are a personable group of neighbors. Ask local friends and family about local opportunities. We have galleries, art class opportunities, creative businesses, and children’s museums.

As you introduce your children to these types of skill-building creative activities, you’ll be having fun right along with your child.

Try collaborating on a painting or drawing. One of my favorite drawing opportunities as a child was having an adult draw a simple scribble on paper. Then I would take it and see if I could make an image from it. A simple figure 8 might turn into a twirling dancer or an animal. That kept me occupied for hours. The adults seemed to have fun coming up with odd scribbles just to see if I could find anything to make out of it. I did this with my own children, and you can try this too. You might ask your child to make a scribble for you and you try to make something out of it. This type of dialogue between adult and child can help to develop not only the budding artist in the youth, but also help further communication between you and your child.

Through the arts and nurturing creativity, both you and your child will have fun while developing lifelong skills and the blossoming of imagination.

(https://www.search-institute.org)

Joy Bender Hadley is an award- winning art educator working in schools and as an artist-in-residence throughout the region. She believes in the importance of art education in the development of all youth. Aurora Artworks, her art service business, offers creativity coaching for adults.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Positive Parenting: Tips for Togetherness at the Table, Erin Ross

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Families are getting busier and busier. It seems like there is constant running to extra activities before and after school. Sports practice, dance, religious programs and such take up so much time that many families rarely sit down to eat together anymore. Yet there are many benefits to eating together as a family regularly. Young children learn more language and social skills. All children benefit from having a routine in the household, as it helps to foster their sense of security and belonging. Meals together give parents the opportunity to monitor children’s moods and notice more quickly if something is amiss. Eating together also grows the bond of the family so all members feel more comfortable talking to one another when there is an issue in their life.

In fact, research indicates youth benefit physically, mentally, and emotionally in many ways from family mealtimes, such as:

Increased self-esteem
Improved academic performance
Greater resilience
Less risk of depression
Less risk of substance abuse
Less risk of teen pregnancy
Less likelihood of developing eating disorders
Decreased obesity rates

So how might you make the most of your mealtime together? Here are some tips:

To start, set a goal to have a family meal together at least three times per week. It doesn’t always have to be dinner. Saturday morning breakfast works too.

Keep conversation light. Don’t approach major issues at the table as stress associated with meals is not healthy for anyone.

Make sure there is something on the table that everyone likes. If someone starts out the meal unhappy with what is on the table, it makes it unpleasant for everyone. We all have likes and dislikes, and that is okay. Encourage everyone to help with the meal plans.

Don’t make a big issue about eating everything on the plate or trying all the foods. When getting children to try new foods, it is much easier if the atmosphere is relaxed and not forced. Some children need to see new foods many times before they may want to try them.

Discourage comments like, “Eww, I don’t like that!” especially when you have younger children at the table. Parents and older siblings need to set a good example and a simple, “No, thank you,” is perfectly acceptable.

Give all family members a job, like setting the table, clearing the table, dishes, etc. These are not chores, but rather everyone playing a role in the family.

Encourage using manners around the table, saying please and thank you, passing food or condiments, sharing, and being kind to one another.

Give all family members a chance to talk about their day. Try to focus on the positive and allow for open family discussion without judgment from others.

Laugh together. Laughter helps release tension and is good for the mind, body, and soul.

Make sure parents are modeling good behavior. If you want kids to do it, you have to show them.

Avoid distractions—no TV, phones, or computers at the table. Use the time to talk and learn more about each other.

So take the time to eat together as a family in an enjoyable way several times each week, then set a goal to increase this number as often as possible. Your family will thank you.

Research source: https://www.glcyd.org/youthconnections/

Erin Ross has been an educator teaching parenting and nutrition at MSU Extension for nearly fifteen years. She currently supervises all the 4-H staff in the U.P. Erin was born and raised in the U.P., and lives in Ironwood with her husband and daughter. 

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Positive Parenting: Pet Care for Kids, Jenny Magli

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Caring for family pets is a big responsibility! Pets need patience, love and attention, food and water, grooming, exercise, playtime, and medical care throughout their lives. Sounds a lot like what we all require, especially kids! So with that, it is important to remember that as kids are learning responsibilities in life, they also must learn that pets are living creatures that deserve to be treated kindly and with compassion, and that they are a lifetime commitment. This can be very time consuming, but well worth the effort. The level of responsibility you teach a child certainly depends on their age. How much responsibility do you think he or she can handle? What would be age-appropriate and considered safe for him or her to do? Overall, as a parent, you are responsible for supervision in pet caretaking by making sure the pet is well cared for.

Here are some points for promoting positive pet care:

  • If there is already a pet in the home, kids will have an idea of what it takes to care for one, but still may need oversight in overall pet care. If a pet is not yet in the home, it can be helpful to start with a “pretend animal” and teach kids the basics of care that way first.
  • Help kids understand that sometimes pets do not want attention, and give examples of what that looks like so they can be respectful of that.
  • Some pets like hugs and some don’t, so it’s important for kids to understand acceptable ways to show affection.
  • Teaching a gentle, calm approach with pets is important.
  • Sometimes it’s important to leave pets alone. This is especially true when they are not feeling well, or they’ve had an eventful day.
  • Teach kids how to interact appropriately with new animals. This includes animals they meet when you’re out around town. When you come across people walking their pets, always ask the owner before approaching an animal. Remind children they must always be respectful, gentle, and cautious when meeting new animals.
  • Make it easy for kids to complete their tasks. For instance, you can draw out instructions and tape to a food container so they know how much to feed the pet.
  • Children can easily become overwhelmed when too much is required of them, so finding a balance that keeps them enthused and participating without feeling overwhelmed is key.
  • Reward smaller kids with a daily “star” for their efforts in helping with a pet-related chore. Children need praise and reward for completing tasks. Positive reinforcement promotes positive results.
  • Offer an allowance of sorts for helping with pets. This could be in the form of a “point system” where a certain number of points are given for specific chores that can be cashed in later for various things.
  • A most valuable tool in teaching kids to be responsible pet caretakers is to set an example by fulfilling this role well ourselves!

Note: There are many books available on teaching kids how to interact with animals.

*Readers are reminded it is entirely of their own accord, right, and responsibility to make informed and educated decisions on their pet’s health care. Jenny Magli disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Jenny is a Certified Natural Health Consultant for pets and their people, and an Animal Iridology, Healing Touch for Animals (Level 2) and NES Bioenergetics practitioner. She is available for consultations and presentations. She can be reached at (906) 235-3524 or 1healthlink@gmail.com.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Positive Parenting: Addressing the Smartphone Hang-Up, by Keith Glendon

I’ve made a career of technology. I’m an advocate of computer science education programs in our communities and public schools. I use a smartphone, a computer, and dozens of applications and internet resources every day, so it may seem odd that I don’t let my kids have a smartphone.

My eleven-year-old daughter wrote me an impressive, persuasive letter requesting a phone as a school assignment. I wrote her a letter in return. I took the opportunity to tell my daughter how much I love her, admire her, and have been proud of her patient efforts to convince me of her need for a phone. She’s been logical and creative in her approach. I had to give her credit. I have valid concerns, too – screen time, addictive distraction, cyber-bullying, texting, access to inappropriate or dangerous material. My core reason? I want to preserve her childhood. I want her to hold on to her ability to just be. I don’t want a phone taking over the spaces of her life that she fills with her innocence, presence, love of nature, and active pursuits. I don’t want texting and social media to consume the time she spends biking, writing, drawing, storytelling, or playing guitar. I want to spare her the dark side of technology.

So, I was honest. I wrote to her about her cherished childhood and about how much a phone can get in the way of the most joyous parts of life. I used myself as an example. I told her honestly about how technology sometimes consumes my time. I acknowledged my own distractions that she’s often noted with frustration. I reminded her of stories she’d shared with me about friends’ fixation on their phones.

Technology is an important part of our world today. Phones and other technology have brought our lives great benefits. I let her know I understand and support her need to have and use technology. Then I moved on to the real answer she’d been waiting for – when could she have a phone. Instead of an age or a date, I focused on important key concepts directly related to having a phone:

Responsibility – A smartphone is an expensive piece of equipment. It needs to be cared for and used responsibly: communicating maturely and respectfully with others, not bullying or gossiping; making good choices in online content, knowing when something is inappropriate; putting the phone down when it’s time to do other things.

Integrity and Trust – A smartphone gives access to apps and the internet, to communicating with people without parents knowing. With it come temptations and risks such as bullying, sending inappropriate pictures, communicating with prohibited people, and looking at adult content, so strong integrity and trustworthiness must be demonstrated.

Gratitude – A phone is a privilege. Far more people in the world do not have phones than do. A child who lives in a home with a loving family, regular food on the table, and clean drinking water is more fortunate than most. It’s important to be grateful for the things we have. A child who doesn’t recognize good fortune, express gratitude, and share his or her good fortune where possible is not ready to have a phone.

Presence – The greatest gifts we receive are simply our life and time. A phone brings a big potential drain on time, focus, and presence. So showing consistent ability to be present without a phone is a good step toward maintaining presence with a phone.

Money – Phones cost money up-front and every month thereafter, so one must have an understanding of money, value the things it’s used for, make good decisions about money, and be ready to help pay for the phone to be ready to have one.

I gave my daughter clear examples of how she could demonstrate maturity in each of these areas and told her that over the next year, we’d communicate and focus on these things with the goal of showing her readiness for a phone. I told her she could also hold me accountable for the things I was expecting of her. I closed the letter with a reminder of my love and admiration for her. She was happy to have a clear answer and seemed to beam with a sense of satisfaction over how it was delivered.

I don’t know when a child should get a phone. It’s a thorny parenting issue. I’m glad now to have created a clear construct for mature, respectful conversation with my daughter about it. I feel good about having empowered her to work on showing me when she’s ready. I can’t turn back the hands of time to simpler days when smartphones didn’t exist. Hopefully, though, with positive parenting, I can help her learn balance to preserve the simple joys in her life when she’s got her own phone.

Keith Glendon, father to three daughters and a son, a husband and practitioner of joy, always wanted to be a writer. In his early forties, he changed “I want to be a writer” to “I am a writer.” He’s grateful to share his voice with you.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Positive Parenting: Brattiness or Brain Development? Important Facts About Your Little One, by Kathy Harsch

Challenging behavior  – why does it seem to be right in front of us, perhaps more often than we would like?!   I would like to empower those who have daily interaction with young children. With the power of knowledge, you will be better prepared to respond to and deal with conflict.   Knowledge of child development will help keep your young relationship in good standing.

Did you know that before the age of six, information is processed twelve times slower than in adults?   Children six to twelve process information six times slower than adults!   What does that mean?   When we walk into a room and quickly announce we need to leave; Mommy has a meeting and I need you to turn off the TV, get your shoes and backpack, and a jacket just in case it cools down;  we need to leave in just a few minutes, so be quick!”   Rarely does this common scenario take place without Mom or Dad getting flustered.  Try this – while turning off the TV, give the command, “get your shoes and backpack.”   Truly adults need to s. l. o. w. the pace down!

How many times a day have you said the word “don’t”?   Young children cannot conjugate the word “don’t” and therefore when you say “don’t throw the sand”, they hear “throw the sand” and you march over to the sandbox with the “challenging me again” thought!   We need to tell children what to do!   “Use the bulldozer to move the sand!”   It takes work to tell children what we want them to do. “Don’t” really doesn’t give them any information and “no” certainly doesn’t provide more information either.  Instead, tell children what to do.   Teach them what YOU want them TO DO!

Children under seven lack mature “inner speech.”    In adults, inner speech is like a rehearsal for what we may want to say when arriving at a new acquaintance’s place or how we might want to prepare a meal.   We can even quickly think “oh, what I would like to say” but use our filter and think before we act!   Young children see in pictures.   Adults need to paint a picture with their words. Remember, don’t” and “no” provide no information. For example, “You seem anxious, you pushed your friend when you walked into the room.  You may not push, you may come to me and stand by me if you feel anxious.” Using descriptive language helps defuse those unwanted verbal power struggles and is also a stepping stone for language and literacy, so utilize it as often and fully as possible.

If you’re in the teaching field or just simply read to children, it’s helpful to know that binocular vision, the ability of both eyes to focus on the same subject, doesn’t fully mature until around age six.   Until then, it is like covering one eye, spinning around and trying to walk down steps!   Reading a story to children and moving the book in front of their eyes is continuous motion.   In a group you’ll get the child in front saying, “I didn’t see the picture!”   They follow the book and the children in back begin to say, “I didn’t see the picture!”   Suddenly everyone is scooting, on their knees, and saying, “I didn’t see the picture!”   Instead, hold the book still, move it, then hold it still again.   We should pay attention to children’s behavior. Though it appears to us that they’ve seen the picture, they haven’t and they are not making it up!

There is so much we can do to help children plug into the rational part of the brain.   We can do the same!   Be a S.T.A.R. – Smile, Take a deep breath, And Relax!   I know you can do it! Teach your child or children the same.

Kathy Harsch has followed Dr. Becky Bailey’s teachings since attending her 2000 Marquette Early Childhood Conference presentation. She’s since attended many of Dr. Bailey’s conferences and continues to teach and learn from Conscious Discipline, School Family, and Brain Smart ways, incorporating them in her day care.

*Conscious Discipline™, School Family T, and Brain Smart™, are trademarks of Loving Guidance, Inc.  1-800-842-2846   www.ConsciousDiscipline.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved

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Healing the Fractured Child, by Fran S. Waters, DCSW, LMSW, LMFT

In the mid-1980s, I had been treating for over a year, Eliza, an 8-year-old adopted girl who had been severely abused by her biological parents. In spite of her caring adoptive parents, Eliza was not making progress. One day, she walked into my familiar office at the local mental health center (now called Pathways), looked around at the bookshelves full of toys and books, and inquired what they were. I was stunned!

Serendipitously, a few months earlier, the clinic’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lu Kuhnhoff, who had just returned from a conference sponsored by the International Society for the Study of Dissociative Disorders, provided an in-service to a group of us interested clinicians. Dr. Kuhnhoff described signs of dissociation, including memory and identity disturbances, auditory and visual hallucinations, and a loss of consciousness (awareness). At this time, I had been specializing in treatment of sexually-abused children. I naively thought to myself that perhaps I would see one case with dissociation in my lifetime. Little did I understand that dissociation is a primitive, biological, automatic defense mechanism derived from reptiles and continued up the evolutionary chain to us mammals. Dissociation is activated when a child is faced with overwhelming fear when being abused or encountering other forms of trauma (e.g. painful medical procedures and illness), and when fighting and fleeing is simply impossible. In order to survive the frightening experience, the child segments off the horrifying event(s) from his or her consciousness as a way of escaping mentally when there is no actual way to escape.

Like other forms of mental conditions, there are different degrees of dissociation, such as: spacing out; amnesia to past traumatic events; distortion in environment in which things seem unreal or viewed through a tunnel; when the body feels numb or disconnected from self; or the child experiences a separation within the self with different identities, feelings, memories, behaviors and relationship preferences that influence the child or may take control of the body and present differently to others, as seen in Dissociative Identity Disorder-DID (formerly termed Multiple Personality Disorder). It is important to understand that those with DID are still one person with different states of consciousness or awareness. In my book Healing the Fractured Child: Diagnosing and Treating Youth with \Dissociation, I explain more thoroughly the ways dissociative symptoms can be expressed in numerous clinical cases.

Generally, traumatized children with dissociation can present with a myriad of symptoms due to shifting parts of themselves that become triggered by reminders of past traumas, e.g., smells, sights, sounds, touch. They can rapidly shift from being happy to sad to raging, and display aberrant behavior in which amnesia may be present. They can exhibit dramatic shifts in their abilities with activities such as schoolwork and sports, and in their preferences in food, dress, activities, and more. They can demonstrate severe attachment or relationship impairment due to a lack of trust and separate parts of the self not having a connection to their caregivers. These children can one moment seek out the parent and the next moment attack the parent. They often have severe attention problems marked by poor concentration and focus due to intrusive traumatic memories, or voices and images experienced in their mind that disrupt their ability to focus. They can exhibit aggressive behavior for which they have no memory, and therefore deny such behavior. Consequently, they are frequently viewed as liars. These changing moods and behaviors can confound caretakers and teachers.

I received a call from a grade school principal who told me Ryan, a 9-year-old boy (Waters, 2015) who’d been sexually abused, had turned around and suddenly hit a girl in line. When the principal witnessed this and confronted Ryan, he adamantly denied it, collapsing to the floor wailing. However, in this case, the astute principal related to me that Ryan really did not know he had done it. I knew Ryan depersonalized from his lower body since he was completely unaware of his chronic soiling problem. However, I did not know he had a more severe form of dissociation until this phone call. Upon further exploration, he, like Eliza, revealed hearing voices and seeing in his mind a separate identity that was a protector who hit the little girl who had unexpectedly knocked into him.

These traumatized, dissociative children can often receive more commonly recognized diagnoses, such as psychosis due to hallucinations, bipolar disorder due to extreme mood swings, attention deficit disorder due to poor focus, oppositional or conduct disorders due to their disruptive behavior. Unfortunately, while they have an abuse history, post-traumatic stress and dissociative disorders are often overlooked as the source of their symptoms.

Effectively parenting these children can be a daunting task. Porges (2011), who has studied how we respond to threat, discovered the crucial role of voice and eyes in fostering communication and bonding between parents and children. Porges noted that the mylenated vagal nerve, which regulates social engagement and goes from the heart to the ears and from the heart to the eyes, makes us very sensitive to loud, low sounds and angry eyes. We become threatened and our survival response system activates, causing us to disengage from the person by fighting, fleeing or freezing (a dissociative response). Therefore, Porges stresses that keeping your voice modulated and eyes warm can keep others engaged-a crucial strategy for parents to maintain a connection with their distraught child.

While it is challenging to raise a dissociative child, parents or caretakers can have a profound impact on helping their child heal. Their understanding, love, patience, and acceptance of all parts of their child provide the foundation for the child to progress in specialized treatment of his or her traumatic past and dissociation to become an integrated child. Having had the privilege of working in partnership with such parents to see their children transform into healthy, happy individuals, I can tell you the rewards of their helping their child heal are worth it!

Fran Waters is the author of Healing the fractured child: Diagnosis and treatment of youth with dissociation. She is the past president of the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD). She maintains a private practice in Marquette, MI.

Porges, S. (2011). The polyvagal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication and self-regulation. New York: W.W. Norton.
Waters, F. S. (2nd, 2015). Ryan (8 to 10 years old) –Connecting with the body: Treatment of somatoform dissociation (encopresis and multiple physical complaints). In Wieland, S. (Ed.), Dissociation in traumatized children and adolescents: Theory and clinical interventions (2nd ed.; pp.135-190). New York: Routledge.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2016-2017 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine.

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Announcing Health & Happiness’s 2013 Donation!

As part of Year Two of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine’s 5-year commitment to increased support for a different area of community life each year, we’ve increased our coverage of youth and parenting issues and have chosen two local children’s programs to receive our annual donation – Start the Cycle, and Music 4 All Kids.

We’d like to thank those advertisers who have generously added to this donation  – Moonstone Gallery, Coco’s Restaurant, Panara Imports, Hempy’s Company, Huron Earth Deli, Alicia Smith Dambeck, LAc, CH, Aurelia Holistic Health & Healing, Wendi Greer, CSW, Natural Connections, Serendipity Salon, Intuitive Learning Creations, Elements of Consignment, Intentional Healing, Joy Center, and Northstar Employee Assistance Program.

Click here for more on Music 4 All Kids, including MFAK Director Shane Murray’s response to receiving our donation.

We look forward to including a special feature on Start the Cycle in an upcoming issue.

And please comment here to let us know what you’d like to see added to our youth and parenting content, or on our Facebook page.

Our special Season for Giving & Living Health & Happiness issue goes to press today! It will be delivered to over 250 Marquette & Alger County locations over the next week. I hope it will inspire you to do just that, for an extra wonderful holiday, and beyond!

With best wishes,

Roslyn Elena McGrath, Publisher

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