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Parenting Hacks: 12 Essential Tips for Parents of School-Age Children

Parenting Hacks: 12 Essential Tips for Parents of School-Age Children

Babies.

Toddlers.

Teenagers.

All of these age groups seem to have entire websites dedicated to the challenges of parenting.

But what about the group that’s missing?

The school age children.

Ah, you might say that is the easy age. but there is really no such thing as an “easy” stage of parenting. It’s just a new set of challenges, and rearing school age children has its own set of challenges. In fact, if you face the trials and tribulations well now, you may actually reduce the ones to come in the teen years, and parents can always use a break when they can get one.

1. Read Aloud Every Day

One of the absolute best things you can do for your child and his success in school is to read out loud together every day (or almost every day). There are a few great things about this.

The first is that reading together at bedtime helps transition a busy day full of activities and screen time into a quiet, peaceful time. The second is that by having your child read aloud to you, you can gauge his abilities, build up reading stamina, and enjoy an activity together.

When you take a turn reading to your child, you can help them with their comprehension when you stop and recap together or ask him to remind you what you read the day before. Finally, reading aloud together gives you a chance to introduce your child to new books and you can use that material as a jumping off point for the more in depth discussions that start happening at this age which aren’t always comfortable for parents or kids.

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2. Find Quiet Time Together

An added benefit of the reading together, especially at bedtime, is that you have a built-in quiet time together during the day with your child. The school years are busy years and we fall into routines where we talk to our kids and move from one place to another without every stopping to really have discussions about the things that are on our kids’ minds.

It’s not to say that you need to have a therapy time every afternoon or play Twenty Questions before bed, but taking a few minutes after reading stories to “check in” with your kid in the evening is an excellent way to be sure your child has a chance to talk and you take a turn to listen.

Other options for that quiet time may be a walk together in the evening or even driving from one event to another. If you’re taking your child home after a sporting or school event, for example, turn off the radio and take the longer route to get home. Sitting in the car is an excellent time to ask some questions and have a quality conversation with your child.

3. Model Reading and Writing

If you’re counting on the school to cover all the bases for your child in his reading and writing instruction, your child will be missing a critical part of instruction. Your child’s teacher is likely doing an excellent job teaching your child how to write and how to read.

Your job as a parent is twofold. First, you should be reinforcing what your child is doing at school. This lets your child show off his new abilities and gives you a chance to check his progress and assess his abilities. Second, your job as a parent is to show your child just how important that reading and writing stuff is.

How? By reading and writing yourself. Your child should see you reading. A lot. Your child should watch you write. This shows your child that reading and writing really is important – not just something he’s forced to do at school.

If you read for pleasure in front of your child, he’ll get the message loud and clear that reading is a good thing. Likewise you can show him the importance of writing as you send emails, write lists, write in a travel journal or update your summer diary together.

This is an excellent way to use those phones and tablets as well. There is no rule that writing has to be done with pen and paper, and reading doesn’t require paperbacks. Show your child how to read and write on his device, but keep an eye on him with software like OurPact parental control to be sure he’s following through on the expectations.

4. Explain Behaviors

    Your child has many pathways to learning. He can listen. He can write. He can read. He can touch. He can taste. He can experience. How many of those pathways are you using when you’re trying to get your child to learn and do something?

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    For example, if you are asking your child to put his dishes in the dishwasher, you can tell him to do it, but that may not be enough. Your child has heard you. But then show him how to load the dishwasher properly. Explain to him where the water comes from and why the bowls and plates need to face a certain way. Explain why the knives are pointed down and let him see you put your dishes in before he puts his own away.

    Granted he will probably need reminding well into his teens to take care of chores like loading the dishwasher, but if you think about explaining things and engaging as many learning pathways as possible with everything you consider important, your child will be much more likely to understand and follow your lead. Telling him once just isn’t enough for any lesson to really sink in, especially something he doesn’t understand.

    5. Set Realistic Limits

    Behavior. Punishments. This is the stickiest wicket of parenting because every child needs discipline and every child craves limits. Children generally want to please adults, and the best way to do this is by behaving appropriately. This means your child needs limits and rules, preferably before he crosses a line.

    That being said, if you’re going to make a rule in your house, be sure it is a realistic one and one you can enforce. For example, telling a child that he can’t stay up past 8pm on a weeknight is fine. It’s fine, that is, unless that same child has baseball practice until 8pm three nights a week. How is he going to bed by 8 if he’s not even home? By giving your child a rule he can’t follow, you’ve set the both of you up for failure and frustrating. Think through the rules and limits ahead of time to prevent this. This also gives you a chance to prioritize and choose your battles.

    6. Offer Praise, Limit Criticism

    Nobody likes to be criticized. Sometimes it can’t be helped in the learning process, but as often as you can focus on the things you can praise as a way to correct behaviors rather than criticizing those things you don’t like.

    What does this look like? It might be something as simple as praising your child when you see him holding a dirty shirt. Sure, he might have just taken it off and was about to drop it on the floor, but rather than shouting at him to “put that shirt in the hamper right now!” praise him instead for not dropping it on the floor. “I’m so glad you’re not going to drop that on the floor – thank you for putting in the hamper!”

    7. Always Be Consistent

    Just like the limits above, do your absolute best to be consistent at all times in all things. Does this sound daunting? Sure. But it’s actually easier than you might think. What wears us out as parents is making decisions all day long.

    Mom! Can I have this? Can I do that? Can I stay up later?

    Instead of making a decision about every little thing during the day, plan ahead and stick to the plan. Make bedtime the same time every night. Make the evening routines the same every night before bed. Put all electronics on the charger in the kitchen.

    These are not rules, per say, simply routines and consistencies in place that make your life a bit easier and give your family some structure they can understand as they go through the day.

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    8. Explain Expectations Ahead of Time

      This is a big trick that you’ll see elementary teachers use in the classroom. Assume that your children don’t know how to behave in a new situation. You’ll have to explain exactly what behaviors are appropriate and which are not.

      This is far better than doing what we accidentally do all of the time and fuss at our kids for not behaving the way we want them to… when we’ve never told them what to expect!

      Think about going on a family adventure to a carnival. What are the expectations you have for the carnival? Your child will need to stay with you. Or maybe hold your hand. Your child will need to wear comfortable shoes and carry his own bag – you’re not going to carry it for him. Your child will have a set number of tickets for fun and that’s all he has, so spend them wisely.

      Now think of the expectations you’d have if you went to a museum or to the theater. It’s a whole new adventure with a brand new set of expectations. Children are not mind readers, obviously, and they aren’t always very good at picking up on subtle clues. Just because everyone else is whispering doesn’t mean they will unless you tell them calmly (preferably ahead of time) that whispering is what everyone does in an art museum.

      9. Prepare Children for Transitions

      Another great teaching trick you can use at home is preparing your child for a transition. Think about a day in elementary school. Your child goes from his desk to the rug for circle time to stations to the library to the gym to lunch and back again. At school this process seems to go so smoothly for an experienced teacher.

      Yet when your child is at home and you tell him it’s time to go from one place to the other he throws a fit. Or refuses. Or begs and pleads. Or even runs the other direction. What those savvy elementary school teachers know that many parents do not is that you not only need to tell your child your expectations (how else would they know to walk in those nice quiet lines at school?) but also the teacher prepares the students for transition ahead of time.

      Children do not change gears instantly. They are usually pretty intent on doing what they are doing, especially if it is fun. When you tell them it’s time to go right now, it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid and your child reacts dramatically.

      Instead, give your child a head’s up along with some information about what’s coming next. This allows for processing time and eases the transition.

      This might sound like a notice to your child that he “only has five more minutes to play and then we need to head to the grocery store before heading home”. You might even give him a visual cue like, “When the clock says 3:45 we’re going to head to the store. That gives you five more minutes to play here before we leave”.

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      10. Judge The Action, Not The Child

      A practice we should all have is to never judge your child. Judge his actions. Telling your child he’s “a bad kid” or that he’s “a terrible reader” is going to destroy his confidence and give him some negative voices in his mind to overcome as he tries to grow up and be successful.

      Even if you are beyond frustrated with your child, don’t tell him he’s “bad.” Tell him instead that you are extremely disappointed in his “bad behavior.” You can fuss at him about the choices he is making because he can always make better choices. Fussing at him because he’s “an idiot” or “a rotten kid” isn’t going to help anything. It’s going to make your problems much worse down the road.

      11. Focus on Sleep Patterns

      If you could only fix one thing in your child’s life, fix his sleeping behaviors. Children in elementary school need up to twelve hours of sleep every night. At an absolute minimum your school age child should be getting nine or ten hours of sleep every night.

      This means putting your child to bed early enough that he can get all of the sleep he needs before it’s time to get up and prepare for school in the morning. This may mean cutting some of his evening activities or starting homework earlier in the day.

      It’s important to realize that your child needs about ten hours of sleep every night. That doesn’t mean he should be in bed for ten hours. He should be asleep for that long. That will probably mean starting showers even earlier and doing any reading earlier in the evening. Electronics should leave the bedroom early enough that your child can wind down and sleep. Screens actually make it harder to fall into a good sleep, so watching television or staring a phone can make sleeping harder, not easier. Getting enough sleep every night can fix a host of issues for your child. A lack of sleep has been linked to poor grades, poor attention spans, behavior issues and even poor eating habits.

      If you make a good night’s sleep a priority every night, you can set up all other routines and expectations that connect to bedtime easily as well.

      12. Plan for Future Concerns

        Think about what can do the most damage to your child when he’s a teen. Drugs, alcohol, poor driving, sleep deprivation, surly attitudes and more all haunt parents of younger children because we just don’t know what to expect, and there is no magical way to see into the future, but you can plan now for what you expect to happen in the future.

        For example, if your child takes his phone or tablet to bed every night to play a bit before going to sleep it may not be a big issue now. But it can be a huge issue very soon. Phones are one of the things that keep teens up during the night and interrupt that important sleep cycle. Even if it seems harsh now, consider a ban on phones from bedrooms after a certain time.

        Turn off all televisions and electronics at a set time of day. Set a curfew before your child needs one. Make reading a part of the daily routine. Start a routine now for chores and household duties. Elementary school children are a bit more malleable and certainly tend to be better natured about things than teenagers who are looking to be independent.

        Choose your battles now and fight them with an eight year old at the present time. Then, once the battle is won, you can simply continue the expectation for the next ten years under the guise of routine and “that’s how it’s always been around here!”

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        Published on November 30, 2018

        Signs of Postnatal Depression And What to Do When It Strikes

        Signs of Postnatal Depression And What to Do When It Strikes

        Postpartum depression (PPD) strikes about 15% of women around childbirth.[1] Moreover, this mood disorder is estimated to affect 1% to 26% of new fathers.[2] The causes of which are thought to be linked to hormonal changes, genetics, previous mental illness and the obvious change in circumstance.

        The stigma of mental health – with or without support from family members and health professionals – often deters women from seeking help for their PPD. In this article, I will show you 10 ways to begin overcoming PPD.

        Symptoms of Postnatal Depression

        Postnatal depression is defined as depressive disorder, beginning anytime within pregnancy up to the first year of the child’s life. The symptoms of post natal depression are the same as those of depression. In order to receive a diagnosis from the doctor, 5 symptoms must be shown over a two week period. The symptoms and criteria are:

        • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, nearly every day, for most of the day or the observation of a depressed mood made by others
        • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
        • Weight loss or decreased appetite
        • Changes in sleep patterns
        • Feelings of restlessness
        • Loss of energy
        • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
        • Loss of concentration or increased indecisiveness
        • Recurrent thoughts of death, with or without plans of suicide
        • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities
        • Low libido
        • Fatigue, decreased energy and motivation
        • Poor self-care
        • Social withdrawal
        • Insomnia or excessive sleep
        • Diminished ability to make decisions and think clearly
        • Lack of concentration and poor memory
        • Fear that you can not care for the baby or fear of the baby
        • Worry about harming self, baby, or partner

        Should you, a friend or your partner be showing any of these signs, I recommend you to seek medical advice.

        Causes of Post Natal Depression

        It is worth noting here that there is a difference between what is commonly known as ‘The Baby Blues’ and post natal depression.

        Postpartum blues, commonly known as “baby blues,” is a transient postpartum mood disorder characterized by milder depressive symptoms than postpartum depression. This type of depression can occur in up to 80% of all mothers following delivery. The Baby Blues should clear within 14 days, if not it is likely an indicator of something more in depth.

        It is not known exactly what causes post natal depression, however there are some correlating factors. These factors have a close correlation and haven’t been shown to cause PPD:

        • Prenatal depression or anxiety
        • A personal or family history of depression
        • Moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms
        • Stressful life events experienced during pregnancy
        • Maternity blues
        • Birth-related psychological trauma
        • Birth-related physical trauma
        • Previous stillbirth or miscarriage
        • Formula-feeding rather than breast-feeding
        • Cigarette smoking
        • Low self-esteem
        • Childcare or life stress
        • Low social support
        • Poor marital relationship or single marital status
        • Low socioeconomic status
        • Infant temperament problems/colic
        • Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy
        • Elevated prolactin levels
        • Oxytocin depletion

        One of the strongest predictors of paternal PPD is having a partner who has PPD, with fathers developing PPD 50% of the time when their female partner has PPD. [3]

        Ways to Overcome Post Natal Depression

        1. Seek Medical Help

        As knowledge of PPD grows, more and more physicians are becoming aware of the indicators and risk factors. This means that health care providers are looking for signs as early as their first prenatal care visit.

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        If you are at risk, letting your provider know early in your pregnancy means that you’ll be given extra support and care throughout the process. It is best to seek treatment as soon as possible.

        If it’s detected late or not at all, the condition may worsen. Experts have also found that children can be affected by a parent’s untreated PPD. Such children may be more prone to sleep disturbances, impaired cognitive development, insecurity, and frequent temper tantrums.

        2. Therapy

        This is the first line of defence against post natal depression and will commonly be prescribed alongside medication. Around 90% of post natal depression cases in women are treated with a combination of the two treatments.

        You don’t need to do anything special to prepare. Your counselor will ask questions about your life, and it’s important you answer honestly. You won’t be judged for what you tell, and whatever you talk about will be just between the two of you. Your counselor will teach you how to look at some things differently, and how to change certain habits to help yourself feel better.

        Therapy is personalized for everyone, but women in counselling for postpartum depression often discuss topics including; who you’re feeling, your behaviour, your actions and your life. (If you need immediate support please call the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240. The toll-free call is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)

        3. Medication

        There have been a few studies of medications for treating PPD, however, the sample sizes were small, thus evidence is generally weak.

        Some evidence suggests that mothers with PPD will respond similarly to people with major depressive disorder. There is evidence which suggests that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective treatment for PPD.

        However, a recent study has found that adding sertraline, an SSRI, to psychotherapy does not appear to confer any additional benefit. Therefore, it is not completely clear which antidepressants are most effective for treatment of PPD.

        There are currently no antidepressants that are FDA approved for use during lactation. Most antidepressants are excreted in breast milk. However, there are limited studies showing the effects and safety of these antidepressants on breastfed babies.

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        4. Communication with Partner

        Don’t blame yourself, your partner, close friends or relatives. Life is tough at this time, and tiredness and irritability can lead to quarrels.

        ‘Having a go’ at your partner can weaken your relationship when it needs to be at its strongest. It can be a huge relief to talk to someone understanding.

        By spending time with your partner doing activities that you both enjoy, like going for a walk, can really help. This change of state, from moving location, can significantly elevate mood whilst providing ‘neutral ground’ in which to open up communication.

        Be honest with your partner and show ways in which they can support you best through this time, even if it’s just talking or letting you have time to go take a shower.

        5. Self Care and Rest

        Don’t try to be ‘superwoman’. Try to do less and make sure that you don’t get over-tired. It’s common that women are the experts at ‘being busy’ and ‘doing it all’.

        Rest whilst the baby is sleeping, and really take time to prioritise yourself. Throughout life, if you’re constantly giving out energy, you will be left feeling unbalanced. It’s important to become aware of one’s energy and making sure to give yourself energy first, before giving out is imperative.

        Your body has just been through the trauma of the birth, which is very stressful. It therefore needs time to recover so taking time to yourself is important. Things as simple as a cup of tea, or shower or listening to music will really help.

        6. Supplementation (especially DHA)

        St John’s Wort is a herbal remedy available from chemists. There is evidence that it is effective in mild to moderate depression. It seems to work in much the same way as some antidepressants, but some people find that it has fewer side-effects.

        One problem is that St John’s Wort can interfere with the way other medications work. If you are taking other medication, you should discuss it with your doctor. This is very important if you are taking the oral contraceptive pill. St John’s Wort might stop your pill working. This can lead to an unplanned pregnancy.

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        It is also worth noting that fish oil (containing DHA) is being shown to correlate with lower instances of PPD. DHA consumption during pregnancy — at levels that are reasonably attained from foods — has the potential to decrease symptoms of postpartum depression,” conclude study researchers led by Michelle Price Judge, PhD, RD, a faculty member at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing.

        7. Movement

        Before starting any exercise program, you should consult with your doctor and find a fully qualified pre and post natal specialist. That being said, there is plenty of movement that can be done prior to ‘hitting the gym’, such as walking.

        Not only does being outside positively benefit you by getting some fresh air and vitamin D. The same is said for your baby, who will likely sleep better once they’ve been outside. Exercise gets your endorphins going, which helps alleviate depression symptoms, It can also get you focused on something for yourself. In an analysis of data from 1996 to 2016, researchers discovered that moms who stayed physically active after birth experienced fewer depressive symptoms.[4] In contrast, one study found women who led a more sedentary lifestyle were, in general, more likely to experience postpartum depression in the first place. [5]

        The type of workout doesn’t matter much. Yoga for pregnant women, stretching, and cardio are essentially equal in terms of making you feel better.

        8. Socializing and Support Groups

        Do go to local groups for new mothers or postnatal support groups. Your health visitor can tell you about groups in your area. You may not feel like going to these groups if your are depressed.

        See if someone can go with you. You may find the support of other new mothers helpful. You may find some women who feel the same way as you do.

        9. Accept Help

        Some cultures believe that the symptoms of postpartum depression or similar illnesses can be avoided through protective rituals in the period after birth. Chinese women participate in a ritual that is known as “doing the month” (confinement) in which they spend the first 30 days after giving birth resting in bed, while the mother or mother-in-law takes care of domestic duties and childcare.

        Whilst this may seem extreme, it’s worth noting that being able to accept help from your friends, partner and family can be extremely beneficial.

        10. Avoid Smoking, Drink and Drugs

        Which may seem common sense, however you may be tempted by the short term ‘fix’.

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        Don’t use alcohol or drugs. They may make you feel better for a short time, but it doesn’t last. Alcohol and drugs can make depression worse. They are also bad for your physical health.

        Final Thoughts

        Most women will get better without any treatment within 3 to 6 months. One in four mothers with PND are still depressed when their child is one-year-old. However, this can mean a lot of suffering.

        PND can spoil the experience of new motherhood. It can strain your relationship with your baby and partner. You may not look after your baby, or yourself, as well as you would when you are well.

        PND can affect your child’s development and behaviour even after the depression has ended. So the shorter it lasts, the better.

        Sometimes there is an obvious reason for PND, but not always. You may feel distressed, or guilty for feeling like this, as you expected to be happy about having a baby. However, PND can happen to anyone and it is not your fault.

        It’s never too late to seek help. Even if you have been depressed for a while, you can get better. The help you need depends on how severe your illness is. Mild PND can be helped by increased support from family and friends.

        Featured photo credit: Derek Thomson via unsplash.com

        Reference

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