Send anyone this way to read along, but for permission to reprint, please contact Gail.
© Gail Underwood Parker

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Parenting Tips: Start a Life Record!

Today's parent tip is one I wish I had done with each of my first children.  Please PLEASE please start it today for each of yours. You won't regret it and it will bring years of helpful information and joy along the way. Make a L.I.F.E. record/book for each of your children. [You may even want to put on together for yourself looking backward!]

What is a L.I.F.E. record? 

It is a List of Important Facts and Events.

1. Get a notebook 
     ANY notebook... you can always make a pretty one or fancy one or computerized one later. For now the most important thing is to start!
     Get a notebook.

2. Set up your child's L.I.F.E. book:
     • Put your child's name in the front and skip 5 pages.
     • At the top of the 7th page write the year your child was born.
     • On the top of the 8th page write the next year.
     • Continue, writing one year at the top of each page until you get to the age they are now [ or keep going to 21, 25, or even 30]


3. Start filling in your child's L.I.F.E. book:
     • Go to the year 2011 and write the name of your child's teacher, the school they attend. 
     • Write their height and weight [I know it's not Jan 1st, but trust me when they are 30 and looking back they won't care that it was measured in March not January! 
     • IF you want, write one sentence about what they like/hate right now or what they are best at right now. [Ex: Loves or hates Justin Beiber or Twilight or whatever.]
     • Limit yourself to ONE sentence... maybe even a sentence fragment... this is a list, not a full biography!


4. Keep it going forward each year once you have started. 
    • When your child earns their first money [babysitting, shoveling, whatever].... write in on a line of that year's page.
   • When your child goes on their first date.... write in on a line of that year's page.
   • When your child learns to swim/ride a bike/drive a car.... write in on a line of that year's page.


5. In random moments you can grab,  start back-filling in your child's L.I.F.E. record.
    • On the page with the year your child learned to walk, write that in on a line. 
    • On the page with the year your child started school, write that [and the name of the school, maybe even teacher] on a line.
    • Did your child ever break an arm?  Write in on a line of that year's page.


IF you want to write more than "just the facts" about these events, DON'T write it on the L.I.F.E. page.  Write it on the empty back pages of the L.I.F.E. book [or even on extra paper or in another notebook] marking the year at the top of each. At some point later, you can make an overal L.I.F.E. binder, using notebook binder dividers to mark off each year. Photocopy the L.I.F.E. pages. Put the original L.I.F.E. pages as the first section. Then put the photocopy of each as the front page in each year section. Behind that year "index" put your pages with anecdotes, photos or stories for events of that year.

Remember, sometimes MORE is less helpful, because it may distract you from the usefulness of a simple, list form, scannable survey/summary of your child's L.I.F.E.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Soapbox: Patch Adams... Poverty and Homelessness

Oh my gosh! We have finally come to the last of Dr. Patch Adams' ten questions for a better society. I took the questions out of order, but this one is also the last in his list. I can't put off tackling this one any longer. I think it is the hardest, but also one that would indeed transform the world.


10. Can you match the cost of everything you buy with a donation to an environmental sustainability project?


Now, as friends would say is typical of me... I want to change it. If it were MY question I would change this to: 


Can you match the cost of everything you buy with a donation to end poverty and homelessness? 


So, long story short, I decided to try this for Lent.  Without mentioning it on the blog [protection against abject failure maybe?] I began on Ash Wednesday. Wow!  I can't decide if it was the most important thing I have ever done, the stupidest thing, the hardest thing, the best thing, or what....


I have discovered that I think VERY carefully about whether I can afford X, Y, or Z when it means taking double the amount out of my budget, half for the X, Y, or Z and half to donate. I also decided to exempt mortgage and utility payments, though in a true sense, those would be most appropriate to match to end homelessness.  After a lot of thought I decided that although it would be really tough, I would try to match my grocery shopping money with an equal donation to a local soup kitchen and food pantry. 


The conversations I have had with my children about this have been meaningful, and yes, sometimes a bit loud and a lot frustrated, and yes sometimes inspiring. I don't know if I/we will be able [or is it willing?] to make it all the way through Lent... April 24th is a lonnnnnngggggg way away. 


I don't routinely buy extras, I am not a clothes horse or shoe collector, and I spent so many many years struggling desperately that I don't spend a lot of money.  But I do know that "just" doing it for the last three weeks has transformed my awareness of what I do spend on "necessities" and how much that amount can do for others. Without question, this has been the toughest for me of all Patch's questions, and the one that probably would change the world the fastest. I believe that if somehow this challenge was met by all of us, poverty could indeed be ended, and we would find ourselves richer than we can imagine. 
        Knowing is so so much harder than doing...    
                        ......sigh......


Image credits:  free-stockphotos.com, examiner.com, jdp3.webnode.com

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Kids' License Plates

A child service agency here in Maine is working on a new project to raise money for supporting kids' needs.  Services for kids, especially at-risk kids, is under fire*  This agency [Woodfords Family Services] is trying to promote the pre-sale of a special license plate that would raise funds children's services not funded by the state.  Maine already has special fund raising plates for conservation, college scholarships, and lobster promotion.  This proposed plate would help support after-school programming and recreational activities & summer camp experiences for kids in foster care and kinship placements. If you live in Maine and are interested in getting one of these special license plates click here for more details. They need to pre-sell 2000 to get the plates approved.

Massachusetts, Michigan, and Florida already have license plates supporting children's causes, and there may be more states who do.
Goodness knows that funding is desperately needed in state after state to provide better services and support for youth in care and in transition. Between politics and the economy it is getting desperate.
I just don't know if this is a useful solution or not. If it is I am all for it, but I don't always have much faith in the powers that end up administering funds. [In Maine's case it would be the Department of Education.] I would love to have something help support the plate's slogan of Maine.. a great place for kids!
Is anyone reading this from those states or another state with this program?  Let me know how well it has worked in your state.  What differences has it made?  Do you think it raises visibility for children's issues? How much money have you been able to raise?  How long did it take you?  Would you do it again?  I would love to hear from some of you!
Share your experience?


*You may have heard on the news some of the changes [!] our new governor is making.  He won in a very close election with the independent candidate almost catching up to him.  I know many Democrats who stayed loyal to their candidate [even when victory was clearly out of reach] who are kicking themselves all around the block now.  He has certainly gotten Maine some national publicity, but not the kind this and many other Mainers want!


Image credits:  orlandosentinel.com, woodfords.org, dmv.com

Monday, March 28, 2011

School Bell: Special Ed? Learning Disability?

Many parents who know I am a former school teacher come to me when they are worried about a lack of progress by one of the kids. They wonder how to know when you need to have a child evaluated for possible special education needs. There are many reasons for receiving special education, but the one most people don't understand well is learning disabiities. Learning disabilities may start to show up at any time, but the the most common sign is that a gap develops between your child and the rest and the gap gets wider and wider and wider. There is no simple answer but here a few typical red flags:

• your child is working hard but making little progress
• your child does noticeably better in one area than another
[ex: struggles to read but does fine in math]
• when you help or teach your child something one night, your child does not seem to remember it the next
• your child makes a particular kind of mistake over and over
[ex: mixing ps and bs or ds or 6s and 9s]

Bottom line.... 
                     Trust your gut! 

And by the way, ...
if it is a teacher suggesting testing to you, trust your teacher's gut and have the testing done. They really do want your child to succeed.

If you decide you want testing:
Make your request in WRITING..



In your letter it is most important that you:
       1- Date the letter.
       2- Identify your child.
       3- Specifically request testing for special education.
       4- Give a few specific examples of how your child struggles.
       5- Provide contact information
       6- Ask who to follow up with later.


                                           SAMPLE LETTER

April xx, 201x
Dear Principal So and So,
My daughter, Sally Struggles is in the third grade in your school in Mr. Teacher’s class. She is having problems at school and I think she might need special help to succeed at school. I am writing to officially request the school test Sally to see if she needs and qualifies for special education services.

Sally works very hard on her homework every night, but just doesn’t seem to understand what she is supposed to do. She does ok in reading, but seems to be totally lost in math. I try to help her but even when she finally gets it, the next night it seems like she has forgotten all we did the night before.
How long will it take for Sally’s testing? Do you need my signature for anything regarding testing? Who should I talk to about some questions I have? Please call me in the next 10 days. You can reach me at home at 200-100-1234. Thank you for your help.
Yours sincerely,
Mrs. Struggles


Any other questions??   Remember that early intervention is best.  Good luck!!

Image credits: bryanking.net, autism-community.com

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Caring Heart: Toilet Training Challenges

For those of you who have never encountered this.... count your blessings!  For those who have... You are not alone!

Pee Goes in the Toilet

Oh please.  I have toilet-trained girls and I have toilet-trained boys.  It isn't rocket science.  Why am I having so much trouble with this boy?  He pees behind doors, he pees in wastebaskets, he pees wherever it seems to fit his fancy at the moment.  Clearly pleasing me isn't much of a motivator for him.  He doesn't seem to care whether I am proud of him, or frustrated, or angry with him.  Did anything teach him in the beginning?  Was this ok?  Was he punished for wet diapers so that he would pee elsewhere to protect himself?  What is the key to this puzzle?   I admit it is pushing my buttons and those of everyone else in the house.  Give me patience. It seems I ask for that every day, Lord, and yet I need it every day! Help me build a connection with him so that I am able to motivate him and understand him. Help him learn to fit in, meeting not just my expectations, but the world's.  It's really pretty simple... Pee goes in the toilet!


Excerpted from "The Caring Heart Speaks: Meditations for foster, kinship, and adoptive parents" by Gail Underwood Parker    Artwork by Anna Parker David from the book cover. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quick Takes: Kids List #51-60

This is the sixth installment of "Kids List." My "Kids List" is things I wish all kids could get to experience before they are grown up and independent.   This month again has a mix of small folk and bigger folk experiences. Use your grownup judgment to see what fits your child. 

Kids List #51-60
51. Talk with a World War 11 veteran 
52. Paint a piece of furniture 
53. Build a snowman 
54. Ride an elevator 
55. Learn to snowboard 
56. Ride a bus 
57. Learn to play “Twinkle, Twinkle” on an instrument 
58. Shop by yourself at a mall 
59. Learn at least one group card game 
60. Visit a science museum 


I try to do one Quick Takes entry each month from my Kids List. Hope you try some of these with your kiddos.  Search for "Kids List" to find #1-50 in earlier posts.

Photo Credit: sitejerk.com

Friday, March 25, 2011

Anything Can Happen: Frustration


Ok... 
I admit it... 

This is the way I feel this week.  

My whole week has been a fiasco.

It was a 2 bags of  Hersey's candy-coated eggs week.

Weight Watchers will not be fun!

Anyone else?

Image credit: gath.wordpress.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Parenting Tips: Ups and Downs

Tuesday I talked about a way foster parents can help kids see the balance of good and bad in their lives, but all parents sometimes bump into this on a smaller level. Kids often have spells when they get discouraged.  Sometimes it becomes real depression.  Real depression needs professional help.  But even the regular ups and downs of childhood [especially during adolescence] go better with a little help from parents.

Most of us can remember times when we felt like the old sing-song: "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I'll go eat worms!" When in that mood, it seems never-ending.  If you feel your child needs help recognizing the balance of good and bad days try this:

1. Grab a cheap wall or pocket calendar and help the child put it someplace they will be able to use everyday. [Maybe get one for each of you...see note below.]

2. Explain a system system of Good Day [happy face], Bad Day [frowny face] and OK day [OK sign].

3.Talk about a time of day when they will decided how to rate the day. Maybe supper, maybe bedtime, or maybe you will rate the previous day the next morning.

Choices:  [Depending on how accurately your child seems to be  labeling the days.]
A- Just keep track to a stretch and talk about it after a week or so, to talk about what you see.
B-Each day talk about why it was good, bad, or ok.
C-If you need to get your child more involved, have THEM do the labeling. They can draw the faces OR buy some fun stamps to use in labeling if that will get them more on board.  [Teacher stores or catalogs usually have a variety of inexpensive stamps and even some office supply stores. ]

NOTE: You may even want to do a calendar for yourself and make a point of doing yours with your child to model by talking out loud as you evaluate your day.  Some children may really need this example.

This activity is a win-win.  You will learn whether the problem is in your child's perceptions, or their experiences. Your child will learn that you really care about how their day goes.  Probably most important: You and your child will develop a habit of talking about good days, bad days, and ok days openly. And last but not least, even the fact that they have the three choices shows them that ALL people expect to have good days, bad days, and just ok days.  Give it a try!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Soapbox: Patch Adams- Extra room? A true story.

This week's question from Patch Adams takes the concept of foster care in a different direction and seems to be particularly timely given the economic challenges so many people are experiencing. But I warn you, this one is really tough.
6. If you have rooms at your home, why not take in single parents as a gift?
I have a unique perspective on this because of an unexpected turn my household took almost a year ago. An incomplete version: There was a young couple in our church who for a variety of circumstances not their fault were unable to continue living in their home. It began quite simply...my recently deceased father's house was empty and furnished as we prepared to get it ready to rent out in the summer. The couple and their 8-month-old baby had no place to live, my sibs and I had this house that was empty.  We offered them the use of the house until the summer rentals began. Everyone expected them to be able to move home within a few months.  Circumstances got worse and that was not possible, yet we had renters arriving starting in May and we needed the rentals to pay the house's cost. By then we had gotten to know the couple well, and after a discussion with my kiddos, I offered them the use of our downstairs family room and the downstairs bathroom as long as they needed it.

Thus, for the last 10 months we have shared our home with this young family.  The daughter is now over 2 and my foster kiddos [now 13, 16, and 19] have become adept diaper changers, tantrum calmers, and much much more.  She adores them and [most of the time] they adore her.  The boys have had a male role model for the first time. All of them have now seen [and lived with] a father who loves his wife and cares for his child, as compared with the unhappy memories of their own fathers. I had support through an unexpected health crisis. They had moral support through a really tough time. Has it been all perfect, no. Of course not.  Sometimes the close quarters are a bit too close.  Many people do not understand. Differences in attitudes and habits create ripples. But the overall experience has been a blessing to everyone concerned.  Last week they moved back into their own home.... for the first time in nearly two years. They are so happy to be back.  We are happy for them.  We will always have a friendship very different than most.

Living with us with all the challenges of my kiddos was a real eye-opener and education for them.  Having them live with us was a reminder and education for us as well.  And, as a 60-something single woman, I now see wider choices for my later years than a small apartment or living with one of my children.  I now look at Adams' question and wonder who he thought was getting the gift.  I think both the single parent [or in our case, married parents] get a gift, but so does the hosting family or person.  Not everyone has room, but so many of us have more space than we really really need when you come right down to it. And so many people are in desperate need.  Could you have a new kind of "open house" for someone?  Co-housing arrangements require open minds, and flexible spirits.  But the gift you can give and the gift you can receive is like no other.

Image credits:  finkorswim.com, zazzle.com, acespickens.org

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Good Things - Bad Things

If you are raising children who spent their early years in a home with inadequate care, and especially if it was abusive, you know how hard it is for some children to move past that time and learn to redefine themselves.  Children who are old enough to remember the abuse and neglect often they see themselves as victims, or lash out at everyone, etc. If I had a dollar for every time one of my charges cried, "You don't understand how hard a life I've had," I would be wealthy. It's true though. I don't understand.  After years of trying everything to help them I found something that didn't cure, but did help them limit.

For the children who struggled with those memories I decided to try a twist on the now popular "gratitude journals"  blended with my life record idea. I started by keeping a 3-ring binder journal for them, then when they were able or interested I turned the journal over to each of them.  But until they can keep it themselves, each time they told me a memory I would grab the journal and write it down for them. I divided the journal [using regular notebook dividers] into each year of their life. I also made one extra section for the "clump" of memories that were before they lived with me, but not individual years [because some memories they didn't know what year].

I found that by writing the memories down, it robbed the memories of some of their power. It also shows them that we recognize the past they experienced. We don't pretend it didn't happen, or expect them to. But the other piece is that I also have them write down GOOD memories, past , and especially present ones. We start teaching them that if you are going to hang on to memories of the bad things that happen in life, you have a responsibility also to recognize and remember the good things. 

Little by little they begin to see that current life has more goods than bads.  Little by little they learn to recognize that those nightmares, those bad memories are a part of their PAST life, not the present. This helps them to define themselves more by the present than the past, a crucial key to resilience and recovery. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

School Bell: Surprise a Teacher

Today's entry has nothing to do with homework help, but instead on making school a bit more pleasant for both the kids and their teachers.  At this point communities all across the country are struggling with budget cuts, and deficits. Faculty meetings share dreary news about the budget prospects for the next school year, while they announce spending freezes for the remainder of this school year.

Surprise your children's teachers.  Get your kids involved in a grass roots giving effort:

1-Gather up the old pens, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers and glue bottles from around the house.  Maybe you even have left over colored paper, scissors, erasers, or rulers.

2-Save a small assortment for your own children to use in their creative and homework efforts. [Even younger children can get involved by testing the markers and pens and throwing out the dried up ones.]

3- Sort the rest into piles and gather with rubber bands.

4. Put the banded pens, pencils, leftover rulers, glue, etc. into a box.

5. Add a few boxes of kleenex.

Deliver to your school, either to your children's teachers or to the teacher's room with a big "Take what you need" sign.

This is a small kindness that will go a long ways to boosting morale and showing thanks for all the things your teachers buy out of pocket for your children.  If your school is lucky enough not to be in need, take the box to a less fortunate school.

Maybe get your neighborhood or your faith community in on the project.  Everyone I know has pens and half used pencils lying around the house in drawers unused and not particularly needed.  You know that junk drawer in your house, or those old rounded scissors from when your kids were small. Go scavenging! Recycle and support your local schools. Surprise your teachers with this small gesture of thanks and practical thoughtfulness.


Image credits:  images.businessweek.com, co-photo.com, clipart-for-free.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Caring Heart: When a Baby Leaves

Those who do temporary or crisis foster care are painfully familiar with watching an infant leave. This meditation is for those parents.


Oh Lord, how can I let her go?  I have been the only parent she knew since she was just days old.  I took her in straight from the hospital and have raised her ever wince.  Each sleepless night, each colicky day, each bath, feeding, gurgle, and cry.  I have been there for all of them. No, I did not carry her in my womb for nine months, but since her birth I am all she has known.  Can I trust them to keep her safe?  Can I trust them to love her as she deserves to be loved?  And how do I let her go when there is no way to be sure of either?  Who do I trust to make sure that she is safe and nurtured, fed and clothed, loved and cherished?  Who will protect her from the danger that led her to be with me in the first place?  Help me, God.  Help me and help her.  Them them be able to help her.  Protect us all from fear, from anger, from lack, from isolation.  Give us all strength for the days to come.  Give us faith that it will be all right.  Give us trust.  Give us hope. Amen.


Excerpted from "The Caring Heart Speaks: Meditations for foster, kinship, and adoptive parents" by Gail Underwood Parker

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quick Takes: Be Prepared!

With all the news coverage about the disaster in Japan, many of you may have children who are worried, or concerned about where you live and how safe it is. I really like the graphic at right. But for responding to Japan and controlling anxiety check out the kids page FEMA put together. There is a GREAT section for kids on  what kids may feel in a disaster that can help you talk to your kids. Check it out!

  Fema Kids Page: Best site to talk about disaster feelings and planning with kids!


Of course, another way to reassure them in a practical, hands-on way is to show them that you are prepared.... great chance to review your family fire escape plan, your emergency contacts plan, and if you are of a mind to prepare for other disasters you can find plans, essential supply lists, special needs hints, and much much more on what I think is the overall  best site:   http://www.fema.gov/plan/prepare/

If you decide to go the emergency pack route... here are some places you can start if you don't want to make one as a family:


Sites for emergency pre-done packs and supplies:

redcrosssstore.org
Personal Safety Emergency Pack [short term]   $9.95

thenaturalstore.com
American Red Cross Emergency Preparedness Pack [color coded module pack] $44.99

Amazon.com
Grab-n-Go Emergency Kit  [2 person-3 day]  $39.00
Deluxe Disaster Survival Kit  [4 person-3 day] $99.99  [Emergency Zone®]  
Datrex Emergency Water supplies [5yr shelf life, 64 individual pouches] $15.81
Mountain House 72 hour Emergency Meal Kit [7yr shelf life, freeze dried 3 each:breakfast, lunch, dinner, side veggies]  $56.99


Image credits:  fema.gov, homelandsecuritynews.info, amazon.com

Friday, March 18, 2011

Anything Can Happen: Tsunami


When I taught 5th grade the children always read THE BIG WAVE by Pearl Buck, a short story that takes place in Japan.  It tells of a boywho lived by the sea, and a family who lived on the hills of a volcano, and a tidal wave, and the philosophy of those Japanese people about the dueling dangers from the volcano and the sea.  It is a wonderful story.  Japanese artwork about waves are beautiful.


It is not a wonderful reality.
The waves are not beautiful.                     March 11, 2011


It will continue to happen.

2004 Banda Aceh....

before and after

December 26, 2004

Indonesian tsunami

Over 167,000 died.



We do not control nature, or the world.


Image credits: stoxeck.co.cc, esquire.com, katu.com

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Parenting Tips: Three Kind Acts

Last week I talked about NOT making your children say "I'm sorry" and I referred to what I call 'action apologies.'  Action apologies teach children to SHOW that they know what they did was wrong. When child X has done something wrong to child Y in my house, I want  X to make it up to Y, not just with a verbal apology, but with actions as well.  Whenever feasible I ask Y what X can do to make things right.  If Y suggests something unreasonable I take on the role of mediator. More often Y will say something like "that's ok" or "we're fine" or even "I dunno."  That never gets X off the hook.  No matter how dramatic Xs apology, words are not enough for me.

My solution is one I learned from Pat Miller [Texas] another parenting trainer [and coauthor on my current book project]. It is the rule of Three Kind Acts.

Whenever there is no clear or offered action to make things right between two warring factions..... [oops]... I mean two squabbling children.... the errant child [X] is required to do three kind acts for the victim [Y]. Until that happens child X is not in my good graces or anyone else's.

These kind acts can be as simple as clearing Ys dirty dishes from the table, making Ys bed, or bigger things for bigger offenses.  [One of my kiddos has a specialty of giving back rubs that are prized!] Usually by the completion of the third kind act, most if not all is forgiven.

Try instituting a Three Kind Acts rule. It reminds everyone that actions and words always have consequences.  Poor choices lead to negative consequences.  Good or generous choices can sometimes heal damage. And, for many children action apologies can be easier than verbal apologies.

Besides.... being required to do kind acts for a person you have wronged is not a bad place to begin. Kindness grows kindness. Not a bad harvest to be working toward.

Image credits: uncledansreportcard.com, zwani.com, jacquelicious.com

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Soapbox: Dr. Adams- Universally Friendly? Forgiveness?

I started with questions I felt fairly comfortable with and clear about.  Now we're on what to me are the tougher ones. 

9. Do you dare to be universally friendly to end violence?


Ok, so is he talking about ending bullying by universal friendliness?  i suspect he would say that is a start, but only a start. I think maybe he is talking about forgiveness and openness as a route to ending an atmosphere prone to violence.


I try to live a faith-based life, but have always struggled with the concept of forgiveness.  Well, not actually the concept. The practice.  I do not hate.  But to say that I have forgiven everyone who has done me wrong would not be true.  I do well with the little stuff.  I suspect most of us do.


How many people in your life have you not forgiven?  I have given this a great deal of thought and realize that in my life there are only four people that I know I have not forgiven.  One of those has died, but even before he died, I had put his offense behind me.  But in truth that is different from forgiveness.


And friendliness? That is a step well beyond forgiveness. Is that what it would take?  I think he realizes this is tough, because in the others he uses words like "would you" and "could you."  In this he says "Do you dare."  Because it is a risk to be sure.  For me to see those I have not forgiven and not just forgive. Could I see or meet them and be friendly? 
That would indeed take inner daring.
                                                 What do you think?
Image credits:  rodneymullins.wordpress.com, womenscenter.uconn.edu,toppun.com, 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Focus on Fostering- Saying I'm Sorry ... a solution

For kids in care, saying 'm sorry face to face can be incredibly terrifying.  Think about it. Remember how hard it is for you to look a boss, or friend, or spouse in the eyes and apologize for something your really messed up?  Now think how many parents raise their voices insisting... "Look at me, when I'm talking to you!" when they are berating a child.  For children who have been abused this can be almost impossible.

So I tried something different to help my kiddos learn to apologize and still feel safe. We made a "Sorry Box."  

1. Buy a small lidded container at a craft store [probably under $2].

2. Have the kids help paint the container and top with poster paints or decorate it with stickers and markers.

3. Use stickers or glue on letters to spell out " s-o-r-r-y"  on the top of the box.

4. Put the box on the hall table, or kitchen counter, or some other public family place. Prop the lid in the open box.

NOW, when someone needs to apologize, they write [or draw if they can't write] an I'm sorry I.... note and put it in the Sorry Box. Then they put on the lid and put the box on the bed of the person they are apologizing to.

When the person receives the Sorry Box on their bed [or dresser] they read the note, accepts the apology and returns the empty Sorry Box [with lid propped] back in the family spot. That way the writer knows the apology was received and accepted.

Other benefits:
• The child has time to calm down and time and privacy to make the apology
• The child can apologize without confrontation or eye contact needed
• The apology will not be a knee jerk social lie, more likely to be real

Monday, March 14, 2011

School Bell: A Mid-March Pep Talk

This is school prime time.  For most school systems, the stretch between February vacations and April vacations is the longest uninterrupted teaching time.  No mid-week federal holidays. No Mondays off. Straight teaching time.  And pressure time too. When I taught I was always told that you need to get all the new material covered before Memorial Day, because after that the kids shut down with the end of the year so close in sight. After Memorial Day you reviewed and reinforced, but didn't introduce new things.  But as I taught longer and longer it seemed to change.  By the time I stopped, it seemed that kids started to slow down after April vacation. Especially adolescents and teens!

So keep your children focusing on school, on progress. Don't start talking summer vacation early. Work even harder to celebrate their school accomplishments. Give a little extra help and support to keep them on track with homework and studying.  Remember how tired of school  you were by the end of each year?

Change up the homework routine a bit.
• Surprise them with a study treat.
• Invite a study buddy over once a week and plan a reward for them when the work is done.
• Rent a movie about the time in history they are studying.
• On a nice day, pack the backpacks in the car and go study at the beach, or in the park, or just in the backyard on a blanket together.
• Alternate reading out loud with them on that book they are getting bogged down reading.

What are your favorite tricks for re-booting their school efforts?  Share!


Image credits:  imaginestamps.comcheerleadingdirectory.com

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Caring Heart: Too Many Children

 Given Patch Adams' challenge this week and the fact that on any given day there are over 500,000 children waking up in foster care, and goodness knows how many more unknown children needing other care, I decided to use this meditation today.

Too many children

There are so many children, God. So many children who need love, who can't even think about wanting love, because they are too busy trying to stay safe. Safe in their own homes.  Protect them. Hold them. There are not enough families willing to take them in and provide the safety and compassion they so desperately need. Be with those who have taken someone in.  Keep them strong. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed, to feel helpless.  If we feel that way, how must the children feel? Give us all strength to do what we can. Give us faith that one glorious day all children we be safe, all children will have homes, all children will be loved.  Amen


Excerpted from "The Caring Heart Speaks: Meditations for foster, kinship, and adoptive parents" by Gail Underwood Parker    Artwork by Anna Parker David from the book cover. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Quick Takes: Creative Rewards #26-30

Today's quick take is five more creative rewards for your kids.  Examples are for a mix of ages and genders. [Creative Rewards #1-25 can be found if you search "Rewards."]

 26. Have a "Play on the bed" nap.  No somersaults or cartwheels, but blocks and toys are ok as long as they stay quiet and on their bed. 

 27. Freedom to skip the "veggie" night.  [Oh come on... it's just one night, and another time you can offer freedom to skip meat or milk.]

 28. Play with a bubble wand and bubble mix. [If you can go outdoors, go crazy with this one and try some new ideas for wands. It's a double reward if you play with them!] 

 29. A "Don't have to help bring in the groceries" pass.  

30.   Invite a grownup friend to have dinner. [Maybe have the child make and decorate name cards for each place?]   


Beginning to realize a world of non-food rewards, non-expensive rewards that bring joy and delight??

Watch for the next installment of creative reward ideas a month from now.

Image credit: bellsouthpwp2.net, childreach.wordpress.com

Friday, March 11, 2011

Anything Can Happen: Hope

This is the time of year that we here in Maine tend to fall into two distinct categories...

1- The winter snow enthusiasts who are energized by each new snowfall and eagerly strap on their skis, snowboards, or snowshoes and head out to enjoy the new fresh snow.

2- The rest of us who wearily put on our boots, coats, and mittens and pick up the shovel and begin yet again to shovel out a driveway or walkway or unbury our cars and dream of a spring that has yet to show us its signs.

March is the turning point... on the occasional lucky year the snow is slight and gradually fades away. Other years it is just another winter month of snowstorms and weather watches.

So, I know we can't build it.
But maybe if we can see it, it will come?