Sunday, December 14, 2014

Introvert or Extrovert?

The terms introvert and extrovert have been used widely as of late.  Have you ever thought of which category your child fits in? It could affect their behavior all year, but particularly during the holiday season with all of the get togethers/concerts/events that they may encounter.  A more introverted personality, as Carl Jung first coined it, is a person who's motives or actions are directed more inward.  Introverts tend to be more preoccupied with their own thoughts and feelings and minimize their contact with other people.  In short they are shy and can become more anxious when in a large group or when expected to perform.  Introverts need time and support to enter into social situations and they also need gentle coaching in order to feel more successful.  How can you help your introverted child when they encounter these situations?  Start by having play dates at your house to help them feel more comfortable and then slowly widen their circle of comfort until they feel ready to go to a classmates house.  Before a birthday party talk to your child prior to the event and explain that you will stay for a few minutes and then you will leave for the duration of the party and pick them up at the designated time.  At a visit to the playground or the park help your introverted child enter into a group of children, as this may be a very daunting situation for them.  Coach them and then together practice the words to use to enter into an activity or game.  In the community help your child by having them order at a restaurant or a deli counter at a grocery store, have them hand the cashier the money and encourage them to answer questions when asked by the cashier or when you encounter a friend doing errands.  Most importantly, be patient, understanding and supportive while encouraging your child to engage in conversation or play with others.  

An extroverted child, as written by Carl Jung, is a person whose motives and actions are directed outward.  Extroverts are more prone to action than contemplation, they make friends easily, adjust to social situations with ease, and generally show great interest in their surroundings. We live in an extroverted world and those with this personality can navigate through social situations and perform for others with ease.  On the flip side, Extroverts can be very demanding and always want to be on center stage.  Extroverts often need constant stimulation or they can bore easily.  They often have shorter attention spans and they can make quick decisions without thoroughly thinking everything through.  

Extroverts often describe introverts as boring ‘stick in the mud’s’, while they are themselves described as superficial and loud. These perceptions can have a big effect in any kind of relationship.  
Here is how it often works; extroverts get lonely when they are not with people, and often need a variety of people to maintain their interest. Introverts can get lonely when they are surrounded by people- especially if they don’t know them.
It is wrong to think of introverts as being antisocial. They can be as gregarious in their way as an extrovert. It is just that their way will be different. Socializing for them will usually involve people known to them, with conversation occurring in small groups, often with the opportunity available for them to be observers rather than participants.

Knowing your own personalities and those of your family members will help you understand each other and empathize with one another.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Morning Routines

If your mornings are anything like mine, with my own two children, you know the benefits to having a morning routine when getting ready for the school day.  Getting out the door is no small feat - kids need to be dressed, teeth and hair brushed, breakfast eaten, backpacks packed and in the winter all the snow gear needs to get out the door as well.  Obviously, all of these responsibilities don't fall on parents shoulders but they need to be shared with your children to give them responsibility and allow for a pleasant morning.  The following tips will allow everyone to leave without bickering and it will leave everyone with a happier start to the day.

The most important tip is to teach your child to take care of their morning routine as independently as possible, without you reminding, taking over or helping when it isn't required.  You need to first decide how much time you need to get your child and yourself out the door in order to get to school on time. Then make a list of the things, include pictures for younger children, that need to be done in the order they need to be completed.  Make sure that backpacks and clothes are picked out the night before to make for an even easier morning.  Hang the list in a visible location for your child and allow them to check items off as they go to feel that sense of accomplishment.  As your child completes each task provide specific praise (nice job getting your teeth brushed, etc) to encourage your child to continue.  If your child gets everything done with time to spare allow them a few minutes of play time before heading out the door.  Lastly, walk out the door on time even if their morning routine isn't complete.  Do not give in to the temptation to nag or scold or do the task for your child.  Chances are they won't want to continue to eat breakfast on the go the next morning and they will complete their tasks on time.
Remember, change takes time.  Plan carefully and keep your patience, even when it is most difficult. Children who have happier mornings at home and arrive to school on time go on to have more successful days at school - which is the goal that we are working towards for everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

10 Fun ideas with your kids when the power goes out

After this previous winter storm I think we all struggled with many things - the obvious lack of electricity complicating things and the boredom that our kids faced.  Power outages are a great time to play the old-fashioned way and expand your kid's creative and imaginative side. Here are some thoughts for what to do when the power goes out again.

*Be crafty - take out the markers, crayons and paints and create a masterpiece with the family.

*Tell stories by the candlelight - whether made up or real everyone enjoys that opportunity to bond as a family.  You can also tell a story with the assistance of MadLibs and enjoy a laugh together.

*Read a story together.

*Take out the board games and enjoy a family game night.

*Lego's are always a great way to beat the boredom.

*Remember making tents with blankets and chairs as a kid?  A power outage is a great time to introduce or re-introduce this fun activity with your kids.

*Send your kids through a treasure hunt with your cookbooks to see if you can find a meal to make with the food you have.

*Play a game of charades - it's good for all ages and fun for all.

*Have a family dance night and break out some of your best moves for your kids.

*Make shadow puppets with a flashlight and have your family guess what they are.

Above all else just remember to enjoy your time together and make the best of the situation until the lights come back on.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holiday stress tips

There are many Holiday Stress triggers.  Relationships, finances, physical demands/time, guilt, and striving to have the perfect holiday all top the list.
·      * Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress.  The holidays can intensify family misunderstandings and conflicts. 
·     * On the flip side facing the holidays without a loved one can be difficult and leave you feeling lonely and sad.  
·      *It is difficult for people to accept close relatives’ behavior and/or beliefs. 
·      *With the added expenses of gifts, travel, food and entertainment, the holidays are a major strain on your budget and your peace of mind.
·    *  Overspending for the holidays can also mean financial worries for months to come.
·     * The extra shopping, socializing, cleaning, wrapping, mailing cards, decorating and searching for the perfect gift can leave people physically wiped out.
·      *When you are exhausted your stress level increases and you are more susceptible to catching a cold or virus causing a vicious cycle.
·      *There is seemingly never enough time to accomplish everything for the holidays.
·      *Self-inflicted stress to have the “perfect” holiday is very unhealthy for you and your family.
·     * Striving to have your house perfectly decorated, dinner and desserts cooked and presented perfectly along with attaining that impossible to find present add to your holiday stress level.
·     * This need for perfection often leads to a feeling of dread at all of the upcoming work.
·      *Feeling guilt for not being able to be in more than one place at the same time.  Coping with stress by canceling holiday events with relatives can increase the stress/guilt even more.

So what do you do to avoid or prevent this holiday stress?

 *     Acknowledge your feelings.
            If someone close to you has died, you can’t be with loved ones, and/or there are       
           financial difficulties realize that it is normal to feel overwhelmed by sadness and   
           grief.  Take the time to talk with someone about your feelings.
*    Reach out - if you are feeling lonely or isolated seek out community. 
*     Volunteering can lift your spirits and help you make new friendships.
*     Be realistic - the holidays don’t have to be perfect - reflect on your priorities.
*     As families change so do traditions and rituals.
*     Let some traditions go and choose some to hold on to.
*     Simplify - streamline your to-dos and your to-buys.
*     Go potluck to save time, energy and money.
*     Set aside differences - work to accept family and friends as they are. 
*     Set aside grievances for a more appropriate time.
*     Be understanding when others get upset - remember they are probably feeling the effects of holiday stress as well.
*     Make a budget and stick to it!
*     Don’t be overwhelmed with sales and last minute gift buying.
*     Come up with an alternative to buying gifts such as; giving to a charity, making gifts, or starting a family gift exchange.
*     Plan ahead - set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, etc.
*     Plan your menu and then make your list to avoid forgetting ingredients.
*     Look for ways to prepare food ahead of time.
*     Set the table ahead of time - this will save time and allow you more time to enjoy the holiday.
*     Set a deadline for completing shopping and mark it on your calendar.
*     Assign cleaning duties to family members.
*     Send out e-cards if sending out physical cards is to stressful.
*     Shop online.
*     Limit decorations.
e                     *    Learn to say no - friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project             or activity.
*     If it isn’t possible to say no, try to remove something from your agenda to make up for lost time.
*     Don’t abandon healthy habits  - overindulgence can lead to stress and guilt.
*     Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so you don’t go overboard on sweets and other high calorie items.
*     Get plenty of sleep.
*     Make time for physical activity.
*     Take a breather and make some time for yourself.
*     Take a walk.
*     Listen to music.
*     Indulge in a bath.
*     Find the relaxation strategy that works to reduce your stress, clear your mind, and restore your inner calm.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Safety lesson for elementary students

This week I will be beginning teaching my safety lessons in all of the Kindergarten-3rd grade classrooms.  The importance of teaching basic safety skills to children empowers them with the knowledge necessary to keep themselves safe and be less fearful of the unknown.  I utilize the Kids and Company Safety Program when teaching these safety lessons in the classrooms.  It is a comprehensive program, developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, that provides children with the skills, information, self-confidence and support to prevent abduction and abuse.  Teaching these lessons allows children to feel confident and not fearful or unsure about what to do in unsafe situations.

Often children are told scary stranger stories or told of tragic consequences that have occurred which is nonproductive.  When we teach unrealistic and unreasonable rules, such as "never talk to strangers" we confuse children.  In many cases in everyday life, children interact with the very "strangers" that they may be warned against.  It is almost impossible to define a "stranger" and in the large majority of cases of abduction or abuse it involves someone the child knows.  According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children only 3% of abductions are by a person that the child does not know. Therefore, children need to learn how to make safe decisions about the people they ask for help.

The lessons I will teach focus on the following safety areas;  student's awareness of their address and phone number, the Buddy System, Check First, No-Go-Tell, the Trust Tree and Store Safety Strategies.  It is important for children to know their address, first name of their parent/guardian and a phone number (cell or home number) to reach their parent/guardian.  The Buddy System is a simple rule that teaches children to have a "buddy" with them when walking to and from places.  Use of the Buddy System is one way that children can decrease their vulnerability and feel safer.   Check First emphasizes the child's need to check with the adult in charge prior to answering the door, going out to play, changing our plans, going with someone, etc.  Checking first lets adults know where we the child is and who will be with them.  No-Go-Tell teaches children that if they are touched with a Not OK touch (punch, slap, inappropriate touch) they are to say No and immediately Go and Tell a trusted adult.  The students will spend time talking about adults in their lives that are trusted adults to talk with. This safety rule is also used in situations such as; someone you see on the street asking for your help with their lost pet, someone you see at a park asking you to go to their house, someone on the street asking you to get in your car, etc.  Lastly, the students will go over store strategies to use if they are lost or if they want to go to a different part of the store.  Students will be taught to find a store worker if lost, to stay in the store where they last saw their parent/guardian, and to always use the Buddy System.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

World Kindness Day

Nowadays there is a calendar day for every event...Talk like a Pirate Day, National Doughnut Day etc.  But did you know that there is a day to show that Kindness Counts?  It is coming up this week!  World Kindness Day is a day that gives all of us even more reason to celebrate the big and small kind acts that all of us can show to each other.

A healthy dose of kindness is good for everyone in many ways.  Kindness stimulates the production of a natural antidepressant called serotonin.  This happens not only for the person receiving the kind act but also for the giver and the witnesses.  Kindness also boosts the production of feel-good endorphins and the cuddle hormone oxytocin (which promotes social bonding and strengthens the immune system).  Kindness also slows the aging process and decreases stress levels.  I can't think of any reasons not to practice kindness on a daily basis!

There are many ways to be kind - as a family you can show kindness to others by putting together holiday food baskets, shopping for holiday gifts for those who are needy, donating used toys and clothes to those who need them, and talking together at dinner about something you each did that day that was kind.

If searching for a good children's book about kindness try Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson or The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace.  This week I will be reading the book Each Kindness to the 3rd grade classrooms and they will have the opportunity to state a kind act that they have done for someone else.  As they state their act of kindness they will drop a stone into a bowl of water to show the ripples that as the story states, "portray what kindness does, each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world."

Take this opportunity to talk to your children about World Kindness Day this November 13th - the opportunities are endless!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tips for healthy eating at home and at school

Due to the fact that the holiday season is approaching I thought it would be timely to share some nutrition tips for your family.  Below is the My Plate graphic that was released from the federal government in 2011.    

The My Plate website offers many helpful tips such as the following snack tips for parents; have fruits and vegetables prepared and available, choose whole grains, keep an eye on the serving size, choose milk and water over sugary sodas, and avoid sugary snacks.

When preparing meals remember to make half of your plate veggies and fruits, choose lean protein, include whole grains, choose fat-free or low-fat milk, and avoid the extra fats such as heavy gravies or sauces.   Always remember to eat slowly so as to enjoy your food – this will allow you to stop eating when you feel full.  Use a smaller plate to help with your portion control and choose eating at home more often in order to know exactly what you are eating.

Helping your child make healthy choices at a young age will foster healthy eating for a lifetime.  If you follow the My Plate guidelines when sending your child to school they will have more energy for learning and it will help them maintain or reach a healthy weight.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Parent Conference Day

On Parent Conference Day I will be available on the first floor to answer questions you may have and I will have a variety of handouts on many subjects.  Included in the handouts are:  parenting tips, sleep questions answered, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, booster seat safety, how to handle tantrums, nutrition information, Hopkinton Student Support team, Anger Management, Developmental milestones and much more.  All of the handouts have simple tips and information that you can put into practice with your own family. Please stop by to see if there is anything of interest or simply to say hello.  It's not often that I'm able to see so many parents at one time and I'm excited about the opportunity.  Hope to see you on Thursday!

Monday, October 13, 2014

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

The End of Bullying Begins with me is the message during National Bullying Prevention Month.  Students and adults are encouraged to take an active role in bullying prevention to inspire, educate and involve others to prevent bullying. 

What is bullying?
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. There are four broad forms of bullying, including, Physical Bullying, Verbal Bullying, Cyber Bullying, and Social Bullying.  Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions.  Physical bullying includes:  hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, and making mean or rude hand gestures. Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things.  Verbal bullying includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, and threatening to cause harm. Cyber bullying is defined as bullying using electronic devices, such as cell phones, computers, and tablets, or other communication tools, including social media sites, text messages, chat rooms, and websites.  Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes: leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, and embarrassing someone in public.

Research states the following characteristics to be the reasons most students are bullied:
  • Appearance or body size
  • Perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender
  • Degree of masculinity or femininity
  • Performance in school
  • Race/ethnicity/national origin and/or religion
  • Low-income household
  • Youth with disabilities and other special health needs

The following are common myths about students who bully:
* Students who bully are loners.
* Students who bully have low self-esteem and are insecure.
* Bully occurs because students want attention.
* Bullying behavior is a normal part of children being children.
* Only boys bully others.

The following are possible indicators of students who are bullied:
* Physical signs like torn, damaged, or soiled clothing; unexplained cuts, bruises, and     scratches; missing or damaged personal items like books or homework without a credible explanation.
* Students who are socially isolated.
* Students who become truant or have frequent claims of physical ailments in order to be allowed to go home.
* Students who begin doing poorly in school and receive declining grades.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Test anxiety techniques

Many students and adults experience test anxiety.  It’s helpful to know what test anxiety is and how to work through it in order to be successful.  Test anxiety is actually a type of performance anxiety.  Performance anxiety is when a person feels worried about how they will do on a task.  Some symptoms of anxiety are to feel butterflies, a stomach ache, or a headache.  Some people might feel shaky, sweaty or feel their heart beating quickly as they wait for the test or the event to occur.  A student with really strong test anxiety may even feel like they might throw up or pass out.  When you are under stress, your body releases the hormone adrenaline, which prepares it for danger.  The adrenaline causes the physical symptoms – sweating, pounding heart, and rapid breathing.
Many people feel anxiety prior to a event.  In fact, a manageable amount of anxiety can be helpful, it keeps us focused and drives us to do our best.  But when your symptoms take over so that you can’t function, you might not be able to perform the task.  Many people focus on the bad things that could happen and it makes them feel more worried.  These thoughts make people even more upset which makes the anxiety even stronger and they are then unable to concentrate. 
What do you do when you have these anxious feelings and how can you manage them?  Ask for help! Just talking to someone can make you feel better.  Together you can come up with solutions to use when faced with anxiety.  Be prepared and learn to forgive/accept mistakes –this helps ease the unknown and makes you feel more confident.  Expect the best and accept mistakes and you will be ready to do your best.  Don’t forget to breathe!  Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale out your mouth.  Repeat your breathing until your body feels calm.  Use positive self-talk (I can do this, I’m prepared, I know this) to replace the negative self-thought.  Visualization (picturing a safe/calm place or picturing yourself completing the task with confidence) can be used as a tool to calm down and relax.  You might have noticed that all of these techniques having to do with changing what we say, see and feel.  The mind and body are tightly woven together and when anxious feelings occur often the body is not working as one cohesive unit.  Students and adults alike need to practice these techniques in order to use them efficiently.