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.