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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Top 10 Ways Elementary-Age Children Transition Back to School

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Top 10 List

About this time of year conversations among parents of school-age children begin to change. Talk turns from summer camp to school-ready bedtime rituals, mosquito repellant to earth-friendly lunch containers, and shopping for swimsuits to shopping for school supplies.

Not to be outdone, we here at decided to dedicate this article to:

Top 10 Ways

Parents Can Smooth The Elementary Child’s Transition From Summer to Fall

Enjoy and share with a friend!

  1. If you are transitioning your child to a new school, take time to visit the campus and ask for a tour. School summer hours are usually posted online and office personnel are happy to show you and your child around.

  2. Find out what kind of food is served in the cafeteria and which food groups are allowed for snacks. Many schools have a policy against nuts and foods of minimal value (FMV). Don’t be the parent who packs cupcakes and peanuts if those foods are forbidden.

  3. Call the bus facility if your child is a bus rider to see what the commute time is in the morning and afternoon. Help your child prepare and pack extra water, especially if the commute is long and the heat is extreme.

  4. Create your list of emergency contacts and share that list with your child. It’s good for your child to know who may pick him up if you can’t. Teach your child never to go with anyone who is not on this list. Create a password only you, your child, and the designated contact will know for added safety.

  5. While you are picking up school supplies, remember that your child will probably get additional lists from teachers the first day of school. Don’t get stressed; budget accordingly.

  6. Discuss ‘phones at bedtime’ rules before the first day of school. Believe it or not your child does NOT need her phone for an alarm clock. If you plan to make your child leave her phone in the kitchen at bedtime, introduce the idea now so she doesn’t have to go cold turkey the night before her first day of school.

  7. Check the school handbook before you go clothes shopping. Most schools without uniforms still have rules about school clothes.

  8. Get your child’s input on school lunch ideas. For a young child, lunchtime is an exciting break during the day and can be a bit of comfort from home. The first day of school is not the time to surprise a picky eater with food they hate or a junk-food junky with a health-food-only lunch.

  9. If your child is having anxiety about the start of school or has trouble separating from you, check yourself. Your child may be picking up on YOUR anxiety. Make sure you project confidence and encouragement about school when your child is around.

  10. Celebrate the end of summer and the start of school by doing something fun! It may become a tradition you can both look forward to every year.

We at wish you and your family an amazing school year!

Adjusting to a New School: Anxiety and Making Friends

Monday, August 31st, 2015

In this uncertain economy, relocating is usually accepted by the grateful job hunter as just a part of the job description. The impact on the children cannot be minimized, however, and children will process the event in their own way depending on their age, the number of past moves they can recall, and the distance that will be traveled. Important questions are: Will there be an acculturation issue?  Will there be a language barrier?  Has your child ever visited the area in which you intend to relocate? Guarding against new school anxiety is all about learning the landscape.

Here are some things the experts recommend when adjusting to a new school and town:

1. Make choosing a school a team effort.  If you’re choosing between a few schools, talk with your child about what each one has to offer. After you choose the school, allow your child to visit and take a tour. This will greatly reduce new school anxiety.

2. Take time to say goodbye to the old school. Make a scrapbook, or ask all the kids in the class sign a T-shirt, picture frame, or an autograph book. Make sure you also give old friends and teachers information about how to stay in touch with your child.

3. Keep a positive focus! Present the new school as a place where they will learn new things and make friends.

4. Encourage school involvement. Your child is more likely to engage academically if he/she feels connected through a school activity, club or sport. Ask:

  • What are your goals for the school year?
  • How are you going to get involved in school outside of the classroom?
  • What is your favorite thing to do right now and how might you find others like you?

5. If you are moving your family to a location where a different language is spoken, think about learning the language and culture together. Conversing at the dinner table only in the new language can lead to lots of laughs.

Some good resources are:

For younger children:

The Berenstain Bears Go to School, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Random House, 1978)
Arthur’s Teacher Trouble, by Marc Brown (Trumpet, 1986)

This was originally published in 2012 but it is still a great resource!

Dr. Kate Walker Ph.D. is owner and CEO of found in The Woodlands TX.


Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College Part 2

Monday, August 17th, 2015

When a child has struggled with issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse, it’s important to think ahead before they go off to college. Last week I wrote about the services that are available at most colleges and universities. This week I will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Your child may not like it, but there are ways to maintain clear communication without crossing that boundary into becoming a helicopter parent. In fact, if you have a history of helicopter parenting, you may struggle with these tactics. Here is how I explain the difference to parents: Helicopter parenting implies that you are actively trying to impact outcomes and control your child’s behavior. Instead I want you to observe, and when you discover immanent danger, intervene with natural logical consequences.

How do you observe your adult child away at school and have clear communication without controlling? First, before your child goes away, as parents you must clearly define priorities and expectations. Let your child know coping with his or her struggle or learning difference takes precedence over academics and social life. Encourage your child to suggest strategies to cope with her struggle or difference and then discuss the natural logical consequences for ignoring those healthy strategies. Let your child know you will be observing her purchasing behavior. Form a relationship with your child’s resident advisor or other student advocate on campus let your child know you will be asking them to report any concerns. Finally, let your child know you will be dropping in unannounced on occasion to see how she is doing.

Natural logical consequences are the keys to intervening without controlling. Here is an example: John and Joan are parents and they discover their daughter Jan, who is a recovering alcoholic, has been skipping classes and she stopped going to the student alcohol recovery group. Before Jan went away the family agreed her recovery was the most important priority and Jan even picked out the recovery group on her own. Now, Jan tells Joan that the recovery group is full of people she doesn’t know and she doesn’t really have time for it because her studies are so intense. She tells her mom she’ll go, “if you want me to fail all my classes.” If Joan and John were still helicopter parents they might tell Jan she doesn’t need to go to her recovery group and just focus on her studies. They might lecture Jan or try to guilt or bribe her into going to the recovery group. They might worry that setting limits with Jan would stress her further and even make her start drinking again.

John and Joan are not helicopter parents, however, and they discuss their observations. First they notice their daughter is not taking care of her addiction. Because that could mean life or death for their daughter, they decide to address that first. Second, they acknowledge their sadness that their daughter may not be ready for college. It was Joan’s alma mater and they both must grieve their dream for now. Finally, together they call Jan and remind her that as a family they decided that Jan’s recovery was more important than school and if she can’t do both then she is choosing to come home to finish her education. If Jan chooses to stay away at her current school, they let her know they love her and they honor her decision, but they will not support that decision financially.

Jan may feel like her parents are trying to control her, but in fact, Joan and John are setting a boundary. The boundary is unpleasant for Jan but it is teaching her than Joan and John will not enable her unhealthy coping. It also lets Jan know Joan and John will not lecture or shame her and they will love her no matter what she decides to do.




Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College

Monday, August 10th, 2015

This month is all about ways you can help your child transition successfully to higher education and independence. My last article discussed helping your child make the transition, and this week I’m going over the services that are available at most colleges and universities. My next article will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Sending a child off to college who has experienced emotional and behavioral struggles can be hard. Issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse require the help of outside therapists and medical experts. Similarly, mood and behavior difficulties like depression, anxiety, or ADHD, may require additional educational interventions such as a 504 plan. Educational differences such as dyslexia and dysgraphia may also require special education interventions. By the time a child turns eighteen, most parents have become experts at accessing services that help their child feel better, stay healthy, and succeed in school. The question becomes, then, how do you help your adult child maintain the same level of interest in self-care and success when they go to college?

Depending on your child, you can start by looking at colleges that address his or her need. The University of Iowa offers students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities access to the REACH program. Through The Learning Center on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus, students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and other special needs can find a wide range of support options ( If you don’t know where to start, educational consultants can be a tremendous source of information to help your child plug in to the right college or university.

If your child has his or her heart set on a particular university, then be sure to tour services such as the student writing center and campus TRIO programs (federally funded programs on many campuses that offer everything from free tutoring, writing help, to financial help). Your child’s campus will always have an ADA office so include that in your visit when you take your college tour.

Here are some tips from

  • While a high school is required to identify your requirements and provide free appropriate public education to meet them, a post-secondary institution is not required to waive or change academic requirements. However, colleges cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, and must provide the necessary adjustments for you to function academically. This includes housing for students with disabilities that is comparable, accessible and affordable.
  • While disclosure of your disability to a college is voluntary, it is necessary in order to qualify for assistance. You may apply for an adjustment at any time, but it is recommended that you do so early. Initiate contact with a school before the college application process begins, and ask questions. It may take some procedural time for your application to go through, and requirements may vary amongst different colleges.
  • You will also need to provide proof of your disability, so be sure to research what is necessary for different institutions, and start your evaluations before senior year. Neither the state nor your college is responsible for the cost of obtaining documentation of your disability, but your state vocational rehabilitation agency may provide funding.

New Leader, Great Leader

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward. – Victor Kiam

I’m writing from Austin at the Summer Leadership Training Institute for the Texas Counseling Association. The atmosphere is amazing and the rooms are full of new and seasoned leaders in the counseling field. Being here reminds me that getting your feet wet in leadership can feel a lot like trying yoga for the first time. We all know exercise is important to a healthy body but when we think about putting on yoga pants in order to contort in a crowded hot room, it’s tempting to just forget it and wear them to the grocery store instead.

As painful as the thought may be, leadership is an important part of personal growth, career development, family guidance, and civic duty. I asked a young woman at my table from San Angelo what it was like for her to be a newly elected leader. She replied that she was excited to get started and happy that her fear of making mistakes didn’t hold her back. After I complimented her on her decision to ‘lean in’ and embrace her new role, I decided to observe other leaders in the room to discover other characteristics that make a great leader.

  1. Don’t let your fear of making mistakes hold you back. Mistakes are part of the learning process. As my friend at the table noted, once you make them, you realize they weren’t as bad as you thought.
  2. Great leaders change how people feel by being useful, entertaining, and inspiring. Each person I met at this conference changed me in some way. The combination of passion and knowledge was contagious.
  3. Your organization helps its clients/employees/members be better versions of themselves every day, so leaders should do that also. A good leader builds trust and connects members.
  4. A good leader is an extension of the organization. He/she helps people understand more about who we are and what our organization stands for.

Do something that scares you today – go lead!


3 Step, No-Hassle Summer Schedule

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

If you are like me the first day of summer throws me off kilter a bit. My kids are home from school, my work schedule gets a little bit inconsistent, there’s more daylight (which means more stuff to do!), and, well, you get the picture. Here are some things that made the transition from Spring to Summer a little bit easier for me AND my family.
1. Summer Bucket List. Ask your family to list the most important things they want to accomplish or experience this summer. This exercise is a great way to give everyone in your family a voice. The list creates accountability and the process teaches problem solving. If an item doesn’t make the family list, encourage the family member to keep it on a personal list.
2. Family calendar or white board. Remember, if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t exist! Take the items from step 1 and write them down on a master list somewhere where everyone can see it, every day. Give everything an EDC – Estimated Date of Completion. Make a big deal about accomplishing things!
3. Limit kids’ technology while you are at work. I know. You’re thinking, “what does this have to do with a schedule?” and, “I thought you said this list was no hassle?” Ok I fibbed a little bit, but your kids are only human and over-using technology is like getting in a time machine. Once your kids start Netflix or X-Box, they can lose an entire day without realizing it. You may, no strike that; you will get a ton of pushback for this. Do your best anyway to find a way to limit technology to just a few hours a day.

Parenting the Age of Texting: What are the Rules?

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Helping your child navigate the world of texting and appropriate messaging means only one thing; you’re going to have to learn about the world of texting and appropriate messaging. You have your own rules about your personal style of texting and phone use, but how does that translate to behavior you expect from your kids? Do this experiment to find out.

For one week, notice the number of times you reach for your phone. No judging, just noticing. Do you check facebook at a stoplight? When you are with your kids at the park are you taking the opportunity to continue a texting conversation with a friend? Are you able to put your phone out of reach at the dinner table? After one week taking note of your own phone patterns, you should be ready to put some reasonable rules in place for your kids.

In case you’re not up to that, or you just need something right now, here are a few ideas (along with the explanations behind them) to get you started.

  1. Mom and dad have the password to your phone. They may choose never to use it, but they must have it. Why? Kids are compulsive and that is normal. Texting as a means of shooting off communication that is not well thought out is tempting for adults and teens alike. Sharing the password with mom or dad gives the message that parents will keep you safe, even if it makes you mad.
  2. If you must answer a text around other people or family members, announce in a normal speaking voice, “I have a text; do you mind if I answer this?” Why? Breaking eye contact to answer a text during a conversation with a person physically present gives the message “you don’t matter” to the physically present person. Even if conversation is not directed at the teen (for example at the dinner table) the teen is expected to be a potential part of the conversation, not partially present.
  3. Of course no texting and driving! But don’t forget:
    1. No texting and walking
    2. No texting and walking in a crosswalk
    3. No texting and walking down stairs
    4. You get the picture

Why?  The potential for injury and victimization. Subjects asked to walk across a crowded plaza while texting stopped noticing their surroundings. How bad was it? They missed a clown on a unicycle and a person dressed in a gorilla suit. Imagine how a mugger or rapist might get missed by a distracted texter.

Two Parenting Mistakes and Time Management

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Nobody’s perfect. In an age of two working parents, single parent homes, co-parenting, blended families, and just plain normal moms and dads doing the best they can, mistakes will be made.
Mistake number one: Too tired to parent.

This is probably our oldest parenting mistake. Back in ‘the day,’ parenting after a long day hunting and gathering probably looked more like an episode of ‘Survivor’ rather than ‘The Waltons.’ Older siblings were put in charge of younger siblings, children who could prepare food were put to work, while Mom and Dad protected the clan from predatory animals and neighbors. In true Darwinian fashion, children who did not conform to family norms probably did not survive.

Today, well-meaning, tired, parents know they should not ignore misbehavior, yet sometimes it’s just easier to allow the TV and the PlayStation to do their job. Tantrums are met with concessions. Children learn to act rather than ask permission because they know consequences from tired parents can be negotiated away through whining, manipulation, persistence, and even good behavior.

This leads us to mistake number two: I can’t keep up the consequence because now he’s being so good (washing my car, vacuuming, setting the table)! Time off for good behavior only works in prison. In the home, children are in charge of their behavior choices, and parents are in charge of the consequences. If children are permitted to choose the behavior AND manipulate the consequences by acting ‘good’, this can lead to power struggles, confusion, and more manipulation. Kids soon learn tired parents crave love and happiness (and a clean car) and they’ll do anything, including shorten a punishment, if their child rewards them with good behavior and attitudes.

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted and perfection is a myth. Always keep an eye out for good parenting tips and do your best!

How Classroom Routines for Children Provide Security in their Daily Education

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

This is the first of a four-part series that examines the importance of rituals in our lives. This article will examine the daily rituals that we all take for granted, as we often fail to recognize their role in keeping us grounded. It is important to know “routine” definition. A routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed, or a fixed program. These daily rituals are particularly significant as children start school, when parents adjust schedules to accommodate the changes from a more flexible summer routine to the more demanding requirements of a daily education program.

Our schools are very rich in the usage of rituals. The day begins with morning announcements, the children have certain times and routines for classes, recess, lunch, etc. Have you ever observed routines for children throughout their day at school, including the classroom routines? They know exactly what to anticipate the moment they walk in the door. There is a place for their backpacks, jackets, supplies. They know when they are supposed to take out materials from their desks, open books, etc. In order for rituals to be effective, they have to be meaningful, so the rituals in the schools and classrooms provide a security for the children as they become comfortable knowing what to expect. Have you ever listened to a child explain that they had a substitute teacher? You can tell from the child’s voice that the routine was different. Have you ever heard a child explain that they had music that day rather than PE? It is significant for them, because it is a change in what they expected.

As schools create daily rituals for children, it is also crucial for parents to use rituals in the home to provide that same sense of “grounding.’ Getting up at the same time, going to bed at the same time, reading books together, doing homework at specified times, etc. Children want and need that security that rituals provide them.
Surprise yourself and make a list of all the daily rituals that you have provided for your family.

Next month we will examine those rituals that families create for special occasions such as birthdays.

Anxious Children: How to Ease Anxiety and Treating Anxiety in Young Children

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Jason* (not his real name) enjoyed being at home and could always find things to do. He was highly creative and enjoyed making up plays, playing music, and doing art projects. His mother loved her son and relished his creativity.

The first day of school brought out another side of Jason. The morning started with Jason resisting getting dressed. Finally packed into the car, he told his Mom he didn’t want to go to school. The closer school got the more distressed Jason became. The morning climaxed with Jason refusing to get out of the car in the school parking lot and Mom having to drag him out and into his classroom where Jason hung onto her for dear life.

Childhood anxiety creates problems for the whole family if it is not understood and dealt with appropriately. In helping your anxious child, it is important to remember these things:

1. Your child is not “weak” or “immature.” Your child is struggling with an anxiety issue.

2. Be supportive and loving to your child. It is helpful to explain calmly what he/she can expect during the day and when you will be back for pick-up.

3. Maintain a regular schedule for bedtime routines and morning routines. Post the schedule on the fridge.

4. Provide lots of emotional support and hugs.

5. Talk with the teacher about our child’s anxiety and elicit her support for anxious children.

If your child’s anxiety does not abate after a reasonable time, talk to your pediatrician and request a full physical exam so as to learn the right way for how to ease anxiety. For children with constant anxiety that interferes with their daily life, play therapy has proven to be very helpful. A licensed therapist can provide the support and direction you need for treating anxiety in young children.. It is also important to consider there is medication that can make a world of difference.

Sue Watkins, MA, LMFT, has experience assisting adolescents and their families with issues such as addiction, anger management, depression, anxiety, communication, parenting, and stress management.


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