How To Tackle After-School Meltdowns

As parents, we’re used to navigating a busy lifestyle.  Regardless of how well we think we’re doing, we can all agree that life keeps us busy.  If we stop and think about it, the lives of our children aren’t entirely different from our own.  Let’s take a quick look at the facts:

Kids work a day job.  They do their own paper-pushing and they answer to supervisors (their teachers and other school faculty).  They endure performance evaluations (tests).

Kids struggle with having no control.  Somebody else makes their schedule and tells them what to do (unless you’re self-employed, you probably know how that feels).  What’s more, kids must ask permission to take care of their own basic needs, such as getting a drink of water and going to the bathroom.  

Kids wrestle with social anxiety.  “What do my peers and my supervisors think of me?” 

Kids wish they had more time for fun.  There’s so much to do in a day and not a lot of time left over for things that they’d rather be doing.  Between school, chores, and their parents’ schedules, some days there might not be much to look forward to.  Even kindergarteners have more expected of them than we did when we were kids–nap time isn’t a thing anymore, their curriculum is a year or two ahead of ours, and recess isn’t mandatory!  

All things considered, it’s no wonder that children (and their parents) suffer from after-school meltdowns.  Adolescents are still developing the coping mechanisms that adults (well, some of them) already have. Let’s also not forget anatomy: when a child is young, his hippocampus–which is responsible for emotion–is more developed than the prefrontal cortex–which controls logical thought processes and decision-making.  

What can parents do to help?  Here are some fantastic ideas from seasoned parents:

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1. Help your child decompress.  When your child gets home from school, let your child know how happy you are to see her.  Set aside your to-do list and eat a snack together. Don’t make her do homework or chores right away–just let your child relax for fifteen minutes or so.

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2. Ask thoughtful questions about your child’s day.  You won’t get much of a response from questions like, “How was your day?”  Instead, you need to pay attention to what’s going on in your child’s life.  “What did your classmates think of your show-and-tell object?” “What special class did you go to today?  What did you do there?” If you ask enough of the right questions, you will begin to uncover how your child is feeling and he will get into the groove of telling you more about his day (which may not happen all at once, but randomly as you go about the evening together).  

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3. Be careful how you respond.  Don’t scold him for mistakes that his teacher has already corrected, lest he learn to keep secrets from you.  If his teacher asks you to address something personally, don’t forget to show empathy and communicate that you are not against him.  When it comes to performance, praise the effort he put into his work rather than the grade he received.

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4. Make adjustments.  If your child is struggling in school, it might be time to have a conversation with his teacher in order to move forward.  You might also consider doing small acts of kindness to remind your child that he is loved, such as enclosing a note or his favorite treat in his lunchbox.  

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5. Have a routine.  Nothing is worse than being blindsided by work when you thought it was time to relax!  If your child has homework and chores, try to keep your evenings as routine as possible so that your child knows what to expect.

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6. Give your child something to look forward to.  I don’t know about your kids, but when mine know that their grandmother is coming over to watch them so that Daddy and I can have a date night, they are more cooperative than usual.  You can keep it simple: “If you get your work done, you can watch TV after dinner.” Playing the long game helps, too: “Not only do you have TV to look forward to this evening, but on Saturday we’re going on a family date to the zoo!”  Again, even adults are motivated by weekend rewards.

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7. Consider your child’s health.  If they’re not getting enough sleep, they’re sick, or there have been big life changes in your family, your children might not have the capacity to carry out your normal routine.  In such cases, it’s best to simply focus on making your home a safe and comfortable place. Whether they need space or or they want cuddles, always remember to prioritize their physical and emotional health over work that needs to be done.  You can always write a note to his teacher explaining why homework wasn’t finished (assuming that the issue is short-term).

Remember, Parents–you are not alone when it comes to after-school meltdowns.  They are so, so common! Kindergarteners are especially susceptible to them, as they’re still getting used to a full day of school.  The fact that you’re even reading this article shows that you haven’t failed as a parent, because you care about the wellbeing of your child.  

Moms and Dads, what tips would you add to this list?  How do you personally tackle after-school meltdowns?

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5 Baby Products That Would Have Been Awesome for My First Baby

Happy Saturday, everyone!

If you’re an older child like me, you know how it feels to be the guinea pig.  We were the ones who endured our parents’ lack of experience.  For some of us, this meant we were sheltered from everything–no sugar, no screen time, no chewing on dad’s car keys.  Then Mom and Dad started having more kids and suddenly we were allowed to eat candy-coated cereal for breakfast, watch Saturday morning cartoons, and play in the mud.  With every child, our parents got a little more tired wiser.

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We also have to consider all of the latest research on raising children and how much advice has changed over time.  Two recent conversations come to mind: one was with my mom, and it was about how I barely remembered riding in a car seat, whereas my own children will have a booster seat until they’re at least 4’9.  The other conversation was with my pediatrician.  When I had my first child, the rule was to wait until his first birthday to introduce peanut butter.  Now the rule has changed and I can feed it to my 7-month-old (which I haven’t brought myself to do yet).  I wonder how much these guidelines will change in the next five to seven years.

When I think of the baby products on the market today, I must say that I’m relieved.  They’re so convenient!  In some ways I think I’ve grown wiser in my decision-making this time around (cue memories of a baby spa tub that went unused because we didn’t know it needed EIGHT “C” batteries).  But for the most part, I give credit to the marketplace because there are some really awesome products available right now.  What a time to have a baby!

Here are my five favorite baby products and where to find them:

 

1. Fisher-Price Sweet Snugapuppy Dreams Cradle ‘n Swing

 

This swing has been a huge life-saver.  You would think that baby #3 would be the easiest because, you know…been there, done that.  But in our case, our third child has been almost as difficult as our first.  (Yes, child #2 was our easiest, and we can try to avoid gender stereotypes all we want, but “she” caught on way faster than the other two.)  Even so, we’ve been blessed with the most patience this time around, and the Snugapuppy swing has been perhaps the single most helpful baby gadget we’ve purchased to date.  It rocks, it pivots, it plays music, and it has a mobile for baby to look at.  Baby doesn’t want to sleep?  Pop him in the swing.  He’s sick and needs to keep elevated?  The swing will give your tired arms a rest.  Much like our minivan, it was a purchase that I debated for longer than I needed to.  We use it sparingly now that baby is 7 months (and using a door bouncer) but it can hold up to 25 pounds so it’ll be a while before we store it away.

Available at Target for $119.99.

 

2. LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf

 

LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Breastfeeding Cover Ultra Soft Premium Jersey Polyester- 100% AZO free and Safe for Baby (Light Grey Pattern)

 

I don’t use these much anymore because it’s cold and I don’t often leave the house, but they were so useful to have when baby was a newborn and it was hot out.  If you’re having a late-spring or summer baby and you prefer to cover up while nursing, you need a couple of these scarves.  They are paper thin so baby doesn’t get hot, but they also give you the privacy you need.  Not only are they practical, but they’re cute, too!  They’re simple enough to pair with almost any outfit.  I wore a lot of nursing camis to stay cool, so these scarves came in handy for covering up if I was particularly engorged on that day (which happens a lot those first couple weeks!)

Available at Amazon in Blue & Grey for $9.99.

 

3. Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Wearable Blanket

Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Sleeping Sack, Warm Baby Sleeping Bag fits Newborns and Infants, Khaki, Large 18-36 Months

This puts all other sleep sacks to shame.  Once my baby could roll over, it was time to say goodbye to swaddling and hello to arm-less sleep sacks.  The transition was rough, but I wonder how different it could have been if only I’d discovered this sleep sack sooner.  It is ridiculously comfy–imagine turning a down comforter into a sleeping bag with a zipper on the front.  Might I add that the zipper glides up and down effortlessly?  It doesn’t snag at all.  Can you tell I’m obsessed?

Available at Target in Small, Medium & Large from $39.49 to $49.49.

 

4.  Bright Starts Tummy Time Prop & Play

Bright Starts Tummy Time Prop & Play

Three kids later, I’m convinced that no child enjoys tummy time…at least not at first.  I could be wrong, but it seems like it’s something that comes with repeated exposure and practice.  I didn’t bother much with tummy time with my first two, to be honest, and they turned out fine (my firstborn was a crawler) but I’ve spent more time on the floor with our youngest.  I’m just curious to see how much of a difference it makes!  I like this tummy time mat because it comes with a little pillow to prop up his chest.  He doesn’t use it anymore, but the pillow came in handy when he was still a weak little thing.  The mat has colorful ribbon tags, a mirror, and other dangly toys to keep baby interested.  Maybe we could have done without the luxury of this mat, but I feel like having another “fun” toy has helped me bond with baby.

Available at Target for $20.99.

 

5. Huggies OverNites Diapers

 

HUGGIES OverNites Diapers (Choose Size and Count)

 

Normally I would consider it a cop-out to throw diapers on a listicle, but these have been such a blessing that I had to share.  I swear my little guy pees larger amounts than his brother and sister did.  He’s also a diaper-blowout champion.  These diapers have worked for us better than any other brand.  I really like the quilted insides of Huggies–they really seem to hold everything in.  Sometimes I’m tempted to use OverNites during the day.  If only they were cheaper!

Available at Walmart, $24.27 for 92-ct. size 3.

 

Now that you know some of my favorite products, I want to hear yours!  Moms and Dads, what baby products make your job easier?

10 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

Let’s face it: when it comes to parenting, none of us will achieve a perfect score.  Even so, every good parent tries their best (and they should) to grow for the sake of their children.  I’d wager to guess that from time to time you mull over a few tweaks you’d like to make to your own parenting strategies.  Now that the New Year is upon us and we’re in the mindset of making resolutions for 2019, here is an invitation to include parenting ideas in your planning.  Here are ten realistic resolutions to consider.

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1.   Be more present with your kids.  This is easier said than done.  Whether you stay at home with your kids or you commute to work, there’s always something on the to-do list.  As parents, we live in this tension of wanting to create happy memories for our children by spending quality time with them, but we are time-broke.  Again, it’s easy to say that housework can wait, but we feel the pressure when Monday morning comes and no one has clean underwear. Perfectionism will have us constantly re-calibrating our schedules to make it all fit somehow, but it never does.  This year, consider adopting some creative solutions to prioritizing quality time with your children: schedule one-on-one dates with each child, create an after-school space for your children to unwind and talk about their day over milk and cookies, or encourage your family to do chores together on a regular basis so that there is time in the evening to unwind over a movie or board game. (Note: training children to do chores is cumbersome at first, but it’s an investment that will pay off down the road.)

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2.  Cultivate passion.  If we pay attention, we will discover that each of our kids possesses a knack for something.  If your child loves to draw, give him the tools to exercise his craft, such as his own desk. If she loves to dance, enroll her in a class.  Maybe they will lose interest down the road, but one of the greatest gifts you can give them is the freedom to explore. (Note: don’t let them jump ship when the work gets tougher.  It’s one thing to lose interest and another to give up! It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference so we need to pay attention.)

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3.   Teach them life skills.  From cooking dinner to preparing taxes, there are a lot of skills our children will need to know someday that they won’t learn from school.  The earlier we begin teaching them, the better prepared they will be for adulthood. Consider setting aside some time every week to practice age-appropriate skills with them.  As they grow, they will feel empowered by these opportunities. Mopping a floor might be tedious for you, but to a child who has few skills it’s a means of feeling capable of achieving greater things.  

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4.   Have more adventures.  Rather than feeling tied down by your kids, invite them along for the ride.  Invest in some quality ear protection and take them to a concert or a monster truck rally.  Plan a cross-country road trip with plenty of pit stops at playgrounds (ones with potties, preferably!)  Don’t keep your parenting years in parentheses. Your next year-end memory book might be the best one yet!

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5.   Get active together.  When it’s nice out, go for family walks, play tennis and go camping.  In the wintertime, go sledding, teach them how to skate, or stay warm in the bowling alley.  There are so many ways to cultivate a love for exercise in children. With a little creativity and a lot of family time, staying fit can be fun! (Disclaimer: this is where I struggle the most right now, but I’ve seen other families do it successfully so I know it’s possible!)

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6.   Have a reading goal.  Personally, I believe that any child who says she doesn’t enjoy reading simply hasn’t found the right book yet!  Set a goal with your children for how many books you will read together in 2019. They will have so much fun picking out books with you and charting your progress that they won’t even realize how much they’re learning in the process.

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7.   Embrace the hard conversations.  Be prepared to talk about heavier subjects such as sex, death and faith.  Know where you stand in your opinions of these subjects. You might want to practice explaining yourself in front of the bathroom mirror, or maybe by writing in a journal or filming yourself on your phone.  Anticipate the kind of questions your children will ask and don’t be dismissive of them. Most importantly, never give your children the idea that it is wrong to ask questions. Many children have grown up angry, confused and apathetic because they were taught this.  

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8.   Get Organized. Whether it’s budgeting for a family vacation, creating a meal plan for healthier dinners, or getting rid of old and broken toys that are taking up space, now is a great time to get organized.  If we’re honest, 2019 isn’t going to be perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start it off on the right foot!

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9.   Spend more time with your spouse.  Before you had kids, it was just you and your spouse.  It’s easy to get so swept up in responsibilities that the romance dies.  This year, schedule more dates together. Parenting often feels like a battleground and you want to have a unified front!  What’s more, the closer you two are, the more secure your kids will feel.

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10.   Make time for you!  I’m not talking about vegging out on the couch and scrolling through Facebook.  I’m talking about making time for hobbies that truly fill you up. It’s hard to lead on empty, and sometimes catching a late-night Netflix show doesn’t cut it.  Not only does your own well-being demand it, but your kids are watching you and learning about life balance from what you do. Do everyone a favor and remember to live your life this year.

 

Remember, parents–you’re only human.  You’re going to mess up in 2019. My recommendation?  Choose one resolution and stick to it.  No one expects you to be the perfect parent.  If you think someone else has figured out everything there is to know about this parenting thing, you’re not seeing the whole story.  Just promise me one thing: when the easier seasons come, and you see another parent struggling, don’t forget where you came from.

 

From my family to yours, have a Happy New Year!  May it be filled with babies for days!