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28 Feb

You can survive the next snow storm (but only if it's the last one)!

If you are a parent eyeing the upcoming weather forecast and feeling somewhat queezy, know that you are not alone. The snow, cold and ice of the Winter of 2014 has taken it's toll on parents.  Complaints like "I just can't seem to get into a routine" and "I can't get anything done" are common given multiple snow days and two hour delays. For some, this is a minor inconvenience but for others who are already impacted by the lack of sunshine and indoor confinement, it can lead to depression and anxiety. This combined with the stress of having housebound children can lead to conflict and snow days that feel endless.  Here are some ideas to get you through the next and (hopefully last) round of snow.

1.  Get out of the house. Play in the snow. If you can't,  bundle up the kids and get them outside. The energy release and outdoor lighting can be a mood enhancer and is well worth the resulting pile of wet clothes.

2.  Plan an "event" or two during the day. The "event" is simply a planned activity to help structure the day. Ideas are baking cookies, playing a board game or playing hide and seek. More adventurous ideas might include a tasting contest where the child is blind folded and has to guess what you give them to taste or a drawing or writing contest between you and the kids. Gear the "events" to what your children enjoy.  Planning some structured events can help with boredom and the inevitable fighting that occurs with siblings with too much time on their hands.

3. Plan quiet time.  Give the assignment of one hour of quiet time to your kids with suggestions of how to spend it. Reading, coloring and playing in their room can provide a well needed break for you as a parent and if the child takes their quiet time as planned it can be rewarded by an "event" that they do with you.

4. Have a dance party.  Exercise, energy release  and fun. What could be better?  Even a fifteen minute dance party can liven the mood of a gloomy afternoon.

5. Near the end of the day, when everyone is getting tired, relax some of the old rules. Extra TV or computer time is OK on a day when everyone's nerves are a bit tight. Just try to save this for the end of the day so that you don't have to fight the kids to get them to participate in some of the more active events.

If you as the parent begin to feel out of control, be sure to take a break. Tell your spouse you need some time and take a nap. If you are alone with the kids, step out onto the porch so you can still see but not hear them and take 5 deep breaths. Remind yourself that this is temporary and it will pass.

Don't give up hope. Spring is around the corner even though we can't feel it. Most importantly know that you are not alone. If the Winter blues of 2014 don't stop when the snow stops, think about speaking to a therapist before it gets too bad.

16 Feb

Is The Hunger Games Too Much Violence For Children?

The Hunger Games is one of the hottest movies out.  Teens and tweens are rushing to the movie theaters and increasing their levels of literacy as they hurry to read the three books in the series.  Yet both the movies and the books feature a great deal of violence.  Should parents be concerned?  It depends on the age of the child and their sensitivity level.

Children who watch primetime TV or play video games may be exposed to violence and aggression on a regular basis.  Parents should monitor their children’s behavior and make sure they know the difference between fantasy play and reality.  Try to help children use words to express their anger.  Examples include saying “I’m angry or frustrated,” with a sibling before hitting or even the parent modeling this behavior by saying “I’m tired from a long day of work and that is why I’m cranky today.”  They should also provide safe ways for children to express their own anger or aggression.  Some ideas for this might include an anger space featuring noodles that the child can hit against the wall, egg cartons to smash, or phone books to tear.

Parents who limit their children’s exposure to violent media may want to read the books themselves to preview the amount of violence or look on a website that rates and describes movie violence.  Parents who decide to allow their children to go may accompany the children to the movie.  Discussion might follow on scenes that seemed the most disturbing so the child can express any feelings they may have on actions that were concerning.  Also tell the child to let you know if they are having bad dreams following the film.  If so reassure them that it is a fantasy story and be available in the event that they need you to provide additional attention as they regain their sense of security.  If a child is young, under 8 or 9 and particularly sensitive to violence or emotional events; it may make sense to tell them that the movie is not appropriate and redirect them to another film.