Show Your Kids Love On Valentine’s Day and Every Day

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing 14 ways to show your child love.

1. Make time to be together

make time to be together
Make special memories and have daily routines together.

It goes without saying that the more time you spend with your family, the more bonding you can enjoy. This photo is from a time that I agreed to be in a show with my theatrical daughter, but not all family time has to be such a huge commitment.

Make a family game night once a week. Volunteer in your child’s class or participate in their extracurricular activities. Take walks. Go to the park. Build a puzzle together. Turn off electronics in the car and just talk.

Make little moments count!

2. Help kids learn from their mistakes

learn from mistakes
We learn best from our mistakes.

Kids make mistakes often. This means they have many chances to learn.

If we try to fix it all for them, it teaches them that they’re not good enough to do it themselves.

Don’t be harsh with your words when kids mess up. Harsh words scar and might keep kids from trying the next time!

Support kids and help them learn what went wrong. Try role-playing to see how they could have done it differently and maybe next time they can practice how to make a better choice.

Check out Bright Futures for more information on learning from mistakes.

3. Turn off screens and tune in

screen timeThere are many studies that show parents are distracted by their phones and computers.

Turn your screens off to be able to give full attention to your kids. Make sure they have screen time limits too.

I’m on my computer a lot now, but when my kids were young I only worked online when my kids were in bed. (Now they stay up later than I do, but they’re not home in the evenings.)

Even when I’m on call I don’t answer my phone during family meals because I wanted to model to my kids that family time should not have interruptions from phones. (Note: there are physicians who have to answer immediately due to true emergency calls, but they calls I get should not be emergencies.)

4. Assign chores

chores for kids

My daughter actually laughed at this one when she was reviewing my blog.

I’ve never been really good at enforcing chores on a regular basis despite the fact that I know they help kids build self confidence and grow into productive adults.

Be a better parent than I’ve been in this regard and have your child do daily or weekly chores. I know it’s faster and easier to just do things yourself, but your kids will benefit from the work!

5. Set limits

set limitsMy daughter also laughed at this one. She is totally the child who will debate any rule. She will follow them if they’re set, but she will attempt to show why the rule should be stretched. I’m proud of her for that characteristic. I don’t want kids that will just follow the leader, but I know that I can’t be an effective parent if there are no limits.

Kids need structure and limits so they can feel secure and learn within safety boundaries.

There are tips on limit setting for strong-willed kids on Aha Parenting that I really like.

6. Eat family meals together

eat as a family
Eating together has so many benefits. Make the time regularly!

Families that eat together stay together. There are studies showing that when families eat meals regularly together, kids benefit in many ways.

We tend to eat healthier if we eat home cooked meals. This leads to a healthier overall body.

Meal times also provide time for bonding. This can lead to less drug use and depression. It makes sense. If kids are connected to their parents, they will have less need to find other ways to make themselves feel good.

Studies show that kids actually do better academically if they eat with their family at least 5 days a week.

All this and it’s less expensive to eat at home. Bonus!

7. Read together

Read reading together

Okay, I’m cheating with this photo a bit. I didn’t ever take pics of reading with my kids, but took one a few years ago when my daughter was reading to her cousin during a car trip.

Despite not having photos of our nighttime rituals, books were the best part of bedtime when my kids were young.

They loved hearing stories. Sometimes we’d play “I spy” with the book we’d read so many times they had it memorized. Sometimes they’d read to me – more and more as they got older. They’d often try to bargain for more reading time. Reading was a great motivator for them to get dressed and brush teeth so we could get started!

Reading together is not only a great bonding time, but it also helps to set the stage for loving a great skill. Many studies over the years continue to  show that reading with children starting when they’re infants helps them learn to speak, interact and bond with parents. They will be more likely to be early readers. Reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to you, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.

8. Serve together

serve others
Serving others not only helps those you’re serving, but has also been shown to help the giver.

Doing community service or volunteering to help others has been shown to benefit not only the persons being served, but also those serving.

Kids can develop pride, learn new skills, gain empathy for others, and live new experiences by helping others.

Studies show that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

Volunteering allows families doing things together working on something productive. They can learn about themselves and each other through helping others.

9. Make physical contact

physical contact
Healthy physical contact can show love.

One of the love languages is physical touch. Sometimes we hear of improper touches and it can negatively impact the way we are able to interact with the kids around us. While I feel very strongly that we need to protect our kids against abusive touches, I also know that kids (and adults) need healthy and safe physical touch.

Never invade a child’s personal space if they don’t want you in it, but physical touch can be reassuring to kids. Give a hug or pat on the back. Tickling and playful roughhousing are fun ways to give physical touch. Dance. Hold hands or make up a fun handshake. Tousle hair as you walk by.

10. Don’t minimize worries

anxiety worry
Don’t minimize your child’s worries.

It’s tempting to just say that everything’s okay and to not worry, but when you say that your child just feels like he’s not heard. Over time he will stop talking to you about his worries.

If you have a hard time understanding your child’s anxieties (or anyone’s anxieties) read this great metaphor from Karen Young at HeySigmund.

Acknowledge the fears and teach your kids how to overcome them.

HeySigmund is one of my favorite blogs. It has great articles on helping kids learn to manage their anxieties.

11. Praise the effort

praise
Praise the effort, not the end result.

Our society tends to reward everything. Participation trophies are not helpful at growing resilient kids.

Poorly worded and empty praise can reduce children’s desires to take on challenges, lower achievement, reduce motivation and even make kids more interested in tearing others down.

Learn to show your kids that you’re attentive with phrases that show you acknowledge their effort or character traits without praising results.

For more on giving helpful praise, see Michelle Borba’s 6 New Rules for Praising to Raise Kind, Successful Kids.

12. Let them learn independence

independence
Let kids do things independently so they can grow into independent adults.

It can be hard to watch kids grow up and take things into their own hands, but it can be rewarding to watch them become independent.

Allowing kids to take on more responsibilities as they grow is a great way to show confidence in them. It can be hard to worry that your child will not remember all aspects of things required or that they will fail at something new, but allowing them to take ownership of things as they get older helps them learn not only the skill to accomplish things, but it also gives them the confidence that they can do things on their own.

13. Let them know you’re always thinking of them

thinking of the ones you love
Do little things to show you’re always thinking of them.

Giving gifts is a great way to show love and affection, but don’t overdo this one.

Not all gifts have to be costly or extravagant.

Leave a little note in the lunch box.

Buy a token gift for no reason occasionally.

Be there to cheer at their game or performance.

It can be that easy.

14. Say “I love you” every day

Saying “I love you” in words is also important. Some people aren’t good at saying it, but try.

I love you
Say “I love you” often!

I also encourage you to not only share moments, but get in front of the camera with your kids. I’m usually behind the camera taking the pictures, so there are very few photos of me with my kids at various life stages. Be in the photos so you can all walk down memory lane together.


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Potty Training

I remember long ago when I was a relatively new mom I still had insecurities about what I was doing (despite the fact that I was a pediatrician). Well, to be honest, I still have lots of great advice for parents, but with my own kids I often struggle to know what’s best.  But my kids are way beyond the potty training years, so I feel like I have that hurdle down now…

potty training, toilet training

My son’s baby book’s potty training page shows my naivety.  He started showing interest in the potty and even telling me appropriately when he needed to go about 18 months of age. I knew that he was on the early side of potty training (normally between 18 months and 3 years). This is especially unusual for boys, but he was a smart kid, was directing it all himself, and why not potty train him if he’s interested?  I was so excited for him (and me!) that he was interested. We put out the potty chair. We clapped and praised. He was so happy to make pee in the potty.

Then he lost interest. Out of the blue. Done.

It is almost a year to the day later that the baby book says he was interested again. I actually tried to not let him train, since my 2nd baby was due soon, and I didn’t want him to regress.

I knew I had to do something when the daycare teacher said, “He’s been in the same diaper all day for 3 days in a row, he needs underwear!” I decided it was okay to break out the Buzz Lightyear underwear. When he did it this time, he did it well. He easily mastered the skill and didn’t have accidents.

 When my daughter started using the potty early (at about 15 months) I thought it was a fleeting interest as well, but she continued to regularly use the toilet. Wow! Easy… she did it all on her own. Her independent streak has its negatives, but I liked this aspect of it. She never had accidents. Ever. I stopped bringing extra clothes for her cubby at daycare, she was that good.

 Then she lost interest. Out of the blue. Done. At 3 years!

One day she woke and said she was a baby and needed a diaper. By this time, we had no diapers. I told her she was a big girl, got her dressed, and sent her off to daycare as usual. When I picked her up there was a bag of other kid’s wet clothes. She was on her 4th outfit of the day, but we had no extras at school because she was my never-has-accidents kid. I knew she wasn’t sick (UTI’s can cause accidents.) She had simply decided that she wanted to be treated like a baby. And she’s always been stubborn.

I had to go out and buy diapers. We stocked her cubby with extra clothes. She LOVED being treated like a baby. The daycare even moved her back to the toddler room because the 3 year room didn’t allow diapers. She loved being with the babies, so it suited her just fine. The problem was the teachers made such a big deal about how she was a big girl and didn’t need the diaper. When I finally convinced the teachers to just matter of factly change the diaper and ignore her behaviors, she decided it wasn’t fun any more to be a baby. Suddenly she was potty trained again. No more accidents.  Ever.

 Kids develop at various stages.  My advice has always been to let them take the lead when to start potty training, which can happen anywhere from 15 months until 3 years of age.

Kids leading the way?

 They are ready to take the lead and potty train when they show interest (wanting to sit on a potty chair, wanting a wet diaper off, telling you when they are wet). If you push, they will resist. (Trust me.) Teens and toddlers are one and the same: they both try to exert independence and do it their own way. The more you push, the more they pull.

 If you think your child is aware of when he/she needs to urinate or have a bowel movement, put out a potty chair that is in full view when in the bathroom.

 Buy potty training books geared toward toddlers.

Show excitement and give praise for interest and any steps in the right direction (sitting on potty, peeing in potty, washing hands, etc.). You can do a potty dance, give stickers, call Grandma, and do whatever makes a big deal for each little step.

Praise others for using the bathroom. Invite playdates who are similar ages and are potty trained over so your child can see them in action. Praise older siblings for going to the bathroom.

You can put the idea in their head: “I’m going to the potty. Boy, do I feel good! I went on the potty, didn’t get my pants dirty, got to flush the toilet, got to use the foamy soap, etc.” but don’t tell them directly to go. They resist being told anything! (Teenagers and toddlers are very similar in this aspect.

Scoop on Poop

Many kids are ready to go pee in the potty, but are afraid to poop there. That is okay. Offer a diaper at the time of day they often have a bowel movement. It is not good to try to force stooling in the toilet if they don’t want to go there. They will hold it and end up constipated. Don’t go there!

You can take them to the bathroom after the bowel movement and drop the stool into the toilet, then have the child flush. Then they associate the stool going down the toilet, which sometimes helps. Encourage lots of fruits and water so the stool stays soft. If it hurts to poop, they hold it longer, which then hurts again, which reinforces holding and then constipation.

potty training
Potty training is scary for a lot of kids.

Don’t worry about setbacks.  (See above!!!)

Many kids show a temporary interest in potty training, but then stop wanting to go completely.  Return to diapers, but leave the potty chair visible.  When the child starts to show interest again, give praises.

Remember: normal children do not go to kindergarten in diapers!  They will all potty train.  If your child isn’t potty trained during the day by 3 1/2 years, talk to your doctor.

night accidents

Nighttime accidents are actually normal much longer, see my office’s bedwetting information.

Active Shooters: Reflections and Talking to Kids

Area flags are at half mast today as we are mourning the loss of innocent lives from another mass shooting at a Texas church over the weekend. We are sad for grieving families once again. What we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from random violence and acts of hate?

My generally safe town has had two incidents of violence that have made national news in recent years. A man opened fire at a Jewish Community Center and a Jewish Retirement Home and killed three innocent people. Another man shot two men eating at a local restaurant after yelling racial slurs and telling them to leave his country. One of the men died.

My kids have been on lockdowns at their schools on several occasions over the years. Our kids are getting used to lockdown drills and even real events. Thankfully none of the local school lockdowns turned tragic. Being a parent who cannot do anything while a school is in lockdown is stressful. Not knowing what is happening during a lockdown when my children are most likely sitting on a floor of a crowded dark room is terrifying. My kids have never felt that scared, even when it’s a real lockdown, probably because they’ve practiced and feel prepared. For many kids this seems to be the case, but I’m sure there are some who start having separation anxiety or other manifestations of trauma-related stress.
Today my front office staff saw policemen with weapons in hand enter our building and run down the hall. They did not come into our office.
We locked our front door, closed the blinds, and kept patients in exam rooms. We saw several police cars in the parking lot for our building and those near ours.
Our office manager called the police department to find out what was happening and not a lot was learned, but there was a potential active shooter in the area, so they recommended lockdown.
Because I was only in the office for meetings on my “day off” I was able to help tell staff and patients what we knew. I helped bring some of the families into the office. I checked Facebook and Twitter repeatedly to find out what was going on. (But I didn’t grab these screenshots until hours later.)

I had planned on updating our social media, but couldn’t find any real information to post.

At one point we were told they apprehended someone in a creek area behind our building and got the all clear to open back up and let people leave.
41ActionNews
A few minutes later we were told to put our building back on lockdown. No one knew what was going on.
Our receptionists covertly monitored the parking lot for patients so they could get the door for them – we didn’t want families stuck in a potentially dangerous parking lot. Several patients called that they would be late to their appointments because police had blocked one of the roads into our parking area.
I am very proud of my staff and the families that were in the building. Everyone remained calm. No one complained that they were told to not leave the building. I didn’t hear anyone complain when the rooms started to fill, which affected the flow of seeing patients. I must admit that I didn’t really feel scared during all of this, since it seemed like police were all over and our office felt secure. It was frustrating not knowing what was going on, but the anxiety was much worse when the potential shooter was near my children’s school and they were on lockdown.
It is sad that a false alarm like this must be taken seriously. I’ve heard that it was just a man with a stick. Or maybe it was just a prank. No one really knows at this time.
But what I do know is that there are many good people in this world. We can help each other in times of need. We can support one another. Mr. Rogers says:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

When you have to explain these things to your children, remember to keep it simple. Answer their questions, but don’t go deeper than they’re ready to go. Find out what they already know and help them to understand it in ways that mean something to them. Try to keep the news off when kids are in earshot and monitor their screen time online. It’s okay to share your feelings, but try to reassure their safety and list some positives, like Mr. Rodger’s mother did.

Resources for parents to talk to kids about tragic news:

Common Sense Media: Explaining the News to Our Kids
PBS: Talking with Kids About News – sorted by ages
HealthyChildren: Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events
American Psychological Association: How to talk to children about difficult news

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Lead by Example

We’ve all heard the saying: kids will do what they’re shown, not as they’re told.

It’s so true. Think about all the times your kids are watching you. They are learning from you.

What can you do to help them have healthy habits?
  • Eat your vegetables.
  • Get daily exercise.
  • Wear your seatbelt.
  • Stop at stop signs.
  • Don’t use your phone while driving.
  • Wear a life vest near a lake or river.
  • Maintain your composure during times of stress.
  • No phones at the dinner table.
  • Don’t tell lies- even little ones.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Be kind to others.
  • Call home- your parents and siblings would love to hear from you.
  • Don’t permit violence in your presence.
  • Give your time and talents to others.
  • Take care of your things.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily.
  • Wear a helmet when on a bike.
  • Don’t mow the lawn without proper shoes.
  • Make time for family.

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helmets, exercise
Exercising together safely as a family sets great lifelong habits!