Using Stories to Teach Important Values

Parents want to impart important values to their kids. The trouble is, they often try to do so by “lecturing” – making long speeches to their kids about right and wrong. Kids tend to roll their eyeballs, cover their ears and otherwise try to drown out the sound of these talks, but parents often continue – sometimes louder and more forcibly – because the messages are so important to instill. However, there is a far more successful and easier way to get the point across: using story telling.

If your moral lessons seem to sometimes be falling on deaf ears, consider the following tips for teaching values the story-telling way:

Why Stories?
Most adults recall fables and stories they heard repeatedly in childhood. Sometimes they remember just a line from the tale – remember young George Washington’s “I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree”. (Apparently George Washington never said this at all, but it doesn’t matter – we all learned the lesson!) What is relevant is that children are very receptive to stories and parables, so much so that they often remember them for their entire lives.

This is why psychologists recommend reading and telling stories to children. Aside from giving parents an excellent opportunity to bond with their kids, stories appeals to children’s imagination and love of make-believe. Stories – whether pure fiction or reality-based – speak the language of children, making them the perfect vehicle for teaching lessons and values. In fact, trying to teach values head-on by simply telling kids what is good and what is bad, just DOES NOT work. Sure, it’s important to tell the truth, but saying so does not compare in the least to hearing the tale of little George Washington’s dilemma.

Use Children’s Books, News Items, Blogs and Other Sources of Information
Visit your local children’s bookstore or library and look for books “with a message” – nowadays it’s easy to find book with both covert and openly educational agendas. For instance, there are books about the importance of honesty, kindness, respect and so on. In addition, search for fictional or autobiographical stories that convey important values or have relevance to your child’s unique challenges. For example, you might find a book about an inventor who finally invented something significant after years and years of failed experiments – thereby teaching the value of perseverance. Consult your local librarian, a teacher or child psychologist for specific recommendations of value-laden stories.

Older kids and teens can easily learn moral lessons from exploring events occurring in the world around them. Read or relay items from the news and current events, opening them up for discussion.

Ask Questions
To help your child get the most out of information you are presenting, ask questions, make comments and generally help to explore the issues. Should a person risk his own life to help someone else? What should a person do with the millions of dollars they win in the lottery? How bad is it really to download products without paying for them? Don’t just read stories; start a discussion!

Tell the Same Story More Than Once
Children’s stories are so effective in influencing the way children behave, because they are stories that kids love to hear or read again and again. Repetition can work for you; it can reinforce the value that you want to teach your child. Repetition also gives you opportunities to explore aspects of a story you missed the first time. And if your kid is not yet open to the values you were teaching first time around, repetition is an opportunity to see if you both have had a change of opinion.

Make it Practical
When real-life situations arise, refer back to the stories and discussions you’ve had. “I know it’s hard to tell the truth – but remember the courage of George Washington? Can you be like him right now?” Bringing the stories into current moral challenges helps imprint them permanently in the mind; they become powerful lessons and resources that can be called upon again and again throughout life.

Name-Calling in the Family

When children feel upset, they may express their feelings in less than ideal ways. As adults, we can express our feelings maturely and without conflict (there are exceptions though!). However, as children are children, they can resort to insults and name-calling when they feel slighted, without any regard to the feelings of other people.

If name-calling is a problem in your family, consider the following tips:

What is Name-Calling?
Children often use words like “stupid,” “baby,” “idiot,” “moron,” and so on when addressing their siblings in anger. While parents do not generally “name-call” in the traditional way, the use of negative labels can have a similar effect. When a parent calls a child’s behavior “babyish,” “silly,” “mean,” “rude,” or “selfish,” he or she is in effect, also name-calling. Parents may not even realize that they are name-calling when they use these negative labels. They can innocently put these words into many simple, appropriate-sounding sentences – such as those below:

  • “You are being so rude.”
  • “What you are saying is rude.”
  • “Don’t be so rude.”
  • “That was so rude.”

Whatever grammatical structure is used, the negative label rude will be absorbed by the child. Parents cannot minimize the effects of a negative label by trying to hide it in various sentence structures. If the label is used anywhere in a sentence, it will be felt as an insult by the child. Of course the parent is simply trying to educate the child and not trying to insult him or her, but the child does not necessarily understand that.

Negative Effects of Name-Calling
Any negative label or insult has the potential to hurt a child’s feelings. Children who are frequently insulted by their siblings often remember the experience with pain even in adulthood. Children who have been insulted by their parents (i.e. being called “stupid,” “selfish,” “bad,” “good-for-nothing” etc.) also often retain the pain throughout adulthood.

However, remembered pain is not the worst consequence of name-calling. Far worse is the impact name-calling can have on personality development. Even fully grown adults who are subjected to regular insults (verbal abuse) are eventually affected by it: they come to feel less adequate, less competent and less lovable the more they experience being insulted. This effect is much much more powerful in childhood when a youngster’s sense of self is not yet fully formed. At this point, being called names can leave the child truly believing that he or she is damaged, worthless, useless, bad and defective, as well as unlovable. Once a child entertains such notions about him/herself, the child tends to act in ways that are consistent with that poor self-image. So a child who is regularly called a particular negative label, comes to believe that he IS that label. The label can be crippling, causing him to give up trying or project negative judgments onto others for the rest of his life (“I know no one really likes me”). Of course the negative labels used regularly by parents tend to be much more damaging than those used only by siblings, but the effects of sibling-abuse must not be underestimated.

Model Appropriate Behavior
Parents can help their kids learn to use positive words instead of negative labels. The first step is providing a model. This means that parents never call children names – they never use negative label or insulting language. Many people wonder how it is possible to correct a child without using a negative label. The secret is this: whenever you want to use a negative label to accurately describe a child’s behavior (i.e. “rude”), replace the label with the exact opposite word. For example, instead of saying to Junior, “You are being rude,” you can say, “You need to be polite when speaking to me.”  Always use the desired label instead of the offensive label. In this way, your children only hear your target words (your goals for them) throughout their 20 years growing up with you. This helps program their brains to remember your goals. Positive labels encourage positive growth whereas negative labels work the opposite way. If all your children hear is “stupid,” “lazy,” “selfish,” “wild” and so on, they will associate those words with their identity and all they are capable of being.

A few more examples of label switching are below:

  • messy becomes clean and tidy
  • disorganized becomes organized
  • selfish becomes generous
  • careless becomes careful

Your sentence then changes from, “You’re acting like a baby” to “I know that you know how to be mature. Please act that way now.”  Similarly, you can change “You’re being nasty to your brother,” to “Please be kind to your brother.”

Direct Teaching Techniques
Now that you have provided the model (and by the way, this also means that you don’t call your spouse or other people names), you are ready to teach your children. The following process can be used:

  1. Explain to your children that name-calling hurts and is harmful. Tell them that they must express their annoyance, frustration or upset simply by naming their feelings without adding insults. For example, it is fine to say to a sibling, “I disagree,” or “I don’t like what you did,” or “I don’t like your idea,” “Stop doing that” and so on.
  2. Make a clear consequence for name-calling. Whenever someone insults another person, they will have receive a previously established consequence of your choice. Tell the child what consequence he will receive for name-calling in the future and then give him that consequence after subsequent name-calling. For a complete list of appropriate negative consequences and the exact way in which they should be applied for name-calling, see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.
  3. Apply the selected consequence EVERY TIME you hear name-calling.  If improvement doesn’t happen over a few weeks, select a different consequence and try again.

Ridding your house of name-calling is a service to your family and even to your grandchildren, as the inter-generational chain of verbal abuse stops with your new programme. Good luck!

Your Teenager’s Friends

Friends are very influential in the teen years. It’s at this age when a child finds peers far more interesting and far more knowledgeable than family members. Unless parents get to know their teenager’s friends, they’re in the dark regarding the kind of influences their youngster is receiving. But how can a parent get to know the people in his or her teenager’s inner circle?

If you’d like to get a feel for who your child’s friends are, consider the following tips:

Invite Them to Your Home
You can get to know your child’s friends in different ways. If you pick up your teen up from school everyday, then offer to drop off friends. Be conversant; talk about current events, ask them about school stuff, or comment on the song playing on the radio. You get to know your teens’ friends a little through the talk, and you also get to know where they live.

Another important strategies is to make it easy and pleasant for your child to bring friends home. Your home will be a safe and appealing “hang out” if you create the following kind of environment:

  • it is a peaceful, conflict-free environment (no loud fights occur between family members, particularly when “company” is over!)

  • the home looks normal (not excessively messy, chaotic or run down)

  • there are lots of snacks and very few rules

  • you make yourself fairly scarce, giving the kids space to interact freely without excessive adult supervision

  • you offer goodies, make a few pleasant remarks or light jokes and you refrain from asking personal or intrusive questions

  • you say nothing about your child to his or her friends and you don’t ask the friends about your child either

  • you never correct or criticize your child in the presence of his or her friends

Allow your child to invite friends on weekends and for a sleepover, dinner, school project, or movie marathon – make everyone feel welcome.

As kids come pouring into your home, take note. Hopefully your child has made good choices in friends. However, there might be a child or two who makes you feel concerned. Use this feeling to spearhead a small investigation – you’ll want to take your time with this. Refrain from jumping to conclusions based on limited exposure and external appearances. The child’s style – even if it is the style you associate with dangerous thugs or subversive characters – may actually be just the child’s style! The teenager under the costume might be a very nice and totally respectable kid.

Do a Little Research and/or Have a Little Chat
If you are seriously concerned about one of your child’s friends, try doing a little research. You might be able to pick up some information on social networking sites like Facebook and other places. Even Google Search might yield something. If you find something that makes you feel uncomfortable, be sure to tell your child. For instance, you can say something like, “You know, your friends seem like such a nice bunch of kids but that one fellow Craig always makes me feel uncomfortable. I decided to look him up online just to check my instincts and  I found a photo of him getting arrested for running a grow house! Were you aware of that?”

You can follow up by explicitly stating your concerns and worries, but DO NOT forbid your child to associate with a particular friend. Such a maneuver is likely to backfire, causing your teen to become sneaky, devious, rebellious and otherwise unsavory in his attempts to remain a free agent. Instead, simply invite your youngster to think about whether he really wants this sort of person as a friend. For instance, one might say, “I’m sure Craig is a nice guy but I’m worried that he’s not the best influence – he’s not exactly a model citizen. You might think differently, but I think that the people we hang around with tend to rub off on us – you know, walk into a perfume shop and you come out smelling like perfume – and all that stuff. Sometimes hanging around unsavory characters automatically puts us in the same category with them. But it’s up to you to choose the kind of friends you want in your life. Everyone has to make that choice for themselves. I myself would think twice about associating with someone like Craig.”

More often, you won’t be able to find any strong “evidence” against your child’s friends. Your gut feeling and parental wisdom will more likely be at the root of your worry. In this case, explain to your child that although you have no real proof that anything is amiss, your own instincts tell you that something is not quite right with his friend. Ask him if he has ever had a similar feeling about someone. Tell him that as a parent, you feel concerned for him and that although you certainly can’t advise him to drop the friend based on “nothing,” you are hoping that he’ll use his best judgment to decide whether this is a person he should keep close to him. Honesty will be your best policy. Again, refrain from ultimatums, threats or any other kind of drama. Your loving concern will be evident and the most powerful educational tool that you have.

Managing T.V. Time

Experts agree that too much TV is not healthy for kids. There are studies that associate high TV time with physical problems like obesity, sick heart disease and sleep disorders, as well as psychological symptoms like attention deficits and lack of focus. Violence on TV is believed to promote aggressive behavior in children and the values emphasized in TV shows are known to be internalized by the kids who watch them.

While most parents are in consensus that too much TV is not a good thing, not all are on the same page regarding how much TV is too much. Experts also disagree as to how much is enough – although some researchers peg 2 hours a day or less as a good number. But the issue is not really numbers, rather balance. Parents must ask themselves the question: does their child’s TV time keep him or her away from other important and valuable activities?

If you feel that your child is watching too much TV at the expense of time for other important activities, consider the following tips:

Children Need Parental Help in Structuring the Time Wisely
Studies have shown that engaging in social activities like playing, talking with peers or engaging in group activities, helps to promote neurological development. In other words, it would be a lot better for your child to relate with people than to stare at the television. There are other brain healthy activities as well such as doing puzzles, playing solitary challenge games, building with lego and other construction toys, playing with dolls and figurines, drawing, reading, do clay or creative crafts and so on and so forth. Hobbies like dance, gymnastics, music lessons, sports, collecting things, and so on all teach valuable skills and build competencies and confidence. The computer also offers some very valuable activities but take your time to explore the kinds of games and interactive learning opportunities that can really help your child grow and thrive. Even mindless computer games require more activity than watching T.V., but you will probably want to limit those to a small proportion of what your youngster is doing with his computer time.

Separate Eating from Watching
The reason why a lot of TV addicts are obese is because they can’t sense that they are already full. The human anatomy’s multitasking skill has limits. The brain is too busy processing what is being watched and listened to on the television, causing other functions to be compromised. If kids must eat while glued to the tube, give them just a few healthy (and low calorie) snacks to chew on.

Separate Sleeping from Watching
There are plenty of reasons for a child NOT to fall asleep watching T.V. For one thing, T.V. stimulates the brain, either interfering with the ability to fall asleep easily and naturally, or promoting an agitated sleep and disturbing dreams. In addition, having a T.V. in the bedroom encourages kids to isolate themselves from the rest of the family. While this may not be a major problem for older teens (who treasure their privacy in any case), it is not a healthy thing for children who still can benefit from plenty of family interaction. Finally, when a child is locked in his or her room with a black box, parents will easily lose track of the amount of time a child is in front of the T.V. and the situation can quickly get out of hand.

T.V. can be a Family Affair
If you want to control what your kids watch, be there with them! Transforming TV viewing as a family activity creates opportunities for discussions; parents can therefore protect their kids better from negative messages found in popular media.

Create TV Time Curfews and Consequences
Allot a specific amount of TV time per day and week. At the same time, put in any rules you desire about what kind of shows can be watched and not watched. For instance, do you want to allow young children to watch the news or sophisticated adult programming? Do you want them to have a certain amount of leisure T.V. like comedy shows, adventure, cartoons and so on, and a certain amount of educational shows on subjects like science, history, crafts, cooking and so forth? Or, do you want to let them watch whatever they want to watch within their time period? Think it through and then discuss it with them at a family meeting.

In addition, set up consequences for those who fail to abide by the house rules. You are the parent, trying your best to guide your child. This is not a debate between you and the child – remember, YOU’RE actually in charge in your home! Therefore, non-compliance with the rules should always result in a reasonable negative consequence (i.e. removal of the privilege of watching T.V. for a day or two – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for a detailed protocol on using negative consequences).

Helping Your Child Choose a College

Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions your teenager will make in his or her lifetime. Aside from the fact that an institution’s educational standard translates to important credentials in the job market, prescription the college experience is also formative in terms of relationships and values. You want to ensure that your child makes the best decision when choosing a college or a university.

Below are some guidelines on how you can be of assistance to your teenager during this crucial decision-making time:

Explore all Possible Options
Although you may feel emotionally attached to your alma mater, viagra 100mg you’ll want to help your child select the most appropriate school based on a variety of factors – your personal familiarity with the campus or your emotional attachment being the least important consideration. Similarly, physical proximity – how close the college is to home – is not usually the most important factor unless the child needs to be nearby for some specific reason.  Practical considerations like affordability are important for obvious reasons (although loans and grants might help out here), and “good fit” is definitely essential. For instance, the child should certainly be looking for a school that offers a program in his or her area of interest. Moreover, the school should be well-suited to the youngster’s intellectual capacity – neither too hard or too easy.

Make a List of What Matters
Brainstorm together what criteria should be used when screening options. For instance, if your child is not yet sure of a career path, colleges might be considered on the basis of how much flexibility they offer in terms of number of educational options and ease of entering them or transferring between them. If the child already has a specific academic path in mind, it might be a good idea to filter options based on the reputation of the institution in that field and the expertise of its staff members. If values and culture are important, then filter based on belief systems and ideologies that the school espouses. While you and your child are talking all this through, be sure to be a good, non-judgmental listener rather than a controlling parent! Ultimately, this is your child’s choice – you are simply offering yourself as a loving guide.

Don’t Judge a School by its Brochure
All schools are perfect in brochures – their students are the happiest, their programs are superior, their campuses are the best of the best. But this may not be reflective of the real deal. If you want to make an informed choice, do a little more research.There are a lot of school-specific websites, online forums and message boards that are easily accessible. They provide, not only pictures of the campus, but first hand comments and feedback of students and alumni alike. News detailing accomplishments of schools are also readily available in the internet. Lastly, there are people you may know who went to the colleges your teen is considering; it would help to get their opinion.

Go on College Tours
A campus visit is an excellent way to assess a college. There’s nothing like experiencing the school culture first hand, and possibly having an opportunity to interview faculty. Your child can sit in on some classes, observe the physical layout of buildings and classrooms, check out the study halls, note proximity of the campus to amenities – dormitories and apartments, shopping, hospitals, transportation, and so forth.  It helps to take notes and pictures too, so you have a point of reference when deliberating later on. Of course, college visits can be both exhausting and expensive, especially when the schools are far away. So go on campus visits only after trimming you options to your top 2 or 3 choices.

Note Important Dates!
Suggest that your child tag the important dates on a big wall calendar where they can be easily seen: application deadlines, admission tests and interview schedules, release of results. If you are feeling anxious during the college application process, try not to show this to your child! He or she has enough pressure right now without having to calm you down too! Share your anxiety or stress with a good listener of your own.

Let Your Child Choose
You don’t want your child blaming you for being in the wrong program or college. Therefore, be sure to provide your child with the criteria for making an informed choice WITHOUT actually telling him or her which choice to choose! Ask your child to consider all the factors discussed above and to let you know which college is most attractive based on those considerations. If you are funding school, you can certainly advise your child that you are only offering a finite amount of money and that switching schools won’t necessarily fall into your budget. Of course, don’t be threatening – even after all is considered, it is possible that unforeseeable factors turn the school into a bad choice or that the child might make an innocent mistake based on a misunderstanding. Simply encourage the youngster to go slowly and think carefully and let him or her know that you are there to help. Hopefully, everything will go well and your child will have a positive and productive college experience!

Parenting From a Distance

Parents sometimes have to be away from their kids. Divorce, buy military duty, diagnosis business trips and other trips can all keep parents away for various periods of time. Sometimes parents have to be away from the home in order to tend to family members in hospital or other settings. Whatever the reasons for separation may be, kids usually feel some sense of loneliness and loss – sometimes even abandonment. Fortunately, parents can help minimize the distress that their kids feel upon separation by utilizing modern technology to retain a degree of connection.

Video Calls
In the last few years, we have experienced massive advancement in technology. Moreover, recent advances have also permitted less expensive means of communication. A webcam, headset and internet connection is all that is needed for person-to-person live video calls. A weekly (or for short absences, daily) video date can help maintain the all-important feeling of connection.

Mobile Phones
Mobile phones can be used as small computers on the go. Take pictures as you are out and about and send them immediately, in real time. Use texting and messaging options to have conversation in the “now.” Send the photos and also have face-to-face telephone chats. Over the next few years more and more options for mobile phone communication will be available. Take advantage of them!

Online Gaming and Networking
If your youngster is into online or mobile gaming, then perhaps you can play together. This kind of activity can be excellent for bonding.

Across-the-Miles Celebrations
A video can easily update you on your child’s latest school activity – recitals, plays or sports events. Hopefully someone is available to record important events for your return viewing. In addition,you might be able to use live video calls to bring yourself and your child together at important moments in time.

Responsiveness
Try to respond promptly to whatever communications come to you from your child. Reply to text with text, calls with calls, emails with emails (and letters with letters, if your child is into snail mail!). Do what you can to maintain the momentum.

But above all, more important than the quantity of time you spend communicating is the quality of communication you send. It’s vital that your child understand that lack of proximity can’t harm the parent-child relationship. In general, try to avoid offering criticisms and complaints long distance; instead, focus on the positive while you’re away and wait till you get home to provide needed education and guidance (within the context of the 80-20 Rule as described in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe).

Talking to Teens about Sex

You may have already had a chat with your pre-teen about the body, the female menstrual cycle, and even how babies are made, so you may feel that you’ve done all you need to do. However, as your child grows into his or her teens, there is good reason to have another chat. The stakes are higher now as it is increasingly likely that your youngster will actually have some sort of active sexual life before marriage and before the age of twenty. In fact, he or she may have several intimate partners during this period. To be healthy and safe, your child needs accurate information. If you do not talk to your teenager about sexuality, your child will still learn about it — perhaps from sources you won’t approve of. Not all schools offer quality sex education; most kids glean information about sex from the internet, TV and well-meaning (but not necessarily knowledgeable) peers. If you want to make sure your teen understands sexuality the right way, it’s best to invest time in “the talk.”

How to Speak to Your Teen about Sex
The ideal way to talk about sexuality is the way a doctor would do it – in a friendly, matter-of-fact, educational sort of tone. “Parental” talk full of threats, dire warnings, judgments and so on, can backfire, causing your child to go underground, get answers elsewhere and/or become deceptive. In fact, if you feel that you can’t speak about this subject calmly and non-judgmentally, you can actually make an appointment for your doctor to give over the important health information to  your child. On the other hand, if you feel up to being the educator, you may want to research the topic of sexual disease, using books, internet and medical resources like your doctor. You want to be sure to give your child the right information because if your child finds that you have been exaggerating or fabricating or just giving wrong information on one or two points, then he or she may disregard your entire message.

Utilize Resources
When talking with your child, you can use books designed especially for teens on this subject – ask your local librarian to suggest some titles. Leave a couple of books around the house (and in the bathroom) for your child to leaf through. Books make the information less personal – the truth is that it’s not YOUR ideas you are trying to ram down the child’s throat, but rather, it’s just a collection of objective facts and information. Most books will discuss both the physical health concerns and also the emotional aspects of intimacy. You should also address both aspects, helping your child be aware of his or her impact on other people as well as being prepared for the intense emotions that can be triggered by intimacy. Ideally you can discuss the differences between having sex and having a relationship.

Be Honest and Open
You should mention your personal values regarding sexuality, while acknowledging that your child will have to form his or her own opinions on this important subject. Emphasize, too, that what popular culture and media has to say doesn’t always reflect your own personal values or your family’s values. Go ahead and discuss how the media represents sex and sexuality, exploring current cultural values regarding love, marriage and intimacy. Compare and contrast these values with your own. Help your child to understand why you feel whatever you feel on this topic. For instance, if you believe that a person should only be intimate in the context of a serious relationship, be prepared to explain why you feel this way. At the same time, acknowledge that your child may feel differently. This acknowledgment helps prevent your child from having to reject your values, as it gives him or her space to evaluate what you are saying and see how it fits and feels. Although you are making it clear that you do have opinions and values, you want to keep that tone non-judgmental. This will allow your child to ask questions. And be prepared – he or she may have LOTS of questions.

Confront the Issues Head On
Today’s culture encourages bi-sexuality, homosexuality and to some extent, promiscuity (a large selection of intimate partners). Polygamy, open-marriages, serial divorce, “friends with benefits” and all sorts of other intimate relationships are rampant. Be ready to give your opinions about all these lifestyle issues and the reasons for the way you feel – but be careful to continue to speak in a tone that is soft and welcoming. Acknowledge that other people have their own opinions on this topic. Be proactive if you want, and ask the child what he or she thinks about these things. If the child says that he or she has cravings for the same sex, acknowledge that this is common as we grow up, but that almost all people develop a specific sexual orientation over time. If the child feels that he or she is bisexual, then again, acknowledge that this is a common feeling and then discuss the pro’s and con’s of each lifestyle. If you have a religious perspective, offer it. However, even if you believe that homosexuality is a grave sin, continue to express your ideas respectfully and calmly. As it says in Proverbs, “The words of the wise are heard best when spoken softly.” In other words, having a temper tantrum won’t help your child choose a healthy path. If your child is confused and wants help, offer to arrange a meeting with a spiritual advisor and/or a professional who specializes in sexuality or adolescent psychology.

What Parents Should Know About Fast Food

There are many facts that every parent should know about fast food. Here are some for starters:

1. Fast foods are often heavy in calories

An adult would have to walk for seven hours straight to burn off a Super Sized Coke, French Fries and a Big Mac. Younger kids with smaller bodies are consuming an even greater proportion of unnecessary calories unless they are eating child-sized meals. But even then, these foods have way too many calories. In fact, this is why fast food is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Left unabated, obesity will soon surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths in America. Moreover, even if one doesn’t die from obesity but simply lives with it, quality of life is often impaired. Obesity has been linked to: hypertension, coronary heart disease, adult onset diabetes, stroke, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, endometrial, breast, prostate and colon cancers, dyslipidemia, steatohepatitis, insulin resistance, breathlessness, asthma, among other serious diseases.

3. Fast foods are high in preservatives and low on nutritional value

4. Most nutritionists recommend not eating fast food more than once a month

5. Fast food is possibly linked to cases of increased inattention and hyperactivity in children

Even with the release of the educational film “Super Size M” in 2004, there has been no real decline in fast food sales in America. On the contrary: fast food consumption is on the increase! And yet, many parents still wish they could feed their kids three nutritious meals a day.

If you are one of these parents, here are a few tips on how to inspire your kids to avoid fast food:

Provide the Necessary Information
Explain why fast food is harmful. Fortunately, there are now some really excellent picture books that can help you get your point across to both young children and teens. The series entitled “Eat This, Not That” provides a wealth of information in a fun format that appeals to kids of all ages. Although one of the books is specifically addressed to young people (“Eat This, Not That, for Kids”), the other books are also highly accessible. Parents can read and discuss the material at the dinner table and/or just leave the book(s) lying around the house. “Dr. Shapiro’s Picture Perfect Weight Loss” is another wonderful educational aid, interesting to the whole family.

Condition Them to Like Healthy Foods
Cook healthy delicious food at home. The trick here is to get your child’s palette used to the taste of healthy food and to come to prefer it over the the taste of commercially prepared fast foods. If your kids are used to the fast food taste already, then help them make a gradual transition to a healthier diet. At first, offer foods that are similar to fast food – for instance, introduce fruit shakes in place of ice teas, sausages instead of hot dogs, pesto instead of spaghetti, tacos instead of chips. Gradual transitions can help kids adjust to a new diet more easily.

Avoid stuffing food in the refrigerator for your kids to heat via microwave whenever they are hungry. Microwaved food tastes a bit too much like fast food. Instead, as often as possible, sit down together and eat freshly prepared meals. Even the act of sitting down together is an important step in developing a healthy food consciousness, regardless of what is being served.

Introduce Your Kids to the World of Good Food
Consider introducing “fine cuisine” into your family culture. Get cookbooks out of the library and experiment with interesting, even exotic dishes. Bake up a storm. Teach the kids how to do the same, approaching them in ways appropriate for their age. When people taste really good food, they often become “food snobs” – preferring quality food to “fast food” any day. All the lectures about health and well-being can’t compete with the impact of the taste of really delicious food!

Night Terrors

Does your child wake up screaming during the night? Sometimes nighttime screams are triggered by a nightmare, but sometimes they happen for no apparent reason. If your child is waking in fear or hysteria, always talk to your pediatrician. Allergies, health conditions, trauma and other issues may trigger nightmares. It is also possible that the child is suffering from Night Terror Disorder. We’ll look at this latter condition in more detail in this article.

What is Night Terror Disorder?
Night Terror Disorder may be diagnosed when a youngster awakens from sleep with a loud scream, intense fear, rapid breathing and sweating – without any recollection of a dream. The child will seem confused as to where he is, what time it is and what is happening in the present moment. The child usually has no memory of the frightening dream. He is unresponsive to attempts to comfort him, although he may “return to himself” a few minutes later.

Children experiencing Night Terror Disorder may get out of bed and act as if they are fighting. During an episode of night terror, children are not fully awake and it may not be possible to awake them. The average bout of night terror usually last less than fifteen minutes. People with night terrors usually only have one episode a  week.

Night terrors are much more common during childhood than in adulthood. Night terrors usually begin sometime during the age of 4-12 and most often disappear sometime during adolescence. This disorder is more common in boys than it is in girls and is not associated with any psychological disorders in children.

Treatment of Night Terrors
As long as sleep terror is not interfering with the child’s life then there may be no need for medical treatment – your doctor will advise you. Simply waiting quietly with the child for the terror to pass is usually the best intervention. For instance, a parent can lie down beside the child until the child is calm again and falls back to sleep. Although parents may feel distress seeing their child so distressed, it’s helpful to keep in mind that the child will actually have no recall of the event the next morning! Sometimes just giving the child a few days of extra rest (early bedtimes) and a calming routine is enough to end a cycle of Sleep Terrors. However, if sleep terror disorder persists and is interfering with the child’s life there are some steps that are suggested for parents to take such as: rearranging bedroom furniture to avoid injuries, taking the child for some for of psychotherapy or play therapy and, if so inclined, looking into alternative treatments that may be helpful. For instance, some children have responded well to acupuncture in the treatment of their Night Terrors.

Experiment with Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless treatment that might be helpful. For instance, during an episode of Night Terror, spray Rescue Remedy into the child’s mouth or drop liquid Rescue Remedy onto his or wrists – it might help calm the child down. Also, see if giving the child a personal Bach mixture might help reduce the frequency of the episodes – if it has no effect, there is no loss apart from a small cost of the remedies. The remedies Agrimony, Cherry Plum, Impatiens and Rock Rose might be especially helpful.

Medical Treatment
It is possible that certain breathing disorders may contribute to the development of Sleep Disorder and these should be ruled out by a medical practitioner. When such a disorder is present, treating the breathing disorder will relieve the night terrors. In particularly severe cases of Sleep Disorder, medication may be employed. A common medication for example is diazepam – a sleep-inducing medication that can sometimes prevent sleep terror from occurring during sleep.

Tips for Step-Parents

Given today’s divorce rate of 50%, cheap a lot of new families are created out of remarriage. In addition, many children become step-children after one of their parent’s has died and the other has remarried. Sometimes step-children also inherit step-siblings, meaning that the parents in such reorganized households have a lot of new family dynamics to deal with. Even if blended families are now a social norm, creating and living in one always comes with certain challenges. For a new step-parent, the road is far easier when preparations are made; it is helpful to learn about common step-parenting issues and strategies for managing them.

Honoring the Previous Family
Being a step-parent is harder than being a regular parent. Not only must you  build a new family, but you also have to do so without nullifying the original family your step-children come from. On the contrary, the more recognition, validation and honor you can give to the children’s original family, the more comfortable your new children are likely to feel around you. In cases where the other parent of your step-children has died, you can certainly ask the children about their past experiences in the family, their special memories and even their relationship with that parent. You want to show the kids that you aren’t afraid of the topic and that you aren’t trying to pretend that they didn’t once have a whole different home. Your unspoken message is “that was a precious part of your life and this new life with me in it is a different chapter of your lives. Both parts are valid.”

Step-children who come to you through the process of divorce may or may not have pleasant memories of their previous home. There are many types of divorce and in any case, the children’s experience of the dissolution of a home is normally very different from the experience of the adults involved. Again, you don’t want to pretend that the children did not have a previous life. In fact, acknowledging that all this change is difficult and must feel awkward, uncomfortable and unsettling can only help. Remember that children can feel intensely angry that they now have to live with a parent who is not their natural parent and siblings who are not their natural siblings. Acknowledging their grief and their right to anger shows that you are an understanding and trustworthy adult. “I know it’s strange having a whole new family in this house. It might make you feel upset or uncomfortable at times. We just want you guys to know that we understand and we’re here to help in whatever way we can. It isn’t easy. We don’t expect everyone to just start loving each other. That may come with time but it may not. All we ask for from everyone in this household is mutual respect. We talk to each other nicely. That will help all of us get along. If we later learn to like each other too, that will be a huge bonus!”

You May be Dealing with Trauma
Step-children have usually experienced some sort of traumatic loss, whether that was caused by death or divorce. Because of this, they often carry layers of grief, anger and anxiety – feelings that they don’t necessarily talk about. Their behavior, however, may be affected. As a step-parent you might see something that looks like an attitude problem, whereas it is much more likely to be an emotional problem. Sometimes it can be helpful to arrange for psychological counseling for kids who are being thrust into a blended family; counseling can give them a venue to work through their painful emotions far more quickly and efficiently than just waiting for “time” to do its magic. It is important to note that “time” does not necessarily heal these kinds of wounds at all. Therapy is a far better option. If therapy is out of the question, step-parents can accomplish much by being knowledgeable and utilizing resources such as books (books that can offer education and an opportunity to explore the issues in the reorganized family), pastoral services, community services and family services.

Because of all these emotions, step-children are rarely ready to give their hearts over to some new adult. It’s best if you don’t expect them to do so. Over the years, your patient, kind and understanding character will leave a strong impact, helping these youngsters to eventually open up to you and form a positive relationship. This process cannot be rushed, so just sit back and read some good parenting books (such as Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe) and wait.

Establish Expectations
As a new step-parent, you will want to avoid engaging in disciplining your step-children. Let their natural parent do this – unless the children are pre-schoolers. However, you can establish some basic expectations and rules just by living them yourself and using plain language to ask the children to abide by them. Work with your new spouse to create a set of basic rules and expectations that you are both willing to endorse. Suppose your new spouse never asked his kids to take their plates of the table after eating. You feel that since they are already teenagers, they should certainly be doing this for their own good as well as for the good of the household. In your home, you raised your children to do this task routinely. You have no intention of taking the step-children’s plates off for them and it irks you to see their father do it. Discuss the issue with the children’s father. If he sees the value in changing his previous philosophy and strategy, then the two of you can ask the kids to remove their plates from now on. If he doesn’t, however, then you remove your plates, you continue to ask your children to remove theirs, you express once only how you think and feel about the issue and then you let their Dad take care of it. If the problem gets out of hand, you can enlist the services of a family counselor.

Keep in mind that when you are pleasant, rather than strident, step-children are more willing to learn from you. When you keep the tone of the relationship positive, when you are willing to lead the way by your warm, kind example, you can accomplish a great deal over time. Don’t rush. Trust the process. Step-children are willing to learn more from warm, gentle step-parents than from strict, rule-oriented, authority figures.

Having said this, there is no reason for  you to accept any sort of abuse from a step-child. Read “The Relationship Rule” in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice to learn how to establish respectful communication between you and the step-children. This is one area that you should really work hard to bring the children’s parent on board since establishing and maintaining basic standards of respect will help your new family remain healthy and caring rather than dysfunctional and destructive to its members.

Take the Lead
Don’t wait for your step-children to warm up to you. YOU warm up to them first, even if they don’t “deserve” it. Children need adults to take the lead. Pay attention to their preferences and their feelings and aim to respect both. Go ahead and “buy their affection” by getting them little treats, making favorite foods or doing special acts of kindness. By tuning into their preferences this way, you help the step-children feel safe and seen – prerequisites for a healthy relationship. You can get to know the kids better by opening up discussions stemming from issues in the news or articles you’ve read. Listen to their thoughts and opinions on all topics and accept what they have to say without judgment. Keep criticism very low – both about what they say and what they do.

Your Spouse’s Children
Your relationship with your spouse is the glue that holds your new home together. Try your best NOT to argue about your kids. Allow your new spouse to love his or her kids more than he or she loves you. Doing so helps your spouse come to love you more LATER ON. Parents have an intense, instinctive, protective love for their kids – a different kind of love than the one they have for their partners. You are NOT in competition with your spouse’s children, but if you feel you are, then accept the fact that the KIDS win and you lose. Then move on from there. Once you stop struggling, your partner will ironically love you more.