Wants to Sleep with Parents – School-Aged Children

While people know that babies and toddlers often want to sleep in their parents’ bed, they may not realize that this desire can also occur in school age children. Children aged six to twelve may refuse to sleep in their own rooms for a variety of reasons. Knowing WHY a child wants to sleep with his or her parents can help guide appropriate interventions.

If your child insists on sleeping in YOUR bed, consider the following:

Fears and Anxiety
Many children have anxiety and fears that cause them to seek parental comfort in the night. For instance, a child may be afraid of the dark (ghosts, monsters and other unnamed demons). Or, a child may be afraid of robbers or other night-time invaders. Some children have had a traumatic experience that leaves them feeling afraid and vulnerable. Some children have separation anxiety – a type of anxiety whose main feature is fear of being separated from caregivers or significant others. Some children have an anxiety disorder that causes them to feel high degrees of anxiety for no particular reason. Many types of anxiety become more intense when a person is alone and they also worsen when a person is in the dark and when the person is unoccupied – all of the conditions that occur when a person is in bed at night!

If fearfulness or anxiety seems to be the culprit, you can try “self-help” techniques with your child first. For instance, you can give your child Bach Flower Remedies that address the particular type of fear.These harmless, water-based preparations are added to a bit of water, milk, chocolate milk, tea, juice or other liquid 4 times a day until the fear has disappeared. Mimulus helps specific fears like fears of robbers and also separation anxiety. Aspen addresses vague fears such as fears of the dark. Rescue Remedy addresses fears that come from a traumatic incident as well as overwhelming terror of being alone in one’s room, Rock Rose may help panic that seems to be occurring for no known reason. Bach Flower Remedies are available in health food stores. Instructions for their preparation are available on this site (see article called Bach Flower Remedies).

There are also practical, behavioral interventions that can be used. For example, allowing a frightened child to sleep with the light is a method that may help. Eventually the child will learn to sleep with the lights off. Unless the child has a sleeping disorder, there is no need to be concerned about the short-term use of this strategy. Similarly, the door of the room can remain opened. Also it’s fine to put on some relaxing (and distracting!) music or white noise or even a CD with relaxation strategies.

Another technique that works very well on fears is EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a short sequence of acupressure that involves tapping on one’s own body at 8 different points. There are numerous online video clips demonstrating the technique for both adults and children. There are also many books on the subject. and lots of mental health professionals who use EFT in their practice, both as a treatment modality and an educational tool.

Meditation, breathing, visualization and many other easy and powerful self-help techniques are available for the self-help reduction of anxious feelings. Look for a mental health professional who can teach both you and your child how to use these strategies. Meanwhile, be sure to respond to your child’s fears compassionately. Use Emotional Coaching (the naming and accepting of feelings) to knowledge and welcome anxious feelings; stay away from mockery, criticism, lectures and reprimands. Not only will these do absolutely nothing to remove the fear, but they will harm the child and your parent-child relationship. On the other hand, compassion and acceptance can soften the fear and help it shift, while building and strengthening the parent-child bond.

If your own efforts to help reduce your child’s fear or anxiety level don’t work, take your child to a child psychologist. A mental health professional will be able to help your child manage fears effectively.

Adjusting to Change
Sometimes children react to change by seeking the comfort of their parent’s bed. When parents have separated or divorced or when one parent has passed away, for instance, many children “move into” their parent’s bedroom. If the family has moved to a new location, this is even more common. Instead of settling into his or her own new room, the child wants to sleep with the parent.

The problem of allowing the child into the single parent’s bed is that the child may be in no rush to leave that bed. In fact, the parent may also be finding comfort in the child’s presence after separation, divorce or death of a spouse. However, the parent often heals with time and develops a new relationship. Eventually the parent will want his or her new partner in that bed and will have to ask the child to remain in his or her own room. Trying to make the change at this juncture can cause the child to deeply resent the new partner.

When the child is having trouble with change, you can use the Bach Flower Remedy called Walnut which helps people adjust to new circumstances more easily. You can also bring comfort tools into the child’s new room – items such as large stuffed animals, CD player for bedtime sleep programs, healing crystals, special blankets or special toys. Be patient; it can take time for the child to make the necessary internal changes.

If these methods aren’t enough to allow the child to feel comfortable in his or her own room after a period of months, however, then seek professional help. This can often bring about the desired change.

Seeking Attention
Sometimes children want more parental contact. This can happen when parents have long working hours or travel a lot or are otherwise physically or emotionally unavailable for the child a lot of the time. It can also happen just because a child is particularly needy of parental attention – this is an inborn characteristic.

If you suspect that your absence is the reason your child wants to be in your bed, see if there is a way to give a few more minutes of quality time each day to your child. If you can’t be there in person, perhaps you can have other types of contact (email, skype or chatting/texting). Or, perhaps you can have more intense quality time when settling the child to bed. Maybe you can make a special time on the weekend to have more intense contact. Sleeping with the child is not healthy for the child’s development and therefore it is NOT a good idea to try to make up for inadequate parenting time by having the child in your bed.

If you suspect that the child is simply needy, consider offering the Bach Flower Remedy called Heather. If the child is both needy and manipulative, try Chicory. Alternatively, speak to a Bach Flower Practitioner for assessment and preparation of an appropriate mixture of remedies to help reduce neediness.

Strong Willed
Sometimes your child just WANTS to sleep in your bed. Firm and consistent rules can be helpful with this kind of youngster. Be careful not to give in to tantrums, whining, pleading or other dramatic behaviors. Make a simple rule: “No sleeping in our room. You have to sleep in your room.” Then stick to it. Use the 2X-Rule of discipline if the child comes to your room after his or her bedtime (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for detailed instructions on how to use the 2X-Rule and choose negative consequences). Repeat your rule and add a warning the second time the child shows up in your room: “We told you before – no sleeping in our room; you have to sleep in your room. From now on, when you come into our room, such & such consequence will occur.” Apply the consequence if the child shows up in your room a third time.

In addition to (or sometimes even instead of) discipline, you might consider experimenting with the Bach Flower Remedy called Vine This remedy can help reduce stubborn and strong-willed inborn tendencies, helping the child to retain his leadership qualities while becoming more flexible and cooperative with others.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

In some households, one parent is the “nice” one while the other is the “disciplinarian.” Children, of course, tend to prefer the nicer parent. The other parent – the “bad” cop – is often resentful. This parent knows that children need boundaries, limits and guidance and wants to do the best for his or her child. He or she wants support from his or her spouse. When the other parent refuses to offer that support – or worse, supports the child instead of the spouse – the “bad cop” is often extremely resentful and upset. The upset only serves to reinforce how “bad” this adult is in the eyes of the both the spouse and the child. It is no fun being a bad cop!

If you are finding yourself in the position of being the “bad cop” in your parenting team, consider the following tips:

Follow the 80-20 Rule
Each parent needs to be both “nice” and also firm. Each needs to show love and offer appropriate guidance. In other words, each should follow the 80-20 Rule independently, being 80% good-feeling and 20% education-oriented (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for an in-depth explanation of the 80-20 Rule). Unfortunately, one parent cannot make the other follow this ideal ratio. Your spouse may refuse to engage in appropriate discipline and education. However, that needn’t be a problem for you. As long as you remain 80% good-feeling in your interactions with your child, your child will feel a strong and healthy bond with you. Your child will accept your guidance gracefully, because he or she will trust and love you. At the same time, your child will recognize that the lenient parent is a lenient parent – someone without much backbone. They will sense that parent’s weakness and, while maintaining affection, lose some respect.

Working Uphill
Often, lenient parents not only fail to apply rules and limitations, they also try to prevent the other parent from doing so. “Don’t worry that Mom said you had to be in bed by 9 – you’re out with me and we’ll get home whenever we get home” or “I know Daddy said you had to write out lines, but I’ll explain to him that you’re really sorry for what you did and you don’t need to write out anything.” In this case, it is very hard to institute rules, boundaries and consequences. However, don’t give up in despair. As long as you don’t exceed your 20% allowance for unpleasant-feeling communications (which includes, by the way, all instructions and corrections), you will still have tremendous influence over your child. If you give your youngster a punishment and the other parent tells the child he doesn’t have to cooperate with it, you can appeal to the child directly: “You and I both know that I warned you that you would have to go to bed early if you keep chasing your brother. Your father said you could stay up, but you know full well that you have to go to bed early. This isn’t between you and your father. It’s between you and me.” Then, if necessary, use the “jail” form of the 2X-Rule for effective discipline (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for complete information on how to carry out discipline using the 2X-Rule).

Be Aware of the Impact of Your Marriage
Children don’t want their parents to fight, losing feelings of security and respect when they do. Instead of fighting with your too-lenient spouse, aim to perfect your own discipline style, improve your 80-20 Ratio and become an overall excellent parent. At the same time, work on improving yourself as a spouse. This produces the best outcome for kids – far better than ensuring that each parent does the exact same style of parenting.

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!

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.

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.

Child Swears

Swearing may be acceptable for “drunken sailors” but it is not a good communication technique in the home. Foul language is hurtful and insulting. Even if a person swears into the air because he stubbed his toe, it is still a very unpleasant sound in the house. It is unhealthy for the child who must listen to his or her parents swear at each other in anger. When an adult swears at a child it is not only offensive but also degrading and destructive to the child’s development. And when a child swears at a parent, it indicates a complete breakdown of the normal healthy boundaries between parents and children, some sort of grave dysfunction within the parent-child dynamic. In short, swearing is never a good way to communicate in family life.

How can parents encourage a “swear-free” environment? Consider the following tips:

Educate and Sensitize Your Child
Teach your child the importance and value of proper communication. Explain the crudeness of swearing and the reasons you don’t want it used in your house. The more the child understands about what is wrong with this form of communication, the more likely he or she is to respect your wish that this sort of language be avoided.

Consistently Reinforce a “No Swearing” Rule
Kids will tend to copy what they hear adults say or do. It’s almost impossible to discipline a child or teen who swears when Mom and Dad do the same. Ending a child’s swearing must therefore start with ending the parents’ swearing. If you’ve developed a habit of swearing when you hurt yourself or when you’re angry at someone, let your children know that you are “swearing off swearing!” Tell them that you are going to discipline yourself every time you swear until you’ve broken your habit of swearing. Your punishment could be anything you choose – donating money to charity, doing push-ups, or even writing out pages of lines every time you swear. Just pick something, let everyone know you’re doing it and then do it. Within a few short weeks, your should no longer be swearing and your child will be impressed.

Once you’ve properly dealt with your own swearing habits, tell the kids it’s their turn. You will now ask them to select an appropriate punishment for themselves (or choose one for them) that you will enforce whenever you hear them swear.

Mind Your Reactions When You Hear Your Child Swear
Children like attention and will engage in behaviors that bring them attention. Therefore, it’s essential NOT to give a lot of attention to swearing. If your child swears, go silent. Take time to calm down and think of what intervention you want to use to deal with this behavior. Remember: the more upset you show, the more you’re likely to hear bad language again. Stay cool.

For young children, those aged 5 and below, the best response to swearing is a calm “We don’t speak like that. Those are bad words. Please say it again properly.” Again, remain calm and collected.

For older kids, react calmly, slowly and quietly using the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe) – a gentle, but firm form of discipline. Essentially, you make a rule that swearing is not allowed. Then, when the child swears, you repeat the new rule and name a negative consequence that will occur in the future for swearing. Then, if it happens again, quietly and firmly apply the consequence.

Replace the Swear Word with Something That is More Acceptable
What if  your child uses swear words in everyday conversation? In this case, your child may not be swearing out of anger or for attention, but has simply become used to speaking in such a fashion. Ask your child to use an acceptable replacement word immediately after swearing. Constantly having to say the acceptable word helps the child’s brain select this word in the first place instead of the swear word. For instance, if the child has the habit of using a short expletive meaning “horse manure,” you can ask him or her to then say, “darn!” or “shoot!” or something similar. In this way, you are training a new, more acceptable habit.