Keeping Children Occupied During Airplane Travel

Soraya Coffelt Airplane Travel

During the holidays, families frequently travel on airlines.  For some of us, it is just a short one or two hour trip, but for others, it can be for many hours.   When traveling with children, there are numerous things to consider regarding how your children spend their time and how they behave toward other passengers.  No person wants to be a victim of a child kicking the airplane seat from behind out of pure boredom or a lack of manners (I have been the victim of this many times) or having to deal with a cranky, restless child.  Parents are encouraged to be prepared.  Here are a few fun-filled activities to keep your children occupied during flights:

1.    Reading. Bring some of your children’s favorite books on board. You can read them to your children or let them read the books themselves. If your child is a fast (or indecisive) reader, it may be best to have a digital version of several books on a tablet or E-reader so they have options from which to choose.  Pop up books are especially entertaining for toddlers, but for smaller children, hard back books and pages are better!

2.    Crafts. Crafts can get fairly messy and many are not appropriate for planes, but one that has garnered a lot of popularity is sticker art. All you will need is a book of stickers and another book with blank paper.  Or, there are books with both stickers and blank sheets of paper together- how convenient! Your children will definitely enjoy making their own creations with the stickers.  In fact, you can encourage them to even leave a little decorative art piece for the crew.

3.    Movies. This is one of the easiest and hassle-free ways to pass the time. Watching their favorite movie - or a brand new one - will keep your little ones entertained for an hour or two.  There are children’s portable DVD players as well as small laptops that can be accompanied with headphones.  You can also search beforehand for episodes of their favorite TV shows and download them.  My sons would often watch the same shows over and over again.

4.    Doodling.  A nice alternative to a bunch of crayons is an Etch-A-Sketch.  It allows your children to create several drawings without dropping (and having to search for) a single crayon.

Bringing along their favorite snacks and drinks is also very important, as it satisfies their hunger and thirst and further prevents their ears from popping during takeoff and landing.  Often, it does not matter if they ate before they get on board a plane, as children always seem to be hungry or thirsty. 

All parts of family travel should be enjoyable experiences for you and others.  The key is to prepare beforehand.   Happy travels!

Dress Modestly According to God’s Will

“… I want women to adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and discreetly in proper clothing ….”
1 Timothy 2:9 (AMP)

During this festive holiday season, it is the perfect time to dress up and have fun going to family and friends’ gatherings and parties.  In dressing up, please pay attention to modesty.  Yes … it is a subject that is often misconstrued but is of importance to Christians.  Importantly, it is not meant to shame young women and girls for their God-given bodies or even for appreciating the way they look.  Instead, it shows exactly who and what should be most important in our lives and who we represent - Jesus.  

The following is taken from an article about modesty and I could not say it any better.  It describes very well what modesty for a Christian is all about:

Modesty in the way we dress is not just for church; it is to be the standard for all Christians at all times. The key to understanding what constitutes modesty in dress is to examine the attitudes and intents of the heart. Those whose hearts are inclined toward God will make every effort to dress modestly, decently, and appropriately. Those whose hearts are inclined toward self will dress in a manner designed to draw attention to themselves with little or no regard for the consequences to themselves or others.

A godly woman endeavors to do everything with a “God-ward” perspective. She knows that God wants His people to be concerned for His glory and the spiritual state of their brothers and sisters in Christ. If a woman professes to be a Christian yet she dresses in a way that will unduly draw attention to her body, she is a poor witness of the One who bought her soul by dying for her on the cross. She is forgetting that her body has been redeemed by Christ and is now the temple of the Holy Spirit (
1 Corinthians 6:19–20). She is telling the world that she determines her own worth on a purely physical basis and that her attractiveness depends on how much of her body she reveals to them. Further, by dressing in an immodest fashion, displaying her body for men to lust after, she causes her brothers in Christ to sin, something condemned by God (Matthew 5:27–29). Proverbs 7:10 mentions a woman “dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent”—here, the woman’s heart condition is displayed by her manner of dress.

The Scripture says that we are to dress modestly, but what exactly does that mean in modern society? Does a woman have to be covered from head to toe? There are cults and religions in the world that demand this of women. But is that the biblical meaning of modesty? Again, we have to go back to the matter of the attitudes of the heart. If a woman’s heart is inclined toward godliness, she will wear clothing that is neither provocative nor revealing in public, clothing that does not reflect negatively upon her personal testimony as a child of God. Everyone else in her circle may be dressing immodestly, but she resists the temptation to go along with the crowd. She avoids clothing designed to draw attention to her body and cause men to lust, for she is wise enough to know that type of attention only cheapens her. The idea of causing men to sin against God because of her dress is abhorrent to her because she seeks to love and honor God and wants others to do the same.

Modesty in dress reveals a modesty and godliness of the heart, attitudes that should be the desire of all women (and men) who live to please and honor God.


https://www.gotquestions.org/dress-modestly.html

Recommended Resource: A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George

Adding “Thanks” Back into Thanksgiving Day

We will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day this Thursday in America.  It’s a national holiday set aside for us to remember all that we are thankful for.  However, as the child says in this cartoon, God has blessed us immensely so one day a year is certainly not adequate to give thanks!  In this week’s blog, instead of writing about the history of Thanksgiving Day or a similar topic (which you can find in my previous blogs), I have chosen to focus on some Bible scriptures instructing us on giving thanks regularly.  As you enjoy the day with family and friends, I encourage each of you to spend some time reading and practicing these verses as a family:

1 Chronicles 16:24 – “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever”

Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”

Psalm 95:2 - “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms”

Psalm 100:4 - “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name”

Psalm 107:1, 8-9 - “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endures forever… Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness”

Phil. 4:6 - “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God

Colossians 4:2 – “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful

There are many other Bible verses, but these are extra special to me.  Don’t let this Thanksgiving Day be one filled with just eating, drinking and watching sports.  Spend time thanking the great I Am for all He has blessed you and your family with and then remember to do it again and again each day thereafter!

Helping Children Enjoy Church

"Our kids can learn to enjoy church when they watch how much we enjoy worshiping the Lord and caring about the body of Christ."
Christy Fitzwater

For adults, attending church is an experience like no other.  We assemble together, a group of people of different ages and from varying backgrounds,  to learn more about God, to sing praises to Him, and to fellowship with others.  As fulfilling as these services may be for adults, children oftentimes view attending church as a once a week obligation that they would rather avoid.  It can be hard for them to sit or stand and listen for an extended period of time, and that can make church extremely boring for them. Their outlook on church does not have to be this way, however, and parents should do all that they can to assist their children in having enjoyable church experiences.

Start with your attitude about going to church.  Do you and your spouse enjoy attending church or is it just another duty that you both reluctantly do?  Do you allow any excuse to prevent you and your family from attending? As a parent, your attitude toward church will rub off on your children. 

Spend time at home reading the Bible as a family together and praying together.  Also, incorporate singing and worshiping God into your everyday life. There are many Christian children’s songs.  Purchase some cds or download songs on your computer or smart phone.  When your children arrive at church, all that is done at church will already be a part of their experiences at home. 

It is important is to find out if your church has a children’s ministry that is geared for your children’s ages.  Children’s ministries are developed to teach them the Word of God in fun-filled ways.  I served as a lay children’s minister for many years and can tell you that a children’s ministry is not all games and laughter, though it may appear that way.  In fact, I attended several children’s ministry training conferences just to learn more about making our children’s ministry better.  Ministers and volunteers spend a lot of time planning out what will keep the children’s attention and at the same time help them learn the Word and develop a deep love for Christ.  From lessons to songs to puppet skits to games – everything is centered on God. 

If your church does not have a children’s ministry, there are many things that you can do to help your children have enjoyable experiences, especially because of their short attention spans.  First, put together what is called a “worship bag”, which is a backpack with coloring sheets, crayons, cute stickers and many other items that will keep your children busy while the adult sermon is being preached.  Contact your church’s office beforehand to find out what subject or scripture verse will be in Sunday’s message and gather items that are on that specific topic.  Include a few simple snacks too as little ones have appetites.

Second, encourage your children to participate during the service.  Allow them to hold the hymn book and put money into the offering basket.  This will make them feel included.  

Third, talk with your children after church to find out what they learned.  Ask questions.  This will generate their thought processes and help them develop their knowledge about the Bible more.  And, since children love sharing what they learned, these discussions will motivate them to pay close attention so they can do so.

The Bible instructs us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  (Hebrews 10:25)  Adults and children attending church is important to God. By being engaged with your children in every step of their church experience, you will help them grow to enjoy church services and fellowship with other believers.

Talking to Your Children About Tragedies in the Age of the Internet

Soraya Coffelt Talking to Children about Tragedies

With growing numbers of online news outlets as well as constant chatter on social media, there has never been a time when tragedies have been displayed so vividly and frequently at the rate they are now.   There is a virtually unlimited amount of information available to everyone, young and old, on the internet.  As a result, children can see and hear about atrocities before they are mature enough to be able to emotionally and intellectually process them.   This forces parents to have difficult conversations with them far earlier than they had anticipated.  What can parents do?

Initially, you as a parent, must recognize that your children can have easy access to graphic details about mass killings, earthquakes, food and refugee crises, and so much more.  Be prepared to address these situations, because more and more tragedies are happening and at greater frequency.  Do not bury your head in the sand and believe that your children will not hear about them.

When discussing a specific situation, the best approach is to be honest, but that does not mean that you have to reveal or talk about every detail.  You alone are the judge as to how much information to share with your children, based on what you know is their maturity level.  Children are not ready for all the grisly details that come with widespread disasters, so giving them a vague recap should be enough to satisfy their curiosity.  Allowing them to ask questions is very important because they may have heard incorrect information from their peers or others.  Answer their questions in the most age appropriate language possible.  As they grow older, you can start expanding on some of the information you share with them. 

Importantly, remember that, no matter how much the sad news may be weighing on you, you should not  display extreme distress.  Your children are observing you as the person who is supposed to be their rock and provider.  Showing composure in expressing information about an event will build composure in your children.  Avoid frightening them.  Reassure them that they will never be left alone or be away from their family.

As a Christian parent, you can remind your children that they will be safe and secure, as they are continuously protected by God.  Reinforce God’s love and peace in the midst of a storm.   Pray with them for victims and about solutions to difficult issues.

Having sorrow for the tragedies of this world shows we are compassionate and loving people.  As adults, these tragedies are often difficult to comprehend.  Be proactive in conveying appropriate information to your children at their age levels.

Fight the Good Fight of Faith on Halloween

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"Fight the good fight of faith..." - 1 Tim. 6:12

Halloween is coming up on Tuesday, and as Christians, it is difficult for us to see people celebrating this day when they truly do not know the true history of it and what it commemorates.  As Christians, we are not hopeless as we can fight Halloween and all it represents by using our faith.

It has been reported that after Christmas, Halloween is the biggest holiday for retailers.  From early September, everything from lawn & house decorations, to costumes, to makeup and music are advertised openly in stores and online at many websites.  Of course, the designs are centered on evil and scary images.  How can Christians respond?  Here are some suggestions:

1.    Put Bible verses and phrases everywhere. On lawn posts, indoor and outdoor signs, candy, even carved into pumpkins, include Bible verses. The verses should be positive in nature and short. A verse such as 1 Peter 3:11 that says, “They must turn from evil and do good” is perfect as it is to the point.

You do not have to limit yourself to Bible verses, as Bible phrases are excellent and can be just as effective.   For example, you can decorate a makeshift tombstone in your yard with the phrase “He is Risen”.  A tombstone is very much in the theme of the day, but the message is about the resurrection of Christ rather than an evil purpose.

2.    Decorate wreathes with Christian symbols.  Wreaths are popular decorations for homes.  However, instead of filling your wreath with black cats and bats, fill it with crosses, doves, and olive branches.  All of these are symbols of Christianity that promote the message of Christ.

3.    Greet trick or treaters with Bible verses.  When children come to your door to trick-or-treat, plan on giving them something unique.  One recommendation is candy wrapped with a short Bible verse.  Again, there are many short verses that are effective:  

  • Psalms 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
  • Mark 10:14 “Let the children come to me.”
  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.”

You can also look up more inspirational verses online and select the ones that you and children would like to share.

It is important that your children do not answer the door alone.  You should be there to greet everyone and your children can assist you with passing out candy and verses. 

By using our faith to fight Halloween, you and your children will have a lot of fun carving the pumpkins and making the decorations, all centered on the Word of God.  Importantly, they will not be missing out on the fun and will learn unique ways to spread the love of God.

***Update

Soraya lives in the U. S. Virgin Islands where Hurricane Irma struck on September 6.  The islands experienced widespread devastation and she is doing well but is unable to post her blogs via the internet until electricity and internet service is restored. Thank you for being a loyal follower. 

Support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  It was established to honor children fighting cancer and support the development of treatments.  You do not have to know someone with childhood cancer to commemorate or contribute to this extremely worthwhile cause.

There are many ways that you and your children can show support for children affected by cancer, and here are a few:

Volunteer.  There is an abundance of volunteer opportunities to choose from and you should include your children too. If there are any children’s cancer centers or hospitals in your area,  donate your time to read to the patients.  Your children can bring toys to play and spend time with them too.  Consider baking cookies and other sweet treats to pass out to patients, doctors, nurses, and volunteers.  Showing you care by spending your time and having friendly interactions with the patients makes a loving and lasting impression on them.

Donate.  Consider making a monetary donation to a reputable charity, hospital or research lab that strives to benefit the lives of children with cancer. Whether you have $1 or $1,000,000, a donation is always valuable.  Additionally, talk with your children about making a donation too.  Emphasize the goal of the organization or hospital and explain how their donation will benefit it.  By using a portion of their allowance, they can contribute to the cause and help children in need. This teaches them to become more considerate and loving of others and it gives them a sense of accomplishment knowing that their generous deed benefitted someone else.

Another idea is to have a group fundraising event involving food or bake sales, car washes, or even yard sales.

Help a family. If you know a family affected by childhood cancer, there are many ways to assist them.  Consider calling or texting to check up on them and sending hand-written cards with friendly messages.  Make decorating and writing cards a fun family event.  A short message such as “Best wishes from our family to yours. We are always here if you need anything and will continue to pray for you,” can provide comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

Also, volunteering to do chores such as house sitting or lawn mowing can take a lot of extra pressure off adults in the family and give them more time to focus on their loved one in need.

There are so many ways and opportunities for you and your family to commemorate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  As Christians, we are called to show our love to others, and what better way than assisting children in need.

How Did Labor Day Start?

In the United States, we will celebrate Labor Day on Monday, September 4.  It is not just a day to pull out the barbecue grill one last time before autumn hits.  It is a very important federal holiday commemorating the Labor Movement of the 19th century that sought to end the poor and unfair treatment of American workers.   Take some time to learn about the history of this holiday and share it with your children because there is quite a lot to learn and commemorate.

In the late 1800s, during the period known as the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the majority of people worked in factories, mills, and mines under unsafe and unsanitary conditions, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, for very little pay.  Children as young as 5 years old were working as well for less pay than adults.  There was no quality of life in the work place. The only way that workers believed their voices would be heard was through forming unions and taking part in strikes and organized marches.  

The first and arguably the most influential march was held on September 5, 1882 in New York City.  This was the same day that the union, Nobel Order of the Knights of Labor, was planning on meeting in the city, so it decided to invite other unions as well.  About 20,000 workers gave up an entire day’s pay to participate and the march soon turned into a parade.  This was the first parade of many to come.  Over a decade later, in 1896, President Grover Cleveland decided to make the day a national holiday while many states, such as Oregon, New York, Colorado, and Massachusetts, had already recognized the day for several years.

There were some workers who were not allowed to participate in these marches or parades, such as African Americans.  While the Knights of Labor union was race inclusive, African American workers could not be members of the majority of white labor unions.  Despite the racism and aversion by the white workers towards them, African American workers were still able to band together and create unions of their own, one of which was the Colored National Labor Union (CNLU).  The Knights of Labor and the CNLU were some of the most powerful unions at the time.

The Knights of Labor union was almost fully responsible for the first Labor Day celebration and the CNLU was successful in arranging employee benefits and fair wages for its workers.  Unfortunately, the two unions would eventually die out before Labor Day was recognized as a national holiday.

It is important for our children to understand the history behind our national holidays, including this one.  Labor Day is not about barbecues and marking the end of summer- it is about ending the unfair treatment of workers and actually celebrating the innovation and creativity of American workers and the many contributions they have made. 

Celebrate National Women’s Equality Day on August 26

There has been a long history in this country of women fighting inequality, whether it be the start of the feminist movement in the mid-1800s or the women of today demanding equal treatment in the workplace and in politics.  Even with the strides that women have made since the banding together of the Suffragettes, there is still more work to be done.  Importantly, however, we must acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of many outstanding women, including the following:

1.    Ida B. Wells. This courageous woman played one of the most integral parts in the feminist and civil rights movements. As an African American woman born in 1862 Mississippi, she knew first-hand about discrimination. Her struggles inspired her to create an all-black publication titled The Free Speech, which exposed the inequalities and mistreatment that came with being black in the South. When given the choice to stop her publication or be killed, she did neither.  She moved to the North, and she never stopped production of The Free Speech.

Not only was she disliked by white men at the time, but also some women. When she marched in the 1913 suffrage parade, she was shunned by many of the women involved - some even refusing to march alongside her because she was a woman of color. Through it all, she stayed headstrong and continued to focus on issues that plagued the African American community.  She never gave up the fight. She truly was an exemplary woman and is still a role model for many today!

2.    Patsy Mink. Born in Hawaii in 1927, Patsy grew up to become a lawyer and then became the first Asian American elected to Congress. She was actually the first woman of color to serve in that position. In her time there, she co-authored Title IX, a federal law that prohibits any educational facility from discriminating against a person because of his/her gender.  

3.    Sylvia Mendez.  Sylvia’s father was a Mexican immigrant and her mother was from Puerto Rico.  In the 1940s, when she was a child, schools in California were segregated into “Whites only”, which had better books and curriculum, and “Hispanics”.  To fight this racism, her parents attempted to enroll her and her siblings in a “Whites only” school, but were denied.  They took the matter to court and eventually won.  As a result, the governor of California was forced to desegregate all schools and public places.  Her lawsuit paved the way and was a reference for similar cases, such as the famous Brown v. Board of Education, which brought desegregation to all schools. She is one of the primary reasons that we have integrated classrooms today.

4.    Wilma Mankiller.  Wilma gained notoriety after her very memorable protest at Alcatraz Island alongside other Native Americans who were reclaiming the land in 1969 since the federal government was not using the prison anymore.  She later began working for the Cherokee Nation government as a director of community development and was eventually able to climb up the political ladder and become the first female principle chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1985.

5.    Molly Dewson.  College educated, Molly began her foray into politics in her home state of Massachusetts, where she worked for an organization promoting women’s education, the rights of women in the workplace, and the social advancement of women.  Later, she joined Eleanor Roosevelt to motivate women to vote in the 1932 presidential election for Franklin D. Roosevelt. After his victory, she was instrumental in getting women to be appointed to high government positions, including Secretary of Labor.  

What women inspire you?  Talk with your children about those referred to in my blog and other famous women.

To find out more information about these and other phenomenal women, visit THIS PAGE or CLICK HERE.

Assisting Your Children in the Transition from Summer Vacation to a New School Year

We are now in the middle of August and children are about to begin  trading in their sandcastles for pens and paper, and family lunches will soon  be replaced by school lunches. It is back to school time and no matter how old your  children are, the transition never seems to get any easier for them.  Going from a few months of freedom to spending 7 hours or more in a classroom is not an easy feat, but here are a few tips to make the transition a little smoother:

  1. Approximately one week before school begins, create a schedule so that your children are going to sleep and waking up during the regular school sleep and wake-up times.  This will get them in the habit of going to bed at a reasonable time and waking up early, so when the first day of school arrives, they are ready.
     
  2. Some schools give summer assignments to their students. Whether it be reading or math or science, ensure that your children have been working on their assignments throughout the summer.  Now that school is about to start, check up on them to find out if the assignments have actually been completed.  Do not wait until the day before the first day of school to check though.  This can make for a very hectic and upsetting first day of school.
     
  3. Talk to your children about the positive aspects of the new school year.  These can include seeing old friends, making new friends, and playing a team sport.  Think about what they enjoyed in school last year, and encourage them with these same positive aspects for the new year.
     
  4. Have positive quotes to inspire and discuss with your children. Melissa Taylor, a writer and a mom, has compiled many such quotes.   You can visit her website and print them out too.  Select one a day or a week and talk with them about each quote.  Put them in their bedrooms or lunch boxes. CLICK HERE.
     
  5. Talk with our children about their plans for the new school year. What do they want to achieve? How do they plan to reach their goals? These and similar questions will not only give your children the opportunity to start planning for the upcoming school year, but will also give youinsight into their goals and the chance to start guiding them towardachieving them.

Change of any kind can be challenging, but applying these steps can assist in relieving any stress your children may be feeling about the start of a new school year.

Establishing Bedtime Routines for Children

For us parents, trying to get our children to go bed at a regular time can be challenging.  What has worked well though is establishing a nighttime routine that prepares children for bed, rather than one that has a strict time that everyone in the family must be in bed by.

A typical nighttime routine should include taking a bath, brushing teeth, and a calming family activity.  Children need to wind down before going to bed, so if you select 8 p.m., for example, as the time for your children to be in bed, and at 7:45 p.m. they are busy playing video games, their brains are still going to be wired by the time they need to be in bed.  It is important to set a time for them to start their routine, as this will begin the process to calming them down and ending the night peacefully.

As the time is nearing for the routine to begin, take a look around the house and make sure that everything that can be done that night is done.  Have them pick up and clean up after themselves.  Also, double check that they have all their homework, clothes, and other items they will need in the morning ready.   This will make getting out the door in the morning problem free.

Use the time while you bathe your younger children to talk to them.  Some subjects are the type of bedtime story they want to read or what can be expected during the next day.  When they are brushing their teeth, double check that they are doing it properly and not doing it in a mad rush to do something else.  Explain to them the importance of doing this routine every day.

Once they head toward the bedroom, your children’s anticipation of reading a good book will be peaked.  Not only will they be anticipating an interesting story, but they will also be eager to spend quiet, loving time with you.   The books you and your children choose can range from simple bedtime stories that can be read at one sitting or more lengthy books which can be read one chapter at a time. And, reading is not exclusive to younger children as it can be a relaxing experience at any age. There are actually many benefits to reading to older children  and I discussed them in a previous blog. No matter how old a child is, reading time will always be special.

Be sure to set aside time after reading to pray with your children.  Praying together is an important opportunity to talk to God together.  Be sure to include in your prayers a lot of “thank yous” to God, as instilling gratitude in your children will make them more appreciative of what they have.  There is no better way to end the day!

Having a good, full night’s sleep is just as important for the health and development of your children as eating properly or being active.  Creating these routines will develop good habits that continue into their adult lives.

Choosing the Right Babysitter

As working parents, it can be very difficult to juggle your home, professional and social lives - after all there are only 24 hours in the day.  Parents need to be able to spend time together.  Sometimes, assistance with the children is a necessity and you must seek a babysitter.  Finding the right babysitter is important for both you and your children.  Here are several factors to take into consideration.

Is the person able to work within the rules and boundaries that you set? With a new babysitter in your home, it is critical to set rules and boundaries from the beginning.   What do you want your children to be doing and when?  For example, what time do you want each child to take a bath?  Set out a list of times with corresponding activities, such as reading, homework, having dinner, bath time and sleep time.  If the person balks at following your rules and boundaries, that person will not make a good babysitter.

Does the person understand children and want to spend time with them? Take into consideration the personality types of your children.  Does the person understand that each child has his/her own personality and likes and dislikes? Will the person accommodate them?  Try giving the person tips on how to go about dealing with each child.  Does the person seem willing to accept your suggestions?  What does the person want to do with each child while you are away? 

What is your budget for paying a babysitter?  Typically, parents hire a high school or college-aged student as a babysitter.  These students are usually just looking to earn some extra money for the remainder of the school year. Even so, there can be a risk of underpayment. While there are no strict rules about how much to pay a babysitter, you should do some research on average wages in your area and ask friends and work colleagues.  This information will be helpful in setting a comfortable budget for the both of you.

How do you know if this person is dependable?  Again, ask friends and colleagues for recommendations as to who to hire and who to avoid.  Keep your rules in mind when posing your inquiries. Parents should be very protective of their children, so consulting one who has similar values can be a huge assistance in your search for the right person.

Ask your children about their time with the babysitter.  Parents typically talk with their children about school or social activities, and they should also do so about their children’s time with babysitters.  You are hiring and entrusting that person to watch over your most precious possessions and to follow your guidelines.  Asking your children about their experience will encourage them to cooperate while you are away.  Also, children are notorious truth tellers. Just give them the opportunity to talk and they will let you know everything - from playing games with their babysitter to watching their sitter take a nap while no one was supposedly looking.

The health and happiness of your children should always be your top priorities, whether they are in your presence or not.  The search process for a good babysitter can get tedious, and sometimes feel never ending, but the comfort in knowing and trusting the person who has your children in his/her hands will definitely be worth it.

Explore Your Own Town or City: Have a Summer Family “Staycation”

I have written previously about taking family vacations during the summer.  However, it may be that you are on a tight budget and a family trip may have moved down the list of priorities this summer.  But, you can still have a vacation with your family without breaking the bank or crossing state lines.

“Staycations” are the perfect alternative to expensive out of town trips.  You might think that you have seen everything in your area, but there are possibly  many hidden gems still waiting to be found and this is the perfect opportunity for you and your family to do just that.  In addition, there usually are a variety of local discounts available from museums, historic sites, and other ‘tourist attractions’.

If you want to leave your home, you could stay at an inexpensive hotel to have the full “vacation experience”.  Many hotels give local residents discounts during the summer.  However, there are plenty of ways to have the luxury feel of a hotel in your own home.  For example, one of the best parts of any good hotel stay is the breakfast spread.  Plan on cooking a big breakfast (the kids can join too!), similar to that of most hotels, and serve it buffet style. Set the table with white tablecloths and a simple centerpiece and enjoy your private, yummy breakfast with the family.

After breakfast, select one or more popular tourist attractions to visit.  Try something new and different.  It may seem silly to be a tourist in your own home, but it can be fun and educational.  One of the main advantages is that you do not have to worry about the cost of transportation because you can drive to each destination in your own vehicle!  Try visiting museums, having a picnic in the park, going backyard camping, or just taking a stroll through the city or town.  In the evening, consider talking the family to a drive-in theater.

You can make a day or a weekend out of it. The schedule is completely up to you because transportation, location and the struggle that comes with being in a new place will not be an issue.  By the end of it all, you and your family will have seen, done, and learned so much about your own community that you never imagined you could.  Who knows? It might even become a family tradition.

Keeping the Children Mentally Stimulated and Entertained During Your Summer Vacation Road Trip

Summer is officially underway! This means that the math and science books have been put away and the kids are ready for some fun.  Last year in my blog, I talked about the importance of involving children in the trip planning process, and how that can be a wonderful learning experience for them.  My blog today is a continuation of that one.  The vacation is planned, your family is ready, and soon enough, the time will be here.  There are plenty of ways that your family members can enjoy themselves while continuously stimulating their minds, especially on road trips.

Here are some suggestions.  A friend told me about a game that she enjoyed playing on car trips as a child.  It was a game called “yellow car”.  Since there are so few yellow cars, the premise of the game was to count how many of them passed on the way to your destination. When one is spotted, you must be the first person to yell out “yellow car” and the person with the highest score at the end of the ride wins.  It sounds simple enough, except for the yelling part.  At the time, she had no idea how entertaining this ‘simple’ game could actually be!

This game was meant to be a onetime occurrence, but months had passed before she and her mother had realized that they were playing it every day.  Try playing “yellow car”.  It will keep the children alert; activate their eyes and brains to spot these objects amongst everything else they see; and help them keep numerical track of how many they have seen.  Little do they know all the learning that is involved!

There are many variations to this game.  Try changing it up to “blue truck” or any other color and vehicle.  Depending on what your destination is, you can select any item to spot and count.  At the end of the trip, ask one of the children to tally up the total score.  Setting the terms are part of the fun of this game and both children and parents can play and enjoy.  Make it a competition and the winner wins a prize.  Your imagination is the limit!

Finding the Balance between Your Children’s Activities and Their Well-being

In a prior blog post, I wrote about the importance of having your children participate in a variety of after-school activities and the benefits that doing so provide.  Today, I would like to extend a cautionary note that those activities should enhance their childhood experiences, not inhibit them.  Children who are overexposed to activities can suffer from headaches; feel tired, anxious or depressed; and suffer a drop in their grades.  Here are a few tips on how to have your children involved in extracurriculars, while still giving them the chance to be children:

  1. Time: According to most experts, children should not spend more than 10 to 20 hours a week participating in out of school activities. If they spend any more time than this, they will not have enough time to do their homework, adequately prepare for tests, and be with their families. Choosing activities that meet bi-weekly or monthly could be healthier options for children, rather than those that meet once or several times a week.
     
  2. Request: Before enrolling your children in an extracurricular activity, it is best to ask if they want to join in it. This way, it will be an activity that they want to do, not an activity that they are being forced to do. Also, try not to pressure your children to outdo themselves or anyone else in their respective activities. Never compare what they are doing or not doing with other children.
     
  3. Your schedule: Ask yourself whether you or your spouse have the time to drive them to and from each activity.  Adding too many activities can wreak havoc on your schedule too and cause a lot of stress. 

The balance between school, homework, play, and family time can be difficult.  The important issue is that you try to balance all four, with an emphasis on what works for the family unit as a whole.   No activity should take the place of spending quality time together as a family or put too much stress on family life.

African Americans and Women Played an Important Role in the Fight for American Independence

Tomorrow is the 4th of July or as Americans have come to know it as Independence Day.  It is well known what this day celebrates- our hard fought independence from the British almost 250 years ago - and the many people who played key roles in the fight.  We frequently think of our founding fathers as the central figures in the war.  What many may not know, though, is that there were also African Americans and women who played a critical part in securing our freedom.

Salem Poor is one of those people. He was born in Massachusetts as a slave, but at the age of 22, had saved up a year’s salary so that he could buy his freedom.  Once freed, he enlisted in the army and this would bring him his notoriety only a year later.  Poor was instrumental in the Battle of Bunker Hill- an important battle in the fight for America’s freedom- defeating several British officers and inspiring paintings commemorating the victory.

Also Massachusetts-born was former slave Peter Salem. He was not only an important soldier in the Battle of Bunker Hill, but also in the entire American Revolutionary War.  At the time of his recruitment, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety only recruited free African Americans.  He traded his life as a slave to fight in the army.

Women such as Margaret Corbin also played major roles in the war. Corbin and her husband helped in defending Fort Washington, but when he got injured, she took over, manning the canon. She did not hesitate to take it upon herself to do a job meant for two.

These and many other men and women are often forgotten in history.  But, do not let that happen.  Teach your children about this day and all the different people who risked their lives to fight for a cause they profoundly believed in.  It makes our history much more vibrant and interesting by doing so.

Extracurricular Activities Ensure Excellence In and Out of the Classroom

Study after study has shown that extracurricular activities provide many benefits for students.  These activities have been known to not onlyprovide children with a break in the day from the stress and anxiety that comes with academics, but also to assist them with copingwith all of the many different things happening in their lives.

Programs such as a language club or a debate team reinforce many classroom-based skills, while sports and musical programs have been known to ‘wake’ the brain up.  Additionally, these type of activities give children a sense of routine, and by allowing them to choose activities they are interested in, parents will inspire them to continue with these routines throughout their adult lives.  Moreover, students who participate in these sorts of activities have been shown to earn higher scores on college admission’s exams.

After-school activities have actually been found to give children energy and help them thrive within their social groups.  All of this is added impetus to later doing homework as well.   On the other hand, students who are not involved in any after-school programs have been known to go through periods of sluggishness, making it difficult for them to even get started on their homework. 

An additional benefit is being able to provide constructive information on a college application.  Colleges are looking for students who are well rounded and sociable, and who will likely survive a rigorous academic schedule.   When your children are able to show what they have done outside the classroom, they will be able to establish their good character, social worthiness, and academic stamina. 

To learn more about the benefits of extracurricular activities, click here.

It Is Essential to Forgive Others as the Lord Has Forgiven You

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
— Colossians 3:13

What is a simple seven letter word that is very hard to do?  Forgive.  No matter how many times we are told that forgiveness is an act that benefits the forgiver more than the person being forgiven, we still often view it as a tough task, usually because of our pride.  Not only can refusing to forgive be detrimental to us physically, but also spiritually.

Forgiveness is not an option in living a Christian lifestyle, but rather a requirement.  Colossians 3:13, our scripture text, actually commands us to forgive as God has first forgiven us.  It does not say that we are allowed to forgive sometimes, depending on what that person has done to us.  We are to always forgive – period.

One of the most poignant stories of forgiveness for me in modern times was when Pope John Paul II forgave the man who tried to assassinate him in 1981.  The shooter fired many shots, four of which hit the Pope.   He lost a great deal of blood but survived.  The shooter was caught and sentenced to life in prison.  Two years later, the Pope visited the would-be assassin in prison and forgave him.  The two emerged from the visit as friends.  But, the Pope even went further.  He requested that the shooter be pardoned, and he eventually was, and became a Christian. 

Now that is forgiveness in action!

By Spreading Love Rather Than Gossip, You Grow as a Christian

As much as we hate to admit it, we have all participated in gossip at some point in our lives. Whether the information we were spreading was based on truth or just pure speculation never really mattered, because there is a strange thrill in sharing some information between you and a few of your friends. There are those who say the act of gossiping is and has always been a part of our social lives, used to learn what is and is not acceptable. Some have described it as harmless banter, but it is actually an opportunity to say hurtful things about a person, with no regard for the consequences, including the person’s wellbeing.

If we really want to stay informed, or have a better understanding of social niceties, as has been suggested, there are so many productive and non-threatening ways to do so. Instead of talking about someone, try to talk to the person.  Get to know him or her better.  We, as humans, are social creatures and by doing this, we use the same amount of energy and can make a new friend in the process. You might even be able to learn a few things from the other person, as that person can from you too.  At the end of the day, we should constantly try to lift others up and encourage them, rather than drag them down, and once we are willing to lift and encourage, it is easier to be lifted and encouraged in turn.

Once you make the decision to no longer be a part of the toxic lifestyle that comes with gossip, feel free to distance yourselves from those who choose not to follow that principle.  The Bible states “as for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.” Titus 3:10.

Creating some distance does not mean you have to cut those people out of your life, completely and immediately.  At first, you should encourage the people around you to consider the consequences of their actions.  Try to inform them and give them some of your tips on stopping this type of behavior.  Your role is never to be judgmental, but to be helpful.  If they persist, however, do not be afraid to now maintain distance from them, surrounding yourself with people who believe as you do.

The next time you are told a piece of gossip, no matter how interesting it may seem, be that wise person and walk away.  Let it die at your ears.  Always remember that your children are watching you and listening.  Be a good role model for them.