Do Not Be Worried about Your Children’s Futures

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:34

As parents, we are often consumed by preparing our children for the future. Whether it be enrolling them in as many extracurricular activities as possible to round out their academic resume or teaching them to be self-sufficient for adulthood, we want them to be completely prepared for everything that the future has to bring.  All this focus on the future, though, can cause high levels of stress for both you and your children and make it very difficult to just bask in the here and now.   

God does not want us to be anxious about anything.  I like what the words on the image for this week’s blog say: “Pray more, worry less”.   No one truly knows what the future will bring, but, as a Christian, you should feel comfort in knowing that God has already established a plan for the lives of each of your children.  

Try doing the following:

  1. Understand that not every trait your child has now, will carry over into her future.  For example, if you notice that your child is forgetful or seems unmotivated at times, it is unlikely that her attitude will persist throughout her life because behaviors change. Of course, you should talk to her about her conduct to ensure that she is fine and motivate her to do better, but do this to help your child in the present, not necessarily for the future. She does not need to hear your theories about the detrimental affects her present behavior may have on her future. She needs her parents’ assistance in dealing with whatever is going on at the moment.
  2. Spend time with your children (uninterrupted by the distractions of technology). This could be a planned outing or an impromptu hangout session. Making time for your children shows them how much you love and value them.
  3. Stop yourself from worrying.  In Matthew 6:34, Jesus taught His disciples about concentrating on what is happening today, and not worrying about what may happen tomorrow. 
  4. Pray.  Daily, ask God for guidance and comfort. 

Be Sure To Celebrate the Week of the Young Child: April 16-20, 2018

Every year, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrates young children and learning, and this week April 16-20, 2018 is dedicated to just that.  According to the NAEYC, the reason that a week is set aside annually is “to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.”

Local communities throughout the United States hold events for the celebration.  Events vary from a fun hat day to an ice cream social, a parade in a school and even a trip to the mayor’s office.   Importantly, the focus is on young children learning.

In the U. S. Virgin Islands where I live, I always participate in some way.  This year, I will be visiting an elementary school.  I have been asked to read a local  story to children and join in a special hat parade. 

Where ever you reside, please consider volunteering your time and talents to make this a special time for children in your area.  Whenever I visit a classroom or school to participate in an activity, I find that the children are always excited to have a special visitor who thinks they are important.  I am certain that it will be a blessing for you too, as it is for me!

Raising Honest Children

"Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body."
Ephesians 4:25

We can all admit that we have told lies during our lives, some bigger than others, but it can be hard to handle when we observe our children doing it.  As Christian parents, we should be loving but intentional in stopping our children from developing a bad habit of deceitfulness.

There are several passages in the Bible that discourage deception and promote honesty.  The verse for today’s blog is one of my favorites - Ephesians 4:25.  As a Christian family, parents should stress that we are all a part of the body of Christ, and should work together for His sake, a task that cannot be accomplished when a member of that body is untruthful.  Another verse is Proverbs 12:22 “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful.”  As I have recommended before, write these and other Bible verses down and help your children to memorize them.  Talk with them daily about what God expects of them – honesty and love.

When you catch your children telling a lie, do not justify it by calling it “cute” or “harmless”.  This can be very confusing to a child.  Where do you draw the line between a “harmless” lie and a lie that causes “harm”? All lies should be immediately addressed and discouraged.  

Since I love to promote reading, there are three stories about lying from which children can learn: The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and Pinocchio.  Read them with your children and discuss what is happening in each story.  Ask them questions to generate their thinking processes about telling lies.  For example, what could the character in the story have done differently, instead of lying?  What would have happened then?

 Of particular concern is looking for opportunities to praise your children for telling the truth.  Too often, we parents focus on the negative.  What better way to instill honesty but by parents catching their children being truthful and immediately praising them for it.  Positive attention builds more and more positive habits and self-confidence while repeated negative attention erodes a child’s well-being and image of who he is in Christ.

As I have matured in my relationship with the Lord and in my years, I have come to appreciate honesty more and more.  Even though so-called small white lies can be explained away, I ask myself “why should I even do that?”  Nowhere in the Bible does it say we can tell certain lies but not others.  It’s all in the way we frame our words, with the goal of being true to the Word.

Helping a Child Who is Afraid of the Dark

One of the most common fears among children is what can happen to them alone in the dark.  Most of us parents have been awakened in our beds by our children in the middle of the night, especially after they have had a bad dream.  Darkness represents the unknown, and since our children have such vivid imaginations, they can come up with the craziest things they believe lurk within it.  

I always recommend talking with your children about their fears.  Find out where these fears are coming from.  For example, what did they watch on tv or as a video or at the movie theater that could have caused fear? Tv programs and movies nowadays are filled with violence and scary looking creatures.  All of these can easily scare a child, especially one who is sensitive. 

When I was about 9 years, I remember going to the movies with my sisters and some friends.  We watched a Dracula movie.   Needless to say, it was their idea, not mine!  I could not sleep that night.  There was a large window in my bedroom and I made sure to put garlic cloves all around the windowsill, as that was supposed to ward off Dracula.  My thoughts about that movie tormented me for a long time and I had many sleepless nights.  My sisters and friends just laughed about the movie, so I never said anything, as I certainly did not want to be laughed at. 

Once you know the source of the fear, you will be able to deal with it.  One of the best ways is to establish a bedtime routine for them. 

Help them learn scripture verses to renew their minds.  This week’s verse is a wonderful one to start with: Psalm 56:3 - “When I’m afraid, I will trust in you.”  Another important verse for these types of situations is 2 Timothy 1:7 - “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love and a sound mind.”  A fun creative task that you can do with your children is to write out some verses, and then have your children decorate them with glow in the dark paint and hang them all about their bedrooms.  When they begin to feel afraid, they will be able to see the verses and then speak them out loud to eradicate all fear. 

Additionally, some parents speak blessings over their children at night, before they go to sleep.  To read more about how you can bless your children too, visit this blog.

Be sure to let your children know that you will always be there, close by, and will check up on them during the night too.  This will encourage them to learn to fight their fears on their own and develop confidence in doing so.  But, if need be, you will be there too to help along the way.

Fear of the dark is quite common for children and it is important to help them to learn to stand against fear on their own.   Scripture verses for fighting fear can be used for every issue that arouses fear in a person.  The more your children have renewed their minds with Bible verses, the better they will be able to withstand the forces that come against them as they grow up.

Parents Must Have A United Front On How To Raise Their Children

We often hear or read about how parents can develop good parenting skills as children need a solid parenting foundation.  One critical aspect of that foundation involves parents uniting on the issue of how to raise their children.   Even though parents may disagree on certain aspects of parenting, it is important for parents to still show a united front with their children, especially as to how they should be disciplined.  As Matthew 12:25 states, a house divided against itself cannot stand, so parents who are divided on this issue will not be able to maintain a strong household.

In his online article The Importance of a United Front in Parenting – Especially When it Comes to Discipline, Dr. Laurence Steinberg discusses the issues of parents having a united front and supporting each other.  For children 6 years old and younger, he states that they can get confused by one parent telling them one thing and the other parent telling them another.  They see their worlds in black and white, and want clarity and precision.  At those ages, the united front is imperative.  Between the ages of 6 and 11, that need for clarity and precision diminishes in children, but he, nevertheless, recommends that parents continue to maintain a unified front.  

For teenagers, he argues that a united front is no longer necessary but that parents must still support each other in whatever decisions are made.  I believe these two points – a united front and supporting each other - go hand in hand and cannot be separated, so I disagree here with Dr. Steinberg but believe that what he has to say should still be considered.  He argues that older children know that people disagree on issues and the important point is for parents to try to resolve differences.   Parents can “agree to disagree” but still, there must be a further decision as to what is to be done.  In that event, I suggest that parents decide on what they will do, support each other, and then present a united front. 

Dr. Steinberg also gives a number of recommendations as to how parents can reconcile “hard-to-resolve disagreements”.   These are worthy of reading and incorporating into your parenting styles. 

As a judge, I saw the many negative results of parents not supporting each other and having a united front with their children.  Too often, especially during divorces, one parent undermines the other with the children.  The damage that results, sadly, is to the children, as they are the ones who suffer profoundly from feuding parents.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

What To Do When Your Children Are Acting Selfish

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
— Philippians 2:3-4

“Buy me that toy.” “Change the tv channel - my favorite show is on.” “Mommy - get off the computer- I’m bored.” Do any of these sound familiar? They are all statements we may have heard from our own children and brushed off as childish behavior. While interactions like these do happen, they should never become normal. Unchecked, your children can continue to develop these selfish qualities more and more.

Children usually do not make these statements out of malice for other people, but out of their understanding for their own needs and desires. The only thing that matters to them is what they want at that specific time. The key is to stop this behavior when it happens – right away.  Do not make excuses for and tolerate it.  

How many times have your children tugged at your clothing or verbally demanded your attention to tell you something while you were on the phone? The next time they do this tell them that you are having a conversation and that you will speak to them when it is over.  Be firm and polite.  And, be sure to actually speak with them about their inappropriate behavior and not go on to some other task.  When you do,  you can say something such as, “I was speaking with someone on the phone. Please do not interrupt me.  Save it until I am done. I would love to talk about it after I’m finished.” Let them know that their actions were selfish and why.  Catching them while they are doing the act is important to helping them stop it.  Talking with them about it helps them understand what they are doing wrong and why their behavior is wrong.

Children may not always comprehend why being “self-centered” is wrong. Today’s Bible verse is very helpful.  Philippians 2:3-4 says “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Prioritizing the needs of those around us above our own is important because God says it is. It brings out our best character, shows the people we interact with  that we care for and respect them, and most of all, it is pleasing unto God. Being self-centered completely contradicts His Word.

Show your children that their thoughts and feelings should not be the only ones that are heard and respected.  How are other children reacting to their selfish behavior?  For example, if your son has a friend over to play, but he is refusing to share his toys, stop him, take him out of the room, and talk to him about it.  Explain to him how his behavior is affecting his friend and making his friend feel.  Ask him what he can do to make his friend’s visit more pleasant.  When the discussion has finished, have him return to the room and observe his behavior to make sure that he is actually following through on different, kinder behavior.

When you observe your children being considerate of others and not being selfish, let them know that out loud to reinforce their positive behavior.  This is one of the most important ways to stop selfish behavior.  Take your time to describe the selfless act that was done and make it clear that everyone benefits when they act that way.

As parents, we want to be there for our children and provide for their needs.  It’s their constant wants and demands that we need to control so that they do not control us. 

Keep Your Children Active as Activity Works Out the Body and the Brain

The benefits of physical activity on the body are plentiful and well known. The more you move your body, the healthier you will be and the risk of weight related health issues – such as diabetes and heart disease - diminishes. For children, physical activity promotes healthy growth, improves fitness levels, and boosts self-esteem. Did you also know all the benefits exercise can have on a child’s mind?

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), students who are physically active actually had better grades, school performance, memories, and classroom behavior.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  recommends 60 minutes of physical exercise each day. Many parents mistakenly believe that if their children participate in physical activities, they will have less time for homework and other school assignments and be too tired to perform their best in school.  Importantly, however, the scientific research data does not support this way of thinking.

Physical activity has been a very helpful as well in improving the behavior of children with behavioral disorders.  In a study to determine whether an aerobic cybercycling  physical education curriculum could benefit children who had behavioral health disorders, the findings showed that this type of aerobic physical activity benefitted children significantly.   A cybercycle is a stationary bike - similar to the ones we see at the gym - with a screen to give the illusion of an outdoor environment.   Often children with these disorders are not encouraged to participate in exercising and thus, suffer greatly as a result.

There are so many benefits that come from living an active lifestyle.  Promoting healthy behaviors today guarantees a better life for your children in their future.

For more reading, CLICK HERE or CLICK HERE.

What to Do When Your Child Swears

Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].
— Ephesians 4:29 (AMP)

Children learn from what they see and hear around them, and while it can often be exciting to observe what they have learned, sometimes it can be frustrating or even embarrass and anger you.  Having said that, there is, unfortunately, going to be a day in your life as a parent when your child tells you about a new word he learned - a swear or curse word.  Or, you may hear your child use such a word when speaking with friends or siblings.  At first, you may be shocked to hear that word coming out of your child’s mouth (innocent as he or she may be). But, you must act quickly to counter this type of unacceptable speech.

First and foremost, be honest.  Did your child learn that curse word from you or your spouse?  Again, you cannot expect your children to do as they are told and totally ignore what their parents do.  Clean up your mouth before you enforce “no cursing” rules on your children.

It is critical that both parents agree that these types of words are not acceptable – period.  It will be very confusing for your child if you tell him that swearing is not acceptable speech but then your spouse laughs when he curses and things he’s cute by saying those type of words.   As with any other issue that involves raising children, parents must have a united front when dealing with cursing and decide together how violations of your parental rules will be dealt with.

It is imperative that, instead of getting upset with your child and yelling at him to not do it again, you speak to him about the meaning of the word and why he should avoid using it.  Let your child know that words like those are not pleasing to you or to God.  God wants us to use our voices to praise Him and uplift others, something we cannot do if it our mouths are cluttered with foul language.  Select and review with your child Bible verses such as Ephesians 4:29 that establish exactly what God wants to hear from us and why anything else is displeasing to Him.

It is also important to be willing to answer your child’s questions about curse words.  If your child feels that he can ask you anything without you getting angry and judging him, he will make you the first person he turns to when learning about something new, including words like these.

Assist your child to learn other words that are not curse words and to be able to select and use these words to best describe how he feels.  This will help him to develop word intelligence and self-control. For example, if your child is upset about what a sibling did, help your child to come up with words to express his feelings, rather than curse words.  Later on, when he is in the middle of an argument and angry, he should be able to tap into his extensive vocabulary to express himself without resorting to curse words.

Be prepared with a plan on how to deal with your child cursing.  It will happen one day, so it is better that you nip it in the bud right away rather than allow it to escalate into a difficult problem.

Teaching Biblical Financial Principles to Your Children

The concepts of handling money according to biblical principles are very important ones and parents often do not take the time to teach their children about them.  Proverbs 22:6 talks about training your child in the way he should go so that when he grows up, he will not depart from it.  Training your child also involves teaching these financial principles so that he can be a wise steward.  But, of course, you must know and follow these principles yourselves as parents.

In his online article entitled 10 Financial Principles That Are Biblical, author George Fooshee addresses principles that Christians need to know to properly manage their financial resources. Too many Christians are mired in debt and have become slaves to their out of control spending habits.  Knowing and then obeying God’s Word in regard to money management are critical to financial freedom.

The 10 financial principles are:

1. Understand that God is your source.  Philippians 4:19,  Proverbs 8:20-21, and 2 Cor. 9:8 all refer to God being our source - financial and otherwise.  The Christian walk involves putting our trust in Him to provide for our needs.

2. Tithing should be a regular part of our giving.  As Christians, we all understand that we should tithe.  Proverbs 3:9 instructs us to honor God with our first fruits.  But, do we really do it or do we make excuses and believe that God will understand why we have not tithed regularly?  God’s Word should be alive and something that we adhere to every day not just when we want to.

3. Prepare and plan.   Handling our money wisely involves preparation and planning. 

4. Save.

5. Keep out of debt.

6. Do not co-sign.

7. Keep records and set a budget.  From young, children should be taught how to budget. When giving an allowance to your children, for example, enforce the categories of “save”, “spend”, and “tithe” so they learn and put these concepts into practice.

8. Be content with what you have.  For example, if you know that you cannot afford a new vehicle at this time, do not shop for one.  Be content with what you have until you are truly able to afford a new or different one.

9. Work hard.

10. Seek Godly counsel.

As I have said many times before in my blogs, your children are observing what you do and listening to what you say every day.  Training or raising  successful children first starts with you as parents.   

To read more of this article, click here.

Raising Happy Children

We have all seen those faces: a child with an angry look – his face turned away from you, his lips pursed, his eyes glaring.  Perhaps the child did not get what he wanted.  Or, perhaps he woke up grouchy from a nap and saw no reason to change his demeanor or behavior and decided to take things out on you.  Children can be taught from a young age how to become happy and not remain in a negative mood.  According to Proverbs 15:13, a happy heart makes the face cheerful.

Helping your children develop happy hearts depends first and foremost on you having a happy heart yourself.  It is critical that as Christians, adults memorize scripture so that we lean on what the Bible has to say about our circumstances rather than on what the world throws at us.  The Word of God can be an extremely positive force in our lives if we speak and apply it. 

Try selecting various Bible verses that are easy for your children to memorize and write them on index cards or type them and hang them up throughout your house.  There are many websites that have lists of simple Bible verses so you can select one verse each week on which to focus.  Make it fun to memorize a verse and incorporate it in your everyday discussions.  The more you make the verses a part of their everyday lives, the more these verses will become a part of their thinking and behavior.   A quick reading of a verse will not do it.  It takes time and energy to change thoughts and behavior – it is not a one time, quick fix.

Also, have your children look at themselves in a mirror when they are happy and then when they are angry.  Help them to connect their facial expressions and outward physical behavior to their feelings.   Smiling is an indication of happiness and actually makes a person more attractive.  More people are drawn to smiling, friendly persons and the opposite is true as well.  Remember that your children typically will copy your behaviors.  Have you smiled at your children lately or have they seen you smiling?  You cannot expect your children to smile if you are not smiling at or with them!

Laughter is very important in maintaining a happy heart.  Children love to laugh – it’s part of their nature.  My sons enjoyed all kinds of silly jokes and riddles from when they were both small.  I bought joke books and cartoon books for them to read, to encourage laughter.  (Of course, that also encouraged reading.) They both have a wonderful, positive sense of humor today! Another way to make them laugh is spending time with them doing fun activities.  When was the last time that you played with and tickled your child?

These are some practical suggestions to raising happy children.  I encourage you to take the time to implement some so that you see more cheerful faces around your home!

Teaching Conflict Resolution to Your Children

Conflicts between children in a family are common and  parents should be prepared to handle them and be models of resolution skills.  Three words are important in dealing with sibling conflicts: talk, listen, and resolve.

First, parents should encourage their children to calm down and then talk about their problem.  An emotionally charged child will not be able to reason and react properly.  Helping your child to calm down allows a child to manage his emotions and then be able to begin the process toward resolving the dispute.  A child can do several things to calm down: walk away and return a few minutes later; count to 10 (or any number), slowly; or write down his emotions.

Once your children are calm, you can begin the process of talking to each of them.  You may choose to talk to them together or apart.  You will have to decide which way would achieve the best results. Encourage each child to tell his side of the story and how he felt and be honest while doing so. For example, helping your child to talk about his feelings is important: “I felt embarrassed when he called me a name in front of my friend so I hit him.”

While your child is talking, actively do step 2 which is listening to what is being said.  Do not prejudge until you have heard both sides.  If you are not sure what your child is trying to convey, repeat or rephrase his statements until you have grasped a full understanding.  This will take time and patience, but believe me, it is well worth it. 

The last step is helping your children to reach a resolution.  Several experts suggest having each child genuinely apologize for his role in the conflict and then suggest a solution.  Remember, it is best that they try to work things out between themselves and coming up with their own solutions helps them participate in the process rather than a parent imposing a resolution upon them.  Whatever solution they agree to, make sure that you monitor them so that the resolution is enforced. 

By helping your children to resolve conflicts among themselves, you are modeling and teaching them skills that they will be able to use all their lives, not only with family members, but also with everyone they come in contact with.  Let’s face it- conflicts arise frequently, so assist your children to learn how to quickly resolve them.

Reading Fairytales from Around Our World Benefits Children in Many Ways

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."  Albert Einstein

Growing up, I loved reading fairy tales from countries all over the world.   Some were funny, others were serious.  They all had a moral or specific lesson to teach.  As an adult, I still love to read them.  They are much more than short stories about people who get into all sorts of predicaments.  Their teaching value is immeasurable.

In an internet article entitled “7 Reasons Why Fairy Tales are the Best Books for Kids”, the author describes the many benefits that children can reap from reading these tales:

1.    They teach that no situation is hopeless.

2.    They teach that hard work and practice are the foundations for success.

3.    They teach children to be willing to explore and be open to new things.

4.     They teach self-reliance.

5.    They teach children to be careful about whom they trust.  This is especially appropriate in today’s society.

6.    They teach critical thinking.

7.    They teach right from wrong.

There are many websites that provide readers with dozens of stories from around the world, such as fairytalesoftheworld.com and storynory.com.  Spend some time searching for the ones that you believe would be best for your children and enjoy reading them together.  Create special moments laughing and discussing the lesson in each tale. 

The entire article on the benefits of reading fairy tales can be found by clicking here.

Encourage Your Child’s Creativity- It Shapes the Way He Views the World

One of my favorite quotes about encouraging curiosity in our children is by Dr. Bruce Perry in his online article “Curiosity: The Fuel of Development” on Scholastic.com: “Curiosity dimmed is a future denied.”  That sentiment holds so much truth.  Curiosity has led to innumerable world changing inventions and innovations, and stifling it not only does a disservice to the individual, but also potentially the world.

Dr. Perry is an internationally acclaimed authority on brain development and children.  In his online article, he discusses how important curiosity is in the development of a child.   As a child grows, he is more and more curious.  If he is encouraged to ask questions, explore, discover new things, and share his discoveries, he will grow in confidence and knowledge. 

Dr. Perry also discusses how we parents can hamper curiosity.  Three common ways are through fear, disapproval, and absence.  If a child is afraid, he will not be curious.  He will not want to take a chance and ask a question.  He will seek comfort with the status quo and conforming. 

If a child hears disapproval from his parents, he will not be curious.  What forms of disapproval are parents using?  Examples begin with the word “don’t”.  Don’t touch that; don’t get dirty; don’t ask questions! When your child knows that you are disgusted or upset when he does a particular thing, he will not want to do it or anything similar to it.  A child seeks approval from his parents and if his parents do not approve of him being inquisitive, he will not be.  Plain and simple!

A curious mind also needs a parent who is supporting and motivating.  A smile, kind words, a look of encouragement – all of these and much more encourage a child to continue asking and seeking. If a parent is absent, the nurturing that a child needs is not there.  

Encourage your children to seek, explore and discover.  Who knows – you may have a budding Einstein in your family!

To read more of the article, CLICK HERE.

At the Beginning of a New Year, Start a Children’s Book Club to Promote Reading

Book clubs are usually regarded as reserved only for parents.  A typical scene is adults gathered in the living room, sipping on a beverage, and talking about that exciting scene in their last read.  However, book clubs can be much more than that, especially for children.  These clubs give their members the opportunity to encourage each other in reading (and  all the benefits that come along with it); collectively immerse themselves into their book’s reality, leaving their own behind if only for a moment; and make new friends along with strengthen existing friendships.

Children already have such vivid imaginations and what better way to develop creativity than through books.  The idea of a club may not initially seem exciting to them, but gear your ‘pitch’ toward one of their favorite things.  For example, if they love robots, suggest some futuristic novels about artificial intelligence.

Filling the club with your children’s friends is a surefire way of making it more enjoyable.  There are several issues that need to be taken into consideration in planning, such as book genres to read and discuss, as well as convenient schedules and locations.  Be flexible as book clubs are not obligated to center around one theme.  At the start of a new club, have your children choose one or two books of their liking and then discuss with the other members of the group and their parents what types of books they would like to read.

Hosting the club once every two weeks or more makes scheduling easier and gives the children the opportunity to make reasonable headway on their reading assignment. Remember - it is unlikely that this is the club members’ only extramural activity, so discuss their existing schedules with their parents to come up with the best schedule and time for the meetings. When there actually are meetings, have a plan as to what should be accomplished in each session. They can discuss their favorite characters, make chapter/book predictions, relate the novel to an aspect of their lives, or act out their favorite scene.  The possibilities are endless!  Be prepared and organized so that the sessions run smoothly and children are encouraged to return.

It is critical that you find a good location for the meetings. Club meetings should be hosted in a convenient location and have enough space to seat everyone comfortably, including parents who may want to sit at a distance and listen. Perhaps rotating among members’ homes would be acceptable.

A further encouragement for your children’s participation would be having another “fun” activity planned afterwards that they can all look forward to.  For example, they can participate in the book club meeting and then go to the movies together. 

Reading is fundamental and book clubs can make it fun, too! You can find many of suggestions on PBS.org and SheKnows.com.

Fun Indoor Activities for the Winter Months

If you are reading this, that probably means you are recovering from all the outdoor fun that was discussed in last week’s article.  Even with all the fun you had in the cold outdoors, it feels nice to get inside in the warmth for a bit. Besides, the fun can continue indoors, as there are many great winter activities that can be done inside the house!  Here are a few:

1.    Scavenger Hunt. Hide objects around the house that your little ones can find.  Give them each the same number of items to find and put a time limit on the hunt.  Whoever comes back with all his items first, wins! For single child families, time your child while he searches for the items. When the time is up, have him come to you with any items he has retrieved.

2.    Make Snowflakes. We have all seen those snowflake decorations with the intricate designs on paper.  Have your children help you make some as all children love crafts!

There are hundreds of tutorials across several online platforms with step by step instructions for these and other winter decorations.  They do not have to be difficult either.

You will be amazed at the creations your children come up with. The whole family could get so occupied in all the fun you are having that the inside of the house ends up looking like the outside, covered in snow!

3.    Cook. This may not be a winter specific activity, but it is a great way to warm up and pass the time together. The best thing about this is that it gives the parents and children so many choices. You can choose a dish that takes 15 minutes to cook or one that takes a few hours.  It is all completely up to you. Children love helping out, so make these meal preparations fun and enjoyable for them.

What they do not know is that cooking also assists them with reading and comprehension skills.

If you want to give the experience that extra winter touch, you can make winter themed treats like snowman pancakes or gingerbread cookies. Delicious!

4.    Build a fort. There is nothing quite like the memory of building a fort to bring back the nostalgia of childhood for adults. Bring out your inner child and help build a fort big enough for the whole family. All you need is a large bed sheet, a few pieces of furniture to place it on, and some pillows to make it a little more comfortable to lay on the floor.

Try to remember that this is an activity for your children to take the lead on. It is easy to get caught up in the wistfulness of it all and take over. Try not to do that.

Once the fort is built, everyone can get in and tell stories, watch a movie, or simply relax and bask in each other’s company.

Not only are these activities wonderful fun for the family, but they also require lots of energy and you know what that means … sleepy kids!  After a day of fun, all your children will want to do is go through their bedtime routine and then sleep.

Fun Outdoor Activities for the Winter Months

Snow and cold temperatures have come again and do you know what that means? The entire family is inside, huddled around the fire waiting for the temperature to rise. Just because snow is covering the ground does not mean that fun cannot be had. Here are a few enjoyable and affordable outdoor activities in which the whole family can join this winter:

  1. Play Capture the Snow flag! If you are familiar with the original “capture the flag” game, you are going to have to unfamiliarize yourself because this is nothing like that. In this game, it is important to keep your eyes peeled because a white flag is to be tied to a wooden spoon and placed in the snow so that only the cloth is showing. Spotting a white cloth among a sea of snow is as difficult as it sounds and it is a fun way to enhance a child’s visual and recognition skills.

    Try to hide it well because whoever is able to hide his ‘flag’ for the longest period of time is the victor!
     
  2. Make ice bubbles! This one is pretty simple. Take an ordinary bottle of bubble solution and blow only hard enough that a bubble forms but does not leave the wand, then watch the magic happen. Watching the bubble freeze before a child’s eyes can be so exciting, and you can give him/her a little lesson about the freezing point of water in the process.

    To make this activity feel more like an experiment, look at the differences between bubbles formed by blowing with the mouth versus bubbles formed by waving the wand in the air.

    It is important to note, though, that this will only work in temperatures of 19-Fahrenheit and below.  Burr!!
     
  3. Make a winter bonfire.  Who ever said that s’mores were just for the summer has never had a winter bonfire.  The crisp, cold air matched with the warmth of the fire is a delightful combination.

    It is winter so outdoor camping is probably not an option right now.  Try instead to set up the fire in your backyard.  Ask your children (if old enough) to help you build the fire. You will not believe the sense of fulfillment they will feel having helped you out.

    You can even make this a big affair by inviting family and friends to participate. Bonfires often provide memorable bonding experiences, so why not share it with everyone you love?

There are so many amusing and inventive ways to enjoy being outside this winter.  You can also come up with your own ideas or use these and other activities that can be found online. So what are you waiting for? The outdoors is calling!

You can find more outdoor activities by CLICKING HERE.

Happy New Year, 2018!

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"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves."
Bill Vaughan

As you enter into the new year of 2018 and leave the old year behind, are you an optimist or a pessimist? As Christians, our hope is in God and we must be optimists!  Philippians 4:8 states: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (New Living Translation).

As we focus our thoughts on all that this verse says we should, we hold firm to the promise that all will be well with us, not because of who we are ourselves, but who we have our faith and confidence in. Our lives are not our own – we were bought with a price.  Have confidence that God continues to order our steps.  “I know, LORD, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.” Jeremiah 10:23 (New Living Translation).

I pray that you will receive your heart’s desires this year as you put Him first and foremost in your life.  Dream big and grow in faith because He is a God of big dreams!  Happy new year!

This Christmas - Allow God’s Light to Shine Through You in Everything You Do

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”
Matthew 5:14

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!  As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus, it’s important to remember that He was the light of this world.   When Jesus was born, the wise men saw His bright star and followed it from the east to find Him.  Matthew 2:2.  Then, when they were in Bethlehem, they continued to follow the star and it led them directly to the house were Jesus lived.  Matthew 2:9. God is light and as His children, He passed that light down to us.  God does not want us to hide the light He gave us - He wants it to shine brightly, as a star, in and through us. He wants us to display His light in ways that are pleasing unto Him.

Consider using your gifts to serve the Lord and shine brightly.  God has blessed each one of us with our own unique talents and abilities, but it is up to us to choose how we use them.  There is no better way to be a light to this world than to use your gifts to honor Him.  If your talent is singing, join a church choir or sing songs that give glory to the Lord.  If you are a writer, write creative and informative books or stories or other written works based on biblical themes, characters and histories. There is so much that you can do!

Being a light in the world also involves volunteering to assist those who are less fortunate, and I have written about that before.  1 Peter 4:10 states, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” Our gifts were bestowed upon us to be a blessing to others in the same way that God has blessed us.

Passing on His graces and mercies is the ultimate expression of His love for us and what He continues to do in and for us. God’s light is life and we should use the life He gave us to light up the world - as He intended it.  And, just as the wise men followed that bright star to find Jesus, others will follow us to Him.

Should My Children Have A Pet?

Parents are thinking about purchasing those ubiquitous Christmas gifts and often high on the list is a pet for their children.  Of course, children love the idea of owning a pet.  Who would not want small, fluffy (or scaly) creatures to show them unconditional love at all times? But pets can be much more than that.  In fact, studies have shown that pets can be catalysts for your children’s increased well-being.

Whether a dog, cat, lizard or bird, pets can provide their owners with countless benefits - especially children.  Here are a few great things that these wonderful creatures bring into our lives.

1.    They Teach Companionship. I think philosopher Martin Buber put it best when he said, "an animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language."  Though they do not speak the same language or have the same mannerisms that we do, our furry friends somehow understand us enough to show us love when we want it and comfort when we need it.

In addition, they teach responsibility. They show children that to love something also means to take care of it - to feed and nurture it. From a large dog to a small fish, taking care of pets requires a lot of work. Exposing children to caretaking at a young age develops many critical skills for the future.

2.    Bye-Bye Allergies! Studies have shown that children who grow up with cats and dogs are less like to be sick compared to other children their age, and they are also less likely to develop pet-related allergies. Being exposed to pet dander at an early age reduces their chances of developing these allergies by 33%, according to a study by pediatrician James E. Gern, as it strengthens their immune systems. Before you rush to get a pet though, talk with your pediatrician because it is still possible for your children to acquire allergies.

3.    They Promote Activity. Animals, like dogs, need to be taken out for walks everyday - sometimes more than once a day.  Doing a couple of laps around the neighborhood is nice, but you and your children can use this task as an opportunity to explore so much more and become increasingly active.  Walk to the dog park and meet new people; go hiking with your pet; or have a run on the beach.  Keeping active is essential for both children and adults.

4.    They Make Life a Little Brighter. There is just something about the company of a pet that makes most children and adults happy. It is said that when we interact with animals, our dopamine and serotonin levels increase. In other words, the happy hormones in our brains are released!

5.    They are Learning Companions! Parents oftentimes find their children doing homework with or reading to their pets.  This is because there is no judgement with pets.  The comfort that they provide creates a safe space for children when doing academic tasks (or any task they may not be confident in).

Above all these benefits, the best thing a pet has been known to provide is the strengthened bond between family members.  They bring out the spirits of love and cooperation in people.  So, if your children ever ask for a pet this Christmas, please keep these points in mind when making your decision. Hopefully, it ends in adding a new member to the family under the Christmas tree!

When Should Your Child Have a Smartphone?

When Should Child Have Cell Smart Phone Soraya Coffelt

With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, parents are busily looking for gifts for their children.  One such gift is a smartphone.  Parents, though, are often hesitant about purchasing cellphones for their children for a myriad of reasons, the most important being its negative effects on social skills.  While this is a genuine concern to have, smartphones can be great tools in assisting your children with the many challenges they may face.  Here are some suggestions to help you decide whether to purchase one, and if you do decide to purchase one, to determine what parameters should be established for its use:

1.    What age should your children be?  Generally, around the age of 14 is a good, practical age, but it all depends on the maturity levels of your children.  Are they responsible?  Cell phones are costly and children are prone to lose things.  Will your children abide by rules that you set for their use?

2.    How will it be purchased?  Many parents require that their children do chores at home to earn at least a portion of the purchase price of a cell phone. That builds in the child the importance of earning money and using money wisely.  If the cell phone device itself is a gift, consider having your child earn the money to pay for the monthly charges.

3.    What rules will be established for its use? The rules are completely up to you and what you, as the parent, determine is most important.  Use of the device during family times and meal times should be off limits, though.  Will you require a shut off time at night? If so, what hour? What about your free access to the phone to monitor goings on?  That should be made clear to your child from before the phone is purchased.

As with everything else, you cannot use the “do as I say, not as I do” method. Children learn best from observing their parents and if they see you contradicting yourself, it will only confuse them and cause them to rebel. If you tell them to put their phones away during meals, but you are busy calling and texting during dinner times, there will be problems.  

4.    What type of services or apps should be on a cellphone? You will need to monitor your children’s cell phones closely to ensure that they do not download any unacceptable apps.  In fact, one rule of use should be that they do not download anything without your knowledge and permission.  Be vigilant in monitoring their phones as there are a huge variety of apps out there.

One highly recommended service for a cell phone is called location services. It is very helpful because you can keep track of your children’s locations.  There are various apps that provide these services at the app store, but parents can include family locator services in their cell phone plan (usually for an additional price) as well. The already embedded GPS in cellphones is very beneficial in the event that your children are at unfamiliar areas and need to find their way to a specific destination or back home.

Getting their first cell phone can be an exciting time for your children.  Parents should, however, spend time preparing and planning for one.