Tweak Family Recipes to Make Them Healthier

Many of us have family recipes from grandparents, uncles, aunts or other relatives that have become family traditions.  Unfortunately, most are filled with unhealthy ingredients – lots of oil, butter or sugar, just to name a few.  Preserving these recipes are, nevertheless, important for us as part of our family heritage.  I have written before about having children assist with cooking meals to encourage more family bonding time and as well as for them to read more as they learn to follow written recipes.  Today, I would like to discuss teaching your children healthier options for recipes as part of your family cooking experiences.

On his website, Dr. Joseph Galati, founder of Your Health First Education, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to provide education and support to the public about nutrition, has an article Tweaking Grandma’s Recipes: Healthy Substitutes, which has many suggestions for substitutions.  For butter, oil and margarine in recipes that involve baking, he recommends using applesauce or mashed fruit. For frying, grilling or sautéing, he recommends substituting one-half with olive oil or coconut oil.  For regular sugar, try substituting one-half with locally sourced honey.  For brown sugar, he suggests adding 1 tablespoon of maple syrup to the honey.  For mayonnaise in recipes, substitute plain yogurt.  On a sandwich, try pesto or drizzles of olive oil.  Dr. Galati has many more recommendations and I encourage you to read his entire article.

Traditional family meals bring families together to continue bonding and building life-long friendships.  Substituting more healthy ingredients will keep these traditions alive and be teachable moments for your children.  

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Start the New Year with a Resolution to Exercise Together as a Family

A common new year’s resolution for adults is beginning a regular exercise routine or increasing the amount of weekly exercise.  At the beginning of this new year of 2019, please consider exercising together as a family.  Not only will this promote a healthier family lifestyle, but it will also build many fond memories.

I know that you may think that finding time for just you to exercise is difficult, but including your children in exercise routines can be much easier than you may initially think.   There are many articles online about adults and children exercising together.   Some of these articles are listed at the end of this blog post to help you.  What is important is planning.

What would you like to do for physical activity and exercise?  Prepare a routine for different days of the week and seek your children’s input.   Some exercises can be done inside at your home or gym, while others, outside, depending on the weather.  Also, some family exercise activities will require spending money, such as buying bikes or special sports equipment, while others will simply require you and your children to put on sneakers, pack some water, and walk out your front door.  It’s up to you to decide what you would like to do. 

One online article has excellent tips on family walks and how to prevent children from complaining and whining.   The key is to plan out your walk and make sure that you take time to enjoy what is happening around you, especially in nature, and talking with your children.

If biking together is what you would like to do, plan out the route to take from your home and back.  Many communities have bike paths to encourage biking fun.   Be creative.  On a weekend or holiday, add a picnic in the park too. 

The list of family exercise activities is long.  Your children will love spending time with you and you will enjoy spending time with them.  And, everyone is developing an important habit of exercising.  To me, that is a win-win scenario for everyone!

Here are some websites that provide a wealth of information to help you with this new year’s resolution:

Encourage Your Children to Read More by Building a Fort

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays will soon be here and our children will have many days off from school.  I often like to think about creative ways for parents to encourage their children to read and develop active readers from a young age.  Why not consider building a fort in a child’s room or family room as a unique, cozy, private place to read?

In building a makeshift fort, let your children take the lead in researching what types of forts can be built, planning what is needed, and actually building it.  After all, it’s “their” fort.  I recommend starting out by searching the internet for pictures, articles and ideas.  There are also many books that give step by step instructions on building all types of forts. 

A fort can be simple and just made with a few chairs for walls and a blanket thrown across the chairs for the roof.  Or, it can be more elaborate.  What is important is that everyone participates in the decision as to what it will look like.   Be sure to make it big enough so that you can join your children in the fort.  A fun activity is reading to them inside the fort!

This project will definitely be one for the memory books!  And, importantly, you and your children will have a fun time bonding.

Teaching Your Children to Genuinely Apologize

To “apologize” can be viewed as a sign of weakness.  Often, a child will say “Me apologize! No way!”  Children from a young age think that they can do no wrong and will refuse to admit a mistake.  That’s where our parenting skills come in handy.  We should consider helping our children to understand what an apology is and how to be truly sorry for a wrong.  This is an important part their development and maturity.

In talking to your children about apologizing, please do not yell at them or make them feel embarrassed, fearful or ashamed.  It takes calm heads to address what has happened and that calm head should come from you as a parent.  Experts suggest that a parent wait until the child has calmed down and then talk to them about what has happened.

Talking it out is critical.  Ask questions as to why your child acted in a certain way.  Did he feel jealous?  Did he feel left out or excluded?  As you are trying to find out why your child acted as he did, your child is also thinking about his actions. 

An important part of the discussion should be the other child’s feelings and what could have been done differently.  Ask your child how she would feel if the other child did the same thing to her.   What could she have done to avoid the situation or to prevent the situation from escalating?

Once these topics have been discussed, then you can move on to the apology.   Experts agree that a genuine apology includes understanding that the other person’s feelings should be accepted over your own and that remorse should be shown.  In an online article on the website Today’s Parent entitled Here’s What Works Way Better Than Forcing Your Kid To Say Sorry, a former elementary school teacher states that she focuses on three parts of the apology to guide students: “I’m sorry for this … this is wrong because … and in the future I will ….”   I think this is wonderful advice because it covers all aspects of an apology. 

To read the entire article, please visit the website by clicking here.

The Importance of the Extended Family in Your Children’s Lives

With very busy lives, parents often think about spending time with their children rather than incorporating the extended family into leisure time too.  However, extended families have tremendous impact on children’s well-being. 

In an online article for the American College of Pediatricians, the many positive benefits of the extended family on children are extolled. Here a few:

1.    Children learn life stories and lessons from older family members.

2.    Parents and children have extra support when the time comes, because the time will indeed come.

3.    Exposing children to different beliefs and ideas from others will help them expand their understanding and knowledge and not just rely on their parents.

4.    Family health history is known and shared.  

The article ends with this statement which I believe is so important:

When kids can go with members of their extended family and be loved and cherished, and then come home to more people who love them, they are more connected to the love and goodness in humanity and better able to live positive and productive lives. 

So this weekend, set out some extra chairs for members of the extended family and have them to your home for special times.  Your children will grow to love and appreciate these times.

To read the entire article, click here.

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. 

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Why Parents’ Date Night Matters to Your Family

Ephesians 5:33Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (ESV)

Ephesians 5:28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (ESV)

When was the last time that you and your spouse had a specific day set aside just for the two of you or what we have come to know as “date night”?  Parents are so busy with their work, raising children, and participating in extracurricular activities that often, they do not consider their relationship as something to cherish and nurture.  The Bible admonishes a husband to love his wife as his own body, and for a wife to respect and love her husband.   How can a husband and wife do that if they do not spend quality time alone together.

Many spouses believe that setting aside time for each other is too difficult.  Quite the contrary - especially if you set your mind to it.  Begin by making sure that both parties agree on the day and time ahead of time.  Don’t wait until the last minute and then suggest a “date night” because it will be doomed to failure.  Importantly, “date night” does not need to actually take place at night.  For example, it can take place one week on a weekday for dinner at 7 p.m.  During the next week, it can be a picnic lunch, and a stroll in the park another week, and visiting an art show another week.   Plan a variety of things to do, rather than just the same thing on each date, so that there is not monotony and boredom.  You both should plan to make this time special for each other.

There can be date nights at home too.  Be creative.  Plan on putting the children to bed early and have a special night with your spouse.  The critical issue is that the “date night” is planned and set aside.  Guard and protect this time from any outside interference, such as texts or phone calls from your children.  Time together with your spouse is vital for the well-being of the entire family.

For more “date night” ideas, visit this webpage.

Teaching Kindness and Compassion To Our Children

Galatians 5:22-23 lists kindness as one of the fruits of the Spirit that we should develop.   In this fast paced world and with all the negative information on television and the internet, it is even more important that we cultivate kindness and compassion in our children.

What are kind acts?  Jesus modeled kindness through such acts as healing the blind and eating with sinners. There are those acts that you can do in your neighborhood or community and those that you can do at home.  One of the acts of kindness that I have done over the years is to help feed homeless persons, not only during the holidays, but also during other times of the year.  Even when I travel, I try to spend time volunteering in some service capacity.

Once I was on a trip to attend a conference in a certain city and arranged for dinner with a friend who lived in that city.  After he picked me up and we were driving to the restaurant, I expressed my concern about how many homeless people were in his city as I felt there were many more as compared to other places I had visited.  My friend commented that I was the only person he knew who actually noticed homeless persons.  I was shocked by his statement.  

Parents can cultivate kindness by having their children volunteer to participate in many activities in their community.  Cleanups in specific areas of town, mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor, babysitting for a single parent – these are all acts of kindness and compassion.

At home, parents are role models as children imitate them.  Parents should not expect their children to be kind if they are not.  Acts of kindness and words of kindness should be a regular part of a family’s daily ritual.  These include helping carry in bags of groceries; thanking each other for a thoughtful word or gesture; and assisting with a chore or a task.   

As the poem in today’s blog states, kindness and compassion never fail, whether in our communities or in our homes.  It is up to parents to nurture and develop those attributes in their children.

Sibling Conflict- What To Do If Your Family Has Fallen Victim To It

My sons are adults now but I still look back on those days when they were growing up together and often have to laugh at some of the things they did.  Yes, there was a lot of sibling conflict.  I remember one incident when they both wanted to sit in the front passenger seat of the car, so they raced each other to the car.  One of them got in first and tried to lock the doors with the automatic lock but couldn’t in time.  The other, in turn, tried to keep the door open at the same time as taking control of the automatic lock.  Needless to say, the back and forth between them and the lock caused all the locks in the car to stop working!

Sibling rivalry!  Just what can we do about it?  Based on my research and personal experiences, there are many things that parents can do.  First, encourage your children to be friends, not competitors.  I think that this is harder to do if you have children of the same gender as they often want to outdo each other, especially boys.  Suggest acts of kindness and helpfulness that they can do for each other.  Talk to them about your personal relationships with your siblings and how it is important for your children to have close relationships too.

Also, help each child to develop his/her unique gifts and talents.  Each child is exceptional and your child’s special abilities should be supported.  For my sons, my older son is an athlete and my youngest son has artistic talents, including music and drawing.  We spent some of our time at athletic events, and other time at music lessons.

Some other clever suggestions are: have the older sibling who is arguing pay to the younger sibling $1; if they tell different versions of an argument, have them stay in a room until they come up with the true version; or have them go to separate corners of a room and yell out “I love you” back and forth 20 times as this will get the anger out of them and focus on their relationship as siblings. 

 

Are You and Your Children Regularly Attending Church on Sundays?

The title for this week’s blog may surprise you.  Why would I ask if you and your children attend church regularly on Sundays?  Based on recent studies, there are declining numbers in church attendance, and many point to busy family schedules, including children’s sports on Sunday mornings, as the main reason.   Many people would like to take Sunday as a day off, due to their very busy schedule during the week days and even on Saturdays.  Sleeping in, relaxing, watching television, playing computer games – all these sound very appealing for a Sunday.

There are many benefits to regularly attending church as a family.  In her online article entitled 5 Benefits for Attending Church, writer Megan Gladwell gives a good listing:

  1. Church anchors us.  All day long we face bombardment from the outside world, so much so that we can lose our spiritual perspective: advertisements, social media, demands on our time, and other external forces.  By attending church, especially as a family, we develop closer bonds with each other and God and learn morals and standards by which to live. 
  2. We receive spiritual strength.  Nothing can substitute for what happens in church.  There is singing and praising God, a sermon to listen to, and many other activities that bring you closer to God.  It sets the tone for you spiritually for the rest of the week.
  3. Church provides much needed fellowship.  Often, churches have various groups that meet during the week.  There are functions to attend.  When you need a helping hand, a church member is usually there to assist.
  4. Church presents opportunities to serve.  Our communities have so many needs, and churches help fill those needs.  Families volunteer to provide assistance to others, exhibiting the love that Jesus wants us to show to our fellow man.  Children learn to serve others and be givers rather than just receivers.
  5. We get to know God on a personal level.  This should actually be the number 1 reason to attend church regularly. 

You can read her entire article by clicking here.

I have always been a regular church attender.  As a young mother, I remember a funny incident involving my oldest son who was about 7 years old at the time and wanted to stay home from church one Sunday morning.  He wriggled on the floor over to my side of the bed, moaning and groaning, and told me that he was having such a severe stomach ache that he couldn’t attend church.  I could instinctively tell that this was not true.   I firmly told him that God expected us to be in church every Sunday and would not accept that excuse.  Of course, he complained for a short while.  I made him breakfast, which he ate, and within minutes, he was up and about playing with his toys and then getting dressed to go to church.  He never made an excuse again.   I often wonder what would have happened if I had accepted his excuse.  What would have been the excuse he made up for the next Sunday and the Sunday after that?

This coming Sunday, make a vow to attend church regularly as a family.  The benefits will never end.

Helping Your Children To Make New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the beginning of a brand-new year and I’m sure that many of you have already sat down and written a list of resolutions to start off the year right.  Some parents think that new year’s resolutions are just for them as adults.  However, parents can help their children make changes and improvements in their behaviors and habits by encouraging and helping their children to make new year’s resolutions too.

In her online article 8 Ways to Help Kids Make New Year’s Resolutions, author Wendy Schuman gives some good advice.  First, she encourages parents to be role models for their children in making and following through with resolutions.   For example, if eating healthy is at the top of your list as a parent, make sure that you do your best to purchase healthy food and eat it.  Include your children in making healthy food choices and planning healthy meals.  And, ensure that there are plenty of nutritious snacks around, as we all know that kids love to snack.

Second, have your child write a short list of resolutions of just 2 or 3.  Ask your child: “What is the most important improvements that he would like to make?”  A long list can lead to frustrations when your child does not achieve every single item listed.

Third, be positive.  Don’t look for every time that your child has not followed through on a resolution and nag about it.  A nagging or criticizing parent can cause a child to develop a lack of self-confidence.  Instead, if your child does not follow through, try to remind him of the many successes that he has had in the past.  Encourage him to not give up and continue toward making the resolution a reality.  Each day is a new day and your child can always begin again.

Fourth, develop a family ritual around resolutions.  Get together as a family and share each person’s resolutions.  Make them meaningful. Be kind and loving to each other rather than critical and judgmental.   This is the beginning of a fresh new year that God has blessed you and your family with.

To read her entire article, CLICK HERE.

 

Allowing Our Children to Face the Consequences

As parents, many of us do not want to see our children suffer for their mistakes or negative conduct.  We love them so much that all we want to do is protect them.  A very important parenting tool, however, is that we allow our children to face discomfort and consequences from their actions so that they can learn that their decisions and actions have ramifications in their lives.

As Christian parents, we should have rules for our children to follow.  Have your family write up some rules for everyone to follow.  If and when they violate the rules, natural consequences must follow.  These consequences can be creative ones.  In her online article Creative Consequences for Kids, author Kim Sorgius shares some of her suggestions.  She writes that first, rules at home should be simple and not give a child any wiggle room.  As an example, she requires that her children clean their room.  Once she comes to check, if she finds anything out of order or not put away, she takes the item for a period of time, such as a week.  If the problem continues, she may give the item away to charity.

Another example is when her child is too loud or whinny or saying mean things.   The consequence for that negative behavior is that the child cannot speak for a while.  This especially works well, she writes, when children are driving with you in the car.

After her article, Ms. Sorgius shares comments that other moms have written about what they do for consequences.  One mom wrote: “If you don’t eat what mama cooks you’re gonna be hungry.” How long do you think it will take your child to figure out that he had better eat what his mother or father cooks or he will go hungry?

Be sure to plan out consequences when you are not angry.  Be creative.  Your children will break rules, so expect it and help them learn how to develop character and discipline.  

Read her entire article by CLICKING HERE.