How to Talk to Your Children About Immigration & What is Happening at the US Borders

The news media has been replete with stories of the sad situation with immigrant families at the US borders, especially what has been happening with children.  One very sad recent story was about a father and daughter who drowned while attempting to cross over the Rio Grande River from Mexico to Texas.  It is very difficult for children to comprehend tragic news and the controversial situation with immigrants does not appear to have any resolution soon.  As a parent, you have a responsibility to assist your children to understand what is happening as well as to make sure that they are getting information from reliable sources and not “fake news”.

There are many articles on the internet with advice to help parents.  Of course, the recommendations center on talking with your children based on what is age appropriate for each of them.  One expert suggests that parents should start with discussions of family history – where did various members of your family come from?  How did they get to the U.S.? Why did they leave the countries they were from?  I think this is a wonderful suggestion as it helps children to understand how their own family members were involved with immigration.

Reading and discussing books about the history of immigration in the U.S. and the struggles that individuals have gone through are also good ways to learn about what has happened in our nation’s history and what is happening now.  In the links below, books for children of all ages about immigration are suggested.

Raising compassionate and intelligent children requires that they be informed as best as possible about what is happening with immigration in our country.  They will likely hear the news from someone else, so as a parent, talking with them and helping them to understand the issues involved is critical.

For more information, please visit these websites.  Please also note that although I have these websites listed, I do not agree with everything they say, but they are, nevertheless, good sources of information.

Children and Friendship Drama – Should Parents Get Involved?

It’s back-to-school time with children returning to school.  There will be old friends for them to laugh and talk with and new friendships to build.  Of course, there will be times when there are squabbles.  What do you as a parent do when your child comes to you with a complaint?  You likely remember the times when you were a child and what happened to you.  Perhaps you have upsetting memories of quarrels that you do not want your child to experience.  Some expert advice can help you now that you are a parent to handle these squabbles.

Many experts agree that instead of going immediately to the other child’s parents to lodge a complaint, there are several other actions that you can take.   First, listen to what your child has to say.  Ask questions.  Be empathetic to what your child has experienced. Try to get the full account of what happened.

Second, encourage your child to standup for herself.  After finding out what happened, ask your child “Did you stand up for yourself?”  This does not involve your child saying anything that is rude or derogatory but does involve her not putting up with someone else’s bad behavior.  Try role-playing with your child so that she can learn how to react and respond differently in the future.  You should not be the one fighting your children’s battles for them unless it is necessary.

Third, help your children learn the differences between healthy and unhealthy friendships.  Ture friendships are built on trust and respect.  When a “friend” crosses the line, your child should know what to do. 

Fourth and perhaps most important, be there for your children to talk to.  Let them know that you are always available to talk and help them understand what has happened and not be judgmental.

For more information, please visit these websites below:

Help Your Children Build Their Social Skills

It’s summer and your children should be out meeting new people and working on their social skills.  What can parents do to encourage their children to become more social?  Telling them “Go out and make friends” just doesn’t do it.

I recently came across an article entitled Social Skills Activities for Children and Teens: Evidence-based Games and Exercises by Gwen Dewar Ph. D. at the website below which contains 17 social activities for children that all derive from research.  Dr. Dewar states that “to develop and grow, kids need first-hand experience with turn-taking, self-regulation, teamwork, and perspective-taking.”  She presents many wonderful ideas for activities for your children, from toddlers to teenagers. What I like so much about this article is the amount of research that she references to support the suggested activities.

One of the interesting activities is to help children learn how to read facial expressions better.  People who read expressions well have been found to be more helpful towards others.  Dr. Dewar provides a separate link to another online article on facial expressions and that article delves more deeply into why having children learn to read facial expressions is important in developing their social skills.  There is quite a bit to learn!

Another interesting activity (remember that there are 17 in all!) is to have children read a story with emotional content and then ask the children to talk about it.  Dr. Dewar concludes as follows based on the research: “When kids participate in group conversations about emotion, they reflect on their own experiences, and learn about individual differences in the way people react to the world. And that understanding helps kids develop their ‘mind-reading’ abilities.”  At the same time, children learn about their emotions and the emotions of others.

I suggest that you read the entire article and then select an activity to do as your and your children’s schedules permit.  There is a lot that they can learn and have a fun time as well.  

For more information, please CLICK HERE.

When Was the Last Time That You Took Your Child to Work?

Keeping your children’s brains continually active during the summer vacation months is a challenge.  I will continue to provide a number of ways for you to do so in my blog posts.  In this week’s blog post, I suggest considering setting aside a day to bring your children to work with you to see and learn about what you do for your profession.  There is a national day set aside for bringing your children to work during the month of April, but I think that summertime may be a good time as well to have them visit.  Be sure to speak with your employer first and get the visit approved.  And, importantly, plan for what they will be doing.

There are some excellent ideas at the website below that you can use.   You will need to plan for and cater to children of different ages.  Please remember that this is not a free-for-all to have your children running around the office or having co-workers babysit for you.  This is a teachable time for your children. You can plan for a half-day or full-day visit and include other parents who may be interested as well.

You should also consider having your children visit the workplace of a close friend or relative.  That way, they will learn about a variety of professions.

Be sure to talk with them at the end of the day about what they have learned.  Ask them questions and listen to their answers.  Take the time to help them understand what your profession is all about.  They are growing and learning and need your assistance.

For more ideas, please CLICK HERE.

Make Sure Your Children Participate in Vacation Bible School This Summer

Churches have developed wonderful programs for children during the summer that have become known as vacation bible schools or VBSs.  Some programs last one week, others up to one month.  They are excellent programs for your children to learn more about the Word of God, develop friendships, and have a lot of fun.

There are many professional companies that produce annual vacation bible school programs, from teaching materials for teachers, to music videos, song CDs, skits, and bible verse memory cards.  Each program differs but they usually follow a format.  There is typically one simple theme and bible verses are selected that support the theme.  For example, a company has as one of its themes this year “Life is Wild – God is Good” with a jungle motif.   Another theme is “Athens – Paul’s Dangerous Journey to Share the Truth” with a Greek motif.

The creativity of these programs is amazing.  The appeal to children exceptional.  No longer do church leaders have to be concerned about creating their own study material and music, as everything is prepared and provided for them to lead a successful vacation bible school.

Importantly, vacation bible school is not a babysitting service.  As a lay children’s minister who volunteered as a leader for many VBSs, I was saddened to see that often parents thought of it as that.   It is instead a wonderful learning program where children thoroughly enjoy themselves. 

If your church sponsors a VBS, please enroll your children in it.  If not, research other churches in your community that do.  Your children will truly be blessed by participating!

Getting Your Children Involved with Nature

Summer is the perfect time to get your children outdoors and involved with nature - luring them away from mobile devices, computers, and television screens.  In an excellent online article for The Washington Post, 10 Ways to Get Your Kids Out in Nature, and Why It Matters, author Lauren Knight explains why your children’s physical and psychological well-being will benefit in a myriad of ways by exploring nature.

It all starts with the parents, Ms. Knight writes.  If parents are enthusiastic and curious about nature, their children will be too.   Ms. Knight recommends to just “sit and observe” at a specific area.  Don’t have busy distractions.  I typically encourage in my blogs for parents to ask questions and not simply give children answers.  Help your children look at different aspects of nature, ask questions, and search for the answers themselves. 

Try an outing at a planetarium and then lay out on the open grass and gaze at the stars at night.  By first visiting the planetarium, you will get more information about the constellations and what to look for.  When gazing up at the stars at night, your child will have a better understanding and truly get to enjoy and appreciate such spectacular beauties.

Planting a garden is another way to enjoy nature.  From planting seeds to eating the crops, children can have a lot of fun.  Have your children assist in purchasing all the items you will need for the garden as well as planting and watering.  They will learn much more by doing than just watching.

There are many books that she recommends for children that involve nature.  Visit the website link below and see the list of books.  There are some for young children as well as older children.

Find out what outdoor activities are available in your community.  Summer is an especially good time for children to be outside and enjoying themselves. 

Please read the entire article by CLICKING HERE.

Should You Take Your Child’s Friend on Vacation?

The summer months are quickly approaching.  What are your family’s summer vacation plans?  Often, parents with an only child consider bringing along their child’s friend.  Please don’t make this decision in haste or just because your child begs you to.  There is a lot to consider and here are a few helpful suggestions.

Who will pay the costs?  This is a very important issue that needs to be addressed with the other parents.  Gather all your information first – such as transportation costs, hotel costs, approximate cost for food, costs for renting equipment (such as swim or snorkel gear), costs for admission to various theme parks and movie theaters, etc.   You might initially think that there would not be much extra cost, but once you sit down and plan it out, the high cost may surprise you.  In the end, you may just decide to bear the entire cost for the friend to make this a more enjoyable vacation for your child. 

What will you do for discipline? Since your form of discipline for your child may not be what the other parents approve of, this is also a critical topic to discuss.  There should be clear guidelines established beforehand.  But, even prior to your discussions with them, how well do you know the child?  Is the child one who is well-behaved and respectful when in your company?  Is this friendship one that you as a parent would like to encourage?  As Christians, we should always be mindful of who our children are friends with and who can influence them.  1 Corinthians 15:33 states “Bad company ruins good morals.” (ESV).

What will you do in the event medical care is needed? Again, this needs to be planned out.  In the event of a medical emergency, you will need to have the authority to obtain and provide medical care for this child.  Make sure you have the legal authority to do so.   Often, a copy of the child’s health insurance card and a letter from the parents is enough. 

When I was growing up, I went on many trips with my best friend as she was an only child.  We all had a lot of fun, parents included.  But, that all stemmed from them knowing me and my parents well, as well as me knowing them well.  I felt comfortable being with them and was not a discipline problem.  It all worked out wonderfully! 

Encourage Your Children to be Good Sports and Humble Winners

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself.

                                                                                                Philippians 2:3

I’m a big promoter of children participating in sport activities as there are so many benefits for them.  And, I’m a mother of an athlete: my oldest son played many different sports, including basketball on his high school team and on a Division 1 college team.  Sports, of course, are competitive and typically there will be a winning team and a losing team.  How your children respond is important – whether they are part of the winners or losers.

Children’s attitudes toward sports and winning come, in most part, from their parents.  When you are watching a game on television, what do you say about the competing teams and their players? When you watch your children play a sport, what do you say about the same things?  As a mother who attended her son’s games, I can attest to the fact that many parents are at the sidelines saying  encouraging words to  their children and fellow team members but others make very derogatory statements.  Some verbally attack the referees, calling them all sorts of names, while some criticize the opposing team’s members as well as their parents.  I live in a small community so allegations can run rampant of referees being biased because they have favorite players or teams. 

Be mindful of what you say to your children about their performances and what happened during a game.  Encourage them to analyze what they did to play well and how they can improve their skills.  Discuss how their team can do better as well as what the opposing team did well and vice versa.  Be respectful to them, their teammates, opposing team members, coaches, and referees.  If coaches do not have team members shake the opposing team members’ hands after a game, have your children do that.  It represents respect for the sport as well as the persons who played.

There has been a recent trend to have all children participating in a sports competition be designated as “winners”.  I understand the reasoning behind this, but do not believe that it teaches children about reality.   In life, there will always be winners and losers.  How your children react when being in each group is an important part of their development.

Good sportsmanship must be valued and taught.It is an integral part of being a godly, respectful person.

Detecting Reading Problems in Your Children

In my blog, I write frequently about the importance of children reading from a very early age.  My mother taught me to read from a very early age.  When I was just 3 years old, I could read basic words.  When I was 4 years old, I was more advanced in reading than children in first grade.  My mother begged the administration of a small private school to admit me and after they tested me, they agreed and enrolled me into first grade.  But, what happens if you notice that your child is not learning to read as you had hoped?  What should you do?

In an excellent online article, author Melissa Taylor writes about 7 Early Signs Your Child May Have A Reading Issue.  This article is very helpful and I will briefly discuss some of the points she raises.  She stresses to have your child taken to a specialist as early diagnosis of any issues is critical to your child’s development.  Here are the 7 signs:

1.    Your child does not remember basic letter sounds, such as /a/ as in apple.

2.    Your child confuses letters that look-alike, such as “d” and “p”.  It is common for a young child to do this but as the child grows older, this confusion should not continue.

3.    Your child has a problem rhyming simple, basic words such as “mat” and “cat”.

4.    Your child does not remember easy sight words such as “a”, “her”, “to”, etc.

5.    You child does not pronounce the ending of some words, such as “-ing” or –“ed”.

6.    Your child has a poor memory and does not remember a recent book that was read.

7.    Your child misspells the same word throughout a document.  For example, she may write the word “because” in one paragraph and spell it correctly, but later in the same document, she misspells it as “beacuz” or “bekus”.

Other experts refer to your child’s vision as a possible issue.  Consider taking your child to see a physician to get his sight tested.

It’s important to not just sit back and believe your child will “grow out” of a reading problem.   Speak with her teachers and physician and seek assistance.  When there is early detection of a challenge and assistance given to help your child overcome that challenge, your child will definitely thank you.

Ms. Taylor has links to other websites in her article to further help you.  You can read her entire article by clicking here.

Holiday Advertising Aimed at Our Children

I write frequently about helping our children to overcome the negative pressures that often surround them and try to impact them.  Christmas is a few weeks away and advertisers have been doggedly aiming advertisements at our children since at least October.  Here are some suggestions as to how to help your children maneuver around this bombardment, especially during the holiday season:

1.    Use this time as teachable moments.  We as parents will never be able to stop advertisers from advertising, but we can help our children understand what is happening through advertisements.  Oftentimes, we do not think about an item until we see an advertisement.  Then, we can get the feeling as if we cannot live without it!  Advertising is very powerful, so talk with your children about it and the purpose behind it – us spending our money!

2.    Teach your child to be a smart shopper.  Just because you see an advertisement of a particular product does not, in turn, mean that it is the specific product that you must purchase.  If your child does need a particular item or if you would like to buy an item despite of need, make plans about it.  For example, if you would like to purchase a small electronic notebook for your child, discuss it with her.  Research together the different brands and models available.  Compare prices, warranties and ratings.  Impulse shopping can become addictive so teaching your child to be a smart shopper from a young age will help her to grow into a disciplined shopper.

3.    For Christians, Christmas is the season for giving, as God gave His only son to us.  Stress that with your children.  Plan how as a family and individually you and your children can give to others in need.  What community organization needs your help?  Consider volunteering to help others as a family activity and something that you will do throughout the year.

To read more about this subject, please CLICK HERE.

Talking to your Children About Drugs and Alcohol

Have you spoken with your children about drugs and alcohol?  Many parents hesitate about broaching these subjects with their children, but you must.  Schools are supposed to provide drug and alcohol education as well, but as a parent, I always believed it was better for my children to hear about those subjects from me and my husband rather than someone else as we were also teaching about our Christian beliefs and values in the process.

Focus on the Family has an excellent series of articles online about talking with your children about drugs and alcohol.  It starts with a parent taking opportunities to talk whenever you can, as you cannot wait for the perfect moment.  Look for teachable moments when your children are with you, undistracted.  Remember that it is never too early to start talking about these issues.  Of course, if your children are young, you will want to taper what you say to their age range.  Ask questions.  Inquire as to what they already have heard about the subjects. 

Never tell your children a lie.  The author of the online series of articles mentions a girl in his class who said that her mother told her that if she smoked marijuana, her hair would fall out.  The girl knew other students who smoked but still had hair. Of course, she now did not believe her mother.   Would she believe her mother on other subjects?  That is a very good question.

There is a lot of misinformation out there, so it is up to you to know the subjects and be ready to give good counseling.  Ask your children’s teachers and school nurse for recommendations as to how you can prepare yourself and what literature there is to support what you say.   Your children will more likely listen to you if what you are saying to them comports with what they can find out online or at their school.  Give them literature so they can read for themselves as well.

To read the full series of articles, click here.

When Was the Last Time Your Family Had A Game Night?

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Children love spending time with their parents, especially fun time.  What better way than to have a family game night to enjoy the time together and help your children to learn and develop new skills?

Games teach children many different, yet important things.  From colors to shape recognition to new words to social interaction, there are so many benefits.  Some games such as chess teach logic and strategic planning.  Children also learn that there are basic rules that must be followed in order to play and win. 

To start off, select one night a month that fits into everyone’s schedules.  Once the date is selected, stick with it and do not make excuses to cancel it.  Plan for the night as a family so that each person has input.  Will there be food? What game will be played? How long will the game(s) last?  It is easy to search the internet to find games that will be suitable for your family.  Consider both board games and physical games such as Twister (which was one of our family’s favorites). 

Be sure not to give up if the first family night is not as successful as you hoped.  The key is to plan and keep everyone involved.  It will become one of your and your children’s fondest memories.

Helping Your Children Become Entrepreneurs

We should encourage entrepreneurship spirit in our children beginning at a young age.  Children are very creative and having a dream to establish a business and be self-sufficient and successful are very positive goals.

My parents were small business owners.  I saw how they struggled to make ends meet when their business was established and then the benefits they reaped as the business grew.  After I graduated from law school and returned home to practice law, the seeds they had planted in me for entrepreneurship began to grow and I established my own private law practice.  My parents always encouraged me and my sisters to be self-sufficient and follow our dreams.

Later, as a mother with two sons, I hired them to work in my office to do general office tasks after school and on the weekends.  By working with me in that business environment, they were able to experience hands on training about what it is like to own your business and the dedication and hard work it takes to be successful.

Many children do not have the opportunities that I and my children had but parents can still open their children’s minds to the possible business opportunities that are available.   Children frequently ask for money so why not think about ways to help them earn money rather than just giving it to them.  If your children’s school has classes that teach entrepreneurship, encourage your children to take them.  If there are after-school activities and clubs centered on business ownership and development, again, encourage your children to participate.  

Of course, the typical business idea for children is the ubiquitous lemonade stand.  However, there are many websites that have ideas for children’s businesses.  At the end of my blog, I will give you a website with some very creative suggestions.

The key component is the parents’ involvement to help start and run the business, as children cannot possibly do it themselves.  Please do not start a business and then give up because you allow other tasks or activities to take precedence.   Many factors must be considered before starting a business with your children, including the time commitment involved, the availability of financing, and the general logistics of where and how it will be operated.  As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.  

Please visit this website for some business ideas for children: click here

The Best Way to Prepare Your Children Academically for Preschool is by Reading

From the day of their birth, children are learning languages, and the words that they are exposed to for the first few years of their lives influence their language development and academic performance for the years to come.  When preparing your children for preschool, it is critical that you take time out of each day to read to and with them.

For generations, parents have read stories to their young children and for good reason - the developmental benefits are endless. The transition from daycare to preschool will be much easier when reading has been a part of their daily routine.  

When you read a story, don’t just read it quickly as if it is a task that needs to be finished right away.  Take your time.  Talk about the meaning of a word if it is a new word.  Encourage your children to look at the pictures on each page.  As a children’s author, I know the importance that not only words have on each page in a book, but also the pictures.  I hired a children’s artist to design and paint the pictures, according to my direction and input.  Pictures convey a specific message so I wanted to ensure that each picture told the message that I wanted the child to know and learn. 

In addition to looking at the pictures and discussing them, a parent should make reading fun by changing the intonation of his voice.  Also, if it is a woman speaking, try to speak as a woman.  The same thing if it is a man.  Make a silly voice if the character is a funny character.  I think you get the gist of what I am trying to convey. 

Try not to limit your reading times to bed time.  If there is a lull in the afternoon on a weekend, pull out a book to read to your children.   There should always be plenty of books in each room in the house.   Or, ask one of your children to find a book that you can read to them. 

We parents want our children to be prepared for preschool.  The foundation of literacy is the most important and lasting foundation that you can give them.

Adding Audiobooks to Your Children’s Library

Adding Audiobooks to Your Children’s Library

I think that many parents overlook audiobooks because they may believe that listening to them is “cheating”.  They believe that the child does not really read such books, but simply listens to the narrator and therefore, gets no real benefit out of them.  In my opinion however, audiobooks can be an excellent addition to your children’s literary arsenal.  Just as I have promoted having a variety of reading materials for your children readily available, such as comic books, I would also include audiobooks.  

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Helping Our Children Choose Their Friends

Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good character.
— 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)
Soraya Coffelt

    As a parent, have you ever thought about helping your children choose their friends?  You may think – that’s not my role as a parent or my child should be able to choose his/her own friends.  In my humble opinion, I think that parents should play a huge role in who their children consider as friends and spend time with. 

    I was always on the look out for good friends for my sons.  Since I volunteered in the children’s ministry at my church, I had special insight into the children who attended.  I closely observed the child’s and parents’ demeanors.  Did the parents bring their children to church every Sunday or just once in a while?  Were they on time?  Were the children clean and fed?  Did they have good manners?  Did the parents and/or children use bad words?   Did the children tell lies?  What did the family do over the weekend?  Was reading and doing well in school important to the child and parents? 

    I took the scripture verse in 1 Corinthians 15:33 very seriously because I knew that bad company has a very negative effect on good character.  I wanted to raise two sons who would be Godly young men.  Yes, I was called a strict parent, but what is the alternative?  I encourage you to play a very active role in your children’s lives rather than just being a spectator. 

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

Good Manners Don’t Fall from a Tree- You must Teach Them to Your Children

I sincerely believe that Christians should have the best mannered children.  Why?  Because we are to be an example to the world in every way, including how we raise our children.  

Of course, good manners start at home.  In her book “Taming the Family Zoo: Six Weeks to Raising a Well Mannered Child”, author Donna Jones gives many ways to teach our children good manners.  Here are some of them:

  1. Teach the magic words.  Children need to know why “thank you”, “please” and all the other magic words are very important to their vocabulary.  Once they practice them at home, your children will have mastered their use, so using them in public will be natural to them.
  2. Teach wise behavior in public.  Children need to know that they shouldn’t be running around in public, climbing on chairs, raising their voices, cutting in lines, etc.  Proper public behavior starts at home.  If you allow them to do these or similar things at home, they will do them in public.  
  3. Teach good table manners.  Start at home of course.  Don’t allow your children to talk with their mouths full of food.  Show them how to place napkins in their laps and to keep their elbows off the table.  Don’t let them reach over someone else to get food.  Once they learn their manners at home, they will use them naturally at a public dining place or at a friend’s house. 

Read the entire article on her book by clicking here.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

Inspiring Family Reading

I have such fond memories of reading together as a family with my two sons and late husband.  As often as we could, we would huddle together on our bed and read a good book.  In the beginning, I would read out loud to everyone, but as the boys became better readers, they would read out loud to us.  How much time we spent reading together varied depending on our schedules and the type of book we were reading. 

    One of our most favorite books was the Hank the Cow Dog series by John Erickson.  We bought and read every single book in that series.  The series is about a dog named Hank and his sidekick Drover who lived on a ranch and had many funny adventures.  There were other characters who added exceptionally hilarious times, such as Pete the sly barn cat.  As we read, we would pause and laugh and then go back to reading.  We would stop reading whenever we wanted.  Sometimes, there would be an argument as to whether we should stop at a certain point or continue because of the suspense, but often, we read about a chapter a week.  We loved that series so much that we purchased and donated it to the library at my sons’ school.  

    I would like to inspire you to read as a family too.  The memories are precious and last a lifetime.  It is also a great bonding and teaching time for the kids. 

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

The Important Role that Grandparents Play in Emphasizing Reading

    Grandparents are such influential people in the lives of our children.  One very important influence should be in building reading skills and emphasizing reading.  According to the Children’s Reading Foundation, grandparents can spoil their grandchildren in good ways by giving them a reading-rich lifestyle.

Here are some suggestions from the Foundation as to what grandparents can do whether they live close by or not:

  • Sing songs, recite poetry and do finger plays to help develop language and listening skills.
  • Play word games and do puzzles together. These activities provide wonderful opportunities to build vocabulary.
  • Offer books or magazine subscriptions as gifts for birthdays and other special occasions.
  • Invite your grandchild to the bookstore or library for story hour. Don’t rush. Take time to browse the books and to cuddle together in the cozy chairs. Time is your gift to give. 
  • Let your grandchild see you reading and enjoying books. When you’re together, read aloud the words on signs, menus, and captions under an interesting photograph in a magazine or newspaper.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt