Posts

By Jordan Beach, LSW – May 5, 2020 –

As I am writing this I am following our state’s stay-at-home orders by practicing social distancing and working from home. For a lot of us this means working with children and spouses also in the home.

It’s not necessarily the most ideal work environment, but we make the best of what we have, and personally I feel blessed to have the opportunity to continue working. Even though I’m checking in with my gratitude, it can still take a toll on my mental health. It definitely creates new stress when trying to work and meet deadlines while also trying to meet the needs of our children.

With the goal of completing our own work and ensuring our children have enriching experiences at the same time, we’re going to look for activities you can set up for them at home. Obviously it is impossible to have activities that will keep all age groups busy, so if you have a home with differing abilities like my own, you might need to have a couple of different activities going for this to work.

Sensory play is a great way to keep your littles busy for extended periods of time. This can be something prepared before it is needed (like the night before) and used for multiple days. It doesn’t need to be more difficult than necessary. Use items or ingredients you have around your house that are safe for babies and toddlers. We like to use cooked noodles (you can dye them if you’d like). Other easy ideas that are baby safe are dried cereals, Kool-Aid playdough or do-it-yourself moon sand (2 cups of flour and ¼ cup oil). You could separate the dry cereal and moon sand for older children and hide small toys in them.

When sensory play gets old, and it will, I suggest scavenger hunts for older children. This does not need to be something extravagant. I write alphabet letters on paint samples and hide them around the house. If age-appropriate, your children can work together to find all of the letters. This activity keeps them busy because they not only need to find the letters; they have to keep track of what letters they’ve found and still need.

I also like swapping out toys. This one takes a little more forethought. Keep some toys put back so your children don’t have access to them all of the time. When you bring out the toys they haven’t had access to for a while they will think it is awesome. These “new toys” will keep them more occupied than the ones they have regular access to.

Even with distraction plans, working from home with your kids underfoot is not simple. Hopefully some of these small tips will help keep them busy just long enough for you to check some more things off your to-do list.

By Laura Keys, LCSW – April 15, 2020 –

I have been a parent for more than a couple of decades. I’ve scolded, hugged, corrected, and loved two wonderful boys.

When they were very young their father died from cancer, which left me to sail the ship on my own. In all those years of being a single mom I learned a few lessons that I would like to impart to parents trying to raise their children in the midst of the current pandemic.

If being cooped up in a house or apartment while managing a child’s education, living with the anxiety of a health scare, conducting Zoom meetings while working from home or heading to work under uncertain conditions so you have a paycheck to cover the grocery bill all seems a bit overwhelming…that’s because it is.

I’ve listened to, cried with, and given advice to a lot of very stressed-out parents in the past few weeks. If you are one of them, you are not alone. Despite what your Facebook or Instagram feed may tell you, everyone is struggling.

Positive self-talk and advice from elders got me through parenting two very wonderful, yet imperfect humans in the midst of what some would call hardship. I hope these words of wisdom help you the way they’ve helped me.

  1. TV moms June Cleaver, Carol Brady and Clair Huxtable are fictional parents. So is Peggy Bundy. Scrolling through others’ filtered social media posts can make you feel inadequate as a parent. Remember, the “social media highlight reel” is not exactly a fair representation of a person’s life. Some days you may be Carol Brady and others you’re Peggy Bundy. No one is perfect, so why should you expect to be?
  2. EVERY parent has lost patience with their child. These days I think we are all more aware of how trauma can affect a child. It speaks to the evolving knowledge we have about the developing brain and what we’ve learned about raising our children. I also think, however, that it puts a lot of pressure on parents to do everything perfectly. We can’t raise our children in a bubble. We can’t always be fair or democratic. That certainly doesn’t raise a prepared human. If you mute yourself and snap at your child because they have been whining for 30 minutes while you are trying to finish a phone conference, you have not damaged your child. Beating yourself up over small parenting “fails” only brings your self-worth down; it doesn’t lift your child up. Give yourself a break.
  3. If you don’t get everything done it’s not the end of the world. Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that will happen if I don’t get this done?” If the answer is, “It just won’t get done,” then give yourself permission to let it go. The expectations we put on ourselves are often much higher than the expectations of others. Be honest with yourself about what you are capable of and stick to that. Parents are told they can have it all. While I certainly think we can have careers and families and do both well, it’s okay to acknowledge that we need help sometimes – especially when you’re trying to “have it all” under one roof during a pandemic. 
  4. Lastly, give yourself and your child a little grace. Now is not the time to expect more from them – or from yourself. It’s ok to just get through the day sometimes. If you put your kids in front of a movie so you can get some work done, it’s okay. Watching Disney every day is not going to stop them from getting into a good college.

We mustn’t judge our parenting abilities by what we do to get by during a pandemic. As long as you can laugh with your kids and make them feel loved, the rest will be forgiven, I promise. Take it from a mom who made plenty of mistakes with her children. They are resilient and capable, and as long as they feel loved at the end of the day they will turn out just fine.

By Jordan Beach, LSW – May 28, 2019

Summer vacation is here! If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to start planning summer activities for your children.

We perceive summer to be a laid back, more relaxed time, but parents know this is actually a time that requires a lot of forethought. With more hours of the day becoming your responsibility, the pressure to find fun, enriching activities is definitely on.

Have you resolved to limit your child’s screen time this summer? If so, great!  But now how will you fill their time? You don’t have to be a Pinterest-perfect parent to create a memorable summer for your children.

Summer camps are the obvious first option, but they can be pricey. There are summer camps and programs offered all over the area that range in price and provide children with ample opportunity to have new experiences.

Camps are also helpful for working parents. However, keep in mind that this option comes with a price tag that might not be reasonable for your family.

There are a lot of ways to have fun and create memories for your children at home without spending a lot of money. If you’re looking to have more of a “Do-it-Yourself” summer with your children, there are a lot of options to spark their creativity and nurture their imaginations in your own backyard.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Build a fort. A fort can be left up for days. All you need is chairs, blankets and a little imagination. This can be used as a reading nook or expanded into imaginative play for younger children.
  • Create a breakout session in your house. There are many ideas online that can help you design an escape room for your kids. This is a good way to mix in some academics with the fun. Topics range from math to conflict resolution. Your options are really limitless.
  • Put all of those Amazon boxes to good use. Cardboard boxes are gold in the world of imaginative play. You can create a living room “drive-in” where your kids sit in the cars they’ve designed while watching a movie or reading a book. You can make instruments using cardboard and rubber bands. Also, free drawing on boxes with markers or paint always seems to be a good time for little ones.
  • Help your kids expand their culinary skills. Let them pick out recipes and help you shop for the ingredients. This is a great activity to help your child become creative in the kitchen while also teaching them planning and budgeting.
  • Go for the classics – water balloon fights, running through the sprinkler, washing the car. It gets hot in Indiana during the summer months, so cool off in fun ways!

This is in no way an exhaustive list of summer activities. A little creativity and planning can really help you and your children stay busy while bonding this summer.

Summer fun

By Dena Embrey, LCSW, Courier & Press, June 7, 2016 –

Summer break is here, and families often look forward to sleeping in and not rushing through the morning routine. Maybe you have a vacation planned, or your child is looking forward to summer camp.

For families with school-aged children, making the transition from the highly structured routine of the school year to the relaxed feel of summer can be difficult. Before too long you start to hear those dreaded words, “I’m bored,” or “There’s nothing to do.” Soon siblings start fighting and everyone’s stress levels go up.

Planning ahead and keeping a schedule can help you avoid this being your summer reality. A schedule brings order to your days, giving your child needed structure and reducing anxiety.

It’s good to have set times for waking up, meals, chores and preferred activities. Display your daily schedule for the whole family to see and review together. Include your children in the process, letting them have some say in what activities are included.

As a parent, you have to be prepared for unexpected changes and those days when things just don’t go as planned. Rainy days, illnesses or canceled play dates will inevitably get in the way. Having a list of fun ways to engage your children as a backup plan could be a life saver.

Here are some activities you may want to include on your list:

1. Go outside to play and explore. You can keep it as simple as taking a bike ride, blowing bubbles, visiting a playground, watering the garden or taking a walk around the neighborhood.

2. Go on a hike at a nearby park.

3. Plan an outdoor scavenger hunt and create a scrapbook of everything you find.

4. Visit a nature preserve and get a guided tour.

5. Set up a tent in your backyard and camp out with a bonfire, s’mores and stargazing.

6. Go old school and teach your kids some of your favorite childhood games. Hide and seek, monkey in the middle and tag are always good go-to games.

7. Look through old photos and compare your child’s baby pictures and your own or create a family tree together.

8. Spend some time in the kitchen making old family recipes.

9. Work a puzzle or build a fort out of blankets and cushions.

10. Get creative with your kids by busting out the play dough (or make your own).

11. Use sidewalk chalk to make an outdoor mural.

12. Create art using only materials found in your recycling.

13. Write and illustrate a story together, or turn your favorite book into a play, acting it out with costumes and all.

14. Have a family talent show or karaoke party.

15. Do something nice for someone else — visit a nursing home or elderly person and read to them. Plan and prepare a meal for a family who is going through a difficult              time, pick up trash at a local park or volunteer at an animal shelter.

16. Go through old clothes and toys and donate items no longer needed. Take lemonade and cookies to your local fire station.

Following a schedule during the summer teaches children time management, responsibility and organization, all healthy life skills. How loose or rigid your schedule needs to be will depend on your family’s needs. Finding the right balance of structure and relaxation will help create the peaceful and fun summer your family deserves.