Posts

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden – July 22, 2020 –

We have heard so much about the “new normal” over the last few months, but what is that? How are we supposed to make plans for the future when we really don’t know what that looks like yet? And how are we supposed to prepare our kids for a school year filled with so many unknowns?

There are no perfect answers to any of these questions, because we’re still being met with more questions than answers. Instead of focusing on the unknown, the best way to move forward is preparing ourselves for the things we do know.

We know that as of right now schools are planning to open in the fall. This is great news for our kids who have been missing their friends and teachers. However, we also know that it won’t look exactly the same as they’re used to. The CDC guidelines are going to be intense—but they’re a great guide for good conversation with your kids.

You can initiate these conversations right now as you start your normal back to school preparations. Let kids pick out their backpacks and lunchboxes, pencils and glue sticks. If your family is choosing not to go into stores together, your kids will find it just as fun to help fill your digital cart with their school supply choices. This simple activity creates a great opportunity to sit with your kids individually and ask what things they are excited about and nervous about for the coming school year.

In addition to doing the “normal things” like buying school supplies, it’s also important to have frequent conversations about the things that will look dramatically different. One of these is the use of facemasks. It is important that you help your child practice wearing a facemask prior to the start of the school year. Give them time throughout the day where they can practice putting one on or completing a small task while wearing it to get comfortable with this as a new habit.

Talk to your children as well about the things they can do to help ensure they stay healthy during the coming school year. Talk to them about hand washing and objects they shouldn’t be sharing with their friends this year, like their supplies or snacks. If you have a child who likes to bite their nails or chew on their fingers or shirts when they’re anxious, this is a great time to help them start finding healthier coping skills. Explain how their hands have germs and the replacement coping skill is a healthier choice.

The last step to ensuring a positive start to a very different school year is making sure that you are talking about school opening in a positive way. Adults have a hard time with the unknown. We tend to question decisions made by others and express ourselves openly when we disagree. This can be detrimental to your child’s mental health in the start of a new year. If you think schools are doing too much or not enough, have these conversations away from your children.

Your children need to buy in to the changes happening at their school in order to have a successful and fun year. So when you discuss this year’s “new normal” in going back to school, be excited for them, talk positively about the changes, and support the decisions of the administration.

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, LCSW, August 7, 2018 –

Most schools have been on summer hiatus. You’ve had close to three months with your children living a relatively carefree summer life.  Hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to create some new memories with your family.  

It is probably a little hard to believe these summer days together are coming to an end.  If you are like me, you and the kids may have relaxed your routine through the summer months.  Now the question is, how do you get back on track?

For starters, try not to stress.  Start talking to your kids about school to get them excited about the upcoming year.  Speak with enthusiasm and talk about the new year in positive terms.  Also, go back-to-school shopping together and let your kids have input on their supplies.

Give yourself time to gradually get settled back into a bedtime routine.  If your child’s school-year bedtime is 7:30 pm but you’ve been letting them stay up until 9:00 pm during the summer, you’re going to need some time to adjust their bedtime.  Try pushing their bedtime up 15 to 30 minutes at a time.  

You’re also going to want to start getting them up earlier in the morning, working towards the time they will need to be awake during the school year.  If you have younger children who have gotten into a habit of taking naps during the day, this would also be a good time to start eliminating nap times. 

You might have also noticed your grocery bill has gone up significantly during the summer. Part of this is our tendency to graze and allow our children to graze throughout the day.  Once school starts, their opportunity to snack on a whim will be gone.  To help make that transition easier, it would be a good idea to cut back on the snacks.  

Start getting back into the routine of eating meals at specific times. It seems that morning routines are the hardest at the start of the school year (and sometimes all year).  Start practicing your morning routine now.  If you’re going to need your child to eat immediately after waking during the school year start practicing now.  

It’s also a good idea to start planning for afterschool activities now. Once school starts schedules seem to explode.  Start figuring out which kids are going to participate in particular activities and whose responsibility it will be to get them to and from practices and games.  

If you make an effort to organize your calendar now, you will feel better about your schedule later.  Hopefully this will help alleviate some stress for everyone as the days start getting busier. 

The start of the school year sneaks up on us every year. Don’t let this be a dreaded time for you or your children.  Make going back to school fun and start preparing early. This will help your new school year start more smoothly and be a more enjoyable experience for all.

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, LCSW – February 20, 2018 –

Most families have had these moments… sitting at the dining room table, looking at the calendar and trying to figure out how you’re going to map everyone’s schedule for the week.

Between practices, tutoring, homework and more, it’s tough to figure out when and where we’re going to get our children fed because no one is ever home at the same time.

For parents, the reality of trying to figure out the family’s schedule is daunting and stressful.  If we are harried trying to fit all of these activities into a day, how do our children react?

American children are overextended.  Gone are the days of coming home and playing with friends outside for hours before having dinner with the family, finishing homework and settling into bed.

Today’s children spend 8 hours at school followed by hours of practice or club activities several nights a week.  When they finally get home, they tackle more homework than ever due to higher academic expectations.

All of this stress can be harmful to a brain that has not fully developed.  So what does this mean for our children?

Children, like adults, all handle stress differently.  There is no magic number of extracurricular activities that will provide a child with the most enriched life.

The best thing a parent can do is be observant and empathetic to the child’s emotional needs.  Does your child seem stressed?  Are they asking if they can skip practices?  Do you have to drag them out the door? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, chances are your child is overextended.

So, what can you do to help kids manage their time and feel less overwhelmed?  Allow them to pick the activities that mean the most to them.  As parents, we often feel the need to expose our children to as many opportunities as possible. What is really important, though, is that our children enjoy the things they’re doing.  When a child is playing and having fun they are also learning.

It is also important that your family has time together.  When every family member is involved in different activities it makes it difficult to spend quality time together.  We need to be just as concerned about our children having time at home with their family as we are with the activities they are involved in.

The moral of the story is…You’re not setting your child up for failure if you don’t involve them in an excessive amount of extra-curricular activities.  Allow your child to express what is most important to them to narrow down their involvement.  Having fun and spending time with family is what is most important.

 

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, LCSW, Courier & Press, June 20, 2017 –

Many of us remember that when we graduated from high school we were not truly prepared for “real life” outside the classroom.  Sure, we probably learned basic history, math and English skills, but we may not have mastered some of the other concepts we needed to be successful in life.

Summer is a great time to work with your child on some of these essential life skills.  Successfulstudent.org provides a list of important basics to teach our children:

  • Saving: We need to spend less than we earn.  Teach your child at an early age to put part of the money received or earned in the bank.  Help your child set a savings goal, work toward their goal and then make the purchase of the saved-for item.
  • Budgeting: Teach your child the simple skills involved with establishing and following a budget.  Practicing this concept early on will make budgeting easier when they are an adult.
  • Charity: Encourage your child to give to charity – money, time and talents — as they are able.
  • Critical Thinking: Introduce critical thinking, the objective analysis and evaluation of a situation or issue in order to form a judgment.  Teach your child ways to look up information if they have a question that requires a thought-out answer or opinion.
  • Positive Thinking: It is important to have a positive outlook on life.  By helping your child find solutions instead of just registering complaints, they will learn to believe in themselves and block out negative self-talk and thinking.
  • Motivation: Teach your child that motivation is the key to reaching a goal.  Help them learn different strategies for self-motivation.
  • Compassion: Help your child put themselves in the shoes of someone else.  Help them understand and find ways to ease others’ suffering.
  • Listening: Children need to learn to listen attentively and respectfully, understand what is being said and empathize with others.
  • Basic Auto Mechanics: Both boys and girls need to know the basics of how a car works, what might break down and how it can be fixed (how to pump gas, check the oil, change a flat tire, etc.).
  • Household: When you are fixing things around the house, explain the process to your child.  Basic understanding of home repairs and maintenance can prepare your child for living on their own.
  • Cleaning: Teach your child how to do laundry, clean a house properly and keep living quarters clean and uncluttered.  Show them how to set up a weekly and monthly cleaning routine.  Instead of just telling them what needs to be done, teach them the process and then encourage them to do it on their own.
  • Be present: Live in the present and enjoy life.  Develop a close relationship with your child and model appropriate relationships with your spouse, family members and friends.  Teach them the skills for developing these types of close relationships and the importance of working through the bumpy parts as well.

Through modeling, teaching and being present with your child you are helping them prepare for the classroom outside of school – life!

Child eating sandwich

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, Courier & Press, May 24, 2016 –

As a social worker in area schools, I frequently hear comments that our children are not being taught to be self-sufficient. Many preteen students I work with are not able to make their own lunch, do laundry, get up on their own for school, etc.

Listed below are 10 things children 11-14 should be expected to do, according to Elisabeth Stitt’s newsletter, “Joyful Parenting Coach.”

1. Get out of bed and get washed and dressed. If you still wake your 11-14 year old up for school, stop. They should be able to set their alarm, pick out school clothes and have good routines for washing and brushing their teeth. Your job as a parent is to support the school’s dress code and introduce them to good hygiene.

2. Make a simple breakfast. This can include fruit, cereal, toast, frozen waffles, etc. When they are 8-9, have your child work beside you and model making a simple breakfast.

3. Make their home and school lunches. If they prepare their own lunch, they may even be more likely to eat it.

4. Have everything they need when dropped off at school. Stop checking to see if they have everything in their backpack, and do not run back home to get a forgotten assignment. They are old enough to keep track of their belongings, including what homework needs to be completed and returned to school.

5. Do most of their own homework. Help your child set up a routine for doing their work. When they ask for help, encourage them and ask supportive questions. Give your child a chance to problem-solve on their own before assisting them.

6. Do chores such as light cooking and cleaning. Get your child involved in daily tasks, and they will have the pride of knowing they contributed positively to the family.

7. Choose their extracurricular activities. Parents often encourage children to try new things and participate in activities that will look good on a college application. Allow your child to participate in something they enjoy, and then encourage them to follow through and finish any activity they start.

8. Talk to their teacher to get clarification on work, ask for help or question grades received. Encourage your child to make the first effort to talk with their teacher before you make contact. This will build their communication skills and help when they move on to high school and college.

9. Understand basic money concepts. Children should be able to understand the concepts of saving, spending and keeping track of money. For more information you can visit daveramsey.com for tips.

10. Know basic directions to school, church, the store, etc. Children are often glued to their electronic devices in the back seat of the car and not paying attention to their surroundings. Being familiar with places they visit often will help teens learning to drive.

Setting expectations and teaching your child these lessons in middle school will give them more time to master them before high school. They will be armed with self-sufficiency and self-efficacy and ready to participate in the workforce and move onto college.

To set your kids free, assist them in being more self-sufficient. You will be glad you did.