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Welcome to the June 2016
“News for Parents”

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Skill building books and ideas for parents, children, and teachers

  1. WHAT’S NEW?
    • Temperament: What Is It?
    • Sharpening Small Motor Skills as School Prep


  • Family Trees

    Ho-hum, you may be thinking, genealogy, with all those pedigree charts to fill out. But wait! It can be much more fun than that! Yes, pedigree charts are nice, and there are all sorts of formats to use, some in tree shapes with places for your kids to name the different branches.

    What can be even more fun as a summer project (and preparation for that eventual school assignment of family history) is combining old family photos, newspaper clippings, copies of advertisements or business cards from family businesses, maps, and census records, both U.S. and foreign. Your family could pursue one topic or resource at a time: say, one week spent researching marriage licenses and newspaper accounts of weddings, another week spent on homestead patents (as the grants were called), and a third week on finding maps and photos of forebears’ homes.

    Instead of writing up a family history right now, consider creating a notebook where you use sheet protectors to save notes on what you’ve found, copies of photos, print-outs of maps and any vintage letters, Valentines, Christmas cards and birth announcements that may have been saved.

    Here are a few more examples of what you might find, either online or in museum archives: draft registration cards for both World War I and II, passport applications from the early 20th century, and local companies’ employee newsletters, with references to family members who worked there. The News for Parents editor used city directories (many of the oldest ones are now online) to find where grandparents lived and who they worked for, and then typed the addresses into online search engines to see if the houses still existed. County government databases also have information on each structure, and sometimes photos of buildings when new.

    On a more serious note, it can be extremely valuable to record how old family members were when they died, and what the cause of death was. If you or your children someday have a health issue, your doctors may appreciate this information.

    Examples of helpful resources:

    Comment on this story

  • How Executive Function Affects School Success

    How can we help kids succeed in life? As important, what is key to understanding why they sometimes struggle?

    These are among the points in Children Who Fail at School But Succeed in Life (W.W. Norton), new from Mark Katz, a San Diego clinical and consulting psychologist.

    We introduced this book in our May issue, and this month we want to provide a few specific points from Katz’s research and work with people who performed poorly or inconsistently in school, but have gone on to satisfying personal and professional lives. Given space constraints and the fact that most of you readers are most concerned about children rather than adults, we can’t describe everything Katz has covered. For that, you’ve got to pick up a copy of his book!

    Among the issues that can trouble any of us is “executive function,” the umbrella term referring to such important traits as self-control, emotional self-regulation, organization, time management, planning, mental flexibility, the ability to stay motivated and the ability to remember information long enough to reach a goal or solve a problem. Those of us with poor executive function may be very creative, and get some terrific, complex projects completed—but then turn up late when we’re supposed to present them, or forget to turn them in at all. And if the assignment isn’t interesting to us, we may struggle to complete it. . .or even to get started.

    There’s another problem with those uninteresting projects, Katz explains. They can deplete our self-regulation resources: in other words, someone with weak executive function may be mentally exhausted because of the amount of self-control and self-motivation that’s necessary to get through a boring or routine assignment. Before another assignment (think homework) can be tackled, kids just off the school bus need to “refuel their ‘emotional self-regulation fuel tank,’” advises the author. Most of us recognize that a child needs to refuel physically with a snack; what he’s suggesting is that we also provide exercise or an intellectually satisfying activity to renew the child’s emotional capacity.

    Of course, the same goes for us parents, teachers and caregivers, especially as we make transitions between individual and group work, volunteer activities, care of family members, meal preparation and household tasks. Ideally, we have ways to take a break between a stressful work day and commute and family responsibilities. When that’s not possible, we cope better if we can at least acknowledge (and perhaps warn family members) that we’ve depleted our emotional self-regulation tank.

    As we noted last month, Katz uses as a framework for his book the erroneous perceptions too often made by frustrated parents and educators about kids who do poorly in school. One such error: that trying harder will solve the issue. The author says, “. . .we often rely on three entirely logical yet often unsuccessful solutions to inspire change in others who we believe are unwilling or unmotivated to do so.” These three are:

    • Facts
    • Fear
    • Force

    You’ve probably heard all of these used. You may have used them yourself with a child, an adult family member or even your yourself: you’ve said or thought to yourself, “Anyone as smart as you should be able to do this” or “You have so much potential. Start working up to it.”

    And most of us have heard the scare technique: “How do you expect to handle a real job if you can’t even do your homework” or “You’re destroying your future.”

    The “force” strategy is also common: “You’re grounded until you improve your grades” or “If you can’t show up on time, you can’t [play in the game/work here].”

    None of these may be effective, even in the short term. Coupled with another common misperception—that people who don’t do well at school are not intelligent—this can lead to a seriously damaged self-image. As Katz explains, if your teachers and parents make you feel like a failure, and your classmates call you “stupid,” you’re likely to be so humiliated that you develop feelings of rage and despair. (The same goes for adults who are criticized by spouses, colleagues, siblings or adolescent kids.)

    A fourth tactic that Katz does not mention is based on one of the other erroneous perceptions that he cites: the assumption that because people do well in with creative or intellectual tasks they will do equally well with academics or behavior. This tactic, which at least borders on the abusive, is shame: “If you’re so smart, why can’t you. . .” and its variation, “You think you’re so intelligent, but you can’t even. . .” Anyone who works with dysfunctional families knows how damaging such comments can be to a child or adult.

    So what are the solutions to executive function problems? The first is probably identifying the issues and acknowledging that they are inborn traits, not willful choices. (It’s unlikely that any of us choose to be forgetful, disorganized, or emotionally out of control.) After that, Katz suggests such strategies as cues, prompts, and reminders.

    Comment on this story

  • What Flags Mean

    Flag Day is June 14, and so it’s natural to focus on Flag Day events around the country, and the history of the Stars and Stripes. The Smithsonian, which owns the flag that inspired the writing of our national anthem, has an informative website, and your library’s children’s section will have all sorts of books that picture how our flag has grown from a few stars to 50.

    International Code of Signals

    What’s also interesting is what the colors of a flag mean. In the American flag, white represents purity and innocence; red stands for hardiness and valour; and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.

    Besides the flags that represent countries, there are many other different kinds of flags to introduce to your children. Among the festive examples: the marine signal flags we often see on boats, or as decorations on docks and waterfront buildings. These are internationally accepted and can be used as signals: “I am disabled,” for example, or “Man overboard.” Each flag also represents a letter of the alphabet and so can be used to spell out messages. Kids can use the details at to create banners with paper flags that spell out their names or other message (“Stay out,” maybe?)

    Comment on this story


  • Tips for the month

    Each Saturday, Parenting Press posts a new parenting tip and the previous week’s tip is moved to the archive. If you’d like the tips emailed to you each week, just let us know with a message to Make sure you put “Weekly tips” in your subject line and include the email to which the tips should be sent.

    This month, as almost all of us have kids on vacation, and some of us have children preparing for transitions when the 2016–17 academic year begins, we’ve selected these tips from our archive to ease both normal stress and the extra issues that sometimes accompany a new school year:

    June  4 — Offering Older Children & Teens Support When They’re Upset
    June 11 — Tips for Parents of Middle-schoolers
    June 18 — How Hand Yoga Helps Kids Relax
    June 25 — Improving Bedtime In Your Home: Older Children

  • Family Fun Ideas — Markets and Farmsteads

    Fresh strawberries, summer’s first lettuce, and flowers, flowers, flowers! That’s what you’ll find at the hundreds of farmers’ and street markets that are open at least one day a week in hundreds of communities across the U.S. The markets that operate year-round are full of new produce, blossoms and seedlings; the summer-only markets have returned with some of their long-time booths and at least a few new ones. We’re strolling through Seattle’s neighborhood markets whenever we have time, and we hope you’re using your markets as an excuse for a walk with your family, and maybe a snack at the food trucks or market stalls. (And there are always free samples, too!) If you live a little outside town, consider stopping by the local farms that sell produce, flowers or eggs; some have roadside sales booths and others put up signs that direct you down driveways to sales tables.

    Comment on this story

  • Community Service — Supporting Your Library

    Our goal with this column is to suggest ways that you can model the concept of sharing and giving back to your community. Children also learn to work as part of a team. There are practical advantages to community service, too. Kids can use these projects to meet school or youth group requirements for community service and to start building resumes that they’ll use when applying for first jobs or college. You’ll find dozens of ideas for family-appropriate community service projects in our downloadable book Teaching Your Kids to Give Back and our Qwik Sheet Community Service for Kids.

    This month, as school comes to an end and libraries start their summer programs, consider asking your community library or your neighborhood branch what help your family can provide. Some libraries use volunteers to read at story hours or lead craft programs; others need help with book sales and staffing the information booths at street markets. Even elementary age kids can help adults publicize library programs by passing out flyers or bookmarks at such public events as those farmers’ markets, street fairs, Little League games and neighborhood concerts. (Of course, kids should work with partners and within earshot of parents or adult volunteers.)

    Comment on this story


  • Special of the month — Understanding Autism

    This special has expired.

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Last updated July 01, 2016