Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tips for Cultivating a Working Relationship with Your Child’s Teacher

by: Dyan Eybergen BA, RN, ACPI

Working With the Teacher to Promote Positive Learning Experiences
When parents and their child’s teacher cultivate a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation, it is the child who benefits.

With the first month of school underway, now is an ideal time for parents to assess just how well their children are adjusting to the school routine and its curriculum. Should any problems be detected there is still a sufficient amount of time left in the term to address a child’s specific needs and get him/her the help he/she needs.

In today’s school environment, with a demanding curriculum, restricted budgets and limited teacher resources and assistance, teachers are often overwhelmed by the prospect of talking with a parent who is less than happy with regards to the child’s progress. Teachers feel powerless in their efforts to assist every child. Raising issues with teachers in the spirit of cooperation can go a long way in helping to set a child up for success.

How to Communicate With a Child’s Teacher
If it hasn’t been done already, parents should make arrangements to meet with their child’s teacher. Introductions are important to open communication. The parents should indicate their desire to be involved in their child’s education. Asking for suggestions for how they can best support the school’s learning environment at home is a cooperative approach that will open the door to a respectful relationship between the parent and the teacher. A teacher will be most grateful to parents who reinforce their efforts to sustain learning for their students.

How to Address Problems
Ask the child’s teacher how he/she would prefer to be contacted: by phone, email or in writing should problems arise. Parents should also inform the teacher how they can be reached, and convey the fact that they want to be advised if their child is struggling academically or socially at school. Inviting open communication about their child will help a teacher feel a sense of cohesiveness. The teacher will get the message that the parents are willing to work together as a team to ensure the success of their child’s school experience. If a problem does exist, parents should approach the teacher as a team player by asking how parents and teacher can work together to solve it. Blaming the teacher for a child’s difficulties will only provoke a defensive reaction and does not lend itself to finding a solution to helping a child.

How Parents can Help Teachers Know Their Children
Parents know their children best. Parents have specific information that will benefit their child’s teacher in terms of how that teacher will relate to their child. What is the child’s learning style? Is the child more of a visual learner than an auditory one? Does the child get anxious before having to write a test? Does the child appear overwhelmed if there are too many questions written on one page?
Are there strategies the parents have implemented at home that will give the child’s teacher insight into managing the child’s classroom needs? Anything a parent can tell a child’s teacher about how their child learns will promote positive interactions between the teacher and the child.

How Parents can Help Their Children in the Classroom
Parents should let a child’s teacher know of anything that may be going on that would cause the child’s behaviour or academic performance to suddenly change. Is there a pending divorce? Has mom or dad just lost a job? Is mom away on an extended business trip? Did the family pet just pass away? Is the child being bullied? A teacher’s compassion and understanding through such circumstances can prevent an emotionally struggling child from feeling alienated by school, especially when school may be the child’s only refuge if things at home are not going so well.

Parents need to inform the teacher of their child’s strengths and weaknesses. Parents should develop goals with their child based on the child’s strengths and inform the teacher of what those strong suits are. Notifying the teacher of areas of improvement they are working on with their child at home can also be helpful. A teacher who can easily recognize the strengths and needs of a child can more readily set realistic expectations for that child’s academic development.

The Benefits of a Working Parent-Teacher Relationship
Disagreements between parents and their child’s teacher may be unavoidable at times. If parents can approach these situations believing that the teacher wants their child to succeed in school just as much as they do, it will help them to find ways to amicably work together to ensure the child’s academic achievement. Letting the disagreement become bigger than the objective of ensuring school success for a child will only serve injustice to the child. A child can only thrive in an environment that is conducive to his/her learning style and strengths. Parents have that information and teachers know how to use it to the child’s learning advantage. It’s imperative then that parents and teachers develop working relationships that benefit the children whom they are all helping to prepare for the future.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Art of Grocery Shopping with Kids

If you're like most parents you prefer to do your weekly shopping alone, as in: without kids. It's easier and faster and sidesteps potential irritations, such as: Don't touch! - Stay close! - Don't yell!
     But then again, sometimes we don't have the luxury of going solo and we find ourselves navigating the isles with one or more kids in tow.

     Here's how you can make that experience a positive one, so much so that in the future you may decide to bring your kids along just for the fun of it. When you bring positive energy to the experience and share that with your kids, all of you will benefit.

The Art Explained

     Just as there is a recipe for preparing lasagna, there is a method to this miracle of shopping with kids. 
     First and foremost: remember the three key features that make up an inspiring environment: relationship, autonomy, and competency or skill, and put them to use. Effective teachers use this triad daily in their classes and it is just as helpful in family settings. These three features influence and affect each other positively when consciously engaged, as you shall see.

Change your frame of reference from 'shopping' to 'family-together-time'. Throughout your expidition your focus is first and foremost on your kids' well-being. Talk with your children, listen to what they have to say and respond adequately and appropriately throughout the time you are together. Mentally switch from 'I have to get this done in time' to being 'allies' in this trip - you and your kids are on the same side: their side.

     Approach and view everything from a child's perspective as much as you can. That way you are on the same wave-length and in a much better position to anticipate a possible mishap and deal with it adequately.

     Make sure you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry. Calculate about double or triple the time you would need when shopping alone.

Ask your child or children to help you and allot age appropriate little jobs to them. There are tasks they can fulfill, such as pushing the cart (or a kid's cart), selecting products and putting them in the cart, putting items on the check-out counter, etc. Involve them in the various processes of shopping, allowing them as much autonomy and responsibility as possible. Allow choices whenever possible and walk/talk those choices through together (this ties in with relationship).

Kids love to become 'good' at something, even if it is pushing a cart straight along the floortiles in the cereals isle. Notice and compliment your kids on every little contribution, reinforcing their positive involvement in the shopping expidition (this ties in with relationship and autonomy).

     In addition to mastering shopping skills kids will want to 'do' much more. If you channel their creativity, rather than wait for them to explore in ways that are not supermarket-friendly, you can make the shopping experience a fun time for all. Consider the following two activities to get your creativity flowing:

  • Feel the wonder of a long empty isle with a shiny floor and create a game to go with it, such as counting steps to go from left to right, skipping squares, letting the cart roll as gently and smoothly as possible, etc. Participate and be available to them.
  • Notice the stack of plastic bags for produce? Take one and inflate it to create a balloon, tying it securely at the opening with one or two tight knots. Invent games to go with this, such as keeping it afloat with only two index fingers, heading it as high as you can, etc.

     I'm not saying this approach is easy - at first it certainly isn't. You'll need to develop a two-track mind, doing your shopping adequately and being available to your kids. Practice makes perfect, and this art of grocery shopping with kids is no exception. Make sure the order of items on your list matches the layout of the store; that way you only have to go through each isle once, saving you unnecessary trips back and forth.

Positive Energy Field

Next time you're scheduling a trip to the store, consider lifting the experience from a chore to 'together-time' with your kids. This is a chance for you to get to know them better and for them to get to know you better: a person who is able to transmogrify an ordinary trip to the store into a rich experience in which you seize the opportunity to invest in your relationship.

     To be even more specific: this approach allows you to augment the quality of the energy field that exists in and around you and in which your kids participate, for the benefit of all - not least of all: you yourself. It puts you in the position of creator of your own experience, an experience that greatly affects the quality of life of both you and your kids. 
     Eventually, your role-modelling will inspire your children in turn. They will have learned how to consciously focus on the quality of their own energy field and enlist it in order to create more mutually satisfying and inspiring relationships.

     If you'd like to share about how you view the process of enhancing your own energy for the benefit of both your kids and yourself while going about your daily business, let us know and use the comment box. If you have any questions, that's the place to ask them. Thanks!

Adapted from a blog post previously posted on the author's blog
Image (adapted for this article) courtesy of
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Friday, September 5, 2014

How To Cope With The Beginning Of School

This is one of the most stressful times of the year for me.  Not only is it the start of school again, we moved to a new school district.  This meant filling out lots of forms weeks ago and receiving even more forms after school started.  I have four kids in three different schools.  Next year my kids will be in four different schools and we'll have our baby by then too.  Each of the schools does things differently and I have so much to remember.  If you're feeling overwhelmed, the following things help:

1.  Use your calendar. If you use your phone, have a paper back-up.  You don't want to lose everything because your toddler threw it on the ground.  Or in the toilet.  Maybe even in a lake.  (That happened to my husband.)
2.  Compile your kids' school supply lists into one master list or else you'll wander all over the store.  Just make sure it's detailed.  One kid might need a box of 24 colored pencils and another might need 12.
3.  Divide and conquer.  You and your spouse can split up Open House night, which our old schools called "Curriculum Night".  I go to the one for sure for our son who has the most issues because I will end up doing the most communicating with his teachers.  I leave easier children to my husband, especially if we have to go the same night.  This year we have four different nights.
4.  Have a lot of easy meals on hand.  You're going to spend a lot of time filling out paperwork.
5.  Make a document with all important information you need.  Mine contains my kids' bus routes, times, their alternating class schedules, teachers' names, school hours, etc.  I simply can't remember everything and it's better to have it all in one place.  Even better, print it out when you think you're done adding stuff to it. 
6.  Commiserate with friends.  They understand.
7.  You might feel really sad if your child is starting Kindergarten.  Get together with friends and do something fun!  Or just do something for yourself that you can't normally do when your child is home.  Like take a nap.  ;)
8.  As soon as you can, put all of your kids' teachers' email addresses in your contact list in your email.  It's better than shuffling through stuff to try to figure out who you need to email.  Our 9th and 7th graders have twelve teachers between the two of them and they received a syllabus from each of them with contact information.  I really don't want to keep those papers stacked on my desk the whole school year. 
9.  If they are old enough, have your kids make their own lunches.  It's harder for them to complain about what they made for themselves.  It also gets them in the habit for when they are on their own.  Of course, buying lunch is an option, but that gets expensive.
10.  Take some deep breaths and try to take a break from the chaos that is the beginning of school.

What do you do to cope with the beginning of school?  Last year my friend went to Hawaii with her husband and skipped all of the open houses.  I like her idea. 

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Moral Messages We Send Our Children

I would guess that if we asked parents what kind of adult they want their child to be when they grew up; many would mention qualities like, “successful,” “happy,” or “high-achieving.” Would many parents mention qualities such as, “caring,” “kind,” or “unselfish?” I sure many would, but according to new research, many children are not getting this last message.

A compelling new study from Harvard University researchers shows that among American students (middle and high school), the majority (80%) say they value high achievement or happiness over caring for others (20%). While this is important in itself, perhaps more interesting is the fact that the majority of these youth also report feeling that their parents value achievement or happiness over caring. This is despite numerous other research findings showing that parents cite raising caring kids as a top priority. In other words, parents say they want to raise caring kids, but the kids are not getting this message from parents’ daily actions. The authors of the study call this a rhetoric/reality gap.

If you are like me, I find this report more than a little disconcerting. The thought that we could be raising a generation of kids who so overwhelmingly value achievement and happiness over caring for others is first problematic on a moral front. Even if this aspect does not bother everyone, the authors also point out that the result of focusing so intensely on achievement and happiness is ultimately a less happy child. Several studies have found that in communities where students are pressured to perform at high levels, there are higher rates of depression and behavior problems. Similarly, when children’s achievement or happiness is prioritized over caring for others, they often fail to development relationship skills that are needed to sustain long-term relationships.

What can we, as parents, do to close this rhetoric/reality gap? The researchers give several good suggestions and many of them focus on simply setting a good example of caring for others, being respectful and fair and most importantly, demanding that our children do the same, even if it makes them unhappy. Other ideas include:

  • Ask your child’s teacher if they are kind to classmates, in addition to how they are performing academically
  • Have children practice expressing gratitude to others in their lives (waitresses, grandparents, etc.)
  •  Use news stories about others who are suffering to explain to children how other people face challenges and struggles in other settings or other countries
  •  Give children opportunities to reach out to help others in the larger community (e.g., help at a food bank, assist an elderly neighbor)

For more tips and research on this important topic see the Making Caring Common website.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

LDS Divorce Experience Survey

I (Josh Lockhart) have partnered with LDS Living to do a survey on members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have been divorced and their experiences going through the divorce as an LDS member. If you have experienced this or know of someone, please participate or share the survey. Thank you!

If the survey below doesn't work, please visit

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Preparing for the back to school routine

Your Twitter and Facebook feed may soon be cluttered with meme’s about Christmas being under 20 weeks away. Which for me means it is time to start doing my Christmas shopping, in about 19 weeks. However, with the red and green season already being advertised, we are well into the back to school movement.

If you have been like me, you have let certain school routines slip during the summer. Sleeping in, staying up late, more snacking, later meals, more screen time, and so on are now happening daily.

The struggle is, especially with school starting in about three weeks, is figuring out how and when to get back into the school groove.

The following are just some ideas of how to get back into the school routine (I recommend only doing one or two a week, so you don’t stress yourself or your children out):
  1. Wake up earlier. If you have been sleeping in until 9:30 try waking up at 9am next week, 8.30 the week after, 8 the next, and then 7.30 for the first week of school. This allows your body to slowly ease into getting up earlier.
  2. Go to bed earlier. This is ideal to do once you are getting up earlier, as you and your children should be tired earlier. Try the same method as waking up earlier.
  3. Bed time routine. Re-establishing your past routine, or starting a new one. By having a bath, getting in pj’s, brushing teeth, reading stories, cuddles and so on, in the same order each night develops an indicator for the body to know that it is time to get ready for sleep.
  4. Structuring meals. Start having meals at a set time, or as close to the same time as possible. Note that children need a hearty and healthy breakfast.
  5. Start reading. Substitute reading books alone or together instead of screen time.
  6. Have weekly family calendaring. So often scheduling is left do the day off, and it creates frazzled parents and children.  Now don’t have too rigid of schedule, have flexibility in it.
  7. Start deciding on extra-curricular activities. Investigate or start generating interest in what after school programs your child wants to be in, whether it is gymnastics, piano, or chess.
  8. Have a weekly family activity. When the school year starts, balancing life, work and school becomes difficult. By starting a family activity before school starts it creates a tradition that can be carried through the school year.

Again, slowly adjust into a back to school routine. Trying to do it all at once is exhausting. Which might just happen for some of us on the first day of school.

By Josh Lockhart

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bilingualism: Raising Kids With Two Languages

Did you know that more than half the people in the world speak more than one language every day? 

     In Asia, Africa, in many European countries, not to mention parts of Canada, bilingualism is often seen as the norm, while in monolingual countries such as the US and England, the dominant view of the world is monolingual.

     In a predominantly mono-linguistic society like the US, bilingualism is a choice parents consciously make for their kids individually as well as for their family as a whole. If you are considering raising your child bilingually, this blog post might be of help. It focuses on some of the most important aspects of bilingualism that you would need to be aware of, based on research findings as well as my own experience as a mother of three bilingual kids. Let’s first look at what bilingualism really is.


The most commonly used definition of bilinguals is: those who use two or more languages in their everyday lives. That leads to the following definition of bilingualism: 
We speak of bilingualism when a person uses two or more languages in their everyday lives.

Benefits of bilingualism

You might rightly wonder if bilingualism has anything to offer growing kids; what are the advantages over monolingualism? Research into this question is mostly limited to the development of cognitive ability and is not entirely conclusive - apart from the obvious fact that kids end up fluent in two languages. Bilingual children seem to do better than monolingual children in some areas (attention span), equally well in others (analysis), or less well (vocabulary tests in the non-dominant language). For more on this, see reference 1 below.

     However, there are advantages that have not yet been researched, but are heard often among bilinguals. These do not relate to cognitive development so much as to overall personality development. I can attest to each and every one of them based on my personal parenting experience of using two languages in the home when my kids were growing up. As you read through the list  I’m sure you’ll agree that they make sense:
  • Ability to speak to relatives and friends with whom one would not communicate otherwise
  • Opportunity to become literate in more than one language as well as gain access to the (literary) culture as represented by that language
  • Ease of learning a third or fourth language
  • Open-mindedness and ease of switching among different perspectives on life
  • Increased job opportunities

How to Go About Raising Your Kids Bilingually

Research seems to indicate that balanced bilingualism does not just ‘happen’ in a monolingual setting – it is a conscious choice parents and kids make, a choice that needs consistent effort during a prolonged period of time. Following are three aspects, gleaned from research as well as  my own experience, that help foster bilingualism in kids:

1) Daily exposure

Kids need daily (or almost daily) exposure to both languages, preferably in monolingual form, meaning: there have to be moments each day when kids are fully immersed in one language without the other language coming to the rescue. Some kids use two languages on a daily basis as a natural outcome of their family’s specific situation. Immigrant children, for instance, will use one language in monolingual form at home and another language, also in monolingual form, at school and with friends. 

     If your kids aren’t in this category, you will have to create a second language immersion situation that occurs regularly if not on a daily basis, where they interact with people: talking, playing, reading, and are not just watching DVDs or TV, without the help of their first language.

2) Need

Your child will have to feel a need for the second language. Children will quickly drop a language when they sense that the need for it has fallen away. In the ideal situation, where one language is spoken at home and the other language is used outside, the need for both languages is obvious.

     Parents who know a second language well enough to comfortably speak it on a daily basis with their child and who have decided to use it for the purpose of a bilingual upbringing, will need to rely on contact with friends and/or family in order to immerse their kids in monolingual situations so they will feel the need to maintain their ability. 

     Bilingual parents would also do well to arrange for monolingual situations involving other people, as kids quickly circumvent difficulties they might have in one language by borrowing  from the other, knowing that the parents will understand anyway. Even though borrowing will happen naturally in bilingual families and is not a problem in and of itself, when the goal is balanced bilingualism there should be monolingual moments for each language .

3) A Positive Attitude Towards Acquisition of Both Languages

A positive attitude towards the acquisition of both languages is crucial in achieving balanced bilingualism. Being able to speak two languages fluently is fun! If children sense that either the parents or their environment is biased against either language, they may choose to drop it in favor of the one that is socially more acceptable. 

     Ideally, parents and children should talk openly about their bilingual upbringing, especially when the development in one language is lagging behind. Then the support of parents, friends and family becomes even more important.

Benefits of a Second Language

If the benefits mentioned above appeal to you, but raising your children bilingually is not a viable option, you might go for the acquisition of a second language without it becoming a native tongue. The time and effort expended would be considerably less, yet your kids and you would stand to gain from each and every advantage listed. Perhaps some of them is lesser degree compared to a bilingual situation, but still, understanding another language and culture from the inside out, even in moderate measure, is definitely worth the effort.


Often the acquisition of a second language brings with it the exposure to another culture. As is the case with the development of a second language it is vital for both parents and the environment – school, friends, etc. – to have a positive attitude towards the kids becoming acquainted with and appreciative of the two cultures. Again, when kids sense a bias towards either culture they may feel compelled to reject it as well as the language associated with it.

An Extra Tool

Lastly, I’d like to emphasize that the ability to speak two or more languages - or the effort to achieve it - is not a sign of superior intelligence, neither is it an indication of political disloyalty. For millions of people all over the world, a second language is simply an extra tool with which to navigate the journey called life.

Are you raising your kids bilingually? Please share your experience with us. We'd love to hear from you.

Check out the sites and books below for more information:

2) Biligual: Life and Reality, Francois Grosjean, Harvard University Press, 2010
4) Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Colin Baker. Multilingual Matters, 5th ed., 2011

Image courtesay of (adjusted for the article)

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Friday, August 1, 2014

How To Survive A Move With Children

1. Don’t move.

The end!

OK, if you absolutely have to move, which we just did, I have some actual advice. We finally bought our first home after living in the same two bedroom apartment for 12 years and I learned some things.

1. Declutter first. You have more stuff than you realize. Even if you’re not officially moving, start doing it. If you think you’re moving months from now, declutter. Decluttering is always good anyway. I did some decluttering, but not enough. I’m now kicking myself as I unpack things that don’t matter to me that much. I begged my husband to declutter the storage unit, which was filled with his construction stuff, drums, and much more. He said he would deal with it when we moved, but he had no idea just how much work it was going to be. We had so much stuff in there, we couldn’t fit it on the 26 foot truck we rented. We had to go back for several more loads using my van, his truck, and a trailer we borrowed from a friend. Thank goodness we were only moving 45 minutes away, or we would have had to dump some stuff. Decluttering will ensure that your most valuable possessions make it on the truck and to your new home. Get the kids involved. They probably have plenty of things they don’t play with anymore.

2. Have your least helpful children go somewhere else maybe a night or two before if you can. Our kids weren’t all going to be able to even find some floor to sleep on once we took apart the bunk beds and other furniture. Also, there was a lot less fighting with our younger two gone at Grandma’s.

3. Hate accepting help? Accept help. Come on, just this once! I am 6 months pregnant and had to accept help. Sometimes I had to lie down on the floor and drink water because I was having contractions. I felt guilty doing that while everyone else was working, but it was necessary. I never would have made it through without my friends.

4. Paper plates, cups, etc. before and after the move. I try to avoid eating out too much because it’s just too expensive and the cheaper food is unhealthy. We were lucky to have some wonderful friends who brought us dinner! Otherwise we survived on frozen pizzas, microwave burritos, etc.

5. Teach the kids how to pack. It’s a great opportunity and maybe they can help someone else sometime. My kids learned how to tape up boxes and about the best things to put in large or small boxes.

6. Take pictures. It’s a chaotic time, but still quite the memory. I wanted to remember those who showed up to help. I’m glad I remembered to do this.

7. Make a list of the really important things you want to find the night you move in or very soon after. Get some colorful tape and put it on the boxes you pack them in so you can find them easily. I found some rainbow duct tape, which made it possible for everyone to shower. And I didn’t have to run out and buy a new shower curtain that night. One time we had to buy new sheets because we couldn’t find them.

8. Label everything and make your kids label everything. I don’t just label what stuff is in it, but which room I want the box to go in. For example: Kitchen – pots and pans, cutting boards, etc. I don’t want to open a box that I don’t really need at the moment.

9. Make sure there’s plenty of water for everyone, especially in the summer and snacks for helpers too. I wanted to show my appreciation, so I picked up some gourmet bagels, doughnuts, chocolate milk, juice, and more.

10. Join a group on Facebook or something where people offer things for free. I was able to obtain boxes with much less work than usual. A few times I just ran by people’s houses to pick up boxes they had just unpacked. Until then, I was running from store to store trying to find some they hadn’t gotten rid of yet. I will do this next time, if there is a next time. I hope there’s never a next time. I’m a part of “Buy Nothing” which they have in various cities. I was able to help two people by giving away the ones I unpacked so far. It’s so much better than just putting them in recycling. It’s also another thing I had my kids help with by putting them outside when someone is going to come by. If you’re moving, I’m really sorry to hear it, but good luck! I hope some of these tips are helpful.



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