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by Jennifer on July 9, 2017.

National School Choice Week

Greenville Journal highlighted National School Choice Week with a great article. As National School Choice Week wraps up I’ve had a lot of questions about schools- specifically, “Is it a good school?” Giving advice about schools is a lot like parenting advice; I can only tell you what I know through my own experience with 3 very different kids!

We sent all of our children, now 9, 15, and 17 to elementary school at Blythe Academy of Languages to learn Spanish since both Patrick and I speak Spanish. Our kids then went to 3 different middle schools based on their personalities, experience with school, and other life factors!

The magnet school education was great! But as a working parent, I struggled with getting to school events. It’s a bit like working out at lunchtime, sounds like a great idea but when you factor in travel and shower that one-hour work-out turns into 2 plus hours away from work! As the kids got older it was important that we knew their school friends and their parents better and that was hard living on the other (wrong) side of town. You’ve heard the whine ‘all my friends….!” Well, I heard it a lot, as I drove my kids to the other side of town to play with all their school friends.

With 2 in high school and the youngest heading to middle school, we made the decision to give zoned schools a try! Then we got an acceptance letter to Brashier Middle College- for our 11th grader! We had applied when she was a rising 9th! So we threw out our desire to have all 3 kids at zoned schools! 2 out of 3 aren’t bad I guess. Brashier has been a great fit for both our girls. And let’s face it if high school girls aren’t happy ain’t nobody happy!

Maybe I have an old-fashioned view on childhood, but if I were to do it all again (God forbid!) I’d find a school that we loved and we were zoned for! Happy school shopping!

by Jennifer on February 1, 2016.

Home About Us Exciting New Campus After School Programs Tutoring Music Summer Camp 2018 Summer Rates/Info School Pick Up Blog Resources Testimonials Contact Us The Art of Avoiding Power Struggles

by Jennifer on December 21, 2015.

Teaching Siblings To Get Along

Sibling rivalry may be as old as the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Fortunately, most conflicts between siblings don’t lead to the same tragic result, but they can be distressing to parents and children alike. To keep the peace in your household, follow this advice:

  • Start early. Involve the older child before the younger brother or sister comes along. Talk about how life develops in a mother’s body, discuss what changes the family should expect, and reassure the child of his or her parents’ love.
  • Pay attention. Many struggles between siblings arise because one of the children feels neglect­ed and wants his or her share of attention. Do your best to devote some special time to each child so he or she doesn’t feel less important or unloved. Avoid any behavior that might appear to favor one child over the other.
  • Don’t compare children. Holding up one child as an example to the other can spark resentment and jealousy. Don’t expect them to become mirror images of each other. Appreciate each child on his or her own merits, and respect your kids’ individuality.
  • Teach children to settle their own conflicts. If you impose a solution, or drop everything to mediate a conflict, chances are good that no one will be happy. Talk to children about how they can solve the problem on their own—by asking politely, taking turns, seeing things from the sibling’s point of view, and so forth. If you must get involved, try not to take sides; help the children negotiate their own solution.
  • Hold family meetings. Bring everyone together once a week to discuss issues and explore solutions. Most of the time children just want to be heard. Give them a chance to speak and respond, and work together to resolve differences and disagreements.

by Jennifer on December 14, 2015.

Tantrum Alert: How to Cope with a Toddler’s Meltdown

Temper tantrums are a part of life for any small child—and for every parent as well. They can be embarrassing, and even frightening, but for your child’s sake, and your own sanity, you need to understand them so you can deal with them constructively.

Meltdowns can be very common in children from 1-4 years old. Kids that age are struggling for control of their environment, and their inability to express themselves with language, or physically get what they want, can lead to frustration that they’re not equipped to handle, especially if they’re tired, hungry, uncomfort­able, or feeling stressed for any reason.

Parents may not be able to head tantrums off completely, but you can keep them from turning into a pitched battle with these strategies:

  • Ignore the tantrum. If at all possible, let the child’s temper run its course without interference from you, unless there’s any danger of damage or injury to objects or to your child. The idea is to avoid feeding the tantrum with too much attention.
  • Distract the child. Try to direct the child’s attention away from whatever is contributing to the problem. Offering to read a story or play with a different toy may help your child forget about whatever’s upsetting him or her.
  • Try a time-out. Remove your child from the situation and give him or her a chance to calm down in a safe environment. Without the stimulus, the child will usually be able to settle down quickly.
  • Teach coping strategies. Talk to your child about how to deal with frustration. You might emphasize using words to explain what they want, or finding some alternative way to get what they need (by making a trade, for example).
  • Reinforce positive behavior. Take every chance you can to praise children for dealing with problems calmly and construc­tively. Let them know that anger is perfectly natural, and it’s something they can control.
  • Follow a routine. When children know what’s going on, they’re less likely to become confused or upset. Take kids on errands early in the day before they get too tired, for example. A regular routine is soothing for kids; constant change can be stressful.
  • Know what triggers to look for. Pay attention to what seems to cause a tantrum to erupt. If a certain place or activity seems to set your child off, try to avoid it, or talk about appropriate actions ahead of time.
  • Stay calm. Don’t throw your own tantrum in response to your child’s. This can make the entire experience more frightening and can extend the trauma. Be a good role model for handling anger and frustration.

by Jennifer on December 13, 2015.

Talking to Baby

Talking to children and answering any questions they may throw at you is one of the fundamental ways in which they learn. Talking, however, isn’t just important once youngsters have already mastered basic language skills, but well before they have even uttered their first words.

Human beings aren’t born with language skills, but rather we acquire them gradually from an early age and build on them throughout our lives. Even as very small babies, we begin to learn the art of communication, which means that by constantly talking to your child you can be gradually teaching words and sentence structures, not to mention the things that go along with spoken language, such as facial expressions and gestures. Instead of simply repeating the words “mom” or “dad” to get your baby to repeat them, talk about everything that is going on in order to add to their memory banks and make it easier for them to learn a greater number of words in a shorter period of time. For example, you can talk to them about the foods that they are eating, describe what you are doing or chat about the things that you see on a visit to the park. The baby will eventually associate the words with the things you are talking about.

Babies may not understand what you are saying when you chatter to them incessantly, but the constant communication will help them build their own language skills that much sooner.

by Jennifer on December 11, 2015.

How To Teach Your Children To Be Safe At Any Age

Parents worry about their children; it’s a fact of life. Teaching them to be safe as they grow and explore is one of your most important jobs. But with so many potential threats to worry about, the task can seem overwhelming.

Here are a few basics to concentrate on:

  • Discuss safety calmly. You want your children to be careful, not terrified. When you talk about safety matters, emphasize that your main concern is their welfare. Listen to their concerns, and answer their questions as clearly and honestly as you can.
  • Highlight important information. Be sure your younger children know their home phone number and address, as well as contact information for another relative or trusted adult.
  • Don’t just talk about strangers. Attacks or abductions by total strangers are (thankfully) very rare. Let children know they should tell you anytime they’re made uncomfortable by someone’s behavior, even if they know the person well.
  • Play “what if?” Rules and advice can be too abstract for young minds to understand. Make it real by asking children what they would do in certain situations: If a stranger tried to get them into a car, for example, or if they got lost in a shopping mall.
  • Discuss body issues. Let your children know that no one should be allowed to touch them in personal areas. Teach them what areas you’re talking about, with the proper names, so they can tell you accurately if something happens.

by Jennifer on December 9, 2015.

Parenting the Teenage Brain Series, Part Three: What Works and What Doesn’t

Many parents struggle at times to connect with their teenage children. They sometimes find it difficult to get past the emotional highs and lows, the inconsistencies between what teens say and do, and the difficulty many teens have expressed their thoughts. Below are a list of common strategies and their effectiveness.

Lecture

As many of you already know from personal experience, lecturing does not work. Due to the fact that we have been through many of their same experiences and come out on the other side, hopefully unscathed, we know we could save them some trouble if they would just listen to what we have to say. However, it is easy to see with the body language of disinterest that we have lost them when we use this tactic. Ever heard yourself say, “Are you listening?” The teen is skipping right past the frontal lobe response that would carefully take into consideration your wisdom and experience and heading straight to the emotional response that they are being controlled.

Guilt and Personal Attacks

Even though this is often a teen’s weapon of choice, it should not be mirrored back to them. It is our task to model reasonable, calm responses to emotional situations to help them adapt and take on that same behavior.

Communication

Regular conversations with teens make them feel valued, loved, supported, heard, and important. These skills often deteriorate during the teenage years, so by practicing them regularly with an adult, teens can regain and strengthen these abilities. Also, teens often misread emotions, both verbally and physically in body language. By communicating regularly with your teen, he or she can practice connecting words and gestures with their appropriate emotions. Some good general rules for communicating with your teen are:

  • to listen more than talk
  • use “I” statements rather than “you” statements
  • let your teen do the teaching at times
  • accept ideas that are different than your own
  • ask questions periodically to show interest
  • match your emotions (don’t try to compensate and be perky when your teen is depressed)
  • attempt to identify with your teen’s point of view
  • hold back advice unless asked
  • avoid generalizations
  • ask questions that require full responses, not yes or no answers.

Be a Source of Support

Teens, at times, make risky decisions and need to know that, while there are consequences, they will find support in their parents.

Encourage Autonomy

Allow your teens to think independently, even if it is independently of you! This will help them to do the same with peers when they need to.

Trust

Trust your teens and respect their space until they have given you reason not to, then discuss the reasoning behind your new rules as logical consequences, not unreasonable punishment.

Monitor Your Teen

Teens are still practicing responsible decision making. Find out who they are with, where they are going, what they plan to do, and when they will be back. Be sure to do the same yourself to model this skill for teens. They will better understand when you extend the same courtesy.

by Jennifer on December 1, 2015.

Home About Us Exciting New Campus After School Programs Tutoring Music Summer Camp 2018 Summer Rates/Info School Pick Up Blog Resources Testimonials Contact Us Parenting the Teenage Brain- Part Two: Parenting Styles

Despite his or her best efforts to convince you otherwise, your teen needs you and enjoys having you around. The statistics below back up this idea:

“In one study, 84% of teens agreed with the statement that they think highly of their mother. More than three-quarters of teenagers (79%) enjoy spending time with their mother. Eighty-nine percent of teens think highly of their father.Seventy-six percent enjoy spending time with their father.” (Parenting the Teenage Brain, Fenstein, p. 21)

Many parents mistake the more adult way their teen looks and the responsibilities they can take on to mean that they are ready to have less involvement from their parents. While it is true that teens need a very different form of involvement from their parents, they still need and want their parents present as much as ever.

During the teen years, child-parent relationships can impact a teen’s grades, social abilities, attitude towards drugs and alcohol, and tendencies toward other risk taking behaviors, for better or worse.

In parenting, there are three main styles that have been identified. While every parent and child relationship is different, researchers generally agree that the characteristics of one of these parenting styles is linked to greater emotional well-being and personal responsibility for teenagers.

Authoritative

Parents in this category listen to their teens and take their thoughts and feelings into consideration when making decisions. As parents, they reserve final say because they are the ones more capable of using the frontal lobe that helps in reasoning and logical decision making that often eludes teens. They model these thought processes for their teens and invite their children into the discussions, thus helping their teens to develop those logic and reasoning skills. Authoritative parents encourage their teens to make choices and take responsibility for the consequences, be they good or bad, all while continuing to manage those decisions their teen is not yet ready to handle independently. An authoritative parent is aware of who his or her teen is with, where that teen is, and what that teen is doing. Authoritative parents also recognize when it is time to adapt to their child’s ever-changing needs. This parenting style, in summation, is vigilant, yet democratic.

Authoritarian

Parents in this category can be heard to say, “My house, my rules” or “My way or the highway.” Decision making rests solely with the parents with little or no regard for changes in the adolescent or demonstration of logical decision-making or reasoning skills. Parents in this category often do not feel they need to “explain themselves” to their children. Teens who have authoritarian parents are at a disadvantage because they do not practice the decision-making skills that can be an adolescent’s greatest weakness and they can become concerned only with the external consequences of inappropriate or immoral behavior not the intrinsic motivations of appropriate behavior.

Permissive

Permissive parents can be either neglectful of or spoil their children. This style is characterized by inconsistency and is often marked by parents who wish to be friends with their teens or who are intimidated by their teen’s emotional amygdala-centered responses to their environment. The result of this parenting style is confusion and feelings of insecurity and rejections for teens.

Researchers have found the authoritative style of parenting to be the one most linked to a teenager’s overall sense of security and well-being. This style continues to offer adolescents guidance while providing them with explanations and modeling of the skills they will need on their own in the future. Always remember that teens have many friends, but only one set of parents and they need you as much as ever!

by Jennifer on November 29, 2015.

Parenting the Teenage Brain: An Article Series for Busy Parents

As a parent of two children myself, I find it difficult to sift through the vast amounts of information regarding my children’s best interests at the same time that I am actively and daily caring for those best interests. Thankfully, as my children move into adolescence, this task is also part of my career and has been for fifteen years. With that in mind, I am beginning a series of web articles for our middle school page. This series follows my readings in the book Parenting the Teenage Brain by Sheryl Feinstein and allows busy parents a chance to hear some of what the experts are saying about adolescent development without reading the book cover to cover. We hope that you find this series beneficial and that it helps shed some light on current issues involving adolescents. So, here we go…

If someone had said years back that puberty was the least of a teenager’s problems, we may have thought they were crazy. Much of teenagers’ emotional, impulsive, and irrational behaviors were thought to be a result of raging hormones brought on by bodies going through the drastic changes of puberty. Now, due to technological advances and the ability to study healthy, normal, living teenage brains, researchers are finding that teenagers’ hormone levels are not all that terribly different than those of adults. In addition to puberty, the search for autonomy and separation, and the search for their own personal identity, there are other changes happening in the adolescent brain that have a greater impact on their behavior. Understanding the adolescent begins with understanding what is going on in their minds and bodies. Here are some of those changes that teachers and parents should be aware of:

Overproduction

During adolescence, teenagers overproduce dendrites and synaptic connections. Adolescents are learning new information at a rate matched only by their early childhood years. In fact, these processes are the exact same ones that happen in the brains of children just before birth and in the early childhood years. It is no coincidence that the volume of change they are going through can match the rate of toddler development, just with a very different set of skills they are learning.

Pruning

The teenage brain then goes through the process of weeding out these synaptic connections that are deemed unnecessary, a “use it or lose it” system. Any connections that a teen does not regularly exercise and make use of will be removed in an effort to run more smoothly and efficiently. If a teen plays video games, these connections will be stronger. Likewise, if a teen reads often, these connections will strengthen.

Myelination

This process, which is the development of fatty substance that insulates the neurons in the brain and allows them to communicate more quickly and effectively, happens next. This process occurs throughout adolescence allowing teens to become increasingly more organized and communicate verbally with increasing effectiveness. As your child progresses through adolescence, you may see ebbs and flows in their organization and communication and these will likely match their physical changes as well.

Emotional Issues

During the teenage years, adolescents rely on the amygdala, or emotional center of the brain, to interpret the information they receive. Adults use their frontal lobes to do the same task and therefore express themselves more logically and reflectively than the typical teenager. This excessive reliance on the emotional parts of the brain at times results in over-reactions on the part of the teenager or misunderstandings of the body and facial language of others. It is a good idea to ask your teen to fully consider a situation from all viewpoints or to assist them in determining if they accurately processed a situation they found upsetting. There is a decent possibility it was a misunderstanding stemming from this adolescent challenge.

Window of Opportunity

Teenagers are in a prime position to develop the skills of impulse control, relationships, and communication, if adults actively model and articulate these skills and if teens are given regular opportunities to practice these talents. Having trusted adults who are active member’s of your teen’s life can provide additional modeling and perspective for them while allowing them the autonomy to move a single step away from previous levels of parent direction.

Window of Sensitivity

Due to the extreme development of neural connections, learning pathways, and their link to personal experiences, teenagers are at a heightened risk of damage from chemicals, alcohol, drugs, and smoking. Addiction occurs more quickly at this time and teens are more resistant to recovery now and later in life as well. In upcoming articles, we will talk about some ways to encourage teens to make healthy choices, while still understanding their developmental challenges.

I hope you enjoyed this very brief, cursory glance at what is happening behind your adolescent’s sometimes, even often,  furrowed brow. The next article in this series will focus on three main parenting styles and how they work in conjunction with the adolescent stage of development. Happy parenting!

by Jennifer on November 12, 2015.