Category Archives: Families

Crib and Mattress Safety: What to Look for at Child Care Facilities

We hope you enjoy this guest post from the experts at the Sleep Help Institute. If you have additional questions about safe sleeping practices, please contact our Infant/Toddler specialists.

Child safety is always at the forefront of both the minds of parents and child care providers. When it comes to sleep safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) developed requirements to protect children when they’re at their most vulnerable. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics also updated their crib and mattress recommendations. These guidelines still hold today and all child care facilities, and caregivers should abide by them.

WHAT MAKES A CRIB SAFE?

The construction, hardware, placement, and accessories of a crib all contribute to child safety. Standards to watch for include:

  • Bar Space: Sidebars should be spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. That’s about the width of a pop can. A wider space gives enough room for a child’s head to slide through the bars and potentially get injured.
  • Top Rail Height: The distance between the top of the crib rail and the mattress must be at least 26 inches. This should be the distance even when the crib mattress is at the highest position. As children get taller,  caregivers should lower the mattress so the child cannot climb or fall out of the crib.
  • Solid Head and Footboards: Solid headboard and footboards prevent a child’s body and clothing from getting caught in cutouts. Crib models that have bars at the head and foot of the crib should still maintain the 2 3/8-inch distance necessary on sidebars.
  • Remove Corner Posts: Corner posts present a strangulation hazard because clothing can get caught on them.
  • The Mattress: A safe crib mattress should be firm and should not sag under the weight of a child. The mattress should also fit snugly against the crib walls with no space between the two.

Even a crib that meets all the standards can become dangerous if not properly maintained. Child care providers should regularly check cribs for broken and missing pieces. Parents deciding on a facility should ask how often child care providers inspect the cribs.

Once in a while, an old crib that doesn’t meet the new standards may still be in use, including drop-side cribs. Today, drop-side cribs cannot be manufactured, sold, or even donated because of the danger they pose. These cribs were designed to give caregivers easy access to the baby with a side (or two) that could be lowered. However, a lowered side created a gap between the mattress and crib rail where children could get caught. The moving hardware necessary for these cribs also tended to break and warped, which led to preventable injuries.

MORE THAN A CRIB MAKES SLEEPING SAFE

Child safety requires more than the right hardware. The location and contents of the crib can also make a difference. For example:

  • Caregivers should not place cribs near windows. Drafts can make the baby uncomfortable while cords and strings pose a strangulation hazard.
  • Bumpers aren’t necessary. Bumpers were designed to prevent children from hurting themselves by running into the side of the crib. However, they pose more danger than they prevent as they can be a potential suffocation and strangulation hazard.
  • Stuffed animals and extra blankets may look cute but they aren’t necessary and can be a suffocation hazard. They also make a good step stool for older children, putting them at risk of falling out of the crib.

COMMITMENT TO SAFETY

Parents can and should discuss their safety concerns with any potential child care provider. A child care provider that’s up-to-date on the latest standards will be more than happy address any and all safety concerns.

Cover image by Flickr user Donnie Ray Jones, Creative Commons license.

Healthy Eating and Cooking with Children

by Molly Manley, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Coordinator

Looking for a way to learn and grow with your kids, while also promoting healthy eating? Get on your aprons, and get ready to whip up something delicious with your children or those in your care. Cooking with children can promote lifetime skills such as:

  • Basic Math – Cooking involves counting, addition, shapes, sizes, and measurements.
  • Science – Highlight growing food or changing forms, like liquids and solids.
  • Language – Conversations with children while cooking will increase their language development and ability to follow instructions. Creating simple recipe cards with instructions is also a useful tool. Obtain children’s books from the library that pertain to the type of foods they will be eating.
  • Art – Have children draw pictures of the foods they ate.  Ask them to create a picture by painting with yogurt, or glue cereal to a piece of paper.

GO ON A FOOD ADVENTURE

Cooking with children also encourages them to explore new foods and how food gets to our tables. Discuss where food comes from, plant a garden, or take a field trip to the grocery store or a farm. This will give them a better understanding of what they are eating.

It would also be a good idea to shop around for child size utensils, cups, bowls and pitchers. This will make it easier for the child to prepare and serve themselves. We are promoting self-help skills, and, if the child has a difficult time succeeding, it may prompt them to quit out of frustration.

TRY OUT A NEW AND FUN RECIPE

Below are three simple recipes to try with children.

Fruit and Yogurt Muffin

Ingredients:
1 Whole Grain English Muff
¼ cup of Yogurt- any flavor
¼ cup of fruit- bananas and berries work well

Directions:
Adult: Portion out yogurt and fruit for each child separately.
Adult: Toast English Muffin.
Child: Spread yogurt over English muffin using a spoon.
Child: Add fruit to top.

Pizza Rollups

Ingredients:
1 tube of crescent rolls
1 jar of pizza sauce
1 package of string cheese – cut into quarters (1 ounce each)
1 bag of pepperoni- cut into quarters, unless using minis

Directions:
Adult: Unroll crescent roll dough, separate into 8 triangles.
Child: Place 8 pepperoni pieces on each.
Child: Place a piece of cheese on the short side of the triangle.
Child: Roll up dough starting on the short side and pinch seams to seal.
Adult: Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Cook at 375 for 10-12 minutes

Serve with ¼ cup of warm pizza sauce
Makes a 8 roll ups.

Celery Snails

Ingredients:
1 bunch of celery –  washed and cut in halves
Apples –  cut into slices small enough to fit into celery
Peanut or Almond Butter

Directions:
Adult: Wash and cut celery and apples to appropriate size.
Child:  Spread peanut or almond butter on celery pieces.
Child: Insert apple into middle of celery.

Cover image by Flickr user Andrew Seaman, Creative Commons license.

Building a relationship with my child’s teacher

by Kristin Kahl, Knowledge Manager

I’m one of the few staff here at Child Care Answers who doesn’t have Early Childhood Education experience. So why am I writing this blog? What I do have is this – experience in being a parent who is inexperienced. I needed every bit of help I could get. I learned some things the hard way. Hopefully, sharing some of my stories can help families who are also in the same boat.

When my first son Miles was born, I didn’t have a clue about what was supposed to happen in a child care setting.  Sure, I knew the basics. Caregivers shouldn’t lay babies down to sleep in cribs with blankets or pillows. I should not find a teacher in a room alone with 20 two-year olds. I shouldn’t walk away to hear adults screaming at the children (although my own kid screaming “Moooooooooooommmmmmmeeeeeeeeeee!!!” was going to happen sometimes).

Thankfully, none of the above happened the first day I dropped him off when he was three-months old. Nevertheless, I was uneasy to hand him over to Ms. Sandra (name changed to protect the innocent). In my previous visits, she had been quiet, making as little small talk as possible. Although she had a grandmotherly vibe, she didn’t give off the goo-goo ga-ga baby talk that Miles had seen from his relatives and gray-haired church ladies. How was his day going to go without the over-the-top songs and silliness he was used to? I was nervous about my about my day away from him, my first day back to work, and about my first day pumping as a nursing mom.

I was, however, fortunate to be able to go in to nurse Miles twice a week. The first time I came in, Ms. Sandra was just finishing up feeding another baby. Instead of the hustle and bustle of the morning drop-off, I caught a glimpse of her in a lovely quiet one-on-one moment, with just a hint of goo-goo and ga-ga. She looked up and offered me the rocker. At first, I froze, wanting to whisk Miles away to keep him to myself in a private room. I accepted, though, and I’m so glad I did.

That was the beginning of a long series of talks with Ms. Sandra – me at the rocker with Miles, her tending to the other babies, and us chatting about our days. I discovered she had quite the understated sense of humor with an amazing twinkle in her eye when she joked. I got to see firsthand as she changed a diaper on a wiggly worm like a champ or soothed a colicky baby after drop-off. She got to hear (whether or not she wanted to) about Miles’ crazy gas last night or his hilarious new trick. Eventually, the time came for me to wean Miles and for him to move to another room. Even so, I continued to visit at the same time to play and connect with him and his new teacher.

TIPS FOR CONNECTING WITH YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER

How can you make the best of the time that you have to learn what in going on in your child’s classroom? Keep the following in mind.

  • Connect with the teacher in her “natural habitat.” If a teacher is covering for another teacher in a different classroom or is at a shift change, she won’t be giving you her best self. Set her up for that opportunity!
  • Try different options until you find what fits. Not everyone will have my same fortune to be able to visit twice per week during the day. Look at your own schedule and see what would work best to find time to regularly connect with your child’s teacher. If you can’t connect face-to-face, make sure that each of you have a way to ask questions and get answers. That could mean paper, text, app, phone, or some other way to communicate.
  • Keep the teacher’s needs in mind too. Remember that your teacher is caring for other children and cannot focus her attention solely on you and your child. If you notice you are being a distraction to her or the other children, wrap up your visit or conversation.
  • Don’t forget to keep your child at the center. As your child ages, what works one month may not work the next. For example, when my youngest son was going through separation anxiety, I couldn’t come in the middle of the day anymore. So,I built in extra time and stayed a little longer when I picked him up.
  • Be flexible! This is the most important! There are a lot of people and parts to this equation, but remember that you’re doing this for the best interest of your child. If you’re making things difficult for the teacher, child, or yourself, then find a better way to do it!

Can my two-year old read?

by Ann Aull, Early Childhood Adult Educator

We have all seen advertisements of babies and young children reading words off flash cards with proud parents beaming in the background.  While there are varying opinions on the effectiveness of these programs, the truth is that very young children are beginning to gain the skills necessary to be readers.

Adults in children’s lives can be integral in helping children to work on these skills.  How many young children can recognize the golden arches of McDonalds or the cowboy hat in the Arby’s sign? Guess what?  Connecting symbols with meaning is a huge step toward reading.

HOW DO I ENCOURAGE MY CHILD TO BE A READER?

When you are in the car with your children, ask questions about familiar signs and symbols.  If you see a stop sign, you can repeat the word “stop” and spell it. That will help children associate meaning with letters.

Make a photo album with your child of his or her favorite things with the word underneath the picture so they associate the word with the item.  It is through this association that children will eventually associate letters with sounds, sounds with words, and, finally, words with meaning.

SO…WHAT’S THE ANSWER? IS MY TWO-YEAR OLD READING?

The answer to the question above is yes! Your two year old is born curious and hard wired to learn language.  So, he or she is a born reader!

Cover image by Flickr user Dan Hatton, Creative Commons license.

Preventing Childhood Obesity

by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist

As a parent in today’s hurry-up society, I recognize how easy it can be to succumb to unhealthy habits that are responsible for creating an overweight child.  For the sake of convenience and budget, we all have all been guilty of these habits. My vice? Swinging by the closest fast food joint when the evening hours fade away after extracurricular events or running errands. At some point in time, most of us have relied on a computer screen to keep a child occupied. It sure makes things easier to handle issues, cook dinner, or just sit down and take a deep breath.

If we take time to look at the potential long term effects, it can help families become empowered to make small changes that will make big impacts.

OBESITY IS TRENDING UPWARD

Statistics says that nearly 1 in 3, or over 30% of Hoosiers are overweight or obese*. Unfortunately, this trend is getting worse, and the numbers are increasing each year.  What can you do to make sure that your family is not among these statistics?

IDEAS TO KEEP YOUR KIDS ON TRACK

Childhood presents an opportunity to instill life- long healthy habits with regards to physical activity and healthy eating. I find these some ideas helpful:

  • Plan meals for the week.
  • Pack healthy snacks for kids in between meals on busy days.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Set aside time for physical activity.

Staying active and eating healthy is the key to helping combat this ever growing problem.

WALK THE WALK AND TALK THE TALK

Do your child and yourself a favor. Role model behaviors. Incorporate healthy behaviors as often as you can. Eat right. Keep moving. Little changes will render big gains.

OTHER RESOURCES

For more tips, check out these resources:

Cover image by Flickr user University of Delaware Alumni Relations, Creative Commons license.

*Harper, Jake. “Report: Nearly 1 In 3 Hoosiers Obese.” WFYI Public Media, 21 Sept. 2015, www.wfyi.org/news/articles/report-nearly-1-in-3-hoosiers-obese. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.

Child Safety in the Home

Make your home safer for little ones

by Vanessa Vance, Early Learning Adult Instructor

BABY’S SIDE OF THE STORY

“Ooh! Look at that pretty stuff over there! I should check it out!” thinks Baby, making his way across the living room floor.

Mom is busy making dinner in the next room. ‘Silence is golden’ some say. In this case, silence can be dangerous! Little eyes spot things adults wouldn’t even give a second glance to.

Baby makes his way across the floor and glances up at the colorful glass vase full of flowers. “I just need to get higher,” he thinks. As Baby pulls himself up to the low table, he is startled by someone saying his name very loudly. He starts to whimper. “You scared me!” he says in his mind.

Mom walks over, picks him up, and comforts him. She didn’t mean to scare him, but she needed to alert him of the possible danger.

SAFETY TIPS FOR YOUR HOME

As parents, we want to keep our children from harm. Oftentimes, we don’t see or think about things that need to be “baby-proofed” in our homes. One way to see things the way a child would is to get on her level.  It may seem silly, but crawl on the floor around the house, looking high and low for things that could be a hazard. Pay attention to:

  • Electrical outlets – do they have safety covers?
  • Glass and other breakable items – can they be placed somewhere out of reach or packed away?
  • Cleaning supplies – are there any under the bathroom sink? In the bathroom closet? On the floor behind the toilet? In the hall closet? Under the kitchen sink? In the pantry?
  • Tip hazards – are all cabinets, bookcases, stands or tables, secure and unable for baby to pull over on himself?
  • Small stuff – anything we may drop – from cookie crumbs to earrings – Baby will find them! Keep the small stuff picked up or swept up.
  • Sharp stuff – big sister doing a school project? Make sure scissors are put away as well as sharp pencils, pens, and even paper.
  • Tablecloths – It may be time to take off the tablecloths and table runners. Anything that hangs can look fun to play with.
  • Stove handles – Do you have a stove with handles on the bottom front? Make sure they have safety handles.
  • The refrigerator – Need an easy way to keep it closed for little ones – and easy for us? Place two non-permanent hooks toward the top of the fridge, one on the side and one on the door. Place a rubber band or string around both hooks. Baby can’t open, but magically, you can!

OTHER HELPFUL SAFETY RESOURCES

There are so many things to think about when a little one is around. By taking these first few steps, you have made yourself aware of other possible hazards to take care of.  Below are some website addresses to further explore safety in the home:

Cover image by Flickr user Lars Plougmann, Creative Commons license.

summer-learning-gap

Closing the summer learning gap

by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist

In the blink of an eye, the school year is over and another summer is before you.  The majority of us out there are working parents, and we often have a hard balance to achieve in the summer: keeping kids safe, enriching their learning, and seeing that they have an enjoyable time.

If you’re like many parents, you secured a spot for your child at a local day camp or child care facility.   As a concerned and engaged parent, you may be wondering how your child will fare in the two months spent away from the formal education they received at school. Will they have an educational experience that will fill the gap of school?

Research shows all young people experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities over the summer, and most students lose almost two months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills 1.

While these stats are startling, you can do your part to help your child lessen these kinds of summer losses. Knowing these gaps exist is your first line of defense when it comes to helping your child.  Instead of relying on the summer camps and child care to help fill the gaps, you can help fill the gap by doing your part at home.  Parents are in fact their child’s original teacher, right?

The thought of trying to facilitate your child’s learning is probably the last thing on your mind after a long day at work. However, it may involve less effort than you think.

TIPS TO KEEP YOUR CHILD ENGAGED OVER THE SUMMER

Below are some simple strategies that you can use at home with your child:

  • Limit screen time. Set limits on how much television, computer, video game, and tablet time your child may spend, based on the amount appropriate for his or her age.  Encourage games and websites that are educational and interactive. The Minnesota Parent Center offers a page of links with websites that are parent-approved, safe, and educational.
  • Use practical applications to teach. Participate with your kids in everyday activities. Help your kids set up a lemonade stand. Let them help you cook dinner or bake a dessert.  Put them in charge of tasks while grocery shopping, such as keeping track of coupons or finding the lowest-priced item.
  • Encourage exploration and adventure (even if it’s only in your backyard)! Ask open-ended questions to spark your child’s curiosity.
  • Take your child places in your community. Local parks, museums, theaters, libraries, or zoos help children learn about the world around them.

As you can see, many of the strategies are things you are probably doing anyway. Why not capitalize on the experiences and turn them into teaching moments for your child? The benefits will be long lasting.

A wise man once said, ”Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Albert Einstein

Here’s to a summer of experiences and learning that lasts a lifetime!

 

1 National Summer Learning Association: http://www.summerlearning.org/?page=know_the_facts

Cover image by Flickr user Penn StateCreative Commons license.

 

Pre-K: Which environment is best for your family?

by Marla Segal, Pre-K Project Manager

Recently, pre-K has been a hot topic in the State of Indiana. Studies have shown that pre-K can have long term benefits for your child’s development1. It helps prepare them for kindergarten, and it helps their social-emotional growth.

It can be overwhelming to find the right pre-K program for your child. Where to start? Look for one that the State of Indiana considers to be high quality. This means they are a Level 3 or Level 4 on the Paths to QUALITY™ program. These providers follow certain standards, no matter the type or size of the program. They follow a curriculum, complete 20 hours of professional development, and have certain education levels for their staff.

In Indiana, the search for a pre-K program can also be overwhelming because of our mixed-delivery system. You can find pre-K classes in family child care homes, child care centers, ministries, public schools, and private schools. Through my work as the pre-K project manager for Marion County, I see wonderful learning environments within all these programs. So, how do you know which one to choose?

As a parent, take some time to understand both your child’s and your family’s needs. Then, make your pre-K decision based on which environment fits best.

FAMILY CHILD CARE HOMES

If your child needs a small group setting, she may fit well in a family child care home. If your child gets overwhelmed in a large group, consider a home. Some people think a family child care home can’t prepare your child for kindergarten because it is not in a “school setting.”  However, if the program is a Level 3 or 4,  they are following a developmentally appropriate curriculum.  Family child care homes can have up to 12 or 16 children, depending on the type of license they have. Homes usually run a year-round program.

Family child care homes can have mixed age groups, which means you may have an infant and a pre-K student together. When meeting with the owner/director, ask how he or she manages such a wide age-range. Mixed age groups can be a great learning environment if it’s done appropriately.  Children can develop skills and learn from one another.

CHILD CARE CENTERS

Many Level 3 and 4 child care centers wrap their pre-K programs in with their all-day services. This is meant to help working families. Child care centers have classrooms separated in age groups. The ratio of teacher per student is one teacher to 12 students. Programs may have up to 24 children with two teachers.  Child care centers usually run a year-round program.

MINISTRIES

Level 3 or 4 ministries are on the Voluntary Certification Program (VCP), therefore meeting the same guidelines as a licensed child care facility. Ministries are housed in a facility operated by a religious organization. They follow the same ratios as a child care center and usually run a year-round program. Many ministries offer part-time programs. This may be ideal if your child may not be ready to be away for a full day program.

PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Many public school systems in Marion County offer pre-K and can also participate in Paths to QUALITY™. Lawrence, Warren, Wayne, Perry, Decatur, and Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) all have Level 3 or 4 programs. Most public school programs require their pre-K teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. Some even require a teaching license. For most public schools, there is a weekly fee for pre-K services. If you live in the IPS school district, they offer pre-K for no charge. If you are interested in your district pre-K, call to see what type of programs and services are offered.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Many private schools offer pre-K. An approved On My Way Pre-K private school is not required to be on Paths to QUALITY™, but the pre-K program must be accredited by a regional or national approved state board of education. If they are an accredited program, they must follow developmentally appropriate standards.  Private schools tend to be smaller in size than public schools. If you are looking for that “school” environment, but are hesitant to be in a large setting, then a private school may meet your needs.

CHOOSE A DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE ENVIRONMENT

No matter the type of program you choose, a quality program should foster your child’s development. It should also integrate learning in a developmentally appropriate environment. All the programs we discussed should have learning centers and developmentally appropriate learning materials. Preschoolers need to feel that they are in a safe, comfortable environment that allows them to explore and grow. If you see that in your child, you can feel comfortable in that pre-K program and know that you chose the right path for your child’s future.

1 Center for Public Education: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Pre-kindergarten/Pre-Kindergarten

Cover image by Flickr user Donald MaxwellCreative Commons license.

Putting down screens and picking up a book

by Kristin Kahl, Knowledge Manager

Next week is a fantastic opportunity for families.  It’s both Screen-Free Week and Children’s Book Week! You read that right. I said fantastic opportunity, not scary-potential-for-disaster-when-my-kids-don’t-have-something-to-entertain-them-every-second.

I get it. As a working parent of 6- and 8-year-old boys, sometimes this mama just needs a minute of peace. Most of the time, the Kindle does a bang-up job of being my right-hand man to help me get a load of dishes or laundry done. The Wii (who lives in the quiet recesses of the faraway basement) is a great friend whenever the boys are snapping at each other, and I need a way to get a little quiet time.

This week is going to be different. So, I’m going to try to use entertainment other than screens for the kiddos. That’s where the books come in! The boys are old enough to be able to read on their own now. My 8-year-old is working his way through the Harry Potters and The Mysterious Benedict Society series. My 6-year-old feels like such a big kid when he reads the Magic Tree House chapter books. I think it’s also important for me to take some extra time out of my schedule to read with them. We have plenty of favorites I plan to break out, and many more waiting for us at the library.

Thankfully, I work with really wonderful experts who have some great suggestions:

 

 

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?

What about you? Tell us about your favorite children’s book in the comments section below.

 

AN UPDATE FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Well, I’m proud to report that our family survived Screen-Free week. As luck has it, it rained just about every day last week. Also, my third grader reported it was the worst planning ever because it also collided with Star Wars Day (May the Fourth). That meant that all six of the original movies were on TV, and the poor kid had to wait to watch them. Yet, we managed to get in some great board game nights and family reading time.

My favorite moment was when my kindergartner decided he wanted to attempt to read The Mysterious Benedict Society like his big brother. Although he could pronounce all the words, he didn’t know what they all meant. So, my third grader sat down with him and acted as a human dictionary for a good while they read it together. It warmed this mama’s heart – thanks Screen-Free week!

Cover image by Flickr user Katie LevesqueCreative Commons license.

raising boys

Tips for Raising Boys: It’s All Right!

by Shannon Ford, MA, ECE  Professional Development Coordinator

If there’s something I knew about raising a boy solo, it was that I would need a mantra to guide me. Funny how things happen. My Jacob came into this world screaming and crying while the Beatles hit song, Here Comes the Sun was playing in the background. You know the one that goes, “And I say, it’s all right?”

Screaming his head off during a 12-hour road trip to Wisconsin? “It’s all right.” Dumping his milk into the VCR? “It’s all right.” Cutting his finger with his new pocket knife? “It’s all right.” Coming home covered head to toe in mud? “It’s all right.” Trip to the ER? “It’s all right.”

From the Hot Wheels to the sports to the stink, it’s our job as their parent to nurture the wonderful qualities our boys bring to the table. Here’s what I wish I had known 16 years ago:

BOYS WILL CONTINUALLY TEST THEIR MANHOOD BY TAKING RISKS.

Boys often misjudge their abilities. There is no tree too high, no bike too fast. Our first trip to the ER was the result of a bike crash. Helmets and knee pads come in handy–use them. As parents, we long to safeguard our children from mishaps in life. However, kids need healthy risk opportunities to develop judgment, character, resilience, self-reliance, skill, and confidence. Fear stops children from trying; often it’s our fear. Life in a bubble can be more harmful than taking a healthy risk.

BOYS GO, GO, GO.

As the saying goes, from SON up to SUN down, our boys never stop moving. One minute he’s building a track for Thomas the Tank and the next he’s getting stuck under the coffee table. He has two speeds—fast and faster.

Don’t force him to slow down. Instead, divert his excess energy into positive outlets. Individual and team sports begin at an early age and offer boys an outlet for energy and an opportunity for social interaction. Have him help around the house by assigning age-appropriate chores. His brain is far more active during physical activity than when sitting passively. An active brain is a healthy brain.

YOU WILL STEP ON A LEGO (AND YOU WILL SCREAM).

Enough said.

COMMUNICATING WITH HIM IS LIKE PULLING TEETH.

My afternoon greeting with my son used to go something like this: “How was your day?” “Fine.”  “Anything exciting happen?” “Nope.” “Did you get to go outside?” “Yep.” “Do you have any homework?” “A little.” “What did you have for lunch?” “A walking taco.” “Anything else?” “Apples.” Exhausting, absolutely exhausting, is how I now describe my failed attempts at connecting with my son.

Today, I utilize many more open-ended questions. We even have the tradition (going 7 years strong, I might add) of him telling me three things about his day. When we first started this, I would say “tell me three.” As he finishes up his sophomore year, he still “tells me three.” Additionally, boys are action-oriented; they communicate and bond by doing. Want an even better conversation with your son? Try chatting while playing a board game or shooting hoops.

HE HAS EMOTIONS, TOO (AND THEY NEED TO BE ADDRESSED).

Why do we comfort our daughters when they come to us crying with a skinned knee but we tell our sons to “buck up?” Research says we encourage our daughters to talk more about their emotions and feelings than we do our sons.

The result? Boys grow up feeling ashamed of their emotions and become men who don’t communicate well—holding it in or lashing out. That makes it hard for them to relate to their peers and develop, nurture, and sustain relationships. When it comes to young children, feelings are their world. Repressed feelings don’t go away–they go underground. Each feeling a young child has is an opportunity to teach him how to cope with the happy, the sad, and the mad. Acknowledge and accept his feelings just as you would want someone to do the same with you.

As a parent, sometimes we simply need to remember “it’s all right.” There is no manual. There is no report card. We are all doing the best we can. Sixteen years later, the words “Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right” are always just a hum away.

Cover image by Flickr user Allan FosterCreative Commons license.