Thursday, January 31, 2013

Helping children cope

Radio Commentary

          The horrible shooting at a Connecticut elementary school affected each of us in a deeply personal way. It stirred an array of emotions and fears. 
           This is especially true for young people, who process information and react differently. They may be more frightened than adults may know.
What’s more, those too young to fully understand what happened might conger up some very scary ideas about the tragedy and the results of it all.
Here are some ways that experts have recommended parents can help their children through times of potential stress:
         •      Limit the amount of time children spend watching continuing reports about the tragedy.
•      Reassure children that most schools are very safe places to be.
•      Watch for signs that your child is overly upset. Changes in behavior, sleep patterns, or school performance could be a signal.
•      Encourage children to talk about what they feel. This way you can clarify any misperceptions and help place the information in perspective.
Ignoring the subject will not make a child’s reactions go away. Encourage the expression of emotions through drawing, or acting out emotions. Answer their questions directly and honestly.
Mostly, do all you can to help your child feel secure and loved.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Road to readiness

Radio Commentary

            It is a worthy national education goal that every child comes to school ready to learn. But we are not yet nearly to that point.
One researcher examined the steps that must be taken to make it happen.
            The researcher determined that the quality of the parent-child relationship is key to language development.
Children need rich verbal experiences to draw from as they enter school. Parents should talk to their children all the time and read to them as often as possible.
Parents should share stories, and ask open-ended questions to spur thinking skills.
This helps get children excited about learning new things.
            According to the research, there are several preconditions required for learning.
Good health comes first. Then come unhurried time with family, safe and supportive environments, and special help for families in desperate need.
These are commonsense items, but unfortunately not always in great supply.
            Wrote the researcher: “These principles are deceptively simple. Assuring that every child has the opportunity to learn requires collaboration among community and health care agencies, families, and schools.”
            It involves institutions and neighborhoods working together for basic needs.
It is a promise unfulfilled in this country at this time, but it is a worthy goal to pursue for all our children.
This is the road to readiness. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Children and crisis

Radio Commentary

Whether it's a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake far away, or a fire or shooting closer to home, parents and other caregivers must meet the challenge of reassuring children during times of crisis. 
How caregivers respond has a huge impact on how children will react. 
To help, a booklet from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, called When Terrible Things Happen: A Parent’s Guide to Talking with Their Children, offers some good advice.
For example, infants and toddlers, ages zero to three, can’t understand how a crisis or a loss has changed their environment. 
But they can recognize and respond to changes in adult behavior. 
The best advice for infants and toddlers is to keep a routine and resume normal activities as soon as possible. 
Pre-school children, ages three to five, may not talk about their feelings openly. Talking while playing games can help children of this age group express their thoughts more easily. 
School-aged children, ages five to 12, have more understanding of how and why things happen and will want to ask questions. Parents can help by talking, listening and answering their questions with honesty and directness.
We cannot control crises or catastrophes. We can only control how we react to them, especially with our children. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Class participation

Radio Commentary

Everyone wins when students take part in class discussions at school.
Teachers enjoy lively interactions. It means that they have struck a chord with an interesting subject. For students, lively discussions can engage them in the material in interesting ways.
For that reason, parents should encourage their children to be inquisitive. It gives them the self-confidence to raise their hands in class and to ask questions.
Classrooms where honest give-and-take debates and discussions take place are wonderful learning environments.
To help nurture class discussion, it's important that parents react positively to questions from their children at home.
Don't be impatient. Engage your children in conversations about their classes.
Also, if students really get into the subject matter and think of a variety of related questions, it gives them an edge in understanding the material.
Remind shy students that everyone feels some fear about being called upon to give an answer in class. Your children are not alone if they feel this way. But they should not let this stop them from trying.
Class participation is a common part of school life, and it can translate positively when it comes to life beyond school. 
Give your children the best chance to succeed and to learn by encouraging them to take an active role.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Inexpensive toys

Radio Commentary

Parents on a budget should not worry about buying expensive toys, especially with the holidays now over. 
            Children learn just as well — and maybe even better — when they play with household items and simple toys. The trick is to see things “through a child’s eyes.”
            Don’t throw away empty paper towel tubes. Four year olds love to look and talk through them.
            A stack of discarded envelopes can be just the thing for playing “office.” And, an old purse may be ideal for toting a child’s treasures.
            Children love to use paint, crayons, pencils, and chalk to scribble or practice drawing. Cookie dough and clay are great for making sculptures, letters, and shapes. 
            Other free or inexpensive playthings your child will love to learn with include:
•     Aluminum pie tins
•     Wooden spoons
•     Balls of all sizes (except those small enough to swallow)
•     Sponges
•     Measuring spoons and cups
•     Blocks that stack or fit together
•     Plastic dishes
•     Old clothes for dress-up
•     And, boxes galore.
            Children can play with simple toys in many ways. The best part is that there’s no one right way.
Exploring different ways to play with a toy helps children be creative and solve problems. These are all useful skills for school success.