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What they are and how to cultivate them

People of all ages benefit from good interpersonal skills at home, school, in the workplace and any other situation that requires a team effort. Children who lack social skills have a hard time relating to others and might struggle to contribute meaningfully to a group. This can lead to social rejection, which negatively impacts the emotional, cognitive and physical health of the child. A study from the University of Arizona found conclusive links between poor social skill development and depression.

Parents can help children develop the social skills needed to make good decisions and create nurturing relationships.

What Are Social Skills?

Socials skills are the mental abilities that allow people to interact with each other in a mutually positive way. There are four main behaviors associated with good social skills.

Respecting the skills and contributions of others in the group and expressing that appreciation.
Exchanging ideas and information in a group.
Following the rules of the group and displaying context-appropriate behavior.
Using different skills and methods to reach the group’s goals.

These behaviors are a combination of verbal and nonverbal actions. Children who master these competencies are popular, socially active and less prone to make harmful decisions. Those who have difficulty with any combination of these qualities can find themselves having problems making friends, keeping upgrades, or following household rules.

Cultivating Social Skills

Social skills can be taught. With some perseverance, patience and positive examples, parents can help children overcome their social deficiencies.

Create opportunities for practice at home. Hold regular family meetings to discuss issues like schedules, vacation plans, or problems that need to be solved. During these sessions, encourage your child to participate by voicing their opinion, taking notes, or assisting in other age-appropriate ways.
Take your child with you to organized social affairs like book club meetings, political gatherings, or cultural events. They will learn to observe the rules of the group and to respect those with opinions, skills, and knowledge that are different from their own. These skills are necessary for finding success in diverse group settings like colleges and workplaces.
Show your child the value of friendship. Talk to them about their friends. Ask them what they like about their companions and how they enjoy spending time together. When a disagreement occurs, talk about ways to repair the damage and reestablish the relationship. Teach children that relationships are not disposable and that there is often good reason to compromise in order to save the relationship.
Teach your children the basics of good manners. Saying please and thank you, waiting your turn and other general rules of group etiquette form the basis of almost all group rules. Make good manners and respect for others a family goal.

The ability to cooperate and work well in a group setting is one of the most important indicators of financial success and personal satisfaction. Your guidance and loving involvement will ensure your child builds a foundation of social skills they can use to build their best life.

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5 Ways to Help Your Child Build Good Judgement

Judgment is the psychological ability to think critically about life experiences. After evaluating events, encounters and other bits of information, we use our judgment to draw conclusions. Good judgment leads to conclusions that encourage continued growth and overall well-being. Questionable judgment skills can lead us into dangerous or unhealthy situations that stunt our ability to live fully.

Parents can help their children develop strong critical thinking skills and a positive frame of mind. These qualities will lead to good judgments that contribute to success in most areas of life.

Five Ways to Foster Good Judgment Skills

Include these techniques in your family’s routine to improve your child’s ability to make good decisions.

Establish core family values. The values you display will be your child’s reference point in their own decision-making process. What is important to you as a family? What qualities and skills do you want your children to have? Use family meeting time to create a document that lists the issues, beliefs and goals that all members unite around.
Give them some control. Allow younger children to choose their own outfit. Work with older kids to create a schedule for homework, afterschool activities and other duties. Guide their decisions and help identify circumstances that lead to the best possible outcome.
Remind them of the consequences. Any decisions a child makes that violates your family’s rules should have corresponding consequences. Your child may be allowed to choose what time they complete a specific chore, but if they fail to get it done, they won’t be able to play video games after dinner.
Encourage your child to reflect on their experience. When your child brings home a report card with low grades, ask them what they think went wrong. Talk about things they could have done differently. Help them formulate a plan to make the problem less likely to happen again.
Show them your decision-making process. Narrate your day to younger children. Talk about how you fold laundry, balance your checkbook, or fulfill your other daily duties. Plan the menu for a family picnic with your teenager’s assistance. Give them a first-hand understanding of how everyday decisions are made.

Peer Pressure and Judgment

The urge to conform to group standards is an evolutionary impulse. Today, this tendency doesn’t always lead us down the right path.

Children as young as three are influenced by peer pressure. Their natural need to be accepted by a group may contribute to decisions with negative impacts. This behavior is more common in the teen years when young adults are trying to establish their own identities.

High self-esteem reduces the chances your child will give in to peer pressure. When your child makes a good decision, praise them openly. Your opinion of them forms an integral part of their own self-identity.

Your child’s judgment skills are a big part of any potential success they might achieve in life. Give them the tools to choose the right path, even when you aren’t there to guide them.

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There is no right way to raise your children

There is no right way to raise your children. There is no hard and fast rule about what will work in your home, with your particular family, your child’s unique personality, the circumstances you are in, the luck or challenges that come your way. All the money in the world can’t fix a serious problem. No matter how little you have materially, you can raise an excellent human being if all else falls into place. Consistently teaching your values will usually result in your children having the same values… but not always. Because above and beyond everything else, our children come to us with inherent qualities that we cannot special order, request, or cross off a list as undesirableThere is no right way to raise your children. There is no hard and fast rule about what will work in your home, with your particular family, your child’s unique personality, the circumstances you are in, the luck or challenges that come your way. All the money in the world can’t fix a serious problem. No matter how little you have materially, you can raise an excellent human being if all else falls into place. Consistently teaching your values will usually result in your children having the same values… but not always. Because above and beyond everything else, our children come to us with inherent qualities that we cannot special order, request, or cross off a list as undesirable.
Two of the biggest problems affecting families today are parents being tired and stressed out. The fallout from these issues can be lessened or even eliminated for the most part by creating a family management plan and acting on it. For example: if both parents work, having a plan for dinner and a routine for every member of the family for the evening, reduces stress. Not knowing what is for dinner, and generally trying to get everyone to do what you think they should do is a recipe for chaos, more stress, and unhappiness. It can really feel like herding cats. A plan for managing your family will not be perfect, or create a family system without fault, but it will put into place a structure that every member of your household responds to and eventually come to appreciate.

The management plan should have input from every member.

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How to avoid the “SUMMER SLIDE”

It sounds like the star attraction at your local playground, but there’s nothing fun about the summer slide.

According to the United States Department of Education, summer slide is the loss of academic abilities during long school breaks. Reading and math skills take the hardest hit. When students return to class, teachers often need to spend four to six weeks reviewing forgotten material.
Learning loss has a cumulative effect. Students may take longer to catch up, leaving them fewer opportunities to absorb new material. The pattern repeats after each vacation period until the student is so far behind that more advanced interventions are needed.
Preventing the summer slide means your child spends more of their class time learning new things. It also prevents frustration and embarrassment, two huge barriers for students with special needs, behavioral issues, or learning disabilities.
Strategize for Maximum Success
Get familiar with your state’s educational expectations. During preparations for preventing the summer slide, compare the goals of their upcoming academic year with their current skill and knowledge sets.Make a list of realistic and measurable goals. If your child is behind a full grade level, it may not be possible to catch them up over a 12-week break. You can, however, read a certain number of books, complete daily practice assignments, or finish a project.
Make Learning an Experience
Learners of all ages benefit from multisensory learning methods. Have younger children practice spelling, phonics, and math by tracing words, numbers, and symbols in the sand, dirt, or salt with fingers and sticks. For older children, online resources with music, games, and video keep them engaged while reinforcing existing knowledge.
Summer is for road trips. Use the car time to play games that keep everyone mentally stimulated on the long drive. Don’t forget to download a couple of educational apps on their tablets and phones before hitting the road.
Have your child keep a daily journal of their summer activities. Set a word count based on age level and writing ability. Provide stickers, colored pencils, and other art supplies so they can get creative.
Make learning meaningful. Buy a science kit, like soil sampling or insect catching, and take it on a hike or your trip to the beach. A child that loves music can learn essential math and reading skills while training on their instrument.
Comfort. Encourage. Celebrate.
A 10-year study by the social research group MDRC found conclusive evidence that parent involvement improves math and literacy skills. Your genuine interest helps your child succeed. Encourage them to try harder. Celebrate their victories, no matter how small. When failures happen, take the time to comfort them.

Your attention, involvement, and unconditional positive regard will help foster joyful creativity and a lifelong love of learning while preventing the summer slide.

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10 Ways to Make the Switch From Summer to School

Playtime is just as important as classroom time. Researchers have found that play improves memory and encourages the growth of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain associated with perception and reasoning.

If you find the right summer activities for families, your child will continue to learn while on academic vacation and avoid the dreaded summer slide. Here are 10 ways you can help your family switch from summer mode before the first day of school.

Take Control of Time

Get back to a regular bedtime. It could take 2-3 weeks to readjust to schedule.
Re-establish morning routines. Use visual charts to guide children through morning grooming and chores. Make sure everything they need is easy to find for a stress-free day.

Get Ready to Work

Help your child come up with goals for the school year. Goals, like making the honor roll, joining clubs for increased social interactions, or running for a student leader position, can help motivate your child to reach outside of their comfort zone.
Prepare your home for the demands of another school year. Have backpacks, lunch kits, and sweaters ready in a central location. Get your child’s homework area ready too. A quiet, well-lit place to study will reduce distractions.
Re-establish order. What is expected on school days? When and where will homework be completed? What chores need to be done before your child can enjoy free time? Discuss after-school activities, transportation to and from school, curfews, visiting friends, or any other issues related to maintaining academic focus outside of school hours.
Flip flops and cut-offs may be the official uniform for summer, but don’t make the grade for most dress codes. Get your child’s school wardrobe ready to help them dress for success.

Learning Fun in the Summer Sun

If your child found a hobby or learned a skill during the break that they really enjoy, make it part of their back-to-school routine. After school music lessons and dance classes keep children motivated to do their best in all aspects of life. School clubs and teams are another way to indulge your child’s interest.
Wake-up lazy brains with creative learning summer activities for families. Use a nature guide to identify different species of birds or plants during a family nature hike or try some informal physics experiments to spark their interest and get them excited about learning.

The Final Countdown

Send your summer off with a blast! Take a trip before the new school year starts. Whether you choose an epic road trip or a quiet weekend camping in the woods, give your children one last chance to taste the full sweetness of summer.
Take a test run. This is especially important for those attending new schools and visually-inclined autistic students. Drive to the school. Find classrooms, bathrooms, lockers, offices, and libraries.

Boost your child’s chances for academic success with these summer activities for families. Your family will be relaxed, happy, and ready to face the new school year.

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How to Create a Well-Balanced Summer for the Family.

Being eager about the summer season is a natural, common emotion. There’s nothing like experiencing the bright blue sky, deep green leaves, and endless sunshine. However, all too often in the Electronic Age, kids don’t get the same outdoor activity and restful summer repose that their parents took for granted. It’s easy to spend time looking at computer and television screens instead of discovering fun summer activities for families.

Doing, Doing, Doing

Western culture depends on constant activity. Although relaxation is a big part of why we work, idle time seems somehow wrong, even when on vacation. Researchers have performed studies on why humans feel the need for constant activity. In controlled tests, people were happier when they accomplished something, even for the slightest reason.

Experts believe that the compulsion is rooted in evolution. Because survival required constant foraging, many psychologists conclude that the behavior is ingrained. “If idle people remain idle, they are miserable. If idle people become busy, they will be happier.”

However, destructive busyness can be detrimental. In fact, it can manifest itself in physical ailments. Children become anxious, depressed, have headaches, or lose sleep. So, it’s very important for parents to strike a balance between boredom and too much activity. Finding cool summer activities for families is a good start.

Establishing a Healthy Balance Between Freedom, Boredom, and Doing

Depending on your child’s level of maturity, you can help them maintain a healthy balance between activity and rest. Screen time can lead to more problems, so finding a middle ground during the summer is the key.

Age appropriate guidelines are just that, guidelines, and boredom is not necessarily a bad thing. Spending time alone and recharging is important for healthy development.

Understanding the Importance of Boredom

Overstimulation from electronic devices can have a negative influence on your child’s development. Too much time staring at digital screens leads to depression and anxiety, lower academic performance, and poor sleep.

However, boredom actually helps your brain. It lets you form new thoughts and imagine. Research has confirmed that daydreaming uses the same processes that control imagination and ingenuity. Plus, being bored helps relieve stress in children.

Make Summer Time Fun Time

Your child’s best teacher is you. But they learn better from your actions than your words. Spending time doing summer activities for families demonstrates how important your children are to you. They’ll see your ability to relax, not spend time on the computer, and communicate in the old fashioned way (face-to-face), and will learn to incorporate those healthy practices in their own lives.

Summer is the perfect time to strengthen the bonds of love that bind your family together. Make eating together a priority. One of the easiest ways to do this is scheduling evening meals without media.

Summer is the perfect time to cut back on screen time and build stronger connections with your kids. A well-balanced one filled with summer activities for families will create lasting memories and support your child’s healthy development.

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Why Do They Whine? 5 Ways to Change the Behavior

Whining is a problem for almost every parent. When children don’t get their way, whining is often a last-ditch effort to get you to change your mind. Those long, high-pitched protests from your child can instantly raise the blood pressure of even the most patient guardian. Uncontrolled, these displays can spread stress through the entire family unit, causing disruptive behaviors in siblings and tension between adult members.

But WHY????

When a child whines, they are asking for attention. They need your help. For younger children and those with limited verbal skills, it can be difficult to clearly express a need or desire. When the squealing starts, it’s important to find the root cause of the problem.

Disappoint from a denied request
Loneliness or a need for attention
Desire for a sense of security
Unfamiliar or uncomfortable emotions or pain they can’t put into words

Before you respond, try to figure out what your child is really trying to tell you. Ask closed-ended questions to clarify the situation.

Does something hurt?
Are you hungry?
Do you want to take a nap?

Stay calm while you work with your child. Losing your patience will only escalate their response.

Make It Stop!

Even if you aren’t able to decipher the reason behind the whining, there are some simple yet effective ways to help calm your child and return peace to your home.

Hold your child. Give them your undivided attention. Your gentle, physical presence will help them relax and make them feel safe and appreciated. It will also reduce your urge to react in anger.
Let them talk. If your child can speak well enough to be understood, let them express themselves, even if the answer is still “no.” Nonverbal children can be encouraged to draw pictures or show their feelings in other ways.
Be proactive. If you know something is going to happen that your child will not like, talk to them about it beforehand. Giving them time to process and accept the situation reduces the need to react.
Check the environment. Things like unfamiliar visitors or a change in their living situation can cause stress and confusion.
Reward positive behaviors. Praise your child when they are able to control themselves emotionally.

Stay the Course

What is the number one reason why children whine? Because it works. According to neuroscientists, we are genetically programmed to respond to certain distress tones from our young ones. When those loud, keening noises hit our ears, we will do almost anything to stop them. Children know this, and will use it to their advantage.

It’s important to stand your ground when confronted with a demanding child. If you tell your child he can’t have a cookie but change your mind in response to his whining, you lose authority. This can lead to other disrespectful or defiant behaviors. Be firm but gentle when denying a request that goes against established family rules.

In the fight against whining, calm attention and genuine affection are your best allies.

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Four Ways To Calm Yourself

4 Ways to Calm Yourself When Dealing With Your Child’s Potent Emotions
On the parenting roller coaster of emotion, it often seems that anger is expressed more than any other, and the daily pressures of life don’t make keeping your cool any easier. Once the feeling erupts, it can be hard to control it. Often parents end up lashing out and then experience guilt and dismay for their actions. �
The parent-child relationship is volatile and knowing how to handle tantrums is tough. The reason that children can provoke their parents so quickly is known as the “ghosts in the nursery” phenomenon by scientists. The theory explains why parents unconsciously re-enact the past because their children stimulate the intense feelings of childhood. It’s challenging for parents to exorcise those feelings, but it’s crucial to do it because anger is harmful to children.
Anger’s Long-Term Influence on Kids
A new study released by Child Development journal found that yelling at your kids is just as detrimental as physical violence. Steven Schlozman, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explains that, “Kids who are the subject of continual beratings by their parents have higher rates of emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, and conduct challenges … they feel less sure of themselves, they worry more … and they get into more trouble.”
Children depend on their parents to provide a sense of self. Yelling and verbal abuse are not how to handle tantrums. It can lower your child’s IQ, increase the chance of substance abuse, and establish lasting negative impacts on future relationships.
Tips for Keeping Your Cool
If your child is pushing your buttons, slamming doors, or yelling, he/she is mimicking your actions. Controlling your behavior is the best way to influence your child’s. By first dealing with your powerful emotions, you’ll know how to handle tantrums. The moment you feel yourself getting angry, start applying self-regulation techniques.
1. Set limits. Many times, disputes are the result of a combination of irritants. It can help to set limits on behavior before you get angry.
2. Calm down before acting. Awareness is fundamental. Stop, drop what you’re doing, and breathe. The pain management techniques for childbirth can help you. Deep breaths give you the ability to choose your action.
3. Physical ideas. Studies show that facial expressions influence your feelings. When you feel angry, take deep breaths, hum, and smile. This will help reduce the rage you feel.
4. Take a break. Exiting the area isn’t a defeat. It actually communicates how serious the transgression is, demonstrating how to handle tantrums and anger in a healthy way. If your child is too small to leave alone, run cool water on your hands and face. Regain your calm by repeating a mantra like, “Only love today” or “This is not an emergency.”
Children have big emotions because they are learning to express them. Showing anger “at” someone feeds negative feelings of hurt and fear and only makes your parenting job that much harder. By calming yourself first, you demonstrate the characteristics that will help your children grow up healthy.

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The Importance of Connecting Daily With Your Kids

Today’s lifestyle is focused on electronic connections. The amount of screen time has exploded along with the information age. Studies show that teens spend approximately nine hours a day in front of screens. Kids aged 8-12 get about six hours of screen time each day, creating a society that is being raised in a digital environment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one hour a day in front of screens for children aged 2-5. However, meeting that healthy goal is challenging. The technology explosion means that connecting with your children is more important than ever. Without a strong foundation of parental connection, your kids won’t be able to develop the ability to love themselves, and eventually others.

Why Connecting With Your Child Is Important

The only way to build a truly strong relationship with your child, so that you have the ability to guide them as they grow older, is through positive, steady connections. Affirmative interactions are essential for healthy development, but there are some days when just taking care of your child’s basic needs is all you can do.

Since parenting, for most, takes place usually after a full day’s separation, building daily habits of connection can enhance and solidify your relationship with your child. Taking time to connect with your child also minimizes stress and other behavioral problems.

Habits That Create Connection

Hugs. Snuggling and hugging your child is a great way to build connection. Virginia Satir famously said that four hugs are needed for “survival” each day, eight for “maintenance,” and 12 for “growth.” Prioritize hugs in the morning before your children leave for school, when they get home, and a number of other times each day.
Nix the technology. Your child will remember if you gave your full attention or just listened with half an ear. Dropping everything else when you interact with your child demonstrates how important he/she is to you; much more important than a phone call or email from work.
One-on-one time. Every day, schedule 10-15 minutes with each child. Play a game, talk, or go for a walk. Don’t structure the time, let it be a personal time to connect.
Slow down. Every interaction is important. Let your daughter crack the eggs for the cake or smell a fresh-cut lemon you’re using to make homemade lemonade. Look your son in the eye when you talk to demonstrate that you’re listening and that you care.
Bedtime snuggle-time. No ritual is better for providing regular connection than a bedtime routine. Reading, talking about their day, and snuggling give your children a sense of belonging and security. Don’t rush through it.

When you connect with your children every day and in a number of ways, you’ll gain benefits too. The relationship you build will establish positive returns. When your kids become teenagers, they’ll be able trust your guidance and will actually want to follow it. Plus, the connections you generate will provide lifelong memories that bind your hearts together in beautiful love.
By Deanna Cupo. MSW

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Understanding Limits and Consequences

Understanding Limits and Consequences, and Why They’re Important

Rules make modern life possible. Without restrictions on how we use common resources, communicate, and work together, a civilized society could not exist.

Your family unit is a miniature reflection of the greater social structure. Without order, your little society can fall apart. Setting healthy limits and establishing consequences for crossing them is necessary to keep all family members working together for the greatest benefit of the group.

Defining Limits and Consequences

Limits are guidelines for expected behaviors. They teach children how to act in various situations. Telling your toddler to put candy wrappers in the trash rather than on the floor is a limit.

Consequences are the events caused by an action. As a consequence of throwing the wrappers on the floor, your toddler will not be allowed to have any more candy.

Limits and consequences grant caregivers the ability to shape a child’s decision-making process by helping them understand that their actions have meaning and affect more than just one person. By learning to live by a set of standards, children become self-disciplined, avoid risky behaviors, and become better able to handle difficult emotions.

Drawing the Lines

How does a family of different people and personalities set limits and consequences that work for everyone?

Be as consistent as possible. Age differences, disabilities, and other challenges make it difficult to hold every person to the same standard. Expectations may need to be adjusted for individual ability levels. You may not expect your three-year-old to clear the whole table after dinner like the eight-year-old, but he can help gather utensils and scrape plates.
Lead by example. Children are experts at detecting hypocrisy. If no food is allowed outside of the kitchen, how will you justify eating a sandwich on the couch? Emphasize family unity by being the chief rule-follower.
Explain the limit’s purpose. Older children will appreciate the time you take to talk about the benefits of their limits. Tweens and young adults are more likely to stick to an established boundary if they believe it’s for their own good.
Regulate behavior, not emotion. Children are people too. Like adults, they have good and bad days. Allow them to feel disappointment, anger, or sadness. However, their feelings should not be an excuse for disruptive behaviors.
Make the consequence fit the behavior. Overreaction can cause a child to withdraw and lose trust in their adult guardian. Underreaction encourages the child to take rules less seriously.

Display house rules prominently. A dry-erase board lets you easily update written guidelines, so they’re always relevant and understood.

If life is a garden, parents are the caretakers of a precious future crop. Careful use of limits and consequences has the effect of a gardener’s thoughtful sheers pruning away excess limbs and growths. Far from being an act of control or restraint, limits and consequences help children reach their highest potential. By Deanna Colette Cupo ,MSW