Parenting in Public – Trying to leave

Parenting in Public – Trying to leave by Sara Zaidi, A child therapist

It’s always a struggle getting kids to leave when they are having fun. They aren’t bound by time constraints like adults and this can result in a battle.

  • Saying the right thing when you’re ready to leave

Before we arrive wherever it is that we are going, I remind the children what time we have to leave i.e. after lunch or before nap etc. Once that time comes, I walk over to them, ask them what they are doing and then say, “it looks like you’re having fun, play for a little bit longer and then start wrapping up when you’re ready, we just have a few more minutes left.” They are more likely to listen when I walk over to them and they know that I understand how involved they are, as opposed to yelling it across from a room when they will either choose to ignore me or yell back, saying that they don’t want to leave yet. Allowing them to “wrap up when they are ready” gives them some sense of control and they are less likely to protest when its time to leave. I also remind them of what we have planned next so they have something to look forward to.

  • Time warnings

Next, I give them three time warnings – at ten minutes, five minutes and two minutes. At one minute I begin packing our things, putting on my coat etc. At the five minute mark I ask them to begin finishing up whatever it is that they are doing. It’s essential to allow children to complete whatever task they are in the middle before asking them to leave. It’s difficult for them to disengage because they don’t have the same sense of time and responsibility that we do.

  • Incorporating clean up in their play

If the children are having a hard time putting things away or disengaging, I incorporate the departure in their play. For example, if one is playing with trucks or cars, I tell him to park them in the right spot for the night so they can also rest. Sometimes they don’t want another child touching their things, so I ask them to give it to the teacher to hold it for them or put it on a higher shelf until next time. (It’s easier to do this than to get in to an argument over why it’s okay for other children to play with it– that’s a discussion for another time).

  • Modeling behavior

I ask them to thank the hosts, give a hug and say goodbye. If they are reluctant I model behavior for them and we have the “how-to-be-polite” discussion on our way home! The travails of parenthood!

 

Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work.

 

Parenting in Public – Saying Goodbye

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With the start of the school year, the summer comes to an end. Often, it’s a time for goodbyes. Whether it’s a grandparent going back home, or a friend moving away, or a teacher finding another job – goodbyes are inevitable. Children who get easily attached are more affected than others; all we can do is cushion the blow.

  • Finding closure

I remind my kids of the departure the day before. We usually make a goodbye card for the person leaving and/or wrap a simple, meaningful gift – it could be a framed picture of the two together or a book that they both enjoyed. During the activity, I explain why the person is leaving, and where they are going. We talk about all the memories and I encourage them to express their feelings. We talk about if and when they will see them again and ways in which they can stay in touch if that’s a possibility. If not, I tell them that they will always have the happy memories of the time spent together. This process provides a sense of closure for the kids and prepares them for the farewell. When the time comes to say goodbye, the children having already processed their feelings are able to separate easily with limited tears and without beseeching the person to stay.

  • Cheering up!

I plan an activity that the children enjoy—a trip to the park or a play date—right after the goodbye so that the children’s focus shifts away from the sadness to excitement.

  • Staying connected

I also make a concerted effort to stay connected with the people they are attached to so that if they ask for them, they can talk to them over the phone or Skype, or even visit if possible. It provides security in that the children don’t feel abandoned.

  • Explaining goodbyes

Even if children seem unaffected by it, it’s still a good idea to talk to them briefly about the person leaving. Children, especially the younger ones, aren’t able to verbalize their feelings and might find it confusing. It’s safer to explain it than to ignore it. “The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said and never explained.”

 

Note: This is the final part of the series, “Parenting in Public.” As a parent of two little boys, I have tried and tested the techniques shared in this blog and I hope you were able to find some of these ideas helpful. Thank you all for reading! Until next time…

 

Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work.

 

 

Parenting in Public – Trying to Leave

It’s always a struggle getting kids to leave when they are having fun. They aren’t bound by time constraints like adults and this can result in a battle. There are a few strategies to use to make it less painful for parents and children.

  • Saying the right thing when you’re ready to leave

Before we arrive wherever it is that we are going, I remind the children what time we have to leave i.e. after lunch or before nap etc. Once that time comes, I walk over to them, ask them what they are doing and then say, “it looks like you’re having fun, play for a little bit longer and then start wrapping up when you’re ready, we just have a few more minutes left.” They are more likely to listen when I walk over to them and they know that I understand how involved they are, as opposed to yelling it across from a room when they will either choose to ignore me or yell back, saying that they don’t want to leave yet. Allowing them to “wrap up when they are ready” gives them some sense of control and they are less likely to protest when its time to leave. I also remind them of what we have planned next so they have something to look forward to.

  • Time warnings

Next, I give them three time warnings – at ten minutes, five minutes and two minutes. At one minute I begin packing our things, putting on my coat etc. At the five minute mark I ask them to begin finishing up whatever it is that they are doing. It’s essential to allow children to complete whatever task they are in the middle before asking them to leave. It’s difficult for them to disengage because they don’t have the same sense of time and responsibility that we do.

  • Incorporating clean up in their play

If the children are having a hard time putting things away or disengaging, I incorporate the departure in their play. For example, if one is playing with trucks or cars, I tell him to park them in the right spot for the night so they can also rest. Sometimes they don’t want another child touching their things, so I ask them to give it to the teacher to hold it for them or put it on a higher shelf until next time. (It’s easier to do this than to get in to an argument over why it’s okay for other children to play with it– that’s a discussion for another time).

  • Modeling behavior

I ask them to thank the hosts, give a hug and say goodbye. If they are reluctant I model behavior for them and we have the “how-to-be-polite” discussion on our way home! The travails of parenthood!

 

Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work.

 

Parenting in Public – Play Dates

I must admit that I find play dates stressful. It was less complicated when there was just one child but it’s never been easy. Here’s how I address some of the common play date issues:

Sharing

If we are hosting, I ask the child whose friend is coming over to set aside the toys that he is unwilling to share (obviously this has to be a reasonable number). Usually they pick only their favorite thing or what’s called the “love object.” While the friend is there, and I see that they are unwilling to share, I encourage them to “take turns,” (because it implies that they will also get a turn) instead of asking them to “share” (which makes them feel like they are giving up the toy). Sometimes I use a sand timer so they can see how much longer they have to wait for a turn. If I find them arguing over a toy, I simply take it away with, “if you decide not to take turns then you can’t have it until you decide you want to.” There might be some tears and complaints to the other parent but it settles down as soon as they find something else to play with.

Managing siblings

If the older one has a friend over, he doesn’t want his little brother in the way. The little one of course, wants to be in the middle of things. As much as I would like the brothers to play together, I realize that isn’t always fair. So I try to set up activities for the little one that will keep him occupied or have dad take him out for some one on one time.

Keeping the peace

Oh the drama if someone doesn’t get their way. You would think it’s a houseful of teens! When they were younger, I had to intervene to stop the tears and the tantrums. It’s easiest to console them first and then try to resolve the issue. I hug them, try to identify what triggered it and state it verbally so they know I understand, then reflect the other child’s feelings, and finally try to resolve whatever it was they were upset about–not getting a turn, someone snatching something from them, not returning something, not doing what they want–the list is endless! Distraction with something else can work miracles in such situations. Now that the older one is closer to five, I encourage him to stay in the room and tell the friend what upset him without placing the blame on her: stating how he felt when something happened and how he wishes it to be different. If they are unable to resolve it on their own, I ask them to seek my help.

I’ve realized that the most peaceful play dates are those when the friend’s temperament matches that of my child and the parent’s parenting style is similar to mine. I try to arrange that whenever possible but things aren’t always perfect! It was so much simpler when we were kids!

Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work. 

Parenting in Public – Dealing with Strangers

We have always encouraged our children to be polite and greet people with a smile and/or a hello regardless of whether or not they know them. Thankfully we live in a small, safe neighborhood with heavy security so we’ve never had any issues, but it’s still important to have that conversation with your kids about “stranger danger.”

The most difficult aspect of this for me was explaining that “not everyone is nice”, it felt like I was taking a little bit of their innocence away. I told them that while it’s nice to greet everyone, not everyone is a safe person to talk to because some people make bad choices and can be hurtful, either with words or physically. I said that it’s my job to protect them and I outlined the following guidelines:

  • At home, they are not allowed to open the door without an adult’s presence even when they know who to expect.
  • When we are outside, they can say hello to anyone they like but they shouldn’t have an extended conversation with a stranger unless I am present.
  • They must never get in to or even go near a car with someone trying to entice them with something e.g. asking for help finding a building/shop, or asking if they want to pet their dog etc.
  • If they are at the park and someone begins to talk to them, they should not share their full name, which school they go to, or where they live, and come find me soon thereafter if I am not with them.
  • If someone offers them a snack they should decline it politely, saying it isn’t snack time for them or bring it to me to check it first.
  • In the event that someone comes and tells them that I am calling them, they should ask for the magic word (a secret word that we have discussed previously); if the person doesn’t know that word they must never follow them.
  • If for some reason they get separated in a large crowd or a public place, they should look for a “mama with a stroller/baby” and ask her for help if they can’t remember our designated meeting spot.

Of course, sometimes we also have to deal with the grown ups who don’t find the children’s greeting particularly endearing. They are the ones who don’t respond with a smile, or turn up the volume on their Iphone, or quickly brush past my children, at which point I have to explain that they might be in a rush or perhaps having a bad day – only to be reminded by them that it’s polite to greet everyone no matter what!

Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work. 

Parenting in Public – On the Street

Both our boys abandoned the stroller as soon as they were able to walk. Rather than battle to strap them in, I found it easier to have them walk. It took a little bit longer but if we budgeted enough time we were able to spend some good quality time together while walking to our destinations. A walk that should have taken less than five minutes often took more than twenty, but I found them observing objects of interest along the way, prompting them to ask intelligent questions that often had me googling for answers.

Setting basic rules
We set several rules when they first decided they wanted to walk (the older one was 14 months old and the younger one, despite my best efforts to keep him in longer, gave up the stroller at 16 months).
– When they were younger, they always had to hold my hand when we left our building. If they chose not to do so, they would have to make the next trip out in the stroller.
– We stopped and waited at each garage entrance.
– I had them point out zebra crossings along the road so we could cross the street from there.
– I taught them the difference between the “stop hand” signal and the “walking man” sign and they would have to tell me when it was our turn to go. If there was no traffic light, we waited until there were no cars in sight.
– We resisted the temptation to jog across quickly if a car was farther away and walked slowly across when it was safe. This helped them recognize the importance of waiting patiently for the right time and to never run across a street.

Crossing streets and turning corners
As they grew older, they would sometimes saunter ahead especially if they were with friends.
– On our daily walk to school I marked specific points at each crossing and garage entry way for them to stop and wait for me to catch up. They had to keep their toes behind the yellow line, or touch the black fence, for example.
– They could only cross the street while holding my hand. Similarly, they always had to stay within sight.
– I pointed out spots on the sidewalk where they had to wait for me before turning the corner, e.g. next to the stop sign, or even a broken stone in the wall.

With bikes and scooters
We encouraged them to follow these rules as they began riding their scooters and their bikes. They are expected to wait for us at the designated mark, get off and walk their bike/scooter at every crossing and across every garage.

As cumbersome as this is, we know that these habits are now ingrained. And while we are always watching them closely, we can be pretty sure that they would never cross a street without us.

Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work.

Parenting in Public – At the Supermarket

I have often found myself wondering why there are never enough kid-size shopping carts in the supermarket. And why is the flag that says “customer in training” always broken, or the wheels not working properly? I cannot tell you the number of times my boys have raced to find the “perfect” cart for each of them, only to be disappointed. It was easier when I had just one child, he was happy to ride in the big cart when he didn’t find one of his own. With two, they argue over just about everything, who will push it, who will sit in the front, who will pick the items off the aisle, who will place them on the counter, and oh, who will get to push that magical green button at checkout!  So here is how I deal with my kids in the supermarket:

  • Setting expectations:

In an attempt to avoid such fights in public, I have a conversation before we leave home to set expectations and decide on roles. The children have to negotiate and find a solution that both are happy with or I make the decision for them. For example, one child can be the “pusher” (of the cart) and the other can be the “fetcher” (getting items off the shelves). We switch roles every alternate aisle if they both want to do the same thing.

Once all the roles have been designated we leave for our adventure, with a silent prayer that all remains peaceful.

  • Providing a list

It’s also helpful to provide a list for each child so they can help choose the product, put it in the cart, and then eventually place those items on the counter. If you have time and want to be creative, you can cut out pictures from magazines or make drawings of the items needed if the kids aren’t reading yet and have them cross each item out or put a sticker next to it when you find it.

  • Playing games

Playing games during the trip to the store can make it more fun. “What belongs” is a good to game to teach your kids how to group food products in to fruits, vegetables, proteins, grain, dairy etc. You name four items, three of them belong to the group and one doesn’t. Kids can look around to see if it’s in that aisle to see if it belongs to the group or not.

My older one is starting to read, so I have him sound out the name of each aisle or find the product we are looking for (I sometimes help him with the words so he can find it without getting frustrated). With younger children, you can teach colors, or numbers e.g. 4 green apples, 3 brown potatoes etc. Similarly, you can teach shapes as well – grapes are oval, cheese can be bought as squares or triangles, and so on.  Or even a simple, I Spy game can keep kids occupied.

  • Dealing with “I want” situations

Rather than just simply denying them what they want, I use it as an opportunity to talk about healthy eating habits and what foods are good for us and what aren’t. Another way to handle this would be to encourage the child to wait until you are done with the important stuff, but choose your words wisely. Saying, for example, “when we buy all the fruits then we will buy the chips” will probably get a better response than, “not right now, maybe later.”

Now that we are done with the groceries it’s time to get it all home before the bags rip while being dragged along the floor by my little helpers!

Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work.

 

Parenting in Public – At the Park (Part 2) – Leaving

As a parent of two boys less than two years apart, both under the age of 5, I often find myself putting out fires in public, scrambling to get home before either has another meltdown. Having tried and tested the textbook techniques on my little ones, I thought I would begin a series of blog posts on techniques that actually work and don’t. So here is the second part of the series, “Parenting in Public.”

Convincing our children to leave the park is probably a battle we are all familiar with. Imagine being in your favorite store and being constantly rushed by your partner, it’s got to be annoying! It’s similar for kids, playgrounds are their happy place and they’re not bound by time constraints like we are.

  • Time warnings

I usually plan for us to spend enough time in the playground such that they have had their fill yet they aren’t tired (or hungry) to the point that they are likely to have a tantrum. I give them time warnings starting at ten minutes, then again at five, and two. At one minute left, I don’t address them directly (to avoid negotiations) but start gathering our things so they know I am ready to leave. It’s important to stick to the time frame we give them because children soon begin to tell the difference between 10 and 15 minutes, or 5 and 10 minutes etc. I allow them to finish whatever it is that they were doing, come down the slide one last time, or finish the conversation with their friend and wait for them by the exit. The kids are so accustomed to this now that I rarely get resistance.

  • Dealing with the whining

If sometimes, the whining does begin, I blame my watch. I just look down at it, make a disappointed face and say something like, “I wish we could stay, we are all having so much fun but it’s time to leave now, next time we will try to come for longer.” And with that, I begin walking.

  •  Empty threats

I don’t feel comfortable giving empty threats: saying that I will leave and they had better just come right away. They don’t respond well to that because it becomes a power struggle. They trust us to protect them so threatening to leave them there, undermines that faith they put in us. They will also eventually learn that I am not really going to leave them and they will no longer believe what I say

  • Shifting the focus

I find it helpful to tell them what we are planning to do next and try to make it somewhat attractive so that they have something to look forward to. For example, if we have to do groceries, I entice them by reminding them that they can watch the skating along the way or tell them that they can push the cart in the store. Anything that would make a mundane task mildly interesting to them, and leaving the park less painful!

Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work. 

Parenting in Public – At the Park

As a parent of two boys less than two years apart, both under the age of 5, I often find myself putting out fires in public, scrambling to get home before either has another meltdown. Having tried and tested the textbook techniques on my little ones, I thought I would begin a series of blog posts on techniques that actually work and those that don’t. So here is the first part of the series, “Parenting in Public.”

At the Park – Part 1 (Playing with friends):

There is definitely some truth to the effects of birth order on personality types. In his almost five years, my older son is yet to push anyone out of the way let alone hit someone. My younger one, on the other hand, has no qualms about pushing children twice his size. Of course this often leads to “why hasn’t this child been taught any better” type of looks from other parents!

In such circumstances, I find it easiest to apologize to the parent on behalf of my child, let my child come down the slide or climb the ladder even if it wasn’t his turn, then pick him up and take him away from that area. I quickly explain to him that that was “not okay” because someone could get hurt and if he does it again he will not be able to play in that area any longer for the remainder of our time in the playground. Some parents might disagree with letting him have a turn first but if I were to not allow him to do so it would be impossible to get him to understand what he had done through all the tears and the whining.

I find it useful to give him a warning specific to the particular offense rather than a generalized threat to leave the playground immediately because it gives him an opportunity to correct his mistake. If however, he doesn’t take turns and pushes someone again in a different part of the playground, then I tell him we have to leave because he has repeated the same offense twice. I point out both instances and leave despite all the wailing. I try to bring him back the following day so he remembers his behavior and the consequences from the day before – all the while hoping that he doesn’t do it again.  Because even if you are a child therapist, parenting is never easy!

Sara Zaidi, is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at http://www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog/ and visit http://www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work. 

Holidays and Gift Giving – Choosing the Right Toys with the Right Values

With the holiday season approaching it’s time to start shopping for the little ones. However, before you rush out to grab the last Elsa doll off the shelf, here are some things to consider.

There are many guidelines out there about choosing the “right toy”. It should be safe and durable, open ended and challenging, multipurpose and ageless. The reason these guidelines are so important is because simple toys that can be used creatively in multiple ways help increase a child’s focus and attention span while stimulating neurological development – facts that correlate to social and academic success.

Take a plain wooden shape sorter, for example. If you get down on the floor with your baby you can engage him with that one toy for several minutes. It can be used for block play, building towers, teaching shapes and colors, matching, counting and sorting – thus incorporating language and Math activities. As a child gets older, these shapes can be used in conjunction with other toys. (My older boy pretends they are rocks that he scoops up with his toy excavator). Most kids begin fidgeting after ten to fifteen minutes. However, if you engage them in play in this way when they are young, you will help them retain focus on a single object or activity for longer periods. It allows them to absorb what they are learning, ask questions and stimulate their curiosity (important social and academic skills). The increased focus translates in to their ability to complete homework in one sitting, allow you to enjoy a meal without their wanting to get up from their seat, and travel long distances peacefully. Helping them recognize how one toy can be used in different ways encourages creativity and imagination. The enhanced imagination promotes lateral thinking which leads to better problem solving skills during play dates as well as with homework assignments.

Along with the quality of the toy, the quantity is important too. Having fewer, carefully chosen toys are far more valuable than an abundance of toy chests. Here’s why. First, if children have only one or two presents to open, they will appreciate it far more. They may be dismissive of the other gifts in favor of the superior toy without recognizing the time, effort and money you put in. Second, children take better care of things if they know they can’t be replaced so you’re also teaching them responsibility. And finally, toys create clutter—especially in apartment living. A cluttered room leads to a chaotic mind and a more disorganized child. Fewer toys mean less cleaning up and less reluctance from kids to participate in the process. Also remember that if you give them several presents all at once, you are setting up a similar expectation for the following year. Finally, if children are inundated with gifts from well-meaning relatives and friends, encourage them to choose something to give away to those who may not be as privileged, thus instilling the values of being grateful, empathy and sacrifice early on.

Here are some ideas of what to get and what not to get this holiday season:

Recommended: wooden toys, blocks, manipulatives e.g. open ended lego or magna tiles, puppets, dress ups, puzzles and brain teasers, arts and crafts supplies, play dough or model magic, board games, musical instruments, books

Not recommended: battery operated toys with lights and sounds (don’t teach much more than cause and effect, if that), superhero or princess figures (project a certain kind of unrealistic image), remote control cars (limited imagination), and anything with guns and swords (accessories that promote aggressive behavior).

So how about you make a more careful selection this year and let the grandparents, aunts and uncles indulge the little one with more Frozen themed toys if they must!

Sara Zaidi, an Early Childhood Specialist, is the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Please see www.sara-zaidi.com for more information about her work and background and read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog