Saving the Parent-Teen Relationship

Stacy Hladek | Families First

I have recently been talking to one of my close friends regarding parenting struggles he is having with his teenagers. The topic of protecting the parent-teen relationship in the context of setting boundaries and consequences has come up several times. I began to think about how to negotiate the boundaries and consequences all families must have to function effectively, within the parent-teen relationship.

In my friend’s case, he is concerned if he is too strict or pushes too hard he will damage the relationship. However, he has also acknowledged there is a good chance his sons are aware of his fear and use this to their advantage. On the other hand, my friend understands if he is passive he may give the boys the impression that their behaviors are acceptable or that he does not care about the behaviors or them. What is a parent to do?

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Parent Leadership, One of Our Most Valuable Resources

Stacy Hladek | Families First

One of the most valuable resources our society has at our disposable is parent leadership.  February is National Parent Leadership month. Created by Parents Anonymous ® Inc. in 2004, February is set aside to recognize, honor and celebrate parents for their invaluable leadership roles in their homes and communities, as well as state, national and international arenas. This annual event acknowledges the strengths of parents as leaders and promotes awareness about the important roles parents can play in shaping the lives of their families and communities.

The state of Colorado has a variety of Parent Leadership trainings and opportunities. 

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School Avoidance (Part Two)

Stacy Hladek, Family Resource Coordinator | Families First

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we have had an increase in calls to our Family Support Line related to children refusing to go to school.  If you did not read the previous blog, it would be a good place to start regarding general information on heading off school avoidance in children. 

What is school avoidance?  The website, Human Illnesses, defined school avoidance as “when children and teens repeatedly stay home from school or are repeatedly sent home from school, because of emotional problems or because of aches and pains that are caused by emotions or stress and not by medical illness”.  School avoidance, also referred to as school phobia or school refusal, occurs in approximately 2-5% of school age children.  It is most common in 5-6 year olds and 10-11 year olds. 

Typical behaviors for a child or teen that has school avoidance is for them to come up with reasons not to go to school, to complain of physical symptoms shortly before it is time to go to school, or to make repeated visits to the school nurse or counselor once at school, with similar physical complaints. 

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School Avoidance

Stacy Hladek, Family Resource Coordinator | Families First

We have had three calls to our Family Support Line in the last month related to children refusing to go to school. It occurred to me that this might be a good topic to address in the blog. In the twenty years that I have been working with children and families, I have noticed that school avoidance seems to rise around the holidays. I believe there are a few reasons for the peak in school avoidance around this time of year. The first is that the semester is finishing up and the stress increase due to projects and tests that are due. Midterms and finals can be very stressful for students of all ages. The holidays also tend to bring out stress in most adults and children pick up on our stress levels. Another reason that school avoidance seems to be up this time of year is due to the school breaks. It can be especially difficult for a student that has anxiety around school to return after they have had a break for the holidays.

Be proactive and implement some of the following strategies to try to head off the possibility that your child will develop school avoidance over the holidays:

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The Magic of Toddlers

Stacy Hladek | Families First

August is not only the month that most children return to school, but it is also unofficially National Toddler Month. So it seemed appropriate to blog on something related to toddlers this month. Toddlers are defined as children between the ages of one to three. This is my favorite age group. They are those magical creatures that find awe in everything!  Everything is new and exciting to them. They are working on figuring out how to assert their independence, but also want to know that they can come back at a seconds notice to the security of their adults. This time is fleeting, in about two short years your cute little toddler will turn into a preschooler. How do you capitalize on and enjoy those magical years of toddlerhood?

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Tips for taking your child to the Doctor

Stacy Hladek | Families First

Is your child a Nervous Nelly when it's time for a visit to the doctor?

Here are some helpful tips thanks to Mountainland Pediatrics:

  • Talk about doctor visits in a positive way. Read fun books to your child about doctor visits prior to your appointment.
  • If your child asks if the shot or procedure will hurt, don't fib about it; get down at your child's eye-level and explain that the shot may hurt a little for a few seconds.

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The Two Essential Skills Every Dad Needs

A special guest post from single-dad Dave Taylor from GoFatherhood.com

Nothing has been so profound in my life than the day my first child was born. Suddenly I went from being an adult focused primarily on myself to being a caretaker, protector and guardian to a tiny little creature, a baby so helpless that she couldn't speak, couldn't communicate her needs, and couldn't give me encouragement when I did the right thing or feedback when I was doing something wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, however, I don't think that men are born with the "great Dad gene", so learning how to go from being a typical self-absorbed adult to being an attentive, nurturing father involves effort. It involves you being able to accept criticism, ponder your behaviors, remember the good (and bad) of your own childhood, and expend effort - sometimes a lot of effort - to change who you are and how you interact with the world.

Don't worry, women aren't born with the "great Mom gene" either, by the way. They're just way better at talking about what's difficult with their pals, sharing their ups and downs, and learning through childhood play how to nurture and coddle a baby. Yup, the sad truth: while we boys were busy practicing for battle, the girls were practicing to eventually be moms. Oops.

Still, you can learn how to be a great Dad and with three kids of my own (16,13, and 9) I figure I have a combined 38 years of parenting upon which to base my advice. Since I'm a single Dad and have been for over six of those years, it's really like a 2x multiplier, so I'm giving myself credit for 50 parenting years. We good with that? Cool.

Based on all that accumulated parenting experience, I believe that the two most essential skills that any good Dad can acquire and nurture are:

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Mental Health in Children

Stacy Hladek | Families First

Parents/primary caregivers are the most important advocate for their children in all areas of their development, including social-emotional.  May is Mental Health Awareness month. Children as young as newborns can have social-emotional issues. Research shows, behavior problems that surface in early childhood are the single best predictor for several long-term outcomes, such as adolescent delinquency, gang involvement, incarceration, substance abuse, divorce, unemployment (Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children with Challenging Behaviors, 2004). The good news is that there are many preventative and early intervention programs available to help head off mental health issues in young children or to help lessen the intensity of the problems a child may experience. 

The following are some red flags that may indicate that a child could benefit from an assessment.

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Mother’s Day

Stacy Hladek | Families First

Mother's Day is May 12th, that is a week from this Sunday. There are likely to be lots of articles to suggest ways to honor your mom or help your children honor their mom. I would like to take a different approach and speak to moms directly. Give yourself permission to pat yourself on the back and to take a break. Parenting is both the toughest and most rewarding job in the world. This is a good time to remind moms (fathers too) that you have to fill your own bucket before you can fill up others. Remember the example given on airplanes, you must put your own oxygen mask on before you help others. If you do not, you are going to pass out and not be helpful to anyone. In fact, you could hinder someone else as they try to care for you. Please don't "pass out" figuratively.

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Kids and Biting

Stacy Hladek | Families First

I recently spent an afternoon with a good friend, who has a toddler.  While we were talking about parenting she told me her son has started biting his baby brother.  My friend said nothing she or her husband had tried is working.  Her son bit another child at childcare this week for the first time

Biting is a behavior that many toddlers display at one time or another.  It can be something that makes the adults feel frustrated and helpless.  There is hope! 

Whenever a child is having a behavioral issue adults should start by increasing positive interactions with the child, such as catching them being good, increasing affection, and increased praise.  Often times this will be all that is needed to decrease the negative behaviors.

If the biting continues to be an issue the next step is to try to prevent the biting.  Give the child a teething toy that can be used to bite on when needed.  Also increase adult supervision when the child is around other children.  Do not keep the child from interacting with other children, but make sure the adult is close and can help with the interactions.

What to do when a child does bite someone else:

  1. The child who was hurt gets the attention.  Make a big deal about their owwie, hug them, give them an ice pack, or wash the hurt body part.  The child that was aggressive should be kept in eye sight so that he is not going off and hurting another child, family pet, or himself.
  2. Once the above is completed, the adult should take the child who was aggressive gently but firmly by the hand and remove him from the situation.  One brief statement such as “teeth are not for biting” and then no other words or attention should be given to the child.  The adult should use a firm voice, but not yell or raise their voice.
  3. The child should be away from everyone else for a minute or two, but in eye sight of an adult.
  4. Once he is calm, the adult will give him a hug or pat.  
  5. As soon as the child who was hurt is ready and the child who was aggressive is being safe, and adult should help the two make-up. 

For more ideas on aggressive behaviors in children of all ages, ways to support your family, and other parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373) OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail stacy@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe the adult(s) raising the child is the expert on that child and knows what is best for their family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

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