Friday, January 13, 2017

Things Our Family Did to Get by When I Lost My Job

Author: Jannette Matula, Mother of Two & Former Families First Volunteer

In August 2015, my boss came into my office to tell me my position was being eliminated effective immediately, and to please pack up my desk. I turned in my laptop, my keys and badge, and was escorted out of the office an hour later.

While I knew I would eventually find another job, I also knew it would take weeks, possibly months. And my next job would not likely pay as well as this one. Yikes!

While everyone’s financial realities are unique, the impact of abruptly losing an income is often the same for everyone – traumatic and scary. Will we be able to pay our bills? Will we be able to provide food for our family? Will we be able to pay our rent or mortgage?

Here are the things my family did to adjust to our new financial situation…

We came up with a game plan. First, my husband and I sat down to discuss our new budget and find ways to either eliminate or reduce all non-essential spending. This included eating out at restaurants, ordering in delivery (pizza, Chinese, etc.), going to the movies, and other things. We started evaluating every purchase….is this something we NEED (food on the table, gas in the car, electricity)? Or something we WANT (a new pair of shoes, the latest electronic gadget, a Pumpkin Spice latte from Starbucks)? Can I do this myself (fix the light switch, repair the washing machine, etc.) without having to pay someone else to do it?

We looked at ways to simplify. It sounds counter-intuitive, but when you have less money to spend on “stuff” and “extras”, it is easier to focus on basic human needs. These can be boiled down to simply: food, water, shelter, safety, love. There are a lot of articles and blogs that have great tips for how to simplify in many aspects of life. Here are a few I like:

Becoming Minimalist - http://www.becomingminimalist.com/the-10-most-important-things-to-simplify-in-your-life/

10 Simple Strategies - http://www.moneytalksnews.com/10-simple-strategies-simplify-your-life/

Mr. Money Mustache - http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/

We involved the whole family. Once the initial shock, anger and sadness started to fade, I decided to turn my situation into a teachable moment. How we adults respond to life pulling the rug out from under us sets an example for how our children will respond to similar disappointments in their lives. It was important for me to let my kids know we needed to make some changes, while also reassuring them that we would be fine. I also let them know that we are in this together as a family, and here are some ways they could help: do some extra (age appropriate) chores around the house (http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/chores-for-children), not ask for treats and extras, think of fun things we could do that do not require spending money (http://www.kiplinger.com/article/saving/T065-C011-S001-50-free-or-cheap-things-to-do-with-kids.html)

Ask for help. It is easy to let pride get in the way of caring for ourselves and being honest with others about hard times we are facing. I told my neighbors and parents of my kids’ friends what was going on. I asked those closest to us if they could watch my toddler if I had a job interview I had to drive to. I asked for clothing hand-me-downs for my kids. Any time I did have to make a non-standard expenditure (car repair, utility repair, etc.) I asked what discounts were available. 9 times out of 10, I was offered 5-10% off!

On December 23, about 4 months later, I accepted a new job paying much less than what I had been earning before. In the meantime, many of the changes my family had made while I was out of work became engrained into our lifestyle – our new, more minimalist reality. I still ask for discounts when making non-standard purchases, we still go to “kids eat free” nights at restaurants when we want to have dinner out as a family, and I still gratefully accept clothing hand-me-downs for my kids.

I have been “downsized” 3 times in 24 years of being in the workforce, which has taught me the importance of being prepared for it – emotionally and financially. My goal for myself and my children is financial security, and I believe most of us share this goal. With that in mind, I leave you with this list of values which I found in an article about a recent survey. The survey reveals these values as having likely contributed to the foundation of success for the wealthiest people in our society:

• Failure is not a bad thing.
• Some things are more important than money.
• Be a disciplined saver and an opportunistic buyer.
• Patience is a virtue.
• Be generous to those in need.
• Marriage is a life-long partnership.

Here is a link to the full article http://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/want-your-kids-to-become-financially-secure-adults-parents-of-todays-wealthy-did.html

Parents, if you are between jobs and need support or advice, please call Families First at 877-695-7996. We are here to help!


For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 877-695-7996 OR 866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sadi's Story

Sadi was an introverted child who struggled in group settings and would often isolate herself, running away from the Families First Children’s Group and escaping the room altogether. She seemed to prefer sitting alone on a couch situated outside the room and she refused to participate in any activity, instead turning to her own game or toy. Sadi would often act out and yell, sometimes using profanity that made those around her most uncomfortable. She also resorted to striking other children. Families First team members spent many hours working with Sadi. Lately, she has been calmer, choosing to use her “indoor voice” and to participate in activities chosen by the group. She now seems to understand that even though the group may choose to do something she doesn’t want to do, everyone can all still have fun doing things together. To date, Sadi has participated in making Rice Krispies treats and has learned the names of all the children in her group. When she doesn’t know their name, she does not hesitate to ask them. She is also learning the names of all the group leaders and addresses them by name. Sadi is an engaged and happy child!

The provision of the Children’s Group is one of the most important components of the Family Support Services Program. Without the availability of this program (in the form of a Children’s Group), many parents would not be able to attend Circle of Parents® support group meetings or Parent Education classes provided by Families First. By working with the children while the parents are also receiving education and support, parent support groups and classes become a more positive experience for the whole family. The Children’s Group is more than maintenance level babysitting. It is assessing the needs of the children then developing and implementing activities to meet those needs. These activities are flexible and involve much individualized attention on the part of the Children’s Group Leader. The Children’s Group also provides a wide array of activities that promote positive social emotional development, community building, and a system of support.

Circle of Parents® national support group model offers free meetings for anyone in a parenting role.
· Parents lead the groups with the help of a trained facilitator.
· Parents decide the topics, lead the discussion and are involved in the decision making.

Circle of Parents® encourages the development of parents’ leadership skills—not just as parents and group leaders, but in all aspects of their lives.


For more information on Families First programs and services, parenting tips, and information on local resources please scroll down or click through our blog archive to the left to see our previous posts, visit our website at www.familiesfirstcolorado.org or call us at 877-695-7996.

Cherished Holiday Memories

The holidays are a time for family and reflection. Here at Families First we have so many wonderful memories to look back on and be thankful for, and we wanted to share some of our stories with you.


A young man who was in our Children’s Center 10 years ago contacted us recently. He is heading off to the Marine Corp and has adjusted quite well in his adoptive home. When he came to us, he had been adopted and the adoptive parents had physically abused him. He was not a trusting young boy. He had undergone major breaches of trust. He now is doing well and a very stable and happy young man, building a life of his own.

Families First CHILDREN’S RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT CENTER
offers a safe, nurturing and homelike environment for boys and girls, ages three to twelve, who have been abused or neglected and whose resulting behavioral problems make living in a family setting impossible. We provide an intensive wrap around treatment program to prepare the children for life with a forever family.


For more information on Families First programs and services, parenting tips, and information on local resources please scroll down or click through our blog archive to the left to see our previous posts, visit our website at www.familiesfirstcolorado.org or call us at 877-695-7996.

Janey's Story


Three year old Janey was a child caught between two parents who seemed unable to agree on the best approach to disciplining her. Not only did the disagreements cause trouble in the relationship between young Janey and her parents, but mounting resentments in daily exchanges between Janey’s mother and father were inevitable and painful. Parents as Teachers Home Visitation Parent Educator, worked patiently with the parents, sharing with them the latest research indicating that physical forms of discipline are not always effective, and in some cases psychologically damaging to children. She shared several disciplinary techniques that have been proven to be more effective than physical punishment. At first, Janey’s father opposed what he saw as “being soft” on his child. But a breakthrough came one day when Janey’s father had a dramatic change of heart: he was reconsidering the use of spanking because he saw his little girl playing with her dolls and mimicking the use of spanking to “discipline” the dolls. Witnessing this behavior in his small daughter saddened and shamed him, impacting him greatly. Janey’s father also realized that, in the final analysis, alternative forms of discipline shared by the PAT Parent Educator of Families First were more effective than those he had chosen.

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is a national affiliate certified, voluntary home visitation
program that works with families with children prenatal through kindergarten.


Referrals can be made prenatal to four years old. The program is designed to keep children in the program for 2+ years. They graduate upon completing kindergarten. Services are available in English and Spanish. PAT serves seven metro counties (Adams, some Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson - many other counties in the state have their own PAT programs).

PAT home visits address:
Parent-child interactions
Perform family well-being checks
Domestic violence screenings
Protective factor screenings
Developmental screenings:hearing, vision, and general health; parent/child interaction; gross motor skills; fine motor skills; social skills & development; emotional skills & development


For more information on Families First programs and services, parenting tips, and information on local resources please scroll down or click through our blog archive on the upper, right side of the screen to see our previous posts, visit our website at www.familiesfirstcolorado.org or call us at 877-695-7996.

Monday, October 3, 2016

CONSISTENCY, THE CEMENT.

Author: Fred Buschhoff
Retired Elementary School Teacher
Current Families First Educator of Constructive Parenting Class
Author of "The Constructive Parent"

Parents want what is best for their children, to grow up healthy and happy and successful. But getting kids on the right track and keeping them there can be very difficult and often frustrating. Throughout my years of teaching in the Denver Public Schools and working with Families First I have seen many approaches to discipline. What works for one set of parents may not necessarily be correct for a different family. Even within the family, one parent often approaches discipline differently than the other. You will hear many different ideas about what you should be doing from your friends and relatives. Some will tell you that you are too easy with your kids, that they are being spoiled. Others will tell you that you are too strict, that your kids aren’t getting chances to make their own decisions. Listen. Think. Digest. Then settle into the style that suits you, that you are comfortable with. And once you do, maintain it.

The problem is not whether you should be strict or more relaxed with your expectations. Children who are raised in homes with tight rules, who are required to do their homework as soon as they come home from school, who have bedtimes set by their parents and schedules for meals, and who must use respectful speech, can grow up to be productive and happy adults. On the other hand, children who can do their homework when they want, but before the TV or Gameboy goes on, who help set the schedule for meals, and who can talk casually with their parents ,using their own words, can also grow up to be happy and productive adults. How tightly you run your family is your decision. You and your spouse or partner should discuss these matters and find a style that is comfortable for you as parents. But then, as much as you can, be consistent.

Children who grow up in homes where the rules and expectations remain generally the same, where the boundaries are predictable, feel secure. They, like any kids, will test the rules occasionally. But when they find that they can’t change things with misbehaviors, they will get back on track. Dramatic problems occur, however, when rules, expectations and consequences become unpredictable.

I know that you are not robots who can always react the same way. You have emotions and moods that affect how you deal with your family. That is normal. But it will help your children if the expectations you have set remain in a predictable range. Consistently, the children who had the most problems in class, who didn’t focus on reading, math or learning in general, and who used all their energies to test the rules and break the fences, came from homes where the rules changed greatly depending on the parents’ moods. They also had many problems making and keeping friends.

So, please do your children, and yourselves a favor. Find and maintain a style that suits you. And stick with it.


For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 877-695-7996 OR 866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mud

Claire Poole, PsyD
Families First Children's Treatment Center Clinical Director


My mother had a simple and effective go-to parenting strategy - go outside and play. "Outside" was the most important part, and my father contributed to the plan by setting aside a little corner in the yard for me to dig in the dirt and make mud. The other kids with their shiny new indoor toys were envious of my mud. To the intuitive mind of the child, this made perfect sense.

As with a lot of psychology, science is now catching up to the intuitively obvious. In recent years there has been an increasing stream of research showing that time spent in nature is good for the mind and body; my intuition tells me it is good for the soul as well. A walk in the park does more to lower blood pressure and stress than an equally strenuous walk on the treadmill. Grade school students in classrooms with windows do better than they do in rooms without windows, and when the window opens up on a garden or even a shrubbery the effect is more pronounced. Families who spend leisure time together in natural surroundings get along better and report higher levels of satisfaction in family life. Sailors on submarines who line up for the chance to see birds and the coastline through the periscope are more efficient and less stressed. Treatment programs for teens struggling with substance abuse, delinquency, or depression often include wilderness treks with positive effects. There is a long list of similar research findings.

This really shouldn’t surprise us. Through the ages wise men and prophets, from Moses and Lao Tzu, to St. Thomas and the Buddha, to Thoreau and Muir, have sought guidance and inspiration in the wild. When most families lived in a tribe, a village, or on a farm the natural world was part of daily existence. It has been like that for 10,000 years and more. In the modern world, really for just the last few generations, a great many people spend their entire lives without ever playing in the mud. I remember being in Grand Central Station in New York and realizing with a start that most of the people there had never seen the stars except for those painted on the station's ceiling. When was the last time you gazed at the Milky Way?

So here's my point. Let's turn off the TV, put down the tablet, and take our kids outside for a walk in the woods. It's good for them, good for the family, even good for the planet. And take it from me, mud squishing through your toes is one of life's little pleasures not to be missed.


For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

Monday, August 1, 2016

It's Time for School!

Author: Christina - Support Line Volunteer, Student, and Mother

There can be a lot of mixed feelings at the end of summer for both you and your kids. For you: there might be sadness that your babies are a year older and there can be now more fun adventures. There can also be the feeling of relief that the kids are heading back to a routine and structure, which might have become a bit lax during summer. For the kids: Well, do they ever really enjoy going back to school?

In an attempt to help you out, I sponsored a school-aged child in need (mine is still too young) and went back to school shopping in hopes of finding the best deals and steals so that the start of the school year will not break your budget.

I went to two stores, Dollar Tree and Wal-Mart, and I nearly broke even. I got everything required for my child per the school supply list. There was one exception though, I did NOT buy headphones at Walmart and if I had, Dollar Tree would have come out much further ahead. I did not go shopping at Target. Target is my usual preferred shopping location, but I decided to only use Wal-Mart and the Dollar Tree for this experiment. I cannot speak for the deals found at Target for this specific entry, however in the past I have done very well at Target and found everything I needed.

The main difference I noticed between Wal-Mart and the Dollar Tree was there were far more options at Wal-Mart. I could choose from a wide selection of options. The Dollar Tree had a very limited selection of what was available and I had to simply make do. The Dollar Tree I went to did seem to still be putting out supplies, so there might be more options by the time you read this post. I also found at Wal-Mart I was able to select a backpack and other necessities for my kiddo. I did not include those items on the post because those were extras. They were not technically required by the school, but Wal-Mart did have a selection of backpacks from $9.98 to over $100.

As I said before, I nearly broke even. At Dollar Tree I found every single item on the school list and my total was $32.18. At Wal-Mart I found everything except for the headphones and my total was $33.57. There was a pair of headphones priced at $5, so I had I picked those up, the total would have been approximately $38.57, give or take the taxes. Overall, you can get everything you need at affordable prices.


A Few More Tips:
• Buy store brand

• Look for sale items

• Consider the unit prices. A box of 24 crayons might be priced at $2.00, which looks like more than the box of 8 crayons for $1.00, but the 24 box is $0.08 per crayons versus $0.12 per crayon for the 8 count box.

• Do not go shopping with your kids. I repeat: DO NOT GO SHOPPING WITH THE KIDS! Sure, you want Suzie and Steve to pick out things they want, but they will kill your budget. Ask them what their favorite colors or characters are this year and find things within that theme for them.


If This is Still Beyond Your Income
School supplies are expensive! We know how hard it can be to not only get all the items the school requires, but to get clothing, shoes, backpacks, and all those little gadgets kids need. Please do not hesitate to ask for help. There are many places gathering school supplies donations throughout all of Colorado. In fact, there are so many places, it is too hard to list. Please call the Families First Support Line at 303-695-7996 and our wonderful team members will gladly help you find a site in your county and for your specific school.

My kiddo did not need a calculator for her grade. I know the Texas Instruments are expensive and a total budget killer. There are schools which will allow families to “rent” a calculator for the year. I would inquire with the school before dropping $100 on a calculator. There are also options online for used graphing calculators. People like me who needed it for that one math class in college are now looking to sell them, so see what might be available online if your school does not have a rental/borrow option.

In regard to back to school clothes, I personally prefer the thrift store. Kids grow at an alarming rate, not only does this mean they need an array of size options, but kid’s clothes are usually not worn for very long. A lot of times I find things which look brand new at the thrift store. Plus, think of it this way, you are helping the environment and saving money! It’s a win-win!

One other option out there: makes friends with parents whose kids are slightly older than yours! They might have all the things you need. I have a wonderful friend whose sons are older than my boy. After her children grow out of their clothes and toys, she passes them down to me. This helps me with my budget so much! Maybe start a clothing/toy/supplies swap with a group of friends. Everyone can pass items around as needed. I know there are some groups on Facebook and you can find one in your area.

And you can still find more deal ideas here!

For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Summer Cooling Options

Author: Christina, mother and Support Line volunteer

Wrapping up our series on how to survive the summer heat, here are a few more ideas to stay cool:

Reusable and inexpensive ice packs
You can purchase dish sponges from the Dollar Store if you don’t already have some on hand, place in a plastic bag, wet with water, and toss in the freezer. Not only are these “ice packs” reusable and cheaper than the hard plastic one’s from the store, but they make great boo-boo ice packs. Since they are soft they conform nicely to elbows, knees, and cheeks. Once it warms back up, return to the freezer for use later. These are also great in lunch boxes and you won’t be as upset if these get lost.

Frozen washcloths
These make great neck wraps and head cloths for a quick cool down. Give a frozen washcloth to a teething baby for a nice option to chew on. It will soothe baby’s gums and can be tossed in the washer.

Get out of town!
One great element of living in Colorado is there are mountains nearby. When it’s hot in the city, it is usually cooler at higher elevations. Take a day trip to a State or National Park. Not only are you getting to cooler lands, but this is a great opportunity to explore nature with the kids.


Check out Denver’s webpage. There is a whole section about FREE events going on!


For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Summer Heat Snack Ideas

From Christina, mother and Support Line volunteer

Continuing our series on keeping cool in the summer heat, here are a few ideas for snack-time when it's hot out!

• Instead of expensive popsicles, which seem to melt faster than they can be eaten, put grapes on a skewer and freeze. Even if you freeze the grapes without the skewer, they make an excellent kid friendly cold treat. Just be sure to not give grapes to babies as they pose a choking hazard.
• Freeze bananas! Peel the banana, push a popsicle stick in one end, and freeze them in a plastic bag. For added yumminess, melt some semi-sweet chocolate chips and dip the frozen banana in the chocolate. Return to the freezer until the chocolate is solid and enjoy some cold deliciousness.
• Jello! Kids love Jello! Why not make it extra special and make the jigglers. Follow the instructions in the box and then pour into fun molds, or pour into a baking dish and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter.
• Keep celery and carrots in the fridge for a cool snack. Add peanut butter and suddenly it is a filling and cooling snack for those 3PM munchies.


For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Keeping Kids Cool on These HOT Days!

Author: Christina, mother and Support Line volunteer

Kids are the best at letting us know they are miserable. Here are just a few ideas which might help you keep your cool when they complain about the heat.

Activities:

Did you know the Children’s Museum offers $1 admission for those who have SNAP? When you go to the desk to pay, present your Quest card and admission is a mere $1 per person.

• This is a perfect place to get the kids out of the house and into air-conditioning without breaking the bank.

• Pack a lunch, the restaurant is very expensive, and head over the museum.

• There is something to do at all age levels and the kids will be exhausted.

• Bring quarters for the lockers provided to store your lunch and change of clothes. The kids will get wet in the bubble room!

Get the kids outside!

• Head to the park and play! Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy some time together.

• Water balloons fights can be lots of fun! Have the kids separate into teams, let them chose a team color, and then add a drop the of food coloring to the balloon before filling with water. Put the kids in white shirts have them go crazy.

• Turn them loose in the yard with a sprinkler.

• Don’t have a sprinkler? No problem! You can make your own from a soda bottle. Use a screwdriver or other sharp device to punch holes in the bottle. Parents, you should do that part! Then tape the bottle to the garden hose with duct tape. Turn on the hose and instant sprinkler fun! Plus, you get the yard watered. I know mine is looking brown these days.

• Don’t have a yard the kids can play in? There are plenty of FREE splash pads and water fountains to play in around the city. Follow this link to find one near you.

Most importantly: REMEMBER THE SUNSCREEN! It only takes 15 minutes to get a sunburn. After a sunburn starts, sun poisoning is next, and you will soon have a very sick kiddo. Also, be sure to provide plenty of water. We don’t want our littles drying out while playing in the water!


For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.