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.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How to Survive the Summer Heat at Home

Author: Christina, mother of a toddler & Support Line Volunteer

The first day of summer was on June 20th, however our hottest days are right around the corner. These tips are ways to help survive those hot days and ways to keep energy bills down.

1. Keep the shades closed during the day. Nothing makes a house hotter than having the summer sun coming in through the windows.

2. Raise the temperature on your thermostat. Running the AC all day might keep the house more comfortable, but the electricity bill will go through roof. Xcel Energy charges more per kilowatt hour after your usage goes above 500 kw. Set the AC to 85 during the day while away from home and 78 while home. This is still rather warm, but tank tops, shorts, and glasses of ice water help keep you cool.

3. Turn off all unnecessary appliances, lights, ceiling fans, anything which draws power. Ceiling fans help to cool you, not the air, so if you are not in the room, turn off the fan. Also, make sure you are unplugging chargers if not actively charging a device. Chargers continue to draw energy even if there is not a device attached.

4. Use the microwave instead of the oven. Nothing heats up a house faster than an oven and the microwave uses less power than the oven to cook the same type of food.

5. Freeze empty milk jugs to keep the fridge cool. Sometimes the power goes out because too many people are using energy and it overloads the grid. Instead of throwing away empty milk jugs, wash them out, fill them with water, and place in the freezer. Not only does this become a backup ice block for your cooler during camping trips and picnics (which can then be used as drinking water once thawed), but if the power goes out, those jugs of ice can help keep refrigerated items cool until the power comes back on.

6. If you or a family member has a medical condition which requires electricity, get a letter from your doctor and send it to the energy company and to the local fire department. If the power goes out due to a grid overload, the fire department will come and rescue those who need electricity for medical reasons. The power company will also send workers to areas where the power went out faster if there is a medical need in that area.

Now let’s say your energy bill has become more than you can afford. There are few things you can do if finances are tight.

1. Ask for help! Call the Families First Support Line at 303-695-7996 and the wonderful team members will help you find resources which may help you to make your payments.

2. Understand the law! The energy company has to send you a notice of shut off within a reasonable amount of time. They are not allowed to just turn off your electricity without notice. If there is someone in the home who has a medical need for electricity, such as using oxygen, keeping insulin cold, or an inability to handle extreme heat, or if there is a child in the home, the power company can grant you a one-time 90 day extension before turning off your power.


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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Parent: Friend or Foe?

Author: Jannette Matula, Former Support Line Volunteer

Which do you consider yourself? Maybe you think you are both? Maybe neither?

Some parents think it is best to be friends with our children. I think it might be nice if, when my kids are adults, they enjoyed spending time with me. Even better, if they called me their "friend"! When we do nice things for our kids, or give them things they want, or behave in ways they like, we may feel like their friend. But it's not really the same.

Sometimes we certainly feel like a foe: enforcing rules, saying no to the "MA" rated video game that "all my friends are playing," ensuring homework is done before the TV comes on. I've been told a few times by my angry child: "You are NOT my friend!" And I fully expect to hear "I hate you!" uttered or screamed at me in the not-so-distant future. (Take a deep breathe…count to 10…)

These words sting, no doubt. But I find a little peace in acknowledging that I am neither friend nor foe. I am something different. My job is perhaps the most difficult and important job I will ever aspire to be perfect at, although try as I might, sometimes I will still fail. I am a parent. I show unconditional love to my children by providing structure and setting good examples for how I would like to see them treat themselves and others (most of the time). I do what is reasonably in my power to keep them out of harm's way. I say no when it would be easier to say yes...again, most of the time. I am not perfect, but I try my best with the knowledge and tools that I have.

During those times when your child is angrily yelling "You are not my friend!" hopefully you can pause, take a deep breathe, and agree with them. Then, with calm and love in your voice, you can gently say that no, you are not their friend...you are their parent.

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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Fun as a Family

The taste of ice cold lemonade, the feeling of the cool grass between your toes, the sounds of children laughing, the smell of sunscreen and chlorine, and seeing your neighbors in their yards… ahh, summer time is finally here! It doesn’t matter your age or what your work schedule looks like, this time of year seems to bring out the fun in most of us. For our kids it is the break they have been looking forward to since New Year. For adults, it reminds us of our own youth and how carefree we felt in the summer. Summer is a great time to reconnect as a family and to strengthen our relationships with each other. Beware, summer is fleeting! Start planning some fun things to do as a family now.

Try some of these suggestions to make some summer family fun of your own:
Sleep under the stars in your own backyard
Have a water fight
Go for a picnic
Play tag
Blow bubbles
Tend a garden
Build a butterfly or fairy garden
Go on a summer nature hunt
Have a hula hoop, jump rope, or basketball throwing contest
Climb a tree
Go play on the slide, swings, merry-go-round at your local park

A tried and true family fun time is available at your local library. Most libraries have at least a summer reading program and many have something several times a week to keep kids of all ages engaged during the summer. Call your local library or visit their website to see what is planned. Many events are for the whole family. In addition, you can always come up with fun things to do as a family around the resources at the library. You can do a reading challenge as a family, borrow movies or music to use as a family, find a cookbook and cook a recipe together, research something at the library and then go do it in real life as a family. Library cards are free. The possibilities with a library card are endless.

Check out your local nature center. They have several activities each season that are free or minimal charge. Kids are amazed at how each visit to the local nature center is a whole new adventure. They will see or discover something new each time they go. Here is a list of the nature center in Colorado. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nature_centers_in_Colorado.

Speaking of nature, if you live in the Pueblo area there is a great day camp for middle school students through the CSU Extension call Pueblo Youth Naturally. They are always looking for adult volunteers. What a great way to bond with your kids this summer by participate in a camp with them. The cost is $25 for the full week and includes entrance into all outings, transportation to all outings, snacks, and lunch. For more information go to http://pueblo.colostate.edu/pyn/pyn.shtml. If you live in other parts of the state check with your community colleges, universities and cooperative extensions to see what they are offering this year.

Here in Colorado you can find a list of free events by going to www.freeindenver.com/denver-free-days. You will find list for free days at local museums, the zoo and other attractions, movies in the park, free concert series, etc. The majority of these are in the Denver Metro area, but there are some things listed for other parts of the state if you do not feel like a trip to Denver.

Another great site for the Denver/Boulder areas is http://www.milehighonthecheap.com.

If you are living in the Colorado Springs area check out http://springsbargains.com.

Colorado Parents magazine puts out a list every month of free and low cost family-friendly events around the state. You can find their magazine in various locations across the state, including medical office and restaurants. They also have an online publication at coloradoparent.com, including an annual publication dedicated to “Everything Family”.

These are just a few of the free things you can do to make some family memories this summer. Get out there and remember what you loved about being young and carefree. Kids love to see their parents having fun alongside them.

For more suggestions on ways to have fun and build memories as a family, additional ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail stacy@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Check us out on Facebook at Families First Colorado. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Inspiring Resilience, Creating Hope

May is National Mental Health Awareness month. We have come a long way as a nation over the last couple of decades in how we view mental health issues, however, we still need to continue to improve the way people with a mental illness are viewed and treated.

Mental health is simply our emotional, mental, and spiritual health. It is just as important as our physical health. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand. It is important for us to realize that people of all ages, race, ethnicity, religion, and incomes are diagnosed with mental health concerns. Nearly every person in America has either had mental health issues at one time in their life or has a close friend or family member who has had mental health issues at some point. The stigma around mental health needs to be broken. Mental health issues should be viewed no differently than physical health issues.

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness month is Inspiring Resilience, Creating Hope. There is a great deal of research that has been done in recent years that is showing that resiliency acts as a buffer in all areas of a person’s life, including mental and emotional health. The good news is that resilience is something we are all born with and can be strengthened.

Last month’s blog spoke briefly about parental resilience as one of the protective factors that decreases abuse and neglect and promotes health family relationships. We defined it as the ability to cope with stresses, both the day-to-day stresses, as well as the occasional crisis. This is sometimes described as being a “bounce back” person or family. The same definition applies for resilience in children of all ages.

So, why is being resilient so important? The more resilient a person is the better day-to-day health they have in all areas of their life. Seventy percent of all people will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime. Resiliency helps people deal with the bumps of life, as well as the bigger stressors. It is a good idea to build resiliency before it is needed for a crisis.

There are a number of fairly simple things that adults can do to help promote resilience in children. The number one thing is relationships. Researchers agree that the primary building block for resilience is caring, supportive relationships. Adults can do this by responding to their children’s physical and emotional needs in a timely manner with patience. Another easy way to build relationships is to have fun together. Schedule time every day to get down on the floor or go outside and play with your child.

Adults can also help promote resilience in children by listening and responding to their child in a reflective manner. When your child is talking to you give them your full attention and then make sure to state back to them what you heard them say and any emotions you believe they are experiencing. Then allow your child to confirm or clarify that you got what they were saying and feeling. We all need to be heard and have our feelings supported.

As always, adults can use modeling. It is important for us to model the skills that lead to resilience for our children. We need to make sure our children see us engaging in supportive relationships, having fun, and sharing our thoughts and feelings. These are just a few suggestions for building resilience that you can start working on today for yourself, with your children and in your family, which will lead to improved mental and emotional health.

For more suggestions on ways resilience, additional ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail stacy@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Check us out on Facebook at Families First Colorado. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.