Archive | July 2013

Saying Goodbye to the Baby Years

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

If You Have to Say Goodbye

When you are only able to have one child (for whatever reason), simply put–you treasure him extra much. It’s not that I love my child more than anyone else loves theirs, it’s just that there is no little one coming behind him as a distraction from my sadness at seeing him grow up and move forward in his life. I think I just hold him a little tighter sometimes because of that.

I have always relished snuggle time with my little boy.

I have always relished snuggle time with my little boy.

This fall is going to be so incredibly difficult for me because I do not want to let my “baby” go. Although I was able to stay home with him and have a lot of quality time together, I don’t think parents ever feel as though they have had enough time for that. And no matter how hard you try to slow time down, it still won’t stop.

Kalli Dakos’ “goodbye poems” can bring comfort to children and their parents during difficult times of loss and change. Still, I can’t freeze my son in time. This fall, he is beginning a Pre-K program at a private school where he will attend through 12th grade. Don’t get me wrong – we found an amazing school that incorporates all the educational and personal philosophies we want for our little boy. Once we looked at the benefits to our son having a whole-child education in a smaller classroom and campus environment, it was a no-brainer.

My son’s new school also offered a 5 full day summer camp program with different weekly themes. What a great way for him to adjust to his new school in such a fun way! Perhaps the fall, then, would be less of a shock. We chose two sessions separated by a week between. The beginning of the first week was somewhat hard for my son to acclimate to, especially the first day. He was in a new environment and experiencing a rather long day even though rest and quiet time was built in. After a couple of days, he adjusted fine yet every once in awhile he would fuss at morning drop off–wanting me to walk him to his group’s classroom meeting place instead of going through the carpool line.

I was so torn in these situations. I knew that having him become comfortable with this drop off routine would benefit him for the fall, yet he is still so young and I didn’t want to force him nor upset the start of his day. I decided to go easy and help him adjust slowly over a two week camp experience. After the two weeks we had an opportunity to enroll him in the final two weeks of camp, and he was very excited! He had done it. He had successfully adjusted, and enjoyed his time at camp and on the school campus! This Monday, drop off was a snap…for my son.

It was me who did not fair so well. Sigharen’t you going to miss me? Luckily my fellow blogger, Chris, wrote a wonderful piece on adjusting to the “emptying nest” and I found her tips applicable to my situation too. Her blog also offered fresh perspective on what these early years have really been about – and they weren’t always easy for sure!

Let me add a few suggestions for those of us sending young children off to Pre-K or kindergarten this fall. We can do this!

Saying “Goodbye” with Grace

* Pack plenty of tissues! Don’t leave home for that first day of school without them, or walk your child to the bus stop without a wad stuffed in your pocket.

* Try hard to wait to cry when your child is out of sight. This is something I likely will not achieve, yet it is a noble goal. I am pro showing-your-feelings-in-front-of your-children (within reason), yet at such a young age kids sometimes still confuse emotions. And, you really can’t explain “bittersweet” to them. The more cheerful, upbeat and excited you are, the more likely they will follow suit in their responses to going off to school.

* Establish sacred alone time. Carve out time for just you and your child amidst the busy school week in any way you can. Sneak in a moment of reading time cuddled up on the couch, sing songs while your child sits in the bathtub, listen to their school experiences while you’re cooking dinner. You don’t have to spend large blocks of time staring into your child’s eyes to have spent quality time together.

* Use weekends for “regrouping.” Spend some quality family time together – better if it doesn’t involve big plans or a lot of running around since the school week will have held plenty of that. Just be together.

* Make your child’s bedroom a haven. No matter how much money you have to spend on your child’s bedroom design, there are many things you can do inexpensively to keep their room current to their age-specific interests. It also doesn’t take a lot of effort to keep it organized and clutter-free. If your child has a clean, calm place to retreat to for quiet rest, reading and play he will know where he can go to relax and recharge his energy.

My son is relaxed and comfortable in "outer space!"

My son is relaxed and comfortable in “outer space!”

* Get involved in your child’s education. There are many ways to do this, even for busy working parents. If you can’t volunteer in your child’s classroom or serve on the PTA, you may be able to take off a day from work to go on a field trip or offer to prepare learning materials at home. You are supporting your child’s learning experience as you sit down together to review homework assignments and prepare for the next school day.

* No matter how many children you have…You’ll always be sad when they leave the “nest.” There are many phases of your child’s life. You will say goodbye to them all.

One morning, I went into my son’s room to make up his bed with clean sheets. As I smoothed out the covers and neatly arranged his soft pillows, I realized that although he seems to be growing up more every day he still needs me. And in one respect or another he always will. So I might be saying goodbye to my son’s “baby” years, yet he will always be my baby.

No matter how old my son gets, I will never stop holding him and rejoicing in who he is becoming.

No matter how old my son gets, I will never stop holding him and rejoicing in who he is becoming.

What was it like for you saying goodbye to the baby years? Did you find some ways of coping that we can all benefit from? If so, please share them with our OTMGR community!

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Coping with the Emptying Nest: Easy Does It

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By Chris Little

If you’ve got fledglings on their way out of the nest, I know you’ve also got images of them as toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners dancing around in your head. “How fast the time passes!” we all say. “It seems like just yesterday I dropped him off at kindergarten!” Yup, yup—it does feel like yesterday, doesn’t it? We tear up a little. Those were the good old days, right?

But I want to ask you to think back just a little farther, to those first days of parenthood, when you were fresh home from the hospital with your infant. I’m sure you can remember how happy you were. But can you remember how scared you were? How worried? Overwhelmed? My husband drove home from the hospital with our first baby at 25 mph—in a 50 mph zone! I remember alternating between passionate love for the little squirt, and a panicky feeling of “Oh no! What have we done!”

And then, as the days and weeks wore on and we began to get the hang of baby-care, there was the big Identity Crisis. Gone was Freewheeling Me, who could go out for dinner or a movie without much thought. And since I’d decided to take some time off, then work part-time from home, gone was Career-Oriented Me, who got to spend the day with peers and colleagues doing rewarding work for which I received both recognition and a paycheck. I can still remember how, until I found some play groups and other social groups, I felt a little lost, a little lonely. Remember those days?

No, I’m not trying to bring you down! I just want to remind you that when you first became a parent, it probably took some time for you to find your way, and to work out who you would be in this next phase of your life. The point I’m trying to make? That as your kids grow up and make their way out of the house, you can expect it to take some time for you to adjust to this new phase, too. And it could be a bumpy ride.

I remember that when my mother-in-law’s youngest headed off to college, she tried out a succession of interesting new hobbies—teaching parenting classes at her church, attending Native American retreats, even engaging in some drumming circles—before she settled into her authentic path of jewelry-making, tennis playing, and working in her husband’s office.

Another older friend took some time out to write a novel and learn to paint watercolors when her youngest started his freshman year in college. “It takes a while to figure out where you fit in,” she told me. In fact, I’ve read it can take from 18 months to two years to regain your footing as you transition from parent with kids at home to parent with kids out in the world.

Other parents head back into full-time work, which can provide the stimulation and structure they’re missing now that they don’t work the carpool circuit anymore.

Whatever direction we ultimately take, we need to be patient with ourselves—we floundered a little when we became parents, and we can expect to flounder a little now. We should be gentle with ourselves when we find ourselves feeling a little lost. And pay attention to the little whispers we hear that might point us toward our next adventure. So here are some ideas I’ve gleaned from friends and other experts who’ve been through the emptying nest:

3235483251_7f3a9d7b34Be true to you. Allow yourself some sadness if that’s how you feel. Part of living a rich life is being present to your feelings, even the sad ones. But get help if things get too dark or you can’t find your way out.

Reconnect. You’ve finally got a little more time for yourself, so don’t rush to fill it. Check in with your friends and see who wants to go out to lunch. Work in the flowerbeds. Start a journal—writing regularly is a great way to explore and work through deep or difficult feelings.

Nurture yourself. Often we put our dreams and desires on the back burner when the kids are around. Now is your chance to move them to the front—even the little ones. Get that pedicure you’ve been putting off for the last 18 years. Have a massage. Rent the chick flick you could never talk your sons into watching with you. Start that exercise routine you always promised yourself.

Draw closer to your partner. This is a great time for you and your spouse to regain your pre-parenthood closeness, and taking time to share your feelings about this transition is a great step in that direction.

Relish the positive. Sure, you’re sad the kids aren’t loitering around the kitchen while you cook. I hear you! But look on the bright side: The bathroom stays cleaner. The carton of ice cream in the freezer lasts longer. The water bill is smaller. And there are fewer shoes and socks lying on the living room floor. It’s okay to enjoy these things!

Take credit. Give yourself the opportunity to feel proud of yourself for having raised that little infant into a functioning adult. That’s quite a feat! Allow yourself to feel that sense of a mission accomplished.

And through it all, keep your eyes peeled for what feels interesting or exciting to you—those are clues to what the next exciting new phase of your life is going to look like!

But first, let me know: How are you—or how do you plan to—find your way through the empty nest transition? It’s less than a month before my first heads off to college, so I need all the ideas I can get!

Images: Some rights reserved by © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography and akk_rus.

Preparing Your Pet for A Lodging Experience

Amanda with checkin

Remain calm during check-in for a smooth transition.

By Jen Ashenfelter

In early June I posted tips for finding the best pet lodging facility for your dog or cat (click here). As you get ready for your vacation, make sure you prepare your pet for the resort experience. I’m the marketing coordinator for Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holiday House Pet Resort in Doylestown, PA, so I’m lucky to work for a terrific medical team and professional lodging staff who offered these helpful tips.

It’s an exciting day—you are ready for vacation and it’s time to drop your dog or cat off at the lodging resort. Even though you are looking forward to your trip, the moment you have to leave your pet in the care of others can be stressful.

Planning is essential in managing anxiety. Previously we looked at tips for choosing the best lodging facility for your pet. Now it’s time to consider a few final steps that will make the check-in process easy for you and the lodging experience fun for your pet.

  • Vaccinations – When you make the lodging reservation, ask the staff which vaccinations are necessary and suggested for your pet’s stay. Contact your veterinarian to make sure your dog or cat is up-to-date on vaccinations, and make an appointment if necessary.
  • Activities – Be sure to choose an activity package for your pet when you make the reservation. Staying active is important for health and happiness.
  • Medications – If your pet is on medication, be sure to provide enough medication to last the stay. Package and label according to the directions given by the staff.
  • Food – Many resorts will serve a veterinarian-approved food but will serve your pet’s regular diet if you provide the food. Be sure to measure, package and label plenty of food for the stay. It’s also a good idea to supply extra food, especially if your pet is involved in lots of activities.
  • Contact information – Provide an up-to-date list of contacts and emergency numbers as requested by the facility.
  • Remain calm – This is the most important tip for ensuring a smooth check-in to the lodging facility. Pets can sense when we are upset or stressed and will mirror our energy. The best thing you can do is remain calm and confident so your dog or cat will have a positive experience.
  • Going home – A smooth transition when returning home is also important. If the resort offers a grooming option before check-out, a nice bath and pampering is a great way to end the lodging experience. If you are lodging a puppy or young dog, then return to basic housebreaking to reinforce good behavior now that he is back home. It’s also recommended not to feed your pet a big meal after coming home. Pets who are kept busy and happy at lodging—much like a child at camp—will be sleepy, so provide small amounts of water and food for several hours until their energy returns.

    These brothers enjoyed time in the play yard during their resort vacation.

    These brothers enjoyed time in the play yard during their resort vacation.

Lodging is your pet’s vacation from the regular routine. Remember to research lodging resorts well-ahead of your vacation. Choose a resort which provides the best activities, level of safety, and personal care you expect for your pet. When you are organized and calm during the check-in process, you and your pet will less stressed and ready for a good time.

Summer Dessert Ideas

By Ruth Topper

In the summer, picnics are popular and often are of the “potluck” variety where everyone is asked to bring a dish to share.  Desserts are my specialty so that’s usually what I whip up. Below are the recipes for two of my family’s favorite summer desserts–enjoy!

E-Clair Dessert – Whether you are 2 or 92 – you will love this one:

Eclair Dessert - Photo Credit: KraftRecipes.com

Eclair Dessert – Photo Credit: KraftRecipes.com

Spray a 13 x 9 pan.  Line it with graham crackers.

Mix in one bowl:  1 box chocolate instant pudding with 1 ¾ cup milk.  Beat 2 minutes.

Mix in another bowl:  1 box vanilla instant pudding with 1 ¾ cup milk.  Beat 2 minutes.

Divide an 8 oz. container of whipped topping (Cool Whip) in half.  Add ½ (or 4 oz.) to the chocolate pudding mixture.  Add the other ½ (or 4 oz.) to the vanilla pudding mixture.

Pour the chocolate pudding mixture over the graham crackers.   Add another layer of graham crackers.  Pour vanilla pudding mixture over this layer of graham crackers.  Add a third layer of graham crackers.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Finish with the following:

Melt 2 – 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares or use 6 tablespoons of cocoa + 2 tablespoons of oil instead of the squares.  (No need to heat if using cocoa/oil).

Add to it:  2 teaspoons white Karo syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons margarine

3 tablespoons milk

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Beat until smooth.  Spread over graham crackers.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.  Enjoy!!!!  Yum!!

Scotcheroos

This is a recipe my mom used to make all the time in the summer for picnics and special occasions:

Mmmm... Scotcheroos - Photo Credit: RiceKrispies.com

Mmmm… Scotcheroos – Photo Credit: RiceKrispies.com

Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup corn (Karo) syrup – Cook over moderate heat until it bubbles or you can heat in the microwave.  Remove from heat and stir in:

1 cup peanut butter

6 cups rice krispie cereal

Stir until blended and press into a buttered 13 x 9 pan.

Combine 6-9 oz. butterscotch bits and 6-9 oz. chocolate chips – Melt either in the microwave or on top of the stove.  Spread over the rice krispie layer.

Refrigerate until set.  Cut into squares.  Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite recipe you make in the summer to take to picnics or family reunions?  Do you have any special memories of this recipe/dish?  We’d love to hear about it!

A Twist on Summer Reading

By Karen Hendricks

How hard (or easy) is it to encourage summer reading time for your kids? Even if your kids are voracious readers like mine, it’s good to change up the reading routine with a fresh approach. And if it’s a struggle to keep your kids reading through the summer, this idea might also help hook them on books. The idea? Audio books!

Listen Up

There’s no question that reading is one of the most valuable skills our children can acquire during their school years. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that audio books are the best format for kids to latch onto during the summer. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The change in format makes reading more fun, less like “homework.”
  • The narrations are entertaining, and the art of listening / focusing is so important. Kids who can truly listen and comprehend a book will be able to better listen to adults, instructions, speeches, etc.
  • Listening to a book allows the narration, sound effects, music, etc. to paint a picture of the book’s events in your child’s mind. I think it’s a great way to spark the imagination! This would be as opposed to “seeing” the book come to life in movie format. Movies are never as good as the books. But I would argue that audio books are usually as good as the book—sometimes even better because it gives your child’s imagination a jump start.

Road Scholars

One of the best times to listen to an audio book is in the car while traveling. My family has listened to numerous audio books while traveling on vacation, or during regular road trips to summer camps, sports practices/games, etc. It’s made the miles fly by and I really enjoy the fact that we’re sharing the experience of listening to the same book. We often talk about our reactions to the plot—great discussions! This brings up another topic: Do you have family rules for traveling? Are the kids allowed to listen to iPods, MP3 players, etc? Or is there one “family” radio station / CD / etc. playing for everyone to listen to? Or do you watch DVDs while traveling? This might be a great topic for a future blog! Reminds me of Jen’s previous blog on screen rules.

Recommended Reading

Back to books… Sometimes the narrator or characters’ voices can “make or break” an audio book. If you don’t enjoy listening to a particular voice, give another audio book a try. Most of the ones we’ve tried have been very good. Here’s a list of suggested titles or series to try—all enjoyed by my family through the years:

Great_Bedtime_Stories_with_Magic_Tree_House_Books

  • The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne (Ages 8+) – A wonderful collection of books that combine a love of nature and history with learning, in an entertaining way. Fairly short audio books are perfect for shorter car rides or shorter attention spans.
  • The American Girl series by various authors (Ages 8+) – This series instills an appreciation for history in young girls and is beautifully done. My husband and son deserve special pats on the back for listening to many of these books during vacation treks!

Charlotte's Web

  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (Ages 8+) – A classic that “children” of all ages enjoy. Even if you have a range of ages in your family, hopefully the older children will enjoy revisiting this childhood favorite.
  • The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (Ages 9+) – These audio books will transport you straight to Hogwarts! Even if your children have read the books, it’s fun to experience the audio versions, and again, I think there’s appeal to children of all ages. I have to say, I truly enjoyed listening to the series!
  • ShilohThe Shiloh trilogy: Shiloh, Shiloh Season and Saving Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Ages 8+) – From Amazon: When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it’s love at first sight — and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun — and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty’s secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd’s anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his? Great family discussions can come from this series.
  • Holes
  • Holes by Louis Sachar (Ages 8+) – From Amazon: This winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award features Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging holes five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake: the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (Ages 8+) – Amazon.com’s review: In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, (Lois) Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price. This book, I have to admit, freaked me out a bit, but ultimately, led to some great family chats.

If you enjoy audio books, let us know which ones you and/or your children recommend! Happy reading (or listening)!

 

 

 

“Mommy, I Don’t Want You to Sing Right Now (and Other Ways Your Child Will Hurt You)”

Be-bopping to the music on a long car ride

Be-bopping to the music on a long car ride

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Can you remember the first time your child told you they love you? I do. The first time your child says “I love you” – unprompted and unscripted, is a very special moment. In the journal I keep of my son’s ‘firsts,’ I recorded the following (excerpted) entry. My son was 2 ½ years old.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Our evening time together was something we treasured and held sacred. Dad and I read you stories after getting you ready for bed, and then we would say prayers together. As you grew older, when we tucked you in it usually proceeded in the same way … we would ask you to turn out your light and then “hop” into bed so Daddy could give you a kiss before I sang to you.

This evening, after I sang ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ you raised your head off your pillow, looked me right in the eyes and said, “I love you!” Oh my goodness, your first initiated “I love you” – how very precious.

I love you too ~ always.

As a family brought together through adoption, the mother-child bond I have with my son happened differently than the automatic bond between a mother who carries her child in her womb and gives birth to her baby. Our bond had to be formed and molded through late night bottle feedings, holding him close to my heart, and lots of song and play.

Out of all those shared moments and experiences, I believe what “sealed the deal” is singing to him. Throughout most of our days, I sang lullabies, nursery rhymes and hymns. When I sang the Doxology (Praise God from whom all blessings flow…), my son was entranced. He would stop whatever he was doing and just stare at me, smiling. Then I began making up songs about our daily routines – getting dressed, preparing breakfast, going to the library, folding laundry. Usually the songs would rhyme, and my son seemed to enjoy hearing about our family and activities through these musical lyrics. When he was old enough to understand humor, I made up silly songs about anything that would make him smile or laugh. We created beat and rhythm by drumming on our laps or the kitchen counter. Using our musical instrument set, we played along to cds, and added background music to our “family songs.” Music had become a part of our daily lives, and I don’t recall a day that has gone unaccompanied by a song.

My son and I create music every day

My son and I create music every day

Just as I remember my little boy’s first “I love you,” I also recall the first time he told me he didn’t want me to sing. We were in the car listening to one of his favorite cds with lively song versions of nursery rhymes. As usual, I began singing along when my son stated simply, “Mommy, I don’t want you to sing that now.”

What???

Fortunately, I know enough about child development to realize wanting me to do or not do something is a normal part of my son finding his place in this world. He was simply experimenting with his affect on the people around him and his environment. He had begun seeking his autonomy.

Over the course of parenthood you may be surprised by something your child says. Children feel one emotion at a time and in a big way. Your child is over-the-moon happy, or she unleashes unbridled anger at not getting her way. The important thing to remember is that your little one really isn’t trying to hurt you. As difficult as it is to not take it personally, remaining as neutral and impartial as you can sets the stage for a successful resolution to whatever is upsetting your child. If you instead focus on what your child is trying to express and keep it all in perspective of a normal developmental stage, it will be much easier to respond appropriately.

Below are suggestions for responding to the words, “I hate you!” These tips can also be used in other situations where your child is angry and upset, and unleashes a verbal assault on your ears. Responding gently will keep everyone’s emotions in check and help your child find positive ways to express her feelings.

Coping with Your Child’s Autonomy

“I hate you!” I have not heard this phrase … yet. This one is hard not to take to heart, especially when you love your child more than anything in the world and assume he has the same unconditional love for you. Of course when things are good your child is content, and looks at you with great affection and adoration. When things are bad, however, life is bad, you’re bad and your preschooler “hates” you. In reality, he is learning how to express he is upset with you or that something is not right in his world.

How to respond:

* Remain calm. This is always important in the face of a verbal deluge or physical temper tantrum. During his rant fest, your child is already out of control. If you lose your ability to handle the situation calmly emotions will escalate, your child will feed off your anger, and the incident will become more out of control. Keep an even tone in your voice and exhibit open body language. Your child will eventually calm down when he sees that in spite of his emotional state his environment remains peaceful. Knowing that you are there to hug and support him makes it easier for him to correct his behavior once he regains his composure.

* Avoid shaming or belittling your child’s feelings. It’s tempting to respond to your child’s “I hate you!” with “Well, I love you.” Yet this only shames your child. Saying, “Oh, you know you love Mommy,” “You don’t really feel that way” or “There’s no reason to get so upset!” belittles your child and does not acknowledge her feelings.

* Acknowledge your child’s emotions. Reserve judgment and without mocking show your child what her facial expressions and body language (scrunched face, clenched fists, hands on hips) look like. Then name her emotions. Becky Bailey, developmental psychologist and early childhood education specialist, suggests in her column on the Baby Center website … “Remember that your child is still learning to manage her emotions. She needs help expressing her feelings, and her way of asking for help is to play a kind of emotional charade game: She acts out her feelings, and it’s up to you to figure out what she’s getting at and how to help her. ‘I can tell from the way you’re acting that you feel angry. You seem frustrated that you can’t get that dress on your doll.’ If she nods in agreement, follow up with, ‘That’s very upsetting!’

* Model alternative emotional responses. When children “freak out” they are only mimicking what they have seen their parents or others do in many situations — express a strong emotion with one simple word: “I hate waiting in traffic!” or “I hate when my hair gets so frizzy!”

* Help your child voice his feelings appropriately. Give your child positive wording that helps him express his feelings without invoking such strong reactions. “When you feel this way say, ‘I feel mad. Please help me.’” Demonstrate other options for expressing emotions and frustration. “You could ask Mommy to help you get the tag in the back before you put on your shirt.” “Let’s pick out another shirt that might be easier to put on.” Offering choices is also helpful when your child lashes out because he can’t have something he wants: “You may have a lollipop after lunch; for snack this morning, you may have a banana or an apple.”

Remind yourself that your child’s behavior is normal, and in no way indicates how he really feels about you. This will make it easier for you to help him cope with strong emotions and express his feelings.

Helping my son feel safe to express his emotions has strengthened our bond

Helping my son feel safe to express his emotions has strengthened our bond

How have you responded to hurtful words your child has said? What suggestions do you have for dealing with a child’s raw emotions while maintaining your composure? We would love to hear your stories and ideas!

Daytrip: Washington, D.C.

One of the main attractions at the National Zoo... panda bears!

One of the main attractions at the National Zoo… panda bears!

By Karen Hendricks

What does the word “daytrip” mean to you? I’d love to hear about your ideas, travels and adventures. Summer vacations are wonderful, especially when they provide a week’s worth of relaxation and travels, but to me, daytrips are expeditions to special places that are fairly close to home. I think of them as little “escapes” because there’s not much travel involved but they transport you “away” for the day. They’re the places you LONG to visit, just out of reach from your normal everyday travels, that require a little bit of planning, saving a date, or sometimes saving up the price of admission.

Washington, D.C. has been and still is an excellent daytrip destination for my family. Our nation’s capital has a seemingly unending variety of events and attractions. Two of the best reasons to visit DC? Many of the attractions are free AND top quality. Located about 80-90 miles from my home, it’s just far enough away that we can’t visit frequently, but it’s close enough that we can go for a day and take advantage of lots of spectacular events, world-class museums and much more.

We almost always travel to DC by way of their excellent Metro system. Radiating like spokes from the DC area, the Metro lines are easy to access from every direction. We park at one of the northernmost Metro stops, Shady Grove, Maryland, and take the red line into the city. Then there are no worries about driving and parking for the day. There are numerous Metro stops and we’ve never had a problem finding one within an easy walking distance of our destinations. When my children were very young, riding the Metro was sometimes the biggest highlight of their day!

Here are some of our favorite DC destinations:

  • The Smithsonian and its numerous museums including: The National Zoo, The Air and Space Museum, The Museum of Natural History and the American Indian Museum: The zoo is great fun for children of all ages, and the museums live up to the Smithsonian’s tagline: “Seriously amazing.” Start your visit at the Smithsonian’s Visitor Center, The Castle, for orientation and a taste of each museum.
  • The many memorials, including The Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, etc. If you have the chance to take one of the NPS tours, the rangers do an excellent job of presenting not only history lessons behind the memorials, but stories of the sculptors/creators and fascinating facts. Walking between the memorials is also great exercise! 
  • National Holocaust Memorial Museum – Bound to leave you with a moving, profoundly deeper understanding of the Holocaust, visits to this museum are recommended for children ages 11 and older. There is a special exhibit designed for children ages 7 and older as well. 
  • The Washington Monument – Currently being repaired due to damage from an earthquake in August of 2011, tours inside the building are not possible at this time. When we went several years ago, we made sure to book a date and reserved tickets at least a month or two in advance (tickets are free).
  • Cherry Blossom Festival – Time your visit to DC to coincide with this beautiful springtime event if possible! 

There are so many more awesome DC destinations – and you can easily spend a day exploring each one. Somehow, each museum, each monument, each park, explain a facet of American life and is bound to give you and your family a greater understanding of our country—our heritage, our history, our people and our culture. I think it would be fabulous to visit for the patriotic 4th of July festivities, but that’s still on our DC bucket list. Another reason to plan a daytrip…

Hey, there’s still time to plan for the next patriotic holiday, Labor Day! I found some inspiration on the official DC tourism website—10 Ways to Spend Labor Day Weekend in Washington, DC. Hmmmmm…

Click on any of the photos below to open a slide show–enjoy a few snapshots from DC:

For additional information:

Kid Friendly DC is a great resource for families! 

Click here for the Washington, D.C. tourism website.

Have you visited DC for a daytrip? Discovered other daytrip destinations? Tell us about your family faves!