Monday, August 22, 2016

Parenting: Children and Sleep

I have seen several versions of this chart on social media and thought I would do my part to help it go viral.

Children need sleep. They are growing and they tend to take each day going from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. Both of these things require more sleep than adults typically need.

Also, children need sleep to be alert in school and to make sure that new things learned on one day survive to the next. Sleep time is heavy brain time. 

As adults we are used to working with less sleep than we need. I suspect this causes more trouble than we think but the biggest problem is when we lengthen our day and forget our children need their sleep.

Even if it means making some changes to schedules, make a commitment to a plan that provides your young learners with the sleep they need.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Parenting: Serve and Return

The church where I work is being patient with me and trying a new experiment for summer Sunday school. I have lessons in bags and families stop by, pick a bag and take it to a room to complete the activities with their children.

Each bag contains a Bible story and verse to memorize. Art activities, games, puzzles, and discussion questions give the families some choices that allow them to custom design the lesson for their children.

I sit in the entrance area for our Family Summer Sunday School and check families in and out. During that time I hear voices coming from the classrooms and what I hear warms my heart.

Curiosity abounds as bags are opened and Bible stories are read. There is laughter as activities are attempted and retried. Today one child smiled a mile wide as he told me he loved the finger traps. Another child kept at the marble paint activity until the blue and red made purple. Some families finish in 20 minutes and others have to be gently shooed out at the end of the hour. 

My favorite bits of conversation are something developmental psychologists call "serve and return." It is the interaction between parent and child. Serve and return begins in infancy when parents melt in front of their newborns to instinctively indulge in baby talk. Mom talks to baby and baby responds encouraging Mom to initiate more conversation. This continues as the child grows. A toddler asks Dad an obvious question and Dad responds serving a question of his own. To the casual observer the conversations barely seem useful, but for the child’s developing brain this type of interaction is pure gold. It allows them to test new information as they absorb information by learning patterns.

Babies are essentially born into an alien world. They know nothing, cannot speak the language, and are on a steep learning curve to get things figured out. Serve and return is a process that wires the child's brain creating and organizing important neural pathways that become the basis for all learning. Each child's brain must figure out its world and the serve and return process gives essential information allowing sense to be made of everyday happenings.

In addition to academic benefits, this process teaches language, social skills, and stress coping strategies. Furthermore, serve and return builds trust as children learn over and over again that their parent's response is dependable. The ability to trust is essential to learning as well as emotional health. There is a lot happening in this game of verbal tennis.

The best thing about the Family Summer Sunday School brand of serve and return is that it happens in the context of faith learning. Through the blessing and power of the Spirit, these parents are building the brains of their children with the bricks and mortar of faith.That faith will be a part of all future learning. 

That's pretty powerful stuff.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you  also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. 
Ephesians 2: 19-22, ESV

Friday, May 27, 2016

Children: Anxiety

While some children are more inclined to worry than others, almost all children experience anxiety at one time or another. 

Anxiety can be a good thing. It can make us pay closer attention to what is going on, it can help us to be better prepared, and the right amount of anxiety is necessary for best performance.

However, anxiety becomes a problem when it keeps a child from enjoying everyday things, or when it is hiding a problem that needs to be addressed.

When children indicate that they do not want to do something they are communicating what for them is a real concern. It is important to know what is behind the words of worry:

Is the child not ready for the activity? Some children want to watch before they try and others just need more time before launching into something new.

Does the child need some reassurance? If you feel your child is ready for the activity, then confidently assure him that things will be okay and that you (or the teacher, or other trusted adult) will be available to help. A child’s confidence about trying new things can be greatly improved when he or she successfully accomplish something that caused worry.

Is there something else going on? If a child suddenly is anxious about a previously enjoyed activity then a good conversation is in order. Your child might not realize that an incident with another child, some confusion with an adult, or a startling event, is the real cause for worry. Children cannot always process this information. On occasion their brains will simply cause them to fear the entire situation. 

Is your child defiantly refusing to obey? It is easy to assume that defiance is about disobedience rather than anxiety. We assume that anxiety will show itself in timid behaviors. Some children show their anxiety in defiance. It is good to explore this possibility, especially if the behavior is unusual for your child or if typical consequences aren’t working to change the behavior. 

Is your child tired? Being physically tired or mentally overstimulated will cause many children to become anxious. For them, it is the best way to give the message that they have had enough. 

Helping children to identify and cope with stress is a great way to build resilience. Children need ways to calm themselves, to know when and how to seek help, and to learn to use anxiety to their advantage. Such children will be good problem solvers and will face difficulty with confidence.

One of the reasons that faith development also promotes resilience is that  our faith reminds us that God is in control of our lives, our situation, and our anxiety. A gentle reminder of God’s promise of love and care is a beautiful way to share your faith with your children when helping them with anxiety.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

Friday, May 20, 2016

Parenting Technology

Technology has many benefits but it has its downside, too.  Our children do not know a world without apps and screens. Yet, their brains need other stimulation in order to improve their ability to learn. Playing a learning game on a tablet computer may teach a few skills. Whereas playing outside, building a fort, negotiation a game, or reading a book, will train the brain to be a better learning machine.

Child experts recommend parents limit screen time. However, child experts are not in our homes with us arguing with our children about why this is good for them.  Instead of stopping children when they have reached the end of their allotted time – require them to do other things first and then allow them all the time they want to play video games.

For example:

  • 30 minutes of reading 
  • 30 minutes of  house cleaning or yardwork 
  • 30 minutes of practice (music, sports, drawing, building, writing) 
  • 60 minutes of out-of-your-seat, and out-of-your-house play

(Be sure to adjust the list to accommodate different ages or different preferences in your family.)

There are several reasons why this system has a good chance of success. 

If/then  If /then plans are a form of negotiation. Such plans tell your child that you understand what they want and make it clear what you want. Allowing your children to renegotiate can be a good thing. Just stand firm on the amount of time and the issues you consider to be most important.

Delayed gratification  This is learning how to put off something you want to do while completing something you did not choose to do. As it turns out this skill influences both academic learning and life success. It teaches children how to focus and plan while learning to wait for a reward.

Self-entertainment When children spend less time complaining about not having anything to do they spend more time doing one of the activities assigned and suggested.  Now they are more likely to get hooked on a creative activity or a healthier activity such as outdoor play. Now we have a better chance of reducing their screen time.

When we parent we are rarely teaching one thing at a time. We teach in layers. Think about how you can add in faith teaching to this model with Bible study time, family devotions, Bible picture books, or perhaps journaling. Let your children know what is important by showing them what to put first in their daily schedule.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart ad with all your soul and with all your might.  Deuteronomy 6:5

Friday, May 13, 2016

Resources: For Sharing Your Faith All Year Long

Parents and children are busy – all year long. Even when the school year ends there are camps, sports, and family vacations.  The long lazy summers of my youth seem to be long gone. I can't believe I complained that I was bored!

In the midst of wonderful learning opportunities and family outings, I strongly encourage you to remember the blessings of what your church provides.  Your child’s faith grows because of the work of the Spirit. Look for ways to encourage that work. Here is how Faith Lutheran can help you.

Family devotions are a great way to help Bible learning to continue even when church attendance might be interrupted with travel and tournaments. A short devotion at the beginning of the trip or with mealtimes or bedtimes reminds our children that God goes with us. Here is a link to Concordia Publishing House and their easy resource of My Devotions. This is a subscription to an easy to read and understand daily devotion.  It even means some mail!

Family Summer Sunday School is a new program we are trying for this summer. Many other churches have moved toward this kind of Sunday school for these busy months and we pray it is a blessing for you. Come to Sunday School at the regular time and come as a family. You will receive a kit that has everything you need to share a Bible story, learn a Bible verse, pray together, and enjoy your choices of an activity such as a craft or game. The benefit is to learn some tools that will help you share your faith with your children. Please register before or after church.

Vacation Bible School is also trying something new this year. Because more families find it hard to attend every day for a week, we are scheduling VBS for two all-day events on Saturday.  The first is for young children and the second for school age children. If your child qualifies for both he/she is welcome to attend both. Vacation Bible School gives children a chance to see God’s word in a different setting. It is also a natural way to invite friends and neighborhood children. Please register before or after church.

Barnyard Roundup
Saturday, June 4
9:00am – 1:00pm
Children ages 3-8years

“Unique yet united”
Camp Luther Outdoor VBS
Saturday June 11
10:00am – 2:00pm
Children going into 1st through 6th grade