You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Steps 1-6…helping your child develop self-confidence

Self-confidence is more than just a warm and fuzzy term.  Studies show that people who have high self-esteem and confidence are more successful in school, get along better with friends, are less influenced by peer pressure, and better handle the difficulties of life.  There is no quick fix for confidence.  It is built slowly; it starts with a good foundation during infancy, and with ongoing care throughout a child’s life.  Hopefully when a child becomes a teen, they have developed enough confidence to stand for the values you instill, and not bend with peer pressure.  As an adult, a confident person will be very successful.  Starting now, with positive parenting, your child will develop a healthy self-esteem and the confidence they will need in life.

1.  Establish trust

  • The development of a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence starts at birth.  The infant/parent bonding process is so important.  How well a parent responds to a child’s needs is what builds a secure attachment and trust in Mom, Dad and the world.  Feeding, holding, cuddling gives a child basic trust in the world that helps him feel confident later in life.  You cannot spoil an infant!
  • As your child gets older, it is important to spend quality time.  There should be time spent that is simply fun.  With several children, there must be one on one time with each of the children in the family.  This does not have to be large amounts of time and expensive outings.  This can be as simple as a few minutes each day at bedtime.  Your child needs to feel that you like being with him…
  • You must accept your child.  Every child is different.  Some children will be the life of every party or have many friends, other children are more introverted or cautious.  This world is a better place because we have many types of personalities.  If your child only has a couple of friends, this does not mean that he or she is not confident.  This may be just their personality or temperament.  Do not compare your children if you have more than one, and do not compare your child to your own personality.  Your child must trust that you accept him or her for who they are.

2.  Be consistent

  • Consistency helps a child feel secure which helps a child concentrate on discovering the world. By simply comforting your baby every time he or she cries and saying goodbye every time you leave your toddler and preschooler you will eventually let your child know that he can trust you.  As your child grows, you must continue to parent consistently.  There must be consistent rules in the home and consistent consequences.  A child feels more secure if there is predictability in the home.  Discipline does not break a child’s self-confidence; it helps a child build it.  Consistency allows your child to be comfortable enough in his life to embrace challenges.

3.  Be a mirror…reflect who your child is back to him.

  • Children see themselves through the eyes of others.  Parents start this by mirroring a child.  When an infant smiles, you smile back.  When an infant coos, you coo back.  When a toddler draws a picture, you describe it back to him.  This shows the child that he is valuable just being himself.  Continually telling your child that he or she is great or is nice is positive but not as helpful as mirroring.  A parent needs to be more specific.  Example:  “You have built a great tower using all the square blocks!”  “You sat so quietly in church today, I am so proud of you!”  This is not empty praise, but constructive praise.
  • Praise should be for the process, not necessarily the end result.  Some children may fear losing their parent’s love or pride if they don’t hit a home run or get an “A” on a paper, even if their effort has been there.  It is not the home run or the “A” but if your child has given their best that deserves the praise.  When a parent speaks to effort, anyone can be encouraged.  Emphasizing effort and improvement, results in a child who believes that giving his or her best is success.  If children give their best, most likely, confidence and success will follow.

4.  Teach your child self-love

  • Pure and simple, self-love is the basis of self-confidence.  Children who are loved and love themselves take more risks, try new things, initiate relationships, and develop confidence. Giving your child lots of hugs, kisses and time alone is a good start for this.  You also need to celebrate your child’s accomplishments with specifics.  Think before you speak.  Even small children are sensitive to your emotions, positive or negative.  Concentrate on the behavior.  Dealing with a bad behavior by screaming at the child will not make the behavior any better but can erode self-confidence.  Take a 10-second time out and then speak.
  • Help your child see his strengths.  Point out the “specialness” of your child.  Do not allow yourself or your child to compare himself or herself to others.   Discourage friendships that erode your child’s self-esteem.  Do not allow siblings to build themselves up at the expense of their sister or brother.  Use the dinner table to focus on successes of your child, and the talents that he or she has.  This is a great dinner conversation!

5.  Encourage competence

  • There is nothing more exciting and gratifying than accepting and meeting a challenge.  How great it is after weeks of stumbling and falling when your baby finally walks. There is such a look of pride even in a 15 month old’s eyes as he or she toddles across the floor. There is such excitement the first time a child truly connects a printed word in a book and “reads” it.  These accomplishments teach a child that he or she is capable and will result in him or her tackling new challenges rather than backing away.  Encourage challenges.  Even when a child fails, the fact the challenge was embraced will foster confidence.  Encourage challenges that are both in your child’s comfort zone and out.  When children succeed in areas that are in their comfort zone, it gives them confidence to try challenges outside of their comfort zone.

6.  Foster interests

  • It is important that a child have opportunities to explore many areas of possible interest.  A parent should honor their child’s interests rather than their own or those they think their child should have.  Having the opportunity to discover what a child is good at and having the resources to develop that talent is the basis for self-esteem.  In whatever your child is interested in, do not overemphasize perfection.  Emphasize the joy of working toward a goal.
  • Do not “pigeon hole” your child.   Children should be able to experience many things!  A child that has tried only one sport, or dance, or musical instrument may miss what his or her true passion is!  A person who has passion is confident!  Let your child find his or niche!
First 6 steps of parenting a child to confidence.  Really not that difficult, not rocket science, just basically loving and respecting your child for who he is, providing a secure home, and encouraging your child’s process in a challenge, not just the end results.  A few more tips tomorrow!  Love your child for who he is today.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


We need Dad’s to be involved in parenting….encourage it!

Brad  as “King for a day!”  He has always been a “hands on” Dad!

Dads have a special role in their kids’ lives.  I believe that my parenting would have been incomplete without Brad, but I could have very easily discouraged his involvement very early on.  I was a “gatekeeper” Mom; I needed and wanted him to be involved, but had a difficult time actually “letting go”  of any of the parenting.  I hovered and gave “suggestions” on the best way to hold the baby, how to bathe the baby, kind of the “my way or the highway” approach.   Soon I realized that neither of us were the experts and a parenting partnership was better for me, him, and our baby!  We were “in this” together!

Dads sometimes need a bit of encouragement to become confident in their role as a Dad and especially in their baby care skills .  Moms are often responsible for much of the “baby duty” those first few weeks, and sometimes even have a difficult time allowing Dad to own his role.  Studies show us that babies respond to Dads differently than Moms.  Most babies become more alert and active when Dad engages them!  Let’s face it, Dads usually interact with a bit more energy and fun!  Routine and consistency are important for children, but they also need a balance between Mom and Dad.   Embrace parenting as a partnership.  Everyone will benefit…

Ways to Help New Dads Get Involved

1.  Many Dads want to be more involved than their fathers were. 

Moms can help by encouraging time with other families that have involved Dads.  Seeing other fathers that are breaking the old stereotypes will encourage them to do the same.  Talk with other Moms and Dads that have a  parenting philosophy that you like or admire.  Surround yourself with like-minded parents and Dads that like to participate in the care of their children.  Soon you will see that his conversation with other Dads will include the color and consistency of what is in a diaper and the best technique in swaddling, and he will actually be interested in it…who would have thought!

2.  Help Dad get involved early on.

The sooner a Dad gets involved with his baby, the more likely that he will stay connected over the long term.  Be sure to keep everything related to the baby a partnership.  Have Dad change diapers, read to the baby, feed or bring you the baby for nursing, bathe and play his way with the baby.  Breast fed babies may have more time with Mom in the very beginning, but there are many ways that Dad can still participate in caring for his baby.  Skin to skin contact is important for babies—that means Mom’s skin and Dad’s skin!  Encourage Dad to hold his newborn shirtless and comfort just like Mom!  This builds bonding between Dad and baby.  Few Moms can swaddle a baby as securely as a Dad, and Dads can walk and comfort the baby after Mom has nursed–buy a sling that is Dad friendly! Don’t let Dads wait until baby is older to begin his parenting, babies need him from moment one!

3.  Allow Dad to be involved. 

Some dads want to be VERY involved, but Moms have a difficult time letting go.   Studies show us that children with Dads who care for them beginning in infancy, end up more secure in life.  Do not tell Dad how to do everything.  If Dad does something differently, that is not wrong.  If Dad is criticized, he will back off the parenting duties and his confidence will decrease.  Fathers parent differently.  Dads often let children play more physically and take more chances.  This is different from Moms, but good for children and their developing understanding of the world.  Let Dad take one night or weekend day alone, this is good for you, Dad and your baby.  Encourage Dad to own one parenting chore like bathing,  bathing is a task that allows great interaction and is needed from the first moments of parenthood.  Allow Dad to figure out his own parenting pattern and not totally depend on Mom.  Be careful not to slip into a gatekeeper role as I did.  Moms and Dads both need alone time with baby because this allows Mom and Dad to develop their own parenting style and confidence.  Remember, Dad is not a babysitter, he is a parenting partner!

4.  Praise Dad’s efforts. 

We all like praise and fathers really need more of it when caring for their new baby.  Since stereotypes are changing, one way to make sure that Dads are embracing true involvement is for Dads to feel in control and confident.  This confidence develops when Moms praise him for what he does well rather than criticize him for what is done differently from Mom or unsuccessfully.  Offer advice, but approach it as a team.  “This is what has worked for me, try it and see if it does for you.”  Remember success breeds success.  The first time Dad quiets his crying baby,  that accomplishment will result in him being more comfortable in quieting the baby the next time!  I quickly learned that Brad’s confident, firm hold was an immediate fix for our second child’s fussy period in the early evening…he had the knack for calming her!

5.  Update Dad

When Moms are on maternity leave or have chosen to not work outside the home,  many Dads feel disconnected while at work.  Taking a moment to send a picture when your baby smiles or to update Dad on a developmental milestones or activities during the day keeps him connected.

6.  Talk together about your parenting goals.  

We all have hopes for our children and our family environment.  Talk about them together…communication about parenting as a team results in you both being on the same page.

  • What are your hopes for your family?
  • How do you see your roles as parents?
  • What kind of parents would you like to be?
  • How would each of  you like it to be handled when there is a disagreement about a parenting issue?
  • How can you best support each other as parents?

7.  Talk with other families who share your parenting beliefs. 

Sharing parenting experiences with other parents who are parenting as a team really encourages both Mom and Dad.  One of the best parenting tips I can give, is to surround yourself with like-minded parents.  It is much easier to believe in your parenting philosophy when you have other parents that support you.

8.  Put your partner first.

Try to remember that your relationship with your partner will be there after your child is grown.  By loving each other, you are giving your child an important gift—a stable base.  Putting your partner first is wise, and makes your parenting relationship stronger.  Relationships can become stronger even with the pressures of parenthood if you keep each other first.

9.  Keep your sense of humor.

Remember, you are in this together.  As you pass each other in the night, keep a tally on whose turn it is to change the poopy diaper, clean up the spit up, or collapse in exhaustion together in a heap on the couch, laughter at the situation and with each other fixes all kinds of stress.

Becoming a parent is a huge change for both Moms and Dads.  Each parent needs support from the other.  Giving and taking, encouraging, praising and simply loving each other will make both your relationship strong, and your baby happy and successful in the future. Working together is the key to happy families, fulfilled parents, and secure relationships.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Becoming a Dad can bring some doubt and fear

Men and women are different….wow, that tidbit of information is nothing new, right?  However, sometimes we need to say this over and over again so we can understand why men and women respond so differently to the same situation.  Moms and Dads are different, we respond differently to the same parenting situation, we have different fears, different challenges, and actually different parenting roles to some extent.  I don’t want to start the whole conversation regarding men’s and women’s roles in society, their value, or their equality.  I do want to start the conversation regarding the importance of both Moms and Dads in raising children, and the unique feelings and fears that Dads often experience.

New Moms and Dads often have fears about their new role, often these fears overlap, but there are a few fears that Dads own…many we Moms never know about!   Here are some of the most common fears that new Dads have…I am sure there are more, because Dads often don’t talk about fear…does that surprise you??

1.  Security and Financial Fears

Will I be able to protect and provide for my family?  Even though we think that we have “progressed”  well beyond putting  the financial  responsibility solely on Dad, this fear seems to be at the top of the list of many new Dads.  When asked, many new Dads actually overestimate the financial costs of a new baby.  Even when parents  make the decision together to have Mom quit working outside of the home, even temporarily, Dads tend to shoulder the burden of this worry more than Moms.

What can a Mom do to help?

The biggest help a Mom can provide is actually opening the conversation about this fear.  Talk about your finances, point out ways you are saving money together, make a financial plan for the time you are not working outside the home and most importantly, tell Dad how much you appreciate his role in giving your family security.  A little bit of  appreciation goes a long way.

2.  Mortality fears

Let’s be honest, most men are more risk takers than women.  Guys get a thrill from conquering a risk, often physical risks.  Many times  Dads have never ever thought of their own mortality until they hold that little newborn in their arms.  Suddenly, the thought that something could happen to him may creep into his mind for the first time!  This may challenge his behavior and choices…which can change in part their own self definition as he chooses to become a Dad.

What can Mom do to help?

Remember that Dads need time to maintain relationships with other men and time to continue some of his pre-Dad activities.  Just as a Mom need time to “refill” her pitcher, and maintain her identity, a Dad does too.  Encourage Dad to maintain some of those outside activities he enjoys.   However, if you see him struggling to balance fatherhood responsibilities and his “guy” activities…open the conversation.  Sometimes the fear of losing some of his identity, or not feeling he has a role with his new baby, will push a Dad into spending too much time away from home and increase his need to participate in activities where he tries to deny those thoughts of his actual mortality.

3.  Fear about the health of Mom or his child

Sometimes the birth of a child can trigger some real anxiety about Mom’s health or the baby’s health.  Often I will hear from Moms that Dad has suddenly become a worrier.  The experience of a traumatic delivery, being unprepared for the experience of labor and delivery, or having an infant with some initial health problems will increase the risk of a new Dad’s tendency to worry or become anxious.   The thought that something could be wrong with Mom or the baby can bring a new level of anxiety to light for a new Dad.

What can a Mom do to help?

Help Dad see that you are recovering from labor and delivery.  Talk openly and honestly about how you feel, and don’t forget to ask Dad how he feels.  Even though Moms experience the physical part of labor and delivery, Dads have an intense emotional experience.   Talk about the experience together.   Encourage Dad to come to the doctor for your postpartum exam and your baby’s doctor’s appointments.    Learn all about the normal growth and development of your child together and keep him “in the loop” regarding child care and development.

4.  Fears about his relationship with the baby

Because of who we are and our role, Moms become consumed very quickly in the care of her new baby.  Often a new Dad will fear not being included in that special relationship between Mom and baby.  In many homes, a Mom often becomes the “gatekeeper” and actually determines when Dad can be involved with the baby.  Moms must allow Dad to take part in the care of their baby, or Dads will become distant from Mom and the baby.  As a Mom, you must trust Dad with the care of your child.

What can Mom do to help?

Include Dad in the parenting of your baby.  Let Dad in….allow him to “own” being a Dad.  Encourage him to care for your baby, don’t criticize his attempts or treat him like a babysitter.  Point out his successes in comforting the baby, changing diapers, or bathing.  Build his confidence in being a Dad.  Enjoy watching him develop his role as a Dad, and the difference in the way he interacts with your baby compared to you.  A child needs both!  In actuality, marriages will become stronger if you work as co-captains on the parenting team.

5.  Fear of never having sex again

Men often think that sex will never occur again.  (Who can blame them?!)  Dad also misses time with you.  Sex is usually the farthest thing from a new Mom’s mind, but it is not too far from a new Dad’s thoughts.  Physical connection is so important to a man, and not having that connection brings a real feeling of loss.

How can mom help?

Given time and patience, Moms will want to have sex again as much as a Dad will.  Encourage Dad to do things that will make you feel like more than a Mom.  Acknowledge that you know that there has been a decrease in time that you have spent with Dad. Talk about your feelings regarding “touch time” and sex.  Realize that you both have needs.  Studies show that new Moms that have physical contact with their partners, not necessarily sex but “touch time”, feel better and have less anxiety and stress.  Dads do too!  Soon, most Dads figure out that participating in caring for the baby, and helping out in the house often results in you feeling less overwhelmed and more open to physical touch.  My husband learned that using the vacuum  really benefited him! 🙂  Take the time to concentrate on him for a few minutes each day.  If you concentrate on him, he will also concentrate on you!  You both will feel better, and your relationship will be stronger.   

6.  Fear of not being a good father.

New Dads are usually less confident about caring for their new baby than Moms.  Most new Dads do not get any practice before their new baby is born.  Many have questions about how they will react to the added pressures and what a good Dad really is.  Dads have the same desire as Moms…to be the best parent they can and raise a healthy, happy, confident, successful child; but many times Dads question what their role exactly is in doing this.

What can Mom do to help?

Allow Dad some alone time with the baby.  The more time he spends with his baby, the more comfortable he will become.  Talk to him about what dreams he has as a father.  How does he define a “good dad”?  Open up conversations about what values and wisdom he wants to impart to your baby.  Talk about other parents, what do you both like about other Moms and Dads…what do you not like?  Tell him that you are confident in him, that he will be everything your child needs in a Dad.  Give Dad one task right away that he can own and that you do not hover around.  Praise his efforts with the  baby and do not treat him like a babysitter.

So Moms, we don’t have the corner on the market regarding fears of becoming a parent.   Dads often don’t share feelings verbally (another tidbit of information that probably isn’t earth shattering!)…and since Dads don’t share verbally, some of their fear is expressed nonverbally in behavior changes.  Support Dad in any way you can, because your baby needs what both you and Dad have to offer.  Give Dad a pat on the back, a word of encouragement, and embrace with him the challenges and fears that all parents experience as they  look into the eyes of their child knowing that this little being will bring incredible joy, worry, work, and inexplicable love.

More about Dads to come!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Packing tips for traveling with kids…having what you need but keeping it simple.

Vacation season is here! With kids, gone are the days when you can throw a few things in a suitcase and go!  There is a bit more to pack with kids…it seems like you will need everything!  Making a packing list will help.  I often would start a packing list several weeks in advance and as I thought of things we would need, I would add it to the list.  Packing can feel overwhelming when you are planning for kids.  Just remember, you can usually always wash at your destination if necessary and unless you are going to the outback, there are stores!  Don’t try to think of every scenario and try to pack for it!  Once you have a list that works for you, save it on your computer for the future!  Try and keep it simple!

Packing Tips:

  • Plan for one outfit a day per person.  Think about mixing and matching and bringing a couple extra tops.
  • Think layers…be sure you always have something warm…weather is temperamental and restaurants are cool.
  • Plan for at least 3 pairs of PJs per child.  You will always have accidents and need at least one extra pair until you can wash.
  • Pack total outfits in large freezer type zip lock bags.  Top, bottom, undershirt, and socks all together.  This makes it easy to find each outfit and helps keep things organized.  You can grab a zip lock bag and throw it in your diaper bag when you are on the run and know you have everything you need for a quick change.
  • Extra shoes.
  • Sun hat, sun screen, sunglasses.
  • Plan a diaper an hour for transit and about 5 to 6 diapers a day.  Remember, there are Walmart Stores and Target Stores everywhere…don’t bring things that are easier bought at your destination.  Think about having Amazon or Target ship your diapers to your destination when taking a long trip.  www.jetsetbabies.com or www.babytravelite.com are another great way to ship baby gear ahead!
  • Bring several receiving type blankets and a larger blanket for your baby to lie on and stretch.
  • Diaper rash ointment, acetaminophen, thermometer, small containers of shampoo and lotion.  You never want to be out looking for an open pharmacy at night!
  • Keep a list with emergency numbers in your bag.  Include your doctor’s phone number and local pharmacy number.
  • Pack a night-light.   It is nice to have a little light in a strange room!
  • Baby Monitor.
  • Child proofing kit.  This would include twist ties to tie up cords, duct tape to tape over outlets, and antibacterial wipes to wipe down TV remotes and phones.  Blue painters tape is a great way to tape things up, cover outlets etc. and kids LOVE to play with it too.  Easy to remove from anything also!
  • Straw cups, pacifiers, bottles, and enough baby food for transit and to get you started at your destination.
  • If traveling by car and you will be spending a night on the road, pack a separate bag for the hotel.  Only pack what you will need for the one night on your way to your destination.  This is much easier than carrying all of the luggage in for a one night stay!

Pack a small backpack with essentials that are within easy reach in the car or plane:

  • A change of clothing for you and your child.
  • Extra zip lock bags.  (Never can have too many!)
  • A diaper an hour and wipes.  (Never can have too many wipes!  They are NOT for just diaper changes!)
  • Pack an extra “portable” bag with a single diaper, diaper cream, and small package of wipes.  You can take this small bag into the restroom without bringing the whole diaper bag or backpack.
  • Fold up potty seat for a toddler. Post it notes to cover the electronic eye on self flushing toilets…keeps the toilet from flushing and scaring your toddler!
  • Extra “lovey”…always have an extra!
  • Two straw cups (one to be dirty one to be clean), snack cup, wipeable bib, portable snacks, small fork and spoon, any other necessary restaurant item.
  • If you are formula feeding, bring powdered formula.  Make up a couple of bottles with the powdered formula so only water needs to be added.
  • Baby food for use that day.
  • Zip lock with thermometer, travel sized acetaminophen, ibuprofen, band aids, Benadryl, nasal saline drops, and any other medications your child or you are taking.
  • A mix of new and old toys…plan for an activity per hour at least.  A sample “fun bag” will be posted later.

So, pack smart and start early.  Make a list and check it twice, but remember, the only real essentials are items that cannot be bought at your destination…so relax, if you forget something, thank goodness for Target and Walmart….I know you can find either at your destination!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Cars and Planes….Entertaining Your Kids for Happy Travels!

family vacation

So, you have your vacation booked, you are packed, and now you are thinking about how you will entertain your child in the car or on the plane! 

Long trips are even longer when you have children who are fussy and bored!  We traveled to the beach each year by car, and took the occasional flight when our children were young.  I had quite a few tricks up my sleeve to keep everyone content (at least mostly content) on the way.  Early on we learned that the trip to and from our destination had to become part of the “vacation”.  In other words, we had to have that vacation mentality and enjoy that part of the trip too!  You can have fun driving with a carload of kids I promise!

Traveling by car allows you to see some great areas that you may not experience if in a hurry.  During our yearly trip to the beach we found small towns, festivals, touristy attractions, and great parks for picnics.  We soon learned that getting out of the car and enjoying the trip made it much more fun for everyone.  Lunch is much better in a park where everyone can run and play than sitting quietly in a restaurant!  Leaving early in the morning and stopping early in the late afternoon allowed the kids to play, swim, and become familiar with the hotel we were sleeping in that night.  We learned the hard way that pulling into a hotel after a long day of driving at bedtime only resulted in crying children and frustrated parents.  An early stop always resulted in kids settling in for the night easier and an earlier start the next morning.

Entertaining kids on a flight or in the car sometimes takes some creativity.  A mixture of new toys and old favorites usually works.  Some toys were “special” vacation toys that were only used on long trips.  We didn’t have the DVD players so common now, but our kids were very excited about the special travel toys we kept just for our long trips.  You might think about using your DVD player for that purpose.

Here are a few ideas that may work for you.  I found packing the toys in a bag and getting them out one at a time as needed worked well.  Sometimes even wrapping the new ones made it so much fun to unwrap and see the new surprise toy!  A trip to the dollar store or the Target Dollar Aisle is a great place to pick up some of those new items.

  1. Travel sized magnetic games.
  2. Travel sized Magna Doodle or Aqua Doodle.
  3. Sticker Books
  4. Activity Books
  5. Crayons and markers (remember to bring the crayons out of the car if it is warm weather…trust me they can melt and make a mess!)
  6. Reusable stickers or “clings” that can be put on car or plane windows.
  7. Wikki Stix or pipe cleaners
  8. Painter’s tape (makes great “roads” on tray tables, fun to tear and stick, easy to remove, great for childproofing in hotel rooms!)
  9. Finger puppets
  10. New books and favorite books
  11. Favorite music
  12. Movies
  13. Bubbles (fun to blow in the car!)
  14. Small cars, favorite dolls, stuffed animals
  15. Cookie sheet with magnets

Treat bags became a vacation tradition with our kids.  We always packed a few snacks, some healthy and some special treats.  To this day, I pack a “treat bag” even for my husband and me when we head out on a road trip!  Slow down, stop, let your child out to run and then provide a quiet activity once back in the car seat or on the plane.  Take a deep breath and enjoy having your family contained in one spot…something that, believe it or not, you will look forward to when your children are a bit older and busier.  Talk, sing, snack, and maybe even nap on the way (not the driver of course!!) :)…Family vacations are simply time together, time together doing something different….so be sure that your vacation begins when you leave your house.  The trip to and from your vacation CAN be fun too! What do you bring to make your travels more fun?  Share your ideas!!!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Look Before You Leave! Check the Back Seat!


Look Before You Leave!

Leave a child in a car?  Absolutely not!  Most of us can’t even imagine that EVER happening.  The truth is though it does, every year.  Overheating can become a life threatening emergency for a child.  Every year there are reports of tragic deaths of children who get left in cars for “just a second”, left in cars accidentally by distracted parents, or who get locked in a car accidentally while playing.

  • There is an average of 37 deaths of children left or trapped in hot cars a year.  In 2017 there were 42!
  • Most of these deaths, 52%, were due to children being forgotten in the car by a caregiver.  Most of us think…“Never would I forget my child in the car!”  When a child is accidentally left, most of the time it happens because a parent has changed a routine; the parent does not normally take to daycare and does that day, or the parent is stressed and overly tired.   All of us have had our minds very occupied at one time or another…it only takes a few moments of “forgetting” to result in a tragedy.
  • 30% of the deaths were due to children playing unattended in a car.  How many of us have let our child “pretend” to drive the car?  Children are curious and will get in a car to try it out or hide and then accidentally lock themselves in the car.  Keep your car locked and the keys out of reach!
  • Cars heat up quickly.   When the outdoor temperature is in the 80’s, the temperature in a closed car can reach a deadly level in 10 minutes or less.  A 70 degree day can result in a closed car with a temperature of 125 deadly degrees.
  • Cracking a window has no significant effect on the car’s internal temperature.

Source:  Jan Null, CCM, Department of Geoscience, San Francisco State University, http://ggweather.com/heat/

What can we do?


Source:  Jan Null, CCM, Department of Geoscience, San Francisco State University, http://ggweather.com/heat/


Together, let’s keep our children safe!  We each have a responsibility to protect ALL children.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.




Protecting your child from bug bites

Protection from ticks and mosquitoes is important for your child!

Today is beautiful, and I hope most of you have your children outside at some point!  Children both love and NEED to be outdoors.  Outside activity is an important part of a healthy child’s life, and it helps children get good and tired too!  I know one of the biggest reasons I encouraged outdoor play was that it provided me with a good long nap from my children in the afternoon.  A method to my parenting madness!

With spring and summer upon us, the pesky bugs will soon be too!   Not only are these insects just plain annoying, they can carry dangerous diseases to your children.  Most children have mild reactions to bug bites, but some children (are they just sweeter?) really seem to attract those insects and those bites result in large red welts that make them miserable.  West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and the recent outbreak of Zika Virus are diseases that could result from insect bites too.  So, if we want our children outside and we don’t have a protective “bee suit” in the house…what are we to do?

The use of insect repellents are recommended by the American Academy of  Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control.  Although most of us hate to put chemicals on our children, DEET used correctly is one of the best protectors for your child.  The amount of DEET in insect repellents varies from less than 10% to more than 30%.  Studies show us that the higher concentrations of DEET protect for longer periods of time, but not more effectively. So a repellant with 10% DEET will protect for about 2 hours, 24% about 5 hours, and at over 30% there is very little increase in protection.  The AAP recommends using a concentration of DEET between 10 and 30 percent.  Most of our children will not be outside in an area with biting insects more than 2 hours at a time…so 10% DEET should be enough the majority of the time.

How to use insect repellent safely:

  • Always read the label.
  • Do not use DEET on children under 2 months of age.
  • Do not use a concentration of DEET greater than 30%, usually 10% will be adequate.
  • Only apply the repellent to the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin.
  • Use a small amount just to cover the area, thicker layers are not more effective.
  • Do not spray repellents on your child’s face.  Put the repellent on your hands and rub on your child’s face being careful around eyes, and mouth.
  • Do not put repellent on your child’s hands.  Do not apply to open areas like cuts.
  • Spray repellents in open areas, do not breathe them in.
  • Wash your child with soap and water to remove the repellent when he comes inside.  Wash your child’s clothes before he wears them again.
  • Do not use sunscreen/insect repellent combinations.  You will need to reapply the sunscreen and the repellent should not be reapplied.
  • Cover your child’s exposed skin with long pants and sleeves if you know he will be in an area with a lot of biting insects. This will decrease the skin area that will need repellent.
  • Try to avoid dusk, the “buggiest” time of day!
  • Remember DEET is NOT effective on stinging insects like bees and wasps.

Repellents that do NOT work

  • Wristbands with chemical repellents
  • Dryer sheets pinned to your children (A big trend a few years ago!  I once saw an entire preschool class of children on a playground all equipped with dryer sheets!)
  • Garlic (would keep other people away! )
  • Ultrasonic devices that give off sound waves
  • Bug zappers (may actually increase insects in the area)

Other repellents:

  • Permethrin is a chemical repellent.  It is effective and should be applied to clothing only, or items like tents, not on skin.  Use in concentrations of between 5 and 10 percent.  This repellent will kill ticks on contact.  Great for spraying on tents and sleeping bags.
  • Picaridin is as effective as DEET and some studies show it may be less likely to cause skin irritation in children.  It has been used in Europe for many years, more recently here in the U. S.
  • 2% soy bean oil and lemon eucalyptus has been shown recently to be as effective as 10% DEET.  Lemon Eucalyptus Oil is not approved for use in children under the age of 3.
  • Cedar, and Citronella essential oils are less effective and give very short term protection.

So the bottom line is, insect repellents are a better alternative that the potential complications from a disease carrying insect. Be smart and use repellents safely.  Protect your child with clothing and by avoiding the time of day/night and areas where insect bites would be more common.  Check your child for ticks daily and remove any tick with a tweezers and clean with soap and water.  Lastly, put this at the bottom of your worry list….outdoor fun is essential for children!  Protect them with common sense and enjoy the outdoors…don’t let the bugs scare you off!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Choosing a sunscreen for your child

Choose the right sunscreen protection for your child…and enjoy the summer!

The sun is shining…it is going to be a great day!  Whatever your plans are they must include some sunscreen.  If you are a bit confused about which one is best for you and your little one, then join the club!  Walking through a sunscreen aisle at the store can be very overwhelming.  We have SPF numbers, lotions, sticks, sprays, natural, baby sunscreen, discount brands, expensive brands, dry touch, water-resistant, and the list goes on.  Reading labels and comparing sunscreens feels like a parent should have a doctorate in chemistry.  The new labeling makes it a bit easier to figure out, but there is still room for lots of confusion.  So begins another spring/summer of walking the aisles of Target wondering which sunscreen is the best! Is it easier just to keep your child inside?  Definitely not!  Here are a few tips that may help your sunscreen decisions.

Sun safety tips:

Babies under 6 months

  • As much as possible babies this age should avoid sun exposure.  Dress your baby in lightweight long pants, sleeves and brimmed hats that shade the neck.  When you are not able to cover your baby completely and keep him or her in the shade, then you can apply a small amount of sunscreen to exposed areas.  It is better to use sunscreen than for your baby to get a burn!!
  • Be aware of reflection of the sun off water and other objects.  The best time of day for an infant is when the sun is not at its highest intensity.  Try to stay out of direct sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Older Children

  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside if you are using a chemical block.  Use sunscreen everyday as part of your routine.  Look for sunscreen of at least 30 SPF that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  Make sure you are using enough sunscreen–about 1 ounce or a shot glass full!
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.  Even water-resistant sunscreens need to be reapplied after swimming and towel drying.  Sunscreen sticks work well for under eyes and those hard to apply areas such as ears, and noses.
  • The best defense is covering up, use hats, sunglasses, and cotton clothing for your children.  I love the SPF 50 clothing that is on the market!  How simple is it to put an effective sunblocking long-sleeved shirt and hat on your child!  Give it a try!
  •  Try to be shaded as much as possible and remember that the peak hours of sun are between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Sunscreen labels

  • Just because a sunscreen is labeled for kids or babies does not mean that it is the best for your child.  The ingredients make the difference!
  • The label must say broad spectrum or protects against UVA and UVB rays.  Both types of rays cause skin damage.
  • SPF numbers can be misleading.  SPF higher than 30 does not provide much more protection, and there are sunscreens with a high SPF that do not provide broad spectrum coverage.  You must have both.
  • Try to stay clear of vitamin A.  There has been some research that vitamin A listed as retinyl palmitate on labels, can cause more skin damage when the skin is exposed to sunlight.  (doesn’t make sense to put it in sunscreen!)  Vitamin A is the darling of cosmetic companies right now, with claims of anti aging.  Vitamin A in vegetables is great…not so great in sunscreen.
  • Look for sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium oxide.  These are mineral based sunscreens.  They are effective immediately and are not readily absorbed by your child’s skin.  They are more of a physical barrier to the sun, not a chemical barrier.  Avobenzone is a common chemical used in sunscreen.  It takes 20 to 30 minutes for it to be effective.  There has been no real definitive research that proves it is harmful, but zinc and titanium oxide both have been shown to be easy on sensitive skin and there are no chemicals that are absorbed. Sometimes these ingredients will make the sunscreen thicker and whiter on the skin.
  • Water resistant sunscreens will be labeled effective for either 40 minutes or 80 minutes. If your child is in the water 5 minutes and towel dried…the sunscreen must be reapplied no matter what the label says!
  • Buy a cream or lotion rather than a spray.  There is concern about your child breathing in the small particles in the sunscreen spray and studies show us that parents do not apply enough sunscreen with a spray.  Remember, we need at least an ounce of sunscreen for good coverage.
  • Do your homework The Environmental Working Group reviews sunscreens each year.  Take a look at the best sunscreens   http://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/and then make your decision.

So make some plans for the wonderful weather. We have been waiting for this!  Head outdoors with your child and have some fun!  But first, take a shopping trip today and find some sun protection for yourself and your child.  Purchase that all important sunscreen….and maybe a cute pair of sandals for yourself!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Get a little dirty…it is time to garden!


It is that time of year when I am doing a bit of grumbling about all the yard work, but also looking forward to getting my perennial beds cleared and blooming, my cut flower bed planted and preparing my vegetable garden for this summer’s crop of tomatoes, beans and of course sunflowers.  I definitely am not a Master Gardener, but I have a special place in my heart for gardening and getting a little dirty.  I have very fond memories of my Grandfather and his vegetable garden and beautiful roses.  I would walk through his garden when I visited and help water and weed.  With his garden gloves on and a hat perched on the back of his head, he was a true farmer at heart.  He showed me how to eat a fresh tomato right off the vine and how to pinch a peach so the fuzzy skin would pull back and I could eat the sweet inside.  I guess my love of gardening started by watching my Grandpa and then my own father take pride in their gardens.

So many of our children have no idea where their fruits and vegetables come from or even what a fresh tomato really tastes like! With the new fruit and vegetable pouches, I sometimes wonder if many toddlers even know what a real vegetable LOOKS like!  There are many life lessons that can be taught by simply taking a small plot of land or a small container and growing something with your child!  There is no better way to instill a love of nature and to encourage healthy eating than growing a fresh fruit or vegetable as a family.

Children are natural gardeners—they are curious, they learn by doing, and they love to play in the dirt.  Gardening is good for families, it gives your family time together outdoors, and time to let your child get dirty for a purpose!  Children love to look for worms, love to plant seeds, water,  watch plants  grow, pick their crop and even try the harvest they have grown.  What a great way to get them to try green beans!  This helps cultivate their curiosity about nature, the earth and maybe even foster a love of gardening.  Children will also love the special time they spend with you.  Gardening teaches patience, responsibility and is like having a science lesson without even knowing it!  You might even find yourself feeling a little proud and definitely loving the taste of a fresh homegrown tomato!

Tips on gardening with children.

1.   Plan a small container garden or a small plot of land that is theirs.  Talk about a plant’s  need for sun, water, and food.  Put the garden in an area that can be seen easily by your child.  A plastic storage bin or any other container with holes poked in the bottom for drainage works great for this!  Keep it near your back door so your child can see it often.  Tomato plants or lettuce can actually be grown in just a bag of topsoil that you open and plant the seedlings in the bag.  What could be easier?

2.  A “yardstick” garden is plenty big for a child.  Take a yardstick and measure a garden that is 3 foot square.  A young child can reach all sides of the garden and will take pride in that little plot he can call his own.

3.  Gardens do not have to be square.  A “pizza” garden can be planted with wedge sections.  Put different plants in each wedge.  Plant ingredients that would taste good on a pizza!  This is a great way to grow an herb garden!

4.  Use a little imagination, children will love a sunflower house!  Plant large sunflowers in a semi-circle.  As they grow, tie the top of them together and your child can have a “secret” hiding place in your garden!

5.  Watering and weeding is not as much fun as planning and planting ( I don’t like it as well!).  For older preschoolers or school age children, put a gardening calendar in the kitchen or in your child’s bedroom with tasks to be completed.  Don’t force it, remember you are instilling a love of gardening!  Keeping your child’s portion of the garden small should keep the time necessary to only a few minutes a day.  Using a container garden really keeps it easy!

6.  Child sized garden tools make it easier and more fun. I have seen tools in the dollar area of Target!  I know if I had young children, the gardening boots and clogs I have seen would be a must, so cute!!  A gardening hat is a necessity,  protect yourself and your child from the sun.  What is cuter than your toddler gardener in a wide brimmed hat!  Don’t forget the sunscreen too.

7.  Let your child dig the holes for the seeds or the plants that have been bought.  Digging holes is a natural for kids!

8.  Encourage your child by planting seeds that mature quickly and are easy for them to handle.  Radishes and lettuce are great.  They germinate in a couple of days.  Bean seeds and sunflower seeds are easy to handle.

9.  Be sure to put the seed packet on a stake in the garden to remind them what they have planted and what it will look like.  Some discount stores even have little garden stakes that your preschooler could decorate!

10. Children love the unusual.  Many vegetables are available in different colors or sizes.  Speckled beans, red carrots, miniature cucumbers and pumpkins, purple beans, and grape tomatoes are just a few examples.  Try something really unusual by taking a cucumber or pumpkin bloom and placing it inside of a 2 liter bottle.  Shade the bottle with leaves from the plant and let the pumpkin or cucumber grow inside the bottle.  It is a great “show and tell” item when there is a large cucumber or pumpkin inside the bottle!

11. Add a bird bath  to attract birds.  Children can be responsible for refilling the bird bath!

12. Think about planting bright colored flowers that are known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  Exploring the garden for butterflies, bugs, worms and caterpillars is great fun!

13. You might want to set a part of the garden for digging all summer.  Put your sandbox in the middle of your garden to make your garden kid friendly.  There were always a few cars or trucks around in the dirt of our garden.

14. You can have your child  make garden stones or markers for the garden.  Find larger stones and let them paint designs on the stones.  These make great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gifts for Grandparents!

15.  Have your child help build a scarecrow for the garden.  This can be a fun activity for late summer especially.

16.  Measure the sunflowers that you plant once a week and chart their growth.  If you have older children, planting sunflower seeds that mature in about 90 days is a great way to measure the length of summer.  When they bloom, it is time to go back to school!

17.  Try to grow organically as possible.  Mulch is a great way to cut down on weeds which will prevent the need for weed killer and mulch will keep the soil moister during dry spells.  Mix compost and/or topsoil into your garden each year to provide nutrients needed for plant growth.  By growing without chemicals, your child will be able to eat a tomato right from the vine…there is nothing better!

18.  Let your child harvest their own vegetables.  There is nothing better than picking your salad fixings for the day!  This will encourage your child to eat their vegetables I promise!  Your child will love to eat “garden to table”!

19.  Keep it fun…start small!  Most new gardeners try something too big and then quickly become discouraged with the experience.  Just grow one tomato plant and supplement your “garden” with a trip to the Farmer’s Market!  We always had enough green beans from our small garden for at least one dinner.  The kids would always ask, “Our these our beans?”  With a little white lie, our kids ate green beans the whole summer!

There are some great children’s books that can be fun to read with your child as you start your garden:

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
This is the Sunflower by Lola M. Schaefer
Whose Garden Is It? by Mary Ann Hoberman
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
Alison’s Zinnia by Anita Lobel

Get a little dirty….plant a few seeds and you will see your child’s excitement grow as the plants grow, and who knows you might just raise a kid that likes his vegetables!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Loving Touch is Important at Every Age!


This past Saturday I visited with our twenty something son. As he walked in, he gave me a big hug and I kissed him on the cheek.  As I was preparing for my parenting groups this week I was thinking about that moment.  The hug and kiss of my son, who is definitely a young man now, was as sweet ( albeit a bit more scruffy and I was on my tip toes) as the snuggle I would have with him as a baby.  Loving touch with your child is at the center of a parent and child bond.  The connection  between child and parent through touch is undeniable.  I am a firm believer in the importance of touch and our children….from birth, to toddler years, preschool, school age, and yes even in the awkward teens.  Continuing the physical hugs and kisses are important for your child and you.

Snuggles and touches are natural for most parents with an infant.   Infant massage has been proven to provide many benefits for babies.  Routine loving massage can help an infant

  • Gain weight
  • Calm
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve their latch for nursing
  • Increase bonding
  • Improve neurological development
  • Improve their immune system
  • Decrease teething pain
  • Decrease congestion
  • Learn body awareness
  • Learn that touch is a loving expression
  • and the list goes on…..

Getting started…

  • Turn off th TV, cell phone and other distractions.  This is time to concentrate on your baby alone.
  • Warm up the room and your hands.
  • Lie your baby on his/her back a warm towel or blanket.
  • Use a vegetable based oil.  (if you could eat it, then it is OK)
  • Make sure you are calm.
  • Make eye contact with your baby.
  • Ask permission to touch, show your baby your hands.
  • Lay your hands on your child lovingly.  Often babies prefer touch on legs and feet first.
  • Use light gentle touch, but not a tickle touch.
  • Move from the center out…upper thigh to foot.
  • Give equal treatment to both sides of the body!
  • Movements should be slow and relaxed…like a lullaby.  Sing while you do it!  🙂
  • Start with a short session and watch your baby’s cues.  If your baby wiggles away, fusses, looks away, then stop and try again at another time.  As your baby becomes accustomed to massage, the length of time may increase.  You don’t have to massage your baby’s whole body, just the parts that he or she enjoys!


  • Make eye contact with your baby and sing or talk to him–or play music.
  • Breath, relax yourself
  • Hold one foot in one hand and use the other hand to milk the leg.  Squeeze thigh to foot, this is the “milking” motion.
  •  Roll leg between hands from thigh to ankle, like you are rolling dough or clay.
  •  Finish with long strokes from thigh to foot.
  • Press the sole of your baby’s foot with your thumbs.  Massage each toe.  Play “this little piggy”.
  • Repeat on other leg.
  • Follow same process of milking, rolling, and stroking on the arms.
  • Press the palm of your baby’s hand with your thumbs.  Massage each finger.
  • Slide your palm and fingers in a circular motion from the ribs downward.  Then move clockwise around the tummy.  Smooth the chest like pages in a book.
  • If you have used massage for a while, some babies will allow you to massage their face.  Massage face with light fingertips stroking across the forehead from the center to the sides.  Massage tears ducts.  Move down nose and on the sides.  Use a circular motion from the temples down the side of the face.
  • Massage shoulders and use long strokes down the back and on the bottom.

Remember…the intent of your touch is much more important than your technique!  Just relax and enjoy!!

I Love You massage for colic or gas

  •  Trace the letter “I” on the right side of your baby’s tummy.  Start just under his ribs and move down to your baby’s hip.
  • Now stroke from left to right on your baby’s lower tummy making the long part of the letter “L”.
  • Make a short downward stroke on the right side of your baby’s tummy making the short to complete the “L”.
  • Complete the “I love you” by making an upside down “U” starting at your baby’s left hip and circling along the top of the tummy and down the right side.
  • Continue these strokes to help calm a gassy tummy.

Massage can continue to some degree all the way through childhood.  There were nights that I sat on the side of my children’s bed and massaged an aching tummy or head, and I have massaged sore muscles after a big game or meet.  The continued touch with your child will keep you connected in many ways.  There were certainly times when I hugged my children in those teen years and I got an eye roll too…but because of those continued “loving touches” through the years, the hugs in the stands of a high school football games, college track meets, quick weekend visits at school, and now when our “adult” (they will always be my kids) kids visit those hugs and kisses  continue.  Don’t underestimate the value of teaching your child the benefits of touch as an expression of love.

Check out your local hospital for classes on infant massage.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


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