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Has The Family Dinner Gone The Way of the Dodo?

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When I was a kid, we all had dinner together every night.  But even in my own household now, despite my best efforts, we only manage to have dinner together a couple of times a week.  With my husband and I both working a combination of days, evenings, and weekends, all of us being together at dinner time is no mean feat. 

We persevere, however.  I know how important it is to maintain that level of connection and conversation with our kids, and even though one of them is not even three yet, we work at creating a welcoming, family atmosphere at dinner.  It's an important opportunity to develop family togetherness by fostering what we Adlerians call "social interest" (essentially, the concern and care for others and their well being, simply because we all share the same community). 

So even if your kids would rather have a root canal than sit down for 20 minutes with you, pick at least one night a week and make it habit. In our increasingly technology-driven society, it's easy to slip further and further away from our kids, and we need to take advantage of those opportunities to stay together.'s a great chance to develop their independence and responsibility by getting them to pitch in with the making, serving, and cleaning of dinner.  But you might want to leave that part out when you invite them to the dinner table tomorrow.

Sticks and Stones

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bullies have changed quite a bit since our childhood, haven’t they?  In my case, the bullies were the ones who were socially inept, overtly aggressive kids.  In today's schools, however, bullying is regularly, if not mostly, perpetrated by the cool kids.  So, sadly, the kids most likely to make your child's life at school miserable, are also the ones that your child probably looks up to. 

Parenting expert Barbara Coloroso, who wrote the book The Bully, The Bullied, and The Bystander reports that what sets bullies apart from their peers is "the need to hold others in contempt."  That old making-yourself-feel-bigger-by-making-others-feel-smaller thing. 

But that in itself is not enough.  You need to have someone see this interchange in order for power to be gained from it.  So that means you need an audience -- bystanders -- who, by their mere presence, add legitimacy to the bully's actions.   And despite the fact that most parents would say that their children would never support a bully, research shows that peers are present for 85% of schoolyard bullying.  It's human nature to want to be on the side of the power and the status -- that's the way you avoid becoming the next victim.

But here's the rub: although they may be revered on some level, studies have shown that other kids don't actually want to be the bully's friend.

As a parent, it's important to talk to your kids about bullying, and to let them know that someone who watches bullying take place and doesn't say anything, is just as responsible as the person doing the bullying.  Explain to them that they are hurting the victim as much as the bully is, just by finding entertainment in the victim's pain.  And support your schools in implementing their anti-bullying policies.  Whether you are the parent of a victim or a bully, you need to get involved and stay connected to your school community.

(The Canadian Safe School Network is a great resource for anti-bullying programs, and PBS Kids has a cute anti-bullying game for younger kids, to get them thinking about their own roles in instances of bullying.)

Consistency in Bedtimes

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Thursday, July 11, 2013

If your children don't have consistent bedtimes, or you have a hard time putting them down and getting them to bed at a decent time, you need to read this article on the Huffington Post.  Not only is inadequate sleep associated with behaviour problems and hampered brain development, now a connection has been made between consistent bedtimes and school performance.

The article states, "The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children age 1 to 3 need 12 to 14 hours of sleep a day, while 3- to 5-year-olds typically need 11 to 13 hours, and 5- to 12-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours."  Are you kids getting that much sleep? 

"I would tell you that in my estimation, the majority of parents have no idea how important sleep consistency is.  It's not because they don't care. They haven't been told," says Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist, diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine (and a frequent HuffPost contributor), in the article.

We chronically undervalue the improtance of sleep in our society.  Don't let your child's development be a casualty.  It can be work to get kids on a good sleep schedule, but it's not impossible.  It's an investment in your child's future health and future success.

(Need some ideas or support in implementing a consistent sleep schedule for your family?  Give me a call; I can help.)

Sulking as an Art Form

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Where do kids learn to sulk like they do??  I often see a fair bit of sulking in my office...but as a non-family-member, I can usually pull them out of it before too long.

Not so for many parents.  Adolescents (in particular, but it’s true of all kids, regardless of their age) are extremely emotional due to changes and development in their brains, and are sometimes at the whim of their emotions. 

But, man, do they know how to express their displeasure!

When you're faced with a sulking face, just stay calm.  By you not getting swept up into the drama, you'll make it easier for your teen to begin to manage her emotions, too.  If, however, the situation is just too intolerable, feel free to say, "I'm not comfortable with the way you're treating me right now.  I'm going to go into the den and read for a bit; you can find me there if you'd like to talk later."  Don't make a big production out of it, just stay calm and matter of fact, and be prepared to talk when your teen seeks you out.  You want to keep the door open for conversation -- just not when it includes a scowl and a glare.

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Andrea Ramsay Speers • Psychotherapist & Parent Coach • Oakville Family Institute • 175 Glenashton Dr., Oakville ON • Tel.: 905-491-6949

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