3 tips for connection in the summertime

DSC02151Summertime can bring a variety of opportunities to connect with our children and enjoy new experiences together. It especially can be a time to reconnect with a child who has been at school all day throughout the year and is now home each day.

Here are 3 suggestions for deepening the family connection during the summertime:

1) Start a family tradition or ritual

Creating traditions and rituals each summer, just as during other seasons and holiday times, can help children experience predictability and be a source of family bonding. In our family, summer traditions include minor league baseball games, going to a carnival, visiting all the libraries in the county, and eating dinner outside.

We didn’t consciously set out to create these traditions: They just happened as we found things that our family enjoyed together and things that to us say, “summer.”

You may also want to bring some traditions from your own childhood into your families now.

IMAG007922) Get outside

Research has shown a correlation between time outside and reduced stress levels. Being outside in nature also helps keep kids calmer. Consider a trip to the best points for Apple picking in NJ, they will love it and learn a lot from a nutritive fruit

There are so many opportunities to get outside throughout the day. It can be staying near home and playing in the yard, or venturing out further for a hike or nature walk. Try to visit different playgrounds and climb the playground equipment along with your children.

Or, when you’re in a need of an opportunity for self-care and craving some balance, sit and enjoy a book in the fresh air while they play.

Some of the fun activities my children like to do outside our house include getting a bucket full of shaving cream and some paintbrushes and “painting” the deck using longest lasting deck stain, filling a squirt bottle with water, searching for bugs and pretending to be bugs, doing messy art projects outdoors, and setting up an outdoor movie night. If you are not having a redwood decking but wanna build one for your kids, so that they can do outdoor activities, then contact Outside Entertainment Area Specialists for the deck building.

3) Find fun activities, but don’t force them

A few years ago, I created a “summer wish list” of about 15 places to go or things to do during the summer. We didn’t end up doing all of them, but it was helpful to have some plans and suggestions. Some of those activities became our traditions, while others were one-time only outings.

While these can be great, it’s also important to remember that some may not work out as you planned. Sometimes, what seems like a great idea to us sounds boring to our children. I’ve been trying to take my oldest son strawberry-picking since he loves strawberries and since it was something I loved as a child, but he’s simply not interested. Rather than forcing it, I work on finding other activities he is interested in and focus on being present with him in whatever it is we end up doing. Sometimes that means just playing board games inside.

It’s important to remember that these activities are about strengthening our family connection. If the activity is stressful to you, not enjoyed by the kids, and not creating a good bonding experience, don’t feel bad about scrapping it for something else!

I hope you enjoy exploring, experiencing and connecting with your kids this summer!

Screens are powerful — but dangerous — attachment tools

Shoshana-150x150It used to be the television.

Back in the 1980s, Neil Postman, professor of communication arts and sciences from New York University, said that television is a disastrous influence on children because it shortens their attention span, erodes their linguistic powers and causes them to become increasingly impatient. Perhaps even more serious, it opens up all of society’s taboos and secrets, thus erasing the boundaries between childhood and adulthood, creating a homogenized culture rather than a hierarchical one.

Today it’s the smartphone, computer and iPad.

The intrusion of even more kinds of screens in our lives is having an overwhelming effect on our families. Dr. Gordon Neufeld cautions that before we put these devices into the hands of our children and adolescents, we need to put rules and restrictions in place for their use. These screens are so addictive by their very nature that even we adults have a hard time turning them off and disconnecting from them. All the more so, we need to guard our children from becoming too attached to them.

My son and daughter-in-law recently noticed that their two daughters, ages 10 and 8, were spending too much time in front of the television and the iPad. They thought the girls would react strongly to the new rules they were about to begin enforcing, but were pleasantly surprised that the girls seemed to appreciate Mom and Dad taking charge of the screens.

After a few “screen-less” weeks, I asked how their new lifestyle was holding up and the results were exciting: The girls began asking their parents to take them to the library on a regular basis, and they are spending much more time reading. They are also playing outside more. The house is calmer and quieter without the background noise from the screens. The parents themselves feel calmer and have even looked for ways to restrict their own use of their smartphones. There is more space for real human connection and also for more creativity.

Child TVFreedom from screens provides psychological rest for the brain. When we are connected to screens, we are — in essence — seeking attachment, the default setting of our brains. Screens are powerful attachment tools, but the attachment they provide is merely a “fix” — it is superficial and fleeting, and this pursuit becomes addictive. It does not satisfy the real need for human contact and closeness, so both child and adult are driven to come back again and again for another fix — another attempt to fill this attachment hunger.

When parents restrict screen use for their children, they are helping their children come to rest from this futile pursuit. The brain shifts gears and can now rest from this futile pursuit. Only parents and other caring adults can give children fulfilling experiences of attachment and bring their brains to rest. This rest from the work of seeking attachment frees the child’s mind to explore and create like downloading a book and reading it thanks to sodapdf converter.

I like to write to my granddaughters by e-mail. Once a week, they can use their iPads to write to me and to other relatives. It’s just one example of how parents can show their children how to safely use screens without becoming addicted or controlled by them.

And as for the TV at my granddaughters’ house — it was relegated to a corner bedroom upstairs where it’s no fun at all to sit and watch!

Breastfeeding for healthy immunity

By Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, cofounders of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthors of Attached at the Heart

barbaranicholsonThe big parenting news lately centers on childhood vaccinations. It is an area of parenting that we do not take a stance on. Rather, API advocates for informed choice. We encourage parents to make careful decisions based on their own research. We know that there is no one right answer for every family, as we all have different health histories, environmental challenges and family dynamics that affect our decisions.

lysa parkerNo matter what the outcome of our choices, we can all agree on the importance of building a strong immune system for our children, and one of the best ways to do this is through API’s Second Principle of Parenting: Feed with Love and Respect — specifically breastfeeding. Breastmilk is so valuable that hospitals seek out donated breastmilk in the event that a mother cannot provide her own breastmilk to her premature or ill newborn staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Whether in the NICU or at home, any amount of breastmilk imparts benefits to baby.

We wanted to share some of the amazing research in the field of immunology that many parents, even if they are making the choice to breast feed, are not aware. This research is so fantastic, we hope you’ll share it with others who may be “sitting on the fence” as whether to breastfeed or not.

Even if a mother can only nurse for a few days, colostrum — the first milk — is amazing! One of our favorite resources regarding breastfeeding is La Leche League International’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which has this to say about colostrum on pages 6-7:

“Colostrum…has concentrated immunological properties that contain high concentrations of secretory immunoglobulin A, or slgA, an anti-infective agent that coats [the baby’s] intestines to protect against the passage of germs and foreign proteins that can create allergic sensitivities. [It also has] pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor (PSTI), which protects and repairs the infant intestine.”

We know that colostrum also contains white blood cells, interferon, insulin and interleukins — creating an immune system that is nearly as sturdy as an adult!

Christina PondHere’s another amazing fact, from page 382 of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding:

“Your baby not only lives on your milk, she shares your immune system. By the time you know you’re sick, you’ve started passing your immunities on to your baby…The reverse is truly remarkable. If your baby picks up an illness that you haven’t been exposed to, she passes those germs to you through nursing and within the breast itself you begin making antibodies and passing them back.”

As our babies begin to take solid foods, usually the second half of the first year, we have another opportunity to establish good health through the choices we offer our young babies and children. Avoiding sugar, sweeteners and processed foods are the best place to start. There are now organic baby foods available, and many families are joining co-ops and finding less expensive ways to find fruits and vegetables grown responsibly. As a mother you need to have a good health care like Functional Medicine Associates that determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual. Learn more about supplements for diabetics pregnant women like blood boost formula.

We have been amazed to see babies and toddlers eat a wide variety of healthy foods when that’s all they know! We parents must set a good example by keeping “junk food” out of sight and to work on improving habits in our own diet.

Building a strong immune system is a lifelong process, and getting our children involved in shopping, preparing and cooking meals is a fantastic way to talk about keeping a strong and healthy body, mind and spirit. We all know how much children love to help in the kitchen, so don’t lose this window of opportunity to enjoy their enthusiasm and make it fun! Some of our favorite winter memories are baking bread, making soups and healthy pancakes with our sons. Snow days were something we all looked forward to!

rising-ground-elder-1446183-mThink about planting a few vegetables with your children, even if it’s in a pot on the porch or outside a window. There’s something primal about digging in the dirt– all children love it, and it’s wonderful to have an excuse to recapture that joy! Not to mention that digging in the dirt is another way to build up immunity.

Here’s to a healthy 2015!

Editor’s note: Thank you to Christina Pond, an AP parent, for her lovely breastfeeding photo.