Helping Your Child Cope with the Loss of a Pet

Helping Children Cope with the Loss of a Pet

Any pet owner will tell you that the loss of a pet was one of the hardest times in their lives.  Cats and dogs are like family members.  Even to a child, the loss of a fish, turtle, or hamster can be devastating.

Help your child cope with the loss of a pet by acknowledging her feelings. Use the word “died” when breaking the news.  If you use words like lost, passed, a sleep – it will only serve to confuse.  “If Fluffy is lost, let’s go find her.”  If you say that you had to put Mr. Wrinkles to sleep and he’s not coming back, good luck trying to get your child to go to sleep again.

Try to prepare you child before the pet dies.  It should just be an accepted fact that we all die.  Everything on earth has a beginning and an ending.  It will still be difficult no matter how prepared you try to be, but it will alleviate some of the devastation.

You know your child best, if it is appropriate to hold a small funeral or memorial service then do so.  It helps to bring closure to the death.  Try to answer questions as openly and honestly as possible. Some children want to know or believe in an afterlife for their pet. Others want to know where the body went. Give them age appropriate responses.

Encourage your child to recall all the good memories by framing a photo, making a collage or drawing pictures.  You may at some point decide to get a new pet.  However right after the loss of a pet do not try to encourage the child by announcing that you’ll get a new one.  That is distracting from the mourning that needs to happen.

If someone’s mother died, you wouldn’t say “it’ll be okay, we’ll get you a new one!”  A pet to a child is often looked at as a best friend.  Pets are loyal and place no demands on the child other than food and to be let outside.

The loss of the family pet will be noticed.  Allow your child time to mourn – cry, to talk about his/her feelings.  Acknowledge the loss.

What to Say When Your Child Asks About Death

To everything there is a season; a time to be born and a time to die. As sad as death is, we have come to realize it as a part of life. What to say when your child asks about death will be dependent upon age and maturity level. What you tell a three year old will be different than talking to a nine year old.

You could tell your preschooler that “Grandpa was very sick.  The doctor’s did all they could to help him feel better, but he died. Now he’s in Heaven.” Often at that age you may get a response such as “Oh. Okay” and then she will go back to playing with her baby doll.  Or you may get asked “what does died mean?”

Do not use the words “sleeping” or “passed on.”  Children do not under stand passed on; and if you use sleeping, they may be afraid they won’t wake up from their nap.  It’s okay to say someone died.

Older children may have a much harder time accepting and understanding deaths.  If they ask about the death of someone they knew, they may question why it happened or proclaim it’s not fair.  Some may blame God.  They may be so overcome with grief that they don’t know how to handle that emotion.  They will likely experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance.

If your child just has more general questions, not necessarily as a result of death of someone close to them, the most important thing you can tell her is the truth.  Reinforce that all living things die. Remind her of plants and insects, or pets.

Encourage your child not to focus on the why.  We don’t always have answers why someone gets a terminal disease or was killed by a drunk driver or involved in an accident.  Reinforce the feelings everyone experiences (the five stages of grief).  Promote celebrating life, not centering on the death.

Thank your child to coming to you with questions.  That is the kind of communication all parent hope to foster.

Reducing Sugar in Your Family’s Diet

As more and more families search for ways to become healthier, one of the most commonly overlooked health concerns is sugar consumption. Sugar consumption is most commonly identified as candy and junk food. While this is true, there are even more ways that sugar is incorporated into your family’s diet. Here are a few tips for reducing the sugar in your family’s diet.

Eat brown rice – White rice contains mostly carbohydrates, which converts to sugar after consumption. Brown rice offers full nutritional value and should be chosen over white grain rice.

Opt for whole fruit – Most kids love fruit juice. However, there are fruit juices on the shelves today that are loaded with sugar additives. Instead of drinking fruit juice, opt for whole fruit, like apples, bananas and grapes.

Eat your veggies – Lots of kids fuss over eating their vegetables. Even though this might be a huge hurdle for some families, incorporating more vegetables into your meals will reduce your sugar intake by far and large. Smart vegetables include green beans, carrots, tomatoes, and squash. Be cautious not to intake too many of the starchy veggies, like potatoes and corn, which contain high amounts of sugar.

Snack wise – Families tend to snack a lot—yes, even parents. Make fun, healthy snacks for your family instead of binging on junk food. For power-packed snacks that will keep away hunger, use protein. A light snack, like a turkey and cream cheese roll-up, will keep hunger at bay a lot longer than a bag of potato chips.

For more information, read  Breaking the Sugar Addiction: 16 Tips

Going Back to Work After Baby

You knew your baby would be beautiful.  You knew you would love your newborn. But you had no idea just how much that little person would mean to you.  You spend hours staring at her little face, fingers and toes.  You derive so much pleasure watching him sleep.

You would absolutely love to spend every waking hour with your baby. Unfortunately, obligations necessitate the need for you to go back to work outside the home.  Or you may have a career you’ve worked hard for and want to balance mother-hood and career.

Here are a few options you can consider if you feel unprepared to return to work:

If you have the option of returning to your former employer inquire about working part time or telecommuting.  With telecommuting you could work out of your home doing the same or similar position you did prior to your maternity leave.  Of course if you were a server in a restaurant telecommuting would not work.

Perhaps you can change your hours to work around a spouse’s schedule.  Some employers may allow you to work four ten-hour shifts.  You won’t know if they are willing to work with you unless you ask.

Start looking for child care as soon as you know you will be returning to work.  Ask friends with young children for referrals. While price and location are considerations they should not be top priority. You are hiring someone to care for your baby; therefore you will need to conduct in-home interviews to find the best provider.

Once you return home from your job outside the home your second shift begins – caring for baby, spouse and the house.  That alone is a full time job.  Add outside employment to the mix and you will begin to wonder if you will ever get an eight hour night of sleep again!

Don’t try to be Super Mom. Accept offers of help. If someone says “let me know if there is anything I can do” – then let them know. Have them come over for 2-3 hours so you can take a nap or a bath.  Let them cut the grass, shovel the snow or take older children to events.

Balancing a career and a family can be quite an undertaking.  However if you learn to pace yourself and accept aid from others, you will be much better off to parent your child.

Goodie Bags for Kids’ Birthday Parties

If you are planning your next big party for your kid, don’t forget about the goodie bags. Kids love parties because there is usually some type of gift-giving involved. As you get ready for your party, keep these tips handy for planning the perfect goody bag.

Age matters
If you will invite kids of a large age-range, be sure to incorporate gifts for each appropriate age group. Here’s a good rule of thumb to remember: 2-3 years age difference is no big deal; an age difference of 4 or more years will require greater consideration as to what type of gifts to include in your goody bag.

Size matters
Kids love to compare. The “mine’s bigger than your’s” syndrome will probably never die. When planning your goody bags, remember to include a comparative variety in every bag. This will prevent a big headache from whining kids in the end.

Price matters not
Don’t feel pressured to purchase high-ticket items to put inside your goody bags. Kids are often so excited about the party itself that they don’t pay very much attention to the gifts. While you don’t want to necessarily purchase the cheapest things on the shelf, don’t feel like you have to buy expensive or flashy gifts to include in your gift bags.

Quality is better than quantity
Stay away from buying lots of small, cheap toys and items that will simply fill your goody bags. As an alternative, search for quality items that will last and that the kids will want to use over and over again.

Quick Ideas
Some good ideas for the perfect goody bag gifts include: party-themed plastic kid-sized cups, colorful pencils, small notepads, plastic jacks and ball, stickers, plastic hand clappers and kazoos.

Talking to Your Teen About Drugs

Many parents want to know at what age they should have “the drug talk” with their children.  There should not be just one talk.  Ongoing, open communication, ideally starting by age eight is appropriate. However it is never too late to start the dialog.

Talk with your teen, not to your teen.  They won’t be receptive to a lecture. Look for opportunities to talk about drugs.  Television and the news will provide you with more opportunities that you care to have.

While it’s important to stress that drug use is not allowed in your house, merely forbidding your teen to use drugs could back fire on you.  However once your stance is clear, you need to be careful that your hard and fast rules don’t cause rebellion.  There needs to be a mutual understanding.

After you explain the dangers of drugs and addictions it’s imperative to talk about peer pressure and self esteem. If your teen has the ability to say no and be ok with that decision, it will be so much easier to avoid drugs all together.

Give your teen some suggestion on how to respond by role playing. If you receive an unenthusiastic response such as, “No Mom, I don’t want to do that [to role play], it’s stupid.”  Then you still forge ahead with your idea.  How they practice their response at home is how they will respond in an actual situation.

Offer suggestions such as “No thanks, let’s go to the mall instead.”  Or “Nah, let’s go shoot some hoops.”  Another alternative if they feel they need to offer a reason why: “No thanks, I need to [study, stay in shape for tae kwon do, stay clean for gymnastics]”

Let your teen know that you understand they want to be part of the crowd, but that they need to make intelligent decisions. They are not fully capable of understanding ramifications; that is your job to help them choose wisely.

Expect some resistance.  You are the parent; and you have been given the responsibility to equip your child to be a responsible, well rounded adult. Remember to keep talking.  The drug conversation should not be a one time event. Look for opportunities to bring it up again and again and again.

Sibling Rivalry Tips

Sibling rivalry is common among children. Many times when introducing a new baby into a family, the existing child will display feelings of jealousy. Even established families, with two or more children, frequently deal with rivalry between siblings.

As a parent dealing with this rivalry, you should not expect your children to overcome sibling rivalry and jealousy overnight. This is something that usually needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis, especially as your children grow older.

One way to help your children overcome their feelings of jealousy is to spend special time with each child individually. By sharing in quality time with each child on a one-on-one basis, you let them know that they are not in competition with each other.

When you a forced to referee, allow each child a turn to speak. Listen to their opinions and give each child time to speak. Many times sibling rivalries can be easily resolved by just offering an ear. Frustrated children may not always know how to express their frustrations without becoming irritated. Teach them to use their words to express their feelings to you and each other.

Above all, never take sides. The last thing you want to do is give one the idea that you are more partial to him than another. This will only lead to even more sibling jealousy and just escalate the situation even more.

Lastly, help your children by offering them a simple solution. Even better, offer them questions to make them think about the conflict and come up with their own solution. Don’t just focus on breaking apart a war of the words between your children. Make sure their conflict ends in a resolution with a plan to follow for the future.

Helping Teens Deal with Aggression

Children learn what they live.  Teenagers are no exception.  If they live in a household where shouting, profanity or worse goes on, the likelihood that your teen will deal with aggression in the same manner is high.

But even in households where these examples have not been set, many teens go through an aggressive or acting out phase.

Trying to deal with your teen in the middle of an aggressive episode is like trying to pick up leaves in a windstorm.  You may need to remove your teen from the situation, but trying to reason with her is best left until she calms down.

Anger is being upset. Aggression is acting out.  It is important to find out why there is so much aggression in your teen.  Don’t over look that it could be a chemical imbalance.  Other reasons could be guilt, deep seeded anger, fear, feelings of betrayal, entitlement or insecurity.

In some cases outside help will be needed.  Counseling at school or by a third party can on occasion work wonders if your child is able to openly discuss concerns with a nonbiased person.  Other times you may be able to work toward a resolve with your teen.

He may be harboring feelings that you didn’t even know existed. While not acceptable, these hidden, unresolved feelings can manifest themselves in outrage. Aggression is often brought on by certain triggers.  Sit down and discuss these triggers with your teen.

He may be able to tell you that when someone tells him what to do he gets furious.  That’s a good starting point to figure out where the control issues are coming from.  The fact is all our life people will tell us what to do.  That doesn’t stop into adulthood. There needs to be a non-aggressive outlet to channel that emotion into.

While not directly dealing with the emotions, a physical outlet can certainly help.  Enroll your teen in a martial arts class.  There she will have an opportunity to spar in a controlled environment.  She can also learn respect and discipline.

A Tae Kwon Do class may not solve all your teen’s problems, but it is a step in helping him deal with his aggression.  Just remember if you keep doing what you have been doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting.

Helping Your Teen Develop a Better Body Image

“I’m fat!” “I’m ugly!” “I have nothing to wear that doesn’t make me look like a cow!”

Despite all your pep talks and positive reinforcement, you can’t seem to get through to your daughter.  She’s miserable.  You’re saddened that she’s so disheartened with her body. How do you help your daughter develop a good body image?

Below are some tips to help you help your teen daughter:

It’s important for girls to play sports or do some kind of physical activity so that they learn to love their bodies for what their bodies can DO instead of only what their bodies look like.  This is key.

Look at magazines with your daughter and talk about how the photos were airbrushed and how the models were made-up so that she understood they were not “real”.

Try to emphasize health over looks.  Not everyone is genetically able to be a size 2, but you can still be healthy at a size 12.  Girls need to find their comfortable weight and love themselves for who they are instead of comparing themselves to others.

Sports for girls. Some girls start T-ball at the age of 5 and play up until late teens.  Even if your daughter didn’t start playing sports at a young age, it’s never too late to start.  If basketball, softball or soccer doesn’t appeal to her, try martial arts.

Help her pick out clothing that is flattering to her body.  Girls want to wear what everyone else is wearing.  Unfortunately not all styles are becoming to all body sizes and shapes.

While you are working toward building your daughter’s image, remind all siblings that teasing, name calling and rude comments about their sister will not be tolerated.

Lastly, if your daughter is overweight you should institute an exercise / healthy eating program family-wide. Start going for runs with her, start a sport, join a gym, anything to get her in shape, healthy, and fit.  An overweight teen is going to have a low self image. Work together as a family – it will go a long way in helping your teen daughter develop a good body image.

Frugal, Fun Activities for Kids

It’s often the case that kids are bored at home with nothing to do and mom can’t face another costly activity.

But your children’s activities don’t have to cost much and they certainly don’t have to be boring.

Here are a few ideas:

Take a trip to the airport.  You don’t actually have to go in the airport but you can park close by and spot the airplanes.  Talk to your kids about where the airplanes may be going or how many people may be on board.  Kids find airplanes fascinating.

Visit the train station.  Again, kids are fascinated by anything loud and with an engine.  Help them spot the different trains and talk about where the passengers may be going.

Go to the sea side.  You don’t have to save the beach for summer breaks only.  Go anytime of the year and collect rocks or sea shells.  Let your kids play and run on the sand.

Take them to yard sales.  Make a morning out of it and have fun.  Tell each child they can choose a small toy or item.  They can have fun chatting to different people, help you pay for things and even get some good exercise if you walk or take the bikes.

For the older kids, sometimes the best thing can be to let them chill out with a friend; a sleepover with a rented DVD can go a long way.  As your children get older, you could try dusting off the hobbies you have hidden in the attic, such as the old hockey stick or the fishing equipment and let them follow in your footsteps.

A little investment in a new hobby for them may be just the ticket to keep them entertained and active.

With a little thought and imagination the possibilities for fun and frugal activities are endless.  And don’t worry about not spending a lot of money, all that really matters is that you’re spending quality time with your kids.