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Gifting Our Children Our Time

I was sitting next to a friend at the park when I phoned another friend and invited her to come join us.  About ten minutes later she arrived and said: “Do you know how I feel right now? I feel like a teenager and that the cool girls invited me to hang out with them.”

Well, I am certainly not a teenager and I am not all that cool. But one thing that I learned from this story is how good it feels when someone wants to spend time with you.

This is a gift we can all give our children. Setting time aside on a weekly basis will make them feel so good; just like that school girl who is so excited to have an “in” with the cool girls. Showing them that we want to spend time with them regularly means that they really matter to us, and that feels really good.

Do you give this gift to your kids?

If you do – please give yourself a HUGE pat on the back!!!

If you need some help giving this gift to your kids, Creating Time™ might be right for you.  Creating Time™ provides the framework in which we engage with our children on a weekly basis, be it through crafts, exploration or just plain fun and games.

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Creating Time with the Perfectionist

Your child likes to get things right. He knows what he’s good at, knows what he likes and likes to stick to just those things. He has a strong need to succeed and will not try something new unless he is confident that he will succeed at it or if he doesn’t have a choice but to do it (in which case he might do it, but not happily).

How Can You Help Him?

  • Encourage, encourage, encourage.  Remind your child of times when he succeeded at doing something new. Tell him how talented he is and how much you believe in him.
  • Calm him down. Perfectionists often get uptight about new situations. Try to remain calm yourself, and set him up for success. It might be a good idea to de-clutter the work area, or to put on some soothing music. You know your child, try to do what works for him.
  • At other times (not when you are sitting down to do an activity together), discuss how much you enjoy spending the time together, and how Creating Time™ activities are just the means to an end. You love him and love to have joint experiences with him, and how the end product is beside the point.
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Creating Time with the Impulsive Child

As a camp director I am very familiar with the girl who starts cutting out the project before she even hears the instructions. Or the boy on a trip who starts walking in the wrong direction because he is sure that he has been here before. These children do so because they just can’t help themselves. Give them scissors, they cut. Give them paint, they start painting. They have a hard time waiting and they often get frustrated with the activity because they were too busy figuring it out on their own to listen to the instructions. Then they’re disappointed with their results.

If this child sounds familiar to you, then you know what you are facing, and you have already won half the battle. You know your child, and you can anticipate his impulsivity.  Here are a few tips that will help you have a great time with this child:

  • Compliment them. The first step is to applaud your child for being such a great kid. Once you have encouraged her, she is in the mindset to please. She wants to continue to gain your approval.
  • Whenever possible, explain the instructions of the first step of the activity before giving out the supplies. Then it will be less likely for them to start without knowing what to do. It might also be a good idea for this child to sit close to you so you can keep an eye on him.
  • Take it step by step. Break down the activity into steps, and make it very clear that you are doing it one step at a time.
  • If there are more children doing the activity and he is now waiting for the next step, you can ask him to help the other children. This will again make him feel good about himself.
  • All in all, if your child is impulsive, it is likely for her to make a mistake. Try to remain calm, and relay the message that it is okay and that you love her just the way she is. Have extra supplies on hand in case she needs to start over again.

Creating Time™ is a great opportunity to have a fun together with your impulsive child while teaching her to follow instructions and how to deal with disappointments.

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Set Yourself Up for Success!

The most important things in life are often the most challenging. Quality time with our children is no exception to that rule. Here are some tried and true tips to set yourself up for success!

Time It Right

You and your kids are most likely to have good time together if you’re in the right mindset. Timing is everything. Make sure that quality time is planned for when everyone is well fed and before it’s late and they’re getting tired. Make sure that the time is good not only for your children – but for you as well. If you’re hungry, tired or irritable – abort and find another time.

Ignore the Mess

This is harder for some more than others. When parents are uptight about the mess being created by activities, the tension spreads to everyone. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ll clean everything up as soon as you’re done, but in the meantime, have a great time.

Remain Focused

The focus of Creating Time™ activities is connecting with our children. The outcome of the activity is at best secondary – and usually irrelevant. Many of us like to make sure when doing crafts or projects with our kids that the finished product looks nice. But in focusing in that we lose sight of our real goal – to be having relaxed, enjoyable, quality time with our children. It’s about the process, not the result.

Unless, of course, the result you’re looking for is a great relationship with your kids. That result you certainly can focus on – and you’ll get it when you keep your focus on having a great time and not on the activity itself.

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Get Their Help!

There’s no question that having our kids home all day present various challenges; for each parent what’s most challenging for them will be different. But there’s a common complaint that I’ve heard from almost every parent I’ve spoken to over the past couple of weeks. “The house is such a mess.” While it bothers some parents more than others, it’s something that almost all of us are struggling with. There’s no time to clean because the mess-makers are everywhere all the time!

A couple of years ago I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with my children’s uncanny ability to make a mess and their seeming inability (unwillingness?) to help clean up. After a lot of thought (and consulting with my husband) I came to the conclusion that having everyone deal with their small messes immediately will keep the mess from becoming overwhelming. But how to enlist everyone’s help? I didn’t want to be nagging everyone all the time to put away their toys or put their dishes in the sink. 

Some more thought went into it, and eventually, out came B’seder, my program for teaching the kids to clean up after themselves with positive reinforcement. I designed signs reminding the kids (and myself) to do basic chores immediately when they were necessary. They include putting shoes away, cleaning up toys, putting dishes in the sink after eating, and more. Every time anyone in the family completed a chore, they were entitled to a ticket indicating what they’d accomplished. We made and designed a box and placed it in a central location in the house. Earned tickets are deposited there. Once a week the box is opened and the tickets counted. If the family has collectively earned a predetermined amount of tickets, they can redeem them for various incentives – a fun meal, ice cream, a new game, etc. 

(If there’s concern that certain family members aren’t pulling their weight, you can have each person write their name on each ticket before placing it in the box and create personal incentives. It’s a good idea to have collective goals to encourage teamwork, have them look out for each other, and minimize the potential negative effects of too much competition.)

The benefits of this program are numerous. Kids learn responsibility and if given ample opportunity to do various chores, develop valuable life skills. They feel more involved in the home and feel more connected to it. This also gives us endless opportunities to praise our kids and give them positive feedback, the bread of the developing soul. Self-esteem is built through accomplishment; this program is a great way to continue to gift them with easy opportunities to help and to accomplish. 

No one can forget: Pesach is fast approaching. It’s much easier to clean a house for Pesach when there’s basic order and cleanliness. 

Remember To continuously encourage your kids and tell them how great it is to be spending so much time together (even if you only feel that way when they’re sleeping). Continue to take advantage of this situation to create quality time with your children. You’re creating memories that will last a lifetime. Make them the memories you want them to have!

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The Kids are Home. Now What?

Whether you are usually home or generally work out of the house, having children at home for extended periods of time can be challenging. This is true whether it’s a break for Pesach, summer vacation, or any other time. This is even truer when it’s a “forced break” that was unexpected and when we don’t know how long it will last. Add the anxiety that many of us are feeling about the pandemic around us and it makes for a challenging situation for all.

But how our children experience this “vacation” will be largely shaped by the way we frame it for them. While it’s difficult to choose how we feel, we can choose our thoughts. By choosing to put a positive spin on things we can turn a challenging situation into a fun, bonding experience with our children.

The first step is to tell your children how much you’re looking forward to spending more time with them. (Even if you don’t feel it strongly now, the more you say it, the more you’ll feel it.) When children feel that they’re a nuisance, they act accordingly. When they feel wanted, their behavior is drastically different.

Make a family meeting and include the children in creating a schedule for the day. The more input they have, the more likely they are to be invested in making it work. The schedule should include:

  • Wake-up time
  • Breakfast
  • Learning/schoolwork
  • Time for free play and times for playing games together   
  • Physical movement (there are many examples of activities that can be done indoors if/when going out isn’t an option)
  • Household chores
  • Bedtime

Ask the children to collectively come up with a gift they would like once they’ve completed a set amount of schoolwork – or once they’ve done their work each day for a set period of time. Even if your kids are of vastly different ages try to make the learning a team-effort. If your older children are old enough, they can teach or help the younger ones.

Learning can be fun, of course, and there are a lot of group activities that can lead to continuous fun while learning valuable life skills. One example: creating a post office in your home. We do this often in our home. Find an old box – any box will do – and have the children decorate it with the IsraelPost logo and whatever else they would like.

The children should then write letters – to each other and to you – daily, and place them in the mailbox. You can give the children themes of the letters for different days. One day could be to write something nice to each of their siblings. Another day could be to write suggestions or requests to the recipients of the letters. Teach the children how to write the letters properly and how to address them.

The children can then take turns being the mailman. There’s no one who doesn’t enjoy getting mail!

It’s important that children chip in and help with household chores. While this is always the case, there’s so much more to do when everyone is home all day. Make sure that the chores assigned to each child is age-appropriate, but you’ll be amazed at what kids are capable of when they’re taught properly. Once they’ve gained a skill (cleaning, doing the dishes, cooking, laundry) you’ll gain from it immeasurably and your children’s self-esteem will soar.