Sunday, September 3, 2017

Beating the Back to School Blues



It's that time of year again . . .

Stay-at-home parents are popping corks and putting their feet up as the obligatory first-day-of-school photos upload to their Facebook profiles; working parents are singing along with Pharell Williams as they drive to work ("because I'm happyyyy ...") ... ok, maybe that's a mild exaggeration. But some of us ran out of good ideas for kid-friendly parent-tolerable things to do before the end of June. Even if you're a summer-loving master cruise director who actually ENJOYS pushing your child on the swing for 45 minutes a day, it's nice to be able to complete a task without being interrupted (ever get to the beach before you realize you only shaved one leg?).

We hope that our children are as overjoyed to get back to business as we are, but they're usually not. After months of loose schedules, playing outdoors, and spending extra time with family, going back to school can be a difficult adjustment. Even more so for younger kids, or kids starting a new school. But there are things we can do to make it easier and less stressful for kids and parents alike.

Establish Regular Routines

The more repetitive and consistent, the better. Establish an early bedtime and stick to it, despite the temptation to let it all hang out on the weekends. Use printables to help kids get themselves ready in the morning, and cut down on the nagging. Prepare for the day the night before - let kids pick out their outfit for the next day, pack lunches the night before. Get everybody up early enough to relax and eat breakfast, rather than running out the door with a pop tart and a bad attitude.
A consistent after-school routine can be helpful as well. Most kids are starving and worn out by the time they get home, so follow a routine that allows them to unwind and unload, in that order. We should give them a chance to have a snack, a drink, and some time to themselves before we start grilling them about their day.

The Goodbye Routine

With younger children in particular, the goodbye routine is a biggie. Especially if we want to avoid them creating their own goodbye routine, which usually involves crying and clinging to our legs for dear life. I ask my daughter how many kisses and how many hugs she wants when we say goodbye, and if she's particularly clingy that morning I also ask her to wave goodbye to me from a window. I tell her I love her, remind her to have fun, and that I will see her at pick up time - I know it seems odd telling her the specific pick up time when she can't tell time yet, but it's more reassuring than "See you soon!".

Back to School Anxieties

As much as we'd love our kids to happily trot off to school with nary a backward glance, it would be weird if they didn't miss us at least a little. Unfortunately many kids miss their parents so much, going to school is really difficult for them. Other causes for kids to feel anxious going to school can be if they have a new teacher they haven't connected with yet, don't know or feel comfortable with the kids in their class, or feel overwhelmed being in a new place with new rules to adjust to. All of these things are to be expected; however, it's important to determine if your child's anxiety is the result of a more serious external cause like bullying, or if your child is exhibiting symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and would benefit from additional help or intervention.
As always, when we practice what we preach our kids catch on fast, so we should also be mindful of and manage our own anxieties - the kids aren't the only ones going through this transition. When my daughter started "school" - daycare, really - I used to cry every day in the car after I dropped her off. But I kept a smile on my face until I was safely in the car and out of sight. I reminded myself every day of all the reasons why this was a good decision, like a mantra, and I took time to vent with other grownups who could relate. Kids are ultra sensitive to our emotional states, so if we want them to feel secure and relaxed, we need to cultivate those feelings in ourselves.

Morning Nerves

One way to cope with these anxieties is to talk about them, try to determine what the specific worry is and then find a way to manage it. Another helpful strategy could be meeting up with another child before school, either to travel with or just meet upon arrival. Some kids will complain of stomach aches when they have morning nervousness before school; letting them stay home is more likely to make the problem worse.
At breakfast or in the car on the way to school I try to get my daughter talking about her friends and teacher, about what she might do that day at school - have snack time, take a rest, go for a walk, read a book etc. Sometimes I talk about the kind of day I want to have, then ask her what kind of day she wants to have. Yes, this can elicit less than positive responses, but even then it seems to get her mind in the right place.

Throughout the Day Comfort

While we can't be there with our children during the school day, and checking in or showing up is more likely to be disruptive and upsetting than helpful, there are ways we can provide comfort between drop-off and pick-up. Taping a family photo in their lunchbox or slipping it in their backpack for rest time is one example. Or make them a special fabric heart that they can keep in a pocket to hold onto at scary or sad moments during the day; I've also seen small worry stones with phrases carved into them, like "You are loved", that might also serve as a sort of talisman to ward off anxiety throughout the day.

Letting Off Steam

Talking is always a good way to let kids get anything that's bothering them off their tiny chests, and maybe work through the things that bothered them that day or that they are nervous about in the future. But while we should definitely encourage them to talk, we need to give them a moment to relax before we start interrogating them after school. A good after school routine that gives them a little space can allow them to process their day before dinnertime or bedtime presents an opportunity for sharing it. I've found in my daughter's case that at bedtime she just starts relating the day's events and dramas without any help from me, all I have to do is listen. As well as listening, we can always help them along by eliciting with specific questions. Rather than "How was your day?" we can ask things like "What was your favorite part of today?" or "Who did you sit next to at circle time today?"

Give it some time

Change is hard for all of us, kids and adults alike, and adjusting to it doesn't happen overnight. Playdates with classmates outside of school can help develop a more comforting class environment. Getting to know a new teacher, and talking about that teacher in familiar terms with our children can also help them feel more secure in the classroom. Above all, our patience and positivity will go miles toward our kids settling into a happy school year. So let's dig our heels in and brave the beginning storms of nerves and grumps, they too shall pass.

About the Author:

Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Monday, July 3, 2017

Keeping Cool with the Kids This Summer - Area Splash Pads, Sprinkler Parks & Wading Pools

   

As summer temperatures rise, what better way to get the kids outdoors without overheating than hitting one of the many splash pads, sprinkler parks and wading pools in the area!  

Massachusetts is home to a few full-on water themed resorts, most of which offer day passes, with the exception of Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg, which is an overnight-only resort. In no particular order:
CoCo Key Water Resort in Danvers
Hurricane Harbor at 6 Flags in Agawam
Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis
John Carver Inn and Spa in Plymouth
Water Wizz in Wareham
Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg

Looking for a place you can just stop by and cool off on the fly? Try one of these great spots:

Artesani Park & Wading Pool (free) in Brighton - my personal favorite, Artesani is not only free - it also has loads of parking, clean restrooms, life guards, a sprinkler park AND separate wading pool, playground, picnic area, and is located right on the beautiful Charles River. The entire facility was upgraded about 2 years ago. IT'S AWESOME.


Rings Fountain on the Greenway (free) in Boston - located right near the Aquarium, it's a great place to stop by and cool off after a trip to see the fishies. Every summer my daughter and I hit the Figment Art Festival (this year planned for Saturday and Sunday July 22 & 23) on the Greenway to check out the music and interactive art installations, and we always visit the Rings Fountain for a good soaking. In fact, there are fountains all along the Greenway, so you can take dips the whole way through.
Frog Pond on the Boston Common (free) - it's easy to spend the whole day on Boston Common with the kiddos, whether there's an event going on or not. Check out the enormous wading pool, the sprinkler park, the playground, the carousel, maybe even take a ride on a Swan Boat - not to mention the gardens are stunningly beautiful, great for a stroll with an ice cream cone before you head home. There are also lots of fun activities planned for the summer months, like free evening yoga, so check out their website to find out more.
Minot Rose Garden Playground (free) in Brookline - I live near this one, so we hit it a lot, and the roses are in full bloom right now. The splash pad is the usual playground sprinkler set up, nothing fancy. The fancy part is its location - right next to a fantastic playground that is itself located inside a large, shady, fully fenced in park with a paved loop perfect for scooters or bikes. This park is named and known for it's gorgeous rose gardens, and makes a great spot for a picnic or catching a free morning yoga class on a Sunday.
Daniel Ford Playground at Emerson Park (free) in Brookline - another great Brookline playground, along with a separate sprinkler/fountain area, in a large sunny park where summertime often finds my daughter and I (and a hundred or so other families) sharing some takeout pizza with friends and listening to some live music at the Brookline Summer Concert Series Wednesday evenings.

Those are my personal favorites, but there are so many more:

Soule Recreation Center (free) - Chestnut Hill
Charlesbank Playground & Spray Deck (free) - Boston
North Point Park & Splash Pad (free) - Cambridge
Danehy Park Splash Pad (free) - Cambridge
Johnson Playground & Stonybrook Spray Deck (free) - Jamaica Plain
Bradley Palmer State Park & Wading Pool $ - Topsfield
Beaver Brook Spray Deck & Playground (free) - Belmont
Luciano Park Spray Pool (free) - Arlington
Artemas Ward Wading Pool (free) - Marlborough
Nelson Memorial Park & Splash Pad (free) - Plymouth
Davis Farmland $ - Sterling (Yes, this is a farm with a spray park. I cannot WAIT to take my daughter here.)
Petersen Splash Pad at Watson Park (free) - Braintree
Cellucci Skate & Splash Park (free) - Hudson
Lynch Park Splash Pad (free) - Beverly

Or look them up yourself:

Waltham alone has 9 parks with splash pads, so depending where your day takes you, there may be a place to cool off nearby : Spray Parks and Pools

Wherever you go to stay cool this summer, be safe, have fun, and don't forget your SPF!


About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com







Thursday, May 11, 2017

Do Good, Have Fun, and Shop! Volunteer at the Spring Sale Saturday May 13th

     
     This weekend myself and countless others will be volunteering (and, of course, shopping!) at the 2017 Parent Talk Spring Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale, happening Saturday May 13th at the Christ Episcopal Church in Needham. The founding members of Parent Talk put on the first Sale in 1993, and since then it has mushroomed in both scale and popularity. Now it's held twice a year, with shoppers and volunteers returning again and again, some for most or all of the Sales over the past 24 years.
       If you've never been to the Sale before, it's what I can only describe as an extravaganza of deals on quality gently used kid's items. You can find everything from books to bikes, strollers to swimsuits. Proceeds support the Parent Talk organization, and all the items that remain after the Sale are donated to charities and non-profits. If you've been, but have yet to volunteer, know that a meager 2 hours of your time is all that is required to reap the reward of early shopping hours before the general sale is opened to the public. And if you've taken advantage of the early shopping, but have yet to join the Sale Committee, I'm here to tell you you're missing out.
       So here's how the Sale happens from a general shopper's perspective. Doors open at 8:30 a.m., and everyone can have at all the fantastically priced stuff until 11:45 a.m. Then everyone cashes out, and those who'd like to take part in the Clearance Bag Sale are provided as many bags as they want, at a flat rate per bag. At 12:00 p.m. the doors reopen, and the shoppers have until 12:45 to cart out as much as they can fit in their bag(s); anything too big to fit is automatically reduced to half the tagged price. It's fast, it's fun, and everyone gets great stuff without spending a ton.

Sounds good, right? It is. But volunteering at the Sale is way, WAY better.

You get first pick of everything. 

 This is the most obvious perk, but I'd say not even close to the best. Still, allow me to share with you the mindblowingest of the many bargains that I personally found at the last Sale. Number one is a pink princess vanity table with mirror I snagged for a cool $20. I saw a similar one at Home Goods a few weeks later priced at $99. Number two is a full kid's drum set, complete with little stool, pedal and drumsticks I scored for a jaw-dropping $35. I looked it up online later; $180 new. (On a side note, I'm aware that buying something like that for a 3 year old might be considered evidence that I've lost my mind - the truth is, my kid's just got a really cool mom.) I also picked up a beautiful velvet dress with the price tag still on it, suede winter boots (in 2 sizes, you never know), puzzles, a box of wooden train tracks . . . . Let's just say Santa was VERY good to my daughter this year.

You will be fed delicious food.  

Breakfast this year will be donated by Cafe Fresh Bagel, and the lunch spread will be provided again by Sweet Basil restaurant. YUM.

It's exciting. 

The Sale is basically a pop-up, and as such a ton of energy, planning, and hard work goes into organizing and setting up a pretty large-scale event for a remarkably brief period of time. The past 24 years of mistakes, solutions, and ideas has fine-tuned the strategy and organization of the sale, resulting in an event that for all it's many parts runs like a well-oiled machine. As someone who appreciates efficiency and preparation (in other words, as a mom) this is inspiring to witness. It goes by quickly, with never a dull moment. I feel weird saying this about volunteering at a fundraising sale, but it's a rush.

You get to hang out with your friends. 

And don't tell me none of your friends are going to be at the Sale. I moved back to this area from NYC three years ago, volunteered at my first Sale this past October, and not only did I make new friends doing so, I ran into neighbors and people I didn't even realize I knew at the Sale. This has to be the best perk of volunteering, whether you do the 2 hour gig or join Sale Committee for all the fun get-togethers too; you will have a great time socializing and meeting people in your community.

Your faith in humanity will be restored.  

Maybe that's a bit dramatic, and maybe your faith in humanity is fully intact, but if you wouldn't mind a little positive upswing to your perspective, this could do it. There's really nothing like working with other people toward a common goal to make you feel more connected to the world. Especially when you know that everybody is there because they want to be. It feels good to be a part of something positive, and to be supporting not only Parent Talk but the other great charities and non-profits that benefit from the Sale, including Cradles to Crayons, Circle of Hope, Room to Grow, Bayong Kulturang Pinoy Inc, Jeremiah Project and others.
       In addition to all the aforementioned benefits, I personally get a great sense of satisfaction from the Sale because I abhor waste, and almost equally despise clutter. So I love that I can easily clear my closets of outgrown items guilt-free, and that something I want or need at the moment is there for me to use, instead of becoming more garbage. I also love saving money (don't we all), and while I suppose I could buy a drum kit for my child at $180, I'm not about to. But now she has one, and she loves it. Almost as much as my neighbors do.
       The Sale is almost upon us, but it's not too late to sign up for a volunteer shift! So if you'd like to give some of your time to a good cause and have fun doing it, see how below. See you at the Sale!

Volunteer:  email ptsalevolunteers@parenttalk.info to get a link to the Sign Up Genius shift schedule

Check out this blog post with great tips on how to donate, consign, and utilize the Sale to declutter and clear out your outgrown children's items : How To Consign and Donate to PT's Sale

More info : Parent Talk Spring Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale
Saturday May 13, 2017
Christ Episcopal Church in Needham
1132 Highland Avenue (across the street from Needham Public Library)
General Sale: 8:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.
Clearance Bag Sale: 12:00 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.

About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator! Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Call for submissions:

Would you like to write something to be featured on the Parent Talk Blog? Send me an email! Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Benefits of Boredom



April vacation is here! The kids are out of school and the weather is warm, great conditions for a family vacation.  Alternately there are plenty of options from gymnastics to computer programming to fill those non-school hours with edifying pursuits. But some of us do not have a trip planned and prefer not to spend an almost equivalent amount of money on "vacation camp", and we are faced with the daunting question: "What am I going to do with my kids all week?"

Well, the magic answer to that question does exist : NOTHING. That's right, nothing. Apparently boredom has benefits that may outweigh any or all of the 21+ enriching activities we've spent hours planning to get ourselves and the kids to the end of the week.
Creativity & Imagination
Being bored forces children to use their imaginations to entertain themselves. A 1980s study comparing the imaginative capacity of preschoolers who watched TV with those who didn't showed significantly more imagination on the part of the TV free kids. More recently, Dr. Teresa Belton, who studies the connection between boredom and imagination at University of East Anglia, maintains that boredom is critical to the development creativity in children.

Independence & Self Reliance
When kids don't have their whole day scheduled out for them, they are compelled to figure out on their own how to best spend their time. According to child psychologist Lyn Fry, "Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy."

Tolerance & Emotional Self-Regulation
Having to deal with being bored is one way kids get practice tolerating things they may find unpleasant or uncomfortable, definitely an important skill in adulthood. It will serve them well when they become parents, and have to listen to their own kids whine about being bored.

Better Sleep Habits
This particularly applies to the overuse of digital devices for entertainment, but applies to non-digital forms of excitement as well. Giving kids' brains a break from constant stimulation, even educational or beneficial stimulation, can improve sleeping habits and contribute to the ability to calm oneself. If they never get a break, how can they learn how to consciously take one when needed?

Does this mean we don't have to play cruise director? We don't have to defy time and space to deliver 3 children to 3 separate activities that all begin within the same 15 minutes? That's exactly what this means. But before you start calling your mom friends to find out if they prefer mimosas or margaritas, I'm afraid I have to point out one teensy weensy downside to this approach : they are going to whine. By 'they' I mean your kids, and that's 'whine' with an 'h'. So herein lies the real challenge for us, the parents: to listen to the whining and hold strong. As in "No, you can't watch TV"; "No, you can't play video games"; and "No, you can't use the ipad".
That being said, we're only human. So when you've reached the point where you're wishing you actually were a cruise director, on a boat, somewhere far away - remember it's only a week. Still fantasizing about working for Norwegian Cruise Line? You'll find a few links for some activities and ideas for things to do below. So you and your mom friends can make it to the end of the week and enjoy your margaritas in peace.

"A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety if impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them to grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony." Philosopher Bertrand Russell, 1930

Kids' Fun Stop Indoor Playspace (Parent Talk member discount $2 off child's admission)
Needham arts & crafts drop off classes (Parent Talk member discount 15%)
Jump N' Slide (Parent Talk member discount 33% on walk-ins)
Check out our ParentTalk Member Discounts page for more discounts on drop-in fun
Needham Public Library Calendar
Needham Candlepin Bowling
Wellesley Toysinbox 3-D Printing Show
Natick minigolf
Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln
Cambridge Science Festival
Boston Common Swan Boats
Museum of Fine Arts Vacation Week Free Activities
Zoo New England Vacation Week
Ecotarium in Worcester


About the Author:

Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator! Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Friday, March 31, 2017

Teaching Kids Compassion

We all want our children to grow up to be kind, compassionate, happy adults.
Research has shown that engaging in acts of compassion increases individual happiness, well-being and physical health. One study found that even in toddlers as young as 2 years old (yes, even those little monsters) giving to others made them happier than being on the receiving end. We are all born with an innate sense of compassion, but while adults have the benefit of learned impulse control and the understanding that tomorrow is another day, children live in the moment, at the mercy of feelings they can't even name. So how can we help them tap into this beneficial ability?

Live our own lives compassionately
If there is a golden rule of parenting, it's probably this: If you're gonna talk the talk, you'd better walk the walk. Our kids learn how to be people by watching us, so if we want them to become compassionate people, we have to show them how. First and foremost by addressing their needs. Particularly when they are pushing our buttons. It's often in those moments when we aren't exactly bursting with spontaneous compassion that our kids need our comfort the most.  And when we screw up? We can admit it. We can apologize if an apology is in order.

Talk to our kids about compassion
There are lots of ways to bring compassion into the conversation with kids, since it plays a role in so many aspects of our day to day lives. We can't force them to be kind or care about others, but we can certainly sing their praises when  they do, and we can ask questions that lead them to both articulate their own feelings in a given situation and ponder how someone else might feel. Examples can be found during dinnertime discussions of the day's events, while moderating sibling disputes, or by reading books or watching movies together that tell stories of compassion and kindness. Younger children especially are still learning how to name their feelings, and by helping them do so we are not only teaching them how to communicate but also helping them develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence. 
For a list of books with compassionate themes for all ages, click here: http://www.the-best-childrens-books.org/teaching-compassion.html 



Encourage acts of compassion
Cheering up a sad friend, comforting a sick sibling, or helping a neighbor are all acts of compassion. We can help our children write sincere thank-you notes for received gifts, or volunteer in our community. You can find family friendly volunteer opportunities here on the Parent Talk website, such as our upcoming Project Night Night event on April 8th (info below). Check out this article for more Boston-area volunteering ideas:

About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator. Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here:  Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Please join us on Saturday, April 8th, from 10-11:30am for Project Night Night Bag Decorating and Playtime. We'll provide all the supplies you need to decorate your bag(s), plus your child(ren) can enjoy the playspace when they are done with their bag(s). Bring your PNN bag(s) or bring $3.50 for each bag you are picking up at the event, as well as your items to fill them with.
Location: Caryl Community Center, Room 215, 4 Springdale Ave, Dover
More info about Project Night Night: http://www.projectnightnight.org/
Contact: Nar and Julie projectnightnight@parenttalk.info
Register (before April 7th):
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/project-night-night-bag-decoratingstuffing-and-playtime-tickets-32475977523





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