7 Great Picture Books About Adoption

By Marcia Hall

Parents who plan to adopt children often have fears that parents of biological children never encounter.  Will I bond with my child?  Will she miss her biological parents?  Will she someday begin to ask difficult questions that I don’t have the answers for?

The emotions and difficulties adopted children face can seem overwhelming.  Many parents believe waiting to answer these questions until the child is older is the best approach.  However, for many parents, helping their adopted child understand what it means to be adopted while she is young can bring peace and acceptance to her life as she grows.  Here are a few wonderful books that can help families of adoption answer some of the more difficult questions.

God Found Us YOU – Lisa Tawn Bergren and Laura J. Bryant – This is an enjoyable book about the longing a woman can have when waiting for an adopted child to arrive. The baby fox asks again and again for his mom to tell him the story of when he came to live with his mommy.  Mommy fox tells the story with love and honesty, remembering the heartache and joys that the process brought to her.

Choco – Keiko Kasza - Adorable Choco, who is a small yellow bird, is desperate to find a mommy.  He asks all the other animals that have similar features, because he’s sure that his mommy must look like him.  When he finally finds a mommy, he is so glad she looks just the way she does.  This book is amazing for parents that adopt children who do not look the same.

Rosie’s Family – Lori Rosove – This book is wonderful for children who love dogs.  Rosie is a dog that does not look like the other dogs in her family because she was adopted.  Children will enjoy reading about Rosie and knowing that families come in all shapes and sizes.

Shaoey and Dot – Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman – Shaoey is a little girl who was surrendered by her mother in China and is eventually adopted by family with several other biological children.  Dot is her little ladybug friend that travels through the journey as she enters an orphanage, meets her future mommy and daddy and goes to the US to be adopted. A sweet book for the child that wonders what happened before adoption.

A Blessing From Above – Patti Hederson-  A baby bird is born and his nest is just not big enough for everyone. This is a charming book that shows not only the love and desire an adoptive mom can have for her child, but also touches on the emotion a birth mother might have for her birth child.

The Day We Met You – Phoebe Koehler –  This book is short on words but long on excitement as you walk through the day that mom and dad would meet their soon to be forever baby.  Birth children often enjoy hearing the story of when they were born.  Adoptive children equally love hearing about the first day they came home.

I Wished for You – Marianne Richmond – The little bear named Barley has a lot of questions about why he was his mommy’s wish come true.  Some are the same questions biological children ask their parents and some are unique to adoption.  His mommy patently answers each one.  Barley keenly relates his mommy’s answers to something in his life and discovers what makes a family is their love of each other.

There are so many great books surrounding the topic of adoption for young children.  These books are not only wonderful for your adopted child, but can also help biological children gain understanding, empathy and compassion towards adopted children.

How to Avoid Sibling Rivalry

By Marcia Hall

There isn’t much that is more infuriating as a parent than hearing and seeing your children bicker and fight constantly.  If you had siblings close in age growing up, you likely remember having your older brothers or sisters pick on you or having your younger brothers and sisters constantly annoy you.  As families grow, rarely are the children in the house consulted for their opinion or given the opportunity to say, “No, I do not want a sibling,” so it should be no surprise to parents that these little people who are forced to live in the same house, share the same toys and often sleep in the same room will argue from time to time.  In fact, when siblings are never at odds it might be a sign that they are not forming a strong connection.  It is through disagreements with siblings that children learn important life lessons, which can ultimately bring them closer together.

Though some sibling rivalry is inevitable and healthy, there are some ways that you can ease the tension when fights break out and help the children learn to work together to avoid some of the arguments.

Individualize your children – including multiples. Each child is a completely different person, with strengths, weaknesses and things they love.  Be sure to encourage that individuality in them.  Spend one-on-one time regularly with each child, letting him choose what you do together.  Point out the areas in his life that you see him excelling in as well as the things you see him struggling with.  Encourage him when he sees his sibling doing something better than him, pointing out the things he does really well too.

Model how to compromise and encourage your child to make concessions with you from time to time.  As you go through your day to day life, work with your child to make small but noticeable compromises with him, pointing out what you are doing.  Then, when he does not get his way, point out that he is compromising too.

Let them each have their own space and their own toys that they are not required to share with anyone.   To a parent, the toys collected by children may seem like junk, but to a child they are the things that help form his identity.   It is important that your child has a safe place to be when he senses that he needs to be alone.   If you sense that a child is under a lot of stress, you can encourage him to walk away from his siblings for a while and play or read by himself instead of letting the situation escalate into a fight.

Avoid continuously separating your children to fix the disagreement.  It can be very tempting to do this in order to keep the peace.  However, separating your bickering children every time they are in the middle of a fight sends the wrong message.  It tells your child that when he does not get along with his sibling, he does not have to deal with the dispute.  There may be times it is appropriate for your children to spend some time apart for a short time, however, you must always bring them back together to discuss the situation when they have calmed down.

Try to avoid entering into the argument.  The majority of the time, the best thing to do during a sibling fight is to let them work it out.  Chances are one or all of your children will try to drag you into the discussion.  If you do get involved, limit your participation to words of advice.  Give suggestions to each child on how he might approach the situation.  “Have you tried to offer Lilly a different toy to see if she would be ok with it?” or “It might be a good idea to explain to Joey why you really want to use that toy”.

Discipline physical fighting as you would if the child got physical with another child outside of the family.  If your child was on the playground and physically hurt another child, what would you do?  It is no different when he hurts one of his siblings.  If physically hurting another child is inappropriate for your child to do, that includes hurting his sibling.

Avoid asking your older child to be your eyes for your younger child.  This causes tattling.  This starts out innocently enough when your children are younger, but it can quickly turn into your older children feeling he has the right to tell you every tiny transgression your younger child is up to.  This causes resentment and frustration for everyone.

Don’t takes sides or make favorites.  Although you would not make favorites intentionally, often times it can seem to your older children that you let your younger children get away with more.  Hold everyone to the same standard.  Also, avoid seeming to agree with one child more in an argument.  Instead, repeat each child’s point of view out loud.  “I see that Lilly feels she was playing with that toy before Joey.  Joey you feel like when Lilly put it down, it meant she was done with it.  How can we work this out so everyone is happy?”

Don’t just listen to the “loudest” of the group and assume everyone else is in the wrong. Parents frequently hear loud cries from another room and jump to the conclusion that the child that was yelling was wronged.  Find out the whole story before assuming this, because often children learn to use this to their advantage.

Parents would do well to take a deep breath and a step back in the midst of sibling rivalry, realizing that somewhere down the road these children who are at each other’s throats right now can eventually be best friends.  This is not in spite of the fighting they are doing now, but because of the fighting they are doing now.  Arguing can build character, cooperation, understanding, compromising skills and closeness if given the support and encouragement to help them work it out. The very best thing you can say to your children when they argue is, “I believe you are smart enough to work together and solve this problem.”

5 Myths about Communicating with Your Teen

By Marcia Hall

Teens are mysterious creatures.  They seem to move from child to young adult almost overnight.  Parents of teens frequently find themselves irritated by the things they say and the way they act.  You may be trying to make sense of the chaos of adolescence, but it can be a mistake to judge them too quickly.

Here are a few myths about teenagers and how to be sure you dispel them.

My teen doesn’t care about my feelings.  The words your teen uses might lead you to feel unloved by him, however, the truth is that he does care about you a great deal.  Children from around age 11 and up are going through many changes.  Some are physical in nature, but there are also many emotional shifts.  Your child is growing up, learning a lot and realizing that at some point he is going to have to live a life apart from you.  He is attempting to assert his independence from you and is at times unsure of how to do this appropriately.  He will attempt many things, including talking back and disregarding your feelings.  Your teen actually cares a great deal about your feelings and is looking for reassurance that it is ok for him to separate from you in some ways.  While it may not be acceptable for him to talk to you in a disrespectful way, it’s important to talk to and treat your teen like an adult as much as you can.  How do you respond to other adults when they say hurtful things to you?

My teenager is lazy. While some teens have better work ethic than others, the adjective “lazy” is not an accurate description of most teens.  When motivated, a teen can do amazing things; even a teen who plays video games for too many hours a day can be inspired to do amazing things.  The key term here is motivation.  Finding what motivates your teen is important, and may be the only way to get him to get off the couch and help around the house.  The best way to motivate a teen is to give him ownership of the project.  If you expect him to help keep the house clean, then he needs to feel that he has a vested interest in the home.  Letting him have input on where furniture goes, what carpet is picked out or what color the walls are can go further in investing your child in the home than you think.  There is nothing wrong with offering incentives for your child to complete tasks, whether monetary or relationship based.  However, nagging and hounding your teen will NOT create motivation.

My teen never listens to my advice.  Teenagers are going though many changes and are trying to find their identity outside of their parents view.  Your teen is most likely listening to you, but greatly wants to gain an independent life. He is afraid that following your advice will lead him to being dependent on you for a long time.  Parents of teens have to walk a very thin line between giving advice and telling the child what to do.  If your teen is still coming to you for advice, count yourself lucky, because that often stops at some point in the adolescent years too.  When your child tells you a story or shares an issue he is facing, do not jump in and tell him how to fix the problem.  Step back and just listen, ask questions to clarify and then validate the feelings he might be having about the situation.  Once he has finished the story, you can ask him if he wants your advice.  He may say no, in which case you thank him for telling you and let him know you are there if he wants to talk about it further.  If he says he wants your advice, give it with caution, understanding the best way for him to learn is if he helps to come up with the solution.  Because of this, aiding your child through questions can be the most helpful.  Once the advice is given, it is his hands.  He needs to be given the freedom to choose what he will do with your suggestions.

My teen does not want to spend time with me anymore.  While it is very true that as your child gets older he will spend less and less time with you, it is far from the truth that your teen does not want to spend time with you.  Most teens have more activities outside of the home as they get older and their interests change drastically, sometimes from one day to the next.  The way they talk might even change.  All these adjustments mean that you will understand him less and less each day.  It is not that he wants to spend less time with you; it is that he perceives there are fewer things he has in common with you.  Making an effort to understand the culture and how it changes from day to day can greatly improve the time you spend together because you will have more in common with him.  The truth is that he still craves the time he gets to spend with his mom or dad, but realizes often unconsciously that he needs to pull away from you too.

It is too late to build good communication habits in my teen. It is never too late to teach and model healthy communication habits.  You may feel that the habits both you and your child have are already ingrained in your mind and will never change, but that simply is not true.  It takes small but measurable changes in your behavior to effectively help your teen communicate better.  Your teen is likely looking for someone to work to understand him, even if that person never fully can.

Raising a teenager can be a maddening adventure, but it can also be touching.  To see the child that was once so little and helpless becoming an adult can be overwhelming.  Sometimes parents want to hold onto the little child they once knew.  Unfortunately, attempting to hold on by treating the young adult like you did when he was little can cause a great deal of friction between you both.  It is a difficult process to communicate with a teenager, but when done with respect and understanding it can be a less frustrating phase.

How to Get Your Children to Cooperate

By Marcia Hall

From your toddler touching everything in sight to your teenager ignoring everything you tell her, children who don’t cooperate can be frustrating.  More than that, they can make you go crazy.  Here are a few simple rules to follow to increase the amount of cooperation you get from your child.

Help map out the day as best you can for your child.  Often, parents have an idea of what the day will be like, but fail to communicate those plans to their child.  When possible, help her envision your day by communicating it with her either that morning or the night before.  Younger children will need this to be repeated, so it can help to recap it a few times.  It is true that plans might change, but changes will be easier if she knew what the plan was in the first place.

Give warnings when time is coming close for transitions to take place.  Children tend to live entirely in the present, so they are usually completely engrossed in the activity they are involved in at any given moment.  This is obvious for younger children, but is also true of older children.  By giving your child warnings when you need to leave in 10 minutes, your child can begin to finish with what she has started.  Timers can be a big help for these warnings for both you and your child.  A timer can not only keep you on track to follow through with the time you allotted, but will also give your child an auditory clue to listen for.

Provide your child with choices so that she feels in control of the situation to some degree. It is very difficult for your child to be at the mercy of the adults in her life.  Often times, the errands or activities she is being forced to participate in are not activities she would choose to do. You can ease this frustration by making small parts of the day her choice.  Small children do well with two or three choices.  “Do you want to wear the blue boots, the red shoes or the purple clogs?”  Older children can help you decide where you will go first or what music you will listen to along the way. Simple choices can make the difference between a cranky child who drags her feet and a cooperative child who does what is asked of her.  Giving teens the choice can relieve some of the pressure too.  “The garbage needs to go out before 6AM tomorrow.  Do you want to do it before you go to bed or early in the morning” You may know the most common sense option is to do it now and get it over with. But giving your child the option can ease the tension often felt by parents and teens.

Create excitement for the thing you are trying to get your child to cooperate in doing.  You might be so caught up in completing your to-do list that you forget to enjoy the process.  You are motivated to get the tasks complete because you can see the outcome.  Your child could not care less about that outcome, she just wants to have fun.  So if you want her to cooperate with you, you will need to bring a little fun to the to-do list.  If you are running errands, build a little fun break into every other stop.  If you are in the car for a long time, find some games to play, such as I-Spy or 20 questions. Help keep her mind going and you will find she is much more compliant.

Make sure all her physical needs are met before asking her to do something you know she will be resistant about. Is your child hungry, thirsty, tired, overstimulated, cold/hot or sick?  It is hard for adults to operate when they have these needs.  Your child will be understandably cranky when she needs food or has simply had too much.  Take a break and don’t expect your child to do too much.

Make sure your child has enough time for play in her day.  Parents today have a tendency to overschedule their children, filling their time with sports, art and other activities.  The thought is that an active mind is a healthy mind.  To a degree, this is true.  However, if the mind of a child is not given the opportunity to think creatively and freely, it will begin to shut down.  This is when children become easily agitated, inflexible and unsatisfied.  To ensure that you have a more cooperative and helpful child, make sure that your child is given enough time for free play both with you and by herself.

Parents dream of a child who gets her shoes on the first time they ask or takes the garbage out when it needs to go out.  Though it may not be possible for your child to do this with 100% accuracy, it is possible to improve her cooperation level.

4 Tips to Foster an Attitude of Sharing

By Marcia Hall

From siblings to best friends, children have a difficult time learning to share. It is a concept that may not fully develop until late into grade school, if then.  However, there are a few ways you can help your child develop an attitude of sharing.

Model sharing the things that are important to you with others.  Often, parents expect their child to share toys, games and even attention with other children.  This is usually expected because it was expected of them when they were children.  However, adults rarely share the things that are really important to them.  Do most adults go around loaning their cars, jewelry, clothes, homes, electronics and even their time to others?  Your child sees that when an adult owns something it belongs to her, and she gets to decide when she feels like sharing it and when she does not feel like sharing it.  This mindset then transfers into your child’s life.  He rightfully feels that when something belongs to him because it was given as a gift or purchased with his own money, that it belongs to him.  When he sees his parent being generous with what she has, he will think that sharing is a part of life.  If he sees his parent unwilling to share the things she owns, big and little, then he is going to be less willing to share his own things.

Don’t make him share everything.  When parents tell their child that they “must” share the toy with someone else, it stimulates a primal instinct everyone has.  Instead of helping the child to learn to share, making a child share his toys actually causes him to want to share it and other toys less.  He becomes afraid that at any moment you will come in and make him give up the thing that (at least right now) means everything to him.  Instead, allow there to be at least a few toys that he has the right to choose when and with whom he will share.  This gives the child just enough control over the situation to loosen his grip on the toy.  When he has the independence to share it or not, he will eventually be willing to share with others.

Keep a set of toys that belong to you and share those with him and friends he has over.  The big problem with not making your child share his toys is that it means that his friends or siblings do not have toys to play with together.  To solve this problem you can create a family toy box.  Everything in that toy box belongs to you – the adult.  Because of this, you get to decide who the toys are shared with and when the toys are shared.  You, of course, are very generous with the sharing of this toy box, and let not only your child but any other child that comes over to play use the toys.  This will help in a few ways. It will help your child not feel so tense about sharing his own toys, which can actually help him want to share his.  It will also provide a great example of sharing for your child.  He will begin to learn that sharing can make play more fun.

Help him to see that when he shares with others, others are more willing to share with him and that it is more fun to share.  There are a lot of ways you can help your child see this.  Utilize moments when you see him sharing with siblings or with other children. Tell him that you see how well he is sharing and that you are glad he is able to have fun with someone else.  Positive reinforcement is the best way to help your child learn a new life lesson. When playing with your child, talk about how much fun it is when you have people to play with instead of having to play by yourself.  Make mention of sharing every time you see it in the world, whether in books, on the playground, on the TV or in your house.

Sharing is a very difficult habit to form in children.  The truth is that most adults have not perfected this either.  But life is much better when children learn to share what belongs to them, and it is incredibly rewarding as a parent to watch your child engage and play well with other children.

New Mom’s Guide to Childproofing Your Baby’s Bedroom

Bringing a new baby home for the first time is an exciting moment in any woman’s life. In the weeks leading up to the grand arrival, however, the sheer volume of baby-preparation items on your to-do list can be staggering. One of the most important things on that list is making sure that your baby’s room is properly childproofed so that it’s truly the soothing sanctuary a nursery is intended to be.

Get Started Early

Before your baby is born, or when she’s still a very small infant, baby-proofing can seem like a task that’s easily put off. After all, it’s not like a newborn is particularly mobile, right? Actually, knocking out your childproofing chores before the baby arrives or when she’s still very small is a good idea. Babies reach milestones more quickly than you realize and time will be at a premium from the moment you bring your new baby home. Making sure that her room is safe, even when she’s too young to properly explore it, is a smart move.

Skip the Cutesy Bedding

Choosing the bedding and décor scheme for your new baby’s nursery is one of the high points when it comes to preparing for your bundle of joy’s arrival. Thick blankets, fluffy pillows and plush toys, however, are actually discouraged strongly by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and entire cities have banned crib bumpers due to their link to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you just can’t resist creating a nursery worthy of a magazine layout, remember to remove everything from the crib before putting your new baby down for a nap.

Keep Window Treatments Safe

Making sure that the sun isn’t shining on your baby’s small, delicate face while he’s trying to sleep is an admirable effort, but you’ll also want to make sure that his crib is situated far enough from windows that he can’t access it, and that the cords on the window treatments are properly secured. Dangling cords and tie-backs can present a strangulation risk when your baby gets older, so this is one baby-proofing step you certainly don’t want to miss.

Double-Check Used Baby Gear

Baby items are expensive, and a fully-stocked nursery requires a lot of them. There’s nothing wrong with saving money by opting for second-hand gear or with preserving a sense of tradition by using heirloom items. What you will want to do, however, is ensure that all of those items meet modern safety guidelines and that any paint on them isn’t lead-based.

Choose Low-VOC Paint

The wall color of any room sets the tone for the entire space, so it’s natural that you’ll want to start painting the nursery as soon as possible. Making sure that your baby won’t be exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals needs to be a priority, though. Choosing paints that are low in volatile organic compounds is advised, as the chemicals found in traditional paint have been linked to everything from asthma to certain types of cancer.

Cover Electrical Outlets

Electrical outlets are fascinating to little ones, and they’re incredibly dangerous. Making sure that all the outlets, especially those that are within Baby’s reach, are outfitted with childproofing covers is the most effective method of ensuring that she doesn’t hurt herself.

Avoid Furniture with Sharp Edges

There’s a reason why the lines on most nursery furniture are rounded. When your baby starts crawling and eventually learning to walk, he’ll encounter his share of falls along the way. Colliding with a hard, rounded surface is still likely to be painful, but not as harmful as landing on a sharp corner that can cut into delicate skin.

Keep Cords Out of Reach

If you’ll be plugging lamps and other electrical items into the wall outlets, be sure that all of the cords are properly secured. It’s easy for a baby to pull these things down onto himself when he’s looking for leverage to stand or simply curious about what will happen when a cord gets a sharp tug. Placing cords behind furniture so that Baby’s inquisitive fingers aren’t able to access them and securing loose ones so that they’re not dangling attractively is wise.

Install Window Guards

The last thing you want is for a fire escape route out of your baby’s room to be blocked, but you also don’t want him to take a tumble out of an open window. Even a fall from a first-floor window can be dangerous for such a small person, so consider the installation of window guards on any window that isn’t part of your fire escape plan.

How to be an Advocate for Your Sick Child

When your child is sick, you’re naturally focused on helping her get better and managing the implications of an illness. For most parents, the doctors and nurses in charge of your child’s medical care are seen as steadfast allies. When medical care goes wrong or school administrators aren’t willing to work with your child during an extended absence, you’ll be forced to act not only as a caregiver and comforter for your child, but also an advocate for her.

Trust Your Own Instincts

As a parent and the person who spends the most time with your child, you’re in the perfect position to recognize the difference between a minor complaint and a real illness. Full waiting rooms, high overhead and tight schedules can motivate your child’s pediatrician to examine and diagnose her as quickly as possible, which could lead to the dismissal of a real ailment as a minor one. If your instincts are telling you that there’s more to your child’s illness than the doctor is acknowledging, you need to have the confidence to challenge the pediatrician’s opinion. It’s entirely possible to approach her with your concerns in a polite and respectful manner, and it’s something you should absolutely do if you feel that your child isn’t getting the care she needs.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

A brusque pediatrician that projects a rushed, harried air may not be the easiest person to approach with questions, but it’s important for parents to realize that they’re well within their rights to ask their pediatrician questions. If you don’t understand a prescribed treatment, aren’t sure of what your pediatrician is diagnosing your child with or simply don’t understand his instructions for the child’s care, you’ll need to question him further on those subjects. Regardless of how tight your pediatrician’s schedule is, he should make time to address the questions and concerns of worried parents.

If Necessary, Seek a Second Opinion

The faith that many parents place in their pediatrician leads them to follow her advice without question, but it’s important to remember that your pediatrician is human and, as such, is completely fallible. Not only is it okay to seek a second opinion if you don’t feel that your child’s diagnosis is correct, it’s essential. Your child’s health should be your primary concern, and it’s important to remember that even a pediatrician with his best interests at heart could miss subtle signs or indicators of an illness. Before you accept a diagnosis of a common cold or minor ailment when you suspect something more serious, consider getting a second opinion.

Work With School Administrators

Some school districts are great when it comes to working with chronically-ill children and have plenty of programs in place to ensure that those kids don’t fall behind in their studies while managing the symptoms of their illness. Others have very rigid regulations, aren’t interested in working to meet your child’s needs and will find any way possible to absolve themselves from the responsibility of caring for your chronically-ill child’s educational needs. In such cases, it’s important that you act as an advocate for him. Learn the laws in your state, as well as the requirements of public schools under Federal law in regard to chronically-ill or special-needs children. Remember the old adage about catching flies with honey, and maintain your composure when you’re discussing the matter with recalcitrant school administrators. The last thing you want is for your grievances to be dismissed due to your actions, so maintain a respectful and firm attitude when confronting teachers, principals and other administrators.

Keep Exhaustive Records

From the doctor’s office to the principal’s office, the most effective weapon in your arsenal when it comes to advocating for your sick child are well-maintained and exhaustive records. Keep up with every episode of an illness, every missed day of school and every doctor’s excuse so that all of your bases are covered.

Acting as an advocate for your sick child can feel like a full-time job sometimes, but it’s important that you remember what you’re fighting for. Your child needs quality healthcare and the attention of his educators, but he also needs the comfort and reassurance of a parent that loves him. Dealing with an illness can be a scary thing for a child, and it’s easy for parents to become so wrapped up in their fight with the healthcare and education systems that they forget how much affection and comfort their ill child needs.