How to Deal with Difficult Family Members

By Marcia Hall

No matter how amazing your family is, you will always encounter the occasional frustrating moment with them.  It’s not unusual to have one or two people in your extended family that, for whatever reason, just rub you the wrong way.  Most adults can navigate these situations pretty well on their own; however, when everything that person does affects your child that easygoing perspective can quickly change.  There are a few tips to help address these issues in a healthy and productive way.

Define what drives you nuts.  It can be easy to make small issues into bigger ones during particularly emotional moments.  When you are faced with a family member that really drives you nuts, you need to define exactly what it is about that person that makes you angry.  Perhaps the issue is with you just as much as the other person, and the feelings you have can be worked though without creating any kind of division within the family.  If the issue at hand has more to do with how you want to raise your children or is in some other way non-negotiable, you need to recognize and verbalize to yourself and a friend why it is so important.

Define your needs in the relationship.  You need to seriously ask yourself what this relationship is worth to you.  If you are a single mom and this person is one of the only family members that you can turn to for help, you are going to be more willing to let go of the irritants you have in favor of the help they provide to you.  However, if you have plenty of support with your kids from other means, those issues may be a bigger deal.

Don’t try and be the “fixer.”  Believe it or not, some people like the way they are, even if everyone else does not.  Trying to fix the annoying habits a family member has will never work and will only cause you to be more at odds with that person.

Express your concerns to the person.  Very few people like confrontation, and those that do like it rarely ever go about it in the most beneficial manner.  Many times people that are being annoying don’t realize how they are coming across to other people.  There are plenty of relationships that could be saved if the person that is annoyed would simply and gently face the offender.  Go to the person in a sincere moment.  Start by saying something you really love about that person.  Gently express your frustration and then offer a possible reason or solution that is realistic.  End the statement with another positive thing that family member brings to your life.

Know when to walk away.  There are lots of reasons to keep a relationship with a family member going, but if that relationship is causing you more stress and hardship than it is care and love, it may be time to let it go.  This may not mean that you never speak to that person again, but it does mean that you stop relying on that relationship for any emotional or physical support.  It means that what he thinks or does doesn’t upset you.  You just let him live his life.  This will not be easy, and when you start emotionally walking away from the person, he may notice and ask you why.  You should be prepared to tell him.  This may be easier if you have had previous conversations about your frustration; just don’t expect the person to be happy.

Remember that when it comes to your children, you are their protector.  There will always be a family member or close friend that takes more emotional energy than he gives.  Use your best judgment to decide how to deal with the relationship and when to let it go for the sake of your family.

How to Stop a Toddler from Biting

By Marcia Hall

Parents are naturally fearful when their toddler begins to bite.  It often starts out as small experimental bites to just those who care for her the most.  These ordinary bites, which are usually called love bites, can be very painful and your toddler may transition into biting other things, people and even animals.  There are some ways you can stop your little one from hurting you and others from her bites.

Remain calm.  Your baby may be small, but her teeth are pretty sharp.  Her bite can take you by surprise and hurt a good deal.  The normal human response to pain is to yell or jump.  Do your best to avoid doing this, as it will only highlight the action to your child.  The more attention she receives from this action, the more often she is going to “practice” it.

Remove her from your lap or arms immediately.  If the biting progresses, you will need to remove her from your immediate presence for a short time without getting angry.  This will teach her that biting does not get her the attention she is seeking.  If you sense that she has started to bite you BECAUSE she wants you to put her down, then you can simply turn her body around so that she is no longer facing you. This will also remove her from your attention without giving into her frustration.

Use simple directions. “No bite mommy” is all you need to say, and you only need to say it one time.  Babies do understand the simple words you use most of the time.  However, when you repeat the same words over and over it loses meaning for her.  Stating your instruction with a strong clear voice one time is all that is needed.  Anymore and it will be more like yelling, which is just another form of attention.

Never bite your child back.  Though it can be tempting and may even seem like a natural consequence for your child, biting your child back in order to teach her how it feels will not help.  In fact, it will teach your child to bite out of anger.  Most likely at this point your child is simply exploring her world with her mouth and teeth.  She wants to see how it feels to put something other than food between her teeth and close.  With each bite, her brain learns something new or reinforces what she already knew.  When you get upset with your child for biting and bite her back, all it teaches her is that biting is something that can be done when a person is angry.  Your toddler cannot understand the connection between her bite and yours.  It does not teach her the lesson that you are hoping for and causes her a great deal of pain.

Find a replacement for you to give your child to bite.  Biting is a natural and normal explorative phase in life.  Most of the time, the techniques given will help your child to stop biting.  Occasionally, biting continues beyond this exploration or occurs in children older.  In this case, it is likely that your child has some type of physical need to bite.  Perhaps it is a control behavior she has learned helps her cope with the stresses in her life.  It could also be a sensory issue.  Some children are simply more orally fixated than others and need to explore with their mouth longer than their peers.  When this happens you will need to find some kind of replacement for living things so that your child can continue to fill the need she has for biting.  It should be something that you can keep with you always, because you never know when your child is going to have the sensation to bite you or someone else.  It should be soft and not harmful to her.  Then when your child bites or starts to bite you or others, pull out the object and say firmly, “Don’t bite mommy, bite this” and hand her the item.

Though biting is a normal phase of life, it can be scary to think of your child running around biting everyone or everything she sees.  However, the calm and focused attitude of her caregivers can help her to discover healthy ways to explore and gain the attention she needs.

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 Help Your Child be Empathetic

By Marcia Hall

Few emotions in life are more difficult to teach a child than empathy.  It is a confusing, complicated and mature emotion that even most adults have yet to master.  However, teaching a child empathy can have lasting effects on her as she grows up.  Empathy is a valuable tool to possess and can help a child cooperate with others in school and in life.  It can help her grow to be a compassionate and kind person.

Show empathy to your child and others.  This is always the first step you should take when teaching your child anything.  She cannot learn empathy unless someone first works to understand her point of view.  Showing your child empathy means that you consider her emotions and opinions when making any decisions about her.  It means that you talk to her like you would like her to talk to you, not just when you are happy with her, but also when you are upset.  It means that you attempt to understand why she is acting the way she is acting before you react with a punishment.  This does not mean that you do not discipline your child, but that you do so with great love and respect.

Ask your child to tell you what emotions she sees in others.  One of the best ways to help your child understand and practice empathy is to frequently ask her how she thinks someone else feels.  “Do you see that girl crying over there?  How do you think she feels?  Why do you think she might feel that way?”  When your child is young, she may have a hard time expressing the emotions she sees with words, and will have even more trouble coming up with a reason why.  You can help her find the words little by little to label these emotions.  After a while, she will get very good at defining the emotions she sees in others.

Ask your child if she wants to help when she sees someone hurting.  After she begins to get good at defining the emotion, you can ask her, when appropriate, if she would like to try to find a way to help the other child or person.  This can be tricky for a few reasons.  Not every person having difficulty wants help, and parents might worry about putting their child in a dangerous situation.  Use your best parenting judgment, but remember that as adults we sometimes have to step out of our comfort zone to help others if we want our children to be the kind of empathetic person that would do the same.

Don’t require your child to apologize when she commits an offense.  It can be very tempting and socially acceptable to tell your child she needs to apologize to someone she has hurt or offended.  Parents generally think this is one way to teach empathy.  The truth is that it has the opposite effect on teaching empathy.  Making a child say “sorry” to another child, when she in fact is not sorry, is actually a lie!  When you demand that your child says “sorry” it only teaches her that she can do anything she wants if she follows it up with an apology.  It does not teach why she should say sorry or help her understand the other person’s emotions

Work with your child to reconnect relationships after someone has been hurt. Instead of requiring your child to apologize after an offense, try helping your child understand why the other child might be hurt.  This is another great time to ask your child what emotion she sees in the other child.  “Why do you think Jessica is crying?  Oh, because you hit her.  Yes, people don’t like to be hit.  I would feel sad too if someone hit me.  Would you?  What are some ways you think Jessica might feel better?  Yes, she might feel better if you talked with her…”  If your child comes up with the idea to say “sorry” then that is great, but remember that “sorry” is just a word.  If you truly want to teach empathy, you need to help her go beyond just the words to the actions.  Repairing a relationship is more about making right what was wronged.  If a child hits another child, sometimes a hug can help.  If a child knocks down something someone else was building, it can help for your child to help fix it.  The point is that there is more to apologizing than saying “sorry.”

If she is unwilling to apologize, make the apology for her. Empathy is not fully developed until age eight or older, so a child under that age may not have the emotional ability to be “sorry,” therefore she might be unwilling to help heal the relationship.  If your child is able to come up with a way to make the relationship better, but is unwilling to take action and do so, you can take that action for her.  Make the apology, build the block or fix the broken toy for your child.  This will model compassion and empathy for her and she might be more willing to join in because you’re doing it.  She will see that it is not that hard to make a wronged relationship better.

Learning empathy is a life long journey, but with a good solid foundation in childhood your child will grow to see situations from other people’s points of view.

What Parents Need to Know to Raise a Polite Child

By Marcia Hall

You are at a restaurant seated with your child and you witness the most polite and well behaved child on the planet at the next table.  He sits still, waits until his mom is finished talking and asks for what he wants by saying “may I please have ….”  You wonder how this child, who looks about the same age as yours, is not fidgeting in his chair, screaming and demanding he gets his mac and cheese NOW.  What has that parent done right and why do you feel like you have done it all wrong?

Give yourself a break.  If you love your child, want what is best for him, work hard to see that he is well cared for and strive to spend time with him, you are a fantastic parent.  Just breathe and realize that there will be ups and downs, but that the end result is what you are working for, not this moment in time when your child is going nuts.  This will pass and you will survive it.

Try not to compare your child’s behaviors to others children. That other child is most likely not always as calm and polite as he appears now.  It is very possible that just 10 minutes earlier he was screaming just as loud as yours.  Children develop the ability to control behaviors at their own pace.  One child might have no problem sitting still in his chair, but be unable to wait his turn, while another child might be fully willing to share and take turns without issue, but seems to be unable to sit still.  Comparing your child with other children is never a good idea.

Don’t let your frustration with bad manners come from other people’s judgment. You might find yourself frustrated with your child most often when he does not use the words “please” and “thank you” in public.  This frustration usually stems from your sense that other people are watching and judging you.   Perhaps you then utter the phrase “what do you say” or “you know better than that” in order to show others around you that you ARE teaching manners to your child.  You are probably less concerned about courtesy in your own home when no one is around.  It is when you get in the spotlight of the public eye that those concerns over P’s and Q’s surface.  So, work to ignore those seemly prying eyes and realize that your child is doing the best he can at that moment.  Don’t feel like a bad parent because your child is having a rough time.  Love him and move on.

Model good manners for him.  The number one way that a child learns manners is though the example others set for him.  Children are little mirrors.  When you find your child exhibiting a behavior that frustrates you, more frequently than not it is a behavior you have exhibited first.  This is not always the case, because children can pick things up from other adults or children in their lives or even from TV, but it is commonly the case.  So take a good look at the way you talk to your child.  Do you ALWAYS use polite manners when talking with him?  Do you ALWAYS say please, thank you and your welcome and use polite tones when asking for things?  Or do you only say it every now and then in public?  If you use these phrases only spastically, your child is getting mixed signals about their use.  He will see your inconsistency and use as a sign that these words only need to be used when he REALLY wants something.

DON’T demand that he use the words “Please” and “Thank you.”  Demanding the use of these words does not help your child understand what they mean, why he should use them or even help him want to use them more.  It only creates a power struggle between you and your child.  As stated before, the tactic to demand their use by questioning “what do you say” is most frequently used in public to demonstrate to others you are teaching good manners.  Even when the requirement of their use is performed in private moments, it is with the hopes that the child will use them in public.  The truth is that it is not necessary for your child to say these particular words every time he asks for something.  The more important value is to make requests in a manner that is respectful.   Focusing on the tone of voice is usually more significant.  To help remind a child of polite words and manners, parents can talk to the child of generosity when someone gives him something.  “That was so thoughtful of Grandma to give you that bear.”  This will help the child really understand what it means to be thankful for something.  When the child wants something and asks with a less than polite way, telling him “I like to be asked with kind words” will help him understand how to ask with courtesy.

Praise him when he does use polite manners.  As with any habit you are trying to help your child build, catching the positive moments is the most effective teaching tool.  Find the moments when he does what you are hoping he would and then praise him for those actions.  “I really liked the way you asked your dad for that blanket.”  Even simply saying “you are very welcome” when he says thank you can help reinforce the concept.

There is not a right or wrong way to teach a child to be polite.  It is a lifelong process that will have its ups and downs.  Being polite often has more to do with the child’s mood than anything else, and will become more consistent with time.

6 New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

By Marcia Hall

New Year’s Eve is almost here, and with that brings the famed New Year’s resolutions.  Adults everywhere are reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the next, finding places where they can improve their lives.  Parents often make big plans to change habits and behaviors with this fresh start, and these plans often include their children.  Here are a few New Year’s Resolutions you could work with your child to make.

Keep my belongings organized – The first thing that parents need to recognize about this resolution is that it very likely means something very different to your child.  Children typically have unique ways of keeping things organized.  This frequently stirs friction between child and parent because mom and dad might believe “organized” means that everything is folded, put away neatly and out of sight, while their child might consider things organized if he can find his underwear in the morning.  This is a great opportunity for parents to connect with their child.  Sitting down and discussing the differences between your view of organization and theirs can actually help a child if it is done though positive conversation.  Giving him freedom in this area can go a long way in helping him discover what his organization style is.  If there are rules in common areas, parents should be clear about those, but should also allow their child to control how he organizes his own space. This will help him learn to keep it all together.

Drink water with every meal. Most people do not drink enough water; this is true for adults and children.  Telling a child she cannot have soft drinks or juices anymore will cause aggravation in the child and will only work to make her sneak them elsewhere.  By setting the rule that everyone drinks water with each meal, this healthy liquid is introduced without the ban on other drinks altogether.

Practice the sport, art or activity of their choice for 30 min every day.  Everyone has hobbies or skills they want to improve.  Children often beg parents for lessons to learn to play piano or be in basketball, but after the first few weeks of lessons, the excitement fades when they learn they have to practice.  Parents can help their children set the goal to practice by finding their own new skill to work on. This way parents and children can work in unison to improve themselves in at least one way.

I will talk to one new person every week at school.  This is a great resolution for the child that has a hard time making friends and connections.  It can seem like a leap of faith for a timid child to make new friends, which is why it is so important to start with just one conversation.  Maybe only one in every five conversations end in some kind of friendship, but then in a little over a months’ time your child will have a new friend and be confident enough to make more.

I will try one new food a week.   Children tend to eat the same foods every week.  This is due in part to the fact that these foods are easy to make and because parents are tired of fighting with their children to eat new and more healthy foods.   This approach addresses the problem in steps.  It does not require the child eat entire meals that he hates, just one new food a week.  Make the new food three or four times during the week so that he gets a chance to try just one bite a few times.  Parents should try to make the experience fun and set a good example by eating the food alongside him.

I will help one person every day without being asked.  Generosity is a character trait most people believe is absent in children these days.  Parents can inspire the development of this habit by encouraging their children to find one person to help or to do one helpful activity each day without being asked to do it.  Keep a chart of these activities and praise the big-heartedness that it brings. Try to avoid “rewarding” these activities with material positions because part of generosity is not expecting anything in return.  Instead give rewards with kind words and gratitude.

Change is best done with someone else.  If parents want to encourage their child to make these transformations, the best way to do so is to make the changes along with their child.  Find one or two small changes that you and your child can work together to make, then connect and talk about the successes and the challenges of altering this habit every week.  If you do, then by this time next year both you and your child will be healthier, happier and more connected to each other.

11 Handprint Holiday Crafts

By Marcia Hall

Tis the season of gift giving!  This year, rather than taking the kids out to the stores to find gifts for family members, why not have your children make gifts for their grandparents, aunts and uncles instead? Crafts made from prints of your child’s hands, feet, and even thumbs are treasured keepsakes that are held onto and brought out years later when the children are grown.  Here are a few fun and memorable ones to try during the holiday season.

1.     Sleepy Santa

This craft could be put on any number of objects.  One idea is to try it on a bag and use it as the wrapping of the other gifts you give out.


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2.     Reindeer Thumbprint Ornament

This beautiful ornament, which is incredibly simple and cute as a button, is one that will be treasured for years. Write the child’s name and age on it to remember when it was made. This also makes a great “babies first Christmas” treasure.


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3.     Christmas Tree Handprint

There are many versions of this simple craft, some with the fingers pointed up, others with the fingers pointed down.  The fun part of this craft for your child is gluing all the objects onto the tree.  You could put just about anything on there, from glitter to buttons like you see here.

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 4.     Footprint Christmas Tree

How sweet would it be for grandparents to receive this adorable craft for babies first Christmas?

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5.     Festive Penguin Footprints

This is a different take on the footprint.  You might not even know they were footprints if it weren’t for the tiny toes peeking out from under the silly penguins.  Children will love dressing the penguins up.

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6.     Reindeer Footprint

This is a fun project for mom and dad and is great for families with two or more children.  You could even have everyone in the family put their footprint on the paper to make a little Reindeer footprint family.

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7.     Thumbprint Christmas Lights

Your preschooler will love this easy craft.  Children can pick their colors and place them wherever on the page they want.  Then they can have fun tracing the line to attach them all to make the cord.

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8.     Hand cutout wreath

This craft would be great for children that have learned to master the scissors, but if they haven’t then parents or caregivers can help them cut out all the handprints.  Make the wreath out of felt and glue it to cardboard for a gift that will be sturdy and last a long time.

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9.     Reindeer Hand cutout ornaments

This ornament would make a great project for preschoolers as a yearly keepsake.  One fun tradition would be to have your child make one every year to see how she grows from year to year.

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10.  Jesus in the manger footprints

This engaging image of baby Jesus laying in a manger is made out of your child’s footprint.  It certainly looks eye-catching on this ceramic plate, but you could just as easily have it on paper or some other medium.  The graphics are simple enough to reproduce and you can use whatever words you would like.

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11.  Menorah Handprint

This is a great way to celebrate Hanukkah and include your children.  You could have your child place his handprints beforehand and each night of Hanukkah he could then place the flame above the finger. You could even use your child’s thumbprint for the flame.

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I hope this has given you a few ideas for crafts to do with the kids over the holidays.  Have a happy crafting holiday!

30 Great Blogs for Parents of Children Who Have Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that first becomes apparent in early childhood and will affect every aspect of a child’s development. The autism spectrum is a range of neurodevelopment disorders that present themselves through repetitive behavior patterns, difficulty communicating and social impairments. Kids who have autism can fall anywhere along the autism spectrum, and those with more manageable symptoms are usually classified as “high functioning.” Parents of children with autism who are in need of support were once somewhat restricted in their ability to reach other parents with children on the spectrum, but the interactive global community created by the Internet and a legion of bloggers has helped to change that. These 30 blog entries can help you find the information you’re looking for, and can also lead you to your own online support system, which will be important as your child grows.

Dealing with a Diagnosis

Because children often begin exhibiting symptoms of autism in late infancy, but do not obtain a diagnosis until toddlerhood or later, their parents can greet an official diagnosis with feelings ranging from relief to anger and despair. These five blog entries tackle the difficult subject of coping with your child’s autism diagnosis so that you can move forward and be proactive about his treatment.

What is Autism?

The autism spectrum includes developmental disorders like Asperger’s syndrome, classical ASD, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, or PDD-NOS. These five blog entries discuss what the autism spectrum is in greater depth, and can help you understand more about what’s happening to your child from a developmental standpoint.

The Great Autism Cause Debate

Because the causes of autism spectrum disorders aren’t fully understood, there are theories blaming everything from standard childhood vaccines to dietary choices. These five blog entries discuss some of those theories and make for interesting reading. However, parents are cautioned to keep in mind that these theories are just that, and should not take the place of information provided by your child’s doctor.

Schools and Educators

Because diagnoses on the autism spectrum are becoming more common, most public schools do have a basic understanding of children’s needs and development. These five blogs are still great resources for parents who are hesitant to send their child to school, and can help to arm you with the information you need to act as an advocate for him.

Nannies, Babysitters and Childcare Providers

Entrusting your child to a new caregiver can be particularly nerve-wracking, but these five blogs are filled with information that you can pass along to them. These five posts are full of recommended reading for parents and childcare providers of children with autism.


One of the biggest challenges that parents of children with autism face is learning to communicate with a child that may have difficulty doing so or is downright unresponsive. These five blog entries discuss the various methods of communicating with your child and the stumbling blocks along the way.

Helping Your Preschooler Be Thankful During the Holidays

By Marcia Hall

Thanksgiving is here and with it the holidays have begun.  Since the season starts with a day we are meant to reflect and be thankful for what we have, most parents have great hope that the whole season will remain peaceful and pleasant.  This is of course rarely the case.  A lot of children have already begun scoping out the toy catalogs and circling everything they want however, you can instill gratitude in your child in the midst of the holiday experience.

Focus on spending time with family over the holidays.   There is a gift that cannot be purchased and believe it or not it is a gift that children want more than any toy.  The holidays are too often hurried and chaotic.  Though parents often have more time off work around the holidays, they often spend less of it with their kids.  True thankfulness can only be learned by witnessing someone who has it.  If parents want their child to be grateful, they need to connect one on one with each child and model a thankful spirit during this hectic time.

Make a big deal of GIVING!!!  Children frequently make lists of everything they want to get as gifts.  In order to build appreciation parents can work with their child to make a list of people to give gifts too. Younger children can make a simple gift for everyone on the list.  This can be a great way to spend that extra quality time together.  Older children do things around the house to earn extra money in order to buy gifts for the people they care about.  This will help the child understand that all the “stuff” she gets as gifts has value.  In addition it teaches that time, energy and money is often spent on people that you cared for.  This will help the child understand that when her parents give her gifts, it is because she is loved and cared for.

Find a way to teach children about other children who do not have as much.   There are so many charities that offer opportunities to give to families less fortunate over the holidays.  They can range from putting a box of toys together to actually inviting another family into your home.  Parents need to choose what is right for their family but exposing a child to other children that do not have as many toys, games, books and media can be a great eye-opener.  And actively making the holiday season happier for other children can make a child much more thankful for what he has.   Here are a few websites to get you started.

Give gifts to family and friends that have significant meaning.   A lot of the time we rush around and pick out gifts for people just to give them something.  This teaches children it is all about the gift instead of the thoughtfulness that goes into the gift.   Be deliberate and specific about the gifts that are picked out and give to others.  Say things like “I think Uncle Joe will love this fishing pole because he loves to fish so much” or “I am going to get Grandma Sue this shawl because she is always cold and she loves purple.”  By explaining and clarifying why the gift is being given to the specific person parents put a reason behind the gift.

Avoid giving children too many gifts.  Parents often have almost as much fun buying gifts for their children as their children do opening them.  In order to help children have a sense of satisfaction and appreciation, avoid overdoing it on gift giving.  Focus on one or two gifts that have significant meaning to the child.  Decide on a budget and then stick to it.  Ask family members to respect this as well because it is very common for grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. to go overboard too.  If family really wants to shower a child with gifts, ask that the family member plan a fun outing with the child as a gift instead of an object.  This once again focuses attention on people instead of things.

It is possible for a young child to have a fantastic sense of thankfulness.  Focus on doing things together and gifts that cannot be purchased during the holidays and you will be off to a great start.

8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Child While You’re at Work

Being away from your child all day long is no easy feat, even for a mom who loves her job and her childcare provider. But just because you’re physically separated doesn’t mean you need to be in the dark with regards to how your child spends the moments of his day. With a little creativity and effort, working moms with a willing caregiver can stay in touch in more ways than you may think.

  1. Leave a love note. Leaving a love note for your caregiver to share with your child during the day is one way to make a low effort, high impact connection with your child. A simple drawing of you two holding hands or a short note reminding her of the fun things you’ll do when you get home can go a long way in fostering a connection with your child while you’re away.
  2. Have a video chat. With technology you can literally have a video phone chat from the palm of your hand. If you’re traveling for business, a video chat would even allow you to sing your child’s favorite lullaby or read his favorite story before it’s time for him to go to sleep.
  3. Text photos. Asking your caregiver to text you a photo or two during the day can help you get a glimpse into what your child is doing and give you something specific to talk about when you return home. If your child made a picture for you, texting a photo of it to you and getting a quick response back will surely bring a smile to both of your faces.
  4. Have a daily call. Set aside a time each day when you check-in with your caregiver and say hello to your child. Since your child’s afternoon naptime is likely to coincide with your lunch break, making a quick call home at the same time each day may be something that you can easily incorporate into your daily schedule.
  5. Meet for lunch. For parents and caregivers who have the luxury, meeting for lunch on occasion can be a super way to stay connected. A small café or even an onsite restaurant at the office can be a great way to have short, but wonderfully meaningful connection.  An added bonus? You get to show your child off to co-workers.
  6. Record yourself reading a book. Do you and your child have a favorite story? Make an audio or video recording of yourself reading the book that he can listen to or watch. Some books even come with micro-recorders that allow you to record yourself reading the story. As your child turns the pages, he gets to hear your voice reciting the story lines.
  7. Leave a video message. Make it part of your morning or evening routine to make a short video recording for your child. Leave it loaded on the laptop or iPad for your child watch.  If you have a smart phone you can simply record the video and text it to your caregiver.
  8. Encourage your caregiver to keep a journal. Provide your caregiver with a journal that she can write in each day. Ask her to keep a journal of the things your child does. When you review the journal you’ll not only feel like you have a solid idea of how your child spent his day, you’ll also have an idea of what you can talk to him about. Your child’s eyes will light up when you ask him about his latest adventure and he’ll likely be thrilled to share details.

For some working moms, the hours can seem more like days when they’re separated from their child, and for others the time simply flies by. While with young children out of sight is often out of mind, setting aside a few minutes each day to make a connection can not only help to foster your parent/child relationship, but can reassure your child that you’re thinking about him even while you’re gone.