Category Archives: Stepfamilies

How to Manage Your Stressed-Out Child (Peggy Sealfon)

Peggy Sealfon, author and personal development coach, offers six very doable tips for helping children and the whole family take a bite out of day-to-day stress.

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How to Manage Your Stressed-Out Child, Peggy SealfonLife for families in today’s world is fraught with challenges. Responsibilities and distractions create disconnection and dysfunction.  Parents may both work outside the home and so the day begins with chaos as everyone is trying to get out the door. Evenings become a crash zone of exhaustion and frequently each member disappears into their digital screens: Dad may be checking his work emails; Mom is watching a TV drama, the kids are watching movies or playing video games.

When family interaction becomes reduced, there is a potential for children to feel unsafe or overwhelmed. Children are intensely susceptible to all their parents’ stresses and then, of course, they have their personal anxieties about school, academics, societal pressures,. If your child is showing signs of stress, consider these 6 ways to interrupt those patterns:

Impose some family time together. Shut off all digital devices for at least a half hour every evening and devote time to being united as a family.  In the past, families had dinner together and talked.  Sometimes today’s schedules don’t allow for all members to be present at that time so designate a “create” time together during which you work on a continuing project. Or just take an evening walk around the neighborhood. Do something regularly as a family.

Be a good example by managing your own stress. If you’re frazzled, you are guaranteeing your children to follow your behavioral conditioning. You need to behave as you wish to see your kids behave. There are numerous stress reducing techniques available. Try using my free audio every day: 3MinutestoDestress.com

Create wholesome morning routines so that you encourage a calm, focused start to the day. Get organized the evening before. Plus make certain your kids are getting sufficient sleep and enough of the proper nutrition to power them through their day.

Escape from Anxiety, Peggy SealfonGive your children time to play and relax. Kids need to just be kids. If you over-schedule activities for them, they lose out on having those carefree experiences to play creatively or just have time to chill. You can even teach your kids how to take a healthy time-out. Show them an easy breathing technique: use a deep inhalation and let go with a sigh. Repeat 3 to 4 times and then just sit quietly for a minute or two. This technique signals the nervous system to calm down.

Let go of perfection. You may be putting excessive pressure on your child to perform up to your expectations. Allow them to explore their gifts and uncover their strengths.  Simply encourage them to do their best and be perfectly engaged in activities and studies. Let them know that you’ll appreciate them for who they are and what they can do.

Use positive statements of encouragement. Be aware of ways you may be overly critical of your kids. They hear—and store—these negative beliefs. It’s staggering how many adults I coach today who are still hampered by childhood messages that has kept them feeling that they’re not loved, not enough, a disappointment and they’ll never amount to anything. So be mindful of thoughts you are conveying to your children through your facial expressions, body language and words.

Since she was born, Sarah’s parents have repeatedly told her she’s such a lucky girl.  Ever since she could speak, Sarah has taken that to heart and continually recited aloud “I’m such a lucky girl.” She’s now 12 and is a grateful, happy, balanced child. The repeated affirmation helped her assimilate this perspective into her life.

Clearly some days will be better than others. It’s critical that you pay attention to your personal well-being.   Remember how, when you’ve been on an airplane, the flight attendant always advises that in case of decompression, you put on your air mask first and then assist your child? You cannot give to others what isn’t flowing through you.  At the end of the day, your stressed-out child might just be a reflection of you. As the adult, you have choices and can change what isn’t working in your family life to cultivate a happier, more nourishing home environment.###

Peggy Sealfon is a personal development coach, speaker and author of the best-selling book Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. Want a free consultation with Peggy to supercharge your life? Visit her website at PeggySealfon.com

 

Protecting Kids Most at Risk for Cyber Harm (Guest: Dr. John DeGarmo)

The Changing Behavior Network, Radio Style InterviewDr. John DeGarmo shares how some youngsters are more at risk for cyber harm than others because of their needs, insecurities, and histories of difficulty. Listen in to this program from our archives as he discusses the dangers of unmonitored internet access, the problems it can create, and ways to manage issues more effectively.

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Protecting Kids Most at Risk for Cyber Harm, Dr. John DeGarmoFor most folks, the internet has been a valuable resource and an enormous time-saver. The internet is virtually unlimited in its capacity to provide, in the blink of an eye, needed information and resources. Lives have been saved because of the availability and speed of the internet.

But, as we all know, lives have been burdened and even destroyed through use of the internet, and many of them were children and teens.

Cyberbullying is a serious problem, as are cyber predators looking for vulnerable young people. There are websites showing one how to make weapons and bombs, as well as sites that not only show a young person how to take their life, but convince them to do so. According to our guest on this program, Dr. John DeGarmo, these cyber dangers are just the tip of the iceberg.

Listen in as your host, psychologist Dr. James Sutton, interviews Dr. DeGarmo on the dangers of unmonitored internet access, the problems it can create, and ways to manage issues more effectively.

Keeing Foster Children Safe Online, Dr. John DeGarmoDr. DeGarmo also shares how some youngsters are more at-risk for cyber harm because of their needs, their insecurities and their histories of difficulty. Foster children are especially vulnerable to this sort of harm, deception, inappropriate contact through the internet, but non-foster youngsters can be affected, also.

Dr. DeGarmo provides training nationally to foster parents on how to keep kids safe online. He and his wife are foster parents themselves; they practice these interventions every day. They work!

In addition to a busy speaking and training schedule, Dr. DeGarmo is the host of a weekly radio show, Foster Talk with Dr. John. He also writes extensively on the topic of foster care. Today we are featuring his book entitled, Keeping Foster Kids Safe Online. (27:46)

http://www.drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com

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Stepfamilies: Blessing the Blending (Guest: Valerie J. Lewis Coleman)

Stepfamilies often face challenges, but, according to author and family expert, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman, efforts spent in resolving the issues can make a big difference in blended families.
This interview comes from our archives. It was first aired in August of 2014.

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Stepfamilies: Blessing the Blending (Guest: Valerie J. Lewis Coleman)Anyone, parent, child or teen, who has ever been part of a blended family knows there often are difficulties and obstacles to making a stepfamily work as as it should. Discouragement mingled with frustration shouldn’t be the name of the game, but often it is. The job of drawing together a family across multiple households is a challenge not suited to the weak of heart or spirit.

But it CAN be done, according to our guest on this program, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman. She has, as they say, “Been there!” Faced with the struggle to parent five children from three different households, Valerie was often overwhelmed, almost to the point of giving up.

Blended Families An Anthology, Valerie J. Lewis ColemanLooking back on those struggles, Valerie shares how her experiences of heartaches, frustrations and sleepless nights were but the labor pangs required to birth her passion to help others stop what she calls the “Stepfamily Maddness.” From her own journey, plus the experiences and contributions of others going through similar circumstances, Valerie compiled and edited a book, Blended Families: An Anthology. This work, and the wisdom gleaned from its pages, well-represent this topic of blended families.

With over 20 years of experience in families and relationships, Valerie has given advice on varying stepfamily issues, including Baby-Mamma Drama, defiant children and a really tough one: disapproving in-laws. Also, as an established author in her own right, Valerie encourages and trains new authors through her publishing company, Pen of the Writer. (25:26)

www.PenoftheWriter.net

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Family Talk: Creating a Synergistic Home (Guest: Christy Monson)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkAuthor and retired family therapist, Christy Monson, shares why quality communication within the family is so very important today. We present “Family Talk: Creating a Synergistic Home.”

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CMonsonphotoEveryone’s in a rush today. It seems that authentic and meaningful communication with others is a vanishing skill. Even handwritten letters have given way to quick emails, quicker texts and hasty tweets.

Few of us have enough time to spend meaningfully with others, and it probably shows.

Families Aren’t Immune

Families are not immune to this “abbreviation” of communication. In many instances, loved ones needing our presence, our time, our words and our support don’t get nearly enough. Oh, families remain intact, but without the strength and bonding that could be there. This is most realized when an emergency or difficult circumstance affects the family.

According to our guest on this program, retired therapist and author Christy Monson, families that focus on becoming synergistic, and put the work into making it happen, not only handle the tough times better, bonds within the family grow stronger and stronger.

A Family Council

Giving a Child Too Much Power, Christy MonsonOne important activity of synergism is the family meeting, or Family Council. When family meetings are scheduled, and the time and effort for having them are honored, children learn how their presence and input matters. They learn the facts of family finances and how to set and realize goals. And they learn that conflicts and problems can be resolved, because walking away is not an option. Indeed, family meetings can teach dozens of insights and skills that children can practice for a lifetime.

In this program, Christy discusses the benefits and payoffs of synergistic families, and she takes us through the steps of establishing, conducting and maintaining the Family Council. Her experience and personal examples will make it meaningful.

Christy Monson

Christy has authored many books and articles that support and strengthen individuals and families. In this program we’re featuring her book, Family Talk: How to Organize Family Meetings and Solve Problems and Strengthen Relationships. (27:48)

http://www.ChristyMonson.com

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10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month (Guest: Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkIt was a joy once again for me to visit with Rosalind about the important work of those advocating child-centered divorce. From an idea to a worldwide mission, Rosalind has steered a steady course over the years, and the positive impact has been noted in the lives of young people. But there’s plenty of work yet to do, so listen in as we bring you “10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month.” –JDS

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10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month, Rosalind Sedacca

International Child-Centered Divorce Month

January has been established as International Child-Centered Divorce Month. January of 2017 is the 10th anniversary of ICCDM and its outreach in helping parents, therapists, attorneys, educators, mediators and other divorce specialists focus on the needs of children and teens when divorce plans are being made.

Many free resources and gifts related to child-centered divorce are being offered during International Child-Centered Divorce Month. You won’t want to miss a single part of this excellent opportunity.

To help us understand more clearly the importance and methodology of child-centered divorce is our special guest, Rosalind Sedacca, Certified Divorce Coach and the Voice of Child-Centered Divorce. Rosalind will emphasize, using her own story, why the needs of children should be a priority in divorce, how best to explain divorce to one’s own children and why a child-centered, collaborative approach is so important.

International Child-Centered Divorce Month, Child-Centered Divorce Network

Rosalind Sedacca

Rosalind is the author of an innovative storybook approach to communicating divorce to a child, an approach that informs while it supports and upholds a youngster’s identity, dignity and sense of value. Her diligence and effort resulted in a successful and highly acclaimed e-book entitled, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children –With Love.

Rosalind’s work with the Child-Centered Divorce Network, which she founded, has been acknowledged on five continents worldwide. In her speaking, writing, blogging and media appearances, Rosalind continues to share the message of child-centered divorce. The International Child-Centered Divorce Month is yet another way to showcase what is being done. The link below takes you to the website and a free e-book from Rosalind, Post Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right. (29:09)

www.divorcedparentsupport.com/ebook

 

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Surviving Your Adolescents (Guest: Dr. Tom Phelan)

BTRadioIntWhat do you do after you write a blockbuster parenting book like 1-2-3 Magic! Answer: You keep writing! That’s just what internationally renowned psychologist, Dr. Tom Phelan, did. The book we featured on The Changing Behavior Network when I did a 2012 interview with Dr. Phelan was Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds. Here’s a spot-on discussion of a tough topic with a leading parenting expert. –JDS

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Communication with adolescents can be an issue that leads to other concerns and problems. Fortunately, there are things parents can do, things that work!

The Snub

Dr Tom Phelan, Surviving Your AdolescentsSomewhere during adolescence, youngsters regress to speaking again (to their parents) in one or two-syllable sentences:

How was your day?

Fine.

What did you do in Social Studies today?

Nothing.

Our guest today, Dr. Tom Phelan, calls this teen behavior “The Snub.” It’s part of a stage of normal adolescent behavior and development. Dr. Phelan explains how to redirect “The Snub,” not with a “Re-Snub” (which can lead to a whole menu of trouble), but by changing the questions. It takes a little work, but it can be done.

Surviving Your Adolescents

There are, of course, deeper and more serious issues that affect our teens today,Surviving Your Adolescents, Dr. Tom Phelan and they are a substantial part of that often uncomfortable (and painfully slow, from their perspective) journey from child to adult. This program looks at the four most prominent areas of challenge and difficulty that lead to risky and unsafe behavior in adolescents: driving, drugs and alcohol, sex and romance, and technology. Dr. Phelan will explain how critical it is for parents to avoid emotional reactions to adolescent behavior, the Four Cardinal Sins of parents of teens, and other issues that only create more distance and conflict in the relationship.

Dr. Tom Phelan

A clincial psychologist, Dr. Phelan is an internationally renowned expert, author and lecturer on child discipline and Attention Deficit Disorder. He’s the author of Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds. His landmark book, a million seller plus, is 1-2-3 Magic! (27:32)

www.parentmagic.com

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Helping and Empowering the Self-Defeating Child (Guest: Leslie Rogers)

 

BTRadioInt-300x75-300x75One nice thing about the years The Changing Behavior Network has been posting programs is the fact that we have a great set of archives. Here’s one from November of 2013. It addresses issues of the self-defeating child. Our  thanks to Leslie. –JDS

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Leslie Rogers, self-defeating child, Created to SoarIt seems that some kids have a way of hurting their own outcomes with self-defeating gestures and behaviors. What they’re doing doesn’t make much sense sometimes, issues with the self-defeating child go on and on.

What’s happening with youngsters that makes them so hard on themselves? Is there a way to help these young people climb out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves? Can we help them and point them in a more positive and more productive direction? Fortunately, the answer is “Yes.”

Our guest on this program, Leslie Rogers, will help us understand how a child or teen’s negative thoughts, beliefs and feelings can limit their potential and rob them of hope. Leslie will also offer insights into how we can empower these young people to move beyond their self-defeating ways. And, when that happens, EVERYONE wins.

Creaated to Soar, Leslie Rogers, Dianne MatraversLeslie, a mother of four, has long had a passion for the well-being of young people. She knows, first-hand, the sort of self-defeating thoughts and feelings that come at youngsters today from all directions. As a result of what she has gained through her own journey, Leslie shares through her writing, her speaking and her mentoring that young people do have the ability and the power to discover who they are and where they are going.

Leslie is the author of two children’s books, Created to Soar and It is ME. (27:50)

http://www.gigglequick.com

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Your GPS for “Perfect” Parenting (Kirsten Siggins)

perfect parenting, institute of curiosity, family values, Kirsten Siggins

Being a parent these days is tough. So often I coach people who find their life as parents to be overwhelming. In our hyper-connected world of smartphones and social media, society has created an image of perfection in aspects of our lives, including how we are ‘supposed to’ show up as parents, which very few feel they are able to achieve. This societal expectation can create impossible challenges for many, leaving a wake of frustration, anger, judgment, shame, and even blame. I think we can all agree being a parent is hard enough and no one welcomes the pressures of trying to achieve “perfect” parenting.

Curiosity is at the Core

So what can we strive for as parents? At the Institute of Curiosity, we believe curiosity is at the core of being the best parent you can possibly be, whatever that looks like for you. Each of us, based on our upbringing, experiences and education can use curiosity to better understand ourselves and understand others, which supports us in being a better, stronger and happier self.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and like conflict, it begins with our values. When you have clarity around your personal values, you can co-create family values that will help you navigate the challenges of being a parent. This also helps your family in conflict! Developing joint values around parenting supports a unified approach when dealing with issues with your kids. These values create a GPS for you to stay focused in all aspects of your lives including challenges that arise for your family and help you align with your vision of ‘perfect’ parenting.

3 Steps to Creating Your GPS for Perfect’ Parenting

1. Identify and define your values. Get curious to understand what’s non-negotiable for you. Ask yourself right now, “what are my values?” If you don’t know, that’s OK and it is time to start exploring them. Explore them personally and with your partner. As you explore them, it is important to define what they mean to you as we all define our values differently.

For example, adventure may be the movies for one and skydiving for another. Until you are clear on what adventure means to you it is difficult to live in alignment. Once you are clear on your values, you will gain clarity around what holds importance for you, what the non-negotiable are in your life. You will also gain that same clarity around your partner and how you want to show up together as parents. If you need some help exploring your values, check out a step by step process here: http://www.instituteofcuriosity.com/what-do-you-value-what-you-need-to-know-to-be-successful/

2. Identify your family values. What holds importance for you as a family? Working with your partner and kids, using the same steps as above, identify and define your family values. Once defined, clarity will be gained around how you and your family want to navigate life together. These values will support your kids in how they behave, make decision and manage expectations. Family values will also support you as a parent navigating the many challenges with continuity, and create consistency your kids can rely on. These values will also come in handy when in conflict!

The Power of Curiosity, curious questions, staying curiousAs an example, let’s say safety is a family value. Your teen wants to go to a party and you are concerned about their safety, you don’t want them to go. Rather than an all out war of “I am going/ No you aren’t” you can use that value as the focal point of your conversation when discussing the party to learn about your teen and their approach to the party. It could sound like: ‘Safety is one of our family values and we wonder, how do you plan to ensure you are safe while at this party? What strategies do you have in mind if you find yourself in a situation where your safety could be at risk?” Questions like these take the focus off you and your teen so you can both focus on your joint value of safety. Together you can decide if strategies need to be developed to ensure safety in order for your teen to attend the party.

3. Stay open and curious. As you discuss what is important to each other ensure that you stay open and ask curious questions to learn (focus on questions beginning with WHAT & HOW). We are each unique and just because you are a family, it doesn’t mean you all value the same things OR define your values the same way. Your definition of safety may be very different than your child’s, making it difficult to align and cause conflict. Be present to listen to your kids and spouse as they discuss what they value and how they define that. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it does allow you to better understand their perspective and experiences, and creates a framework that helps each family member make choices in their every day interactions.

This navigation system ensures you stay the course and support each family member in the challenges that present themselves each day. Sounds pretty perfect, right?

For more tips and tools to stay curious & connected, even in conflict, visit: www.instituteofcuriosity.com

Kathy Taberner & Kirsten Siggins are a mother/daughter communication consulting team with a focus on curiosity and founders of the Institute Of Curiosity. Their book, The Power Of Curiosity: How To Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding (Morgan James 2015), gives parents or leaders (or both) the skills and the method to stay curious and connected in all conversations, even in conflict.

 

What is it: ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) or Asperger’s? (Dr. James Sutton)

This article is being re-posted. It first appeared on an older blog of mine: “It’s About Them.” Later, it was included with a batch of over four dozen articles posted on a popular article site. Visits and responses to these sites indicated quite an interest in the question and challenge of accurately addressing the social, emotional and behavioral differences between the conditions of Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. In this piece, I give a psychologist’s take on the differences they would present in children and teens. (The two photos here were taken a number of years ago when I presented my training program, “The Oppositional and Defiant Child,” in South Dakota.)

At the time of this article, the DSM-IV-TR was still in effect as the primary diagnostic reference. Currently, the DSM-5 includes the former diagnosis of Asperger’s or Asperger’s Syndrome in the classification of Autism Spectrum Disorder. –JDS

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JamesSutton, Oppositional Defiant DisorderThe line separating ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and Asperger’s Syndrome sometimes can be quite fine. That being said, I can’t see where I would diagnose both conditions in the same child or teen, although I’ve seen it done. In the case of these conditions, I believe it’s best to stay with one diagnosis or the other.

First of all, it’s quite possible that behaviors characteristic of ODD will continue without ever being diagnosed. Short-term interventions might bring just enough compliance for a child to clear a hurdle, such as doing just enough work at the end of the school year to pass–barely. Everyone then draws a sigh of relief and takes a break, until the next hurdle.

Opppositional Defiant Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome

A child with Asperger’s Syndrome, the highest level of functioning on a diagnostic continuum called Autism Spectrum Disorder, is less likely to slip through the cracks undiagnosed. Youngsters with Asperger’s tend to have unusual mannerisms that, over time, are bound to be recognized and addressed.

Let’s compare these two youngsters on five characteristics: Etiology, Language and Communication, Social Awareness and Interaction, Capacity to Adapt, and Nature of Noncompliance.

Etiology: The behaviors characteristic of ODD are mostly related to temperament and the youngster’s perception of and reaction to circumstances and events close to them. External events can influence behavior dramatically, a critical notion in intervention. There are many theories as to the causes of Asperger’s, but genetics and organicity (brain chemistry and neurology) are thought to play a big part. With these children, issues of the condition are thought to be more internal than external.

Language & Communication: Although Asperger’s youngsters might have strong language skills, they are apt to comment inappropriately and even talk incessantly about a topic of their interest. The tone, volume and even the precision of their speech can be affected. They also have trouble with communication that contains humor, especially when it is subtle. ODD kids, on the other hand, “get” the message in humor, can have excellent language and communication skills, and can use them well. In fact, they’d often rather talk than do–which is precisely the problem.

Social Awareness & Interaction: ODD youngsters tend to be socially aware and responsive. They can participate in groups, enjoy athletics and are good leaders (partly because they don’t care to be compliant to another leader). By contrast, Asperger’s youngsters don’t handle social contexts well at all. In fact, they tend to isolate. Avoidance of eye contact is a big issue, and it is diagnostically significant. These youngsters often fail to sense a group code of conduct, something that can be reflected in their interactions.

Capacity to Adapt: ODD children and teens can and do adapt pretty well to new and unique situations. It’s interesting to note, however, that new and unique circumstances often put a temporary halt to defiant behavior, as the child is not yet “comfortable” enough to be defiant. (There’s a hint for intervention.) Youngsters with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t handle change well at all. Change for them is uncomfortable; it’s apt to bring on significant tantrum behavior and even meltdowns.

Nature of Noncompliance: ODD youngsters generally understand the compliance expected of them. They just don’t want to do it. There can be a strong quality of arrogance and passive-aggression in their noncompliance. Asperger’s kids, on the other hand, can distract themselves from compliance. They don’t necessarily intend to refuse, but the job doesn’t get done. They also can have trouble distinguishing that a compliance request is a specific direction, not a suggestion.

As one can readily see, treatment of these two conditions would be quite different. ###

Dr. James Sutton is a child and adolescent psychologist and former Special Education teacher. He is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His books on managing defiant behavior include The Changing Behavior Book, What Parents Need to Know About ODD, 60 Ways to Reach and Difficult and Defiant Child and If My Kid’s So Nice … Why’s He Driving ME Crazy?

 

The Harder You Work, The Bigger the Snowman (Michael Byron Smith)

There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.

Mahatma Gandhi

It starts around October. People, almost exclusively adults, start complaining about the onset of winter. I understand their point of view. Their focus centers on being cold, dealing with icy roads and often dreary weather. I don’t like those things either, but not enough to worry or complain about them.

Few of us have to be in the cold air longer than it takes to walk from our toasty car to our toasty home or office, at least not often. Slippery roads are a nuisance, but where I live in the Midwest, there may be only 10-15 days all winter when the roads are seriously snowy or icy for part of a day. In more northern states, they really know how to deal with their more frequent snowy days and they do it efficiently. There isn’t much you can do about dreary days, but I’ve seen dreary days in every season. With those realities said, I believe any adult that doesn’t like winter has the right to complain about it or move to a warmer climate. But it is also my opinion that children who are raised in areas that have seasons are advantaged in experiences and learning.

Cardinal in WInterNow I admit that winter comes in last in my list of favorite seasons. Spring, fall, summer, then winter is how I rank the seasons. But I LOVE seasons! In winter, I thoroughly enjoy watching the snow fall while I sit by a fire. And there is certainly beauty in winter if simply a red cardinal resting on a branch with a snowy background.

One of my favorite sensations ever was at my farmhouse in the country, waking in the morning after a heavy snowfall had blanketed the earth the night before. The wind was completely still in the bright morning sunshine. I walked outside and it was the most profound silence I have ever experienced. It was as if the snow had muffled every possible sound, except the squeaky sound of my boots sinking in the snow. The scene was truly a Norman Rockwell painting.

I accept winter and look for those experiences that only winter can provide. This brings me back to children. You rarely hear them complain about winter. They pray for snow and run around outside so much they don’t get cold. When they come in, a little hot chocolate will put the exclamation point on a fun and memorable kid experience. I have many memories of playing outside with friends, coming in with my hands so numb that the cold water from the tap felt warm, and I loved it!

You can join in the fun with them. Have a snowball fight or take them on a hike in the woods. The exercise and cooler weather make it comfortable and invigorating with views no longer obstructed with leaves. And you can sneak in a few life lessons occasionally using tricky little metaphors that may stick with them longer than a boring lecture.

Teachable Moments in Winter
Build a snowman with your children. Maybe you can have a competition for the best snowman. The teachable moment may be, ‘the more you work on your snowman the bigger and better he will be–just like anything else you will ever do’. But working hard isn’t the entire answer to success. You have to work smart also. It’s impossible to make a good snowman with very dry snow, even if you work very hard at it. With a little patience, a warmer sunny day will melt the snow wet enough to be able to build your snowman. The teachable moment: Patience and smarts will often save you a lot of time and effort with better results.

Go sledding with your children. Find a nice long hill and feel the thrill of zooming down. If they want to ride down again, they will have to trudge up the hill. The first ride down is free, after that they will have to work to experience it again. Going down is easy. Going up is work! The teachable moment: Nothing worthwhile is really free. There is always effort required by someone. The only ones who sled down for free are those that don’t have the strength and need the help of others to get back on top. Which of those would you rather be?

Not only are there life lessons to teach, but there are science lessons that will be remembered when they are in school. Take your children ice skating. Skating is best when there is very little friction, allowing them to glide effortlessly. But when they need to stop, they want some of that friction back so they dig into the ice. Friction is like fire. It can save your life or ruin it. How people use it makes all the difference!

Some history lessons can be best expressed in the winter. The strength of our forefathers and ancestors can be demonstrated, when there were no furnaces to warm them up with a push of a button; or when their home was a teepee or mud hut. No snowplows helped them out. Grocery stores were rarely nearby and food had to be grown or hunted. Traveling for just thirty miles would take half a day or more and the only heat was from the horse if you were lucky enough to have one. Not until one thinks about how tough conditions were for others in the past will they understand and appreciate the fortune they have today.

But maybe the most important of all these moments, whether you stop to teach or not, is to be actively engaged with your children, having fun, creating everlasting memories, and making connections to them that will serve both you and them forever. I already mentioned a couple of winter activities, but there are others you can enjoy with your kids including baking things together, movie nights, reading books, crafts, snowball fights, going to sporting events, and so much more.

Take advantage of every opportunity
I wish everyone a great winter season! Make the best of every day no matter the season, and never miss a chance for a teachable moment for your children. And for you older folks out there who hate winter, just think about how fast time passes for us! It’ll be spring before you know it; the recent contrast of winter causing it to be even more appreciated. I can almost see the tulips and crocuses popping through the ground already. Another teachable moment! ###

Article and photographs by Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood [website]
“Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog