Friday, April 24, 2015

Keeping Secrets: Teaching your child the difference between good and bad secrets

Today's guest post is the seventh in our "How do I talk to my child about?" series. 
We've talked about bad languagedisabilitiesdivorceadoptiondeathracereligion, and today we're sharing about good vs. bad secret keeping. 

Our guest blogger is Mark, a former elementary school principal and father of four grown-up kids.  He's better known in my family as a local surrogate grandparent and a fabulous free babysitter, which makes him a pretty popular guy.  You can check out his blog, Christian Parenting for Today, and his website full of great reading suggestions for boys.  

When a secret is needed to produce a surprise, it can be fun. Surprise parties, the unexpected return of a loved one, special milestone events and thoughtful gifts can often be enhanced with the element of surprise.

But when a secret hides inappropriate behavior, abuse, pain or causes continued shame, it can be devastating.

Most parents I talk to think their children clearly understand the difference between a good and bad secret. But my 30 years of experience seems to indicate otherwise. I think there are three issues that keep a child bound and vulnerable to keeping bad secrets.
  • They do not have an understanding of the difference between good and bad secrets
  • They are not emotionally strong enough to resist pressure to keep a bad secret
  • They have been given mixed messages about secrets from the adults in their life

Helping to protect the fun and innocence of childhood by preserving good and exposing bad secrets takes a strong bond, along with some teaching and reinforcing by parents. Perhaps it may even require a change in behavior by parents, but is well worth the effort.

Begin by understanding the difference between good and bad secrets and how children are manipulated into keeping bad secrets. Next teach your child how to recognize and resist those who will ask her to keep bad secrets. Follow your teaching with a promise to her that you will love her no matter what secret she has to reveal to you! Finally, examine your own behavior and if needed, confess and make restitution to free yourself and protect your children.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Did Someone Say Dirt Cake?

I love dirt cake. Every year the hubs and kids ask me what kind of cake I want and I always, without fail, ask for dirt cake. This year Jake did an amazing job at it and it was the most delicious dirt cake I've ever eaten. He used 3 entire packs of Oreos with a recipe that just called for one, so, I think that was the secret.

On Earth Day, what's better than a dessert snack that looks like dirt? Wouldn't dirt cake be the perfect way to end Earth Day.

Absolutely, but today I'm sharing with you a second best option.

"Healthy" dirt cake.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Earth Day Fun

Tomorrow is Earth Day and it's a super fun, super easy way to celebrate the many wonderful things about this great globe that we live on.

This year we're stretching the Earth Day festivities over the span of the whole week.

On Monday, we read some books and played with an Earth Day sensory bin.

Inside the bin:

Photo Scavenger Hunt Date Night

One of my husband's and my goals for this year is to be more intentional about our dates. We have purposed to have at least one a month, and so far, we have kept our commitment. Yay us! And in our effort to be more intentional, we have gotten more creative. In fact, we haven't had a normal dinner and/or movie date yet. It's been fun to try different things.

And here's a great different idea for you: Photo Scavenger Hunt Date Night!

Monday, April 20, 2015

[Review] Thinkfun Maker Studio - encouraging creativity with recycled materials!

I imagine every parents has said at some point, "Why do I bother buying toys for my kids when all they need to have fun is a cardboard box?!"   There's something about boxes, tubes, bottles and tubs that inspire a child's natural creativty.  It's a boat - a guitar - a space station - a computer!  The possibilities are almost endless and as a parent it really makes me smile.  That's why I was excited when the creative folks at ThinkFun asked us to try out one of their new Maker Studio kits, which combines kid's natural inclination for "making stuff" with some really neat supplies and instructions.

There are three themed kits, and we received the propeller kit to play with.  My kids (ages 6 and 8) were really excited about taking the parts out of the box and getting started.  The instructions were fairly easy to follow, but this was definitely an activity that required parental involvement.   The first thing we built was the helicopter.  After some fiddling with we got it to look pretty much like the one in the instructions.  However when we tried to complete the engineering challenge of making the propeller move on its own, we had some trouble.  I think the tube in the instructions must have been wider than ours because none of us could fit our hands inside to attach the rubber band!

We also built a rather unique looking airplane.  I thought that cutting a plastic soda bottle as described in the instructions would be too tricky, so we used a box instead.  Some of the instructions were a little confusing even for me to follow, but my niece and I came up with something resembling an airplane in the end.  She really liked that the propellors could spin.

Friday, April 17, 2015

How do I Talk to My Child about Religion?

This post is the sixth in our "How do I talk to my child about?" series. We are covering bad languagedisabilitiesdivorceadoptiondeathrace, religion, and personal protection. You won't want to miss these, so be sure to follow us by email on the sidebar and never miss a post!

We are so thankful to live in a place where our local elementary school community is made up of kids from all over the world. I don't think our kids really know what a privileged experience they get to have- learning about different cultures and traditions first-hand on a regular basis. It's their normal!

When we were thinking through this series of "How to Talk to Your Kids About...." , the idea of talking to kids about religion came up, and to be quite honest, I didn't want to write this. Mostly because I don't know "the right way." I teach my kids about God, His love for them and His desire for everyone (them included) to come to have a real relationship with Him because they are His children that He created and loved. That is the easy part to me.

But this next part, it gets a bit trickier. How do I talk to them about other peoples' beliefs?

I don't really.

I don't talk about which families are atheists, which ones are Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or Jewish.

I don't really talk about what each religion generally believes, at least not yet.

When I became a Christian, I was taught about world religions in the context of what "they" believe and how to prove "them" wrong. In me, this created an "us versus them" mentality that I had to actively fight against in order to have true friendships with people who believed differently than me.

In college this began turning itself around, and I really grew in my understanding of what people really believe- not just because I watched some 20 minute video about world religions, but because I began making friends with people who didn't believe the same as I did, and you know, they told me.

And while I'm so happy to share with others why I believe in Jesus, what He's done in my heart and life, and all of the good news that comes with that, I no longer feel the need to disprove, devalue, and dishonor others' believes.

So, how this all translates into teaching my kids about religion:

1. I want my kids to know that not everyone believes in the same God as we do. 

They know that some people believe in the judeo-christian God, and that others don't.  They know that some of their friends celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter and others have different holidays that are important to them. They don't assume everyone goes to church on Sunday mornings, and even when classmates show up in their Sunday School classes, they know not to assume that they are Christians. If you want to know what your friends believe, then ask them!

2. I want to always have an open conversation.

We try to fully investigate others' cultural traditions, holidays, and beliefs in a developmentally-appropriate way. I want to be careful not to degrade others' beliefs but instead, have conversations about why someone may believe the way that they do, and also how it is similar or different to what our family believes. Please note: We hardly ever talk about others' religions in any depth. We talk about race. We talk about ethnicity. We talk about holidays. We talk about languages. But not really religion. This isn't a conversation that they are interested in at this point.

3.  I want to create an environment in which question-asking is welcome. 

We encourage questions, lots of questions.  As they are young, the questions are sometimes weighty, but not too often. I think the intensity of the questions will probably grow as the kids get older, and Jake and I are ready for that. We want to provide a safe place to ask questions and to hopefully help the kids (and ourselves!) to keep a good attitude towards questions. Sometimes questions can be scary as you're trying to figure out what others believe and why do others believe different things and WHICH ONE IS THE RIGHT BELIEF?! We believe that God is big enough for all of those questions and ultimately, it's really good to be able to trust in Jesus with your eyes wide open.

4. I want to teach my kids how to love and respect people.

Religion is a big deal in our world, even if people don't really want to talk about it head on. Who you worship, or who you don't worship, will matter sometimes. Living in a very academic/intellectual setting, I sense this sometimes. When people realize Jake or I are evangelical Christians, we understand that that comes with a set of labels and assumptions. Some might be fair, but others certainly aren't. The way evangelical Christians get talked about isn't very respectful sometimes (i.e. crazy, narrow-minded, not smart, scary, etc.). In the same way, I don't want my kids labeling other kids (and later, adults) with equally hurtful and probably equally unfair labels. While we do deeply desire that others would know the love and saving grace of God, when they choose not to, we can still love and respect them through our actions, words, and assumptions.

So, all of this may be incredibly unhelpful, and perhaps I'll change my mind about things later on, but this is how we're working through these big questions right now.

Feel free to add to this conversation in the comments below!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

{Review} Pacific Play Tents - My Pirate Ship Play House

What makes reading more fun?  Could it be the same thing that makes eating a snack more fun?  Or playing with friends?  Or even makes doing homework more fun?  If you guessed "Do it in a tent!" then you were right!  While my family are pretty big fans of the old-sheet-over-kitchen-chairs method of tent making, we were excited to try out this pirate ship themed "playhouse" from Pacific Play Tents.

When our tent arrived in the mail I was impressed to see that it came in a fairly compact box.  My initial thought was, "I bet I'll never get it back in there!" but I was wrong.  The tent poles were packed in one roomy stuff sack and the tent material was packed in another, and I did not have any trouble fitting the items back in their stuff sacks when we were done.  The poles were color coded and the instructions were easy to understand.  I did find it a little tricky to get the very last pole inserted without letting everything tip over, but I managed.  My helpers and I slid the tent material over the poles, making sure that all the connection points were on the reinforced parts of the fabric.  It was definitely a tight fit, which is important to the stability of the tent, but this also meant it was definitely a job for a grown-up.  Here's a helpful video showing the assembly process for this type of tent.

Please don't be frightened by my super ugly baby doll.  She's 35 years old so she can't help it...
My nieces, ages 3 and 2, were the first ones to try out the tent.  They had fun looking through the windows and figuring out how to roll up the fabric over the doors.  Next they set up a little baby doll picnic, which of course I was invited to as well.  I will say that I would much rather attend a picnic in this tent than in the other pop-up tent we have.  It's pretty big (50"x40"x50") so I could sit in it comfortably instead of having to fold myself up like a pretzel.