Parenting with an Ex Series: Welcoming Your Child Back Home After Holiday Visitation

11/29/16

Holidays are a mixed bag, right?

Decorations, pictures with Santa, family outings, shopping and just being around family can bring either good feelings or a ton of stress.

Add parenting with an ex to the mix and you've got yourself one heck of a holiday season!

If you are in a parenting with an ex situation, then you probably know the ins and outs of holiday custody.


holiday-custody-divorce

Holiday custody can be stressful for all involved, especially the children. It can be tough transitioning between two different homes. One of your struggles may be finding ways to welcome the child back home after spending holiday time with the non-custodial parent.

Regardless of which holiday you are welcoming your child back home from, be sure to ease into it. This will allow the child to adjust back to the everyday routines that were in place before they left. After all, what kid wouldn't love being on a holiday break. Breaks usually mean staying up later than usual, possibly staying up later than usual, eating dinner at different times, eating more fun foods or being showered with attention from family members they don't get to see that often. We definitely want our kids to remember those moments but we also know that we have to get back to household routines (chores, homework, study time, extracurricular activities). It's not that we want to ruin the fun, it's just that kids need structure in order to grow.

When welcoming your child back home, be mindful that this is an emotional time for them. Be available if and when your child wants to talk. Yes, this includes them talking about what a great time they had with their dad and his family. Move past your feelings and let the child talk! Would you feel better if your child told you what a horrible time they had? Hopefully not! But if time spent with their dad was, in fact, horrible then be available to listen. Don't add fuel to that fire by speaking ill words towards the child's father. The objective in listening to your child talk about their time with their dad is to allow them to express themselves. They want to share their happiness with you.

Regardless if your child's visit was great or horrible, don't think that you now have to make their time with you even greater or over compensate for their horrible visit. The holidays will do that to you, don't fall for it!

No, you don't have to go buy those expensive sneakers or those headphones or that doll or those video games. Parenting with an ex is not a competition. Your child's emotions are not something that should be soothed with gifts.

Speaking of emotions...

This may be an emotional time for you as well. It's pretty hard to listen to your child rattle off about how great their dad is or how their step mom is so awesome. This isn't a knock against you, your child is simply expressing innocent feelings. Trust me, I know. I've had to deal with the name my daughter chose to call her step mom!

Be confident of who you are in your child's life. Practicing self-care is key because you have to be good for you before you can be good to those you interact with, which includes your child, family, friends and your ex.

So, before your child arrives back home, take a few minutes to get your thoughts together. The holidays are stressful enough, you don't need the added stress of struggling to welcome your child home. Find some quick fixes to calm your nerves (this does not include alcohol!). Quick stress fixes include:

  • deep breathing
  • stretching
  • listening to music
  • journaling (works great because your write out your frustrations instead of saying them to your ex)

Once you've got your nerves in check, try these ideas to ease your child back from holiday visitation:

If it's after Thanksgiving

  • have a special dinner
  • tell your child how grateful you are for them
  • decorate the house for Christmas together, play Christmas music, drink hot chocolate
  • have a Christmas cookie decorating party
  • buy and wrap presents together

If it's after Christmas

  • take down the Christmas decorations together
  • play board games after the clean up
  • volunteer together

If it's after New Year's Day

  • Have a belated New Year's Eve party, complete with your child's favorite foods
  • Have a movie marathon of each family member's favorite movie, add some popcorn

I've tried many of the ideas above with my daughter and, at times, it was hard but it got easier. No matter how I felt, once we starting decorating for Christmas or watching a movie, all of the tension would go away. I've had a few years of practice with this and being consistent has been key. Keep at it, you will get there.

What are your favorite holiday activities that you do with your kids?

Tweens and Halloween: Discipline + Creativity = DIY Snapchat costume

10/28/16

What do Snapchat and discipline have in common?

My tween!

Certainly you've heard of Snapchat, right?

If you know Snapchat, then you've seen the Snapchat puppy dog filter.

moms-tweens


Tween Girl is still too young to have her own Snapchat account but she is familiar with the filter. I've never used Snapchat and only downloaded the app so that I could capture a pic of us with the infamous puppy dog filter.

Recently, Tween Girl gave me reason to cancel our usual fall fun traditions, which included no spending money on this year's Halloween costume.

As a result, she was left to DIY her costume.

Fine by me because her DIY would leave me with money in my wallet and she would have to use her mind and hands if she wanted any type of costume this year.

Moms, listen up!

You've got tweens now and they are capable of coming up with their own Halloween costume, without your help.

You heard me, without your help. Ok, well, maybe a bit of your guidance wouldn't hurt.

So, here's what she ended up with:

diy-tween-halloween



Here's what she did:

Tween Girl did a Google search and found a tutorial on the Snapchat puppy dog filter.

Easy!

The best part was that it didn't require much of me. I gave out a few tips here and there but she:

  • came up with the idea on her own, 
  • sought out tutorials on how to accomplish what she envisioned, 
  • gathered the supplies (which we already had everything in our home), 
  • followed the tutorial directions and 
  • enjoyed her finished product. 

Who knew that creativity would spring forth from discipline?

What was the best Halloween costume you ever wore? 

Parenting with an Ex Series: 7 ways to avoid communication conflict with your ex

10/25/16

And you thought communicating with your ex was difficult when you were married to him/her!

You also thought that you would have limited communication with him now that you are no longer together.

In the digital age we live in, there are even apps to help you communicate with your ex.

My relationship with my ex, at the moment, has not caused me to need a digital app.

In the beginning, I asked myself "do we really need to communicate? Isn't that part of the reason we got divorced?".

parallel-parenting-communication


Having children together means that, yes, you MUST continue to communicate. The reasoning behind the divorce no longer matters but the children that still must be raised are common denominators between the two of you.

Maybe you tried co-parenting and could not make it work and you've landed in parallel parent land.

Parallel parenting is all about setting boundaries, detaching yourself from your spouse in order for the both of you to parent the child(ren), separately. The two of you have acknowledged that you just don't get along and no longer want to create a toxic environment for the children.

As a result, communication is limited because the objective is to avoid conflict with your ex at all times.

So, what does communicating with an ex look like in a parallel parenting world?

The parenting relationship must be treated like a business relationship. 


Straight and to the point. State the facts without emotion. Sounds hard, right?

Imagine having to interact with your boss at work. If you are your own boss, imagine conducting business with a client or business colleague.

Now, whenever you communicate with your ex, imagine yourself in that same type of setting.

This is tough in the beginning because it feels a bit abnormal to communicate in this way with someone you used to actually like! At some point in time, you and this person got along and took the time to create a human being. But as we all know, life happens and for whatever reason, the two of you decided to divorce or end your relationship. The end of a relationship, in many cases, changes the dynamic of how the two of you relate to each other. Especially if you don't get along and every interaction is mixed with conflict.

Got a Dr. Jekyll/Mr.Hyde type of ex? Be consistent. Do not waiver from conducting the relationship in a business manner.

What if you are the Dr. Jekyll/Ms. Hyde? The point is not to trap your ex into sending incriminating emails for you to use against him in court. 

Communication will be conducted through email. 


Using emails to curse your ex is not allowed! Just as you would not (hopefully) curse them in person, emails are not the proper channel to release your anger. A key to parallel parenting is to control your emotions** rather than let them control you.

Be sure to avoid using words that accuse or judge. Sure, it would feel so good to tell him what he has not done or needs to do but that feeling would not get you good results.

How would you feel if you had conversations with your ex and they always pointed the finger at you? Even if your ex isn't doing what you feel they should be doing, you should not be the person to point that out. Your ex has a mama and it's not you. Remember, you can only change you.

"So, if I can't cuss him out, what am I gonna put in this email?"

I am so glad you asked! Here's an email template to follow:

parallel-parenting-communication


Funny, right? You probably never thought that you would need an email template to communicate with someone you used to be close to. This is parallel parenting.

Following this template has helped me show restraint and just provide what was necessary to keep my ex updated on our child.

The template allows you to avoid writing novels, you know, those long emails that can lead you away from what you originally intended to say.

Don't worry if your ex doesn't respond to your emails in a timely manner or not at all. You've done your part, which does not involve bending over backward to alter what's in the custody agreement.

**Emails can be used against you, don't let your emotions get you in trouble.


The children will not be used as messengers.


Haven't they been through enough already? In no way shape or form is it ever ok to send messages to your ex through your children. They don't deserve to be caught in the middle of something that should be between two adults.

If your ex chooses to send messages through the children, you must address this with him. Sure, there are chances that he will ignore you and continue. Sorry but you can't control him. If your children are old enough, have a conversation with them about how it is not their responsibility to deliver messages from your ex. Give them a script to follow if it happens again, such as "Dad/Mom, it's a good idea if you told mom/dad that.".

Make sure that you aren't the one having the children delivering messages that you should have sent through email.

Use phone communication ONLY in cases of real emergencies.


Remember, your relationship is different now. Long gone are the days when the two of you could have a casual phone conversation, where you could be relaxed and say whatever came to mind. Don't put yourself in a position to say things that you may later regret. 

And please don't create fake emergency stories just to get your ex on the phone to corner him into saying something incriminating. I know you wouldn't do that but I'm just saying...

Emergencies are those instances where your child gets hurt or there are changes in his/her health that are of immediate concern.

Hopefully, your ex is practicing this same method and not calling you to discuss his personal life. If not, hang up! 


Keep the children at the focus of ALL communication.


Sharing your personal information is prohibited. Parallel parenting means that you have let go of how your ex lives their life and who they decide to share it with. You have your own life and it is your own, there is no need to share your stories of your new found love bliss with your ex.

The only disclaimer to not sharing your personal information with your ex is this: you have decided to remarry. Your ex deserves to know this because there will now be another person in the child's life.

"Well, he didn't tell me about moving his new girlfriend in!".

Yeah, I hear you.

Remember, though, you can only control who? You.

So, what types of information will you share when communicating with your ex?

Academic progress (good or bad)
Upcoming school or extracurricular activities
Changes in the visitation schedule (try to avoid making these types of changes. If unavoidable, a phone and an email may be necessary to avoid any inconvenience to your ex)

What if it's your ex that's sharing details about his personal life with you?

Don't listen! Respond and let him know that any communication between the two of you will only be about the children. Yes, it may get tempting to listen to the troubles he's having at home but you are not in that business anymore. 

Every email does not deserve a response.


If you've been parallel parenting for any length of time, you have probably received an email from your ex that passes so much judgment on your parenting skills that you wonder if your ex has donned a black robe and became a Supreme Court justice overnight!

Regardless of he did or not, you cannot respond. Re-read the email to look for any questions based on facts that need a response. For instance, if your ex asks a question regarding if you have received the child's report card or what time the recital starts.

Be careful of giving responses when your ex asks "how can I help?". That type of question can sometimes open the gateways for your ex to "prove" just how active he is in the child's life. It is not your responsibility to provide a parenting outline on how he should "help".

"How should I respond?"

This can be tricky because though there are circumstances when you do want to give helpful suggestions, true parallel parenting says that the two of don't necessarily have to align your parenting skills. Your response will depend on if the two of you are good with sharing parenting tips with each other without judgment.

Remember, it's not a matter of how much or how little your ex is doing. The focus is parenting the children. Be confident in who you are as a woman and a mom.

Oh, one more thing. Don't feel pressured to quickly respond to emails.

Again, no worries if your ex doesn't respond to your emails, you've done your part. 

Conduct visitation exchanges in a public place 


Hopefully, if you've reached the stage of parallel parenting, the visitation exchange is outlined within the custody agreement. It is best to conduct visitation exchanges in public place in order to avoid conflict. Having other people around lessens the chances for you or your ex to create a chaotic scene.

Currently, I meet my ex at the same public place for visitation exchange. It should take the two of you the same amount of time to arrive so that no one person is driving farther.

In a perfect land, parents could agree to have the custodial parent drop the child off at school. The non-custodial parent would then pick the child up from school. This is a beautiful situation because then you would not have to even see your ex!

The parallel parenting method of communicating may seem a bit "stiff" for some people. My husband doesn't understand how or why I choose to communicate this way with my ex. I choose this method in order to save my sanity and to better equip myself to parent our child. There are instances when I start writing or responding to an email to or from my ex and I have to save the draft because it's full of emotions. My focus is not on if my ex cares about my emotions or not. My focus is doing my part of communicating information related to our child.

If you parallel parent, download a copy of Parallel Parenting: Communicating With Your Ex. Don't get caught sending emails you might regret!

parallel-parenting-communication


What's the craziest thing you've ever written in an email?

Jackalopes and other colorful language: Talking to Your Tweens About Cursing

10/11/16

Sure, boogers, booty, and snot were words that made your kid giggle when they were ages 6 or 7.

Little did you know that fast forward 2 or 3 years, real curse words like the f-bomb would make your heart sink. Especially if words like that are flying from your precious tween's lips.

How does it start?

There are many theories. Do we really want to blame Captain Underpants? He was the one who got a lot of our kids, especially our boys,  to love reading.

Do we want to blame certain TV shows like The Simpsons or Family Guy?

Or, do we dare, blame ourselves?

Whoever we want to blame, we should at least talk to our kids about cursing/derogatory language, see if we can shed light on why they do it and help them come up with different ways of expressing themselves.

tweens-swearing-derogatory-language


You know the drill. Same scene, kids are just performing it at a different age. The scene (goal) is to get your attention.

Shock value gets higher ratings.

The old "look mom, look at me." And when you don't "look" they have to do something even more drastic to get your attention.

Same thing applies here. Tweens are all about showing us just how independent they are and sometimes they go to great lengths to impress others. Social media hasn't helped us in that area but as parents, we lay the foundation. Honestly, that's about all we can do because kids grow and as they do, they learn from doing.

So, what's in your "laying the foundation" toolbox when it comes to talking to your tween about cursing and other potty, derogatory language?

Dealing with this type of behavior with your tween and don't know what to say? Add these touchpoints to your conversation:

Swear words and any derogatory language are not tolerated in our home.

This statement is all about choosing your audience. Certain language should be reserved for use with friends, if those are the types of friends our tweens hang around. That language will not be tolerated for use with family or friends. Potty language paints a certain picture that you're tween should not be painting at their age.

So, since swear words are not tolerated in the home by anyone, parents, we must abide by the same rules. At this age, tweens and parents can hold each other accountable.

This becomes very different if your tween is cursing or using derogatory language directed at you, family members or other authority figures. In these types of situations, please be sure to seek help from licensed professionals.

Filthy language, even on social media, is not cool.

Offer a friendly reminder that you, the parent, are paying the cell phone and internet bill. As a result, if your tween is downloading anything, it must be the clean version. You may have to explain to them that clean versions exist as well as explicit versions. 

Get their thoughts on cursing.

What's the difference between calling someone a jackalope (my husband does it all the time) and an MF? Ask your tween if, by using curse words, do they feel empowered or more like an adult? Cursing can paint an unflattering picture of the person using the words. There have been times when I've cursed at an insane driver on the interstate and felt completely stupid afterwards because they didn't even hear the choice selection I picked for them. But using those words allowed me to express emotions and in that situation I was angry.

Put the shoe on the other foot.

BFFs sometimes greet each other with "hey b*tch!". What they are actually trying to say is "hey girl, hey friend, hey BFF". Many African Americans greet each other with "n***er". Again, they are greeting or having a conversation with friends and by using that word, they are expressing the closeness they feel towards their friends. Does any of that make it any better? Of course not! It sounds horrible to hear people greet each other this way.

Go ahead, put it out there. Ask your tween how they would feel if they were greeted this way. Or what if parents used derogatory language towards the tween constantly, how would that feel?


As a parent who has already raised a tween, who is now a young adult. I remember the first time I heard him curse. Of course, it was on Facebook. There were even times when he would slip up during a conversation between the two of us. I remember having a discussion with him because I was a bit offended, seeing as how I don't curse in front of them. But wait, you think he overheard me that one time?

Here's the thing, no matter how many parental controls we set up, tweens will get to certain things we don't want them to get to. It becomes a treasure map, the more we try to keep them from it, the more they search for it. The key to getting through this stage, with the end result being a child who has developed self-efficacy, is keeping the conversations alive between the two of you. Talk to them, even when they mumble responses back to you.


How did you handle hearing your child utter their first curse words?

Start Early: Tweens Developing a Skincare Routine

9/16/16

Take a stroll down your local store's beauty aisle and you will see a multitude of products promising to remove dirt and oil, with the end result being a clean face.

All are probably great products (I’ve used a few of them in my day) but none are targeted to a specific group of 9 to 12-year-olds known as tweens.

tween-skincare


By this age range, kids should have a skincare routine. No, not just one where they splash a few drops of water on their face and call it a day. A skincare routine with products actually designed for them, made without harsh chemicals. A routine that is easy to follow, laying the foundation for good hygiene habits as they continue to develop into adults.

So, when Tween Girl started to notice a change in her skin, it was perfect timing to start her on a skincare routine. There was only one roadblock though: which products should she use? I knew that she needed products that would work but that would also be kind to her skin.

A simple Google search brought up Ottilie & LuLu, natural skincare products designed for tweens.

Shocker! Who knew?!? I certainly didn't but I was very happy to see that there exists a company that serves this market. Think about it, for the first time in their lives, tweens must learn to be consistent in caring for their skin and need products made without any harsh chemicals. A part of Ottilie & LuLu's welcome statement says: "...formulas are filled with anti-oxidants, botanicals and vitamins."

Sounds great, right?

Ottilie & LuLu are so awesome that they sent Tween Girl the Healthy Beauty set to become a part of her daily skincare routine.

ottilie-lulu-skincare-for-tweens


Tween Girl and I were both excited, even more so once the package arrived in the cutest little colorful tote (yes, cute packaging excites us!).

That very night, Tween Girl started using the Morning & Night Gel Cleanser.

ottilie-lulu-skincare-for-tweens


It only took a couple of drops of the gel cleanser to get a nice lather, which gave off a calming scent. Once Tween Girl rinsed, she mentioned that her face felt clean and soft.

The next morning, she cleansed her face once more with the gel cleanser and followed up with the Everyday Facial Moisturizer & Sunscreen.

ottilie-lulu-skincare-for-tweens

With tweens, they think that more is better, so I had to keep reminding her that it only takes a few drops to do the job. With the moisturizer and sunscreen, one drop is actually best. Any more than that will cause the need for more minutes of rubbing it onto the face. If it's not rubbed in, it will reappear once your tween starts to sweat, mostly near the hairline.

Once she learned how to use the proper amount, she gave the moisturizer a thumbs up because it didn't dry her skin like some of the previous moisturizers she had used.

I like having the sunscreen "built in" with the moisturizer because moms don't have to worry about reminding her tweens to apply it.

Her game plan to avoid pimples and blemishes (yes, it's possible!) is to continue cleansing her skin daily, drinking plenty of water, and not overindulging in sugary foods/drinks (cookies, candy, soda). If we need help in the pimple/blemish area, Ottilie & LuLu has us covered because our gift set included a Spot Blemish Treatment.

After a couple of weeks of using the products, Tween Girl has had few complaints, which is good considering that complaining is something tweens are good at. Of course, I have to remind her to wash both day and night, again that's pretty typical when raising a tween.

I would rather spend time reminding her to develop a good skincare routine now instead of her battling skins issues down the road. It's great knowing that there are products that will help parents instill good skincare habits into their tweens, laying the foundation for when they grow into adults.

At what age did you start taking care of your skin?

Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post. I received sample products for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own. 

101 Things To Do Before Your Daughter Starts Her Period

9/6/16

So, she has entered double digits. The big 1-0!

With such power of being an official tween, comes great responsibility.

To help my tween on the road through puberty, I've been dropping little hints to make sure she is mindful of her changing body and how to care for it.

tween-starting-menstrual-cycle


Maybe there aren't 101 things that you really need to talk to your daughter about before she starts her period (or perhaps there are) but here are some key things to help lay the foundation:

Have the "talk", bite-sized versions

Tween Girl is at the onset of this whole puberty thing. It's been pretty hard to have conversations with her about puberty without the mention of sex (eek, I said it!). The decision to discuss sex is totally up to the parent but realize that your child will hear it elsewhere, be it the internet or from their friends. Don't you want them to hear a version closer to the truth than from anywhere else? Yes, it's a touchy subject but take a deep breath and prepare before launching into who has what and where it goes. You may be surprised at how much they know, so these types of topics are best handled in bites. You really want this to be a conversation where the two of you are asking each other questions and answering each other, this is not a lecture. Lectures are uptight and one sided. This is definitely a topic where you want to be honest and open with your tween.

Nervous? Yeah, I know. Here are some resources that I am currently using to help with having conversations about sex:

Sex Ed Rescue - a great site that empowers parents to feel comfortable and knowledgeable when engaging their kids in talks about sex. 

Hey, Sigmund - another great resource that takes a look from the psychology perspective.

Casually discuss bodies

Tweens don't necessarily like discussing their bodies with their parents, so tread lightly. From time to time, they may mention hair growing in places where it's never grown before. Take your opportunities as they come, don't be pushy. Once the opportunity presents itself, use yourself as an example. What did you do when you were her age? How did it make you feel once your breasts started to grow or when you started growing armpit hair? The key here is to let your tween know that what's happening to them is normal.

It's important for them to know the correct name for the parts of the female reproductive system and how each part functions. Knowing your own body should not be viewed as taboo or nasty, it's your body! Girls should be encouraged to learn their own bodies.

Explain the menstrual cycle

No worries, you'll have to explain again...and again until she has time to get used to it. Most pediatricians say that once a girls' breast buds start to appear, her menstrual cycle should start a year later. It also depends on the age a girl's mother was when she started her cycle. Either way, start talking about it before it shows up! Here's a lifesaver, one that my tween and I stumbled upon and it caught our attention and sparked an hour-long conversation: The Period Blog.

Visit the feminine hygiene aisle at your local stores

Don't make it awkward by specifically going to the store to visit the tampon aisle. This visit could occur on one of your normal Target runs. Just casually stroll over to that aisle and point out a few things, like the maxi pads or tampons. You are sure to get questions about how they look, what to do with them, what's the difference between the two or even your daughter asking you which ones do you use. You will be ready to...


Explain what pads and tampons are once you are at home

Which will she prefer? Explain how to use each item. Again, The Period Blog provides great information and even pics (yes, pics, calm down). 

Be sure to explain that the tampon will need to be inserted into her vagina, the pictures come in handy here.  If she hasn't hit the floor by then, keep the conversation going by suggesting that she use the pads with wings to protect her underwear. In my opinion, tampons should be reserved for when a girl is a bit older. Hopefully, by then she will know her body and be used to monitoring her cycle. 

Make sure she already has a hygiene routine in place

Tweens bodies have started to change, which results in body odors and/or facial irritations. As parents, we must make sure that they have the necessities for a daily/nightly routine, which includes soaps for bathing, lotion for their bodies, facial cleanser and a moisturizer. Tween Girl and I have recently found a great product designed for tweens, which we will share in an upcoming post. 


Explain why she must use the hygiene products

Getting in the habit of good hygiene sets the stage for when her period starts. She will need to be sure to keep her body clean. In your conversations, mention that having a menstrual cycle may mean having an odor. There may be instances where her period stains her clothing or when she will need to change her pad. It's nothing to be embarrassed by but it's important to have certain items to stay as fresh as possible. Of course, it will take time for her to ease out of any embarrassment, if there is any, and become skilled in using hygiene products to stay fresh during her menstrual cycle.

In order to keep the "stay fresh" theme alive in Tween Girl's mind now, we decided to...

Put together a "refresh" kit for her to carry in her backpack 

A refresh kit is a bag/pouch that holds extra maxi pads, clean underwear, at least two ibuprofen, lotion, and wipes. It can be kept in her backpack or purse and ready for when she needs it. Let her know that her "refresh" bag will need new items added once she starts her period - spare underwear, pads, ibuprofen.

Tween Girl and I recently put together a "refresh" kit for her to keep in her backpack, look for the details in an upcoming post.

Keep her yearly physicals

Sometimes kids need to hear certain things from other people aside from their parents. Yearly physicals can be a time when your daughter can ask the doctor any questions about her changing body. The pediatrician can provide great insight to when your daughter will start her cycle.

Get the books -

The Care and Keeping of Us - this has become a staple between moms and their girls. I purchased this set because it comes with separate books for moms and their daughters and a journal.


Read the books

There is a difference between having the books and actually reading them. Read the books separately and together. Another reason why I like The Care and Keeping of Us is because it allows us to share reading time together and gives Tween Girl an opportunity to ask me questions if she wants to. Having separate books also gives us the space to go off and read if we'd rather be alone.

Tween Girl started reading The Care and Keeping of You for younger girls when she was around 7. I wanted her to start reading about puberty to help get us where we are today.

Commit to being honest with her

Before the rubber hits the road, settle this within yourself: you will be honest with her about things that will happen to her body over the next few years. Decide on how you will phrase certain things, how you will back off when she doesn't want to talk to you. Realize that you are there to give information, this is not about you controlling her. Put yourself in her shoes, remember what it was like? Yes, you and I turned out ok but let's not deceive ourselves, times are different. I know that every generation takes pride in saying this but c'mon, we didn't have social media. Nuff said!

Seriously, though, not sure how your mom handled you starting your period but mine didn't handle it so well. This is my only shot at creating a strong foundation, so I am choosing honesty.


Know how to de-stress

Even though we've been having our conversations for a while now, I am usually drained at the end of each and every one! A part of me struggles with not wanting to tell her anything, in hopes that she will stay 10 forever. Then reality sets in and I realize that I MUST have these conversations with her before she starts googling it or starts listening to her friends tell her what they heard about starting your period.

So to avoid or lessen being drained after these conversations, make sure that you have ways to take care of your mental needs. Trust me, you will need an outlet.

Whew!

Even though it wasn't quite 101 things to do before your daughter starts her period, it was still quite enough. It may seem overwhelming but it's needed and worth it. Your daughter is off on this journey of puberty, which isn't a one size fits all type of topic. It should be diced into bite-sized conversations repeated over and over again, coming from you, the parent. Having a period is just part of the journey. Strap in, Mama, you're on a road trip!

What do you wish your mom would have told you about having a period?

Your Game Plan to Ace Your Tween's School Open House

8/23/16

New backpacks are getting worn in.

The new shoes are a bit scuffed.

The mounds of paperwork are flowing in, your hand is probably tired from signing your name so much.

Right in the middle of the pile of paperwork is the notice for this year's Open House.

Ok, don't panic. This is a different year, new teacher and you have a new opportunity to get a new game plan for this year's Open House.

This year's open house is extra important to us because this is Tween Girl's last year of elementary school. We want to be aware of things happening in the classroom that may prepare us for middle school next year. Studies show that parental involvement decreases once a child reaches high school. The tween years are already a roller coaster ride, so we want to make sure that we are showing Tween Girl that we will remain an advocate for her when it comes to not only her well-being but her education as well and open house is a great kick off to show her that.

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Now, in the past, you may have treated open houses like an informational where the teacher does all of the talking and tricks you into signing up to volunteer for the Fall Festival. Or a time for you to show up and sign more papers and look at some of the work your child has completed during the first few weeks of school.

But isn't that the purpose of Open House?

Yes and no.

Most teachers will tell you a different side of the purpose of an open house.

In my preparation for Tween Girl's open house, I reached out to a few teachers just to pick their brains about how parents can get the most from open house. Their responses are not shocking or too much to ask. Really just simple and practical things we can ask or discuss, things that we may already know to ask or just have forgotten to do so.

Before the big evening, get your game plan ready of what to ask and what to discuss. Not sure what to talk about? Here are some ideas:

Routines and Rituals

No, this does not involve witchcraft or sorcery. These come in the form of the process for turning in homework, class schedules for things such as gym, art or music, or the types of curriculum that will be used for the year. According to one teacher, teachers love to explain the classroom rituals and routines. This is especially worthy of knowing for us because it gives us a head start on teaching Tween Girl better organizational skills for middle school next year.

Best ways to stay in contact

Hopefully, you've filled out the emergency contact sheet (remember that big pile of paperwork your kid brought home on the first day?). If so, you've given the teacher and the school the best way to contact you now you need to know which method is best when contacting him/her. That will either be email, the class website or apps like Edmodo or ClassDojo. This is a great practice to start now before middle school because the teachers' time will become even more limited because of the numerous classes/students they must manage.

Volunteering

Sorry, but I had to include this one. I know, it makes me cringe as well but studies do show that when a parent is active in their child's school, the child is more likely to attend school regularly, earn higher grades and have better social skills. Many parents contribute by being the classroom parent, the chairperson for classroom parties or festivals. There are parents who "volunteer" by sending in classroom supplies (yes, believe it or not, they do run out of glue sticks!) or snacks. Edutopia has some great advice on how working parents can volunteer. My advice here is to be honest about the amount of time you can dedicate to volunteering at the school. Many times, parents who work outside of the home feel guilty because their time is very limited during the day. Let your child's teacher know your work schedule and offer to help in nonconventional ways. Many teachers appreciate this and see that you  are committed to helping.

Ways to enhance learning at home

Ask the teacher if they have any recommendations of websites, books, apps or other ways that you can help your child at home. Again, enhancing learning at home can open the gate to testing the waters with middle school subjects.

No discussions of your child's individual needs

Open house is not the place for each parent to voice concerns about their child's individual needs. Of course, the teacher wants to know these things, just not at open house. This type of discussion is best reserved for a 1:1 conference between the teacher and parent. Keep in mind, the teacher;s time is limited and he/she probably has a script ready for open house because they so much information to cram into such a short amount of time.

The fact that you're showing up for open house speaks volumes to teachers. It's one of the first steps a parent can take to show that they care about their child's learning environment and that they are there to help make sure it's great.

Open house is only one night but don't let that stop you from communicating with the teacher and school year round. After all, you're the parent of a tween. Once they hit middle school, you will be interacting with a multitude of teacher's with varying needs. Open house is one way to get some practice for what's to come.

How do you engage with your child's school and teacher(s)?

DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS