(Everybody Sing)…To Grandmothers House We Go!

The Harley Hopkins Family Center tends to be very quiet during the weeks around the holidays.  Though many staff are still working, the families we serve have embarked on their own festive adventures. When everyone returns to class, there are often many different kinds of stories being told: funny, nostalgic, frustrated and joyful. During these months, parents trade tips about traveling with children, how to navigate another person’s home, and how to help a child adjust to wildly different schedules.  The early childhood staff wanted to offer a concise list of our best advice for how to handle a family holiday trip.

Travel by car: Everyone can agree that traveling long hours in the car with children can often feel like slogging through mashed potatoes–slow going and often pretty messy. If you are planning on driving a long distance, also plan on a realistic time frame for the length of the trip.  The children will surely need to stop at inopportune times, and surely each child in the car will feel the need to go to the bathroom at completely different intervals. Take these rest stops into serious consideration when you are thinking about your estimated time of arrival.

  • Plan the rest stops into the trip, and allow your family to let out some energy during these pit stops.  Let the kids run and play or just sit outside the car and have a snack.  These refreshing breaks will likely help everyone persevere through the long hours.
  • Having a bag of never-seen-before activities on hand for the long hours is also a great idea.  These do not have to be expensive or fancy new toys, simple items that will hold interest for a certain amount of time will help you and your child move across the miles.
  • Pack an extra T-Shirt for yourself. Parents undoubtedly catch all of the travel messes, and if you have an extra shirt you can arrive at your destination fresh.
  • Bring snacks. You can not count on stores or restaurants being open or available when your child gets hungry.

Travel by airplane:

  • Airline websites have up-to-the-minute information on security and procedural rules (such as packed breastmilk or strollers or car seats). Be sure to check it out before arriving at the airport.
  • Take a bag of never-seen-before activities with you. Simple toys that will hold your child’s interest.
  • Take an umbrella stroller with you to help you maneuver through the airport. People may be more helpful to you when they see you have a stroller.
  • Pack an extra T-Shirt for yourself. Parents undoubtedly catch all of the travel messes, and if you have an extra shirt you can arrive at your destination fresh.
  • Bring snacks. You can not count on the airline providing anything to eat during your flight.
  • To help with ears popping during landing and take-off, have your child drink from a bottle or cup. That should help to keep their ears clear.

Staying at another person’s house:

  • Contact your host before the trip and ask them to purchase what you need so you don’t have to lug it there yourself. Diapers take up a lot of luggage space! Don’t forget to pay them back upon your arrival.
  • Have a discussion with your hosts about bringing your children into their home. Find ways to address their concerns beforehand.
  • If the hosts are worried about breakable items in their home, ask them to consider putting the items out of sight or on a high shelf.
  • If you are wondering about how your child’s behavior may be perceived by your hosts, discuss what you see as the issue before you arrive in their home. Be proactive in talking about what you and your child are working on as it concerns social behavior. A good way to approach this subject is to say “We are working on the rules, but they aren’t quite there yet.”
  • Some items you may want to consider bringing: shade material for windows (available at fabric stores), white noise machine or app, rubber sheet or other water-proof material for the beds if you fear there may be a bed wetting incident, the child’s own pillow–this familiar item can help bring comfort and easier sleep.
  • Discuss your expectations for behavior with your children.  Be clear about what you expect of them.  Be realistic about what you ask for.
  • Rules at the homes of others can be more lax than in your own household. Balance the need for behavior expectations with the flexibility that a trip away from home requires. There can sometimes be a certain amount of wisdom in surrendering. Ask yourself: “Is this harming my child, or just irritating me?”  Children generally understand that the rules are being bent because of the special-ness of the trip.
  • If a situation occurs where you need to advocate for yourself, your family or your child, don’t feel guilty about it. State your position honestly. Use sentences that begin with “I”, rather than “you”.
  • Some sense of familiarity can be truly comforting to the child who is asked to acclimate to a completely different environment for a number of days. Find ways to ensure familiarity and routine without over-burdening your suitcase–a favorite blanket or pillow, or favorite books or “loveys” (stuffed animals of special significance) can provide reassurance for the child.
  • Talk with your child about the hustle and bustle of holiday get-togethers. Find a place in the hosts’ home that will provide a quiet space, and plan into your day a chance to go there. Find time during the day to spend one-on-one time doing quiet activities with your child, in order to counter-balance the energy and noise that surround you both.
  • Do not assume that the children in the house will easily get along. Be an active observer of the children’s play. Get an organized activity going for the children by bringing out board games, or encouraging a game of catch outside, or providing craft supplies for a quiet afternoon.
  • Create a plan with your children around what to do if there is an argument or fight during play. Help them to understand that it is all right for them to come to you if things are not going well with the group’s play.
  • This family trip is really just a small amount of time–whether it is a day or a weekend or a longer stay. Don’t try to pack too much in to the stay.
  • If you feel inclined, create traditions for your own family in your own home as well as spending some time away. There is no “one time only” chance to enjoy special moments with your family.

Here is a fun holiday idea: Write the names of all the people present in your party on separate pieces of paper. During the time that you are together, have each person write a word that positively describes or a phrase that shows appreciation for the person named at the top of the paper. Children who are not yet able to write can dictate to an adult what they want to contribute to describe each person.  During a time that the group is all together–perhaps during a meal–read off the lists about each person.

The holiday season is a chance to celebrate with the people you choose to be with. Find ways to relax and enjoy each other, and create traditions which will help your children cherish the memories they will have.

Free Class! Safe Sleep for Babies

Safe Sleep for Babies
Tuesday, October 28, 6:00-7:00pm
Presenter: Kathleen Fernbach, MN SIDS Center / Mpls. Children’s Hospital
Come hear the latest American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, and learn what you can do to keep your baby safe during sleep.
Childcare (for 6 months old through kindergarten) is provided with pre-registration. $5 per child.

Free, registration is required                                                Harley Hopkins Family Center
Online, or by calling 952-988-5000                                    125 Monroe Ave. S. Hopkins, 55343

Parent Workshop: Why Won’t They Listen? Tools for Positive Discipline

Presenter: Denise Konen, Parent Educator
Is your child whining, refusing to pick up toys, fighting with his brothers, or throwing tantrums?  Difficult behaviors are hard to deal with if we have only a few options. Build your positive discipline toolbox and your relationship with your child at the same time. Leave with effective strategies for dealing with those challenging behaviors.
For parents of children aged 3-8 years

Thursday, October 23  6:30-8:00 pm
Harley Hopkins Family Center, Room 27
125 Monroe Avenue South
Hopkins, MN 55343

$10/adult $15/household, registration required.
Register online, or call our office at 952-988-5000
Sibling care available ($5 per child) with registration

Celebrate with the Reptiles!

ECFE celebrates 40 years serving Minnesota families with a free event!
Join us for birthday party fun plus the RAD ZOO!
Friday, October 24, 5:45-7:00 p.m.  
Harley Hopkins Family Center
125 Monroe Ave S, Hopkins

Celebrate our birthday at this free event! Meet live reptiles, amphibians, and more with the RADZOO (Reptile Amphibian Discovery Zoo)! Bring your camera to this hands-on zoo discovery experience for kids! See and learn about live turtles, lizards, snakes, and a small crocodile!

Enjoy birthday cake, a raffle to win a four-pack of MN Zoo tickets, and fun classroom activities, too!
For families with children ages birth to 5 years.
More details online.

Questions? Call Kathryn Moore at 952-988-5046 or email Kathryn.Moore@HopkinsSchools.org

What are your Words of Wisdom?

Earlier this month, I was talking to a neighbor who attended Early Childhood Family Education classes with her son. He is now in his first year of college, and she still clearly remembers the best bit of advice she received and held on to throughout his childhood years. She told me that whenever he started to get overwhelmed or upset she would review HALTS. This is a sort of checklist to go through as you watch your child slip closer and closer to a tantrum. Is your child Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or Sick?  She said that by trying to stay calm and reviewing this checklist, she could often find a way to address the larger problem and shift gears with her son. Laughing, she told me this worked for the two of them well into the high school years!

As a mother of a young child, I often returned to the calming statement: Be Kind, Calm and Firm. This is advice from author Jane Nelson in her books on Positive Discipline. The words were great to have as a mantra, and my ECFE classes taught me how to actually work towards BEING kind, calm and firm all at the same time.

The Early Childhood Family Education staff for Hopkins Public Schools remembered some of the words of wisdom they were able to live by while raising their own young children. We thought we would share some of these with you; one of them might just become a helpful principal for your own parenting!

Calming words and actions are especially helpful during times that feel frenzied and rushed.

  • Tell yourself to slow down so you can go faster. This feels like an oxymoron until you actually try it.
  • Remind yourself that by tomorrow it won’t matter if you were five minutes late today.
  • Plan for the delays: If your child takes 10 minutes to put on his shoes, plan that time into your routine.
  • Remind yourself that you losing patience and control rarely ever helps the situation go smoothly.
  • Looking for a book for children which talks about getting through the rush? On the Go Time by Elizabeth Verdick.

When sibling relations are a struggle, what you say and do can make a difference:

  • State the facts: two boys and one toy. It doesn’t solve the problem, but when said in a calm voice it helps everyone see the issue.
  • A nice opening phrase when you need to get involved in a squabble: How are we going to figure this out? This reminds everyone in the family that we try to work together to help each other.
  • Two statements focused on cooperation: We all need to help each other right now or help me help you.
  • Sometimes siblings really need a cool down period, and it’s ok to offer that as a means of calming down.

Is a tantrum on its way?

  • Acknowledge what is about to happen: This is hard – and I can do hard things.
  • Calmly label your child’s feelings. They may not react, but it acknowledges what they are going through.
  • Can you help your child calm down by addressing HALTS? (see above for explanation).
  • Deep breathing helps everyone – adult and child alike.  Together you can smell the flowers and blow out the candles (this is breathing in and out creatively).
  • When things seem to be going down the wrong path, ask for a do-over.  Start your do-over with a hug and see if that can pull you both together and into something more positive.