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Friday, July 31, 2020

7 Tips for Handling Your Children's Questions About Coronavirus

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Every generation has some sort of cultural crisis or touchstone that defines their childhoods. September 11th, the Challenger Explosion, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the attack on Pearl Harbor were defining events for previous generations. For this generation? It's certainly going to be COVID-19. It's impacted every part of their lives. Since the beginning of the year, the way children go to school, see their extended family, or even play with their friends have changed dramatically. Naturally, they have questions about what's going on. Here's some helpful hints to answering their questions in an age-appropriate manner that won't add to their anxiety.

1. Offer comfort and honesty. Only answer the specific questions they have. There is no need to provide more scary information than they asked for.

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Listen for what your kids are actually asking you. If it's why they might not be able to start back to school on time, an age appropriate answer will include real concerns about gathering that many children and adults in one place. However, you probably don't need to go into the fact that cases are skyrocketing and ICUs are nearing capacity in many areas of the country.

2. Speak in calm, reassuring tones.

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Children are very attuned to the tone of voice and body language of the adults in their lives. Talking about Covid is difficult for everyone, and sometimes it is hard not to let your emotions show. Take a breath, and stay calm as you talk to kids. There's not a lot of certainty in this situation, so kids need the reassurance that the adults they depend on are still in control.

3. Reassure your children that kids do not get as sick as grown-ups do.

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Children don't seem to be hit as hard with the virus as adults are. Let your kids know that! Children who understand that Covid is serious but isn't necessarily deadly or painful are in a better position to avoid long term anxiety about the disease, or illness in general.

4. Give children specific actions that can help them feel in control, such a washing their hands and getting plenty of sleep.

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A sense of control helps everyone cope with uncertain situations. And following the rules about masks, hand washing, and social distancing not only gives us all the feeling of control but helps protect us and our community from the unchecked spread of the disease. So emphasize healthy habits! Plus, a good diet and lots of sleep are two very healthy ways to deal with stress. Another great way is to exercise. Set them loose on playground equipment and let them burn off energy!

5. Embrace your new routine.

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Everyone's lives have changed, and that includes your children's. Help them embrace it. It might require setting up new schedules. Getting up, chores, reading, homework, exercise, and screentime all still need a role in our lives. It might also be worthwhile to consider how your home functions for a family where members are home all day. Changing the function of a room or two or reworking spaces to provide quiet places to work can make a huge difference. A backyard that gives your kids a space for play and exercise is a huge benefit. Contact outdoor play equipment companies and stores for ideas!

6. Keep the conversation going.

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Talking about Covid isn't going to be a one and done experience. Recommendations from experts, how the disease is transmitting across the country, and decisions by local governments about parks, schools, and businesses change rapidly. It's important to keep your kids informed about information they really need-like about school reopening, or the fact that you can now grab to go orders from your local restaurant-while filtering out information they don't. Being open to questions will help your kids cope and trust you are telling them what they need to know.

7. Work through your own anxiety.

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Your anxiety level can definitely impact your kids' reactions to our new reality. Work through your anxiety about Covid (and everything associated it with it) before talking with them. Try an online yoga class, express your frustrations in a group text with your best friends, or go outside and run your feelings out. Just show your kids the calmest parent possible!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

8 Tips for Helping Your Pet Adjust When You Stop Working From Home

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2020 has been an unusual year for many. A lot of people spent significant time working from home, avoiding socializing, and in general spending the majority of their time at home. The rapid change in lifestyle wasn't easy for a lot of us. Children and adults all struggled to come to terms with the new normal. One group that enjoyed the new normal? Our pets. Most pets love nothing more than being with their humans, and the requirements of social distancing meant most humans were home more than ever before. As society reopens and people start going back to work and resuming a more typical schedule, it will be our animals who struggle to adjust to a normal that doesn't include their favorite people ready to take them for a romp on the playground equipment whenever they wished.

1. Start slow. Leave for a few minutes at a time and slowly extend length, especially if your dog is prone to separation anxiety.

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Try not to go from being home 24/7 to being gone 40/5! A severe schedule shift back into the old routine of being gone at least forty hours a week plus commute time is going to make it hard for your favorite furry buddy to adjust.

2. Use treats like frozen peanut butter to occupy your dog while you leave.

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Bored pets often turn into destructive pets. Ask anyone who has ever left a dog at home with an intact sofa and then came home to a frame and a living room full of stuffing! How can you save your sofa and your pet's sanity? Find safe ways for them to stay occupied while you are gone. Things like puzzle toys that dispense treats will keep them engaged while you are away.

3. Do not make a big deal about leaving. Act casually and calmly.

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Most pets are very in tune with their humans' feelings. If you are stressed and going back for one last kiss, they are going to pick up on it and become more anxious themselves. Leave the house calmly, and say your goodbyes in a level yet cheerful tone of voice.

4. Start working towards a normalized schedule.

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Going from being home basically all the time back to the five day work week is a tough adjustment for everyone. If it all possible, try and ease into it for the sake of your pets and your mental wellbeing. Even if you aren't actually leaving the house, getting up at the time you'll need to for work, feeding your pets, talking to them, and in all possible ways mimicking their schedule when you work out of the home will help them adjust.

5. Make before you leave and after you return fun.

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We all need joy in our lives. Before you leave, make sure your dog has had a walk, exercise, and attention from you (and yes, I know how hard that can be in the mornings!). When you return, let your pet know you are excited to see them, give them attention, and let them burn off some energy.

6. Make sure your pet is getting lots of exercise.

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A tired pet is a happy pet. A couple of quick walks might not be enough stimulation or activity for your pet to stay mentally and physically healthy. Toys, walks, and romps in the backyard will make your pet feel loved and secure, and ensure they are getting enough activity. Is your backyard not the pet paradise you'd like it to be? Check out local outdoor play equipment companies and stores for shade structures, slides, and other ideas to make your backyard functional for all members of your family.

7. Create a backup plan.

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Traffic jams, work emergencies, and other minor catastrophes happen to all of us. Make sure you have a contingency plan for what you will do if you can't get home at a reasonable time to care for your pet. Could a neighbor, friend, family member dash over to let them out, scratch their ears, and make sure they have food and water until you get home?

8. Consider pet care options.

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One way to ensure backup pet care is to hire someone to provide pet care. There are apps available to connect service providers with pet parents. Other popular methods for finding pet care include checking with your veterinarian or pet groomer for recommendations.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

9 Reasons to Read Bedtime Stories to Your Children

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It's never too early - or too late - to start reading to your children. When they are babies, you can snuggle them after their bath and enjoy quiet moments with a sweet picture book. Once they get older and start reading themselves, don't give up on bedtime stories. Reid Lyon, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, stated "Neural research shows that when parents and caregivers interact verbally with children - which includes reading to them - kids learn a great deal more than we ever thought possible." Children get so much out of being read to by their parents. So, after a long day of activities and spending time outside getting energy out on playground, here are nine great reasons to make books part of your family's bedtime routine.

1. Children get to spend more quality time with you, which is so important.

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After a long day of activities and spending time outside getting energy out on playground equipment, children need quality time with their parents, and reading together nightly makes for excellent quality time. Your child gets the predictable routine of reading and yet each night provides a new adventure via a new story. Cheering the book's protagonists and booing the villains also provides bonding moments. And when your child shares their thoughts about the characters and plots? You gain valuable insight into how your little one views the world.

2. Children develop stronger reading skills, even if they are unable to read the books themselves.

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Children learn expression, punctuation, and pace from the sound of your voice. Reading to children exposes them to language, literary conceits, grammar, and the idea of how books work. As you pause for punctuation marks, raise or lower your voice to match the story, or speed up or slow down to reflect tension they are picking up on all sorts of literary conventions.

3. It can help establish a quality bedtime routine that children look forward to instead of fighting.

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Bedtime battles are a familiar issue for many families. Getting children used to reading books they like as part of their bedtime routine gives them something to look forward to each night. Making bedtime something they look forward to instead of something they dread should cut down the amount of fighting over beginning their nightly bedtime routines.

4. A variety of books can expose children to diversity and different viewpoints. Try graphic novels, news articles, books from authors around the globe, etc.

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Reading opens new worlds for readers, and this is especially true for children. Choosing books written by a variety of authors of different races, genders, religions, and parts of the world will expose your children to a variety of worldviews. As they get older, choosing a variety of book types will expose them to even more viewpoints and a wide variety of literature. So, just like you challenge your children to try new things out on the playground, like new play equipment, challenge them to try a new book that they might not have thought of before.

5. It can help infants develop language skills.

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The more words a baby hears encourages their brains to build a richer language network in their brains. Children who are read to and spoken to often know more words by age two than children who live in less language-rich environments. Reading regularly to pre-verbal children lets them have more words to copy, and will improve their vocabulary.

6. It helps children develop sharper focus and attention span.

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Researchers have found yet another reason to make reading a nightly habit in your home. Babies who are read to on a regular basis, and children whose parents indulge in make-believe games with them, have fewer disruptive behaviors and attention deficit related issues than children who were not read to regularly.

7. Reading to children helps them become good writers.

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Good communication skills are a key part of having successful school experiences and even having wide career options open once your children reach adulthood. The best way to help them develop great communication skills? Reading. Not only will they develop a rich vocabulary, but they will also learn what good writing looks like.

8. Children who are read to develop an appreciation for literature.

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We live in a time rich with the written word. Books, short stories, comic books, graphic novels, newspapers, magazines, and web content abounds. Some of it is of higher quality than others. Children who develop an early relationship with books develop an appreciation for well-written and well-crafted literature.

9. Reading relieves anxiety.

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Reading is soothing for both children and adults. A recent study by Sussex University shows reading just six minutes a day reduces stress levels by upto 60%. Reading to children also teaches them that reading is a self-soothing behavior, so when they are older they can turn to a book in an anxious moment.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart