Thursday, September 25, 2008

9 Ways to Prevent a Meltdown -- Your Kid's and Yours, Too

I know I don't always make the right choices when my kids misbehave and it's especially true right now due to all the stress I'm faced with since Hurrican Ike. My family is trying to make the best of it- still living without electricity. But, with school still closed and the kids' lack of 'normal' routine, they're not the best listeners right now. These tips help me get back on track and make better choices in dealing with my kids-and I've been taking a lot of deep breathes here lately...

By Melody Warnick from

Soothing Solution: Take a Time-Out

Why it works for your kid: By placing your child in a brief time-out (one minute per year of his age) in a separate room, you'll eliminate a major reason for why he's flipping out in the first place: to get a rise out of you. "The vast majority of the time, a child has a temper tantrum to get attention and control," says Carl Arinoldo, PhD, a child psychologist and coauthor of Essentials of Smart Parenting. "An actor doesn't get onstage and play to an empty house." Plus, time by himself halts the downward emotional spiral, allowing him to regroup more quickly.
Why it works for you: Hiding out behind a closed door for a few minutes gives you space to chill out. You can even say it's the punishment for losing your temper. "I tell my kids, 'I'm sorry I yelled at you. I'm going to my room to take a time-out until I can calm down,'" explains Katie Baird, a mother of three from Flower Mound, Texas. "Sometimes they pound the door and try to get in, but more often than not they think it's really funny that Mommy has to go to time-out." Whether you're reading, meditating, or surfing the Web, five minutes alone helps you regain perspective and control.

Soothing Solution: Have a Tickle-Fest
Why it works for your kid: Giggling not only lightens the mood, it provides a physical release for all that tension -- one that doesn't involve kicking and hitting. When Robin Alexander-Keenan's 3-year-old daughter Megan was starting to lose it on an 11-hour transatlantic flight, her mom lifted Megan's arms above her head and then counted her ribs. "By the time we made it to five she was hysterical and so was I," says Alexander-Keenan, of Haswell, England. "Now when I get really cross she does the same with me."
Why it works for you: Laughter isn't called the best medicine for nothing; it's long been known for its ability to reduce stress. In fact, one recent study showed that even thinking about laughing releases beta-endorphins, a natural analgesic, into your bloodstream. If playing Tickle Monster with your little one doesn't crack you up, break out the knock-knock jokes, or dive into a book by humorist David Sedaris while your toddler's down for her nap.

Soothing Solution: Breathe Deeply
Why it works for your kid: Even little kids can be taught to recognize how their body feels when they're getting worked up -- hot, itchy, stiff, jerky -- and can learn to counteract those feelings by taking a few deep breaths. In a calm moment, show your child how to pretend he's blowing out the candle on a birthday cupcake; then, the next time you see him start to get upset, you can use a simple code word like "candle" to remind him to take a breathing break.
Why it works for you: Dealing with your child's tantrum throws your nervous system into crisis mode, but slow, deep breathing shuts off those emergency signals. "If instead of yelling you stop and take a breath, you begin to calm your body's arousal system," says Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of Raising Your Spirited Child. "Then you can tell yourself, 'He's not out to get me. He's upset, but I don't have to be too.'"

Soothing Solution: Use Words
Why it works for your kid: For a 1-year-old, an inability to string the right words together exacerbates his frustration, which is why he'll resort to biting his big sister instead. But if you offer him words to describe his feelings, along with a bit of empathy, he'll feel better. "When I say, 'I know you are upset that it's time to leave' or 'I know you wanted that toy and you're very angry that Mommy didn't buy it,' I always see relief wash over my children's faces," says Sachia Logan, a mother of three from Independence, Missouri. "It's like they're saying, 'Yes, that's exactly what I was thinking!'"
Why it works for you: Simply saying out loud, "I'm really angry right now," validates your feelings and clarifies that you need to stop engaging with your kids for the moment. Plus, if you say it only on occasion, it can stop your child in his tracks. "It can be valuable to let our kids know how we feel, and how their behaviors are affecting us," Hal Runkel says.

Soothing Solution: Tap into Your Creative Side
Why it works for your kid: When your child is getting upset, hand her some crayons and paper so she can draw a picture of how she feels. Even making just a few angry black scribbles is a healthy way for her to express her emotions, and it lets her know that you're paying attention to how she feels.
Why it works for you: Getting creative by drawing, writing, or playing an instrument is the perfect way to vent, and it can channel the day's frustrations into a more fruitful outlet. Knowing that she'll spend the evening blogging about her kids' annoying behavior tones down Stephanie Elliott's irritation about it for the moment. "Sometimes I even say it out loud: 'That's a blogger!' And it's almost like I have to get to the computer immediately to get it out of my system," says the mother of three from Woodridge, Illinois. Blog bonus: Readers offer helpful comments and dispense sympathy when you're struggling.

Soothing Solution: Offer a Reward
Why it works for your kid: When children are learning to control their behavior, an extra incentive doesn't hurt. Throw a marble in a jar when they manage to head off a tantrum at the pass, with the promise that 10 marbles earn them a trip to the bowling alley or a movie night at home. It might make them think twice before they blow their top.
Why it works for you: Everyone loves to be rewarded for good behavior, so if you have your own marble jar, it'll give you a tangible way to track and recognize improved patience. "If you know you've got a problem blowing up around your kids, and you've started doing deep breathing or drinking a glass of water to calm down, why not take yourself to the spa as a reward?" says Linda Pearson, a family nurse practitioner in Lakewood, Colorado, and author of The Discipline Miracle.

Soothing Solution: Count to 10
Why it works for your kid: Counting warns your child that his behavior is unacceptable without requiring you to launch into a lecture. Plus, it gives him a set amount of time to transition from one activity to another, such as from hogging the toy truck to sharing it or from roughhousing the dog to petting her gently.
Why it works for you: The mantra-like focus you need to slowly count to 10 in the midst of a battle with your kid enables you to ratchet down your anger a few notches. And it buys you time. "When your kid's driving you crazy, if you can just pause before you respond, that's when you can make a great choice about how to react," Runkel says.

Soothing Solution: Lighten Up
Why it works for your kid: Singing a silly sing, talking in a wacky accent, or pretending you're Cinderella's wicked stepmother is the parental equivalent of cracking a joke in a tense meeting at work: It reminds everyone that the situation isn't nearly as dire as it seems. "Doing something like singing shifts the area of your child's brain that's functioning, and that can actually calm her," Mary Sheedy Kurcinka says. "It breaks the tension."
Why it works for you:
Getting a little silly forces you to ditch your angry face. "One way I interrupt meltdowns is by turning on some goofy kid songs, like John Lithgow's Singin' in the Bathtub CD, and dancing a silly dance," says Vicci Radake, of Fenton, Missouri, the mother of an 11-month-old. She has also tried the technique with her daycare kids. "It gives me a burst of energy and gets the kids to forget what they were even crying about."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

We survived Ike...

We are truly lucky. We live in Kemah on the East side-which is known as the Lighthouse District or the Entertainment District. We're about 8 blocks South of the Kemah Boardwalk and 2 blocks from Galveston Bay.

We are surrounded by destruction-but somehow our house made it. We had very minimal damage. It's still hard to believe.

We returned to our house on Sunday to assess the damage. We came prepared with generator, gasoline, water, food and ice. We are still without power and have been living by generator for a week. We're used to camping out so it hasn't been bad. And we can't complain, because we still have a secure roof over our heads. The kids think we're on some sort of vacation. They have been playing outside, riding bikes, finger-painting, helping pick up tree debris in the yard, playing dress up, etc.

They have done a good job of keeping themselves occupied without the use of the electricity. We've been very sparing with running the generator since gas is so expensive and had been hard to come by (many more stations are open now). We only run the generator at night for a few hours of TV, a fan and a lamp. We also have a portable AC unit we borrowed from my in-laws. It will be a savior this week as the weather has warmed up. Last week was cool after the storm and we just opened up all the windows to let in a nice breeze.

However, the nostalgia did wear off so we took a break and spent this weekend in Central Texas. It's given us a chance to cool off in real AC, take a hot shower and finally get access to the Internet!

We will return home tomorrow to try and return to a normal routine. It will be different though as my daughter's school will not be reopening until Sept. 29th.
(Pictured below in the background is our Elementary School)Plus, because our neighborhood has been all over the news and tourists as well as locals have become looky-lous and the area is a hotspot for looters. The City is still under curfew from 7pm to 7am and there are only two entrances into the neighborhood. The local police and the National Guard are strictly enforcing the curfew and ingress/egress of the citizens. Military vehicles patrol the streets at night with spot lights to look for looters and curfew-breakers. There is a constant flow of news, private, military and coast guard helicopters surveying the coastline. It does make us feel safe from looters, etc., but it's weird.

We took advantage of a local FEMA Point of Distribution (POD) location because many of the stores did not have ice either because they didn't have power or they were out. We also received a case of water and MRE's. Our thoughts go out to all those affected by Ike from Haiti to Ohio. It was a massive storm. We've been helping where we can and even donated blood as the blood banks in the Gulf Coast area of Texas are in critical need. If you can donate to the Red Cross, donate blood, volunteer at a POD location, or lend out a generator-I'm sure there are many people who would be grateful.


UPDATE: We have electricity after two weeks!!
Link to more
pictures of the Kemah area

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Headed Your Way? Be Prepared!

My hubby and I started boarding up our house today. The City we live in has requested that we evacuate. We actually had Kemah Police officers with bullhorns tell us to "evacuate immediately." We have a plan and had previously put all our important papers, photo albums, etc. together. We also explained in basic terms what a hurricane is to our kids. My daughter put all of her stuffed animals up high in case of flooding, but mostly, the kids are just excited to go see Mimi and Papa. As I was packing items up, I realized the kids might have something "special" they wouldn't want destroyed. I told them to take their favorite items with them. We'll now be travelling with a pink poodle webkin, a purple stuffed bunny, a toy truck and a plastic yellow sword that no longer lights up.

The kids and cats as we "evacuate" to my in-laws' house

Something to think about when packing up-During Hurricane Rita, friends of our family living in Mississippi thought putting items up on their second floor would keep them from getting damaged in case flood waters entered their home. The couple left behind many irreplaceable items. When they returned to their home--everything was gone. It's difficult to imagine. It's even harder to precisely predict a hurricane. Be prepared, be safe, and if there are items you just can't bare to lose--take them with you.

The Red Cross website is a good resource for preparing in the event of a hurricane:
Prepare a Personal Evacuation Plan
-Identify ahead of time where you could go if you are told to evacuate. Choose several places--a friend's home in another town, a motel, or a shelter.
-Keep handy the telephone numbers of these places as well as a road map of your locality. You may need to take alternative or unfamiliar routes if major roads are closed or clogged.
-Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Take these items with you when evacuating:
-Prescription medications and medical supplies;
-Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows
-Bottled water, battery-operated radio and extra batteries, first aid kit, flashlight
-Car keys and maps
-Documents, including driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, immunization records, etc.
Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Including the Following Items:
-First aid kit and essential medications.
-Canned food and can opener.
-At least three gallons of water per person.
-Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags.
-Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
-Special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members.
-Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn them back on.)
Prepare for High Winds
-Install hurricane shutters or purchase precut 1/2" outdoor plywood boards for each window of your home. --Install anchors for the plywood and predrill holes in the plywood so that you can put it up quickly.
-Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased and damaged limbs, then strategically removing branches so that wind can blow through.
Know What to Do When a Hurricane WATCH Is Issued
-Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for up-to-date storm information.
-Prepare to bring inside any lawn furniture, outdoor decorations or ornaments, trash cans, hanging plants, and anything else that can be picked up by the wind.
-Prepare to cover all windows of your home. If shutters have not been installed, use precut plywood as described above. Note: Tape does not prevent windows from breaking, so taping windows is not recommended.
-Fill your car's gas tank.
-Recheck manufactured home tie-downs.
-Check batteries and stock up on canned food, first aid supplies, drinking water, and medications.
Know What to Do When a Hurricane WARNING Is Issued
-Listen to the advice of local officials, and leave if they tell you to do so.
-Complete preparation activities.
-If you are not advised to evacuate, stay indoors, away from windows.
-Be aware that the calm "eye" is deceptive; the storm is not over. The worst part of the storm will happen once the eye passes over and the winds blow from the opposite direction. Trees, shrubs, buildings, and other objects damaged by the first winds can be broken or destroyed by the second winds.
-Be alert for tornadoes. Tornadoes can happen during a hurricane and after it passes over. Remain indoors, in the center of your home, in a closet or bathroom without windows.
-Stay away from flood waters. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car and climb to higher ground.
Know What to Do After a Hurricane Is Over
-Keep listening to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for instructions.
-If you evacuated, return home when local officials tell you it is safe to do so.
-Inspect your home for damage.
-Use flashlights in the dark; do not use candles.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Care (Pee) Free!

Last week, I was confronted by my son's day care teacher that there was an "incident" on the playground. My first thought was that another kid had pushed my son or vise versa.

I was not prepared for the following question...
"Well, um, does your son usually pee in the grass?"

By all outside appearances, I was mortified-though I was laughing hysterically on the inside.
And I wanted to strangle my husband. How I wished he could have been the one to explain exactly why it is his son believes it is perfectly OK to pee in the bushes along the perimeter of the day care playground.

My answer to the teacher...
"You can blame his daddy for that, but we're working on it."