* Life Skills Every Child Needs

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, LCSW, Courier & Press, June 20, 2017 –

Many of us remember that when we graduated from high school we were not truly prepared for “real life” outside the classroom.  Sure, we probably learned basic history, math and English skills, but we may not have mastered some of the other concepts we needed to be successful in life.

Summer is a great time to work with your child on some of these essential life skills.  Successfulstudent.org provides a list of important basics to teach our children:

  • Saving: We need to spend less than we earn.  Teach your child at an early age to put part of the money received or earned in the bank.  Help your child set a savings goal, work toward their goal and then make the purchase of the saved-for item.
  • Budgeting: Teach your child the simple skills involved with establishing and following a budget.  Practicing this concept early on will make budgeting easier when they are an adult.
  • Charity: Encourage your child to give to charity – money, time and talents — as they are able.
  • Critical Thinking: Introduce critical thinking, the objective analysis and evaluation of a situation or issue in order to form a judgment.  Teach your child ways to look up information if they have a question that requires a thought-out answer or opinion.
  • Positive Thinking: It is important to have a positive outlook on life.  By helping your child find solutions instead of just registering complaints, they will learn to believe in themselves and block out negative self-talk and thinking.
  • Motivation: Teach your child that motivation is the key to reaching a goal.  Help them learn different strategies for self-motivation.
  • Compassion: Help your child put themselves in the shoes of someone else.  Help them understand and find ways to ease others’ suffering.
  • Listening: Children need to learn to listen attentively and respectfully, understand what is being said and empathize with others.
  • Basic Auto Mechanics: Both boys and girls need to know the basics of how a car works, what might break down and how it can be fixed (how to pump gas, check the oil, change a flat tire, etc.).
  • Household: When you are fixing things around the house, explain the process to your child.  Basic understanding of home repairs and maintenance can prepare your child for living on their own.
  • Cleaning: Teach your child how to do laundry, clean a house properly and keep living quarters clean and uncluttered.  Show them how to set up a weekly and monthly cleaning routine.  Instead of just telling them what needs to be done, teach them the process and then encourage them to do it on their own.
  • Be present: Live in the present and enjoy life.  Develop a close relationship with your child and model appropriate relationships with your spouse, family members and friends.  Teach them the skills for developing these types of close relationships and the importance of working through the bumpy parts as well.

Through modeling, teaching and being present with your child you are helping them prepare for the classroom outside of school – life!

* Teach Tolerance to Combat Bullying

By Joan Carie, LCSW, LCAC, Courier & Press, June 6, 2017 –

It is not uncommon these days to hear stories about bullying in schools.  Most schools have a zero tolerance policy for bully behaviors.  When addressing the problem of school bullying, it may be helpful to look deeper into what drives this type of behavior.

A quick look into our history finds that America is known as the great melting pot, encompassing a worldwide blend of cultural traditions and founded on freedoms and tolerance of differences.  If we focus on the positives of this rich diversity, we come to view our differences as opportunities to discover new ideas and values that can enhance our lives.

If, however, we focus on differences from the perspective of no value for cultural diversity and a “my way or the highway” attitude, then we have become narrowly focused; our ability to have tolerance and empathy for differences significantly decreases.  When empathy and tolerance are lacking, we are living in a perfect environment to foster bullying.

These intolerances have serious implications for our youth.  The American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said, “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”

Children 3-6 are able to stereotype groups of people and can recognize blatant discrimination.  Children 6-10 become increasingly aware of others’ prejudices and can recognize the more subtle forms of discrimination, and by the teens years, these prejudices become internalized to eventually become part of the adult psyche.

Perhaps if we focus on tolerance, loving kindness and compassion in our own lives and live as examples to our children, we can reduce intolerance and bullying in our schools.

Some ways to foster tolerance with our children include:

  1. Teach love first.  Show examples of loving others despite the existence of differences.  Reach out a helping hand to others even if they are different.
  2. Be familiar with and acknowledge the values and biases you have.  It is important to evaluate ourselves in terms of our own beliefs and the differences we struggle with tolerating.
  3. Exposure to differences throughout childhood teaches children they do not have to agree with others in order to respect others.
  4. Allow children to explore other cultures and different viewpoints.  This can teach children an appreciation and respect for others while allowing them the freedom to express their own views and values.
  5. When intolerance rears its ugly head, including through media and social interactions, take the opportunity to challenge it.  We can teach our children to not endorse or participate in jokes that promote stereotyping, belittling or degrading others.

When children are confident and secure with themselves, they don’t feel threatened by differences.  To the contrary, they are comfortable and able to engage with others in spite of the differences that exist.

When looking at the bigger picture, if we can shift our focus to celebrating our differences we may take a huge step toward combating an ever-increasing concern, school bullying.

Indiana Adopts Plan to Combat Drug Abuse – Includes Expanding Youth First Prevention Model

This is a VERY BIG deal: Indiana’s plan to combat drug abuse includes expanding Youth First’s proven prevention model!

Check-out the plan at http://www.in.gov/…/files/DPTE%20Preliminary%20Action%20Ste… and the news coverage at the link below.

Indiana adopts new plan to link drug prevention, treatment with law enforcement

* Thinking Outside the Planter Box: The Benefits of Gardening With Your Children

By Sarah Laury, LCSW, Courier & Press, May 16, 2017 –

Every year as springtime rolls around we are welcomed by signs of the changing seasons.  The grass starts to green, the days get longer, and the flowers start to bloom.

For me, one of the most exciting signs that spring is around the corner is that my seed catalogs arrive in the mail and the hardware stores open their garden centers for the season.  In my family gardening is a tradition, and we involve our children in all parts of the process. We work together to plan, plant, harvest, and of course enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Many people are aware of the nutritional benefits of gardening with children.  Gardening allows children to have a better understanding of where their food comes from, and various studies have shown that children who participate in growing their own food are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, even developing a preference to fruits and vegetables over other snacks.

Besides the nutritional benefits, there are also many important psychological benefits to gardening as a family.  First, gardening is a great way to incorporate exercise and physical activity into your child’s routine.  When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, or “feel good hormones.”

In addition to this, exercise has been shown to decrease stress levels and increase serotonin levels in the body.  Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in the brain and is thought to be partially responsible for influencing mood as well as anxiety and depression.

Gardening also requires the gardener to slow down.  Because we live in such a fast-paced and electronics-focused society, it is more important than ever to encourage our children (and ourselves) to practice mindfulness.  By definition, mindfulness is “the state of being conscious or aware of something” or the ability to focus on one particular thing without distraction.

Gardening is a great way to teach our children to be mindful.  When you garden, you have to be aware of the needs of your plants in order for them to flourish.  Are they getting enough water?  Are they getting enough sun?  Do they need to be weeded or fertilized?

In addition to being mindful, taking care of other living things such as plants can help children gain a sense of responsibility and purpose or belonging.  In addition to being in the moment with your garden, caring for a plot has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

In an experiment published in the Journal of Health Psychology, gardening was compared to reading as a stress-relieving activity.  Test subjects that gardened experienced a more significant decrease in stress when compared to the subjects that were assigned to read.

You don’t have to live in the country or even have a yard in order to experience the benefits of gardening with your children.  You can reap these benefits whether you have rows upon rows of crops, a window sill herb garden or even a single potted tomato plant on your patio.

If you would like to learn more about gardening with your children, please visit the website for the Purdue Extension office in Vanderburgh County at https://extension.purdue.edu/Vanderburgh/pages/default.aspx.