Children need boundaries.

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Children need boundaries. It provides not only a sense of security but teaches them where they fit in the world. Children learn boundaries by what we do.  When they are small, they are dependent on us to survive. We feed them, pick them up, help them dress and wash, herd them when we are in a rush, buckle, on and on. But at some point this must change. Many children with behavioral problems suffer because they do not understand healthy boundaries. They hit, take others things, do not want to share, do not follow rules, etc. Even though true autonomy is a slow transition as a child grows, teaching a child he/she is responsible should happen as soon as they understand they are separate from you. This empowers them to make choices and realize what we do matters. We often forget to teach a child that he/she is the boss of his/her own body, and that they are ultimately in control of what happens to them.

One of the most beautiful moments as a parent I have ever had…

We often forget the wonder of life is not what we imagine, but the love we have that fuels it… Last night I had the often dreaded “Santa” question from my 9 year old. As my daughter awaited in anticipation, as if she was ready to hear the answer to life, I read her that beautiful letter a woman wrote to her daughter explaining there is not just one Santa. She looked at me seriously and said, “What does that mean?” I told her “Santa” is all of us, collectively, continuing a tradition to bring joy to children all around the world. That we each are Santa at one point in our lives. The magic is in us, what we create for others. She was relieved, ecstatic. My daughter giggled as she explained how she figured it out, finding presents in her Daddy’s closet, and was worried her father would be upset if she knew. I told her of course not, so we called him. I brought him into the conversation because despite our divorce he is still a monumental part of this for her. He listened for a while, then asked, “Are you sad?” She said “Why would I be sad?” And the giggling continued.

We hung up and continued a 2 hour conversation. She felt so proud she was now part of the “secret”, the mystery, where she could be “Santa” too. She felt trusted with something important, powerful. She promised not to tell her younger siblings or friends and even talked about how she would act so they would not figure it out. She felt grown up that she could help wrap presents and hide eggs. It was one of the most beautiful moments as a parent I have ever had. She proceeded to unravel out loud all the doubts she had over the years about all the mystical beings we filled her childhood with. That sometimes she got more money from the tooth fairy at Mommy’s than Daddy’s and it didn’t make sense. On and on, I witnessed the magic of her childhood unfold and relived. She said, “All those decorations you did”. I said, “Yes, it made me happy to make you happy”. She said Mommy, “It is even more special now that I know it is you”. I cried. How beautiful. We often forget our love is more powerful than anything, and how we show them is the most important part of their lives.

I ended with, “I will always tell you the truth, and you can ask me any question you want.” She said, “Thank you Mommy, I love you so much. Can we talk again tomorrow night?” “Of course”, as if we were a team with the wonder of the world between us. It felt as if we crossed a bridge to a higher level. I am so grateful I can be for her what I always wanted. We both went to sleep with a stronger bond, deeper than life…

Often we forget children need transition time…

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Often we forget children need transition time… between events, tasks, and even normal day to day activities. It’s almost as if children accumulate and store pent up energy that needs to be expelled, before they can settle into another task. Ask any school teacher or provider, they will attest to this collective time between one activity and the next. This time is often missed as we try quickly to get them to bed, brush their teeth, or even sit down for a meal, and it often ends in frustration and angst. Transition time doesn’t have to be long but realized and naturally built into a child’s day. Doing this not only makes life as a parent easier (who learns to expect this rather than get frustrated), but it also allows the child the time to release the energy, and mentally and physically prepare for the next thing.

The littlest accomplishments by our children become our greatest successes.

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As a mother, often the littlest accomplishments by our children become our greatest successes. After 7 years of buckling 3 children into their car seats (every day, every car ride, every child), each time one started doing it themselves I felt like I won the lottery… And yesterday my youngest, my 3 year old, was gleaming ear to ear as I hopped in the back seat to do buckle him up, and he had done it himself. While these moments are bittersweet of letting go we also regain our independence, as they gain theirs. We forget how much we do daily in our role as a caretaker, and it isn’t until one of those “jobs” is removed do we remember how much, and how it once again feels, to only have to buckle ourselves… © Jodi Healy

Shopping with children can be unbearable! Unless…

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Today I brought a small shopping cart along and empowered my 5 and 3 year old to help pick and carry groceries (taking turns). Half way through my 5 year old said, “Mommy my legs aren’t even tired.” Not only did they get exercise (rather than sit in my cart the whole time bored and full of pent up energy I have to deal with later), they were so proud of themselves. When my 7 year old came home from school my 5 year old bragged she did the shopping! I personally hate grocery shopping and add children to the mix and it often can be unbearable… but I learned by engaging them in the responsibility, making it an activity we can do together, it can be a peaceful experience instead and a great learning one too! – Jodi Healy
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Playing store is a great activity…and setting it up is just as fun!

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Playing store is a great activity with many opportunities for learning, and setting it up is just as fun! I have my children collect empty cereal, pasta boxes, egg containers, plastic containers, or whatever they can find (that is clean) from the recycle bins or cupboards to sell. I help make fake money, find fake credit cards (old library cards or business cards work great), and some change (my 7 years old can do this herself now and loves the challenge). If you don’t have a cashier a calculator works and an old Easter basket/basket works great if you don’t have a shopping cart. I grab a few old bags lying around for filling up the groceries after someone has paid. I faciliate the first few minutes, play a shopper and explain things… but if your children have ever gone shopping with you they know what to do! I even leave our store set up for a few days and they go back again and again. It is hours of fun and learning (changing money, counting, planning, organizing, role playing, and more).

Reading empowers children to self learn…

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Reading has always been a staple in each of my children’s day. Sometimes I don’t feel like reading a book before nap or bedtime, when I ‘m the most exhausted and feel I need alone time, but I always do. It has become habit. It gives me one on one time with each child, even if only 10 minutes each day. It also has become part of our routine and each of them looks forward to cuddle time with Mommy and expects it (I still read to my 7 year old every day). Forget the benefits we all know about reading… My 7 year old started reading at age 4, and is reading at a 5th grade level in 1st grade. And, I never taught her how. My 5 year is now beginning to, and isn’t starting Kindergarten for 7 more months. But that is not why I do this. Each child has their own learning path and to me reading isn’t just about words. My children have learned to love learning, exploring pictures and books, and love the library. I feel I have empowered them to self learn. At first I ridiculously bought a ton of books but now I try to take them once a week to the library (they get as excited as going to the toy store). Even though only one can actually read, they spend hours finding books, looking at pictures, and flipping pages. All I can do as a mother is lead and give them the tools, and this I am the most proud of.