Can your children find Mental Wellness in a pandemic?

You have likely noticed that day to day life has become much more difficult in the past year. Adults are struggling with loss of jobs, loss of income, and loss of career stability. Children have witnessed all of this loss for their parents and on top of that, have suffered isolation, frustration, and a lack of understanding as to why life has completely changed. Working in a child care and preschool program for the past year has illuminated the mental health crisis we are facing with our children. Negative behaviors are on the rise along with complete emotional breakdowns over seemingly minor issues. Of course, children’s issues may seem minor to us and be overlooked when adults are facing the challenges of living in a pandemic. Is there anything we can do to help our children maintain their mental health through this crisis? The good news is we can help them, and in the process, help ourselves too.

If you have taken the time to do a Google search or better yet, a Pinterest search of nurturing children’s mental health, you’ve realized this is a very hot topic! You may also have noticed that there are many ideas that parents can implement fairly easily. I will share a few ideas that I have found to help my family.

  1. Increase outside time but not through organized sports. Help your children develop a relationship with nature. Start a collection of rocks, sticks, or photos of what you and your child enjoy about nature. In my house, I used to joke that all of our clothes were “stone-washed” even when it wasn’t the style due to my boys rock collections! At age 28 and 24, they still hunt for Minnesota agates and polish them. It’s been a great connection to nature. Find places of solitude and quiet. Absorb the peace of the world at it’s basic operation. Lay on the ground, feel the warmth of sunshine, look at the clouds, dance in the rain, talk about what you love about where you live. Breathe. Listen. Clear your mind of other distractions.
  • 2. Look for things to be grateful for. I started a gratitude journal several years ago when I was struggling with my own contentment. I found that I spent a great deal of time with my attention and focus on the parts of my life didn’t satisfy me. I needed to change my perspective as my attitude was affecting everyone around me. Put simply- I was no fun to be around! Fortunately, I found and purchased a pre-made gratitude journal that was cute and came with stickers that made me smile. I worked to find one small thing to write down each night before I went to sleep that I was thankful for. Many days, this was a hard task for me. I had lost my sense of wonder for the small beautiful parts of life. This daily practice of looking for the good in my life gained traction over time, and I have reconnected with the beauty of a sunrise, the comfort of a warm house, and even enjoyed a good hair day! There are many studies showing statistics on how gratefulness will improve your mental health, but I like a personal story more…. hope you do too! You can help your child develop an attitude of gratitude by staring a journal with writing, drawings, photographs, or stickers to recognize what makes them feel happiness. If they are anything like me, paging through the journal will pull them out of a funk every once in awhile. My final piece of advice would be to journal with your child because modeling good mental health habits is one of the most important lessons you will teach your child.
  • 3. Breathe. O.K. I realized we do this 8-16 times per minute without even thinking about it. It’s natural and life sustaining. It’s not a conscience act or choice. I am suggesting that you to put breathing into your conscious acts. Find a way to count that helps you focus on your breathing. For me, I use a “square breathing” technique where I breathe in for a count of four, hold my breath for the same count, breathe out to a count of four and hold that for a count of four. This has helped me through some very challenging emotions in the past few years. I also love to do this at bedtime after writing in my gratitude journal. This will help me make the transition to sleep. It can do the same for you and your child. You have probably noticed when children become upset or highly emotional (the famous public breakdown), their breathing becomes very erratic. I used to watch my cousin hold her breath until she passed out when she became overwhelmed. Watching was scary! How would those moments play out if we taught our very young children the concept of deep breathing for relaxation? Equally as important as the breathing is helping kids identify when they are getting “worked up” and direct them to breathing techniques. It’s a life long skill that will benefit them (and you) immensely.
  • 4. Talk about feelings. It’s O.K. to not be O.K. The question of how to deal with feelings is irrelevant if children are never taken through the process of identifying what they are feeling. Talk about the feeling of characters on television. Speculate about feelings of characters in books. Have them look at faces in pictures and try to figure out how people are feeling. Developing empathy for others allows us to develop empathy for ourselves as well. Once we recognize what we are feeling, we have a better chance to use one of the tactics from above to turn negative feelings into positive ones. I admit this task of talking about emotions and feelings is by far the scariest of those I have offered up as ways to work on mental health. We parents don’t always have the answers when it comes to the mental health of our children, and it’s hard to not have the ability to help our children when it’s needed. This is why we need to know that asking for help is important. If our children are sick physically, we don’t hesitate to call the doctor or nurse or run to urgent care to make them well. I know this from vast experiences of doing this exact thing! Why should we treat mental health any differently? Together we have an opportunity to raise the generation that breaks the stigma of mental health issues. We can do this! I have sent both of my boys to talk with someone when I realized I could no longer “fix” their challenges. They both benefitted from their time working with a mental health professional, and appreciated the fact that I steered them in that direction with no hesitation or judgment. Don’t force your children to struggle with issues that a professional can improve. Teach them the lesson of asking for help when it’s needed.

If you followed through with the challenge to Google or Pinterest mental health ideas for children, you have found there are hundreds of fun ways to help your children develop resilience and improve mental health even in times of crisis. I have touched on only a few that I have personally used. The point to this article is not to find the “right” way to help your children, but to find YOUR way to work on mental wellness with your children. Let’s give our children the gift of being intentional about the health and well being of both their bodies and MINDS!

Let’s FACE it. Parenting is hard.

I have been reading a lot of Brene’ Brown lately. Her message to me in my acceptance of myself has been eye opening, but what she has written about being a parent has been life changing. The book Daring Greatly has an entire chapter about parenting that I believe everyone should read- parent or not!

In chapter seven, Brene’ writes about the best parenting advice she ever received. It was from Toni Morrison, “Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?” (223).

Wait! What?!

Immediately I thought back to all of the times my kids walked into a room while I checked out what they were wearing…. was it clean, did it match, was it appropriate for the situation? I thought about how I looked at my kid’s hair, face, tennis shoes, EVERYTHING!! As moms, we have a tendency to look at our kids with a filter that judges them as other people might judge them. WHY DO WE DO THAT? Do we believe we are being judged by other parents all of the time? I think moms think this is how they love children. We are showing them how much we care by wanting them to “put their best foot forward”. We need to ask ourselves, are we judging other parents by how their children look? Maybe we should stop doing that! We are all in the parenting game together. Let’s support each other.

What have I taught my kids by having the face of judgment when I see them? Have I taught them that they don’t measure up to my standards or the standards of others? Am I expecting them to be perfect? According to Brene’, perfectionism is teaching kids to value what other people think over what they think. Personally, that is not a lesson I willingly choose for my children. I want them to know they matter. What they think matters.

What can I do? In my heart, I feel extreme joy when I see my children whether it be after a long separation or simply overnight. My heart smiles…… my face can show what my heart feels and bypass the judgment my brain is conditioned to place upon my kids. They deserve to see the happiness they bring to my life. I can work to not only tell them I love them, but I can let them see that love on my face every time they enter a room. I can only imagine the love they will feel for me in return. As in all parenting lessons, it won’t be easy, but it will be worth the effort.

Patience Little One.

Patience and fortitude conquer all things.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

With the start of a new calendar year, we in the pre-K world begin to get many questions about transition to Kindergarten. Parents realize we are nearly half way through the school year and they begin to wonder (worry) whether their children are ready to make the leap to Kindergarten .

We do our best to reassure parents that there is a great deal of growth that will happen with four year old children between January and September. We encourage them to remember that 9 months of time is 1/4 of the time their student has been alive and a lot can happen in that amount of time!

Many parents worry about their children having the academic knowledge to go into K. Let’s face it, kindergarten is no longer the crayon wielding, cooperative, stay away from eating the paste experience it was 30 years ago. Many kids will leave kindergarten knowing how to read many words. They will know numbers, letters, letter sounds, and sounds of letter combinations along with an incredible list of site words they must master. Sure- this seems pretty scary. How can parents be sure their own children will be able to handle all of the learning expected of them in kindergarten?

Sit down. Quiet your surroundings. Focus only on what you are reading. I am about to give you the magic secret to readying your children for kindergarten. Teach them patience.

Say what? I know you think I am 100% off my rocker , lost my mind, whacko right now. I promise. Patience is key. Can your children listen to directions without interrupting? Are your children able to wait for you to finish speaking AND actually listen to what you are saying? This question makes me think of the times I have participated in Kindergarten Round up at our school…. so many teachers will have a classroom rule, “Ask 3 before you ask me.” I may be wrong about the number, but the idea is clear. Are your children able to problem solve? If they don’t see their mittens where they think the mittens should be, will they look around, ask a friend for help, or do they yell at the top of their lungs, “Where are my mittens?” When given a direction from a teacher, will your child follow it or say no?

When you are parenting your four year old, imagine a room full of 20 or more children of the same age acting the way your child is acting right now. Would you be able to control them? Would you be able to teach them a concept? Make your goal with your children to get them to behave in a manner that allows teaching them to be possible. You are your children’s first teacher and the lessons you teach them about their conduct at school will be some of the the most important lessons you will teach them.

That’s it! Seriously- I am not kidding! When you think about all of the concepts and skills children need to know upon exiting Kindergarten, isn’t it nice to think you only need to worry about teaching them to sit, listen, and be teachable?

One thing I know for sure…… you can handle that!

Where do they learn to act like that?

One of the beautiful parts of childhood is the fact that kids don’t have conditioned reactions to differences in people. How many videos have you watched on social media where children of different races, cultures, and abilities are playing together without conflict? I tack those up with my favorites like the animal videos of the mouse and cat becoming friends.

You have likely witnessed over the course of your life that children will ask pointed questions about differences between people. “Why is that person short, tall, fat, skinny, etc?” Kids will learn from the words of an answer ALMOST as much as they will learn from the tone, facial features, and body language. Children are always watching. They don’t always listen.

What tone and body language are you passing on to the children in your life? Do you avoid eye contact with a person in a wheel chair? Do you move to the other side of the street when you see a man of a different race on the sidewalk? Does your tone change when you talk about people with lots of tattoos? Sometimes these subliminal actions come out without us being aware. What would happen if you concentrated on the way you interacted with everyone?

I was fortunate to attend a training a few years ago that opened my eyes to the micro- aggressions many people face each day. From that moment forward, I have studied interaction between people. I witnessed at a volleyball try out in Duluth, a coach ask the only person of color in the room where she was from. The coach had not asked any other player (there were over 50 in the gym) where they were from. Why ask this girl? She answered the question with confusion and embarrassment. She was from Duluth- born and raised. Is it an automatic response to think that someone different from you must be from another place? Another country? Not your country? Hmmmm. Something to think about.

I wish adults could follow the lead of children rather than the other way around. Adults could learn the joy in meeting new people without the reservations of wondering if the person is enough like us to be accepted into our lives. I have seen four year old kids say, “Look- we are twins!” referring to a child of a different race or color. Kids don’t necessarily mean we look exactly alike….. they see sameness, being twins, in the fact that they like the same activities, laugh at the same silly stuff, and enjoy similar toys. Simple.

Challenge yourself to follow the lead of children when encountering people you may judge without conscious thought. See someone who may be a boy or girl? What do your kids do? Ask & then say ,”OK.” No judgment. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. Watch a child interact with an older person. They may ask, “Why is your skin all wrinkly?” They take an answer at face value and touch the older person’s hand to learn what older skin feels like. No judgment.

I imagine a world where we could let kids lead adults in how we treat people. I see an end to bullying, marginalizing people, and aggression toward all who are in some way,”different”. I believe we could create a more beautiful and peaceful world. We could use a lot more peace and acceptance in our world. Although changing the world seems overwhelming, change happens one person at a time. Be the change.

Taking Responsibility- You are the sum of your choices.

Sometimes life is ironic. Today is one of those days. Writing this blog has been a long time goal, but like many goals, I didn’t realize how much work it would entail. Writing is fairly easy for me, but coming up with ideas about what to write….that’s a whole different ball game! I now keep a running list as ideas come to me (they usually do when I am in public watching parents with their kids). I take that list and put the title in my drafts with a picture or quote that will help remind me where I was planning to go with the topic. So….. this topic has been sitting in my drafts for about 5 weeks. The funny thing- I am writing about how choices affect your life on the day our president is facing Impeachment. Huh. I guess we get to see how choices affect people around us every day!

Challenges, decisions, choices….. how did we get here and how can we use this in our parenting? The fact is our lives are a summation of our choices. Some may want to argue this point, saying we didn’t choose to have some of the issues we have, but along the way, we made a choice that put the issue in our path. The true question is- can we teach this concept to our children? Of course we can! It’s called taking responsibility.

When children are very small, it is our job to keep them safe and protected. Some of us forget that as our kids grow up, they need learn to face the consequences of those choices. I believe these parents are termed “helicopter” parents. You will find them buzzing around their children’s life at every age providing them with excuses and blaming anyone else for any poor choices their kids make. This is a mistake.

People need to face up to their mistakes. Children included. Haven’t you heard, “Experience is the best teacher”? We remember the mistakes we made more often and more deeply that the perfect decision made at the exact correct moment. Why is that? We have a bigger lesson to learn from mistakes. Don’t be afraid to allow your children to goof up once in awhile.

I remember having this discussion with my husband years ago as our first born was a stereotypical first born -people pleaser who always wanted to do everything “right”. He had reached the ripe age of 14 or 15 and I said to my husband, “We really need him to make a big mistake while he is still at home and we can help him learn that he will recover from it.” My husband looked at me with a bit of horror in his eyes and then realized what I was saying was true! Our son did screw up pretty big not too long after this discussion. Someone at school told him you could buy an app for your phone & if you deleted it the same day, you wouldn’t have to pay for the app. HAHAHAHA! $500 cell phone bill in one month!

It was a great learning opportunity. He had to look his dad and me in the eye and tell us he had downloaded all of those apps. He took responsibility. First and foremost- my son learned he could mess up and we still loved him. Next, he learned the responsibility of paying off a bill. He worked extra chores around the house for 3 or 4 months to pay that off. He learned the feeling of pride and accomplishment. We congratulated him for following through. He learned tenacity.

Taking responsibility for your actions, tenacity, persistence, control over your choices…. These are some skills many adults are challenged by. My son took a big step toward learning all of those lessons in this one big mistake.

The next time you are faced with your child stuck in a bit of hot water, don’t be afraid to let them stew. You are allowing them to grow up. You are allowing them the opportunity to realize their choices make their consequences. Both good and bad. Remember, we could use more people in the world who have learned that lesson.

Maybe Someday….. what are you waiting for?

As parents, I am sure we have all done it…. put off that fun thing the kids want to do in order to finish chores, clean the house, pay bills, ect. I would like you to begin thinking about your time differently. Time with your children is limited. Paying bills is important. How can you find balance?

One of my favorite memories with my children is a beautiful spring day after a long winter (we live in northern Minnesota after all). My husband came home from work early, we picked up the kids at the end of the school day, and headed straight for a local park. (Jay Cooke). We hiked, watched the snow melt rushing through the rivers, and gave our kids their first opportunity at taking nature photos. We even had them take a photo of me and my husband. We don’t have too many of those! We looked for spring flowers and animals. Truly- we simply enjoyed getting outside. We didn’t eat dinner until 8:00 that night. My kids laughed on the way home as they realized we hadn’t had dinner yet.

The reason I share this story…. this experience cost us very little. Entrance to the park and a little gas money. For several hours, our focus was on nature and each other. No distractions. No screens. We actually took photos with a REAL camera and not a phone! We created connections. I still have a photo of my youngest son and I on that day. He scrapbooked a page, titling it “The Best Mom”. Every time I look at that photo, I realize we should have done a lot more of this over the course of my kids lives at home.

Why is this a favorite memory? Maybe because it was a rare moment where I actually chose to walk away from tasks at home and make my family a priority. I know I intended to have days like this more often than I actually did.

Time slips away. If your child asks you to lay in the grass looking at clouds. Do it! If your little one asks to play soccer, baseball, or basketball in the yard- Do it! Have a squirt gun or water balloon fight. Pick wildflowers. Look for agates. Slow down. Savor your time.

One day, like me, you might be driving along, pass a nature trail and think, “I always wanted to take my kids there.” Your kids may be in their 20’s like mine are and it’s possible they won’t have time to walk that trail with you anymore. Maybe they don’t live in the area. Maybe they have their own family and are doing their best to create memories with them. Maybe walking the trail has become physically impossible for you. Maybe you will feel regret like I did. Perhaps, you will even write about it in a blog.

I feel confident that all parents have heard, “Enjoy your kids while you can.” So many of us will listen but not really let the message sink in. We have time right? We are trying so hard to be the best parents we are capable of being. Certainly, we will have time for all of the experiences we’d like to have with our children.

The reality is no one sits on their death bed and wishes they had spent less time with their kids. Put down the dishes. They will still be there later. Sit down, play a board game (even the boring ones). Take a walk. Collect leaves. Polish rocks. Laugh when those rocks go through your washing machine. One day, you will miss washing those pants covered in mud. Someday, you will want reams of wonderful memories and stories to share with your kids.

The best part of prioritizing your kids is that you will have taught your children the importance of parenting and the value of time. I can’t think of many lessons more important.

Fostering Independence- It’s not easy!

I have read multiple times the main goal of parenting is to make our children able to live without us. It is also the hardest part of parenthood. We know if we do our job correctly, our children will one day leave the nest.

Fostering independence in your children is a lot like math….. one skill leads to another. Think about how young we begin these lessons with our babies! The first lesson is often having children learn how to put themselves to sleep. The very first step of independence!

We follow up by helping our kids learn to get dressed independently, use the bathroom on their own, feed themselves, and so much more! It can be a wild ride helping your child learn a skill that you could do for them in 1/4 of the time it takes them to complete on their own. Helloooooooo- how about cleaning their rooms? I know I could have finished that task 12 times by the time my kids got through the task once. Of course, I don’t rediscover toys that I forgot I had along the way. As parents, it is our job to step back to allow our kids to learn and yes, sometimes fail.

There are so many lessons to learn from failing a task. We teach responsibility to our children for the failure. Don’t blame someone else when you are unable to do something. Buckle down, try again and again until the skill is mastered. Don’t practice until you are good, practice until you can’t fail. Take responsibility for mistakes. By doing this, we take control of the situation and place the fixing in our own hands. If we blame someone or something else for our failures, then we no longer have control of fixing and mastering that issue. Don’t take away the ability from your child to overcome something that has been difficult for them! These are the skills that will serve them well in the future!

There will be times when we need to step back in to help out our children. We never want the frustration level of our children to overwhelm our kids. Every child will have a different level of tolerance for difficult tasks. Some kids love tackling a challenge, others will need to be coached through unbuttoning clothes, or getting those shoe on the “right” feet. Consistency is key. Don’t jump in to help because you are running short on time. Plan ahead to allow for your child to have the opportunity to take the tasks they are willing to try. YEP! Sometimes this takes a lot of time! But, not quite as much time as following your child into a sports locker room to help them get dressed at age 10 because you couldn’t find time when they were younger. I know you can do it!!

What do you do if your child is struggling in a particular area? As always, answers to this issue vary. Is the task they are struggling with related to the health and well-being? Perhaps they are choosing to eat unhealthy foods. Maybe they don’t want to go to bed at a time to give them adequate sleep. It could be that they are having trouble using the bathroom when they need. What do you do then? The health of your child comes first. Ask for help from your pediatrician if you are able. Attend Early Childhood Family Education classes and talk with the parent educator. Ask parent friends for suggestions.

Remember- any tasks relating to the health of your child are not negotiable. Children need to go to bed. Bed time is only chosen by children on special occasions. Kids need to eat foods that are good for them. They must drink water- lots of it! They need to use the bathroom. These items are a must because you care about your child’s health.

When you child needs some decision making power- let them pick out their shirt, socks, or pajamas. You will have many opportunities to have your children flex their decision making skills. Decisions regarding the health of their bodies is not one of those areas.

Independence! It’s the goal of parenting. Sitting on the other side of the fence, with children who are entering adulthood, I can tell you that sometimes it’s painful knowing my kids don’t need me the same way they did when they were little. I have never experienced a more satisfying feeling than seeing them handle difficulties in their lives. The marathon was worth it. It will be for you as well.

Love Lessons in Early Childhood

The people who love you don’t treat you badly. Love doesn’t hurt.

~Oprah Winfrey

The lessons we learn about relationships and how they work (or sometimes don’t work) begin very early on in life. Research says that children feel secure when they see their parents hugging, holding hands, or being generally supportive of each other. The first love lessons children will learn will be the ones they learn from watching how their parents treat each other.

As kids grow a bit older, they branch out with relationships. They make first friends and develop favorite playmates. In the preschool setting, we often get to hear who kids will be marrying when they get older. Often, they choose a classmate they enjoy being around and they plan the wedding for two or three weeks down the road when they are “really” old. As staff, we may smile or even laugh a bit at kids develop their first love interest at school. In reality, there are many lessons to be learned from these first relationships.

How many times have you heard a little girl complain that a little boy is “mean” to her and he may pull her hair, or take away toys that she is playing with? How many of those times did the adult listening to the little girl say, “He must like you!” Stop for a moment to consider the message sent to that little girl. To be loved is to be picked on, physically hurt, or made to feel bad. I bet that isn’t exactly what the adult meant to teach the little girl. For some reason, this lesson has been passed on from generation to generation. Maybe our generation can be the one who puts an end to this lesson.

How about we say, “He is looking for attention in ways that aren’t nice. You can use your words to tell him that.” Teach her to protect herself from being treated inappropriately. She can say directly to the little boy, “That hurts me (my feelings) and I don’t like it. Please stop.” If this reaction is not helping her end the behavior, teach her to engage an adult to help her. With this lesson, we can tell our children that love shouldn’t hurt. People who care about us want us to be happy and feel good. We also taught her to stand up for herself, and to ask for help when she needs it. All of these skills are vital over the course of a lifetime.

The secondary benefit of this lesson for our daughters is teaching young boys they can grow up to be good men. My boys have been swimming in the dating sea for several years, and they find that many women aren’t interested in long term relationships because they are “too nice”. Seriously? Maybe if we can put a stop to girls thinking boys being mean to them is a sign of love, we can put a stop to women being attracted to men who treat them badly. We owe our children nothing less than believing love is a part of life that makes everything better. Think of the societal problems we could eliminate with this message to our kids!

How safe are we? How to feel secure about your children’s safety.

There is nothing more precious to a parent than a child, and nothing more important to our future than the safety of our children.

William J. Clinton

The beginning of a school year holds many “drills” to practice for safety situations. We have fire drills, tornado drills, and lock down drills. Our society has come to accept and understand the fire and tornado drills. I imagine people are more accepting of these as they seem like uncontrollable situations for us to solve. Talk about a lock down drill with a parent and you are likely to get a very passionate and emotional response.

Being an administrator of an early childhood program, I understand the need for the practice. Practice is what can make us proficient in a real life situation. On the flip side, I have sat in a dark room with a three year old child who asks,”Is this how we hide from the bad guys?” As a mom, my heart broke. I was sad to realize that a three year old child understood the purpose of a lock down.

The world has become a complicated place to raise children. In the school setting, teachers and staff always have safety at the front of their minds as they should. It requires those of us in decision making positions to be constantly evaluating the safety plan. People in the world of education take the safety of children seriously and work diligently to provide a safe environment to our students.

The unfortunate reality for parents is that there are many places that are now experiencing violence where safety plans are not a priority. How do we deal with daily life? Trips to Walmart, festivals, and places we’ve felt safe no longer hold the same level of comfort as we have felt in the past. The challenge before us is to raise our children so they are not fearful of everything. How can we do that?

To begin, we live our lives without fear. We still hold hands when crossing the street. We still teach our children to look both ways while crossing the street and to wear a helmet while biking. We teach them about their inner radar and stranger danger. We teach them about the many dangers in life (HELLO-driving a car!!). At the same time, we teach them about the wonderful experiences of life. Meeting a new friend at the park. The magic of live music under the stars. The thrill of Disney World. What we focus on is what grows in our lives. Focus on the good. Teach about the bad. Like every other parenting situation, do the best you can. Your best is enough.

Raising a Reader: Learn from my Struggle

You can find magic where ever you look. Sit back and relax all you need is a book.

Dr. Seuss

I have been an avid reader all of my life. I am the younger sister to a sibling who had a difficult time learning to read. Because I was ever present when he was working on reading…. I became a very young reader, and I never slowed down or looked back when it came to reading.

I thought my children would be the same as me. I modeled reading to them plenty! I had an environment rich with books as I had kept many of the books I owned in my childhood. I cherished lap time with my children and a book.

My first born was a lot like me. You know those first born kids are parent pleasers for quite awhile, so I believe he knew it made me happy to read to him. He took to reading quite easily and started reading the Harry Potter series in second grade. Yeah- I was confident I knew how to raise a reader.

And then, I had another child. This one didn’t like to sit still. He gave up his night time feeding early in his life, so that he wouldn’t have to sit on my lap. Once he had the ability to move- he was off! He was penned pinball by some family friends because he never stopped moving. We always knew when he got out of bed in the morning, as we would hear him running across the floor. Forget walking- running gets you there faster!

He didn’t have much interest in books. I put forth lots of effort to find the shortest books I could with the least amount of words to keep him interested in a book from start to finish. Ever heard of No David! By David Shannon? Yep- that was his favorite book. It has 60 words in the entire book. That was his limit.

We started reading only nights in our home when he was 7. I actually turned my non reader husband into a huge reader by doing this! My older son loved those nights and kept on his journey with Harry Potter. My younger son would try to sit in a chair to look at a book. I say try because he would literally complete an entire circle with his body on the chair while reading. Picture his feet where his head once was & his head nearly on the floor! It was his way of moving when we told him he needed to stay in his chair. We started with 10 minutes- we didn’t think sitting still for that short amount of time would be that difficult!

I didn’t give up. I bought him books about the activities he loved. I think we owed every hockey story on the planet! I battled his discouragement when he needed to read a book at school that was far too difficult for him by reading with him. I would read to him, and then with him, and then have him read by himself. This was all done with one page of the book. Repetition is supposed to help- right? Not with everyone.

In addition, my kids went to a small school and teachers, staff, and the librarian would compare my kids and their reading ability. Some even compared my youngest son to me when I was in school there. Geesh. That was tough on him! We didn’t do comparisons in our house. We reminded him that everyone had strengths and weaknesses. We loved him through the hard times and he continued to work on his reading skill. In high school, he chose to take a literature class- it was short novels.but I took that as a small victory!

My youngest is nearly 23 now. He still wouldn’t choose reading as a way to fill his spare time, but he recently became interested in reading John Maxwell leadership books and has been working his way through those. I asked him recently if he thought there was anything more I could have done to help him with his reading challenges. He said “IDK. Maybe read to me more?” He obviously doesn’t remember the struggles we had when he was young trying to read to him. I thought a bit about what things I never tried with him. Maybe I could have read with him on the trampoline? A little weird, but not impossible. Jump up and down and read. It might have worked. I could have tried reading to him when he was tired enough to begin sleeping. I could have read on car rides while my husband drove.

I guess the message is to be creative with your kids. Realize they will be individuals and may not be anything like you. No matter what- love them through the struggles. Don’t forget to forgive yourself when you feel like you should have done more.