Parenting Articles

Airplane Travel with Toddlers: Nine Out-of-the-Box Strategies

Air travel with toddlers takes thinking outside of the box

Before I had kids, vacation started the moment I sat down on the airplane. That all changed when I started traveling with toddlers.  And how!

When traveling with toddlers, boarding a flight signals the beginning of the biggest challenge of the trip: trying to confine little people with the need for speed into one small space for hours on end. And keep them quiet.  T’ain’t natural. Talk about a set up for parental frustration.

A mother of two rowdy toddlers who are barely two and almost four just spent an entire session of parent coaching with me, crafting a plan to get through a flight with the kids without losing her cool.  We won’t discuss her husband who gets really tense if the kids act up at all; suffice it to say she’s on her own for managing the children.

Here are some out-of-the-box strategies she’s going to try:

  1. Long before travel day, mom is going to pick seats.  Instead of putting her and her husband across the aisle from each other, they are going to sit in front and back of each other.  Why?  Because her kids love to kick the seat in front of them.  This way, the orneriest one will only be kicking her seat, not a stranger’s.
  2. First and foremost, mom has to get herself mentally prepared for the task. This is the time to show up reasonably rested and ready for a challenge. She’s a runner so she’s going to think like she’s getting ready for a race: the right gear, the right nutrition, plenty of rest, and the mindset of being ready for a challenge.
  3. Part of the mental preparation is getting in the right headspace. We talked about how she loves her kids and doesn’t want to yell at them during the trip because a) she feels bad about it and b) it stresses the kids and makes them more likely to misbehave. She repeated a mantra that she’ll run through her head while trying to survive the trip with some sort of sanity intact. Her mantra was, “I love them and I love me.” This is a reminder to be compassionate with them and kind to herself.
  4. Part of the prep is getting the kids ready.  Her husband has been warning them about the “rules” for when they fly: “No loud voices, no getting out of your seats.”  What a great challenge for two strong-willed little peeps who love to show their parents who’s boss by screaming, kicking the seat in front of them, and running down the aisle.  We shifted this mini-lecture to a challenge. Or call it a game.  Or an experiment.  It might sound like this: “I wonder how many minutes in a row you’ll be able to use your indoor voice!” “I wonder how many prizes you’ll be able to earn by sitting still on the plane.” (I’ll come back to this.)
  5. The next part of the prep happens on the way to the airport.  With compassion and playfulness, she’s going to say, “I can imagine that it might be hard to sit quietly on the plane for so long so how about if you get all your yells and screams out of your system now?”  Then she’ll encourage them to yell, roar, bark, meow, howl….. whatever they want, as loud as they can.  She’ll do it right along with them, encouraging them to do even more, even louder.  This is one of my favorite parenting tricks: you TRY to get them to make a lot of noise on your terms. This sucks some of the wind out of their sails.  All of a sudden, you think it’s fun and funny to make a lot of noise (at a time and place you have chosen), which instantly stops the battle that they are accustomed to winning.
  6. Once they get checked in and through security, she’s going to pull the same trick on them in the concourse by saying, “I can imagine it might be hard to still still on the plane so let’s get all our wiggles out now.”  They are going to run and chase and jump and wiggle their waggles away. All the while, she’ll be reminding herself, “I did not come here to form long-lasting relationships with the people in this airport.”  And while this strategy of shaking their sillies out might be a “trick,” it’s a kind trick.  It’s one that honors the fact that little toddlers want to move and wiggle and make noise.  It gives them a chance to feel understood and honored.  I can tell you from experience that most strategies of getting toddlers to sit still, like threatening and repeating, are not loving and honoring. Oh, and they don’t usually work.
  7. This family is flying near bedtime, so after the kids have wiggled their waggles away, she’s going to get them in the mindset of bedtime by putting on their pj’s and brushing their teeth.  On the plane, she’ll give them their warm milk, read their bedtime stories, whisper their lullabies and snuggle the best she can.
  8. Once they board, this mom is going to befriend the people sitting right near her family and offer to buy them drinks. After that, she is not going to look at them or worry about what they are thinking.  She’s going to focus on doing her best to get through the flight with minimal brain damage.  Trying to please everyone around her is not her job. Employing her best parenting skills with her kids… THAT is her job.
  9. Now that game/challenge/experiment that she cued up a while back comes into play. She will challenge her two year old to see if she can stay seated and use her indoor voice for three minutes.  During that time, she’ll talk to her, read to her, and be attentive.  When her daughter makes it three minutes, she’s going to trace one of the girl’s fingers on a piece of paper.  Then she’ll do it again and trace the next finger.  Then again.  And again.  When the girl’s entire hand is traced, she’ll get to pick a little wrapped prize that mom has tucked into the carry-on.  At this rate, she’ll have checked the box on fifteen peaceful minutes. If she can do a handful of these cycles, she will have gotten through take off and a good chunk of the flight.  And, more importantly, she will have given her daughter practice at doing what mom wants her to do…. sit quietly and use her indoor voice.  This is so much more effective than focusing on what she doesn’t want her to do: run and scream.

That’s it.  After all that, she’ll focus on bedtime stories and getting her daughter to sleep. The trip probably won’t go perfectly, but then, many challenges with toddlers don’t.  But this mom feels more prepared and hopeful and she has some things to focus on to up the odds that at least a good part of the trip goes better than it might have.

One last thought: even though it can be exhausting and embarrassing flying with toddlers, I hope you don’t wish it away.  What I’ve experienced is that they do eventually grow up and become easy to travel with.  But there’s a catch: when they get to the part where they’re easy to travel with, it’s not long until they start flying away….. away to college, away on semesters abroad, away on trips that don’t involve us.  And that, just like traveling with toddlers, brings its own kind of sweetness and its own kind of bitterness, all wrapped up in one.

Copyright December 2017 by Kerry Stutzman, LMFT, MSW.  Kerry offers parent coaching as well as marriage, family, and individual therapy.  She believes in thinking differently about how we think about things.

Getting Kids Out the Door On Time!

1. Have Compassion

Remember, kids would often rather stay home with mom and dad. It’s a lot of work to get out the door. It’s no fun to say goodbye to their favorite people. So if we can just name their experience, such as “I can tell you wish you could just stay home and watch this show. Sometimes I wish I could stay home, too.” This can help get us out of “drill sergeant” mode and instead, into making polite requests. Then, when they are doing what we want them to be doing, it’s better to notice and comment on that than it is to focus and nag about what we don’t want. Wherever we focus our attention is what we amplify.

2. Use Enforceable Statements

Instead of nagging and reminding school-aged kids of what they should or shouldn't be doing, it's more effective to say what we will do or allow or provide to them. If I say to my son, “Hurry up, we’ve got to go!”, I have no way of enforcing how fast he moves. In fact, commanding him to speed up is likely to make him slow down. Instead, I can say, “I’m getting in the car at 8:00. I charge $1/minute (or a chore/minute) to wait.” “Everyone who is in the car by 8:00 gets a ride to school for free!” is another option. Then, get in the car and start your timer. When your kid gets in the car, stop the timer, say nothing, set a reminder to charge him/her after schools and drive to school with no arguing. The two most important parts of this: 1) no arguing during the drive and 2) follow through and charge what you've said you're going to charge.

3. A Little Bit of Playfulness Can Go a Long Way

I used to be so serious about getting my three three little boys out the door. Some days, the routine was exhausting and not much fun. My stress about it probably rubbed off on them. But on the good days when I could be playful instead of forceful about getting my strong-willed three year old dressed, everything changed. On my those days, I’d talk in a silly voice and “be the shoes looking for some tootsies” and chase him and tickle him as I slipped the shoes on his feet. He was happier, I was happier and those mornings went better. Never underestimate the power of playfulness in getting your kids' cooperation.

4. Get Ready Before the Kids Get Rolling

I used to stay in bed until my kids crawled in with me. Then I'd get up and get ready while they did. Since I tend to run late more than I’d like to admit, this means I’d be in a rush and not very available to help them. A smart mom (Vicki, you know who you are!) told me that when she had a job before kids, she always got ready before she went to work. Duh. And once her job became being a mom, she still thought it was a good idea to get ready first so that she could give her kids positive attention in the mornings. She got up early, showered and read the paper before they even woke up. Yes, she may have missed out on a little sleep, but she also didn’t wear herself out battling with her kids and rushing around in the mornings.

5. Build in a Buffer

My mornings got so much calmer when I built in a buffer of time. If we had to leave at 8:30, I’d act like we had to leave at 8:15. If the kids were ready on time, they could earn the privilege of watching a show, or if I was ready on time too, I would read them a book or take them to the school playground early. Then, on the days we were late, we were only eating into the buffer instead of the actual time we had to be at school. This kept me so much calmer than if the kids were at risk of missing the bus or making me late. That dynamic never brought out the best in me.

Check out the Video


 

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2017 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: “Unwinding After School”

Dear Kerry,

My first grader really needs some “down time” when he gets home from school or else he falls apart if we do any other activities. I’ve started letting him have half an hour to curl up and watch a show. It seems to be helping. Any reason that I shouldn’t be letting him do this?

Regards,
Karen

 

Dear Karen,

I’m glad that you can recognize that your son does best when he has some down time after school! That’s great. What I would suggest is that you expand the ways that you encourage him to “unwind.” If you always let him watch TV, then it’ll likely become a pattern that could stick with him into adulthood. The downside of watching a show to unwind is that when we watch, we turn off our brains. We get to stop feeling and thinking. That’s why we like it! But that is so limiting.

I’d rather see your son have an “Unwind Box” with options he can choose from. Imagine if each day, he picked a different way to unwind after school. Here are some possibilities:

  • Write “TV” on a tennis ball
  • Music: put in an iPod or something for him to listen to and possibly sing along with, music.
  • Art: put in various art supplies such as playdough, stuff for drawing or painting.
  • Sports: how about a few balls that he can throw outside, throw in his room, a ball to shoot baskets, a photo of the trampoline to go jump?
  • Cooking: For an older kid, you could put a measuring cup in which gives permission for him to bake or cook for pleasure.
  • A stuffed animal to represent that you will snuggle with him that day.
  • Books
  • Puzzles
  • Mazes
  • Building toys
  • Figures for imaginary play

If he gets to (or has to) select from all these options for how he unwinds, you will be raising a kid who can feel relaxed and happy doing a wide variety of activities. He will be much less likely to be addicted to watching screens or playing video games as his way to tune out and shut out the world.

 

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2017 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: “Sick of Sweets”

 

Dear Kerry:
One of my 4 year old twins is sugar-obsessed. He goes throughout the day waiting for and thinking about his next chance to eat something sweet. He ends up begging and negotiating for it all day long which I can’t stand. Any tips?

Thanks,
Sick of Sweets

 

Dear Sick of Sweets:

I have a client who had the same problem. She implemented “Sunday Fun Day” which is when the kids can have more sugar than usual.

The family plans and makes special desserts on Sunday Fun Day. They enjoy their sweets and all the “fight” for sugar melts away. Then, when her kids fuss for sweets on the other days, she reminds them that “Sunday Fun Day” is coming soon and they’ll get plenty of sugar that day. They seem to go for it and it and stop with the hassling. I’d love to know how it works out for you!

Warm regards,
Kerry

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2017 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

3 Tips for Parenting in December Without Losing Your Ho! Ho! Ho!

It happens every year.  The sweet mother of two young children sat in my office, slouched over, and shared how she dreads December.  “I take on too much,” she sighed.  Then she gets overloaded, becomes irritable with her kids and ends up hating the stress of December.  All that effort for the sake of her family having good holiday memories and she ends up depleted and grumpy.  The impossibly long list of thoughtful, creative things things she expects herself to do overwhelms her.  We all know she’s not alone.

She walked out of her parent coaching session with three assignments:

I. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU CARE ABOUT

  1. Make a list of every single task you expect yourself to do in December.  Does that mean one task is getting the tree, another is putting on the lights, and another is decorating it?  Yup.
  2. Put them in order by date due.
  3. Circle the ones you LOVE to do.  These are ones that make you happy and have meaning.
  4. Circle the ones you HATE to do.  The ones that make you grumpy when you are doing them.
  5. If you have a significant other, have them do the same thing on the same list.
  6. For the tasks on the “HATE” list, figure out a way to dump the item.  Or at least read Assignment #2 for ways to survive them.
  7. For the ones in the middle, decide if there are ways to simplify or delegate.  For example, I make hot fudge sauce for my neighbors, teachers and relatives. Some years, they were decorated with painstakingly fancy labels. Some years, all I could do was make the fudge and slap on a computer-printed label.  But if it preserved a little of my sanity and left me a little more able to be sweet to my children, it was worth it.  Simplifying can be wonderful.

II. SET REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS

Many of us value holiday traditions and want our kids to grow up with good memories.  But hear me when I tell you this: you don’t have to do every tradition every year in order for your kids to have great memories.  My friend grew up with a memory of her mom doing a cookie exchange.  She remembered that every year, she came home to a group of women in the kitchen who had baked and exchanged dozens and dozens of cookies.  My friend took it upon herself to continue the tradition whether she felt like it or not. It wasn’t until her kids were teens when she friend learned that her mom had only done that a few times ever. Nowhere close to every year.  She did it on the years that it suited.

So as you think about your traditions and how they stress you, what if you consider rotating them?

If it’s going to cause stress, what if you give yourself permission to pass on it for a year?  You don’t have to dump it forever; you can decide year by year.  Sometimes we have to pick:  tradition or calm state of mind.  A grumpy, stressed out mommy is generally NOT what our kids need, so why do we keep setting ourselves up to feel overwhelmed?

III. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX TO MAKE YOUR WORK FUN!

Ok, truth is, there are some things we really want to do and we want to be happy about but it ends up feeling like a chore. To that, I say: think outside the box to find a way to make it enjoyable.

Have a mountain of gifts to wrap?

What if you do it with a friend?  My girlfriend and I used to take turns hauling our stuff to each other’s house to wrap together while we listened to Christmas music and chatted.  It was highly productive AND fun.

Signing Christmas cards or online shopping?

Another girlfriend lights candles, pours herself something good to drink, turns on good music, and tells herself that it’s a treat to sit and think about the people she loves as she shops and/or signs cards. Works for her.

How about having a friend or family member over to bake while your kids play with theirs?

My girlfriend and I have done this for years: the kids played, we baked, and everyone was happy.

While it may well feel like Christmas has become this huge, commercialized machine of expectations, we do have a choice about how we choose to participate. You have a vote in this.

It’s ok to say NO to being overwhelmed so that you can YES to showing up for your kids and yourself.

 

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2016 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

“Mr. Fisty”: Part 2

This is Part 2; to read Part 1 of “Mr. Fisty,” please click here.

After an exasperated parent coaching client of mine found some relief with his brilliant five-step “Mr. Fisty” process, new developments emerged (as they always do with kids) that caused him to use his creativity to come up with even more strategies for dealing with his 4-year old son who hit.

Recap: Putting Mr. Fisty into Time Out

As you learned in “Mr. Fisty Part 1,” Walker was empowered and taught that he was in control of his actions. This meant that when his fist, AKA “Mr. Fisty” had the urge to hit someone, the child talked to Mr. Fisty and talked him out of hitting. Sometimes this meant that Walker stuffed his fist into his pocket to help himself remember who was in charge. This externalized the offender and gave the little boy power to make a good choice rather than acting impulsively and getting in trouble.

After three weeks, however, putting Mr. Fisty in his pocket didn’t seem to work anymore. One day Mr. Fisty escaped and punched a kid at school.

Uh oh.

Mr. Fisty Strikes Again – A New Response

Walker’s dad’s response was to draw a hand on a whiteboard and say to his son, “It looks like you don’t have very good control of Mr. Fisty so here are five consequences for hitting, one for each of the next five days.” This caused the child to have to re-explain to Mr. Fisty why it is really important for him to listen and that is unacceptable to hit other kids.

The Five Consequences of Mr. Fisty

Dad reported that each morning, Walker would walk down the kitchen and look at the whiteboard to see what his consequence was for that day. When he saw “no dessert,” for the first day he whined, “Ah, dad, I love dessert!” Dad got to respond empathetically, saying how sad it was to miss dessert that day. Dad also got to ask Walker if he thought Mr. Fisty was learning how important it is to not hit.

Each subsequent day brought with it another consequence outlined on the whiteboard.

Externalize the Problem and Practice Positive Behaviors

This technique is called “externalization of the problem.” Dad externalized the aggressive, impulsive part of Walker and made it a separate character named Mr. Fisty. Next, dad built up the strong, resourceful part of Walker by putting him in charge of ornery Mr. Fisty. This gave Walker the chance to practice positive behaviors. When the effect wore off and Walker hit again, Dad decided that this was the time and place for a consequence. He was still able to empower Walker by talking about the consequence as something brought on by Mr. Fisty.

Address the Bad Behavior – and Don’t Forget to Celebrate the Good!

We parents always get to decide if we are going to punish bad behavior or focus on rewarding good behavior. I think there is room in healthy parenting for both…. as long as it is all delivered with as much love and compassion as we can manage on any given day and that it is done with the intention of teaching our children skills to be successful adults.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2016 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

“Mr.Fisty”: A Proven New Way to Stop the Pre-Schooler Who Hits

Hbanner_MrFistyNov2015An exasperated parent coaching client plopped onto the couch in my office recently and sighed, “How do I get my 4-year-old son to stop hitting?” At the slightest provocation, his son was hauling off and punching other kids at preschool. Needless to say, this did not go over well with teachers or classmates. The dad racked his brain to come up with a good “consequence,” a.k.a. “punishment” to get his son to stop.

Together, we came up with a completely different approach… what I like to call a “180 approach” and dad left, ready to give it a try.

Find humor and compassion instead of harshness and shame

Dad went home and talked to Walker about how hard it must be to keep his hands to himself, especially when he’s mad. With compassion, dad held Walker’s hand and folded it into a fist and said, “This little Mr. Fisty just loves to hit, doesn’t he? He must be trying so hard to protect you when you get stressed. Look how strong he is. He doesn’t mean to get you in trouble, but every time he punches someone, who gets in trouble at school?” Walker was listening intently, thinking about his rascal of a fist, and said, “I’m the one who gets in trouble, not Mr. Fisty!”

Empower the child to make choices and be in control

Together, father and son talked about how Walker was going to talk to Mr. Fisty and try to keep him from punching anyone. If Mr. Fisty got tempted, Walker was going to treat Mr. Fisty kindly, explaining to him how he had to stay in Walker’s pocket and that Walker would handle the situation.

Externalize the offender

This approach externalized the offender… rather than Walker being naughty, it was “Mr. Fisty” who was being ornery and Walker was the big boy in charge of things. Instead of Walker being punished and feeling bad about himself (which fuels more misbehavior), he became the big guy in charge of his fist. He felt empowered.

The plan worked brilliantly. Dad was thrilled. Walker maintained Mr. Fisty’s good behavior for a solid three weeks. This was a first for Walker to go three weeks without a single incident. Dad was so happy that he sent me a picture of Mr. Fisty.

Keep in mind, setbacks are inevitable

The story doesn’t stop here, however. Mr. Fisty did misbehave again. Dad’s response to the latest offense was even more ingenious than the first.

Stay tuned to read part two of the Mr. Fisty saga.

Insight on Managing Misbehavior

I call this a “180 approach” because it is often helpful to try an approach that is the complete opposite of what we think of automatically when it comes to handling misbehavior. The more a kid acts up, the more parents think they should come down hard on their kids. However, when we go for effective, powerful kindness in lieu of punitive discipline, we can meet our kids’ needs, fill them up, and change their behavior for the long-term. In this case, Dad had the chance to show compassion for Walker and teach him the essential skill of impulse control.
 
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

+++++

Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: “Bed Rest with a Toddler”

Dear Kerry: Pregnancy Bed Rest with a ToddlerDear Kerry,  
I am on very strict bed rest with my second pregnancy and only allowed to be up 5-10 minutes total per day.  I have a house under construction, a working husband, and an active 19 month old.  What do I do?  Help!

Bed Rest with a Toddler?!

Dear Bed Rest with a Toddler,

When I was due to give birth to my third son and had two very active boys (ages 4 and 6), I didn’t have time for the bed rest prescribed by my doctor. I was knee deep into repair projects and remodeling to my house and big housewarming party I had already sent out invitations for.

After the initial shock, I decided I could see the restriction of bed rest as a prison sentence and sulk through it OR I could see it as a gift and look for the blessings that bed rest had to offer. I asked myself, “When will be the next time I can lie around, day after day, and have my husband’s blessing as he does the dishes and shuttles the boys everywhere?” I took a deep breath and laid down (as prescribed).

Besides being well-rested before the arrival of baby #3, I found two great gifts from my time on bed rest. The first was the opportunity to reflect on the normal pace of my busy life and to observe it from a horizontal, slowed-down perspective. In the book Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry author Katrina Kenison writes:

The adage of our age seems to be “get more out of life!” and we do our best to obey. Grab a snack, round up the kids, and we’re out the door – to do, or buy, or learn something more. We do too much and savor too little. We mistake activity for happiness, and so we stuff our children’s days with activities, and their heads with information, when we ought to be feeding their souls instead.” Just as our children depend on us for three meals a day, they also need us to prepare peaceful spaces for them in the midst of this busy world.

One of my favorite suggestions given by the author is to “create pause in our days.” Even if we can’t or won’t change the entire pace of our day, we can build in the little space of time to stop and exhale. Creating a broader margin in our days can take the form of arriving at piano lessons ten minutes early and sitting under a tree to watch the clouds. Or someone suggests tea before bed and the family gathers around the table, lights a candle, and drinks tea in the evening. As I neared the end of my bed rest, I renewed my personal commitment to leave some space around the edges of my days and build the margins to keep my days from being inscribed too densely.

The second big gift I received was from the amazing people around me who displayed how to truly help another person. The most comforting, supportive words that I heard were “How can I help?” What a different ring that has than “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” When someone said, “How can I help?” and then waited for an answer, many times there actually WAS something that my family or I needed.

Several friends simply assumed different roles, without asking, saying things like, “I’ll be here to pick up the kids for school on Tuesday morning.” or “Have your grocery list ready for me tomorrow.” One friend was persistent, asking what I missed and craved, and finally found out how much I missed the treat of a bagel and coffee from the bagel shop – something I would have never asked someone to bring to me. But oh, how my friend lifted my spirits that morning when she dropped them off.

The biggest appreciation I had while on bed rest was for TIME. Time to reflect. Time to appreciate. Time to feel grateful for all the meals made, the errands run, the playdates extended, the projects done around the house.

So, knowing that it may be hard to let go of some of the responsibility you are currently holding onto in your life, being on bed rest can offer you something that you would have never otherwise gained – precious, illusive, ever-moving….. time.



Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: Dealing with Other Parents’ Parenting

HHP_OtherParentsParentingDear Kerry,

I sometimes take my 2 year old daughter to a local park to play. When we’re there, we often encounter kids whose behavior is questionable. Grabbing, pushing, saying “Mine!” etc. The parents often smile at me as if to say “Oh, you know how kids can be!” rather than addressing and correcting the situation. What can I do?

Dealing with Other Parents’ Parenting

Dear Dealing,

Consider dealing with those children like you would when you take your daughter to a petting zoo. At a petting zoo, you don’t know if the goat is going to chew on the hood of her coat or if the goose is going to flap its wings and scare her.  So what do you do there?  The younger she is, the closer you stick… ready to shoo away a pushy animal or pick her up to keep her safe.  It might be a lot of effort but animals are animals, after all, so it’s hard to predict how they’ll act and which ones are safe.  Same with other peoples’ kids. Same with other parents. Sure, you might want to give those inattentive or overly tolerant parents a schooling but the last time I checked, not many people go to playgrounds to gather parenting wisdom and advice from strangers in the park.

One strategy I’ve found useful is to treat other kids like you might if you were supervising a group of children on a field trip.

That means speaking up to the kids about manners and behavior in a polite, respectful way.  I think it’s important to talk to them as kindly and respectfully as you would want a stranger to speak to your child.  This approach goes with the notion of “It Takes a Village” to raise a child and that all adults have a responsibility to help guide and teach the children around us.  If we take this approach, it means we interact warmly and positively during good behavior and bad toward the toddlers playing around us.  It gives us a chance to model good manners in front of our own children if we are saying, “Please” and “Thank You” and letting others go first.

Lastly, if you absolutely feel like you need to address a situation with another parent, try to remember these three tips:

  1. Introduce yourself like you would to a new friend.
  2. Say something positive, whether it’s about their child, the day, a compliment, etc.
  3. Be curious.  It might sound like, “I’m wondering if you saw your daughter push my daughter and it really upset her. I’m wondering if it would be ok with you for me to say something to her about it.”  Or even, “If your daughter was pushing another little girl on the playground, would you want to know about it?”

If you assume that the parent is basically a good human who wants his/her daughter to treat others well, you’re more likely to get a positive response than if you take the stance that this is a negligent, lazy parent who doesn’t care.  If you are dealing with someone with a chip on their shoulder, no amount of politeness or kindness is likely to make a difference so don’t take their lack of caring personally.  Who knows what they might be struggling with today?
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

25 Things to Do with KIDS in Colorado (that you may have forgotten about!)

25 Summer Activities in Denver Good for Kids

DOWNTOWN DENVER

Children’s Museum NEW Joy Outdoor Adventure Park
Opened on June 13, 2015, the new 60,000 square foot outdoor play space includes water features, climbing, and tunnel systems to channel all that kid energy! www.mychildsmuseum.org

Downtown Petting Zoo & Train Ride (at the Denver Aquarium)
During the summers the small area directly in front of the Denver Aquarium features a petting zoo, mini train ride, and carousel. Perfect for kids of all ages! www.aquariumrestaurants.com

Platte Valley Trolley
Located in the perfect location between Confluence Park, the Denver Aquarium, and the Children’s Museum the historical Platte Valley Trolley offers river views and open car fun for the whole family. www.denvertrolley.org/

Civic Center Eats
A wonderful lineup of food trucks at Civic Center Park every Tuesday and Thursday from 11am – 2pm during the summer months. Grab some some delicious food and head over the the adjacent Denver Art Museum or Library to make it a full day of fun. www.civiccenterconservancy.org

50s, 60s, 70s TOYS Exhibit at the History Colorado Center
June 13 – October 4 take your kids to check out toys from YOUR generation! The History Colorado Center also includes great interactive displays and activities for kids. www.historycoloradocenter.org

Four Mile Historic Park
A historic oasis – right in the middle of Denver! Four Mile Historic Park features the oldest homestead in Denver – with horses, goats, chickens, and carriage rides. Each month the park holds a “historic day” where all employees are dressed up in 18th century costume, food (included with entrance fee!) is cooked over an open stove, and interactive areas provide wonderful learning opportunities for kids (and adults!). http://www.fourmilepark.org/

Inside the Orchestra
Enjoy an engaging 50-minute performance created to get families and children of all ages “inside the orchestra.” Music is designed to be explored and enjoyed. Check the website for upcoming concert dates. www.insidetheorchestra.com

City Park Jazz
Take in the ultimate in Denver people watching at City Park Jazz. Weekly performances from various artists keep the lineups fresh and fun. Pack a picnic, games, snacks, and chairs and stay for the sunset. www.cityparkjazz.org

Moredecai Children’s Garden
More than just looking at flowers, the 3-acre Children’s Garden offers a place for kids and families to explore and discover. Hunt for bugs in the Glorious Grasslands and play in the water of Pipsqueak Pond. You can also pack a lunch and picnic in the grass field of the main gardens, or in the adjacent Cheeseman Park. www.botanicgardens.org

THE SUBURBS

Pirate’s Cove Water Park
A great small water park for little and big kids alike. Big water slides, a lazy river, and expansive toddler play area for those Colorado hot days. www.pitratescovecolorado.com

Belleview Petting Zoo and Train Ride
A fun park with a stream that winds through it, a petting zoo and train to ride.  Zoo and train cost only $1/ticket. Bring water shoes, a bucket and net and the kids can even catch crawdads. www.englewoodgov.org

Colorado Railroad Museum
Enjoy the day filled with locomotive history. Train rides every Saturday. There is also an annual “Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine” to plan for! www.coloradorailroadmuseum.org

Swim Beaches
When it gets hot – the hot get in the water! Check out the following state parks that offer swimming in the surrounding Denver area:
• Bear Creek Lake Park
• Boulder Reservoir
• Chatfield State Park
• Cherry Creek Reservoir
• Aurora Reservoir

Paddle Boarding
Standup paddle boarding has become a great Colorado pastime! With excellent local reservoirs and resources, you can be enjoying a water-filled day with your little one before you know it! Check out the following locations for easy paddle board rentals:
• Union Reservoir, Longmont
• Big Soda Lake, Lakewood
• Boulder Resevoir
• Cherry Creek Reservoir

Lollipop Park
It’s hot! When you want to stay indoors, but still want a day of excitement, try Lollipop Park. It’s a small indoor amusement park with rides for little and bigger kids. www.lollipoppark.com

THE FOOTHILLS

Tiny Town
A short drive from Downtown Denver is a 100-year old hidden treasure! Tiny town offers darling kid-size buildings, a playground, train rides, and a refreshment stand with hot dogs and ice cream. www.tinytownrailroad.com

A Day in Golden
Start out enjoying the playground at Lions Park. Make your way up the Clear Creek pathway, watching the brave tube and kayakers on the river. There are even a few places to put your toes in the water. Along the path also lies an old homestead with historic buildings and chickens you can feed! Have lunch and ice cream in town – making your way back to the car at Lion’s Park while the kids doze off in the stroller. www.goldenhistory.org

Splash at Fossil Trace
The largest water park in Jefferson County, Splash at Fossil Trace boasts water slides, a lap pool, a fountain play area and more. Take a break from the water to relax in the sun, or build sandcastles on the banks of this man-made beach scene. www.splashingolden.com

Buffalo Bill Grave & Lookout Mountain Nature Center
Take a drive up Lookout Mountain Drive (via Golden) and head to the nature center and grave of Buffalo Bill for a taste of Colorado history and hands on activities. If you take the “back way” home (via I-70) you can also stop and see the Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve on exit 254. www.buffalobill.org

Boulder Farmers Market
Happening every Saturday from 7:30am – 2pm. Fill your day with delicious food, drinks, and ice cream. Enjoy sitting in grass next to the Boulder Creek, where kids can dip their toes in the water. www.bcfm.org

Front Range Day Hikes
• Bear Creek
• Eldorado Canyon
• Turkey Trot
For a comprehensive and easy-to-read list of all the hikes near Denver visit the website: ” www.dayhikesneardenver.com

THE MOUNTAINS

Georgetown Train Ride
For kids that might enjoy a bit more scenery and excitement with their train ride! One hour train-rides through the Rockies – with and without lunch. www.georgetownlooprr.com/

Horseback Riding in Vail
One mile from the Vail Village, tucked against the a beautiful southern slope of the Rocky Mountains lives Vail Stables. Offering picturesque views of Vail, a friendly staff, and affordable prices, this is a stop you just have to make. Full day and half day rides for adults and bigger kids, 20-minute pony rides for little ones ages one and up. There is also a large shaded play area for kids with sandbox, toys, airplane shaped see-saw, and picnic tables. www.vailstables.com

Estes Park & Rocky Mountain National Park
So perhaps not so “forgotten” but one of those things you haven’t done in a while. Have the kids become Junior Rangers at the Moraine Park Discover Center, enjoy horseback riding at local stables, kid-friendly hikes, and attend some hands-on programs through The Rocky Mountain Conservancy Field Institute. After your big day head to Estes Park for some old town Colorado charm.. and don’t forget the homemade fudge! www.visitestespark.com

THE PLAINS

Wild Animal Sanctuary
An mile long elevated walking platform over an open space wild animal sanctuary featuring wolves, lions, leopards and more! www.wildanimalsanctuary.org

A HOP, SKIP AND A JUMP AWAY

North Pole
Located near Colorado Springs (about 1 hour 15 minutes from Denver), the North Pole is “Home of Santa’s Workshop”, a Christmas themed family amusement park. Featuring a ferris wheel, carousel, and lots of kiddie friendly rides. Kids can even visit Santa in his house! www.northpolecolorado.com



Roxann Blue
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Roxann is mom to a energetic toddler, graphic designer, and contributing author for Head & Heart Parents. In her spare time she likes to sleep. You can learn more about her at www.roxannblue.com
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