Monday, September 30, 2013

In Support of Dads: Joining the Parenting Equality Conversation

In May, when Fresh Start Parenting was in its infancy, I wrote a well-intentioned blog encouraging dads to "lean in" to their parenting roles and to play a part in the parenting discussions. I wanted dads to be involved in any parenting discussion I held and wanted them to feel welcome. I'd just been inspired by Sheryl Sandberg's book called "Lean In" and made an overzealous attempt to link her conversation to the issues currently facing dads.

In hindsight, that entry kind of sucked.  I indirectly reinforced one of the biggest myths in the parenting discussions today--the idea that dads have to be pushed into the conversations because they wouldn't want to be there, otherwise.

While that is certainly true for some dads, I am not sure they are my target audience.  I'd rather reach, support, and encourage the dads who are already trying to join the conversation but are having a hard time getting a seat at the table.

If you read today's blogs or parenting magazines, they are largely directed at mothers and are mostly written by mothers.  Until recently, the "Parenting" section of the Huffington Post was even located in a sub-section of the women's column.  In an unfriendly climate like this, it can be hard for a dad to get a word in edge-wise.

In ways large and small, we as a society minimize the role of dads in parenting.  Many courts do it in divorce settlements by limiting visitation to Wednesdays and every other weekend for dads.  We see this in popular culture, social media, and anywhere we look, if we are willing to be uncomfortable for the time it takes to do so.

Parenting Equality is done with intention and discussion.                    
Moms have to contribute to the parenting equality conversation.  If dads are the only ones doing the talking in a conversation where women dominate, they'll never be heard.  If moms start spreading the message by including dads and talking about issues facing dads, the playing field almost immediately becomes more level than it was yesterday.

If moms see something, they should say something.  When dismissive comments are being made about dads and their importance to kids and families, that ignorance should be confronted rather than shared as witty Facebook commentary.

Likewise, we're not doing dads any favors when we highlight their parenting as ''newsworthy". Last week, I saw a YouTube video of a dad singing a lullaby to his baby.  The caption was something like "awesome dad". Really?  Would a mom get an "awesome mom" caption if caught on video singing a lullaby? We cannot capture dads parenting as the exception or something out of the ordinary. When we do, we contribute to the ignorance that causes parenting inequality.

Ask a dad what he thinks.  Have a kid question?  Stuck about something?  Consider how things could change if you called a dad and asked him what he thought before calling another mother.  Whenever possible, use your behavior to challenge perceptions.  Asking a dad for advice does exactly that.

Stop using phrases like "Man Up".  It's disrespectful and shuts down any worthwhile conversation before it even begins.  Looking for a partner and teammate in parenting?  Be a partner.  Be a team player. Ask nicely.  Give feedback as you'd want to hear it.  Resent the idea of having to ask?  How does it feel when your tasks and chores are just assumed? Parenting equality means talking about tasks and dividing them up.  Conversation.  Dialogue.  Respect.

Be prepared to lose control.  Men and women do things differently.  Dads are going to have different ways of accomplishing things.  There are different ways to get to the same destination.  If you're clear on shared values and intentions, learn to let go.  Trust dads to make good choices and trust them to consult with you when things go awry.

Remember when you were the new kid on the playground. See a dad out with his kid?  Invite them to join you in whatever activity you might be doing with your own child.  Make introductions.  No one wants to jump into a situation where they might be or feel unwelcome.  Include dads in activities rather than assuming they would rather opt out or be by themselves.

Support dads in their efforts to be seen, heard, and respected.  Follow, like, and share blogs written by dads. Read their blogs. Find them on Facebook.  Join their conversations.  Get to know them, what they think, and their ideas.  They have some good ones.  Some dad bloggers I have really been enjoying lately:
The conversation will continue here at Fresh Start Parenting and I look forward to you joining me.

Until next time,

Friday, September 27, 2013

Today's Tip: Limit setting feels safe for kids

Ever wonder what it would be like to drive on a road with no speed limit?

Admittedly, it sounds pretty fun.  Speeding around windy roads, top down, radio blaring.     

Until a car whizzes by you at breakneck speed and the one in front of you is suddenly doing 20.

Then, quickly, fun becomes scary. You don't know the rules and freeze.

That's what it's like for kids and limit setting.

At first it's great being the kid whose parents are so cool.
The first feelings of freedom are exhilarating.
Their smiles convince parents that they are happy.
Parents mistake happiness for the close relationship with their kids that they always wanted.

Then, in a moment, in a heartbeat, it all changes.
The child finds himself in a place unanticipated, where the rules are unclear and the temptations are plenty.

The child becomes scared and starts pressing boundaries.
They're looking for the limit. They don't know it but they are desperate for it.  They need the enough is enough button.  They feel out of control and that scares kids.

Limits feel safe for kids.  Limits, rules, and consequences show kids that it's ok to go out and explore that big and scary world because a parent in in charge, watching, keeping an eye out.

Sure, a kid feeling safe doesn't always look like jubilation.  Sometimes it looks sad, disappointed, or angry. You might doubt yourself and start to worry that you're a bad parent.

That's ok. Ride it out.

You're still doing good.
In fact, you're doing great,

Kids develop real and lasting closeness with the adults that make them feel safe.  Parents avoid or get nervous around setting limits, boundaries, and rules for any number of reasons. Everyone avoids it from time to time.  It's not easy!  Sometimes it's because they are tired and worn out.  Other times, they just want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Mostly, they get caught in fear of losing the relationship.

If this is you today, relax.

Just hit the rewind button, find your do-over, and set the limits you know to be necessary.

If you see yourself here and relate but are stuck in the how, that's ok.

Give me a call.  In just one phone session or office visit, you can make a change that makes all the difference.

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Overwhelmed? Over Your Head? Me, too.


Hi, Parents.

I had quite the morning.

At the gym today, my instructor wanted me to do this.                     
Nope. Not me. Not today.

Yes.  Me. Seriously.

I wasn't just over my head literally.  Trying something like this put me over my head emotionally.  I got all caught up in the idea that I was about to be embarrassed.  That the kids around me who were 15 years younger were about to watch the old one wipe out. 

I tried.  One leg got maybe 65 percent up with the other one maybe 50.

I tried again.  I was supposed to hold the damned position for 20 seconds.  Then, I was supposed to do it again for Eight. More. Times.

I know. Crazy. 

Last week, in the same gym, I left feeling like a badass.  I was doing the thing I didn't think I could do.

Today wasn't last week.

I could feel tears prickling at the back of my eyes.  My inner critic was telling me I bit off more than I could chew.  Another voice inside mocked me for ever wanting to challenge myself in the first place.

It was easier when I cared less.  When I wasn't trying.  Then, my instructor, at least ten years younger than me, is standing near me. I know that in actuality, he was having my back. He was keeping an eye on me.  He really is a good guy and he really does believe in me.  I know this. 

All I felt was fear.

I didn't want to play anymore. I didn't want to be the badass today.

I was going to embarrass myself in front of him. He must be asking himself  "What is she even doing here?"

Because my head was literally facing the ground, I couldn't see any of the young whipper snappers doing their thing.  In my head, they were all perfectly erect.  I was the poor sucker with legs flailing all about and who gravity was deeply betraying.

I wanted to leave.  To run away home to the safe, predictable treadmill. 

I kept trying though.

I hated every. single. second.

Bet ya thought I was about to get all kumbaya on you, didn't you?


That was only 15 minutes into class and I had 45 more to go. I was in the weeds.  I was miserable.  Self-conscious.  Doubting.  Embarrassed.  Just overwhelmed and wanting to get the hell out of Dodge. 

Where is Dodge, anyway?  I might need directions for next time.

So, class finally ended and I got to the safety of my car and gave a few tears their release.  Called my sister.  She got me into this whole fitness thing, anyway, and she's been taking risks and trying new things, too.

I started to feel better emotionally but my body was hurting.  Feelings and body were both feeling pretty tender, actually.

Yep.  Rough morning. Not my finest.

You've had them, too, right?  That's my story of why you parents come here. 

Because sometimes it is so overwhelming.  You have your values.  You know what's important to you.  You know why you are trying so hard to communicate better.  You're working to get that consistent limit setting thing down. 

You also want a clean house.  To have the luxury of pee-ing in private.  Maybe even get a shower in at least once a day.

Sometimes, it just doesn't happen.  You put in all of the effort and have the best of intentions but you experience an epic fail in execution.

I get it.  Those days just suck.  They hurt.  They make you cry.  They make you go to this crazy blogosphere for information because you have convinced yourself you don't know anything at all.

I hope those days don't happen for you very often.  If they do, I hope you'll consider finding support here or on my Facebook page.

In the meantime, remember this: Own it.  Believe it.

Sometimes, Parents, It's all in the trying.

You showed up. Took your chance. It didn't work but you tried.  Trying is better than not even showing up.  It's better than not being present.  It's better than returning to a mindless place where you didn't think about or worry about your parenting values.

Every day.  You show up.  You try. That counts. A lot.

Some days, it's everything.

On days like today, you'll feel like me.  Battered. Bruised. Hurting physically and/or emotionally.

You'll need to take a break and have TLC.  Fall TV is back and I get remote control access tonight so I know where I'll be and I'll love every second of it.

Take care of you.  Be proud of yourself.  Take it easy.  And- when you're ready,

Try again.

Know another parent who could benefit from what you've found here?  I encourage you to consider sharing it with your friends and passing the support on.

Until next time,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fresh Start Moment: Family Dinner Night

Uh Oh.

I may be about to become one of those parenting bloggers that make me roll my eyes. It's nothing you don't already know and it might give you a pang of parenting guilt.  Don't waste time or energy feeling guilty.  Find your "fresh start" here.

Sorry.  That was too easy.  Couldn't help myself.  Plus it has such a nice ring to it.

Here's the deal.

If you're reading the parenting pages, studies, and blogs, you already know this.

Family Dinner Night Strengthens Families.        

Every family member. 
At the same time.
Sharing a meal.
A few times a week.

Kids who regularly eat dinner with their families have:
  • Better Grades
  • Fewer incidents of mental health diagnoses
  • Closer relationships with their parents

You get the picture.

I am not going to try to convince you of this.  You can find your own studies to support it and I am sure find disclaimers to the contrary if you don't have buy-in.

What's my point here, then?

To provide you with TWENTY PROBLEM SOLVING SOLUTIONS to this conundrum.

My story is that you are already sold on the idea of Family Dinner Night.  You should don't know how.

Here goes.  Hopefully one or two of these strategies will work for you and your family:
  1. Be realistic in your goals. Set yourself up for success.  If it's rare for you all to eat together, aim to increase your family dinner nights by one a week for a month.  Once you accomplish that, you can check in with your values and see if you want to add more
  2. It's ok to say no. In fact, you'll have to.  In order to make Family Dinner Night non-negotiable, something is going to have to give and you're going to have to set boundaries over the time.
  3. Make it potluck. I stole this from a parent I know.  She and her friend have kids in the same activity after school.  They gather together afterward for meals and share cooking responsibilities.
  4. Cook in bulk. Things like sauces, casseroles, and soups can easily be cooked in double-batches without doubling the work load.  Freeze one batch for time crunched nights.
  5. Get the kids involved. Is there anything that your kids can do to help that won't pile on more for you?  If so, get them involved.  They are more likely to eat things they have helped make.
  6. It doesn't have to be dinner. Family breakfast counts.
  7. Take the chore out of it. If family dinner becomes hassle for you or the kids, it is just going to become a point of contention.  Create family games and traditions for conversation.
  8. Mark it on the schedule. Your PTA meeting is on the schedule. Soccer practice is on the schedule.  Putting Family Dinner Night on the schedule shows its importance and reinforces the value you've placed on it.
  9. Eating out is ok.  Take-out is, too.  Of course, these things are best in moderation for family health and financial comfort but sometimes you just have to go with convenience and that's ok.
  10. If you miss a week, make a point of rescheduling. Non-negotiable means exactly that. Things can get crazy but when you let something go without rescheduling, it makes it all the more easier to habitually take it off the list when competing responsibilities come up.
  11. Include everyone in the planning. If every family member gets to pick a meal occassionally, everyone will have the opportunity to be the center of attention. This isn't just for kids! Parents, too!
  12. ALL phones and screens are in another room.   I just read that the average dinner time is 16 (?!?!?!) minutes.  Anything can wait 16 minutes.
  13. Avoid tense discussions. Kids and adults alike will value the time if the tone is light, conversational, and fun.  No one wants to get in trouble at dinner.  Don't ask if the homework has been done or if the dry cleaning has been picked up. 
  14. Silence is ok. Sure, we all want and hope for good conversation but let's face it, we run out of things to talk about.  The conversation is only part of the point.  The real point is the family being together with consistency.  It's the consistency that creates the changes not the conversation.
  15. Gather resources. Ask your friends for their strategies. Ask your kids for ideas.  And yes, you can go to the blogosphere for tips. Just make sure you're guilt-proof first!
  16. It's a value.  It's important.  Say so.  Reinforce that this is important to you by talking about it out loud.  Don't keep it a secret and try to sneak family dinner night onto your kids without them noticing. You want them to value this time so say so. Doing so just may make it important to them, too.
  17. Manage inevitable mealtime conflicts calmly and with consistency.  This is a blog entry in itself but the family rules for dinner should be known and followed by kids and adults alike. When they aren't, be clear about the limit and consequence but don't belabor the moment. Unless the behavior is entirely disruptive and can't be ignored, label the direction and consequence and move on.
  18. Don't trip on the obstacles. Sure amidst parent work schedules and kid activities, prioritizing dinner time is a challenge. Don't tell yourself it's impossible or you will start to believe that. Trust your creativity and capability with problem solving.
  19. Create theme nights.  Tired of coming up with ideas?  If you do an international foods night, a breakfast for dinner night, a food color theme, etc, you create a game out of the drudgery.
  20. Keep your eye on the prize.  It's easy to sacrifice family dinner night when soccer and dance practices are at the same time as another parent is working late.  That's ok.  Remind yourself of what you want and why you want it.  Thinking about better grades, better relationships with your kids, etc will make hurdling those obstacles more than worthwhile.

Find the Fresh Start Moment You Need Here

Monday, September 16, 2013

When Your Child or Teen Cuts

The moment you learn your child has been cutting is surely paralyzing. Of course, you are going to rush and call in the troops and get your child some help and counseling.  That's a good idea.

You're also going to want to "do something"More than likely, that call to a therapist won't initially feel like you're doing enough. You're going to want to know what to do, how to respond, and what to say in the moment.

First thing's first. Try not to panic.  I know.  Easier said than done. I worked with teens who cut for ten years and my heart raced all ten of those years when I saw cutting behavior.  Staying calm isn't easy but it is crucial.

Let me back up.                          

Cutting is a behavior that has been seen in kids, teens, and adults.  It is a behavior that people use to harm themselves when they are feeling an incredible amount of emotional pain.  While tough to understand from the outside looking in, people who cut say that it numbs them.  They feel a release of the pain they are holding inside. It can be seen in people who experience chronic or clinical depression but it can also occur as a response to singular, stressful events.

When a child or teen first starts to cut, it is often experimental.  They have heard about it from other kids or from news stories and they try it out to see if it works.  Some kids may try it once and never try it again.  Others will find a fascination, a sense of calm, or a reward from cutting and will continue.

The reason for staying calm is two-fold:
  1. If you find out your child has been cutting, you'll want and need the lines of communication to be open.  They will be more likely to talk to you about their cutting, if you're calm, curious, and open to discussion.  Extreme shock, fear, or anger will shut them down.
  2. Some will dismissively say that kids who cut are looking for attention. I argue that it is much more complicated than that.  If a child has resorted to cutting as a way to engage others, he or she is in a fragile state and deserves a response.  That being said, a grandiose reaction to learning your child has cut will increase the likelihood that he/she sees the behavior as a way to get others to respond.  In psychobabble terms, I call this secondary gain.  In parent terms, it will feel like you're being manipulated.
Using a neutral tone, ask your child about the cuts and if he/she is alright.  If medical attention is necessary, calmly apply first aid.  Try not to be nurturing about it.  You don't want to inadvertently send the message that this behavior will earn nurturance.  Ideally, you'll sit with your child and assist him/her while he/she applies first aid themselves.

Once everything has been medically treated, this is where you calmly talk to your child.  Using a nurturing and non-judgmental tone, calmly ask about the behavior.  Something like "Billy, it's hard seeing your arm cut up like that.  Are you ok? This looks like you did this to yourself. What's going on?"

Be prepared for the "I don't know" or "I don't want to talk about it".  Try saying something like "I don't blame you.  This must be so confusing for you.  I want you to know that I love you.  Your cuts tell me you have been feeling pretty alone these days.  Do I have that right?"

Another response is to offer them the education I just offered you by saying something like "While I don't know much about cutting, I do know that kids who do it are usually feeling pretty bad about something and some kids feel better when they cut.  What's it been like for you?"

You want to express curiosity and get information.  Lots of kids cut for different reasons and you want to know what's going on with your own kid.

Cutting is usually not a suicidal gesture.  More often than not, it is an expression of pain. However, don't take any chances and clearly ask: "I worry that this means you want to die.  Have your been thinking about killing yourself?"

Whew, that is a painful one.  Take a deep breath.  That's a question no parent wants to ever ask but asking creates safety, is preventative, and assures your child that you can handle the tough talks like this one.

If they try to sneak out of the conversation or avoid it, it's ok to give them space and not push the issue.  However, be strong with rules and boundaries until the conversation has been had.

You might say something like "I know this isn't going to be easy for us to talk about.  You can take your time with it.  However, until we do talk about it and I understand what is going on for you, I am going to be keeping a closer eye on you.  Your bedroom door will need to be open and I may ask to see your arms and legs for new cuts".

Kids will tell you they feel punished by such limits.  That's ok.  

Limits tell kids that they are safe and that an adult is in charge. 

Ignore their resistance. 

In most cases, they want your help in stopping.  Think about how you found out about the behavior.  Many kids "get caught". This is their way of asking for help.  Again, you may feel manipulated.  Just remind yourself they are limited in the moment and they will get stronger and more capable over time.

You've heard this from me before and you'll hear it again: Once you have an idea of what's been hurting your child and why the cutting has happened, in no uncertain terms, tell your child what you want him or her to think. You might say something like "I'm really upset to know that you've been hurting yourself.  Life is going to suck and you're going to be in pain again.  I don't want you dealing by cutting yourself. I want you to know you can talk to me.  If not me, another safe adult"

Start to engage your child in a conversation about alternatives to cutting.  Make suggestions and encourage your child to come up with some.

Here are some ideas:
  • Talking to safe adult
  • Getting therapy
  • squeezing ice cubes
  • rubbing ice on places where they normally cut
  • ripping up a phone book (remember those?)
  • punching a pillow
  • screaming
  • taking a shower
  • going for a run
Join my email list if you need more suggestions than this.  Ten years of working with this behavior gave me a long one.

Once you have talked initially about the cutting and alternatives, you're going to hit the "Now What?" moment.

The first goal, almost more than stopping the behavior, is to keep the lines of communication open with your kid.  Literally create a "Now What" plan or something like that, if necessary, where you lay out what happens next. You certainly don't have to get that formulaic but you want an agreement between you and your child that you are working together to find alternatives to cutting and ways of dealing with the original hurt.

It should be clear that the talk doesn't stop here.

In your agreement, include times of touching base, expectations of honesty, and how you're going to be following up.

You might be tempted to take away the sharp objects your child or teen has been using.  If this is consistent with your parenting values, go ahead.  My take, though, is that sharp objects are everywhere and if a kid is hell-bent on cutting, it's going to happen so taking sharp objects away is a pointless control battle and something parents prefer to feel psychologically safe, themselves

A more powerful response is to say something like "You're going to be working hard not to cut.  That's going to mean that you're going to have to sit with those awful feelings cutting has been helping you avoid. I'd like to help you keep yourself safe.  Would you like me to hold on to whatever you've been using until you feel in control enough to have it again?"

Something like this puts you on the same team, gives the kid control, and serves as a sense of safety for kids and parents, alike.

Lastly, I would encourage you to talk to your kids about NOT talking to friends about cutting. 

Sure, we want kids to talk to their friends about their hurts and frustrations.  However, it creates a high-risk situation when other kids talk to their friends about their cutting.  It is an adult issue and friends will experience undue amount of pressure if they are holding information about your child cutting.  It will increase the sense of drama and crisis.  Be clear with your kids on this.  They may not listen but tell them what you want them to think on the issue, regardless.

Don't get complacent after the initial reveal of this.  Keep checking in on your child and checking for new cuts.  Consider getting some coaching for yourself or therapy for your child on this.

This is a tough topic and one that is ineffectively covered in a single blog post.

If you're dealing with this or know someone who is and think I might be able to help, don't hesitate to find me at  You don't have to feel lost and you don't have to manage it alone.

Until next time,

Monday, September 9, 2013

Rethink the idea of "Bullyproofing"

Time to face the truth, parents. 

There's no such thing as "bullyproofing".                              

We cannot protect kids from ever feeling hurt, embarrassed, or threatened by another kid.  As much as we hate it, this is happening to kids. Adults need to stop spending energy trying to create some utopia of a "bullyproof" enviornment.

That doesn't mean we stop advocacy, programming, or education about this issue and just give up.  Rather, it means recognizing that there is a time for advocacy and there is time for teaching resilience.

Building resilience in kids is the best way we can help them manage times when the world is cruel.


By telling them what we want them to think.  As you talk to your kids about bullying, share with them what you think about it and why some kids do it.  This is where you share your values with kids about what you think about bullying behavior and ways you'd like your child to respond when feeling attacked or bullied.

After you share what you think, invite your child to do the same.  You might decide to say something like: "I think people who bully have a hard time making friends so sometimes, to be popular, they make fun of someone else. Why do you think kids are mean sometimes?  Do you agree that kids become more popular when they put others down?"

Get a sense of what your child thinks.  This is an issue that is being openly discussed in schools and classrooms.  Kids have opinions about this. They even have ideas on how to fix it.  It's important to know your child's opinion.

Listen to what your child thinks and have a dialogue. Ask questions.  Here, you are introducing the idea that this is something that is ok for your child to talk to you about and you are assuring him/her that it's ok if you have differing opinions.

These conversations don't have to wait until your child is in grade school, either.  It can start with the little ones when they are on playgrounds and in pre-school and get their feelings hurt, even accidentally. 

When your child does get his/ her feelings hurt and comes to you, the best thing you can do is stay off the bully bandwagon. 

Yes, you heard that right. 

Don't jump to an assumption that your child is being bullied whenever his/her feelings get hurt. There is a hyper-awareness in our culture right now to this issue but sometimes the social difficulties that are occurring are NOT bullying.  They are just kids trying to find their way in a confusing social scene and sometimes they make the wrong choice.

However, these acts of deliberate or accidental cruelty can really affect a child, even if it just happens once and isn't a chronic problem.

When a child comes to you and talks about an upsetting incident, continue to stay off the bully bandwagon.  I know it's hard but practice.

Instead, get information.  Learn about what happened.  Ask questions about what was going on before the incident and try to get a sense of what led to the incident.

Ask your child what he/ she did as a response.  Then ask, what they wish they had done.  Sometimes the teaching lies in what the child didn't do.

Ask your child's permission before you jump into problem solving.  They just may want some TLC and for you to listen. After exploring what happened, and your child's experience of it, share what you think.

Recognize your child's choice and share your opinion and value on it and then share how you might have handled it.

Don't rescue.  Unless there is an immediate safety concern, try to avoid taking matters into your own hands and solving the problem quickly.  Include your child in any response and decide together what you will do.  Parents of little ones who can't speak for themselves will have to use discretion as to what is appropriate.

Ask your child if the bad feelings have gone away or if they are still hurting.  Offer some TLC and comfort, if they are still feeling bothered.

Once your child is calm, create a plan with your child for "next time".  This is the best tool for teaching and best way to build resilience.  Practice what your child can do next time something like that happens.  Offer options and maybe walk through the pros and cons of each option.

It's so easy as an adult to just tell a child what to do when they are bullied. The problem with that is that kids are often left with the impression that us adults "just don't get it.   Resiliency is built when a child chooses his/her own plan and tries it out. 

This issue is something that everyone is talking about these days.  Our conversation about it will not end here and I invite you to have a dialogue with me about your thoughts, ideas, or questions. 

This is a tough talk to have with your kids and can be really emotional for parents.  I happen to know a lot about tough talks with kids.

Let me know if I can help.

Until next time,

Monday, September 2, 2013

Need a Parenting Win? Master Transitions.

Any time we ask a kid to move from one activity to the next, it's a transition.

When we change their daily schedule from summer to back to school, it's a major transition!

It's easy to think we are asking for trouble. It doesn't have to be complicated.  Tears, tantrums, or hair-pulling don't have to be the status quo.
Telling kids that a change in schedule is coming up sets them up for success.

Reminding kids periodically eliminates the suddenness of change and give kids a sense of control.

Anytime a child knows what's expected of him or her beforehand, it increases the likelihood that the child will meet expectations.

Not all transitions are created equal.  Changes to schedule and daily life will require earlier reminders and they will need to be more frequent.

Some parents think that managing transitions this way is babying them or enabling them too much.

I disagree. This is how we teach kids time management! It breaks this complicated skill down into manageable steps.

Typically, younger kids need reminders to start a half-hour before an activity change. A second reminder should be added 15 minutes later with the 3rd and final reminder coming in the last 5 minutes.

I don't expect older kids (3rd grade and up) to need as much time. A 15 minute and 5 minute reminder is sufficient unless you have a child with attention difficulties and then you both might benefit from more reminders.

Once you have given the time reminders, be sure to include rules for cleaning up. They should also know what you expect from them in the next activity.

Never replace reminders with accountability! Reminders set your kids up to know what's next.

Sometimes, despite reminders, kids won't listen.  Consider reminders their "warning" and respond with a swift consequence if they don't follow your directions when it's time to move on.

Back to School time is filled with new transitions.  If you're stuck or overwhelmed, I know I can help.