Friday, May 22, 2015

Father's Impact on His Daughters

My first-born child is a boy. Following him was a son that we lost at 20 weeks gestation. After that, I was sure I was "destined" to be a mother of all boys. I had always gotten along well with boys and figured this was my perfect role in life.

Fast forward to today when I have since had three girls. As usual, the Lord had different plans for me than I had for myself. 

With all of these daughters, I have been pondering how to raise wonderful women. As I have done so, I remember my mother often telling me that I was lucky because a father has a huge impact on the self-esteem of his daughters. I was lucky. I consider my dad to be one of the best men to ever walk this planet. I am fortunate to have married a man that I think is equally as wonderful as my own father. 

Research supports what my mother always told me--fathers have a huge influence on the self-esteem of their daughters. Of course fathers impact sons, also, but given my perspective as a female, I thought I would focus on daughters today. I also want to encourage any parent who is parenting without a father present for any reason. There are many people who grew up without fathers who are confident, capable people. Most often, this is attributed to the extreme dedication and effort by the mother. Knowing what a father does for a daughter can help you think of ways to fill in these gaps.

Dr. Margaret J. Meeker, a pediatrition with more than 20 years of experience in counseling girls, wrote a book called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know. In it, she lists some findings from her research on the important influence of fathers. Here are some:
  • Toddlers securely attached to fathers are better at solving problems.
  • Six-month-olds scored higher on tests of mental development when their dads were involved in their lives.
  • With dads in the home, children managed school stress better.
  • Daughters whose fathers provide warmth and control achieve higher academic success. Girls involved with dad are twice as likely to stay in school.
  • Daughters who are close to their fathers exhibit less anxiety and withdrawn behaviors.
  • The likelihood that daughters engage in premarital sex, drug use, and alcohol plummets when their dads are involved in their lives.
  • Daughters who feel that their fathers care about them and feel connected with their dads have significantly fewer suicide attempts and fewer instances of body dissatisfaction, depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and unhealthy weight.
  • A daughter's self-esteem is best predicted by her father's loving affection.
Meeker says, "From the first years of a girl's life her father is larger than life. She looks up to him, and for the rest of her life she craves his admiration, his respect and his affection."

Her research is not alone in these findings. This paper supports these findings. A tid-bit from this paper is: 
"According to research conducted by Nielsen, “fathers generally have as much or more influence than mothers on many aspects of their daughters’ lives. For example, the father has the greater impact on the daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy and relate well to the males in her life …well-fathered daughters are usually more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more successful in school and in their careers than poorly-fathered daughters …Daughters with good relationships with their father are also less likely to develop eating disorders” (2007, ¶ 12)."
So you can see that the father is a huge impact on his girls, but what can a father do to have a positive influence on his daughters? We want that impact to be positive, correct? I won't pretend to have all of the answers. I would encourage continual prayerfulness and observance of your daughter to analyze what you can do for your daughter. Here are some ideas for you.
  • Be present in her life. Spend time with her, talk with her, be involved in daily things like bedtime, and invite her to help you with your own projects. My eight year old daughter doesn't have a special interest in tools, but she loves to be in the garage and help her dad simply because she wants to spend time with him.
  • Be supportive of her. Attend her special events. My dad made it to everything he possibly could to support me in my various activities and events. My husband has been know to do things like leave work for an hour so he can go to his daughter's preschool class simply to read her favorite book to the class (he apparently read it the very best. She was concerned at my ability to read it correctly). He surprised her by coming and reading it. She was thrilled. Our daughters have supportive grandfathers. Our daughters have had recitals where they only had grandparents. Neither grandmother was able to come that night, but both grandfathers were there anyway.
  • Go on dates. One-on-one time is great. Take your daughter out on special dates. My husband and I shoot for one special date per child per month. We alternate who we have on our special date. The children love this. From my own childhood, I remember one particular time when my father took my sister and I to the Phantom of the Opera. In January, we saw an advertisement that it would be in our area the next July. Just one time, we told our dad how we would love to see it. We never mentioned it again. He surprised us with the best seats in the house. My dad is not a "Phantom of the Opera" type of a guy. He is more of a Pittsburgh Steelers or New York Yankees type of a guy. This special date meant a lot to us. My husband takes our girls to do special things they love to do.
  • Compliment her. Offer sincere compliments and encouragement. Your words will mean a lot.
  • Offer physical affection. This isn't usually a difficulty in the father/daughter relationship, but be sure you give your daughter the cuddles, hugs, and kisses she needs from you.
Do not make the false assumption that your presence in your daughter's life is of minimal impact. Your daughter will look for a spouse that reminds her of you--for better or worse. You being male does not mean you will not have a huge impact on how your daughter views herself as a female--studies suggest you have even more of an impact than the mother. You are an important aspect to your daughter's life. Believe it and live it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reading to Infants

Kaitlyn at 11 months old at the end of independent playtime
I am a huge advocate of reading to your children. Reading to your infant or toddler is not about trying to create a genius of a baby. It is about helping your child reach her own innate potential (see The Read-Aloud Handbook, page 50). Despite the recent story that reading to children gives them an unfair advantage (just don't even get me started on that idea), I continue to fully support and encourage parents reading to their children daily. Rather than telling parents who read to their children that they should occasionally feel guilty about the unfair advantage they are bestowing on their children, let's encourage parents who aren't reading to their children to do so. 

"Children hearing the most language will have the best chance of having the best language skills" (The Read-Aloud Handbook, page 50). I would love to see all children given this chance and opportunity to reach their full potential. It isn't about being "better" than others; it is about being the best version of themselves. 

Keep in mind that "...attention spans are not built overnight--they are built minute by minute, page by page, day by day" (The Read-Aloud Handbook, page 52). And by the way, that is a fantastic thing to keep in mind for all sorts of parenting activities and issues from discipline to chores.

For me in this age range, a huge part of why I read to these young ages is to start a habit and to foster a love for books. I want my children to have positive associations with reading and books, so always keep that in mind as you are reading to your little ones. 

Birth to 4 Months
What you read to this age group is not important. It just matters that you are reading (The Read-Aloud Handbook, page 49). With my little ones, I read books geared toward babies, but you could read the newspaper. You could read aloud a book you are interested in. You could read aloud your scriptures. Just read out loud. 

These young babies can't move on their own, so really your baby has no choice but to listen. I like to read with baby on my lap, but if your baby gets squirmy and upset, go ahead and put baby on the floor and read. You could read during tummy time or while baby was at the gym. You could lay on your backs next to each other while you hold the book above you.

4-9 Months
Again, go for your number one goal to be that you hold your baby while reading. Don't restrict your baby, but cuddle your baby.

Around 4 months old, babies start to have an interest in toys. By 6 months old, your baby will want to grab the book. A great idea is to let your baby hold a toy to chew on so the book doesn't become a battle. A wise thing for these younger ones is to read board books rather than books with pages that can be ripped when those cute pudgy fingers grab hold of them. Sometimes you can even give baby a different book to hold while you read a book. 

As your baby gets holder, he will want to be the one to turn pages, and he obviously will not know when to turn pages. This often starts up around 8 months old. Remember the idea of Substitution. It can be helpful to give baby a different book to turn pages in. Let baby have books in independent play so he can turn and turn pages to his hearts content. Try to maintain control over the reading experience and turning the pages when it is time. You can gently say, "Oh! Not yet. We will turn the page in just a minute." Then allow your child to turn when it is time. But do maintain it as an enjoyable experience; sometimes you will allow your child to turn pages before the page is done, and that is okay. Do keep in mind that self-control is valuable, though: 
Look for books that:
  • Have colorful pictures
  • Have exciting sounds in the words
  • Have a rhythmic beat
  • Rhyme (Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss are excellent)
  • Are short
10-12 Months
During these months, the child will grow more and more interested in helping turn pages. The child will also grow more and more interested in the book. You can start asking your child to point to certain things. You can point at things and ask, "What is that?" or "What sound does a pig make?" Of course, you will have needed to introduced those things before asking your child to answer those questions. Your child will start by mimicking the things you teach and will progress to being able to answer questions.

More from the Read Aloud Handbook:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Private Interviews with Children

Each week, we set aside one night that is our family night. We call this Family Home Evening. This year, we have started a new tradition. The first week of the month, we are doing private interviews during our family home evening. One by one, my husband takes each child, including Brinley (age 2), into a room in our home and conducts an interview with the child. During each interview, I play a game with the other three children. 

A private interview is a great time to encourage children. It gives the parent an opportunity to ask questions and to share testimony. 

Why do interviews?
I want my children to know that we will be regularly asking questions of them. I want them to know that at some point, they will be asked about a variety of pointed topics that they will need to answer. I figure starting at the younger ages will mean that when they are older and I really want these interviews happening, the interviews will just be a part of life. So far, my children all love it. 

Who does the interviews?
It can really be either parent. My husband does the interviews for two reasons. One is that I feel like I talk to the children regularly already. This is an opportunity for him to stay in touch with what is going on in life and to also develop a special bond with them. Another reason is he is the head of our household. Now, I am all for strong women and girl power and all that. Being the head doesn't mean he is the final word (or only word); it is serving as Christ served and serves. It is loving and protecting and providing. These interviews definitely do not need to be done by the father; it can be the mother instead. You could take turns. For us, we do father.

Who should be interviewed?
My husband does everyone from Brayden, our oldest age 9, on down to Brinley, our youngest age 2. Brinley's are short :). Even if your child can't talk, you can take the child into the room and share your thoughts and feelings about the child and say a prayer with the child. 

What is talked about in an interview?
  • I think it is wise to include prayer in the interview. They start with a prayer and end with a prayer. My husband says one prayer and the child says the other. 
  • The child should be able to talk about any topic. Any subject, problem, experience, or concern should be freely spoken of. It is important to take these concerns seriously. Do not brush them off or tell them their concerns seem big now but someday they will be small. As humans, we learn line upon line. Many of our own concerns now as adults will seem small in retrospect. That doesn't mean they are small now, and the same is true for your children. If you dismiss their concerns, they will have less reason to share their concerns. 
  • You can ask about how relationships are going. How are sibling relationships? Friends? Teachers? Peers?
  • To prompt them to talk, my husband asks questions about what they are involved in. He asks how school is and who they play with at recess. This can lead to other questions coming up naturally. He asks about each activity they are involved in.
  • My husband has the child set at least one goal to work on for the month. He asks them if there is anything they want to improve on. He wants it to be their own idea and not him telling them what to improve on. At the next interview, they review the goal and talk about how it is coming. He lets the children set their own goals, though he will help guide them to certain goals if he has seen a need. If they have a hard time, he will bring up anything that has come up in the interview. "Do you think there is anything you might want to improve with your siblings at home?"
  • My husband always shares things he appreciates about the child. He shares how he feels about them and things they are good at. 
A private interview is a great way to establish a time and place your child can share private concerns. It is a great time for you to ask those hard questions (has anyone tried to show you anything inappropriate at school? What will you do if they do?). It is a great time to connect to your child and share your testimony with your child. We have loved this new tradition, and I can tell it really makes my children feel an extra dose of "you are loved." 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to Keep Track of Life

image source
With each child that we have had, I have felt a chunk of my brain become all consumed. There are a lot of things to keep track of: nap times, bed times, how people like to be dressed for sleep, food issues, cleaning, teaching, schedules, milestones...I mean, even just rotating clothes the children have outgrown is a part time job all by itself. Throw seasonal changes in clothes in the mix and forget it!

There is just a lot to keep track of.

It is enough to make your brain feel like it will explode.

As my kids got older and I added more into the mix, I would find myself doing things like realizing 15 minutes into a piano lesson that my child was supposed to be AT said piano lesson. I had to start putting reminders on my phone because sometimes I just couldn't remember what day of the week it was (is it seriously Tuesday already!?!?) or that I was supposed to be somewhere or do something.

And people, I have a freakishly good memory. Or I had one until my children started filling up my head.

You must outsource your thinking. By that I mean that you can't try to keep track of it all in your head. You may have been able to keep it all in your head when you were just worrying about you and your own life, but now you have a child (or a few). If you try to keep it all straight in your head, you are bound to forget things. 

Write down the things you are tracking. You might write it in a simple notebook. You might write it in a planner or on a calendar. You might have a tracking sheet for schedules. You might keep a running list of things you need to do. There are a lot of ways to write things down. Experiment until you find something that works for you.

I have found my brain really works well if I sit down and write things out. There is something about that kinetic movement of writing things down that makes me remember it better than if I just try to commit it to memory or even input it into my phone. 

Here are some free printables I have created to track stuff that I have available for you:

If you have more than one young child or a young child mixed in with older children and their crazy lives, you will need to keep track of things. Don't rely on your memory to get you to that important school function or to remember exactly how long your baby's optimal third waketime length is. Just write it all down (and make sure you write it somewhere you can find it again). 

There are a lot of apps out there to help you track and manage things. There are baby trackers. There are water intake trackers. There are to-do list apps. There are calendar apps. I have a post on my favorite apps I use. I wrote it almost two years ago, but many of the apps are still my most used. To this day, my favorites are Cozi for keeping track of the family calendar and Mom's Daily Planner by Yadahome for keeping track of my to do list. These things are my backup brain so as soon as I think of something I need to do, need to buy, or need to remember, I can put it in these apps and let it leave my brain.

There are simple things you can do. I will put something like, "Sign up for storytime" on my to do list scheduled to come up on the first day of each month. Then I don't suddenly remember on the fifth one month about storytime and call the library and find it is full. 

You can do the same for going through clothes and toys. 

Some things just don't have to be worried about. You don't have to track everything. You don't have to be on top of every little thing. Make things easier where you can. For example, Brinley is going on 3 and still has some 18 month old sized clothes hanging in her closet. The world is still turning. I have no driving reason to get the clothes out unless they don't all fit (I don't have a younger child waiting to wear them). My simple way of getting clothes out is when she wears something that is too small, I put it in the laundry, wash it, and then put it in the clothes to get rid of rather than back in her closet. 

Another example is deep cleaning. I enjoy cleaning. When I had two kids, I deep cleaned things top to bottom frequently. Now, I am thrilled with most things getting deep cleaned once a year. I have to just let it go. It is never all done at the same time. It is slowly through the year. 

If things are too much for you to keep track of, think of ways you can help outsource your brain work and also think of things you can let go of for the time being. 

Also Helpful:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Surviving Eczema

Eczema is truly heartbreaking. Your poor child has these sores that at the very least cause mild discomfort, but in many cases, pain. It can be hard to know how to hold a child with eczema so you don't irritate and hurt the skin even more. You want to know how to fix it and fix it fast! A really hard thing about treating eczema is that there are a lot of different products out there that can help you. Even harder, there are people who loved each product and people who found no help with each product.

Whenever I have asked the question of what worked for people for combating eczema, I always get a large variety of answers. The number of creams/lotions/oils that have helped people alone is a bit overwhelming. I think the good news there is that a lot of these creams work--that is why a lot of people use different creams. You would never try something different if you are using something that works. Something interesting to me, however, is that there are a number of products that have been recommended in the past that didn't even come up this time.

If you are nervous about trying something out and wasting money on something that won't help, I have found the products that are most commonly suggested and have been suggested over the years (as well as now) are CeraVeAquaphorAveeno, and Coconut OilHydrocortisone Cream is also commonly listed as something helpful for getting the irritated skin to calm down. My doctor always cautions against using hydrocortisone for too long. It is good to talk to your doctor about how long is safe. I usually will only do 2-3 days in a row.

Here are some ideas to help you survive eczema. If you have further input, please share in the comments! And get more eczema info and recommendations on this blog on this post: Eczema.

Skin Products
Laundry Products
  • Cut all dairy
  • No gluten
  • Remove preservatives from diet
  • Rebecca said: It's usually,caused by something they are eating. Wheat, gluten, dairy...anything external is a sign of something internal. I myself,had eczema and cut out dairy and it,helped.
  • Jennifer said: We are in the midst of it now and have decided to cut dairy. After 3 weeks it is almost gone. Ours is 2yo and we use almond milk now. We tried a aveeno lotuon and steroid cream (cream sorta worked but can only use it so often and seemed like not getting to root). We went dairy free route bc his diapers were very loose all time too.
  • Julie said: We eliminated nearly all of the severe eczema in our house within about 3 or 4 months of when I started milling my own wheat and baking bread. I don't know if it's the vitamin E that you get that way or if it's that the minerals/vitamins are all consumed in their natural proportion to each other, but something worked. We healed from the inside out, I guess. It's been about four years and there's only been one significant flare up in all that time.
Other Products/Methods
Reader Methods
  • Jessica said: There can be a variety of things that can trigger a flare up (foods, pollen, clothing, etc). It took us forever to figure out some things that triggered it. Chlorine in swimming pools would cause it to flare up for at least a month. We tried every natural and most medicated lotions along with oral Benadryl. I randomly bought eucerin eczema cream because it was on sale and it worked almost immediately. Basically, try to figure out the cause and don't be afraid to try a bunch of treatments until one works. Of course, if it is bad, see if you can get referred to a pediatric rheumatologist or dermatologist.
  • Elena said: See a dermatologist if you are very concerned. A lot if internal factors have been covered here, but I believe external factors have significance too. Do not use fragrance or dyes. Cereve, aquaphor, and coconut oil have worked well for most. But be careful and only add one into your routine at a time. I have eczema, and breakout when I use coconut oil. Wearing cotton, patting hands and body dry helps. One thing that sets off my eczema is latex! Watch what toy material your children are playing with could be helpful.
  • Abby said: BabyGanics eczema cream all over 2x a day, Burt's Bees body wash at bath time, Burt's Bees oil after bath time. Method free & clear laundry detergent. Prescription hydrocortisone cream for flare ups. Benadryl every night (he'd wake up crying and itching).
  • Sarah said: Stopped using soaps with cocamidrophil betaine
  • Rebecca said:  Bath with a tiny drop of Clorox, eczema bath soap is also good, aveeno baby eczema creme, coconut oil mixed with lavender essential oil
  • Evie said: Bathe with a mild soap like Aquafor and then Baby Eucerine. Put the pjs on and in the morning 
  • Jessica said: We used a prescription steroid cream to get it under control and then used either cerave or cetaphil morning and night. (We preferred the Walmart brand of the cetaphil) Bath with cetaphil soap every three days or more if needed and pat/air dried him after bath.
  • Christine said: My daughter had it all over her body very severely...after a week of steroid creams she was cleared up permanently...I was hesitant to use steroids but they were diluted and they worked like magic on her
  • Katie said: It may sound crazy, but a quick daily bath in water (no soap or only a little fragrance-free soap in the hair) immediately followed by thick fragrance-free lotions (like eucerin) helped my kids. Patting dry instead of rubbing after baths. Sometimes adding some of the hydrocortisone cream was useful as well. I think that getting the daily sweat and dirt off of the skin helped decrease the irritation from the eczema, the lotion helped hold in the moisture to rehydrate the skin. Time was the other factor - my kids grow out of their eczema around 2-4 years old. I think looking at diet can help as well. For my kids, eating berries before 1 year old, especially strawberries, made all skin irritations (diaper rash, eczema) much worse.
  • Kari said: Our dermatologist told us to do a mild bleach bath. My oldest had it very badly. We put 1/4 cup of bleach in a bath filled up about six or seven inches with warm water. It was a little stronger than a swimming pool. We carefully bathed him and made sure it didnt get in his eyes.
    Repeated once about four days later. It never returned. This was after we changed his diet with no success.
  • Sarah said: My daughter and I both suffer. For my 4yo I've done all of the above and I really like Cerave. Also, my allergist put her on Singulair. Consulting with an allergist is helpful! Also, I try to avoid putting her in anything fleece because that seems to irritate her skin and make her itch more.....
  • Brandy said: Look at the Jewish Hospital in Denver website! Made a huge difference for us bc none of our doctors in savannah knew what to do. I also took all preservatives out of our diet (it was overwhelming at first).
  • Carrie said: All 4 of my babies have had it and in different degrees of severity. I think it's important to talk to your pediatrician about it first. If it's bad enough there may be some medication that can help take care of it really quickly! One of my favorite OTC products is Cerave cream, and we also like the Aveeno cream baby wash. Less frequent baths help too.
  • Lisa said: Switch to all fragrance free products that touch the skin. Give a bath every other day (unless really dirty). Once out of the bath immediately apply something like aquaphor and hydrocortisone cream to the really irritated patches and lotion to the rest of the body. Benedryl orally when super itchy to keep them from scratching and making it worse. My dermatologist gave me all these tips and it got rid of the horrible patches I had on my legs for years! He said if you can control the itch and stop scratching it will eventually go away and he was right!
  • Kristin said: 20+minute baths to rehydrate the skin.

See these other surviving posts:

Surviving 45 Minute Naps

Surviving Colic


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