Santi’s 7th Birthday Party

12096369_441314032726893_5563319059439350613_n

My son turned seven last October.

Here in the Philippines, it’s tradition to have a celebration when the child turns one, three, and seven. I’m not exactly sure why but I have my theories. I believe we celebrate the child’s first birthday because well – it’s the first 🙂 We then celebrate the third birthday because it’s a way of saying goodbye to babyhood. And finally, we celebrate the seventh birthday because – before the Philippines adopted the K-12 educational system – children were seven years old when they went to Grade 1. So it’s a way of saying goodbye to the carefree, laidback days of the early childhood years.

And we did just that when Santi was one, three, and now seven. We were on our own for his seventh birthday financially. Unlike the first and the third birthdays, there were no more grandfathers who gave us extra cash for the celebration and  grandmothers who volunteered to help out in the kitchen.

So we decided to have his celebration at a place with a birthday party package. Hotels with party packages were definitely out of the question. Their party packages were equivalent to three months’ worth of salary!!

There were fast food chains that offered party packages but my son didn’t really gravitate towards the themes. The only theme he warmed up to was the Hot Wheels theme which only a specific pizza place offered.

A month before the party, we visited the place and got the Hot Wheels party package. The party package included the venue, decorations, invites, party hosting, loot bags, and of course food. I wasn’t satisfied with the invitations that came with the party package. So I created this Hot Wheels invitation.

E-Invite

I also created Thank You cards that I tied with a gold string to the loot bags. This is how the card looked like.

Thank You Card

If you’re interested in having these personalized for your son’s party, please send me a message at my Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest accounts.

Communicating with Our Kids – How to Speak Effectively

The other side of the coin in good communication is effective speaking. It is important to look at what behaviours to avoid, especially in communicating with our children who are vulnerable. The top five parent miscommunication behaviours, together with their effect on the child, are:

  1. Accusing or blaming lowers the child’s self-esteem.
  2. Nagging, yelling or lecturing causes the child to become “parent-deaf”.
  3.  Threatening not only scares the child, but if you do not follow through with your threat, the child will not believe you. This renders the threat ineffective.
  4.  Bribing centers more on extrinsic rewards rather than intrinsic motivation. Rewards may work sometimes but won’t be of much help in the long-term. Remember that one of the important things we can do for our children is to help them develop self-control and learn to motivate themselves.
  5. Labelling affects the self-image of the child. If he accepts the label, “I’m useless and lazy,” then it influences his beliefs, actions and behaviour. Labelling shows a lack of confidence in your child.

There are other behaviours to avoid:

  • name calling (Pat Fatso, Josie Grossie, etc.)
  • sidetracking (“What score did your friend get on the exam?”)
  • martyrdom (“You are so ungrateful, and I have sacrificed so much to get you into a good school and these are the grades you give me?”)
  • comparison (“Why can’t you be neat and tidy like your sister?”)
  • sarcasm (“It’s a miracle you got accepted into that school!”)
  • prophecy (“You’ve got my genes; you’ll never be good in Math.”)

 

These are all destructive to good relationships.

Using I-Messages for a More Effective Communication

In their parents’ guide Systematic Training for Effective Parenting: Kids and Teens, esteemed psychologists Don Dinkmeyer and Gary McKay suggest that parents use I-messages rather than You-messages. The table below differentiates between the two kinds of messages.

I-MESSAGE YOU-MESSAGE
Describes how your child’s behaviour makes you feel. Lays blame and conveys criticism of your child.
Focuses on the parent, not the child or teen. Suggests that the child is at fault.
Does not assign blame. Verbally attacks.
Example: “When you come home late, we worry.” Example: “You are so inconsiderate. Why didn’t you even just call?”
Example: “When you do not pick up your things, they are an added load for me. I get tired doing everything by myself.” Example: “You are such a messy and lazy person.”

So how can we construct an I-message? Here are three steps in order:

Step 1: Describe the pertinent behaviour. Just describe, don’t blame.

“When you stand on the chair…”

“When you come home late….”

“When you do not study….”

Step 2: State your feeling about the consequence the behaviour produces for you.

“I worry that you might fall…”

“I get really worried…”

“I am concerned…”

 Step 3: State the possible consequence.

“…. and hurt yourself.”

“…. because I don’t know where to look for you.”

“…. because you may have difficulty in the exams and your grades can go down.”

This takes time especially when we’re used to speaking You-Messages. I know I found myself adjusting a lot to accommodate more I-Messages in my language. One thing I found helpful was writing things down. When I feel that I’m about to blow up over a certain behaviour, I give a pre-discussed signal to my child. This signal tells him that I’m feeling a bit intense and need time to gather my thoughts.  I get our “Communication Notebook” and there I write an I-Message. I give it to him and he replies with a written message. This goes on until one of us says “I’m sorry” or “I love you”.

I find that writing things down helps prevent a lot of painful and negative statements from being said out loud. When we write, we pause to gather our thoughts and read what was written. There’s a time for a review and a time to change what could potentially be a defeating statement to our children.

I’ve included a fee printable of notes for such situations. The first page contains notes with templates that you can just fill out. The second page contains blank notes when you feel more confident about making your own I-Messages. You may download I-Messages-Note-Cards here. I hope you find this free Printables by Jan helpful.

I-Messages-Note-Cards_Page_1

 

Free Grade 1 Math Worksheets

While going through my computer files, I came across these worksheets that I made for my son’s home practice. Math is one subject where daily practice really goes a long way. These Printables by Jan worksheets were created during the first part of the school year. As the months passed, I didn’t have as much time to create worksheets for him. Hopefully though, you could put these Printables by Jan worksheets to good use.

 

Download your free Ordinals worksheets.

Download your free Grade 1 Tens and Ones Worksheets.

Download your free Grade 1 Comparing Numbers Worksheets.

 

 

 

 

Communicating with Our Kids – How to Listen Effectively

Frequent conversations with our sons and daughters, particularly about what happens in school is invaluable. “How was school?” is an overly-used question that elicits the automated response “It was good,” or “Fine.” Try to go beyond this question for more meaningful conversations that let your children really reflect on their day at school. I’ve created a set of conversation starters that you can print on cardstock, cut, laminate and finally put in a box. During dinner, you can let your children pick a card or two. The conversation can then revolve around these questions.Pics for Site.jpg

You can download these Conversation Starters here.

Renowned therapist John Powell singled out communication as the secret to staying in love, whether in a friendship, marital or familial relationship. Communication with young children is easy, right? Our kids are at the stage where they tell us everything – they even seem to burst at their seams when we tell them to wait until we are done with a chore or a phone conversation. If they’re very excited to tell us everything, then what should be our response? To listen, of course. It couldn’t get any easier, right?

Unfortunately, as adults, we sometimes get preoccupied with chores and even our own problems. When this happens – when we don’t give our children our full attention when they’re talking – listening and consequently communication with them becomes ineffective.

In their parents’ guide Systematic Training for Effective Parenting: Kids and Teens, esteemed psychologists Don Dinkmeyer and Gary McKay gave some helpful guidelines for listening well to children:

1. Treat your children the way you treat your best friends. We give our friends our full attention when we get together. After all, we always have something interesting to talk about. It’s time we start changing our mindset and think of what our children have to say as interesting and more important, essential to our relationship with them. Once we see it from this point of view, listening will become more effective.

2. Effective listening involves body language. Specific actions — like making eye contact, kneeling down to your child’s level and even tilting your head – show your child you are listening. These actions also help YOU stop and really listen. If you can’t talk at that moment, you might say, “Let’s talk in a few minutes; I’m in the middle of something. I remember when my son was talking with me. He asked, “Mama, are you listening to me? What are you doing with your phone?” He was right. How can I really listen if I am thinking of other things?

3. As the listener, try to paraphrase important statements made by your child. This just means stating what he or said in your own words. Along with our body language, this tells him that you are truly listening. Paraphrasing also prevents you from jumping to conclusions which can sometimes lead to criticizing, nagging, lecturing or belittling what the child has said. For example, when my son one day said that he did not like to go to school anymore, I was shocked and wanted to go on a lengthy lecture on why school was important. Instead, I stopped and took a moment and then said, “You don’t want to go to school anymore? How come?” This clarifies to both you and your child what has just been said. When paraphrasing, it is also often effective to end your statement with “Is that right?” or “Did I get it right?” Allow your child to correct you if you did not get it right.

Listening takes effort, especially when we’ve spent years not really taking time out to listen and understand the meaning behind our children’s words. But it’s about time we do. Listening to our children – especially in their early years and primary grades – builds a foundation of good communication that will be very valuable when they reach their adolescence years.

Helping My Disorganized Child Get Organized

My son started first grade almost a month ago and I noticed that I have been quite high-strung ever since. This has been my after school routine since then:

He comes home from school with his bag looking like a trash can. After complaining, I take out his Notebook 1 and read the day’s reminders and homework. I then gather the workbooks and notebooks that need to be answered or studied and pile them up on his desk. After play time and an early dinner, I instruct him which work to do first and then next and so on. At night, after he falls asleep, I sharpen his pencils, empty his bag, and carefully place his things in order. The next afternoon, it’s the same routine all over again.

Until yesterday happened….. I snapped and said some pretty hurtful things – all because he couldn’t show me the Math quiz that has been checked and returned. Really?!?! I realized I overreacted and didn’t solve anything with that outburst. So at bedtime, I said sorry to my kiddo and told him I’d be helping him get more organized.

A few kids seem naturally organized, but for the rest, organization is a skill learned over time. And where better to start learning this skill than one’s home? Now that’s better said than done. I admit I am not the best person to teach my child how to be organized. I am M-E-S-S-Y. Just take a look at my work station littered with notes and piles of paper. But nobody said I couldn’t learn along the way! I’ll take this as a challenge to myself as well. My son and I could learn to be organized at the same time. That’s the beauty of parenting – I’m forced to be a better person and to develop skills I don’t have so I can be a better role model to my child.

The best articles I’ve read which offered practical tips on how to help children – and okay, myself – get more organized are Family Education and KidsHealth.

Kids Health breaks down the process into three easy steps so as not to overwhelm parents who want to teach their children how to be more organized:

  1. Getting organized means a kid gets where he or she needs to be and gathers the supplies needed to complete the task.
  2. Staying focused means sticking with the task and learning to say “no” to distractions.
  3. Getting it done means finishing up, checking your work, and putting on the finishing touches, like remembering to put a homework paper in the right folder and putting the folder inside the backpack so it’s ready for the next day.

Family Education as well as several other websites also highly recommend the use of color coding notebooks and binders, using checklists, planners and other visuals to further support the process. I wasted no time developing the following Printables by Jan for my kiddo.

Before-School-Checklist-2015

Monthly-Homework-Planner-2015_Page_2

You may download both the checklist and monthly planners if you’re interested. Hope they help you in building organizational skills in your kids. If you have any ideas on any printables that may help develop this important skill, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

You may download the Before-School-Checklist-2015 by clicking on the highlighted link.

Monthly-Homework-Planner-2015 may be downloaded here.

Daily Routines 2015 Free Printables by Jan

Most private schools in the Philippines opened last June 8. And it’s going to be a big change for my son. He’s in first grade and that means he’ll be in school for most parts of the day.

When a big change is expected, the first thing I usually do to prepare my son is have visuals. I did the usual “Countdown to School” activity where the dates were marked X each and every day.

Another thing I did was prepare him for the routines. There are some kids who can adapt to change with a snap of the finger. But not my kid. He needs to know beforehand what’s going to happen.

I believe routines are important even for school-aged children. Six-year-olds can be overwhelmed by their new school, new classmates, new subjects, and changing teachers for every subject. Routines at home let them have some kind of structure in an otherwise unpredictable school environment during the first few weeks.

If you’re still skeptical about routines, Dr. Laura Markham author of the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and founding editor of AhaParenting.com lists the following benefits of establishing routines:

1. Routines eliminate power struggles.

2. Routines help kids cooperate.

3. Routines help kids learn to take charge of their own activities.

4. Kids learn the concept of “looking forward” to things they enjoy.

5. Regular routines help kids get on a schedule

6. Routines help parents build in those precious connection moments.

7. Schedules help parents maintain consistency in expectations.

For more information on the benefits of routines, please check out the AHA Parenting website.

Sure, kids are resilient – that should never be underestimated. Eventually they’ll adapt to the hustle and bustle of school but I believe they need some kind of an anchor during the first few weeks of school. And that’s what I hope my routines and the accompanying visual schedules will do.

Daily-Routines-2015_Page_2
Aside from the Before School Routine, I also made two more for the After School Routine. There are also editable boxes so you can type in your own routines. Download the printable below.

By the way, these schedules aren’t fixed – they will go through a change or two as I deem fit. And that’s what you should think about too. Schedules should never be oppressive and not dictate what should happen now and then next. It’s there to provide structure and order and should be mostly based on your child’s temperament and inner rhythm. So listen, observe and trust your mom instincts.

If you think the current schedule isn’t working, then maybe it’s time to try another one. Maybe allot a longer amount of time for rest or eating. Maybe divide the prescribed one hour of studies into three 20-minute blocks with rest periods in between. It all boils down to how much you know your kid. Is he just trying to test limits or maybe he is indeed tired and needs more time for rest after school? The free printable has a blank clock face so you can plot your own time. You may also cut out each activity and rearrange it according to the schedule you see fit for your child. I hope you find this free Printables by Jan helpful!

Click here to download the Daily-Routines-2015.