Me in a Tree

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We are nearing the end of winter – even though it is technically spring – and with the warmer weather, it is time to think about getting your kids outdoors for some playtime. The unfortunate reality is that we live in a tech-saturated world, and we get more screen time than play time. As a result, kids are not getting the proper amount of physical activity and obesity rates have increased among children. Here are five tips to get your kids off the couch and in to the sunshine.

1.       Completely turn off the technology. Send your children outside empty-handed – no video games, cell phones, or iPads. Plug out of technology and plug in to their imagination.

2.       Don’t give in to protests. You may be met with screams and fits at the suggestion of going outside to play. Be firm, and send them out the door to play. Suggest getting together with a neighbour for a play day or give them an hour to do whatever they want, as long as it’s outside.

3.       Establish a routine. Build playtime into your children’s schedule every day. When playtime becomes part of a routine, it will be less of a struggle to get them outside.

4.       Set the example. Children learn best through imitation. If you set aside one hour a day for your child to unplug and go outside, do the same. Play with your children. Play a game of hide-and-seek or tag. Whatever activity you choose to do, be sure that you practice what you preach.

5.       Get them involved in the community. There are plenty of community resources that give children the opportunity to play outside. From soccer leagues to gymnastics to summer camp, there is an activity for every type of child. Ask your children what kind of activity they would like to do, and sign them up.


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Our culture is saturated with media technology. From televisions and telephones (well, cell phones) to video games and virtual realities, we are constantly surrounded by technology. It pulls us in many directions, distracts us from the moment, and it can make our lives much easier. There are many positive and negative influences that media can have on our lives. Here are some pros and cons.

Pro: Technology allows us to learn in new ways. With a few keywords and a click of the mouse, we can learn about new cultures, foods, places, people, and so much more. When used in balance, there is so much educational potential of media technology.

Con: There is a fear that technology is replacing traditional play: the imaginative and physical kind. Added to that, children are not getting the appropriate amount of exercise per day when they are engaged with media technology based activities.

Pro: Media technology can lead to more connection. Because the Internet, particularly, is such a widely used medium, it can connect people from all over the world. You can get involved in causes that you wouldn’t otherwise geographically be able to. You can participate in forums and let your voice be heard. Even children can enjoy these benefits, with careful monitoring by parents.

Con: The pervasiveness of technology could be hampering developmental skills like social skills, emotional connection and empathy for others. Studies have been done to measure this concern, and the research has shown that as children get older, they are having difficulty identifying with other people’s emotions. Too much media is a major part of the reason.

Pro: Technology can actually promote development. Video games, for instance, teach collaboration, logical thinking, motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and language skills, among others. As with the other points here, this must be used in moderation. Too much and you risk losing the benefit.

Con: The concern that when children view violent behaviours either on the television or in video games, they will display those behaviours in real life is strong. Viewing inappropriate content can desensitize them, reducing their ability to show compassion and care for others.


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Imagine this situation: you are going on a three day business trip. You are ready to leave, and are saying good-bye. As soon as you are ready to walk out the door, your child begins to scream and cry. This intense emotional reaction is known as separation anxiety. This is completely normal in childhood. However, if your child continues to experience this anxiety as they grow older, and it affects their schoolwork or friendships, it may be a sign of separation anxiety disorder. Here are a few tips to help you ease separation anxiety for your children.

·         Practice separation. Hire a babysitter and leave the house for brief periods.

·         Develop a ritual. Children thrive on ritual and schedules. Do the same thing, such as a goodbye kiss or special wave, every time you say good-bye to ease the stress and reassure your child.

·         Keep your child’s environment as consistent as possible. When you hire a babysitter for the night, the babysitter will come to your house.  If your child is staying at Grandma’s house for a few days, bring a couple items that will remind your child of home.

·         Speaking of babysitters, keep a consistent one. It is worth the extra effort to vet a great babysitter, and then keep them for as long as you can. The sitter will become familiar and make good-byes easier.

·         When you leave, leave. Don’t dawdle. This is like ripping off a band-aid. It hurts for a little bit, but then the pain goes away. When you leave, leave quickly. Let your child know that you will be back, but don’t spend time stalling.

·         Be firm. Do your best to assure your child that he or she will be okay. You are only leaving for a little while. Setting those limits will allow your child to adjust to the separation.



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All parents want to raise their children to be successful people with character. But what is character, and how do you teach values that build character? Here are our four tips to help you.

Tip #1: Be aware of opportunities to teach your child, and take advantage of those teachable moments. Our lives are filled with moments that can offer us a lesson. They can come up in schools, meal making, in the media, or with friends. Often, these moments present values and priorities that you may or may agree with. Take advantage of these moments to discuss why you agree with the values presented or why you don’t agree. Ask your child how they feel about the values presented.

Tip #2: Use “what if” statements to elicit conversation about values. It’s hard to talk about values out of the blue, so create hypothetical situations to help create dialogue. To borrow an example, ask your child to imagine that they won $1 million. Ask them what they would do with it. Then, you can begin a conversation about the value of money.

Tip #3: Reflect on the deeper implications of values. As your child grows, they will start to lean on their peers to learn about themselves and the world, and the values they hold will be shaped in large part by those peers. There are four different processes that occur in value formation: external motivation, unconscious motivation, accepted values, and integrated values. When you talk to your child about the values they hold, reflect on which of these processes is taking place, and you will have a better, more effective discussion that will leave your child feeling independent, trustworthy, and in control.


Tip #4: Be aware of pressure points. There might be points in the conversation when your child might feel uncomfortable about the value in discussion. They might tend to ignore or avoiding talking about it. There might be values that your child might feel compelled to ignore because he or she is uncomfortable or feels too much pressure to conform. Talk with your child about how to relieve those pressures, and be mindful about stating your values in a firm, but respectful way.


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The main reason that children don’t abuse drugs, alcohol or tobacco is because they have been raised in a supportive home, and they understand the positive influence that parents have in their lives. This is why it is so important that parents build a solid relationship with their child from an early age. As part of building that relationship, parents must have a discussion with their kids about substance abuse. The earlier this conversation happens, the better. Here are six tips to help you build that relationship and open this conversation.

Tip #1: Establish good communication. Opening up the lines of communication allows your child to feel more comfortable coming to you to talk about things. This also allows you to get to know your child, and the better you know your child, the better you will be able to guide them to choose positive activities and peers.

Tip #2: Get involved in your children’s lives. Your children will be less likely to participate in alcohol, drug or tobacco abuse when they feel like there is someone who cares and is involved in their lives. You can do this by talking with your children every day, spend time doing activities that they enjoy, or supporting them.

Tip #3: Set rules, and enforce them. Be careful to strike a balance here. If there are no rules, children have no boundaries, or sense of right or wrong. As well, if rules are too strict, children might feel compelled to rebel against those rules. Discuss your rules with your child. Ensure that they understand why you set the rules you did. If a rule is broken, be sure to enforce them with consequences.

Tip #4: Be a positive role model. Children are the world’s greatest imitators. They see how you act, they hear the words you say, they see how you react, and they appropriate those behaviors and start displaying them. To be a positive role model in this situation, demonstrate positive ways to relieve stress, and admit when you behaved inappropriately.

Tip #5: Help your children choose their friends. Peers have the greatest influence on children once they grow out of childhood and into adolescence. If your children are interacting with people who do not engage in risky behavior, it is likely that they will not engage either.

Tip #6: Talk to your children about drugs and alcohol. This may be an uncomfortable conversation, but being open about it reduces the chances that your children will be involved in drugs or alcohol abuse. Start as early as possible and have the conversation multiple times to ensure the message is received. Try role playing techniques or simple one-on-one conversations. However you decide to convey the message, the important part is that you do talk to your children about drug and alcohol abuse, and you talk to them often about it.


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Parent-child communication works the same way any other communication does. Communication involves sending and receiving messages. How those messages are send and/or received helps determine the effectiveness of the communication. Ensuring that communication with children is as effective as possible, it is important that it remains open. When communication is good and open, relationships are given the opportunity to flourish. It serves to benefit every member of the family, and the skills gained from good communication will last forever.


Start Young

The earlier you start communicating with your child, the better. Make yourself available to your children when they have questions or want to talk. Not only that, but giving your child love, respect, and acceptance will increase your chance of creating a relationship that fosters open communication.


Active listening is a skill that takes discipline and focus to master; however, it is so important to showing your children love and respect. You show that you are interested in your child’s life. Make eye contact and maintain it. This shows that you are involved and interested in their story. Take away as many distractions as you can. The television, phone and other interruptions can distract you from fully engaging with your child. Minimize those distractions to ensure that you give your child the proper amount of attention he deserves. Be slow to speak. Sometimes, parents are too quick to offer their opinions and advice, and they run the risk of being misunderstood. Listen, then speak.

Schedule Family Meetings

In the midst of busy schedules, family time can be hard to come by. However, scheduling it in to your day and week will give you an opportunity to connect with your family on a regular basis. Scheduling time to talk with your family is a very useful communication tool as it can allow your family to talk about day-to-day things, major issues or anything. This time gives every member of the family to voice their opinions without judgement.

Be Careful During Conflict

Conflict in relationships is inevitable. How you handle conflict can help determine the effectiveness of relationship. Good communication is the best way to handle conflict in a positive way. Solve one problem at a time. Deal with conflict in small, manageable steps, and talk every step out with your child. When you talk to each other, use “I” messages. Phrases like “I feel frustrated” or “I am glad that” tells the other person how you feel rather than blaming them.


Avoid Negative Communication

Sometimes, negative communication patterns weave their way into conversation unexpectedly. Look out for nagging and lecturing. You generally don’t need to tell your child to do something more than once. Be careful about interrupting and criticizing. Avoid using guilt or sarcasm – this tends to make your child feel worse and increases the potential that your child will be closed off in the future.

Use Communication Builders

Ask questions and be open-minded. Use phrases like “I’m interested” or “Would you like to talk about it?” or “I understand.” These questions open communication, maintain respect and build relationships.


Me in a Tree

During adolescence, it is common for a teenager for confide in his friends more than his parents. Parents can often take the teen’s assertion of independence as a way of distancing himself from them. However, if the relationship is effectively managed and communication is kept open, parents can retain their positive influence in their teen’s lives. There are ways to manage this effectively and ineffectively. Here are the dos and don’ts of communicating with teenagers.

Do listen actively. Hear what they are saying, understand it, and repeat it back to them in your own words. You build mutual respect and trust without judgement or blame.

Don’t decide for them. Involve your teenager in the decision making process. Get them to set their own consequences for their behaviour. This will give them a sense of ownership and responsibility for their actions.

Do give clear messages. You must model the behaviours that you want your teenager to have. Be careful of your nonverbal cues, and ensure that you are not sending out mixed signals. State your values and expectations, and then live them.

Don’t give unsolicited advice. You want your teenager to be able to come to you when they need advice, not ignore your lecture disguised as advice.

Do spend time together. Whether you are going shopping or playing sports, spending time together is an important part of establishing a relationship and finding that connection.

Don’t criticize. Sometimes, your teenager will do things that upset you or that you disagree with; however, criticizing their every mistake will only decrease their self-esteem. Instead, let them learn from their mistakes.

Do admit your mistakes. When you make a mistake, admit it. It strengthens your credibility and builds trust with your teen.

Don’t talk too much. To avoid letting your advice on deaf ears, avoid repeating lectures, constant questions or other types of communication. State your rules and expectations and do set consequences for your teen’s behaviour.

Do tell them that you love them. Even if they roll their eyes at you, it is important to verbally express your love for them. Say it often.


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The adolescent years are extremely important to the healthy development of your child, and they are also the most vulnerable years. During this period, your teenager is on a rollercoaster ride where they discover their identity apart from their parents, start to assert their independence, and express their personal autonomy. As a parent, you need to understand your teen’s need for independence. As a result, you need to adjust your communication style to respect that need and effectively maintain a relationship with your teenager.

Be Level-Headed

Stress, anger and frustration can make it hard to communicate as emotions such as these prevent you from thinking rationally. Emotions often cloud judgement, and you need to ensure that your emotions are in check, especially during times of conflict, to effectively communicate.

Listen Actively

Active listening is a skill that is hard to develop and master. It involves hearing what the other person is saying, understanding their point of view, and communicating their feelings back to them. When your teen is telling you how she feels, you respond by saying something like “You are saying that you were upset when I said you couldn’t go out with your friends, is that correct?” This shows that you are not only listening to her, but also respecting her point of view. You avoid misconception, judgement, and blame, and you incite respect and open communication.

Be flexible

Understand that as your teen develops her sense of identity and independence apart from you, the parent, you need to be flexible when communicating. Your teen may not always agree with you, but it is important to respect those differences. When you appreciate her feelings, she will open up in the future.

Advise Carefully

Unsolicited advice is, well, unwanted. It serves to undermine the other person’s opinion. There will be times where you need to give your teen some advice, especially when it concerns safety. However, you don’t want to tell your teen who she should date, but you can advise her on how she gets to and from her date. The less you give your teen unsolicited advice, the more likely she will proactively come to you for advice.


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All children will challenge limits at one point or another. Strong willed children are a special challenge to set limits with, and parent in general. Strong-willed children, when parented right, turn into strong, independent adults. They tend to want to learn things for themselves, and so they constantly test limits. That said, it is common that power struggles will emerge with strong-willed children. Being firm in the limits you set and persistent in the consequences you set if the limits are challenged with will guide your strong-willed child to become a strong, independent adult. Here are some tips to help you out.

·         Focus on your child’s behaviour, not the child. Avoid causing self-esteem issues by focusing on what the child did, not who they are.

·         Be specific when you set consequences. Give them a time frame to accomplish a task, give them a consequence that is appropriate, and follow through with the consequence if the task is not accomplished.

·         Give your child a choice, but keep choices limited. You want to give your strong-willed child a sense of control by giving them a couple of choices, but too many choices gives them too much power.

·         Try not to lose your temper. Strong-willed children are very challenging, and it can be very easy to externalize your frustration by yelling or otherwise. It is important that if you do lose your temper that you apologize for behaviour that is against what you are trying to teach.

·         Let it go. When your child has dealt with the consequences of his actions, tell him why he was punished, and then let it go. Hug your child to remind them that even when they do something that is wrong, you still love them.

Article courtesy of Eva Macyszyn from Me in a Tree.

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How many times have you wanted to verbally express your frustration with your child? It is nearly impossible to not yell or being angry with your child. Anger, frustration and stress are all natural feelings that humans face, and you will express these feelings at least once as a parent. These are reactive emotions that can create deeper power struggles with your child, if not remedied. Responding, rather than reacting, can help diffuse the situation, and a positive outcome can be made.

Even though our first response as human beings, and as parents, is to react to negative situation; however, we need to choose to respond positively. One way to do that is to look for the good in every situation. Be intentional about looking for the positive aspects of your child’s behaviour – this will work to reduce the anxiety and frustration.

Sometimes, the best thing is to simply remove yourself from the situation for a few moments. Instead of reacting quickly and giving your child a time-out that may be ineffective, you might want to give yourself a time-out. Take five minutes to breathe, gain composure and come back in to the situation with something positive to add.

If you are really struggling to respond instead of react, and find yourself reacting to little things, remember that it is okay to ask for help. Whether you need professional advice or support from family and friends, being able to acknowledge and access that help is very important.

Me in a Tree offers a Parent Forum, where parents who are experiencing  similar issues can support each other. For more information go to