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Seven Ways to Use Art Therapy with Your Child

Submitted By: Charlotte Reznick PhD


Since the first cave paintings, we humans have found creative ways to express ourselves with art. We naturally draw, paint, and doodle to capture thoughts and feelings. Art has also been used throughout history for healing. Studies show that it creates brain wave patterns that enhance the autonomic nervous system, hormonal balance, and brain neurotransmitters. While doing artistic expressive art, the body's physiology shifts from stressed to serene.


It's often easier for a child to talk about pictures than about himself or his feelings (grief, anger, shame, etc.). Drawing will allow your child to express difficult feelings or to disclose what he might not share verbally. Your child's artistic expression will give you a clearer sense of his inner struggle, an insight that will help you guide him.


Drawing also increases your child's awareness of his inner world and creates a window onto that landscape. In addition, a child's artwork can be a launching point for conversations that reveal her thinking about the world around her.


You don't have to be a trained therapist to do art therapy with your child. Just stock up on a variety of supplies-giant rolls of paper, colored paper, crayons, and a variety of markers, including scented, metallic, fat, thin, even markers that change color as they write over another color. Then try the following art therapy techniques to explore new ways to communicate with your child.


Draw a self-portrait. On a large sheet of paper, trace your young child's body. Have her fill it in. Older children can design and complete their own. Drawing increases your child's awareness of her inner world, and it's easier to talk about a drawing than to express troubling feelings.


Picture the future. Artwork is also an effective starting point when you're working with clear end-goals, like getting a good night's sleep or reducing a fear. Have your child draw two drawings-how things are now and how he'd like them to be. Kids often hang these pictures in their bedrooms to remind them of their desired direction.


Show and tell. After an imaginary journey, such as a walk through a special place she imagines with her eyes shut and tells you about, have your child draw her experience. The picture gives you both something to look at and discuss. If the drawing illustrates a problem-say, a dangerous goblin or a fire at home-ask her what might solve the situation. She can even draw the solution right onto her picture.


Accept every drawing. Some kids have a tough time committing their mental pictures to paper; they fear they won't measure up. Reassure your child that anything he creates is fine. Sometimes all that comes are strokes of bold color evolving out of a wonderful or terrible feeling that is finally set free on paper. Praise each one. They are the artifacts of your child's inner world.

Talk to the image. Once your child has spilled his feelings on paper, he can converse with them. He might use his picture of Fear to ask what it needs to calm down, or to tell it to leave. It's much easier to speak to feelings when they're outside than when they're gnawing away at his tummy.


Take artistic action. It's a great release when a child can draw her angry, hurt, or upset feelings, but pictures don't have to be static. She can erase part of it, or draw over it in "healing" colors with a changeable marker-an immediate transformation that feels magical. She can even rip up or throw away the paper. These actions can offer a hurting child a sense of control and satisfaction.

Capture the memory. The special places your child visits on her imaginary journeys are personal healing sanctuaries. Hanging pictures of them somewhere private but visible will remind her that she can return whenever the need arises. Drawings of trusted animal friends and wizards can help her remember support is always near.


* * * * *
Charlotte Reznick is a child educational psychologist, an associate clinical professor of psychology at UCLA, and author of a new book, The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success (Perigee, 2009, $14.95).


Parent-Teacher Conference Jitters?

Submitted By: Beth Kanne-Casselman, MEd, MFT

Here are a few tips to optimize this special one-on-one time you will soon have with your child's teacher!

What to expect:

The parent-teacher conferences are usually a packed 20-30 minutes intended to review how school has been for your child thus far this year. The teacher will be prepared to go over formal information, such as report cards, work samples, and assessments as well anecdotal information, all of which will be of great interest to you. This is your chance to get detailed feedback on your child, so grab it while you can.

Like homework, it is another opportunity to strengthen the home-school connection. The teacher will provide you with insight into your child's strengths and stretches and some suggestions for what you can do to further support your child at home, while also explaining what he/she will be doing at school to meet your child's needs. It is a chance to really deepen the collaborative potential that the adults in your child's life have to support him/her in becoming the best the that he/she can be!

Some things to consider as the conference approaches:

• Start looking more carefully at your child's schoolwork and generate questions that arise for you about it. Take notice and jot down examples of any patterns you are seeing in your child's work or attitudes about school this year to share with the teacher. (Consider carryover rough spots from previous years and new strengths, improvements, or struggles emerging.)
• Share with your child that you are going to be meeting with his/her teacher (if it is not a parent-student-teacher conference) and ask what he/she thinks are the most important points to cover.
• As the conference date draws near, start to prioritize the top three or four points that you would like to address. These can include social, emotional, and physical, as well as academic concerns or questions you have.
• If things have been generally negative for your child in school, try to find at least one positive aspect of school this year, be it the teacher, new friends, special activities, or newfound interests to share with the teacher.
At the conference:
• To get the most from the parent-teacher conference: Relax and enter with a friendly, open, and appreciative attitude.
• Allow the teacher to lead the conference and let him/her get through the information that he/she has prepared. Stay aware of the time and remember that you should have some opportunity to share your concerns too. It is okay to notice that the time is running short and to gently interrupt to let the teacher know that you would like a few minutes to share some things as well. What usually happens is that the conference is a give-and-take exchange and the conversation allows for you to participate within it.
• While we all want to hear only wonderful things about our children, try not to get defensive when not just special skills or achievements are addressed. Listen to the teacher carefully when he/she is speaking about the areas where your child has room to develop. (If you do start to feel upset, remind yourself that the teacher is on your side and the two of your have the same goal: To help your child be as successful and as happy as possible.)
• Should you have concerns about the teacher's choices or policies, or you don't agree with them, you will benefit most by learning why the teacher is doing what he/she is doing. It is best to address these kinds of issues with questions. Curiosity and the genuine desire to understand will keep the dialogue more open and clarify for you what the objective is behind the area of concern.

• A few good questions to ask about your child at school:
• Is my child working up to his/her ability?
• What are my child's academic (or social, emotional, physical) talents and weak areas?
• What can we do at home/What is being done at school to develop his/her weak areas/strengths?
• What is my child like in class?
• What is my child's learning style?
• How would you suggest we go about dealing with...?
Following the conference:
• Whether your child was present or not, discuss with your him/her the conversation you had with his/her teacher during the conference. You want your child to know that you are all on the same team, supporting him/her. Always end the discussion with your child on a positive note, stating a concrete strength that you and the teacher discussed.
• Take some time to reflect on the conference and feel free to arrange to communicate more with the teacher when there is a need. You should come away from the experience with new insights about your child and ways that you can continue to support him/her in school! The intention of the conference is to build a strong alliance between home and school on behalf of your child.

Beth Kanne-Casselman, MEd, LMFT has a private psychotherapy practice in the SB Area working with individuals, couples, and families. She has taught pre-school through high school and presently teaches second grade. She can be reached at 805-895-6960 or

Raising Kind Children

Janet A. Clark, Associate Program Leader, University of Missouri

Encouraging kindness in children is an important responsibility for all adults who care for children. Kind and caring behavior appears early in life and continues to develop across the lifespan. Examples of caring behavior include:

• Sympathetic crying among groups of babies
• A toddler comforting a baby doll
• A toddler sharing blocks with another child
• A preschooler bringing bandages to an injured classmate
• A preschooler hugging and comforting a crying sibling
• School-age children collecting canned goods for a food bank
• An adolescent volunteering to shovel snow for an elderly neighbor
• Adolescents speaking out against animal cruelty during a community meeting


You can help children show kindness toward others and experience the positive feelings that grow out of kind and caring behavior.

Set a good example Children are learning constantly from the words and actions of adults around them. The great humanitarian, Albert Schweitzer, suggests that adults teach children in three important ways:
• The first is by example.
• The second is by example.
• The third is by example.


Even with your busy schedule, you can involve children in acts of kindness. By helping an elderly neighbor, taking a stray dog to a shelter or giving canned goods to a food bank, you can demonstrate your concern for others. You can reinforce kindness by explaining to children why you want them to engage in kind behavior. Research says that children are more likely to comply with adults' wishes when they hear a reasonable and understandable explanation.
• "Aunt Jean has been visiting with Grandma all week long at the hospital, so she is really tired. Would you please play quietly so that she can rest and relax?"


To be an effective adult role model, you must match your words with your actions. For example, if you compliment someone's new clothes, but make fun of the way the clothes look when the person is gone, children receive a powerful message. They learn that saying one thing and doing another is acceptable behavior.
Expressing appreciation for kind and thoughtful behavior is another way to set a good example for children. These actions help children to experience the positive feelings of being kind to others. By reinforcing children's kind behavior, you are helping them to understand that their kindness makes a positive difference.
• "Corrina, I'm really glad that you shared the blocks with Andy. See how much he likes playing with them!"
• "Lamont, your after-school project sounds like a great idea! I'm sure that the nursing home residents will really enjoy hearing you play some songs on the piano."

Children need to know that the adults in their lives care about them and about others. Children who experience respect and appreciation from adults are more likely to demonstrate caring toward others and to recognize the positive impact of their kindness.


Foundations in the early years (birth to age 5)

The quality of care you give to infants can greatly influence their later development. If babies learn that the adults around them are kind and dependable, they will learn to trust the world and themselves. When you respond sensitively to babies' needs, they feel valued and important. When infants feel loved and valued by those who care for them, the foundation of kindness toward others is being established.

If you express consistent expectations of children, they develop predictable views of the world. When guiding young children, be consistent and clear with directions and explanations. If your requests and reasons are inconsistent, children become confused and unsure about what is expected. When you are consistent with your requests and reasons, children feel safe in exploring the world and trying new things. They feel secure that their caregivers will consistently guide and teach them.

Positive guidance
Children learn to care about others when they feel cared for themselves. Young children learn best when they are not frightened or angry. By using guidance based on love and respect, you can help young children become aware of the consequences of their behavior for others.

Research says that harsh physical punishment can hinder the development of positive relationships between children and adults. Reliance on physical discipline weakens children's trust in adults. Physical punishment does not help children learn self-control or understand the connection between unacceptable behavior and discipline. When adults use physical discipline, children feel angry at adults and ashamed of themselves.
Positive guidance blends respect and love for the child with clear messages and understandable reasons. When young children experience consistent and positive guidance, they are more likely to act kindly toward others.

Building bridges between children and others
(ages 6 to 12)

Encourage children to think about others

You can help school-age children think about the needs of others and the implications of their behavior for others. Many school-age children are able to see the world through another's eyes. By encouraging this ability, you are helping children to reason and think about interpersonal matters. If a school-age child engages in unkind behavior with another child, explain to her or him why the behavior is unacceptable and how this behavior makes the other child feel.

Create opportunities and express appreciation

During the school years, you can give children more responsibility for being helpful and kind to others. By creating opportunities for children to be helpful and kind, you also can tell them how much you appreciate their helpful behavior and how this behavior affects others.

For example, research says that assigning regular, family-oriented housework to 12- to 14-year-old children is associated with their spontaneous helping behavior. Children of this age who are expected to help set the table, walk the dog or take turns cleaning the family room are more likely to do nice things for others without being told.

Requiring children to do regular chores for a family or for an athletic team creates opportunities for you to express appreciation for their kindness. Few successful groups exist because of the kindness of one person; every person in the group needs to be helpful and to recognize that needs of the group are as important as needs of the individual members. Tell children how much their helpful behavior is appreciated so they can experience the good feelings that result from being kind to others.


Practice empathy

Empathy is defined as "the ability to identify oneself mentally with a person or thing and so understand his/her feelings or meaning." You can practice empathic behavior and encourage school-age children to do the same. You can show them how empathy can help solve everyday problems.

Consider the natural disasters of the past decade. Entire communities have been destroyed by floods or fires and have been rebuilt because of the generous assistance of empathic groups and individuals. When these tragedies occur, talk with children about the needs of those affected and discuss different ways to help. Tell children that every little bit, from a donated coat to a large financial contribution, helps others who are in need.

Additionally, you can remind children that every day they will encounter other people's needs, and that by helping others they will experience the positive feelings that grow from acts of kindness. For example, how often do out-of-town visitors stop and ask for directions? When you and the children help travelers find what they are looking for, you reduce the negative feelings that go along with being lost. You can talk with children about how it feels to be lost and how it feels to help someone find what they are looking for.

Empathy also involves connecting with the feelings and needs of things other than people, such as animals and the environment. When driving along the highways, point out the brightly colored trash bags that often line the side of the road.Talk with children about the importance of keeping the environment clean for people and animals. Encourage children to participate in organized trash pick-up efforts and to practice recycling at home and at school.

Children are born with the capacity to act kindly toward others. From birth, children's behavior indicates their ability to respond kindly and compassionately. However, adults play an important role in whether or not children continue to act in kind and caring ways. If you are warm and supportive, and set reasonable standards of behavior and consistently enforce them, you are more likely to encourage kind and compassionate behavior in children. And, by encouraging children to be kind, you will find opportunities to talk about the consequences of their behavior for others and to express appreciation for their kindness.

The following suggestions are ways that you can contribute to the development of kind and caring children:
• Set a good example by acting respectfully toward others.
• Communicate the importance of helpfulness and generosity.
• Use consistent rules and reasons for guiding children.
• Talk with children about the feelings of others and the consequences of children's unkind behavior.
• Create opportunities for children to be empathic.
• Express appreciation when children behave kindly toward others.

How to Parent an Oppositional Child

Submitted By: By Dr. David Swanson, Psy.D.


Do you have an argumentative, short-tempered child who is quick to blame others and is easily annoyed? These are characteristics of what I call an "oppositional child." The psychological diagnosis is "oppositional defiant disorder," and its key clinical features, as listed in the DSM-IV, are:

1. Often loses temper.
2. Often argues with adults.
3. Often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules.
4. Often deliberately annoys people.
5. Often blames others for own mistakes or misbehavior.
6. Often is touchy or easily annoyed by others.
7. Often is angry and resentful.
8. Often is spiteful or vindictive.


Notice the word often. Every child displays some of these traits some of the time. But if your child is often oppositional, your parenting skills have probably been tested to the limits many times.


When dealing with an oppositional child, any situation can become a crisis. There doesn't have to be a rational reason. Many parents I work with make statements like, "I don't know what happened. First he said he wanted to go to his friend's house, then he said he wanted to have his friend come here. I told him he needed to make up his mind, and then he totally blew up."


The oppositional child tells you a lot about how he is feeling through his behavior. The problem is that you don't get any warning-you only get the chaos.


The first piece of advice I have is this: You need professional help if you are raising a child who is extremely and often oppositional. You can make the changes I am about to suggest, but be aware that the oppositional child is the most difficult child to raise. If you have an oppositional child, you and your family are at heightened risk for anxiety, physical abuse, divorce, and substance abuse. I strongly suggest intervention for families living with an oppositional child.


Although the oppositional child is one of the toughest parenting challenges, there are things you can do to decrease the frequency with which you will be subjected to your child's use of manipulative strategies. Below are 10 proactive parenting measures I recommend.


1. Choose your battles wisely. Sometimes it's beneficial to simply walk away, especially if your child has you in a trap you can't possibly get out of.
2. Always avoid power struggles. Power struggles are distractions from the issue at hand.
3. Develop your ability to appear calm when faced with frustration. Watching you fall apart is gratifying to children, and shows them they have gained the upper hand.
4. Develop and maintain a consistent environment. Devise an itinerary for the day, and adhere to it. Create routines and rituals-such as focusing on homework as soon as the child gets home. Such habitual practices diminish power struggles.
5. Develop your ability to predict difficult times and situational triggers for your child. Plan ahead for tough situations so you can maintain calm and integrity when they erupt. For example, if getting a child ready for school is routinely a struggle with Mom, have Dad do it instead.
6. Develop plans to deal with inappropriate behaviors before your child engages in them (and post these plans in the home). Oppositional children are quick to pick up on-and exploit-parents' inconsistent responses and behaviors. Determine consequences ahead of time and always enforce them.
7. Work on changing only one or two behaviors at a time. Be patient. If you are always focusing on the behavior of the day, your child will feel overwhelmed and criticized. Instead, have a talk with him, tell him the one or two behaviors that you will be focusing on, and then do just that. Praise him when he does well. When he is 80 to 90 percent responsive in those areas, have another talk with him and set two more behavioral goals.
8. Use responsibilities to reward your child. Giving your child the privilege of having power and control over her own environment will help here want to earn this privilege. Responsibility equals reward.
9. Seek out social support. Social interaction is a clear antidote to parenting stress.
10. Take time off from parenting. Vacations are a great way to replenish your parental battery. Find someone to watch the kids and head out of town.


Granted, the oppositional child is a difficult challenge. Try some of the solutions above, but if they don't work, don't despair. It may be beyond your immediate skills. If so, get help from an expert in oppositional defiant disorder.


* * * * *
David Swanson, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in children and teens suffering from ADHD, oppositional and defiant behavior, anxiety, depression, and social problems. His new book is Help! My Kid Is Driving Me Crazy: The 17 Ways Kids Manipulate Their Parents and What You Can Do About It (Perigee, Sept. 2009). You can learn more about him at



Seven Ways to Use Art Therapy with Your Child

Submitted By: By Charlotte Reznick PhD


Since the first cave paintings, we humans have found creative ways to express ourselves with art. We naturally draw, paint, and doodle to capture thoughts and feelings. Art has also been used throughout history for healing. Studies show that it creates brain wave patterns that enhance the autonomic nervous system, hormonal balance, and brain neurotransmitters. While doing artistic expressive art, the body's physiology shifts from stressed to serene.


It's often easier for a child to talk about pictures than about himself or his feelings (grief, anger, shame, etc.). Drawing will allow your child to express difficult feelings or to disclose what he might not share verbally. Your child's artistic expression will give you a clearer sense of his inner struggle, an insight that will help you guide him.


Drawing also increases your child's awareness of his inner world and creates a window onto that landscape. In addition, a child's artwork can be a launching point for conversations that reveal her thinking about the world around her.


You don't have to be a trained therapist to do art therapy with your child. Just stock up on a variety of supplies-giant rolls of paper, colored paper, crayons, and a variety of markers, including scented, metallic, fat, thin, even markers that change color as they write over another color. Then try the following art therapy techniques to explore new ways to communicate with your child.

Draw a self-portrait. On a large sheet of paper, trace your young child's body. Have her fill it in. Older children can design and complete their own. Drawing increases your child's awareness of her inner world, and it's easier to talk about a drawing than to express troubling feelings.


Picture the future. Artwork is also an effective starting point when you're working with clear end-goals, like getting a good night's sleep or reducing a fear. Have your child draw two drawings-how things are now and how he'd like them to be. Kids often hang these pictures in their bedrooms to remind them of their desired direction.


Show and tell. After an imaginary journey, such as a walk through a special place she imagines with her eyes shut and tells you about, have your child draw her experience. The picture gives you both something to look at and discuss. If the drawing illustrates a problem-say, a dangerous goblin or a fire at home-ask her what might solve the situation. She can even draw the solution right onto her picture.


Accept every drawing. Some kids have a tough time committing their mental pictures to paper; they fear they won't measure up. Reassure your child that anything he creates is fine. Sometimes all that comes are strokes of bold color evolving out of a wonderful or terrible feeling that is finally set free on paper. Praise each one. They are the artifacts of your child's inner world.


Talk to the image. Once your child has spilled his feelings on paper, he can converse with them. He might use his picture of Fear to ask what it needs to calm down, or to tell it to leave. It's much easier to speak to feelings when they're outside than when they're gnawing away at his tummy.


Take artistic action. It's a great release when a child can draw her angry, hurt, or upset feelings, but pictures don't have to be static. She can erase part of it, or draw over it in "healing" colors with a changeable marker-an immediate transformation that feels magical. She can even rip up or throw away the paper. These actions can offer a hurting child a sense of control and satisfaction.


Capture the memory. The special places your child visits on her imaginary journeys are personal healing sanctuaries. Hanging pictures of them somewhere private but visible will remind her that she can return whenever the need arises. Drawings of trusted animal friends and wizards can help her remember support is always near.


* * * * *

Charlotte Reznick is a child educational psychologist, an associate clinical professor of psychology at UCLA, and author of The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success (Perigee, 2009, $14.95).


Raising Giving Children

Ways to Raise Giving Children:

* PRACTICE RESPONSIVE, NON PUNISHING AND NON-AUTHORITARIAN actions toward children, especially during the preschool years.
* REASON WITH CHILDREN, even quite small ones, about the effects of their behavior on others and the importance of sharing and being kind.
* MODEL CARING BEHAVIOR toward children--and toward others in the children's presence
* GIVE EXPLANATIONS as to why the behavior is harmful and suggestions for how to make amends when children have hurt others

* ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO IDENTIFY THEIR OWN FEELINGS FIRST  -the different kinds of feelings they have and what feelings are associated with what kinds of situations.
* FOCUS ON SIMILARITIES BETWEEN ONESELF AND OTHERS.  Identifying  similarities is the logical next step following the focus on one's own feelings.
* ROLE PLAY. Activities which call for children or adults to assume the role of a real or fictional person and to imagine or act out that person's feelings and/or behavior. Increases in empathy are noted even when children are asked to imagine the point of view of an animal, plant, or inanimate object.
* EXPOSE CHILDREN TO THOSE LESS FORTUNATE through volunteering and giving.
* STUDY FAMOUS EMPATHETIC PERSONS. Focus children's' attention on the lives and achievements of famous empathetic persons like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa or celebrities that participate in giving back to their community. Select inspirational  books and movies.


Social Science Research  has proven the above strategies to be successful in raising an empathetic (Giving) child.

For more information about teaching Giving to Children visit: Kids Can Make a Difference  or  Youth in Philanthropy.

"How to Set Goals with Your Child"

Submitted By: Lorraine Pursell

You've probably set your New Year's resolutions by now, but what about your kids? In case you're at a loss for what to do beyond ‘What do you want to do this year?' I have 6 key questions for you to ask your child, in sequential order, so they'll feel smart and capable. I suggest you write down what they say, so they'll feel all the more important. This whole exercise should increase your connection together.

Question 1- "What did you like about last year? What went well for you?" I invite you to be silent while the wheels turn in their head. Give them plenty of time and only minimal hints from you. Remember, these are their goals -you probably don't like people giving you suggestions for your goals. You're encouraging your child's confidence and capability, so just be supportive of what they say.

Importantly, question 1 is framed in the positive; we're building their strong sense of self. Even if they're two and they say they like their dinosaurs or if they're five and they say the same thing, just nod your head and smile while writing their answer. If they're in elementary school, they may say they liked their friends and in Jr. High that they liked how well they worked on their algebra. In High School and beyond, you'll probably need to participate in setting your goals with them so they don't feel self-conscious. They can be secretary for you if they want.

Question 2- "What would you like to improve this year?" Again, this is framed in the positive. We're suggesting that they did well, and asking what they'd like to add some final touches or tweaks to. This is a good question to ask yourself. As you are gentle with yourself, your child will learn to be gentle with and to like herself. Maybe they want to get their homework bag by the front door, or even in the backseat of the car the night before and you'd like to get 5 easy dinners lined up each Sunday for the week ahead.

As you do this together, it's an opportunity to be closer and for them to see your vulnerable side, which will invite their vulnerable side to show.

Question 3- "How would you like to change your grades this year?" They may say they want to raise that D in biology, but maybe they don't care about their grades. They could be content with their grades as they are, and you can deal with that issue at another time. But for now, just write what they say.

Your parallel to their grades in school is your performance at work. How would YOU like to change your ‘grades' this year. As you show that you have room to improve, you'll inspire their honesty and enthusiasm to do better.

Question 4- Now that they've told you what they want to improve, ask them "How can I support you to do that?" If they want to get better grades this year ask "How can I help you make that happen?" Maybe you create a nice homework environment for them: quiet, well-lit space with everything they need. Do your homework with them: be at the table doing your stuff while they're doing their stuff. Just your being nearby will be comforting to them. And if they have a question, you're right there to help out! They're well on their way if you support them.

Question 5- This is a personal question so be sensitive how you say it. "How would you like to personally grow this year?" If they don't have an answer or don't know what they can improve on, then you chime in with "Well, you know, I think I'd really like to improve on xyz this year." You might say that you'd like to be more patient with them this year or that you'd like to be a better listener. Imagine how you'd feel if your parent said that to you!

Maybe they'd like to broaden their friend base and wean away from the snotty kids into the more intellectuals. Would they like to be more generous or help out more? Would they like to help their teacher out somehow? Would they like to clean up the park?

Question 6- "What new adventure would you like to explore this year?" Would they like to learn about horses? Would they like to earn money? They could start a neighborhood animal care business with your help. Maybe they'd like to overcome their fear of animals or of tests. Would they like to take up art? Life is so new and exciting- what new adventures would they like to go on?

As a bonus, maybe you could explore a new adventure together. My son and I went for a sky dive before he left for the Marines. It was a memory we'll never forget! What bonding experience could you do together or as a family?

I hope this has been helpful. I share all of this with you just to inspire and encourage your own great ideas. Go with it and let your love and respect for your child ooze from your pores while you show them that they can share their heart with you and you will accept it.
THIS lays the greatest foundation of all for raising a responsible child who will love you for life!

Lorraine Pursell, MA, BCET serves kids, parents and families. Since 1995, she's helped hundreds restore self-esteem and achieve closer, lasting relationships in her clinic, private practice and workshops. Email Lorraine! Tell her what's working for you and what's not:
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Triple P - The Positive Parenting Program

Submitted By: Urmila Schmit-Cohen

"Parenting is the hardest job we have and when you really find something that makes it easier, it's a relief for parents." -Urmila Schmit-Cohen, Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency Triple P Practitioner


Parenting is very rewarding and enjoyable but it can also be challenging and exhausting. There is no one right way to be a parent, but the Positive Parenting Program, Triple P, offers information, support and practical answers to everyday parenting concerns.

Three local funders - First 5 Santa Cruz County, Health Services Agency and Human Services Department have partnered with several agencies to make it easier for parents to get the information and support they need through the evidence based Positive Parenting Program.

With Triple P, parents can expect a range of high quality parenting services that are consistent across all agencies, and easy to access through a central phone number and website.


Triple P has been successful with families all over the world. Susan True, Executive Director of First 5 Santa Cruz County, states that local families are also finding success with the program, "Triple P is a parenting program, supported by 30 years of research. It is an approach that promotes good communication and strong relationships between parents and their children. Parents are successfully using new strategies to promote children's development, create a positive relationship with their children, and gain the knowledge and confidence to encourage positive behavior and solve future issues with their children."


Parents are always given the opportunity to select which strategies they would like to try at home. The goal of Triple P is to help parents create positive, caring relationships.


Experienced providers have recognized the importance of Triple P on our community's families. Deborah Vitullo, Triple P Practitioner at Families Together and private family therapist, states, "As a Clinician it is my responsibility to provide evidence based programs to my families. Triple P is one of the most comprehensive parenting programs. I have been doing this for over 25 years, this one (Triple P) covers everything that you would want it to cover. It is state of the art. It is a good solid, tried and trued parenting program. They did their homework and their research. It is an amazing program."


There are over 80 other Santa Cruz County Triple P accredited practitioners who agree with Ms. Vitullo. These practitioners are ready to tailor Triple P to suit the needs of every parent. Parents may choose from a variety of Triple P services including: seminars for parents of children 0-12; workshops; group courses and individual consultations.


Triple P services have already had a positive impact on local families. Velma Biddlecome, parent of an 8 year old states: "Triple P helped me get to a place where I am not so frustrated. Now I can deal with the everyday things out there. It also gave me the opportunity to talk to someone without feeling like I was going to be judged. There is so much focus on the positive things that you do as a parent and building on that. It is more of an empowering approach".


Pediatrician Dr. Salem Magarian, who has also seen positive results in families, says ""Here at the Dominican Pediatric Clinic we have found the Triple P program tremendously valuable for our families. This program has been extremely effective. Parental stress has been reduced. Parents are demonstrating improved communication and strategies for positively shaping their child's behavior. We are seeing improved child behavior at home and in the schools. Triple P is making effective positive changes for the families in our clinic."


Every parent can benefit from the advice and information available at and at free Triple P Seminars now available through-out Santa Cruz County.

I enjoy family dinners...but it hasn't always been that way!

Submitted By: Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

"I enjoy family dinners...but it hasn't always been that way. My kids were picky eaters and we would end up fighting over what they would eat. I even made them each separate meals so they would eat something. I was stressed and wondering how much longer I would have to do this. Then I learned a few simple things from Triple P and now I make one nutritious meal that we all eat. Mealtimes have become a time to have conversations with my children instead of fighting with them". Triple P Parent


Mealtimes can provide great opportunities for families to connect and enjoy each others' company. But if children have a difficult time with eating or they are not behaving well during meals, this time becomes a ‘battle' for parents, who find themselves stressed out and frustrated. Common mealtime problems include refusing to come to the table, leaving the table during the meals, complaining about the food, refusing to feed themselves, playing with food, and eating very slowly.


If you are a parent who experiences these challenges with your child, you are not alone! There are several steps that parents can take to encourage positive mealtime behaviors. Here are some things you can try right away.


Establishing a daily mealtime routine can be very helpful for children. Serving three main meals and a morning and afternoon snack at regular times of the day will help your child separate mealtime and playtime. Also, setting a time limit for finishing up the meal, such as 20-30 minutes, and explaining that to your child ahead of time, will help keep him from getting bored and restless or disruptive.


Let your child know ahead of time when the meal will be ready. Giving your child a 5-10 minute time block to finish up their play will make it easier for them to come to the table.


Having everything prepared before seating your child at the table can prevent unnecessary waiting. Once he is seated at the table, remove any toys or other distractions.


Teaching new skills and recognizing your child's accomplishments around meals will help him become a healthy independent eater. Mealtimes present an opportunity for children to learn new skills and to recognize your child's growing competence. Model and Explain 1-2 mealtime skills that are important for your family. These skills should tell your child what to do rather than be rules of what not to do. For example:
• Eating with a spoon or fork
• Participating in family conversations and mealtime games
• Enjoying time at the table until the meal is over
• Developing specific manners that are important to your family (chewing with the mouth closed)
• Eating a variety of foods with different nutritional values


Parents may want to offer rewards for meal times that go smoothly. These rewards can be a special activity after mealtime or an extra bedtime story. As your child masters new mealtime skills, you can add a few more skills that you want him to learn. It is important that children don't become overwhelmed with too many new things at once and are given a chance to succeed. Pick your focus carefully and stick with it - without adding more - until the child succeeds.


It is common for mealtime problems to persist even when parents have tried these strategies. There are several other techniques to assist your child in developing good eating habits. Local accredited practitioners can assist in finding the best approach for your family. For more information on Triple P services please visit or contact Stephanie Bluford at (831) 465-2217.

Safe Sleep for all Babies

Submitted By: Nancy Diehl, PHN SIDS Coordinator

Safe Sleep for all Babies ~ October is National Infant Mortality and SIDS Awareness Month


I am the Santa Cruz County SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Coordinator and every October I look forward to keeping our community up to date about how to reduce the risk of SIDS and how every baby can sleep safely.

I am happy to share that this past fiscal year (7/10- 6/11), we had no baby die from SIDS in Santa Cruz County. Though our county has not experienced a SIDS death, rates of SIDS deaths continue to increase in California. In 2008, 201 babies died from SIDS, a 12.7% increase from 2007 when 183 babies died from SIDS, so the work of getting the safe sleep message out to all new parents is not finished. The focus of our work, like that of the state's SIDS program needs to embrace the work of those in the infant mortality community and reduce the risk of all preventable infant deaths, not just those from SIDS, but from suffocation and strangulation as well. Every baby sleeping safely continues to be the goal all of us need to embrace.


To support achieving the goal of every baby in Santa Cruz County having a safe sleep environment, I'd like to share information about a new law regarding crib safety. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has enacted new standards for cribs, banning drop side cribs from sale, as of June 2011. It is now illegal to sell a drop side crib. Also, by December 28, 2012, all licensed child care homes, hotels and crib rental companies will have to comply with this law. More information can be found at
Safe sleep recommendations continue to strongly advise parents to avoid the use of all "after-market" products including positioners and firm or soft bumpers as both place the baby at risk of suffocation.


To ensure safe sleep for all babies, professionals remain in agreement that parents should follow the American Academy of Pediatrics reduce the risk recommendations:
1. Always place a baby on his or her Back to Sleep, for every nap and at night.
2. Place a baby on a firm sleep surface, such as on a safety-approved crib mattress, covered by a fitted sheet.
3. Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of a baby's sleep area.
4. Do not allow smoking around a baby or a pregnant woman.
5. Keep the baby's sleep area close to, but separate from, where you and others sleep.
6. Think about using a clean, dry pacifier when placing an infant down to sleep. Do not force the baby to take it. When a baby breastfeeds, wait until he or she is one month old or until after breastfeeding has been established to use a pacifier.
7. Do not let a baby overheat during sleep.
8. Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS including infant positions.
9. Do not use home monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS.
10. Reduce the chance that flat spots will develop on a baby's head by placing a baby on their tummy when he/she is awake and someone is watching.


If you have additional questions please do not hesitate to contact me at 831-454-4331. All babies deserve to sleep safely every time they sleep.

I am a relaxed parent...but it hasn't always been that way!

Submitted By: Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

"I am a relaxed parent....but it hasn't always been that way. I used to think that the holidays meant expensive gifts and being pulled in a million directions. I ended up feeling stressed and inadequate. Then I learned a few Triple P tips that have helped me manage holiday life with kids and stay calm through it all." Triple P Parent


If there were a stress meter attached to parent's arms during the holiday season, we could see that parents have reached and even gone beyond the meter's maximum limit. Being a parent is busy and demanding. You have to manage and balance the demands of your children, partner, household, work, friends and family. It is normal to feel stressed as a parent, whether it is the holiday season or not. When parents often feel a high level of stress, it can be hard to deal with their children's behavior calmly and consistently.


Parents who are overly stressed may not have enough energy to spend time with their children or can become irritable and impatient. Sometimes parents feel so worn out that they are not able to recognize their children for positive behaviors.


If you are a parent feeling overly stressed, you are not alone! There are several steps that parents can take to manage stress levels so that parenting can be more natural and easy. Here are some things you can try right away.


Have realistic expectations of yourself. This will make it less likely that you will set yourself up for unnecessary stress. For instance, it is not reasonable to think that you can always maintain a tidy house, or that your children will always do as you ask, or that you can always say ‘yes' to people who ask for help. You may also want to lower some of the ‘holiday expectations' that you have for yourself. For example, if your list of people to buy gifts for feels overwhelming, consider alternatives that are not as expensive such as your children's art, or certificates for a fun outdoor activity like exploring the season's low tides.


Include your children in holiday preparation activities. Explain to them what the holidays mean to your family and describe the traditions that you grew up with. When children are included, it will make the holiday preparations fun for them. Some ways to include children are:
• Creating decorations that can be put around the house or on the Christmas tree
• Creating home-made holiday cards
• Wrapping gifts
• Making placemats or centerpieces for the holiday dinner table
• Assisting in making special holiday foods or drinks

Creating meaningful routines that allow your child to contribute means letting go of perfection but building your child's skills and sense of belonging.


Recognizing the warning signs of stress can help end the stress cycle before it becomes unmanageable. These include:
• Tense or stiff muscles
• Headaches
• Irritability or anger
• Disturbed sleep
• Tiredness
• Problems concentrating
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Stomach upsets
• Skin reactions
• Low immune system (repeated infections or viruses)


Find a relaxation technique that works for you and use it when you notice any of the above warning signs. Relaxation techniques can include breathing exercises (such as slow deep breaths), muscle relaxation techniques (tensing and relaxing muscles one by one), visualization (imagining being in a nice place), and meditation. Involving your children in some of these techniques will not only give you an opportunity to use the technique(s), but will teach your children how to relax from an early age.


One relaxation technique children enjoy is rubbing lotion on the hands for a few minutes. The repetition, movement and texture help create a calming effect. Try practicing whatever technique you choose with your children everyday for two weeks, even when you are not stressed. This will help you learn to relax as easily as you tense up.


Catching unhelpful thoughts and challenging them will help decrease your level of stress. Unhelpful thoughts usually pop up without warning when you are stressed and are believable at the time you are having them. When looking back at unhelpful thoughts, they are unrealistic and exaggerated. Some examples of unhelpful thoughts are: I can't deal with the holidays anymore I'm done with it; He did that just to make me mad; It's all my fault. When you find yourself having these thoughts, recognize that it is happening and try to challenge them. You can challenge these thoughts by debating the thought with yourself. Ask yourself, "Is what I'm saying really true? Is there any evidence of this?" Look for other explanations to the situation and come up with a more realistic way of thinking about it, such as "I've managed fine all day, it just became challenging while I was preparing dinner. Tomorrow night I will set him up with his favorite puzzle before I begin preparing." It can also be helpful to replace the unhelpful thoughts with some coping statements that work for you.


Some examples of coping statements are:
• I can do this, I've done it before
• It's OK to make mistakes
• It will be over soon
• It's ok to feel nervous, I can cope with this feeling
• I'll get through this


As we enter the frenzy of the holiday season, come up with a plan for yourself. Think of something you can simplify about the holidays, include your children in the plans, come up with a relaxation technique and a coping statement that you and your children can use together and get back to the core of what the holidays are for...enjoying time with your family!


If you would like to learn more about coping with stress as a parent and/or other parenting strategies for your family, contact First 5 Santa Cruz County to help you find a local Triple P practitioner. For more information on Triple P services please visit or contact Stephanie Bluford at (831) 465-2217.

I like spending time with my mom...but it hasn't always been that way!

Submitted By: Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

"I like spending time with my mom...but it hasn't always been that way. She always used to seem so busy and I got mad at her when she said "not now." But then she learned a few simple things from Triple P and now we have fun just making dinner and she's not too busy for me anymore." Triple P Child


Spending quality time with your children will help in developing a positive relationship with your child and prevent future behavioral problems. Being a parent, however, is busy and demanding. It can be a juggling act of working, taking care of household chores, shuttling kids' to schools and various activities, making time to see family and friends, and putting time aside for personal interests. Parents often feel that they are not able to spend ‘quality time' with their children. The thought of planning something ‘special' such as an afternoon at the park, a family camping trip or a trip to the zoo, can not only be daunting but could take a long time to set up.


If you are a parent who feels you are not able to spend as much time as you would like with your child, you are not alone! Triple P defines quality time in a way that is not only manageable for parents but beneficial and effective for children. Every parent has something special to offer their child and yet many of us have felt guilty about how busy we are and how the demands of daily routines keep us from having fun and enjoying children. Often we forget that a quick hug, a high 5, stopping to look at something that interests the child, singing a song, playing a quick game, telling stories, cooking together, listening to a favorite CD and other easy ways to spend time will help you and your child feel close to each other. Here are some things you can try right away.


Frequent, small amounts of time. Spending frequent, small amounts of time with children is very beneficial and helps your child know how much you love her. Try to spend small amounts of time with your child-as little as 30 seconds to 3 minutes-frequently throughout the day. This consistency conveys to your child that you are there for her and by following her interests it will help you to learn more about her.


Let your child initiate. Time that is special to your child will occur when she approaches you to tell you something, ask a question or involve you in an activity. This is also an opportunity for your child to learn how to be open with you and to learn conversational skills.


Stop and engage. When your child approaches you, and you are not involved in something that requires your immediate attention, stop what you are doing and make yourself available. Get down to your child's level, be present and provide her with your full attention. This lets your child know that you are interested in what she has to share.


Don't fall in the ‘in a minute trap'. If you cannot stop what you are doing when your child wants your attention, let her know when you are available and then make that time available to her. If you promise to come to her in a minute but are held up for another ten, it can lead to increasing demands by your child and increasing levels of frustration by you.


Quality time does not have to be a special activity or long planned trip; it can occur everyday, through-out the day, when your child is ready to learn and engage. Remember, these small changes, can make big differences!


If you would like to learn more about positive relationship building strategies andr strategies to promote your child's development, contact First 5 Santa Cruz County to help you find a local Triple P practitioner. For more information on Triple P services please visit or contact Stephanie Bluford at (831) 465-2217.

I enjoy watching my kids play together...but it hasn't always been that way

Submitted By: Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

"I enjoy watching my kids play together...but it hasn't always been that way. My children fought over their toys constantly. It became so difficult that we couldn't have their friends over for play-dates. Then I learned a few simple things from Triple P that helped me teach sharing and playing nicely to my kids. Now the kids play well together and we are back to having friends over at the house." Triple P Parent


"That's mine!" are the words that parents of toddlers have probably heard too often.  Possession and ownership are new concepts for toddlers, which makes sharing an important but difficult social skill to learn at this stage of life.  Children may grab toys, push another child away, or simply refuse to share their toys with other children. 


Whether it's between siblings or with friends, if sharing is an issue in your home, you are not alone!  Here are some Triple P tips you can try right away to encourage sharing in your child or children.


Teach your child how to share.  You are your child's first teacher. Show him how to share by demonstrating it. For example, offer him some of the snack you are eating or let him have a turn at something you are doing such as looking at pictures in a book.  Often an older child will mimic these behaviors with a younger sibling or friends; giving him an opportunity to practice sharing.


There are activities that are more conducive to sharing, turn taking and cooperation, such as dressing up and playing new roles, building blocks, and working on puzzles. Engage in these activities with your children and demonstrate by showing them how to take turns.


When you notice your children taking turns and playing cooperatively, praise them for their behavior and be specific about what it is that you like seeing. For example, "You are playing really well together and showing cooperation. You are sharing your blocks with each other and taking turns stacking them."


Help Children Develop Their Own Strategies to Resolve Conflicts.  Often as parents, we want to solve our children's problems for them. However, children will develop sharing skills, if we help them learn to use their own strategies. For example, when two children are arguing over turn taking, involve them in the resolution. Rather than jumping in, parents can stay calm and ask "how do you think we can resolve this problem of you both wanting the toy at the same time?" As the children learn strategies, you may need to suggest a few things, "how about if one of you writes (draws) a list of the toys to play with and who gets the next turn? Or, maybe you can make a deal about how much time you will each have the toy?" It is often surprising how many ideas children can come up with on their own.   You might want to put together this list of ideas for the next time a sharing conflict comes up.



Explain sharing expectations to your children and visitors.  Clear expectations and consistent responses will make these new skills predictable for children. Explain and demonstrate how sharing during play can take place and describe some of the strategies that your children have developed.

  • Asking to take a turn; "Can I play with that ball when you are done with it?"
  • Responding to a request to take a turn; "Yes, but I want to finish playing with it. I will give it to you in 5 minutes"
  • Offer a new toy to the other child; "Do you want to trade that ball for these blocks?"
  • Finding another activity while the other child is finishing up playing

It's important that siblings and visitors understand these play expectations.  Allowing a younger child to grab toys because he is younger will only frustrate the older child.  On the other hand, if an older child is taking over and not allowing a younger child to take a turn, he will learn that it is not important to take turns and share. 


Make use of "teachable moments".  Just like any new skill that children need to learn, conflict over sharing is a "teachable moment".  If a problem has arisen, for example your child has grabbed a toy from another child or he has pushed another child away from the toys, ask if they remember any of the ways they came up with taking turns. You can support them by walking them through it and reinforcing the strategy. You may have to stop them from doing something first; "Jack stop grabbing the blocks when Max is playing with them. I liked when you came up with the idea to have a time keeper. Jack, let's set the timer so that you know when Max's time is up. Until then, give the blocks back and let him finish his turn". If the problem persists and your child still struggles to wait his turn, you can go back to the list of strategies that the children came up with and choose another strategy that might work. These instances offer a great opportunity for children to learn problem solving skills.


Handling sharing problems when you did not see it.  Parents aren't always present when children are playing, making it difficult to determine how to handle a sharing problem. It's important to avoid asking the older child what happened (or what they did to upset the younger child). A toddler will not be able to tell you exactly what happened. Instead of focusing on who is at fault and what happened, you can once again guide the children in coming up with a resolution. You not being present during the conflict makes this a perfect moment to help them learn how to manage their own behavior.  Remember, this is a big accomplishment for children!


Learning how to share when you have just learned about ownership is a difficult task.  But with the right support and direction from parents, children will share and play well with their siblings and peers.  Remember, these small changes, can make big differences!


It is common for sharing problems to persist even when parents have tried these strategies. There are several other techniques to assist your child in developing good sharing habits. Local accredited practitioners can assist in finding the best approach for your family. For more information on Triple P services please visit or contact Stephanie Bluford at (831) 465-2217.

Enlisting Your Family's Help

Submitted By: Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

Parenting can be an extremely rewarding experience. It can also be demanding, exhausting and stressful, especially when juggling it with work and other life tasks. If you are a parent that feels overwhelmed by the demands of home life, work life and personal life, you are not alone!

Here are some Triple P tips you can try right away to encourage sharing in your child or children.


Make yourself a priority. One way that parents can find more patience and time for their child is to make sure they also find time for themselves. Taking care of your own needs for intimacy, adult companionship, recreation and time alone will help make parenting easier. When our own needs as adults are neglected, it is so much more difficult to be calm, patient, and consistent with our children. Don't aim to be the perfect parent. If you are spending plenty of quality time with your child and they are a cared for in a safe environment, a break away once in while will do both you and your child a world of good. Even starting with 20 minutes a day or 2 times a week of doing something you enjoy will help tremendously.


Work as a team with your partner. A home runs more smoothly if tasks are shared and everyone is on the same page. With your family, write a list of tasks that need to be done on a weekly basis and divide them up amongst all family members, including adults and children, who are old enough to contribute.


Set some time aside to talk to you partner about ground rules and discipline tactics to ensure you are on the same page when a situation arises. It is important not to contradict one another or argue in front of the children. Save these discussions for when the two of you can speak in private. Making sure that you are giving and receiving practical support from your partner will help you feel more stable and able to better handle the juggling.


Teach children to do things for themselves. The more children learn to look after themselves, the more they are likely to develop the skills they need to be successful. Skills such as getting dressed, putting dirty and clean clothes in the right places, eating by themselves, clearing the dishes, putting toys away, making their own beds,  are skills that children after a certain age can easily attain and participate in. This not only frees up your time to attend to other needed tasks, but it helps your child become independent and confident.


Be organized and develop routines. Being organized can prevent major stressors from arising.  For example: have a special place where keys and wallets go; cook the weeks' meals on the weekend; do laundry on a set day of the week; ask the children to pick out their next days clothes the night before; pack the kids bags the night before. These will all help in getting out the door with less stress and in a timely manner. Developing a morning routine will also help move everyone a lot more smoothly. Your children may want to write/draw out the routine so they  can 'read' it and follow it on their own. A morning routine might look like this:

  • Wake up at 7:30am
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Brush your teeth
  • Get jackets and shoes on
  • Leave the house

Offering descriptive praise and encouragement when children follow these steps on their own will motivate them to continue to demonstrate their ability to be independent.


Have realistic expectations and avoid being overcommitted. Sometimes parents have unrealistic expectations of themselves both in their home life and at work. It's important to recognize when there is too much on your plate and to be able to re-negotiate achievable tasks with friends, family, or employer. Learning to say 'no' will make life a lot easier. When you feel overcommitted, it is essential to assert your needs (to your friends, family, employer) and let people know what you are able to take on at that time. If you are a working parent, take time to familiarize yourself with your agency's policies regarding family leave and flexible work hours and discuss and negotiate these needs with your employer ahead of time.


Make your family a priority.  When you are at home with your children, do not spend a lot of time thinking about your work or other outside tasks. Physically and mentally separate your family time and work time.  Your children know when you are distracted and may try to get your attention in ways that are not desirable. You will be more productive at work and with your other tasks if you are able to relax and enjoy your children when you are with them.


Enjoy time with your children every day! It may seem like a small thing, but time spent enjoying your children can be the most rejuvenating of all! Quality time doesn't have to be extravagant or expensive. Sometimes just reading a book together or going for a walk can help. Other days, a big hug is all it takes! Remember that letting your child initiate an activity and just following her lead for twenty minutes will help her feel important to you and help you understand her more.


Making sure that you, your partner and the kids are happy and healthy is not an easy task! But taking it one step at a time and getting the right support from the rest of your family will make being a parent doable and enjoyable!  Remember, these small changes, can make big differences!


If you are interested in learning more about the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) and services available, contact First 5 Santa Cruz County:  visit or contact Stephanie Bluford at (831) 465-2217.


Written by Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

"How I Came to Practice Attachment Parenting"

Submitted By: Tina McRorie, Leaer Monterey Bay API

Being a Feminist, I had always wanted to have a daughter so that I could give her the nurturing and encouragement that my Feminist mom gave me. When I found out that my first child was going to be a boy, I performed my first parental reframe. I thought, "My husband and I could easily raise a girl to be a basically decent human being. But, in this society that, in so many ways, encourages boys to be self-centered and insensitive, it takes something extra to raise a son to be a person who will be a positive force in the world." My husband and I decided that we were were up to that challenge.

I had studied psychology through the Masters level, and had learned about John Bowlby's Attachment Theory. I had learned about the child's primary caregiver providing a "secure base" by being emotionally attuned to the child and providing protection, warmth and attention. I had learned what goes wrong with human development when a child is not able to securely attach to this kind of figure, and what goes right when they do.

Then I worked as a social worker in the foster care system. When we trained new foster parents, we would tell them what an important gift they could give to the children in their care if they forged that kind of bond with them. But there was little concrete training in how to do it.

The behaviors, general and specific, that help children bond to their caregivers had been well studied by researchers in many fields related to child development, but the information was not trickling down to the general public.

When my son was born in 2000, I was thrilled to find that there was someone who was bridging that gap. Dr. William Sears, along with his wife, Martha Sears, R.N., took the body of research informed by Attachment Theory, as well as their own clinical and personal experiences, coined the term "Attachment Parenting," and started writing in concrete language about how parents can bond with their babies.

Of course the Searses weren't the only ones writing about parenting in ways that promote attachment. I found many other authors bringing information from many researchers to the public, some using the term "Attachment Parenting" and some not.

I also found a local support group for parents raising their kids with attachment in mind. The group was affiliated with the non-profit Attachment Parenting International. Through attending meetings, playgroups and potlucks, my family got to know other families who practiced Attachment Parenting. This was enormously helpful in getting me out of the isolation that I felt as a new mother, and it was good for my husband and kids as well. As the group grew, we found ways to support each other, like setting up a childcare co-op, a lending library of parenting books, and meal trains for families with brand new babies, not to mention a million playdates, phone calls, and birthday parties.

So, I went on, my parenting informed by my experiences, my education, the books of the Searses and others, and the support of my peer group, but mostly by my instincts. It felt right to hold and comfort my baby when he cried. It felt right to nurse him when he was hungry. It felt right to listen to his insistence that he be allowed to sleep nestled up against me. (Fortunately, we had a doctor whose calm confidence that we could safely bed-share, convinced me and my husband to do our own research on that topic and come to a decision that worked for our family.)

In short, I didn't treat Attachment Parenting as a checklist, but I did, and do, try to treat my children the way I would like to be treated: with empathy, respect and trust. Now, a dozen years later, the family bed, the nursing bras and my ring sling have long since been retired. Attachment Parenting for us now is more about practicing Positive Discipline and keeping our schedules open enough to include generous time together as a family.

I'm happy to talk about Attachment Parenting all day, but I don't like to use the term "attachment parent." That makes it sound like there is a test. You don't have to breastfeed, bed-share or be a full-time homemaker to parent in a way that promotes healthy attachment relationships with your children. AP is not a checklist; it is a set of tools. Parents who are "attachment minded" make healthy family relationships a priority and use Attachment Parenting principles as tools, using the ones that match their values and work for their family, and leaving the rest.

As I watch my two sons, now ten and twelve, I see confident, joyful young people who treat others with remarkable levels of empathy, respect and trust. I see people who make things better for those around them and think about how their actions affect people, animals, and the environment. I am happy for their future girlfriends, wives and children.

And I'm proud to say they still hug me, even in front of their friends.

Tina McRorie, M.A. is the leader of Monterey Bay Attachment Parenting International which hosts free family events in Santa Cruz and Monterey.

Opting Out of the 'Rug Rat Race

For success in the long run, brain power helps, but what our kids really need to learn is grit


We are living through a particularly anxious moment in the history of American parenting. In the nation's big cities these days, the competition among affluent parents over slots in favored preschools verges on the gladiatorial. A pair of economists from the University of California recently dubbed this contest for early academic achievement the "Rug Rat Race," and each year, the race seems to be starting earlier and growing more intense.

At the root of this parental anxiety is an idea you might call the cognitive hypothesis. It is the belief, rarely spoken aloud but commonly held nonetheless, that success in the U.S. today depends more than anything else on cognitive skill-the kind of intelligence that gets measured on IQ tests-and that the best way to develop those skills is to practice them as much as possible, beginning as early as possible.

American children, especially those who grow up in relative comfort, are being shielded from failure as never before.

There is something undeniably compelling about the cognitive hypothesis. The world it describes is so reassuringly linear, such a clear case of inputs here leading to outputs there. Fewer books in the home means less reading ability; fewer words spoken by your parents means a smaller vocabulary; more math work sheets for your 3-year-old means better math scores in elementary school. But in the past decade, and especially in the past few years, a disparate group of economists, educators, psychologists and neuroscientists has begun to produce evidence that calls into question many of the assumptions behind the cognitive hypothesis.

What matters most in a child's development, they say, is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years of life. What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence. Economists refer to these as noncognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us often think of them as character.

If there is one person at the hub of this new interdisciplinary network, it is James Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago who in 2000 won the Nobel Prize in economics. In recent years, Mr. Heckman has been convening regular invitation-only conferences of economists and psychologists, all engaged in one form or another with the same questions: Which skills and traits lead to success? How do they develop in childhood? And what kind of interventions might help children do better?

The transformation of Mr. Heckman's career has its roots in a study he undertook in the late 1990s on the General Educational Development program, better known as the GED, which was at the time becoming an increasingly popular way for high-school dropouts to earn the equivalent of high-school diplomas. The GED's growth was founded on a version of the cognitive hypothesis, on the belief that what schools develop, and what a high-school diploma certifies, is cognitive skill. If a teenager already has the knowledge and the smarts to graduate from high school, according to this logic, he doesn't need to waste his time actually finishing high school. He can just take a test that measures that knowledge and those skills, and the state will certify that he is, legally, a high-school graduate, as well-prepared as any other high-school graduate to go on to college or other postsecondary pursuits.

Mr. Heckman wanted to examine this idea more closely, so he analyzed a few large national databases of student performance. He found that in many important ways, the premise behind the GED was entirely valid. According to their scores on achievement tests, GED recipients were every bit as smart as high-school graduates. But when Mr. Heckman looked at their path through higher education, he found that GED recipients weren't anything like high-school graduates. At age 22, Mr. Heckman found, just 3% of GED recipients were either enrolled in a four-year university or had completed some kind of postsecondary degree, compared with 46% of high-school graduates. In fact, Heckman discovered that when you consider all kinds of important future outcomes-annual income, unemployment rate, divorce rate, use of illegal drugs-GED recipients look exactly like high-school dropouts, despite the fact that they have earned this supposedly valuable extra credential, and despite the fact that they are, on average, considerably more intelligent than high-school dropouts.

These results posed, for Mr. Heckman, a confounding intellectual puzzle. Like most economists, he had always believed that cognitive ability was the single most reliable determinant of how a person's life would turn out. Now he had discovered a group-GED holders-whose good test scores didn't seem to have any positive effect on their eventual outcomes. What was missing from the equation, Mr. Heckman concluded, were the psychological traits, or noncognitive skills, that had allowed the high-school graduates to make it through school.

So what can parents do to help their children develop skills like motivation and perseverance? The reality is that when it comes to noncognitive skills, the traditional calculus of the cognitive hypothesis-start earlier and work harder-falls apart. Children can't get better at overcoming disappointment just by working at it for more hours. And they don't lag behind in curiosity simply because they didn't start doing curiosity work sheets at an early enough age.

Instead, it seems, the most valuable thing that parents can do to help their children develop noncognitive skills-which is to say, to develop their character-may be to do nothing. To back off a bit. To let our children face some adversity on their own, to fall down and not be helped back up. When you talk today to teachers and administrators at high-achieving high schools, this is their greatest concern: that their students are so overly protected from adversity, in their homes and at school, that they never develop the crucial ability to overcome real setbacks and in the process to develop strength of character.

American children, especially those who grow up in relative comfort, are, more than ever, shielded from failure as they grow up. They certainly work hard; they often experience a great deal of pressure and stress; but in reality, their path through the education system is easier and smoother than it was for any previous generation. Many of them are able to graduate from college without facing any significant challenges. But if this new research is right, their schools, their families, and their culture may all be doing them a disservice by not giving them more opportunities to struggle. Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.

Wall Street Journal. September 7, 2012

-Adapted from "How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character" by Paul Tough, which has just been published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Bullying: help, my child is the bully!

Submitted By: Anna Dasbach, LFMC

How do we as parents respond when we are called to meet with our child's teacher or principle to find out that our child has been bullying other children at school?

Before reacting and defending our child or thinking of ways to discipline her/him it is best to first take a deep breath and stay centered and calm. Checking in with yourself: what is your own feeling and reaction in regards to bullying?

What were your own experiences as a child and how/if have you coped or how was it handled when you were a bully or bullied?

We are at our best in helping and supporting our children if we don't react from our past experiences but can stay in our adult self and look at the issues presented from a calm and centered place, because we have taken the time to process our own past experiences and feelings attached to them.

Before reacting it might also be helpful to know that bullying doesn't happen out of context and is oftentimes not a single occurrence:

According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) nationwide, 20% of students in grades 9-12 have experienced bullying.

The 2008-2009 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, 28% of students in grades 6-12 have experienced bullying.

When talking to the teacher or principle find out if there is a school policy in place in regards to bullying. It is often difficult for the teacher to be fully aware of the subtle forms of bullying or relational aggression, such as name calling, leaving someone out at games or conversations, girls' rolling their eyes etc, that can be very hurtful. So, if talking with the teacher about your child, keep in mind that teachers are not always able to prevent bullying from happening and might not know all the specifics of what occurred between the bully and the victim.

Instead of talking to the other parent or the children involved, in my experience and that of many experts in the field, it is best to implement a school wide curriculum around bullying and relational aggression, without targeting individual children. Therefore it is important for the parents to create an open and constructive dialogue with the school administration.

Now that you have checked in with your own reaction and talked with the school, how do you best respond to your child?

Ask yourself if there are some circumstances in your life that might have caused some upset for your child. Address if anything in your home has changed: has one of the parents taken on a new job or more obligations outside the home? Is there a new sibling? Has the relationship between the parents become more stressful? Has there been a move? Did one of your close relatives become ill?

Perhaps one of your pets has died? Have the relationships with her friends at school changed and if so: how? How does your child like being in school? How is his school performance?

Children don't often express grief, confusion or fears verbally but instead they act out their emotions.

Make some time with your child and talk to check in with what is going on for him/her.

Try to understand your child, play with him/her and take some extra time. If we spend at least 10 minutes every day to fully be present with our children, without focusing on other things, we can get to know them more deeply and understand their inner lives and reactions much better.

Listen to your child, their whole story by encouraging them to share details, and asking clarifying questions and by repeating back what you have heard. While listening, stay open to your child's experience by checking in with yourself about your own reaction. Help him/her to develop empathy for others by seeing the other child's perspective and how they have felt hurt.

We as parents are important influences on our children and how we react and relate teaches them on many levels how to relate to their peers. So, instead of getting angry at the car that cuts us off and swearing at the driver, we might want to take a breath and think about what we want to model to our child in the back seat? When we get annoyed at someone, how do we respond and what do we want our children to learn?

And when we get called into our child's school, how do we want to react and respond to the teacher or principal, and to our child, and how can we remember that we are modeling the behavior we want our children to have.  If there have been more severe issues with your child's acting out and your child has been hurting others severely, find support for you, the parent, and for your child. Join a parent group or seek family or child counseling.

Anna Dasbach, is a licensed Family and Marriage Counselor in Private Practice in Santa Cruz where she sees children, adolescents, couples and adults. She was first an educator, with extensive training in Waldorf and Montessori Education. She has held a class on relational aggression and bullying for fourth graders and is currently coaching her daughter's elementary school volleyball team.  She can be reached at

A Different Perspective: Prevent grade school bullying by finding out what's going on with the "bullies"

Submitted By: Carolyn Farrell, MFT

It's Tuesday evening and the kids are in bed. You're settled on the sofa anticipating falling asleep in front of some escapist TV. The phone rings and it's your child's teacher. You sit up straight and your jaw drops. What? My child was involved in an incident of bullying? My kid was the bully?

No parent wants to get that call, but many do. Some estimate "bullying" incidents happen to at least half of all children between 4th and 7th grade. There is a plethora of information and instruction for children and their parents on how to avoid being the victim of a bully, as there should be, but very little seems to be written on the real source of the issue. How do we address and eliminate bullying behavior? First, I think it is necessary to rethink how we talk about the issue. Labeling our children "bullies" and "victims" tends to set up an "us against them" dynamic that fails to recognize that both are simply children that need help.

I have been working with children and parents as a school counselor, substitute teacher and as a licensed marriage and family therapist for many years, and I would like to offer some tips for the parents, grandparents or caretakers who get that call from the teacher.

1. First notice your emotional reaction to what is being said regarding your child and the incidents. Are you feeling angry at the teacher, your child, or yourself? Are you feeling shock and disbelief? Denial? Are you minimizing the incident? These are some of the normal feelings that we as parents might have. However, these are REACTIONS and we do not want to take action on them. So, stop and take a deep breath. Notice your reactions and emotions. If you have a close and reliable friend who is a good listener call them to help process your initial feelings and thoughts.

2. Talk to your child! THE GOAL IS TO UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD'S PERSPECTIVE. Devote uninterrupted time to this conversation in a private setting. Remain calm and neutral. Ask open ended questions such as, "Tell me about what happened yesterday on the basketball court with Jaden." Then let the story unfold. If you get the "I don't know" answer, or "Nothing" you can help by stating "Mrs. Smith was really concerned about it when she called and so am I." These types of statements reflect love, concern and a willingness to get to know your child. This will eliminate defensiveness and fear. You want to listen for his thoughts, feelings and motivations regarding the incident in order to help him ultimately solve the issue differently next time. Remember, this is a TEACHING moment. Resist shaming statements such as "I thought you were smarter than that" or "You should have known better than to do that."


These do not teach children how to behave differently. They have the opposite effect by demeaning and lowering the child's self-esteem. This actually causes them to be defensive and create MORE unwanted behavior. By getting your child's perspective you can help them choose alternative behaviors in difficult situations. Remember children are not adults. Their reasoning skills, social skills, and coping strategies are not the same as ours. This is a chance to understand what types of situations feel stressful for your child and where she might need help and support from you and the school staff. Discuss what consequences the school is imposing and get her feedback regarding them. Help your child get into the injured party's shoes and brainstorm about how she can make amends to the other child. Talk about a time when she might have felt these same feelings as the injured party. Do lots of listening. The goal is for both you and your child to learn more about her thoughts and feelings.

3. Take action at school. Make time to contact the teacher and principal and meet in person as soon as possible. If this is the first incident discuss the facts again to clear up any questions you may have had. If there have been other similar incidents, discuss having your child see the school counselor. Talk about the schools consequences and what you are doing at home to help your child. Discuss how your child is doing in school socially, their ability to be attentive in the classroom, and in academics. If the school staff has noticed some recent negative changes, this might be a sign that changes need to be made, at home and in school. Set up a system of communication via phone or email with your child's teacher to receive regular feedback on your child's progress.

I believe we have not focused nearly enough attention on what is going on with our children who are being labeled as bullies. There are, of course, the big picture systemic issues in our society today that include issues of poverty, high divorce rates, harried parents working long hours, overcrowded and under staffed schools, media emphasis on violence, and just a general atmosphere of competition rather than cooperation. These are setting the stage for our children's emotional needs to go unmet.

How can we as individuals address these seemingly overwhelming issues? We do that by assessing the atmosphere we are creating in our own homes and in the schools where are children are spending the bulk of their day. We make the changes that are necessary for our children to grow up in loving and caring environments. All parents want this for their children. I have never met a parent, grandparent, or caretaker who doesn't. I have, however, met many that are feeling overwhelmed by the challenge and don't know where to start.

Situations that might cause unwanted behavior in children are divorce, separation, loss of a loved one, and changes in routines, such as attending a different school, moving, chronic illness in a family member, aggressiveness by a sibling or close relative, or academic difficulty. These are just to mention a few situations that can cause anxiety and stress in children's lives. Often these situations leave children feeling as though they have no control over what is happening to them and these feelings are translated into what we call "bullying."

If you feel you need additional help with any of these issues, your child's teacher or principal can refer you to community based support, or contact a professional who has experience working with children and families.

Carolyn Farrell, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist and art therapist with a private practice in Felton. Among her specialties is a focus on children using art and play therapy to resolve emotional and behavioral issues. While working with children she offers parenting support and directive counseling for parents. To find out more about Carolyn call please call 831-325-6647 and visit her website

School, Homework & Studies from Pre-K to HS

Submitted By: Lorraine Pursell

Wow! How do we handle it all? We have this to do and that to juggle, AND we have our child's homework, too?! (I don't think most of us thought about this when we conceived or imagined our life with our beloved child.) Is parenting the most demanding job on the planet? Maybe a President or King, Queen or Dictator has more demands, but they get paid well!  Of course, we do, too, in love, joy and happiness, right? Mostly.


Don't shrug this article off if you're pregnant, have a newborn or a preschooler- your day will come soon and you'll want to be mentally prepared. Unbelievably, preschoolers have homework unless they are in a Montessori or, I think, a Waldorf school. You'll probably want them to be a smart preschooler, knowing letters and numbers and be as involved as early as possible with their education. School is our child's job.


So, how to cope with school, homework, studying, memorizing, drilling, test prep? By giving nothing short of our precious time. Remember is this: even though it may not be our #1 favorite thing, it means the world to your child. I usually prescribe parents doing their own homework with their child at the kitchen table, giving them the breathing room to try on their own, and you're there if they need a hand.


What, you may ask, is your homework? Bank statements, emails, bill paying, quicken entries, surfing, research, chopping veggies or just faking it so you can connect and be in their proximity. When I was in my Master's program, my son, Mark, and I did homework at our well-lit dining room table. It was bonding time, we kept up on each others' world, and homework wasn't so lonely. Or was it 'misery loves company'? I don't know, a bit of both, I suppose, but we were compadres and neither of us suffered alone.


A few tips: make it as fun as possible. Race each other or compete against yourself- How much can we finish before the timer goes off? Have a favorite movie picked out to watch together as soon as we finish our work. And checking your work is part of the game. Swap each others' papers and check for errors. Have a plate of goodies to snack on. Quiz each other on content and be ready for exams. It's really a stealth way to be involved without being annoying.


I hope you enjoyed this wee article. I'll supply a Homework and School article the first week of every month to hopefully inspire you to wisely use your precious few moments with this person you love more than anyone on earth. Your child really will grow up and leave. The older they are, the less influence you have, so whether you have a tot, tween or teen, dive into this relationship-building tool... homework.


Blessings and Aloha to you and your entire family,   


Since 1995, Lorraine Pursell, The Parent Mentor, has devoted her life to helping families have harmony and balance. She's a Marriage, Family and Child Counselor and a board certified educational therapist. Go to for your FREE radio show "The 12 Secrets to SAFE, HAPPY and CONFIDENT KIDS in the 21st Century".


Kids, Communication, Creativity, Education in an Uncertain World

Submitted By: Chris Yonge, Makers Factory


We all know that kids love to communicate - it's their nature. You can argue the whole point of childhood is learning to do just that: with others' minds through language, with the real world through science, with one's body through exercise, and with imagination through art and music.

But something is missing from that list, an important part of our world: communicating with computers and robotic machines. Computing has become central to our lives very fast, in little over a generation. Look at a science fiction movie from the 1980s: you won't see computers being owned and used by ordinary people. From HAL in 2001 to the tellingly named "ship's computer" in Star Trek they show what computers were at that time and it was assumed would continue to be: large machines, operated by specialists. But a generation later almost every home has at least one - often many more, as even simple electromechanical devices like telephones and cameras have turned into computers. So as a result there has been another change: the physical data containers we grew up with, such as maps, movie tapes, photographs, books, and magazines, are becoming electronic files that need computer hardware and skills simply to see them.
No-one saw this coming thirty years ago. What will our kids be using thirty years from now?

More than we can imagine. Partly because two of the fastest growing creative professions just now are UI and UX design. These initials stand for User Interface and User Experience. Every manufacturer and software firm and web site owner wants to give their customers an easier, faster, more productive experience. This is hard to do as the increasing complexity of products and the web present real challenges if they are to be used properly.

But to those who understand them, and where UI and UX designers have worked their magic, many technologies have moved away from the expensive world of trained specialists to being affordable and accessible. Programming a processor was difficult a decade ago; now, with the appearance of versatile $30 printed circuit boards like the Arduino, anyone can build and program their own robot, display panel, automatic plant feeder, or alarm clock. The free computer languages these devices use such as Python, JavaScript, Processing, and Ruby are well designed, and learning them opens many doors in electronics and robotics. Kids take to this fast: they're wired for it. It's communication - and power.

Another reason our kids will have many more doors open to them is that professional grade creative programs are increasingly affordable and even free. Open source software like Blender (at for animation or Inkscape ( for vector drawing are rapidly growing in power and rival the capabilities of expensive programs like the Maya or Illustrator of five or ten years ago. Professional work can now be done with free software, and it is all around us.

2D to 3D
Our kids will experience other changes, particularly in the way things are designed and made. When I lecture on this subject I often use cave paintings of hunts as an example. These dramatic events took place in three dimensions of space and one of time but could only be recorded as flat and frozen diagrams. But when that recording surface of rock wall changed to a clay tablet and then to papyrus and paper, the two dimensional filter on how humans recorded 3D objects and events remained. For tens of thousands of years our society and its creative potential were limited to flat pictures of a solid world until the development of 3D computer software fifty years ago. Now that constraint has gone and everything has changed.

Like computers, computer controlled machines have been around for fifty years, but they were subtractive devices. In other words they removed material from a solid block of metal or plastic to make the final shape. Often most of the original volume ended up as shavings or dust. But now we are seeing the rise of additive technologies, where the material starts as a gypsum or metal dust, or a plastic filament, and is formed into its final shape through layers solidified with inkjet applied glue, or precisely melted with a laser, or built up with a heated extrusion head. Little to no material is wasted in additive processes and we can make shapes this way that were impossible to create with subtractive machines. At MakersFactory we 3D print working gears complete with axles and supports in one piece; in our exhibition cases we have a metal sculpture consisting of three concentric cubes spinning inside one another that was also made in one piece and would be impossible to make any other way. Soon many household products will be manufactured this way, custom sized and detailed for each purchaser. Or by the purchaser - in future the distinction between designer and client will blur.

the new creativity
Using and understanding the new technologies in a creative way, picking them up and setting them down like pencils in a drawing set, will be increasingly important. Our kids will not experience employment the same way that our generation has; they may change jobs and professions many times in their working lives, moving from full time employment to part-time and contract work, from self-employment to full-time education. Some of the professions they practice will not even exist today. They will need to learn and adapt, and those who are best at learning - those who enjoy it most - will be the most flexible and have most opportunities. Developing a profitable and flexible set of skills, experiences, and knowledge is a lifetime process that begins at birth. It is the most valuable thing that we can provide for our children.

In response to these changes in society the way that learning is taught is being reexamined, particularly in Europe. Internships and workplace simulations ease the transition for students from school to work, and subtly encourage them to carry their "learning mode" with them.
Traditionally, school-based learning has been organized in a formal curriculum, focused on a combination of testable knowledge but rather vague skills. There was a distinction made between theory and practice. By contrast training in the workplace was based on vague, often example based knowledge but very clear skills acquisition in specific contexts and with particular tools. Theory and practice were far apart. Over the last decade, however, those poles have moved closer. Schools have closer links to local industries and more project based learning, while workplace education has benefited from the ability of web based courses to provide more academic content.

All these enable students to know and do what exists, but not to create something new. It is the innovators and entrepreneurs who will be secure and succeed in the world as it will be, and a key component in their makeup will be creativity.

I am co-founder of MakersFactory in Santa Cruz. We teach classes in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) rather than STEM - blending technology with creativity. The arts are a natural way to explore creativity and problem solving, not least because there is often no right answer and equally no way in which a solution can be completely wrong. But making things in a traditional industrial arts course can be a recipe for loss of confidence.

High school woodshop classes could be - and certainly were, in my case - more lessons in frustration than creativity. This is because making an object in wood or metal by hand is subject to endless risk. A pen and ink engineering drawing can be ruined by an accidental smear. A chisel may slip after the student cuts a dozen good joints and mean tedious work has to be repeated, or damaged work accepted if there is no time or material to repeat. A chemical photograph of the result could be unusable in many ways only discovered later in the darkroom. A generation ago students learned slowly and often through failure. Childhood (given what children have to learn these days) is too short, and kids' self confidence too fragile, for this.

New technologies allow students to be learn without the continual risk of losing everything they have done through accident. An electronic drawing can be amended and corrected endlessly, and for every mistake there is the Undo command. A laser cutter or a 3D printer follows commands perfectly, and even if the power is cut or the computer crashes the process can be repeated exactly. Creative technologies become exercises in learning and not in painful hand skills. Kids don't have the time to learn to be master craftsmen unless they really want to be (despite my teenage experiences in shop class I went on to work as a furniture designer/maker for ten years), but they do need to understand how different materials behave, how to create things and finish them and take them home to show, and how to communicate with a machine through software.

At MakersFactory we offer a unique setting: classes in animation, robotics, game design, and technology in the surroundings of a professional creative business. We practice what we teach: MakersFactory produces high level technical animations, product designs, and digital models for a wide range of local companies and creative professionals. This benefits both sides of our business: students see professional work all around them and are taught by practicing professionals, and our business clients benefit by the freshness and exposure to new ideas that our students bring. We blend education and experience.

new ways to learn and earn
Education itself is changing. A promising innovation is online learning; not just YouTube videos, useful though they are, but the phenomenon of MOOCs - Massive Online Open Courses with thousand or hundreds of thousands of students in a class. Stanford and Harvard both run such courses online. Education, like communication and creative software, will become yet another commodity available at little cost to anyone, anywhere. Being born in a Western country will no longer give you quite such a head start in life.

Our children will live in a world where today's expensive and difficult projects - developing an electronic product, making a movie, starting a company that markets its services worldwide, writing and publishing a book - will be accessible and affordable to anyone across most of the globe. The next generation of Americans will be competing against well educated, energetic kids from China and India who can live on much less than a Western income. They will be trying to find jobs at companies that find it cheaper and more flexible to outsource technical and administrative work.
But there is one area where being born in the United States may well continue to be an advantage. Ours is a society which excels in the creative use of technology. America still leads the world - and in my opinion will continue to do so - through its established centers of creative excellence such as Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and the character of its culture and its business climate. This is our strength and our future, and it will be expanded upon the skills and imagination of our children (by the way Santa Cruz, in that geographical respect alone, is about as ideal a location as you could find to educate a child).

But still in the geographic mode, the future is also a foreign country. What do we pack in our kids' bags before we send them there? Our parents' generation gave us shovels, pens, typewriters, and books: the tools of specific, static professions and skills. A little money helped as well. But now that future country is no longer solid; it is a maze of floating islands between which our children must swim in order to survive. The answer is that we give them the ability to design and make their own tools; the confidence and the skills to learn, change, and succeed no matter where they find themselves.

Education is the best (as well as the most enjoyable) investment we can make for our kids and for our society. As a Santa Cruz parent and educator I look forward to our challenging, fascinating, shared future.

Chris Yonge
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Mother's Day. Every Day.

By Susan True


Caregiver, role model, instructor, nurse, problem solver, peacemaker, scheduler, chef and shoulder to lean on. These are just a few of the roles mothers and mother figures play. Mother's Day is a day for all of us to celebrate the mothers in our lives and the many roles they play, and to renew the commitment to make this special day occur much more often than just once a year.


Mother's Day is also an opportunity for mothers and mother figures to pause to reflect on what an amazing and life-changing experience raising children can be-and the wide variety of emotions that punctuate daily life.


Being a mother is rewarding and fulfilling yet can also be demanding, challenging and stressful. Mothers can sometimes feel they are expected to have all the answers, balance multiple demands and schedules, work, find time for their partner AND raise happy, resilient kids - often intuitively and without any additional support or resources.


However, the reality is that every mom can use a helping hand. While no one has yet developed a comprehensive instruction manual, positive parenting strategies can help.


Here are a few tips to consider as we celebrate Mother's Day:


Take care of yourself. At times, this idea can seem like a cliché or impossible to find the time to make it work. But taking time for yourself and looking after your own needs-both big ones and little ones-is essential. Everyone needs to have a balanced life. For most mothers, balancing the various roles (including the ones not directly related to being a mother) can be exhausting and stressful. Find time on a regular, scheduled basis to indulge in something you like and that feeds your physical, mental, emotional or spiritual needs. This could be as simple as sharing a coffee with a friend, going for a short walk around the block or simply taking a half hour to read the paper. You'd be surprised at how effective a simple break can be, leaving you recharged and ready to meet the day's challenges and opportunities.


Work as a team with your partner. Family life runs more smoothly when parenting tasks are divided and family and caregivers work together as a team. Talk with your partner about what you need and ways that you can offer each other practical and emotional support.

Learn new ways to manage daily routines. Be on the lookout for ways to simplify and streamline your daily routine. Doing so will help reduce stress and can help create more time in the day that can be dedicated to other priorities. Plus, children like consistent routines. For example, have your children wake at the same time and follow the same routine each day while getting ready. This helps your children learn what to expect, which can reduce the chance of unforeseen problems, and therefore reduces your stress.


Teach children the skills they need to be independent individuals. Have your children actively participate in the family's daily routines. Teach them the steps involved in tasks such as putting away toys, making their beds, cleaning their rooms or making their own school lunches. Give them descriptive praise and encouragement as they learn to do these tasks on their own. Not only does this help children learn valuable skills they will use throughout life, it will help you gain greater balance in your daily workload as a mother.


It's not surprising that motherhood is often said to be both the most rewarding and most challenging job of all. Positive parenting in many ways aims to help uncover the rewards and manage the challenges by providing strategies and tips to build better relationships with children, be better co-parents and partners, and become more confident as a parent.

Here's to a happy Mother's Day 2013-and the collective effort to make every day Mother's Day!


Susan True is the Executive Director of First 5 Santa Cruz County, which administers the Triple P - Positive Parenting Program. The Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. Triple P is scientifically proven and is the world's leading positive parenting program. For more information about Triple P, including classes and one-on-one meetings to help parents handle everyday parenting challenges, visit, or To get a copy of the Triple P Pocket Guide for Parents or find a Triple P class or practitioner, contact Stephanie Bluford at 831-465-2217 or

Feeling Glad About Dad

Submitted By: Susan True

Longstanding tradition tells us that in June we mark Father's Day, even though the role of "father" is less and less about tradition. The role of "dad" is steadily moving away from the well-defined notion of breadwinner and disciplinarian to a dynamic one of deep involvement in family life.


Father figures are an integral part of the family unit. Involved fathers and father figures have a strong impact on a child's development, peer relationships and emotional stability, as well as success in school and other activities. Children look to their fathers for direction, example and support.


For many, the role of father is no longer confined to nights and weekends. Today's fathers are often working alternative schedules or working from home, and many are highly involved in the daily routine, seven days a week.


Yet, fathers and father figures may struggle with their role. Just like mothers and mother figures, many fathers seek to find balance between traditional and new expectations. Many are fulfilling an expanded role for which they do not have a role model of their own.


Triple P can give fathers practical ideas for developing positive relationships, encouraging desirable behaviors and teaching their children new skills.


Spend quality time with your children everyday. Dedicate quality time each day to your child. Focus on their needs and emotions. A simple hug and a few moments of affection can make a world of difference to a child who may be yearning for attention and perhaps displaying unwanted behaviors.


Do a weekly activity together. Participate and encourage activities your child likes. If your child shows an interest in arts or sports, help them get involved. And play an active role in their activities. Your involvement can enhance your child's interest.


Work as a team with your family. Set ground rules and agreements about discipline as a parenting team to ensure you are on the same page when a situation arises. Make sure that you are both giving and receiving practical support from your partner- parents need to be there for each other.


Make work a priority at work and family a priority at home. It is easy for fathers and father figures to bring home stress and problems from work. Make it a point to develop a clear transition from work to family time, in order to be able to engage with children at home.


Fatherhood and societal ideas of the role of "dad" have changed drastically over the last several decades. From once a cool and reserved provider role, fathers have evolved into an active co-parent - and their role in a child's 500 Internal Server Error

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