March 31, 2013

Five Tips from a Decade of Parenting

My older daughter’s 10th birthday is coming up in May. On occasion, I’ve written notes and letters of advice that I wished to share with other parents. Here are five tips that still apply today, even though the kids are getting older...

Being connected with other parents kept me inspired and occupied when the kids were young. Starting with library storytimes, and progressing through playgroups and preschools, the mothers I met during the toddler years helped me by sharing information, establishing social connections, and by understanding the landscape of these new uncharted territories. If I were to do it all over again, I’d still make the same first move by joining a local mother’s club. Special thanks to the Redwood City Mothers Club for getting me started.

Time & Patience
Parents are rarely “off the clock”. Between school, after school activities, and bedtime routines, there is always something to be accomplished. By default, parents are busy managing the lives of their families, which means there is little time left over for personal interests. Keeping life’s obligations as simple as possible, by avoiding a tendency to “overcommit”, can help save your patience for when you need it most.

After School Snack
I’m fortunate enough to be able to meet my kids each day after school, pick them up, and take them directly home. Once they are home, they usually change into something comfortable and sit at the table for a full meal. Most meals are either pasta, turkey, yogurt, banana, cheese, or fruit. Their mood after eating is noticeably more positive than their mood before eating. Once they dishes are put away, I have this feeling that the family has been “reset” to tackle the afternoon’s events of homework, playing, a sport or activity, or just relaxing.

Books & Art
Mike read to our girls as soon as they came home from the hospital. Mike’s Dad sent boxes of used children’s books to the girls early on. And there was no problem that could not be solved without quiet time and a stack of Berenstain Bear books. Books offered a peaceful home and peace of mind on so many occasions. Likewise, our cupboards dedicated to open-ended art supplies like blank white paper, scissors, tape and markers helped create thousands of masterpieces through every age range. If I had just two choices to keep in the house for child entertainment, it would be books and art supplies.

Clear Plastic Bins
This sounds so practical, but those clear plastic storage bins from Target keep clutter at bay and creativity at hand. To manage “toy overload”, we stopped keeping all toys in the house and instead grouped them by bin, and stored the bins in our garage. For example, we have musical instruments, Legos, stuffed animals and ponies all in their own bins. This way, the kids weren’t tripping over stuff and the toys had some newness to them each time the bin came out. In addition, by grouping all of the same type of toys into a bin, their role playing lasted for longer because they created whole worlds out of the theme. Sometimes they blended themes by combining bins. Clean up is a cinch, because it all goes back in the bin.

For those of you have have lasted a decade or more... congratulations! ;) Also, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Which strategies, both philosophical and practical, have made the biggest difference in your home?

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