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Becoming a Family
 
Caring and connecting

All families have the right to child care that serves the child and the family. When looking for a child care provider to support the entire family, watch for these values:

  • Families are vital resources in making programming decisions. Programs are built on family strengths. For example, if the families being served have a strong tradition of storytelling, storytelling concepts are integrated into the daily program.
  • The culture and structure of each family is recognized and respected. Programs and components are culturally and socially relevant to the families they serve. Programs are based on neighborhood and community needs.
  • Power is shared with families. Opinions are solicited when making decisions about a child’s care or program services. Empowered families will encourage confident and competent children.
  • Relationships between child care providers and families reflect equality and respect.
  • Social support is available. Social support networks promote the well-being of the child, the family and the community by creating connections.
  • Supportive programs build connections and relationships with and among neighborhood businesses and organizations.
  • Joy, hope and fun are essential for family and community well-being.
  • Advocacy for services that are fair, responsive and accountable.
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Everyone gives me advice, but why is it so conflicting?

There's no doubt that there are many people (especially your own parents) who are only too happy to pass on the benefits of their own wisdom. You will find that many people are very free with their advice, but do not offer much practical help. The advice can be welcomed and appropriate, but sometimes it isn't, if only because it is out of date. Keep an open mind; even your pediatrician's recommendations should come with some explanation. You may not put all that you hear in practice, but it's polite to make a noncommittal statement along the lines of, "Thanks for your information, I will keep it in mind."

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Fathers are important in child rearing

With both parents in a child’s life, no one parent should bear the responsibility of a child’s health and well-being. A good parent helps a child develop confidence, problem-solving abilities and a feeling of safety and love. A good parent is involved in a child’s life from Day One of birth or adoption and throughout life.

The following ideas help empower fathers to develop and strengthen their parenting skills and give positive direction to their life. Parenting is a lifetime learning process embracing the idea that knowledge is required for raising children.

  • Make time for your child every day. If you are not there physically, you can call or write.
  • Be aware of when your child needs you; don’t wait to be told or invited.
  • Make a list of family activities that can be taken on spontaneously such as reading with your child or dancing to music.
  • Make time to vacation with your family. Make a day off feel like a vacation by thinking of family fun ideas. Encourage children to initiate or participate in the plan.
  • Include your child in your daily routine whether you are going to the hardware store or work. Give your child an idea of how you spend time and interact with neighbors and friends.
  • Stepfathers, grandfathers and uncles can be excellent role models for children and can help children develop a positive self-image.
  • Participate regularly in night-time feedings and diapering; comfort your child when upset. These intimate moments show your child that you are there during difficult times.
  • Listen when your child is hurting; help him or her work through frustrations and problems.
  • Solicit your child’s thoughts about things as you experience them together. Set an example of how you share ideas and thoughts. For infants, imitate their sounds and gestures.
  • Get to know your child one-on-one and develop your own interactive style. This will nurture the bond between the two of you.
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Having babies after 30

Sometimes my child doesn’t listen to me and I get so angry that I lose control. What can I do to keep from losing control?

  • If you are at the point of losing control, take time out for yourself. This can happen to any good parent. You can do this by leaving your child with someone you trust while you gain composure or leaving your child in a safe space that you can supervise from a distance.
  • Know yourself and what it takes to gain self-control. Deep breaths or talking with a friend who understands your frustration or physical exercise works for some people.
  • Once you feel in control, reconnect with your child. Let your child know what you expect and how you would like behavior to change without insulting the child. Your positive example of finding self-control will teach your child more than words. Overreacting teaches your child to be fearful of you and closes off communication.
  • Remember learning requires trial and error. It might take some time for children to understand and control their behavior and parents to master their skills. Notice your child’s effort to improve and compliment your child for it.

-- Holly Zwerling

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How can grandparents help?

The most precious thing grandparents can give is time to spend with your child. Even if they still work outside the home, grandparents are not under the same pressures as you are and can provide a different perspective. As a result, a child's bond with a grandparent is often strong, special and enduring.

Sources:

Brazelton, Dr. T. Berry. Touchpoints: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development. Reading, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1992

Cooper, Dr. Carol. The Baby and Child Question and Answer Book. London, England: Dorling Kindersley Book, 2000

Reisser, Dr. Paul C. Baby and Child Care. Weaton Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997

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How can I encourage my child to have a good relationship with his/her grandparents?

By the time your child is 18 months, he/she can tell them about new experiences, such as events of the day. Talk to your child often about his grandparents. If ever your parents or your partner's parents annoy you, try not to express negative thoughts in front of your child.

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How can I stay close with my child when I do not have custody?

First, recognize that you have survived divorce as a parent and your daughter has survived as a child. It takes courage to face divorce and to talk openly about your fears, sorrows and confusion. According to T. Berry Brazelton, a national authority on very young children, 58% of children in the United States will live in a single-parent family. Therefore, your question is one being faced by many parents today. Following are some suggestions to help you:

(1) Use books as a resource during your healing process for both you and your daughter. Although your daughter is young, she is learning.

(2) Put your daughter atop of your priority list.

(3) Put most of your energy into being a parent, especially during the first year after your divorce.

(4) Make the most of your time together. Notice her interests and build on those.

(5) Call or visit your daughter’s child care provider. Keep yourself informed about her development. Make plans to have things sent to you by the teacher so you can prepare and extend things she is learning.

(6) Voice your love for your daughter and have fun together. Reassure her that you will always be her daddy.

(7) Call your daughter often to be regular part of her life.

(8) Make arrangements for regular visits.

(9) Make use of new technology. Use e-mail to send notes and pictures. You can access the internet at most local libraries.

(10) Send notes, letters and cards.

(11) Make audio and videotapes to share with your daughter.

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How important it is to get the family into a routine?

Order and routine help to maintain discipline and reinforce any boundaries you set. A routine is invaluable for those things that must be done every day, like feeding and dressing your baby and preparing your own meals. You should give yourself more flexibility on other things. Most of the housework can wait, for instance, although you need to maintain a healthy and safe environment. It's wise not to be too rigid in your daily scheduling; the unexpected can crop up with babies and young children, and you need to be flexible enough to take it in stride.

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Indications that child care providers respect families

A parent bulletin board is set up in a prominent place. Items posted are easy to read and updated regularly. Materials are in the languages spoken by the center’s families.

Refreshments are available occasionally for family members to enjoy on their way out.

A place is created for parents to hang out – perhaps an adult sofa or chairs in the center, a picnic bench outdoors.

Photos and posters showing parents with children, parents with teachers, parents taking active roles in the center and families playing together are displayed throughout the center. Photos of staff and their families also are displayed.

Staff know the names of family members and greet the adults as well as the children during drop-off and pick-up times.

A communication system is in place where parents can interact with all members of the school or community -- parent and staff mailboxes, phone trees, designated times for staff to talk informally with parents.

Your child care provider recognizes special happenings in the lives of families such as birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs, promotions and births.

Parents and staff are encouraged to share items reflecting their culture and interests.

Parent-to-parent support is encouraged from the first day. Parents welcome new families or give tours of the center. Staff refer parents to one another for help and friendship.

Staff willingness to reach out is evident. They share something of themselves reflecting their values and family experience.

The language, the style of being with one another, the culture of how people work is intimate, casual and relaxed so that people can get to know each other.

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My toddler doesn't go to bed until 10 p.m. Why does she go to bed so late?

If your toddler has taken a long nap each day, it may be that your toddler is not tired enough when you try to put him/her to bed. As your toddler grows, he/she may need less sleep during the day. Try to avoid late-afternoon naps. You may also encourage a morning nap rather than an afternoon nap as a better alternative for daytime sleeping. Your toddler still needs to get at least 10- 12 hours each night.

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Respecting time alone

Everyone needs time to be alone. For many, it’s a time to rejuvenate. For others, it’s a time to reflect. And for still others, time alone is simply a time to rest.

This does not have to mean time spent in complete solitude or silence. It might be time focused on a hobby. It might be dreaming time. But it is time that is undisturbed.

It is important for a child’s development of persistence and follow-through to be given uninterrupted times of play and thought.

It is important for your sense of sanity and self-understanding that you have uninterrupted times of play and thought. Having your own alone time is as important as giving your child that time.

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Sharing discipline

Many dads have taken on the role of disciplinarian. They are expected to discipline their children when mothers are not successful or become frustrated in this role. Discipline involves teaching limits and rules to children and praising them when they do the right thing. Both parents need to learn realistic expectations for their child.

The person taking care of the child at these teaching times should set the limits. Thus, the child can make immediate connections between his or her behavior and the lesson. Discipline should not be held over until Dad gets home. If fathers only hear about the problems with their children, it will affect their relationship with them. It’s unfair to have someone discipline a child if he or she was not there to witness the behavior and teach from personal observation. A conversation about the behavior can be held when the other parent gets home or learns of the event. It’s a good opportunity to see what the child learned from the incident and how he or she feels about the discipline given.

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Splitting time between parents

Going back and forth between Mom’s house and Dad’s is stressful for children. There is usually little consistency with rules that are constantly changing between the two homes. Some things that make the regular transition between homes easier for your child:

(1) Establish a going-away routine that will be something you do the day of each switch. This might be getting a scoop of ice cream or playing a favorite game. This will help define the transition for your child.

(2) Always tell your child you will miss him or her every time you make a switch.

(3) After switches, talk with your child about what both of you did while apart.

(4) Refrain from questioning your child about your ex-partner. This puts your child in an uncomfortable position.

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The grandparent-grandchild relationship

Our image of family is often a father, mother and child. Today 4.5 million children under age 18 are living with grandparents; 1.5 million of those children live solely with grandparents.

Grandparents can play many roles in the life of a grandchild:

  • Grandparents can provide regular daily care.
  • Grandparents can take on the responsibility of a grandchild living in the home without legal custody.
  • Grandparents can have legal custody.
  • Grandparents can live far from the grandchild.
  • Grandparents can live near the grandchild and maintain visits or occasional help with the child.

Grandparents take on the responsibility of grandchildren for differing reasons, including work schedules, financial reasons, emotional issues, illness, divorce, incarceration, substance abuse, child abuse or neglect.

A grandparent who takes on significant responsibility for a grandchild may have to adjust priorities. Everything from finances to living space may have to be reconsidered. In some cases, the privilege of enjoying grandchildren without real responsibility may be difficult to get used to. All life changes take time and patience. Grandparents likely will need extra support from family or friends. Some issues that may surface for these families are:

1) Resolving legal issues related to custody.
2) Financial decisions including employment and benefits.
3) Choosing appropriate child care.
4) Securing adequate medical insurance coverage.
5) Enrolling in local schools.
6) Providing emotional support.

Local organizations that offer support and assistance:

Grandparents Support Group: Contact Lynne Katz at 305-325-1818: Linda Ray Intervention Center, 750 NW 15th St., Miami, Fla. 33136

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Coalition: Contact Victoria Corrieri at 305-371-6102: 1444 Biscayne Blvd./#310, Miami, Fla. 33132

Informed Families of Miami-Dade: Contact Alina Sosa-Perez at 305-856-4886: 2490 Coral Way, Miami, Fla. 33145

Urgent, Inc.: Contact Saliha Nelson at 305-576-3084: Culmer Service Center 1600 NW Third Ave./Building D, Miami, Fla. 33136

GALATA: Contact Joseph Louis at 305-242-7060: 241 West Palm Drive, Florida City, Fla. 33034

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There is a lot of rivalry among the different grandparents. How can I handle this?

Both you and your partner should try to stay strictly neutral, however hard it is at times. Stay out of discussions about how much, or how little, time or money another grandparent spends with your child. Sometimes even adults have to be reminded that everyone does things differently and that there is no harm in this.

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Time to connect

Take deliberate time to reconnect with your child at the end of a work day. If your day or drive has been stressful, take five minutes to sit quietly before running to pick up your child. Listen to your favorite radio station, take deep soothing breaths or lie on your back. When your stress levels and emotions are in check, you are free to connect with your child without distractions.

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We cannot see the grandparents often. How can I involve them more?

Children grow up fast, so keep grandparents up to date with news by phoning or writing often and sending regular photos. Soon your child will be able to use the phone or write letters. Record your child's voice on tape, or make a videotape to send.

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What are the most important aspects of parenting?

Being caring and consistent. Your relationship with your child creates a pattern that will shape all your child's future relationships. This is why a child needs love, security, approval and acceptance from the start. A lack of these can affect a child's self-esteem, achievements and capacity to be happy. Children learn by imitation, so setting a good example is vital. You must learn to trust your own instincts. You will soon know your child better than anyone.

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What's a good way of dealing with interfering grandparents?

This can be difficult. Sometimes your becoming a parent is like an instant replay of your parent's own early parenting days. Their well-meant advice can be a way of reliving their past. When they have "stepped over the line," tell them how much you appreciate their kindness, but that you really want to do things your own way. Be clear and respectful that you are not rejecting them, and at the same time try to involve them in more neutral issues.

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Young children and divorce

Marital separation and divorce are difficult life transitions for families. During these difficult times, parents can become preoccupied with their own problems and not realize how it affects their children. Parents need to be alert to signs of distress in their children.

Children often believe they have caused the conflict between their parents. Vulnerability to physical and mental instability can originate with the onset of a traumatic event such as divorce. Careful attention to a child’s needs can mobilize strengths and create stability.

Each child will react to the situation uniquely. The signs to watch for include depression, restlessness, sleeplessness, withdrawal, aggression and uncooperative behaviors. Children often feel conflicting emotions, including fear, abandonment, guilt, sadness and loneliness. Do not draw your child into your issues. Your child will have his or her own issues to work through.

Children do best and get through the situation stronger if they can establish a similar routine with each parent. Allow your child the chance to have a relationship with each parent separately; A child should not have to choose between parents.

Talk with, love and comfort your child. Talk with your child about what is happening and how he or she fits into what is happening. Clearly outline how choices will and won’t affect your child.

For young children it is important to keep the talking and explaining brief. Give them the information they need to know without confusing details. For example, tell your child that both Mom and Dad will spend time with him or her; do not get into the details of how you reached those decisions with your ex-partner and do not make your ex-partner a villain in your child’s eye. Read books to your child focusing on divorce. Ask your local librarian or bookstore about titles. Reading stories gives children a chance to discuss feelings related to the situation in a detached way.

Opportunities for your child to act out and express feelings will help your child process the situation. Children might act out through art, dramatic play, physical activities or other ways frustrations are released.

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Brought to you by The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education


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