Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Talking with Children about School Shootings

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"Mom, why are all the flags half mast today?" This question from my nine year old son two days after our nation's most recent school shooting in Parkland, FL. I told him simply and without much detail that there had been another school shooting and that 17 people had been killed. "Another one?" he asked. "Yes, baby. Another one. What do you make of that?" And then our conversation ensued. Parents today face something previous generations did not. We have to talk with our children about mass shootings in schools. It's a hard topic to address with them. Schoolchildren today accept routine lockdown drills as readily as previous generations accepted fire drills. So, how do parents talk about school shootings with children? Find some tips below.

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Tackling tough topics with our children is hard. Talking about school shootings with our children is harder.  Here are some tips that can make the school shooter conversation easier (if that's possible).

Stay calm.
I know it's scary... We send our children to school each day in the hopes that they will be safe for eight hours. We fear all of the "what if's" while they are away from us... and sometimes even when they are WITH us. But for conversations such as this, it is important that we address our feelings beforehand. While conversing with your child, be calm and assured.

Talk on your child's level. Avoid graphic news coverage with younger children.
As parents, we have to ascertain just how much information our children are capable of taking in. Conversations will vary if we are talking to a six year old or a sixteen year old. Younger children needn't hear the grisly details of the latest school shooting. But older and more mature kids can take part in conversations with  more direct guidance on how to respond to a school shooting.

Let child know it's okay to be sad or scared.
Sometimes all we need is to have our feelings validated by others. Let your child know that it's okay to be scared or sad about recent events. Talk about their feelings. Let them know that it's okay to be sad or scared, but that there are procedures in place to keep them safe at school (see next point).

Reassure them that they are safe at school.
Talk with your children about the safety measures their school takes to keep them safe. Remind them that they are in the presence of people that care for them while they are at school. As a parent, each day we send our children into those school doors, we are entrusting teachers, paras, and administration to keep them safe... to love them as we do... to recognize their beauty and strengths. Our children need to know how much confidence we have in their daily caretakers.
If you see something, say something.
Children need to know that there is a safe space to vocalize concerns. If a classmate makes a comment or threat of violence, children need to know their observations are taken seriously. Talk with your children frequently. Remind them that if they see something or hear something that sounds scary or dangerous they must come to your or a school official about it.

Look for the helpers.
As Mr. Rogers said, "Look for the helpers." Encourage children to see all the people in tragic situations that are running in to help. Talk with them and read books about police, firefighters, EMTs, and military members whose job it is to keep us safe.

Ask child how they think they can help.
Healing is subjective. There's no clear cut route towards healing after tragedy. Even on the sidelines, children can still be affected by school shootings in other parts of the country. Talk with them about what THEY think they can do to feel better or to exact change. They can start a journal about their feelings. Or maybe they want to make cards for survivors. Older children may wish to write their Senators. Whatever they want to do, if it's feasible, accommodate them to help them deal with their thoughts and emotions.

Open up ability to ask questions at any time.
Make it clear to your children that they can talk about their feelings or concerns at anytime. Keeping an open door for communication is so important. Keep in mind that some children may not always be forthcoming with their concerns. It may be necessary for you to "check in" with them occasionally and ask questions about what is going on from their perspectives on the world.

Kid-friendly books that address scary topics.
I've not found many books on talking about school shootings with children, but I'll assure you that I'm currently working on one. In lieu of that, here are some books about loss and tragedy that may help children.
You can find these books on Amazon at the links below:

Give lots of hugs.
One of the best ways we can connect with our children is through physical touch and affection. During these times of insecurity and fear, sometimes a hug or a cuddle are what can make the biggest impact in making our kiddos feel safe and secure.

These are tough and scary times for both parents and children. We do the best we can with the tools we have. So take these tips, love on your babies, and do all that you can to ensure that a solution is found to the rampant gun violence our country's schools are facing. God bless you all.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Noun Classification Worksheet {free printable}

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Classifying nouns can be tricky. So when Bear was going over them in school, I created this worksheet for him just to provide extra practice. So I figured I would share it with you all so that you could use it. Because of his interests, I developed a community themed noun classification worksheet that you can download free below. 

It's a very straightforward activity. All kiddos have to do is look at each word in the box and color it in the color that corresponds with the type of noun it is (person, place, or thing). This worksheet can be a great way to practice skills from school or to us in the early elementary classroom.

Click the link below to download the printable. Print, and encourage children to color in the noun blocks their corresponding colors.
Click the link below to download 

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Love Is... Bookmaking Activity for Kids {Free Printable}

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What is love? How do children see various aspects of the ultimate human emotion? We're coming up on Valentine's Day, which makes this bookmaking activity perfect for this time of year.
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I was inspired to do it after reading a book that Penguin Random House sent us to preview. Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long (Otis books) have come together to create a heartwarming, honest, and relatable new picture book for children about love.It has been a while since I had a book make me cry. When I first read it, I had the ugly cry going on. The book starts with the love we receive when we are born, then continues through the various love-related experiences we have as we live our lives. This book is a great starter for talking with our children about emotion and how we can find love in times that are scary or sad, as well as happy ones.
This printable bookmaking activity allows children to document what love means to them based on the experiences in the book.... what love smells like, when love is scary, when love is safe, etc.

Materials Needed:
The Love is... printable available below
Drawing materials (pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils)
Family photos (if desired in lieu of drawings)

1. Print out the Love Is... book activity. For accurate collation and printing, please follow these Printing Instructions. After selecting to print the file, opt to print pages 2-9. In your "More Printer Settings" area, select to print on "two sides" and "flip on the short side".
2. Once printed, fold each book in half and secure with 2-3 staples.
3. The activity can be done two ways. Older children can be given the book to fill out on their own and provide their own illustrations. OR younger children can color on it, give their narrations to one able to write, and family pictures depicting what is on the page can be attached.

Once done, children can share their favorite page in their book, use it to connect with friends on similar answers, or be given as a gift for Valentine's Day.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

How to Raise Kids to be Activists

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It's the new year and so many of us are trying to do things better this year than we did last. So I thought I would touch on how we can help our children change the world through social activism. Now... in today's social climate, there are few words that draw as much criticism as the word "activist". It's seen as a radical, leftist position that goes against the norm. But, the world is a crazy place full of divisive narrative and ideologies. So the question is... how do we, as parents, actively raise our children to be activists?

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One of my favorite actresses and activists, Sara Ramirez, has stated it perfectly.

"At the end of the day, acting and activism are
both about empathy. You're trying to get people
to see other people as real and human.
And to care."

There are so many differing thoughts on what is acceptable in society. That's why it's so important that we teach our children compassion and tolerance of those who are "different' than us. As parents and teachers, we have to guide children towards what is right and fair and true. We live in a world where our children are deemed as incompetent of making powerful statements. Where, through, ageism, bullying, and sexual abuse, their voices are stricken from creating a powerful narrative.
So when Penguin Books sent us a copy of The Little Book of Little Activists, I was elated.
My kids enjoyed looking at the pictures and reading the statements from other kids like them. I personally read the book with tears in my eyes... in awe at the strength and courage of these little humans. It started a great conversation with my 9 year old regarding how kids can stand up for what they believe in. Here are some ways we came up with:
Volunteer in Their Community
Find ways for your children to help others in your community. Cultivate in them that they are a part of something larger and more complex than their world of home and school. This can be as simple a collecting old blankets for a local animal shelter, gathering canned goods or a food bank, or spending some time cleaning up a park in your neighborhood. You can also get ideas on random acts of kindness for kids here.

Be Kind to Everyone
The Golden Rule is one of the most important lessons I think we can teach to our children. "Treat others as you want them to treat you." Activism doesn't always have to be bold, outspoken actions. Sometimes activism happens in passive actions such as holding each person up with compassion because don't know what they're going through, what road they're walking. This is something I try to press to my son anytime he voices a grievance about a classmate. I hear his words, then ask why he thinks the person is acting as they are. His insight is remarkable, as I know your child's would be if asked.
Embrace the Outcast
There seems to be at least one child in each class who is seen as an outcast... someone different than the rest of the children due to skin color, religion, clothes, appearance, etc.  We can encourage our children to look for these fellow students who may play alone at recess, sit by themselves at lunch, or otherwise appear to have few friends. Encourage your child to look for these classmates and reach out to them. Have them invite them in to play, to eat, to interact. No one likes to be alone, and being included by peers can have a phenomenal and lifelong effect on these kiddos. You can find books on how to include others here.

Talk about the daily news
As far as my 9 year old goes, I don't hide much of what is going on in the national arena. We talk politics, elections, public policy, etc. Just this past summer, he accompanied me to a protest of a local politician at our city library. This stems from my belief that children should be informed, at an age appropriate level, of legislation and current happenings that pertain to them. Not to worry them, or to create unnecessary anxiety, but to allow them the ability to respond as they see fit. Please read on...

Write and/or Talk to Political Figures
This takes the previous point one step further. If you've spoken with your child regarding current events and they are concerned or outraged, encourage them to write a letter to their state legislator, their governor, or Congress representative. Not only does it teach children that they have a voice that deserves to be heard, it teaches our representatives that there is a younger generation with open eyes and ears.

Address Bad Words & Name-calling
We all know that words can hurt. But there are some very specific words that kids should know they should never say. I don't know that you can come straight out and teach this one. Perhaps you wait until it's brought up by your child. Some of these words are, but are not limited to the likes of the "N-word", the "R-word, calling things "gay" or "Jewish". As for name-calling, children have to be taught that it just isn't okay. And when we witness these statements, it's important that our kiddos see us stand up for the abused. You may remember when we went through this with the "idiot" at the craft fair.

Research Famous Acts of Activism
Older children can read about activists who protested the Vietnam War, The Occupy Wall Street movement, the sit-ins during the 1950-60's, Rosa Parks and her stance on the bus, or a myriad of other activists. By exploring the actions of others in response to social issues, older children can not only learn about injustices present in our society, but

Read Books About Civil Rights, Diversity, and Societal Struggle
Literature can open so many doors for children... especially if it's into topics they might never see first hand. Many of these topics are addressed in this list of 100 books about amazing and influential women.

It's one thing for our children to hear us speak on issues that grieve us, but another thing for them to see us act on these perceived injustices. Like the old adage, "Actions speak louder than words." Let your children include their own letters/messages when you contact political figures.  Be vocal about what you're doing and why. Let them see you taking action. Guide them to activities that are for the greater good. That's how we create little activists. Because I firmly believe that they are going to change the world.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

100 Books About Amazing Women for Kids

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There are so many stories of influential women in history that are little known. That's why I wanted to put together this list of amazing women in history for young readers to explore. In today's climate, it's important that we give young girls strong women to look up to. AND that we give young boys examples of strong women to respect. These books provide young readers with a broadened horizon full of women that have done amazing things!

(This post contains Affiliate links. I make a small percentage to keep this site running (at no cost to you) when you purchase. More here.)

There are so many more good books like this out there. To be honest, I had started only wanting to gather 50 books for this list. But I kept finding more and more books that I felt needed to be shared. So... here we are... 100 incredible books about amazing and influential women.
Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland
The Legendary Miss Lena Horne
Coco Chanel
Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story
Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson


Are there any other amazing women you'd like to read about? Let me know who they are!


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