Nurturing Our Kids’ Health and Spiritual Growth

Nurturing Our Kids’ Health and Spiritual Growth

It is important to guide children in their healthy growth by helping them select a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy products, and protein foods each day. Parents can model healthy meal preparations that can have a significant impact on children’s health, academic performance, and sense of well-being throughout life. Parents must take the time to ensure that their children have time for outside daily play for healthy growth and development. Children can play at parks and participate in afterschool sports, recreational activities, and performing arts activities.

Teaching Kids About Nutrition

From an early age, parents try and provide their children with a balanced diet. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, children should eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein plus a side order of dairy for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and for snacks. By using a plate for portion control, fruits and vegetables should take up half the plate while grains and protein each take up one fourth of the plate. Parents can encourage their children to plan and prepare nutritional meals by having them help when preparing a nutritional meal. They can:

  • Organize the kitchen before cooking by wiping down counters, setting up a recycle bin, and placing recipe ingredients and utensils on the counter for a recipe.
  • Assemble recipes and adjust the quantities of ingredients for a larger or smaller family.
  • Pick vegetables and fruits from the family vegetable garden or a neighborhood community garden.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and slice them in salads and for cooking as a side dish.
  • Help prepare meat for grilling, baking, or mixing into a recipe.
  • Clean up the kitchen as the meal is prepared.
  • Set the table while the meal is cooking.
  • Clean up after dinner by washing the dishes, taking out the garbage, and recycling.

Training Kids as Meal Planners

As students enter middle school, they can shop and plan for nutritional meals while using a budget. High school students can prepare nutritional meals for the family one night a week.

Added heathy living includes sharing quality time with your children each day. Activities may include outside play, a family dinner, homework time, family recreational time, time for reading, and talking to individual children each night before they go to bed. Most children cherish these times to share their personal growth successes and fears. Some families share these successes and challenges during the family dinner each night as a daily check-in activity. Families can celebrate successes and help each other problem-solve challenging situations.

Nurturing Family Recreation and Physical Fitness Activities

Family recreation and physical activities can include park days, family hiking days, and cultural experiences. Families can plan mini getaways that include camping, hiking, bicycling, and nature explorations. Middle school and high school kids can plan the family’s annual vacation by:

  • Researching various destinations while considering the costs for lodging, meals, and activities within a specified budget and timeline
  • Reviewing travel options and selecting an option when considering the budget, driving requirements, and road maps to the destination
  • Creating a schedule of daily activities that meets the needs of family members

Providing Moral and Spiritual Guidance

As children venture into the world of school, playdates, and community activities, they will meet children and families with different moral and ethical values. It is important that parents clarify their family values and help their children problem-solve when introduced to moral and ethical challenges. A family can identify their values by:

  • Convening a family meeting to discuss expectations for daily life with each family member
  • Having each family member share what they think are the important values for their family
  • Making a list of what each family member has shared and voting on four values
  • Creating a family symbol that artistically represents the four values that received the most votes
  • Framing and displaying the family values symbol in a prominent location at home

Reinforcing Family Values

Families can review their list of values weekly at family meetings and when trying to decide on activities that the family will participate in that may reinforce these values. Families can consider adding or changing values over time. For example, families wanting to raise culturally sensitive children will encourage their children to invite friends from various cultures to their home for dinner. These families may participate in a cultural exchange program while their children attend high school and host a student from another country in their home for part of the school year. Spending quality time with grandparents and seniors can provide children with expanded exposure to different lifestyles, values, and activities.

Applying Family Values to Safety Concerns

As family members share their values, they can also discuss safety concerns regarding personal care, conflict resolution, sex, drug abuse, and alcohol use and abuse. Children can learn how to respond to situations that may not be safe. The chapter describes various case studies with worksheets on how family members might respond when exposed to challenging situations. For example, some families have a policy of having their children phone home for a ride if they feel uncomfortable at a party or a friend’s home. They can have an agreement that no questions will be asked when a child phones home for a ride to leave a party early.

Modeling Spiritual Growth through Community Services

Families can model spiritual growth and their love and care for others in need through church related activities, community service days, and school service-learning days. Community service and service-learning activities help children learn about different needs of families in their communities. Activities can include:

  • Making cards and blankets for seniors
  • Creating dog toys
  • Collecting books, clothes, and toys for families in need
  • Adopting a family or senior during the winter holidays
  • Creating community garden decorations

May you treasure your shared healthy and spiritual growth activities with your family.

Mary Ann







Teaching Our Children About the Black Lives Matter Movement

Teaching Our Children About the Black Lives Matter Movement

When teaching elementary students about the Black Lives Matter Movement, I describe what my life was like as an African American little girl. For example, when I was in elementary school, I did not get to hear Martin Luther King, Jr.  give his original, “I have a Dream” speech. My teachers would play the speech for my class every year so that we could picture this amazing vision for America. Dr. King dreamed that one day black people would be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin.

My Second Grade Experience

I was in second grade when Dr. King, a preacher and civil rights activist, was killed. I can remember where I was in Brooklyn, New York with my aunt when I heard the news on the TV.  I walked over to the steps and I sat down and cried.  I was seven years old. I was hurt and sad. You see, at that age I understood that Dr. King was trying to get everyone to understand that Black Lives Mattered.  He supported non-violent protests against anyone who would not treat black and brown people equally and with civility. At that time, black people could not sit on the front of buses. They could not vote. They were treated like objects instead of human beings.  Many people thought that black people were strong. They would do cruel things to them like harassing them during daily life or spiting on them while passing by. People would beat up Black people for no reason and say bad things about them and to them.  Black people were bullied for a long time in America.  Unfortunately, this still happens today.

What Black Lives Matters to Me

After I share my story, I explain that the Black Lives Matter Movement was started by three women in 2013 to fight the injustices of black people that may include death, police brutality, laws that are not fair that include housing, economic challenges, and lack of opportunities (see www.tolerance.org). Then the students discuss and write a reflection on how bullying is a form of abuse that all students can relate by asking these questions:

  1. How do you feel when someone is mean to you?
  2. How do you stop the other person and what would you do in the future?
  3. Do you know any who participated in the Black Lives Matter Movement marches in the past year? What did you learn from this event??
  4. What can I do to stop bullying at school?
  5. What can I do to encourage kindness for all students?

Finally, the children reinforce their learning by (1) identifying what they learned about the Black Lives Matter Movement, (2) identify what worked or did not work to support their learning, (3) clarify how they will use this information with other school assignments, and (4) describe how they can use this information in their daily lives.

Added Resources

For more resources on educating children about the Black Lives Matter Movement, you can review the list of reading materials listed on my previous blog at https://genparenting.com/educators-reflection-on-george-floyds-death/#more-1478. Much success as you help your children understand the relevance of the Black Lives Matter Movement in all of our lives.



Copyright (c) 2021 by GenParenting

Responding to Your Kids’ Challenging Behaviors at Home

Responding to Your Kids’ Challenging Behaviors at Home

Our children’s misbehaviors can be addressed through preventive strategies, modifying the environment, and by teaching them alternative behaviors. When trying to resolve a child’s challenging behavior, parents can try the following approach:

  1. Identify the problem and agree on what behavior is going to be addressed.
  2. Brainstorm solutions to understand what function the behavior is serving.
  3. Make a plan involving an acceptable solution that allows the child to achieve the function being served by the challenging behavior. That is, if the function is also acceptable.
  4. Implement the plan consistently and across settings.
  5. Evaluate the outcome to determine next steps.
  6. Develop alternative solutions for various family members or situations.

During the brainstorming session, you can:

  1. Describe what the behavior looks like or sounds like (i.e. frequency, duration, intensity).
  2. Determine when does the behavior occur and what happens right before the behavior. (What sets off the behavior?)
  3. What happens right after the behavior? (What is the child achieving from the behavior?)
  4. Is there a function for the behavior or is the child trying to communicate something, avoid something, get attention, or express anger and frustration?
  5. Work toward developing acceptable alternatives that achieve the function.

Remember, any challenging behavior that persists over time is “working” and rewarding to your child. Relish the serenity you have achieved with quality family play!


Copyright © 2020 by GenParenting

The Perils of Alcohol Use in Pregnancy

The Perils of Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

What could be wrong with having a soothing glass of wine every once in awhile during pregnancy?  Well, unfortunately, a miserable future for the unborn child can be the result of a seemingly innocent habit.  This habit could result in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

As the developing brain is very susceptible to alcohol throughout pregnancy, damage can be done even before a woman realizes she is pregnant.  Damage is usually not obvious at birth and can span the spectrum: from full characteristic facial features and small stature, cognitive disabilities, and central nervous system effects to no facial features at all, normal intelligence and physical development.  However, children on the spectrum who have no obvious characteristics, may have behavioral difficulties that have an impact on learning.

Alcohol Impact

The brain damage caused by the alcohol exposure may lead to the following:

  • Executive function disorder resulting in poor decision making and impulsivity
  • Inability to think ahead and understand the consequences of their actions
  • Memory may be impaired. What is mastered one day is gone the next

Is There a Qualified Diagnosis?

Difficulties often do not receive sufficient attention until middle or high school and that is because they do not show the classical facial characteristics or do not demonstrate a developmental delay on standardized tests.  Even then, in most states, they do not qualify for special intervention.  Getting a qualifying diagnosis is nearly impossible and parents are very frustrated.  Mothers may not remember those soothing glasses of wine or the child may be in foster care or adopted so history is unknown.  Unfortunately, many end up becoming involved with the juvenile justice system.

Strategies to Support Children

Parents and teachers should find the following strategies to be helpful:

  1. Be aware of the kinds of situations that trigger inappropriate behaviors:
    • Inconsistent, unstructured environments
    • New situations
    • Overstimulation
    • Internal changes, such as illness or extreme fatigue
  1. Seek to understand what triggers inappropriate behavior as well as what consequences maintain the behavior.
  2. Increase predictability and consistency in daily routines. Prepare children for what comes next.
  3. Be very concrete with directions. Instead of “clean up”, say “take your dishes to the sink, rinse and stack them”
  4. Avoid making demands that are beyond the developmental level of the child. This can bring on a tantrum of frustration.
  5. Provide extra support during new or difficult tasks, teach in small steps.
  6. Reduce unnecessary stimulation, especially background noise.
  7. Respect children’s space by keeping unnecessary interruptions at a minimum.
  8. Limit the number of rules; communicate them clearly and enforce them consistently.
  9. Expect setbacks and regressions. They are inconsistent in their ability to perform skills they have previously been taught. Also, be aware that home events, particularly family or neighborhood violence, caregiver changes, and dependency court dates, can have a major impact on children’s behavior and learning.
  10. Be vigilant! Safety is an issue when children have poor impulse control and trouble understanding cause and effect. Repeat and reteach safety precautions continuously.

Helping Our Children Master Their Environment

Use of these strategies, over time, strengthens children’s self-control and sense of mastery over the environment.  There is no cure for FASD, but those affected can be helped to stay, safe, resist exploitation, and act appropriately.  The early the intervention, the better the outcome.

Ruth Cook

Copyright (c) 2020 by GenParenting



How to Become a Mindful and Attentive Parent

How to Become a Mindful and Attentive Parent

Each January, I consider how I can do a better job of balancing my daily life when considering my family’s needs, work obligations, and needs for play, exercise, and spiritual growth. When I consider my family’s needs, I find that my ability to give sufficient attention and listen to individual family members can be challenged when working on another project or trying to multi-task to finish a household chore. This coming year, I plan to overcome this challenge by becoming more mindful and attentive in my daily interactions with family members. I also plan to track how many minutes a day I am able to focus on individual family members when they are talking to me or when I am engaged in one-on-one activities. I plan to also implement the following time management strategies:

Time Management Strategies

  • Simplify each day by reducing the number of chores attempted each day.
  • Cook dinners three times a week with planned leftovers on alternate nights.
  • Encourage teens and other adults to alternate cooking meals and help with meal preparations.
  • Schedule 30 minutes a day with each child and teach the family to respect the time allocated for each child. (Through consistency and example, children learn quickly how to respect each child’s allocated time.)
  • Give myself an hour a day for exercise, meditation, leisurely reading, or thinking.
  • Schedule another hour a day to spend with my partner so we can talk about our lives and brainstorm solutions to daily challenges.
  • Limit the time spent watching mindless television shows and playing on the computer or phone.
  • Manage my work schedule.
  • Consider how frequently I am leaving the home at night for meetings, social events, and errands. Adjust my schedule to regularly be home at night for the family.
  • Consolidate errands and limit them to a couple of times a week.
  • Brainstorm other strategies to spend more time with family and less time being preoccupied with daily responsibilities.

More Family Play

May your new year be filled with more family time. As you and your children brainstorm solutions to managing daily tasks, they will thrive because you will be more relaxed and have more time to play. When parents model effective parenting and household management strategies, their children feel valued. They also have the opportunity to talk with their parents when they feel challenged with family members at home and with the demands at school.

Much success with mindful parenting!

Mary Ann

Copyright © 2020 by GenParenting