Helping Ease Separation Anxiety

School is starting and many kids are exploring new adventures, it’s a good time to talk about separation anxiety. What is it? Everyone experiences a nervousness when they start something new. A little anxiety is normal. But sometimes children experience a greater anxiety about a new adventure. There are many ways we can help children overcome their fears about doing something they haven’t done before.

Parents:

Before you separate from your child for the first time, make sure they are well rested and have had something to eat. Everyone has a harder time dealing with life when they are hungry, thirsty, or too tired.

Talk about what’s going to happen for a few weeks before it happens. You are going to school. I am going to go to work. After I am done working I will pick you up from school. Mommy will be back. Mommy loves you.

Practice separation. Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods at first and then build your way up to a full day.

Have a ritual for saying goodbye. Whether it’s a kiss or hug or whatever, do it the same way every time. Tell them you are leaving and that you are coming back. Do NOT stall, or hang around not wanting to leave. This makes it much harder for your child.

Don’t give in. Make sure your child knows they will be fine, and leave. This is the hardest thing for parents to do, but if you give in and come back, it will make your child have a harder time adjusting because they will think if they are unhappy, you will come back every time. Also, children feed off of parent’s emotions, so remember if you are nervous, they can feel it and will be nervous too.

Remember that you have a job to do and you are leaving your child in the best care you can find for them. You are allowed to work and provide for your family without guilt. Leave that guilt at the curb. You are allowed to go to dinner with your husband or go to the spa as well. It’s okay to take care of yourself. It will make you a better parent in the long run. Don’t feel guilty about it. You are human too!

Make sure to tell the truth. Never sneak out when your child is playing. It will break the trust they have with you. Tell them what you are doing and then do it.

Providers:

If you are providing childcare for a child who is having a tough time separating, there are several things you can do to help them transition better.

I have a policy of having two interviews with each family before the child starts care here. One at their house and one at mine. If parents are not interested in doing that, I’m not interested in keeping their children. It gives me, the parents, and the child another opportunity to get to know each other. Going to their home helps the child feel secure when they see me at their home where they know it’s safe. If Mom and Dad let Ms. Christina come over and play here, she must be safe for me. In addition, while at the child’s home, I try to meet their pets, and play with their favorite toy with them. Then if they are upset at drop off I can say, how is your dog dizzy, or where is your elephant that you keep on your bed? It really helps the child and nervous parents cope.

Another thing you can do is let the child bring a familiar comfort item from home. A blankie, stuffed animal, or other item they use at home with which to comfort themselves will help make them feel secure at your home as well.

Having a picture of mom and dad at your house is helpful as well. They can look at them when they miss them and know they are coming back.

Make sure to give the child extra attention as they transition. They may need some extra hugs to comfort them. In contrast, make sure not to pick them up or touch them if they don’t want you to. They will tell you when they are ready for your comfort.

Be patient and remember how scary it is to leave the comfort of home and go to a strange place without the people you love. If you give it time, they will love your home and you as well. Some kids take longer than others to trust. Also, different ages of children are in different stages of separation anxiety as well. Don’t forget a child who is 10 months to about 2 will be much more leery than a younger infant or an older child. It’s a natural part of their development, so make adjustments for that as well.

Getting to know someone new is hard for everyone at first. I even feel nervous when getting to know a new child as well. Give it time and the friendship always grows. Usually faster than you think it will!

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People-Plant Relationships, What’s the Connection?

I wrote this genius article for a certain gardening magazine and was rejected with a stinging reply. Now that I’ve dusted myself off and gotten over the looking-downiness of their rejection, I decided to post it here so people can enjoy the wonderfulness of this great information. 🙂 What do you think?

Could Gardening Change the World?

Those of us who garden know gardening has untold benefits, but what about people who have never tried it? How can we teach them gardening is the great life changer it is? I saw a report on ABC News about the benefits of gardening with prisoners. The prisoners shared feeling a sense of peace in the garden that gave them a short respite from the harsh prison environment. They were able to reconnect with their feelings in the garden as they connected with the natural world. The prisoners also commented on connecting spiritually with the garden. Most prisons with garden programs report a return rate in the single digits, much lower than the national average. Some even state that not one of their garden graduates returned. So if someone who has repeatedly committed crimes is changed in a way that they no longer do, our world is a better place because of gardening. As I listened to this amazing report of how gardening was making the world a better place through rehabilitating prisoners, I thought about my kids. I know that behaviors that lead to prison time can begin as behavioral disorders in children. I was curious if introducing children to the garden could deter some of them from a life time of poor choices that have the potential of leading to crime, and incarceration.
I have been a family child care provider for over 19 years. What can gardening do for children with behavioral disorders? After some study into the benefits of gardening, I discovered many benefits of which I had not previously been aware. I was stunned. According to kidsgardening.org, gardening significantly increases science achievement scores in students, social skills, behavior, attitudes about the environment, and appreciation for nature. Gardening also improves life skills, interest in eating fruits and vegetables, and nutrition knowledge. In addition, gardening contributes to communication of knowledge and emotions, and has a positive impact on student achievement and behavior. So gardening with my kids could totally change their paths in life. It could help them be smarter, get better grades, build better relationships, and take care of their bodies and this earth in a more effective way?
What behavioral disorders effect children? There are many, and the symptoms include lack of patience, lack of concentration, poor impulse control, poor problem solving skills, and the inability to be calm or to calm themselves or relax. In addition, there are many that cause explosive behaviors, mood swings, stealing, lying, and destroying property. So, if working in the garden can help kids feel appreciation and respect for plants and the environment, and it can help them focus as well as relax and feel peaceful and be able to delay gratification for some time, could gardening be an answer to problems that we have with children and managing their behavior? Many behavioral disorders result in low self-esteem and self-worth which can cause the behaviors to repeat themselves and increase in severity. If gardening can increase one’s self-esteem, couldn’t it stop the downward cycle in a person’s life that comes from behavioral disorders? These behaviors if not properly dealt with can lead to impulses in adulthood that cause criminal behaviors. Could something as simple and pure as working in the garden be an answer for making the world a better place? We could be on to something. If we can improve social skills and change attitudes and behaviors with this simple activity, it is certainly worth some time and effort to find out. Focusing on something positive is a great way to curb impulses for negative behavior as well. I know when I introduce new toys to the kids at my daycare, they are focused and engaged with those toys, and many negative behaviors are decreased during that time.
I dug a little deeper into the subject of garden benefits for children and I found that children learn much from growing things according to betterhealth.gov. They learn nutrition, creativity, cooperation, physical activity, reasoning, discovery, love of nature, self-confidence, understanding, and responsibility. I don’t know about you, but I think that those are some pretty awesome benefits for making this world a better place. I know that the problems I see us facing today have a lot to do with the lack of responsibility that people take for their own actions. Studies show that good nutrition can help manage behavior as well. Some people believe that some mental illnesses are caused by nutrition deficiencies of one kind or another. If this is the case, gardening can help correct that as well. And children who grow their own food are more aware of the nutritional value of foods and are more likely to eat the things they need to have a well-rounded nutritional intake.
As I was learning about these mental and physical health benefits, I was just beginning to garden with my kids. I was learning the skills I needed to grow sustainably with my group of young children in a chemical free garden environment. Teaching them the skills for a lifetime of growing practices that could not only help them feed themselves and their families, but heal our earth. I have been learning and teaching my kids that growing food chemical free is important for our world, but just as important for the kids who are working with their hands in the soil here and eating the produce that we grow. If we were spraying chemicals on everything, the kids would be exposed to the dangers of those things and could be even more at risk than if we weren’t gardening at all.
My kids LOVE being in the garden. “Gardening is funner than video games”, “the garden is pretty and smells good”, and “the garden is awesome” are some of the things I have heard the kids say about being in the garden. I have one child who, every time we head outside to play, asks me if he can go in the garden. Every day I tell him he can go in the garden whenever he wants to. And then every day he walks through the rows of the garden with his face toward the sky and his arms out, lightly brushing against the plants as he goes by. Then he sighs a big heavy sigh and runs off to play. You can’t tell me he is not having a reaction in that magical place.
I have learned there is an amazing sense of peace for me in the garden as I struggle with an anxiety disorder myself. I want to share that feeling and teach others how to experience it themselves. The garden calms me, it soothes me, and it makes me feel part of something bigger and more important than myself. It brings me close to nature and give me exercise and sunlight that I need for good physical and mental health. The garden gives me an appreciation for nature and all the things God has created. It bring me closer to Him. It distracts me from my worries and problems in a very productive way. My anxiety level has decreased exponentially since I started learning to grow food. I want to give that experience to my children because I know it changes their world as well.
There are many studies about the effects of stress and anxiety and the effect the garden has on people’s management of it. Healthyplace.com and stress.com note several. There is a sense of satisfaction to watch something that you planted grow into something you can eat. Fresh air and physical activity reduce stress, and release aggression. The physical activity in the garden helps your mind and body by increasing your fitness and helping to reduce excess weight. Another benefit is the satisfaction of caring for the needs of dependent plant. The plant needs the grower in order to survive. Being needed is an essential element for humans. We need to be needed. Sunlight increases the body’s vitamin D. Fresh air is good for your health. Feeling more removed from daily stresses is increased when we are outdoors in nature. And the garden is a place of great beauty as well. The beauty and amazingness of the art you can create in the garden along with God’s creations are a great stress reducer. Using that gorgeous space for thinking, relaxing, and meditation is a great way to improve mental health. Additional benefits of gardening include increased decision making abilities, self-control, self-esteem, hope for the future and confidence. I know from personal experience gardening does bring calm in this chaotic world. Whose life would not be made better by this? Even the most confident, happy person you know could enjoy more of these feelings. I just can’t see any way gardening could not improve someone’s life. Even if it’s just a small container growing radishes or lettuce, growing something can change your world. And I know reviving this dying art form is one of the most important missions for my life. There are a multitude of ways to garden, things that can be grown, soil mixes, methodologies, opinions, and the list goes on and on, but there is one thing that really matters, and that is getting people to grow SOMETHING. I believe in my heart if we spread this message and get some seeds or plants into the hands of the very young, so they can grow up and lead the world by teaching them to plant something, gardening really can change the world. When God wants something done in this world, He sends a child, and then He waits.

Garden Glory-Cantaloupe

Me and my sprouts harvested over 52 pounds of food from the garden again this week. I’m amazed at how much the garden is producing right now. Tomorrow I plan to try to trim some wiley things back and open up the walkways so we can get to it easier if it’s not too hot in the morning. Wow, it’s a scorcher out there today! We picked almost 15 pounds of cucumbers this week, 20 pounds of tomatoes, 13 pounds of cantaloupe, and okra, tomatillos, peppers, and carrots. I’m amazed at what the kids have learned about growing this year, and what they have learned to like eating.

Monday's harvest.

Monday’s harvest.

Today's pickings.  We usually pick on Thursday but yesterday we got a lovely 2 1/2 inches of rain that kept us from working outside.

Today’s pickings. We usually pick on Thursday but yesterday we got a lovely 2 1/2 inches of rain that kept us from working outside.


The rest of today's score.

The rest of today’s score.

Today also marks the end of my time watching a very special young man. I’ve taught and taken care of him for over 10 years and it’s super hard to let him go. It’s always hard to say goodbye…

Saying goodbye to daycare kids.

saying goodbye to daycare kids

Metamorphosis!

A few weeks ago we found these cute little fellas on the dill.  So we brought them in and continued to feed them fresh dill every day.  After a few days, they each formed a chrysalis.

A few weeks ago we found these cute little fellas on the dill. So we brought them in and continued to feed them fresh dill every day. After a few days, they each formed a chrysalis.

A couple of weeks later, one of the butterflies came out of the chrysalis.

A couple of weeks later, one of the butterflies came out of the chrysalis.

At first they pump their wings to dry them.  We let our butterfly open all the way up and then took him outside to release.

At first they pump their wings to dry them. We let our butterfly open all the way up and then took him outside to release.

It was a beautiful black swallowtail.

It was a beautiful black swallowtail.

The kids loved watching the little guy get ready to fly for the first time.

The kids loved watching the little guy get ready to fly for the first time.

Metamorphosis is one of the many amazing things the kids have discovered in the garden. We plant a row of dill and fennel with parsley and flowers to attract caterpillars to watch. It’s an amazing science lesson.

Find a garden and look for some magic, I know you will find some. 🙂

Guest Post-Andrea Pommer

I have found a kindred spirit on the internet. She’s a home daycare provider in Indiana that gardens with her kids too! I have been so excited to find a handful of other people who have a passion for teaching their kids to grow food. Andrea has been so supportive and helpful to me as I started this blog. Now she is sharing a post with us. I’m so excited for you to read it, check it out!

Kids and Worms; The Perfect Mix for the Garden
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Over here at my daycare home, we love calling ourselves ‘urban farmers’, but honestly, what is a farm without animals? Though we have been expanding our gardens year by year, we have not yet added those rabbits and chickens that we long for. However, while we wait for the right time for ‘real livestock’, our animal of choice is…WORMS!

Making or buying a worm bin and getting it established is a perfect way to include kids in the garden. And here are some reasons why:

1. Kids. Love. Worms.

2. Worm castings are an incredible addition to your garden beds. Filled with nutrients and beneficial microbes, the castings help your plants grow big, strong, and more able to fend off pests and diseases.

3. Kids get to see how compost works, and how plants come full circle–veggie scraps become nutrient rich compost that then helps grow new seeds into new plants.

4. Worms are a commitment, but an easy one. Kids will be introduced to taking care of ‘livestock’ on a tiny, low-risk scale.

5. Did I mention; kids love worms!!!

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Though there are simple plans online for making your own bin, we took the easy, albeit more expensive route, and purchased a ready-made bin. Since the bin came with everything we needed (except the worms, which we ordered separately), it was less intimidating for us to give this whole worm thing a try.

Now that we are quickly gaining knowledge about the workings of a worm farm, I feel more confident that we could definitely make one from scratch.

There are some days we go all day without even checking on our worms, but inevitably each afternoon someone will want to have a peek, dig their hands gently into the bedding, and pull out a healthy worm or two. We feed them once or twice a week (too much food is a bad thing, we discovered, as it will attract lots of mites), we make sure the bedding is moist but not soaked, and for the most part, we leave them be to silently work.

Our first harvest of worm castings will not be ready until late August at the earliest, as it takes a few months to get a good enough amount to collect. At that point, we will be able to harvest a new batch every couple of months. What we don’t use in the cold months on our indoor plants will come in handy next spring when our soil is ready for some nutrition and new planting!

To see how we faced and defeated our first challenge, click here. It was really not so hard!

Guest Post written for Little Sprouts Learning Garden by Andrea Pommer
Andrea blogs at http://www.littlebigharvest.blogspot.com

Babies are Born to Learn

When children are born, they are naturally curious and processing information about the world through sensory stimulation. During the first three years of life, a baby has incredible growth in all areas. There is so much we can do as parents and caregivers to get children off to a great start of lifelong learning.

A baby’s genes serve as the main structure for their ability to learn, but there is so much we can do to help them improve. During the first years, a baby’s brain produces massive numbers of connections that will after the age of three begin to be pruned if they are not used. It is easier to form learning connections during this “plastic” or growing time in the brain. That’s why early childhood experiences are of utmost importance.

Positive experiences have a huge effect on children’s chances for happiness, achievement, and success. The more they are nurtured, held, and stimulated in the first three years, the better their brains will function for their entire lives. Not only academic learning is affected, but trust, problem solving, resilience and other emotional process are as well. Eighty percent of a child’s learning about the world is achieved by age 3.

Each person has billions of brain cells. Each cell has dendrites, or extensions like tree branches. They give and receive impulses to other brain cells which travel along pathways called synapses. These pathways send information from one cell to the other to form knowledge or brain power. Everything babies learn such as speaking, moving, feeling safe, recognizing objects, etc. travel along those pathways.

Pathways grow because of stimulation and nurturing. Repetition and routine are important to strengthen the connections between the cells. As an experience is repeated, it sculpts the brain. For instance, every time you nurture a crying baby, you are sending the message of safety and love and establishing trust. Nothing is more important to brain development than relationships.

So what can we do as caregivers to give young children the best chance at success? Spending time with infants and young children, talk to them, sing to them, play games, read to them. All of these activities build a foundation for children’s language. Encourage them to crawl, walk, climb, draw, hop, ride bikes, jump, skip, and dress themselves. In addition, it is vitally important not to rush children into learning skills their brains are not yet ready to learn. Not only does pushing children to learn things early cause undue stress that is damaging, but the connections that are formed will not stay because the child’s brain is not ready to receive those impulses yet.

Young children also need the proper amount of healthy fats in their diet so that the brain can function at its highest capacity. Breast milk is the perfect food to provide that to children. Healthy fats in natural food will give children the best chance of learning success they can have. Limiting unhealthy fats such as are in fried and processed foods is imperative for developing brains. Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and natural oils present in foods such as fish help to protect the processes of the brain and help it reach its fullest potential.

Creating little geniuses or super brains should not be our goal as caregivers. Our goal should be to provide a safe and loving environment where children know that their needs will be met. When children can trust, they are free to learn at their personal pace. Our goal should be to provide a safe, structured and loving environment with plenty of stimulation for young brains to learn.

Not Interested…

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What happens when you have a great activity planned for the kids and no one is interested? What about all your hard work and preparation? What about the great benefits of the activity you want the kids to receive? I believe children should not be made to participate in activities they are not interested in. I invite everyone to join us in what I have prepared, but if a child does not want to participate, that’s okay. If several children are not interested, maybe I need to take a look at what I am planning for them. I might be missing the mark about what is appropriate or interesting. Usually once I start an activity with the kids, those who were not interested at first see that we are having fun and join us anyway, but if they don’t, it’s no big deal. And sometimes the kids who want to do something else draw all of us into their game. We are flexible.
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What do I do with the kids who are not interested in gardening? I built this giant garden for them to learn in, so they need to learn in it right? There are so many things the garden teaches it really doesn’t matter what they do in it, they are learning. I have some children who are still interested in picking weeds and harvesting and planting every day. But we have a massive garden and there is A LOT of work to be done in it. I let the kids plant until they don’t want to and then I finish it for them. I invite them to pick weeds but my husband and I spend many hours a week picking weeds so the garden can be successful. If they don’t want to pick vegetables, I have toys in the garden and a resting place for them to hang out. Everyone is happy in the garden, but they are happy doing different things. Some kids love to hunt for and watch bugs and creatures, some love to play in the gravel rocks and hunt for treasures there, and some like to pick produce every day the entire time we are in the garden. All of those are great ways to learn and they are all okay with me.
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If none of the kids ever wanted to plant or pick would the garden still be a success? Yes, because they are getting sensory stimulation of all kinds in the garden, a very important part of their development. Even if I never brought them in the garden, it’s still important for their nutrition. We have totally chemical free food picked at the peak of ripeness (most of the time) and full of great nutrients. For me, that is worth all the effort I put into the garden. And I feel GREAT when I’m eating out of the garden with them. I have more energy and I feel good about what I’m putting in my body. I know it’s worth doing for them.
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Since the garden is pretty big, there is a lot to do in it. Some children are losing interest because we’ve been picking and planting for months. That’s okay. Especially since they have already learned so much from the picking and planting they have done. Honestly sometimes I tire of picking and planting myself, but I know the amazing benefits we receive from it so I press on. And that’s my choice because I love the garden and I’m the one who wanted to do it. I’m don’t force the kids to participate. Doing that would make them dread the garden. People tell me all the time they won’t grow a garden as adults because they always had to work the garden as kids and hated it. I want the kids to come away from their garden experiences here with knowledge of how to make things grow, understanding the garden is ever changing and imperfect, and joy from the time they have spent in it. Letting them come in and out of the garden work is the best way to achieve that goal.
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