Friday, March 4, 2016

Ashland Raises Happy and Healthy Kids


  1. Name your blessings - Have a moment of thanks each day when everyone names one thing they are thankful for.
  2. Be a grateful parent - Tell your children why you are grateful to have them.
  3. Resist the urge to shower your kids with too much “stuff” - Buying kids whatever they want, whenever they want, dilutes the gratitude impulse and it can mean that they don’t learn to value or respect their possessions.
  4. Have kids pitch in when they want something new - When kids take the time to save up, they gain an understanding of the value of a dollar by working toward what they want.
  5. Set a good example by saying “thank you” sincerely and often
  6. Have kids hand-write thank you notes
  7. Encourage children to give back - When children give their time and energy to help others, they’re less likely to take things like health, home and family for granted.
  8. Insist on politeness and respect all around

Signs of a healthy teen (or adult) relationship
  1. Mutual respect -  Respect in a relationship means that each person values who the other is and understands  the other person's boundaries.
  2. Trust -  It's ok to get a little jealous sometimes,  jealousy is a natural emotion. But how a person reacts when feeling jealous is what matters. There's no way you can have a healthy relationship if you don't trust each other.
  3. Support - In a healthy relationship, your significant other is there with a shoulder to cry on when you go through something difficult  and also there to celebrate your accomplishments.
  4. Fairness/equality - You need to have give and take in your relationship.  Things get bad when a relationship turns into a power struggle, with one person fighting to get his or her way all the time.
  5. Separate identities- Neither of you should have to pretend to like something you don't, or give up seeing your friends, or drop out of activities you love. And you also should feel free to keep developing new talents or interests, making new friends, and moving forward.
  6. Good communication - Speak honestly and openly and do not keep your feelings bottled up.
Being rude is inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else. In children this takes the form of things such as burping in someone's face, jumping ahead in line, bragging about achieving the highest grade, or throwing a crushed up pile of leaves in someone's face. Incidents of rudeness are usually spontaneous, unplanned, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or narcissism, but not meant to actually hurt someone.
Being mean involves purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice). Unlike unthinking rudeness, mean behavior very much aims to hurt someone. Very often, mean behavior in kids is motivated by angry feelings and/or the misguided goal of propping themselves up in comparison to the person they are putting down.
Bullying is intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power. Kids who bully say or do something intentionally hurtful to others and they keep doing it, with no sense of regret or remorse, even when targets of bullying show or express their hurt or tell the aggressors to stop. DIfferent kinds of bullying include physical and verbal aggression, social exclusion, hazing, rumor spreading, and cyberbullying. The key aspect to all of them is the ongoing nature of the behavior, which leaves the victims feeling powerless and fearful.
It is important for parents to remember that children depend on a non-jaded adult's ability to discern between rudeness at the bus stop and life-altering bullying. And to talk with their children about the different meanings and motivations of each.

Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age

  1. Create a family media use contract -  Write up rules and guidelines about what when, how, where and for how long different screen activities are ok.
  2. Keep car time for talking - In the car, you have a captive audience. Use this time to chat with your children rather than talking on your phone or allowing them to text or play games.
  3. Put away your smartphone when your kids walk in the house (or get in the car) from school - Nothing says “you don’t matter that much,” or “everyone and everything else is more important than you,” than having a parent or caregiver pull up for pickup but hardly look up from a call or texting.
  4. Make meal time screen free - This includes breakfast!
  5. No screens in the bedroom - Have children charge their devices downstairs or in their parent’s bedroom.
The six C’s of building resilience
Competence: Give children opportunities to develop important life skills. This makes them feel proud and competent.  
Confidence: Help your children build the confidence to be able to navigate the world, think outside the box, and recover from challenges. If we “save” them from every challenge they will not feel confident in their abilities.     
Connection: Connections with other people, schools, and the community gives children the security to venture out into the community, try new things, and give back to their community and/or others.   
Character: Children need a clear sense of right and wrong and a commitment to integrity.    
Coping: Young people who possess a variety of healthy coping strategies will be less likely to turn to unhealthy or even dangerous quick fixes when stressed.

Control: Children who understand that privileges and respect are earned through demonstrated responsibility will learn to make wise choices and feel a sense of control.
When you ask your child "How was school today?", does he/she mumble "good" or "fine"? Below are some questions to ask that might get you more than a one-word answer.

  1. What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  2. What games did you play at recess?
  3. Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
  4. What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
  5. Who made you smile today?
  6. Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?
  7. What new fact did you learn today?
  8. Who brought the best food in their lunch today? What was it?
  9. What challenged you today?
  10. If school were a ride at the fair, which ride would it be? Why?
  11. What would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
  12. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you want it to be? Why?
  13. If you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?
  14. Did anyone push your buttons today?
  15. Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet? Why not?
  16. What is your teacher’s most important rule?
  17. What is the most popular thing to do at recess?
  18. Does your teacher remind you of anyone else you know? How?
  19. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  20. What is one thing you did today that was helpful?
  21. When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
  22. What rule was the hardest to follow today?
  23. What is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?
  24. Which person in your class is your exact opposite?
  25. Which area of your school is the most fun?
  26. Which playground skill do you plan to master this year?

Tips for helping your children develop a healthy relationship with food

  1. Promote a healthy relationship with food.
    1. Make nutritious food options readily available at home.
    2. Be a good role model - eat a balanced variety and amount of nutritious foods and drinks, eat breakfast and do not skip meals.
    3. Teach children about nutrition and that there are no “bad” foods, everything is ok in moderation and/or on special occasions.
    4. Do not talk about dieting or losing weight in front of your children.
  2. Prioritize family meals.
  3. Don’t use food as a reward.
  4. Teach your children to eat when they are hungry - avoid telling your children to eat everything on their plate and avoid strict rules around food
Now that we are a few weeks into the school year, students are probably taking tests and quizzes. Below are some tips for beating test anxiety:
  1. Know the test format - Just knowing the test format can help kids feel more prepared and take away some of the shock when they are handed the test.
  2. Reorganize the material when studying - Identify the main ideas of the topic, outline the big events and issues, and think about the themes that unite them.
  3. Think about possible questions - Predicting and answering questions ahead of time helps kids gain more mastery over the material and feel more confident.
  4. Don’t spend too much time on one question - Move on to the next question and go back to the difficult ones later.
  5. Practice calming techniques - Deep breathing or holding worry balls can help kids during tests. Practice these techniques while studying.
  6. Accept when you don’t know something - Sometimes the best way to manage anxiety is to accept that you don’t know the answer to the question and move on.
School, sports, and after-school activities have begun. To help get through the busy days, many of us are probably doing things for our children that they can do for themselves. Let’s give our kids the chance to practice and acquire life skills. Once they master them, it will make YOUR life easier. Below is a good rule of thumb for teaching children (and adults!) new things:
First you do it for them,
Then you do it with them,
Then you watch them do it,
Then you let them do it on their own.

This list of things your kids should be able to do on their own is a great place to start.
Ages 2-3: Small chores and basic grooming - Put toys away, put clothes in the hamper, clear plate after meals, assist in setting the table
Ages 4-5: Know important names and numbers and simple chores - Know their name, address and phone number and 911, clear the table after meals, dust, feed pets, brush teeth, comb hair, wash face, choose his/her own clothes
Age 6-7: Basic cooking techniques - Mix, stir and cut with a dull knife, make a sandwich, help put groceries away, wash dishes, make bed, use basic household cleaners
Age 8-9: Take pride in personal belongings - Care for toys/belongings, fold clothes, use a broom and dustpan, read a recipe and prepare a simple meal, help create a grocery list, weed and water flower beds/plants, take out the trash
Age 10-13: Gain independence - Make a purchase at a store, change sheets on bed, use the washing machine and dryer, iron clothes, mow the lawn, plan and prepare a meal with several ingredients, look after younger relatives or neighbors

Age 14-18: More advanced skills - Read and understand medicine labels and dosages, get gas and change a car tire, prepare and cook meals, apply and interview for a job

Ashland Raises Healthy Happy Kids
We all want our children to be healthy and happy. This column will address a social-emotional health topic each week. We hope these will be a starting point for discussions and/or a reminder that kids can get stressed and need compassion and understanding. Let’s start with taking care of ourselves as the school year begins.  

  1. Value yourself: Treat yourself with kindness and respect and avoid self-criticism.
  2. Take care of your body: Eat nutritious meals, exercise, and get enough sleep.
  3. Surround yourself with good people.
  4. Volunteer: Helping others, or volunteering for an organization you are passionate about, makes you feel good and is a good example for your children.
  5. Learn how to deal with stress: Future columns will address coping skills for stress. Practice different things to see what helps you best - taking a walk, talking to a friend, yoga, journaling, playing with your pet.
  6. Set realistic goals: Aim high with your goals, both professional and personal, but be realistic and do not over-schedule yourself.
  7. Get help when you need it: Carpool with neighbors to kids’ activities, accept help when offered. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
We all know that exercise keeps your heart, bones, and muscles healthy and can help keep you at a healthy weight. But exercise also has many benefits for your mental health.

  1. Lifts your mood.
  2. Builds self-esteem.
  3. Improves learning abilities.
  4. Reduces stress.
  5. Improves sleeping patterns.
  6. Alleviates anxiety.
  7. Sharpens memory.
  8. Helps to control addictions.
  9. Boosts creative thinking.
  10. Improves body image.
  11. Gives you confidence.
  12. Improves eating habits.
  13. Fights dementia.
  14. Reduces feelings of depression.
  15. Increases energy and endurance.
  16. Improves concentration.
  17. Helps with self-control.
  18. Lessens fatigue.
Five Health Benefits of Playing Outside

  1. Improves Vision: A scientific study found that children who spend time outside have better distance vision than those who primarily play indoors.
  2. Promotes Social Skills: Playing outside with other children or going to a playground is not just about running around and being active, it's also about learning social skills, executive functions and behavioral skills through play.
  3. Increases Attention Span:  Studies have also shown that green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children. Exposure to natural settings during after-school and weekend activities may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children.
  4. Reduces Stress: Spending time outside playing is a huge outlet for stress, it is relaxing and healing.  Research shows that seeing green spaces can help decrease kids' stress levels.
  5. Provides Vitamin D: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, many children (especially in northern states) suffer from vitamin D deficiencies. This vitamin has several health benefits, including preventing future bone problems, diabetes and heart disease. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight.
How to Raise an Adult
Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean at Stanford University, wrote a book titled, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Over-parenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success”, after seeing many students enter college still very dependent on their parents to do everything from choosing college courses to doing laundry. She has seen parents touring graduate schools, serving as mouthpieces for their shy, passive children, and submitting résumés to potential employers, sometimes without their children’s knowledge. All of this hand-holding sends the message that our kids can’t do this without us. Let’s not have college deans telling these anecdotes about Ashland graduates!
Kids need to go forth independently without constant supervision. They need to try and even fail. And when they fail and look around for a parent to bail them out, they need to hear the words, “You must figure this out for yourself.” There are four steps to help children from preschool age on up learn everything from tying their shoes to doing laundry to mowing the lawn to talking to coaches or teachers about a problem:
First you do it for them,
Then you do it with them,
Then you watch them do it,
Then you let them do it on their own.

A friend who is a pediatrician says they do the same when training medical students: See a procedure, then assist one, do one, teach one. Makes so much sense. Choose a household chore and try it with your kids this weekend!

The phrase I have heard most this past week is, “May is so busy!”. We’re almost there, folks! Five and a half weeks until school ends. We can make it if we do a couple small things each day to take care of ourselves.

  1. Make dinner easier. Grill, make pasta salads, or sandwiches. These can all be made quickly with healthy ingredients.
  2. Move your body every day. Exercise can boost endorphins, increase energy, and reduce anxiety. You don’t need to run 5 miles every day, just try to move your body for 20 minutes every day. Go for a walk after dinner or early in the morning, play soccer with your kids, dance in the kitchen, jump rope - do something you enjoy
  3. Teacher gifts do not need to be pinterest worthy.  Don’t stress yourself out making, or finding, the perfect gifts for teachers/coaches/instructors. What they really want is a heartfelt note from your child/family.
  4. Call a friend. Chatting and laughing with a friend can immediately make you feel less stressed.
  5. Relax for 20 minutes every day. Take a bath, do yoga, read a book, meditate, watch a tv show with your spouse or kids.
  6. Hug your kids.  Your kids are only this age, in this grade in school, once. Enjoy this time.

Parents today struggle to balance the benefits of modern technology with the risks. Children seem to be spending less and less time outdoors or interacting with friends and family, and more time interacting with their screens. Because online activities are so exciting it can be difficult to pull kids away for healthier activities. Over three hours per day of entertainment screen time is considered excessive, and is associated with depression, anxiety, social phobias, poor school performance, obesity, and sleep changes. Below are some tips to help your children unplug:
  1. Choose to start your day elsewhere. Start the day without screens (tv, phones, computers, tablets). This might help kids get out of the house in a smoother fashion and eat a healthier breakfast. If they have free time before school, encourage them do something active rather than sit in front of a screen. They will be sitting most of the day at school!
  2. Set limits on technology time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend limiting the amount of total entertainment screen time for all children to less than one to two hours per day. Entertainment screen time includes anything involving a screen that is not specifically related to work or academics.
  3. Power-down for one hour before bed. Research shows that children fall asleep quicker and sleep better if they are off screens for one hour before bed. Do not put tv’s in children’s bedrooms and have a place where all phones and tablets charge at night.  
  4. Make family meals tech free. This includes the parents! And includes meals at restaurants. Yes, it is convenient to let kids play on phones or tablets while waiting for your meal to be served, but this does not teach them patience. Instead chat about your day or an upcoming family event, color or bring a deck of cards and play a card game while you wait for your meal.   
  5. Be a good role model. If you want your kids to stay off of media, then you have to do it too. Put down your phone and look at your children when they talk to you. Try to follow the rules above yourself.

Healthy Sleep Habits for Kids of All Ages

  1. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule – Your child's bedtime and wake up time should be about the same every day of the week, regardless if it is a school day or not.
  2. Exercise daily – Have your child make exercise part of his or her daily routine. Physically tired kids sleep well!
  3. Don't go to bed hungry – Make sure your child doesn't go to bed hungry. Provide a light snack such as a glass of milk, a piece of fruit, or cereal and milk.
  4. Avoid caffeinated products – Your child should avoid products that contain caffeine in the late afternoon/evening. Be aware caffeine-containing products include iced-tea, some sports drinks, and chocolate.
  5. Plan up to 1 hour of quiet time before bed – Before bedtime every night set aside up to 1 hour for calm, enjoyable activities, such as listening to quiet music or reading. This means NO SCREENS!
  6. Maintain a bedtime routine - This may include taking a shower or bath, brushing teeth, reading out loud or silently, saying prayers or a statement of gratitude, and a hug and kiss goodnight.
  7. Take phones/ipods out of kids' rooms when they go to bed- The buzzing, vibration and lights of texts and notifications can disrupt sleep.
Five Ways to Promote a Positive Body Image in Children

  1. Focus on health, not weight. Concentrate on delicious nutrition and fun physical activity, rather than the number on the scale or size on clothing tags.
  2. Compliment kids on what they do, not how they look.
  3. Myth-Bust the "Perfect Body". Help your child become a savvy media critic by talking about what they see on television, in magazines and online. Help them understand that the pictures of models they see in ads may have been retouched or otherwise manipulated to appear "perfect”.
  4. Discuss your child's struggles as they arise. Fight your knee-jerk reaction to immediately comfort your child and dismiss their concerns with comments such as, “No honey you're perfect”. Instead, respond with open-ended questions such as, “help me understand that comment” or “that surprises me, can you tell me more” in order to begin a dialogue about their concerns.
  5. Be aware of how you talk about your own body. If you are criticizing your body or others, expect that your children will mirror this thinking. You are the first window through which they view the world; evaluate what that looks like.
Seven Phrases To Calm an Anxious Child
It happens to every child (and adult) in one form or another – anxiety. We would like to shield our children from life’s anxious moments, but navigating anxiety is a valuable life skill.  In the heat of the moment, try these simple phrases to help your children identify, accept, and work through their anxious moments.

  1. “Can you draw it?” Drawing, painting or doodling about an anxiety provides kids with an outlet for their feelings when they can’t use their words.
  2. “I love you. You are safe.”
  3. “Let’s count _____.”  Counting the number of people wearing hats, the number of tiles on the floor, or the number of kids in the room requires observation and thought, both of which detract from the anxiety your child is feeling.
  4. “I get scared/nervous/anxious sometimes too. It’s no fun.”   
  5. “If you gave your­­ feeling a color, what would it be?” Asking your child to say how they feel with a color, gives them a chance to think about how they feel relative to something simple. Follow up by asking why their feeling is that color.
  6. “Let’s have a debate.”  Older children especially love this exercise because they have permission to debate their parent. Have a point, counter-point style debate about the reasons for their anxiety. You may learn a lot about their reasoning in the process. 
  7. “Let me hold you.”  Physical contact provides a chance for your child to relax and feel safe.
Cyber Safety
A very useful and eye-opening presentation on cyber safety was presented at AMS last week, both for the students during the day and for parents in the evening. For those who could not attend, below are some tips to help keep your kids safe on-line.

  1. Use privacy settings on apps and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
  2. Turn off location services on phone cameras and social media apps. Predators can find out where your child is by location information embedded in photos.
  3. Do not allow kids to have phones and tablets in their room when they go to bed at night. This will also help them get better sleep!
  4. Remind kids only to accept “friends” or “followers” they know. A person claiming to be their best friend’s camp friend could very well be a predator.
  5. Tell your children to never give out their last name, address, age, or any other personal information on-line.
  6. Repeatedly remind your children that any photos they post or anything they say on-line is out there FOREVER. Colleges and future employers can find these.

Five Quick Ways to Deal with Stress
Everyone has moments of stress or worry, even children as young as preschool age. Below are five easy “in the moment” ways for you and your child to cope with a stressful situation. Teaching kids these types of techniques will help them throughout their life.

  1. Take a deep breath: Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
  2. Listen to Music: Research shows that listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety.
  3. Get moving:  All forms of exercise, including yoga, dancing and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals.
  4. Do a Full Body Stretch: Stand up, raise your hands over your head, and stretch your body while you take slow, deep breaths.
  5. Be Grateful: Thinking about, or saying out loud, one or two things you are grateful for can cancel out negative thoughts and worries.


Welcome to a new addition to the principal’s weekly newsletters. We all want our children to be healthy and happy. This column will address a social-emotional health topic each week. We hope these will be a starting point for discussions, raise awareness, and/or be a reminder that kids can get stressed and need compassion and understanding. Since it is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we chose eating disorders as our first topic.

  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.Early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment is vitally important.
  • Eating disorder behaviors (restricting, bingeing, purging, over-exercising, abusing laxatives) are usually not about weight loss. They are a way of coping with depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, or other emotional discomfort. Treating the emotional part is key to recovery, while also making sure your loved one becomes physically healthy.
  • Preventing eating disorders includes promoting positive body image in our children as well as teaching them HEALTHY ways to cope with stress, failure, change, and disappointment. We will address these topics in future ‘Ashland Raises Happy Kids’ corners. In the meantime, for more information on the types of eating disorders and signs and symptoms to look for, please visit the National Eating Disorder Association website at:

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