Got the Giggles? 3 Reasons to Fight Worry With Laughter

 

By Joshua Straub

Just the other night at bedtime our nearly 4-year-old son told me his favorite part of the day was when his mom threw a dirty diaper and hit me in the face. He said, “Dad, it really made me laugh.”

Getting our kids ready for bed, Christi and I got into a little battle with our daughter’s diaper. Before you judge us, it wasn’t a number two, and yes, it was wrapped. It ended in the playroom with me covering my head in fear of it actually coming unwrapped. The laughter filled our house.

To be fair, many nights are not like this. If you were to walk into our home during the bath/bedtime routine, you’d likely hear more frustrated end-of-the-day nagging than laughing. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you understand. Especially right now.

School is in session. So is soccer. Field hockey. Homework. Practices. Concerts. Performances. Church programs. More practices. Even more homework. Oh, yeah, and stress. Lots of stress.

So much stress that you may even be growing a bit angry right now — either at me for posing this irresponsible idea of having more fun, or at yourself for still reading this article. I get it.

One — if not both of you — works outside the home. If the other is home with preschool or homeschooled kids, your work is uncompromising. Once you’re all finally at home together at the end of the day…oh wait, there’s homework. And dinner. Do we have to feed the kids again?

Friends, the daily grind is real. But lying in bed with my son the other night reminded me that if we’re not laughing, we’re not living. We need to laugh more. Our kids need us to laugh more.

Here are three reasons why.

1. We’re teaching our kids how to manage stress.

Though it’s rarely discussed in parenting circles, one research study found that the second most effective parenting strategy behind love and affection was how we — parents — manage our stress. And by the way, behavior management (i.e. time-outs, etc.) was found to be a “poor predictor of good outcomes with children,” turning up seventh on that list.

In other words, the quality of our relationship with our kids, and how happy and healthy they become, begins not by how well we reward positive behaviors or use time-outs, but by how well we control ourselves.

Please don’t misunderstand me when I say this. Our child’s behavior matters. But I’m willing to guess there are more parents who, just like me, need to stop worrying so much about our child’s behavior, and start focusing on our own. Stressed parents raise stressed children.

As Landon reminded me the other night, they’re watching us.

2. We’re teaching our kids how to relate well.

As soon as Landon told me his favorite part of the day involved Christi and me chasing each other through the house with a soiled diaper, I went and got her so she could come hear it too. We sat on his bed together and legit belly-laughed.

I write often about the power of the marital relationship on our kids. Turns out, how well we get along with the other parent is the third most effective parenting practice. Yet, of the ten practices studied, it ranked eighth in parents’ list of actual abilities. How parents manage stress ranked dead last.

If how we manage stress and treat our spouse have more influence on our kids’ outcomes than even their education, behavior management, life skills, and safety, then perhaps it’s time we prioritize ourselves as parents. Prioritizing our kids over our marriage will wreak havoc on both.

Christi and I have a date every week. Sometimes, we have to be super creative to make it happen. But it’s when we don’t that we’re tempted to use the wet diaper more as a weapon than a toy.

As our mentors Dave and Claudia Arp tell us, “Your kids will wait while you grab a few moments to work on your marriage; but your marriage won’t wait until your kids grow up.”

3. We’re teaching our kids what really matters.

Picture yourself sitting around the dinner table 25-30 years from now with your kids’ families, your grandchildren begging for stories. What we won’t hear from our own kids is how well we kept the kitchen clean. How we successfully had them in bed by 7:30 pm every night. How we taught them never to splash the water out of the bathtub. In fact, I don’t even think they’re going to mention the 105 percent they got on the spelling test.

Instead, we’ll hear about the moments that brought laughter. Mom and Dad’s diaper fight through the house. The time the whole family got caught out on a walk and decided to just dance in the rain. The time we stayed up past bedtime to play games as a family. The camping trip. The pancake dates. The leaf piles in the fall.

Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life…which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:25, 27).

And if I may, parents, “Which of you by being anxious can add more joy to the moments he shares with his kids?”

Let’s worry less and laugh more.

Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is a speaker, author, and marriage and leadership coach. He and his wife, Christi, cohost the In This Together podcast and are coauthors of What Am I Feeling? and Homegrown: Cultivating Kids in the Fruit of the Spirit.

This article appears in the May 2019 issue of ParentLife.

Is Your Child Anxious?

By Dixie Walker

What is that all-consuming, dreaded “something” for your child? You know — the thing that starts your stomach churning and palms sweating at the first thought of it coming up on your agenda?

My number one dread in life has always been flying. I absolutely hate it! So, when I know of a trip coming up when I’m forced to fly rather than travel by ground, my symptoms of anxiety start revving up with great intensity:

  • Fearful thoughts
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness
  • Discomfort internally
  • Sweaty palms
  • No desire to discuss the upcoming trip

It’s no surprise then that apprehensions of many types are an issue for many people — including our kids!

Anxiety defined

True anxiety actually goes beyond the “normal” state of being worried. It would be typical for your child to worry about the results of an important test in school. Or having to stand in front of classmates to deliver a presentation. It’s not unusual to be afraid of frightening things like tornadoes or snakes. But when our worries and fears begin to affect our ability to function in our daily lives, it’s likely anxiety has taken over.

According to anxiety.org, some common symptoms related to anxiety include:

  • Excessive, irrational, or uncontrollable feelings of worry and dread
  • Sensations of panic and uneasiness for no apparent reason
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Ritualistic behavior
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle tension
  • Inability to remain calm
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Rapid breathing, or hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Stomachache

If you think your child — or yourself — is struggling with anxiety, consider these coping methods to help (adapted from a list by Psychology Today):

Make a problems list

Form a list of specific problems/fears to overcome. Then break each problem down into a series of tasks, and rank the tasks in order of difficulty. Attempt the easiest task first and keep on returning to it day after day until you feel fairly comfortable with it. Give yourself as long as you need, then move on to the next task and do the same thing, and so on.

Use relaxation techniques

One common and effective strategy, called ‘deep breathing,’ involves modifying and regulating your breathing:

  1. Breathe in through your nose and hold the air in for several seconds.
  2. Then purse your lips and gradually let the air out, making sure that you let out as much air as you can.
  3. Continue doing this until you are feeling more relaxed.

A second strategy that is often used together with deep breathing involves relaxation exercises:

  1. Lying on your back, tighten the muscles in your toes for 10 seconds and then relax them completely.
  2. Do the same for your feet, ankles, and calves, gradually working your way up your body until you reach your head and neck.

Other general strategies your child can use for relaxing include listening to classical/instrumental music, taking a warm bath, reading a book, chatting with a friend, or playing sports.

Implement simple lifestyle changes

These might include:

  • Simplifying life beyond the necessary (school, church, family)
  • Having a schedule and keeping to it
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising regularly (for example, walking, swimming)
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Taking time for enjoyable activities
  • Connecting with friends to share thoughts and feelings

Seek help

If your child continues to suffer with severe anxiety despite implementing some of these measures, you may want to seek help through a Christian counseling center. You can check with doctor offices or churches in your area for local centers.

Dixie Walker is a freelance writer of Christian family ministry resources. She and her family reside in Nashville, Tenn.

This article first appeared under the title “Put Your Child’s Anxiety to Rest!” in the April 2018 issue of ParentLife magazine.

 

Staying Active During the Summer

Exercising as a family
source: Aikawa Ke via Flickr Creative Commons

Recently on my personal blog’s Facebook page, I expressed some worry about keeping up my exercise routine this summer. You see, for the first time in my life, I actually have one. I’ve consistently gone to the Y 2-3 times a week at least since September, right after school got into full swing. I love my water aerobics and Zumba classes. And I’m a little worried that summer is going to throw this routine right out the window.

I got some great suggestions from my friends over there. One person mentioned that if the kids are biking, running, etc, she was also biking or walking. I’m trying to put that in practice immediately; when my kids are playing around on tricycles or bikes, I am walking small laps around the circle area. (And chasing a 2-year-old. Always!)

Another friend said to have a gym where the childcare was so awesome she couldn’t bribe her daughter with doughnuts NOT to go was essential. Two out of three of my children loooove the YMCA childcare. The center where I go has an awesome climbing area with slides, mazes, the works. My introverted 4-year-old, however, hates the place. He would rather be coloring or playing with cars. But once he gets there, he will generally at least wander around. So while I am exercising, they are getting exercise, too. And their love for the center motivates me to stick to my workout.

Even if you don’t belong to a gym, your family can stay active together this summer. Here are a few more suggestions.

  • Take a nightly walk after dinner, when the weather is slightly cooler.
  • Swim. A lot! Swimming burns a ton of calories, builds muscles, and strengthens the core. Plus you stay cool and have fun.
  • Train for a 5K together.
  • Make a list of all of the playgrounds in your city. Make it a goal to visit all of them during the summer. The kids will be more active as they explore a new area. You can chase kids, push swings, walk laps, or do push-ups on the equipment.
  • Limit technology – yours and theirs – until you’ve had 30 minutes of physical activity that day.
  • Do an exercise DVD or find something on YouTube. My young kids love to join me when I do this!
  • Find more ideas about local activities, camping, hiking, and more on Active.com/kids.

Let’s make a commitment together to stay active this summer. Do you have any great tips?

When Do I Take My Child to the Doctor?

19/365 - My head is hot and my feet are cold. Ha...Hee...Hachoo!
source: Micah Taylor via Flickr Creative Commons

In February, I had a very sick baby. My youngest child was 11 months old. He was running a high fever that wasn’t coming down with medicine. His breathing seemed labored. It was really scary for me! And still, because it was at night, after all the doctor’s offices had closed, I questioned whether or not to take him to an urgent care clinic or just wait until morning.

After calling the after-hours line at our pediatrician’s, we decided it was pretty urgent that we take little Joshua to the walk-in pediatrician’s clinic. And I’m glad that we did, because he had influenza A. (Despite having had a flu shot!) We were able to start treating it immediately and in a few days he was ship-shape.

Whether it’s day or night, though, I think we all question ourselves when it comes to taking our children to the doctor’s office. Is it worth exposing him to germs? Is she really sick, or is it just a cold?

According to pediatrician Jennifer Shu, here is when you should go ahead and at least call the office:

  • High, persistent fever – and always take your infant to the ER if her fever is over 100.4 rectally (under 3 months)
  • Labored or noisy (wheezy) breathing
  • Thick eye discharge that sticks the eyelids together
  • Not producing urine every 6-8 hours (due to vomiting or diarrhea)
  • Vomit or diarrhea containing blood
  • Extremely lethargy or a stiff neck

I think erring on the side of calling the nurse is never a bad thing … especially for Mommy and Daddy’s nerves! But if you’re stuck in a should-I-shouldn’t-I cycle, there are some pointers to consider.

Are You Ready for Summer?

Believe it or not, summer is right around the corner. Have you planned your summer adventures yet? Check out these helpful products to help you and your family stay safe (and have fun) this summer!

  • BabyBanzBaby Banz Sunscreen Lotion Spray — Baby Banz has made it easier than ever to protect your little one’s skin from the harmful rays of the sun. They have created an amazing sunscreen perfect for young ones ranging from crawling toddlers to growing teens! The sunscreen is formulated with SPF 50 UVA/UVB protection and is PABA free for peace of mind! Simply point and press and the convenient spray emits a continuous, angled spray for maximum coverage. It’s never too early to establish good skin care habits!
  • Baby B’Air — The FAA-approved Baby B’Air Flight Vest is a safe solution for lap-held children while traveling in an airplane. The Baby B’Air is the perfect solution for all babies, securing them safely to their parent so that both the baby and parent are comfortable and there is no squirming or potential for baby falling. The Baby B’Air is worn by the infant like a vest. Constructed of 100% cotton and comfortable to wear for baby, the Baby B’Air is used by simply connecting it to the seat belt of the adult. The baby can then be held, fed, and even changed while both parent and child remain securely fastened in their seat. For more information, visit babybair.com.
  • PuddleJumperPuddle Jumper Life Jackets — The fun lasts longer for kids in the water with a Stearns® Puddle Jumper® Life Jacket. The comfortable design allows children 30 to 50 lbs. to move and swim freely in pools and lakes and at the beach, without the life jacket riding up around their necks. Each PFD is Coast Guard-approved and can be used as a learn-to-swim aid. They come in lots of different colors and styles.

What are your family’s must-have summer products?

Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care Center

203-urgentcareDid you know that more than 100 million Americans go to the emergency room every year? Maybe you’ve been there even recently with a sick or injured child and can relate to this information firsthand. While most of us visit the ER only for true emergencies, others use the ER for conditions which may be better resolved by a local urgent care walk-in center. Common visits to the ER include stomach and abdominal pain, step throat, seasonal allergies, flu, fever, headache, and back pain. All of which are easily treated at an urgent care center and for a time and cost significantly less than the ER. I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of saving time and money!

A visit to the emergency room can cost up to five times more than a visit to an urgent-care center. Emergency-room treatment for non-emergency medical conditions is a major contributor to the rising cost of health care. It also ties up ER staff members, who spend valuable time treating non-critical cases, such as skin rashes and ear infections, rather than treating life-threatening conditions.

Want the numbers? The average wait time at the ER is 55 minutes versus 12 minutes for walk-in center. The average copay for ER is $125 versus $25 for a walk-in center.

Urgent care centers are popping up all over the United States, giving you lots of options, such as 203-Urgent Care, in the Connecticut area.

Have you saved time and money by visiting an urgent care center near you? Tell us about your experience. Your experience could be helpful to other parents!

Position Your Poinsettias Wisely

The bright and colorful leaves of this plant may tempt little ones to take a taste. Display this beauties high on shelves or outdoors out of reach. Contrary to popular belief, they are not actually poisonous to children. However, contact with their milky substance can cause a mild, itchy rase. And, if the leaves or steams are eaten, the child may have nausea or diarrhea.

Diaper Rash 101

Diaper rashes can occur when a wet or soiled diaper is left on too long. When changing a soiled diaper make sure to clean in the skin folds where stool can get trapped. If a diaper rash develops use an ointment containing petroleum jelly or zinc oxide which will also help provide a protective barrier against further irritation from more moisture. If the rash is not getting better in two days you may want to talk with your child’s doctor. Other warning signs that should prompt medical attention include redness spreading up the abdomen or down the legs, pus-filled blisters, increasing fussiness, or fever.

Banana Bread Recipe

We hope you enjoy this great banana bread recipe!

Best Banana Bread

1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 tsp. Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c. oil
3 Tbsp. Milk
1 c. mashed banana (2 lg)
½ c. chopped pecans or walnuts.

Stir dry ingredients together. Mix in eggs, oil, and milk. Then stir in banana and nuts until just blended. Bake 350 for 1 hr. (less for muffin tins).

Pumpkin Bread

Celebrate the season with this yummy recipe for Pumpkin Bread! And make sure to check back tomorrow for a great banana bread recipe!

Makes 3 small aluminum pan loaves.

2 ½ c. flour
2 tsp. Baking soda
½ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. Nutmeg
1 16-oz. Can pumpkin
2 cups sugar
1 ½ c. vegetable oil
5 eggs
3 tsp. Vanilla
1 lemon pudding (3 oz. Instant)
1 butterscotch pudding (3 oz. Instant) (or 2 french vanilla if you can’t find lemon and butterscotch)

Mix all together in large mixing bowl with beaters until very smooth. Put into sprayed pans or muffin tins. Bake almost an hour at 350 (less time if using muffin tins!)