Want to help your kid make some new friends this year? Here’s a pretty cool thing that I did for my daughter over the last Christmas break. It’s something you could plan to do on weekends, weekdays after school or on the next school break.
Has an apology ever left you feeling frustrated and unvalidated? How about the apology that subtly blames you? It usually goes something like this, “I’m sorry that you got your feelings hurt.”
When our kids give us a lame apology, it can make us especially angry because on some level, we feel as if we have failed to help them understand their wrongdoing and to take ownership of it.
The Six A’s of Apology can fix that!
A true apology is an expression of a person’s regret or remorse for having wronged another, and it is a critical part of genuine conflict resolution.
The social landscape of today looks very different than when we were kids, largely because of social media.
Our kids are native to the digital world, and no matter how tech savvy you may be, if you’ve ever stuck your finger in a hole and swung it around a circle to dial a phone number, you are an immigrant to this land. As immigrant parents of native children, we have to work overtime to learn the language and understand the culture.
On one hand, technology offers our kids great opportunities, but the dark underbelly of cyberspace is subtle and unpredictable, and we have to wisely guard its borders as our children’s allies and mentors – not as prison guards.
Some parents take the ostrich approach – head in the sand means there’s nothing to worry about. Other parents go militant, banning what they don’t understand. Still others do the helicopter, hovering anxiously, hoping to remove any threats before they do damage.
But in spite of its challenges, social media offers a unique opportunity that parents of earlier generations didn’t have. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and all of their digital counterparts are a window into our teens’ social world. They allow us to see them as their friends see them, and as they want their friends to see them. Social media can help us discern what our kids value and what their friends’ value, and it can open discussions about how they (and their friends) are presenting themselves to the world.
It all starts by knowing how they are using social media and then carefully talking to them, remembering our goal is to mentor, not to criticize or condemn them or their friends.
Find opportunities to discuss friendship. Right before bed can be a good time (kids are often curiously chatty at the end of the day). Ask them to think about what qualities they want in a friend.
Friends should inspire each other to be better. Ask your child how his friends do that and how he inspires his friends to be smarter, stronger or more creative. Friends should be good listeners and offer wise advice. For a teen, sometimes the best advice a friend can give is to talk to your parents.
Friends should also offer strength — two are better than one and a three-corded strand is not easily broken. Discuss options for helping a friend who is being picked on.
If you spot any red flags, either on social media or through conversation, confront it with the sandwich technique (praise – critique – praise). Open with something genuinely praiseworthy. Then move gently into your concern. Whenever possible, use questions to help kids discover truth for themselves. End with something positive.
Helping our kids find healthy friendships now will pay enormous dividends in their future.
Offense can easily spiral out of control and turn into hatred, and hatred is murder’s twin (I’ll show you what I mean in a moment). In the last blog, Jody and I talked about the process of forgiveness. Left unchecked, unforgiveness can take us down a dark road. Take a look:
Stage 1 — “Unforgiveness”
This is the first stage in the downward spiral of offense. This stage is most clearly marked by keeping a record of wrongs. So whenever you catch yourself rehearsing a conflict and feeling the anger and offense rising up, it’s a red flag.
Once you recognize the red flag, you have a choice:
- You can admit that you’re being tempted to slip back into “unforgiveness” and then make the choice once again to walk through the process of forgiving someone that we outlined in Wednesday’s Post.
- Or you can give your thoughts over to the offense, rehearsing the situation in your mind over and over, thinking of what you could have and should have said and spiraling deeper and deeper into bitterness.
A while back, we posted The 6 A’s of Apology and The 4 Promises of Forgiveness, and someone posed a question on our Facebook page. She asked how you forgive someone who isn’t really sorry. It’s a great question, but it assumes that forgiveness is something that the other person somehow earns.
Forgiveness really has nothing to do with the other person. On the contrary, staying offended is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. If left unchecked, unforgiveness turns to bitterness, and there is a great body of scientific evidence showing that bitterness leads to illness — both physical and psychological. According to Dr. Charles Raison, “The data that negative mental states cause heart problems is just stupendous. The data is just as established as smoking, and the the size of the effect is the same.”
The word forgive is a verb. It’s something you do, not necessarily something you feel. It’s an act of will. You decide to forgive. You choose to forgive, regardless of what the other person says or does.
Forgiveness does NOT mean that what the other person did was okay. It does not mean they were somehow correct or justified in their actions. In fact, that’s why we tell parents not to let their kids say, “It’s okay” when someone apologizes to them. Instead, we encourage them to say, “I forgive you,” because it’s not okay, but we can still forgive them.
Every party in our house starts and ends with thank you notes. As we’re planning, we decide how we’re going to handle the thank you’s. Then, as the guests arrive, we have someone stationed at the front door to write out name tags, talk to parents about any issues such as food allergies and have the parents fill out an envelope with their child’s name and address. This helps us make sure we don’t overlook thanking anyone, and it makes thank you note writing a breeze!
I like to keep the thank you cards in my bag the week following the party, and have the birthday boy/girl write work on them during short moments of waiting (standing on a long line in the store, waiting for the dentist, on a commercial break, etc.)
When it comes time for presents, we assign one person the job of recording the gifts. Give the person a pen and pad, and after each gift is opened, hand the card to this person so he/she can describe the gift on the back of the card. The pad is handy for any gifts that don’t come with a card. Keep all cards in one gift bag, and after the party, take our your party planning notebook, and write the gifts next to the names of participants.
Not only is important for our kids to get in the habit of sending handwritten thank you notes, but it’s also a good educational tool. I give my kids a small spiral notebook with a photocopy of the guest/gift list clipped to the front. Then I have them write rough drafts of each note in the notebook. When they’re done, either my husband or myself or an older sibling proofreads the drafts, and then the kid copies their notes into the actual thank you cards.
Stop by tomorrow — we’re going to wrap up this series on birthday party planning with a look at the photographs!
This past week we’ve been talking about planning kids’ birthday parties. Today we’re focusing on party favors.
Whenever possible, we like to incorporate favors into the activities. For example, at our Backyard Habitat party, the kids made mosaic designs on a terra cotta pot, built bird houses out of milk cartons, and made seeded bird treats. Those were the favors.
One year we had a car party, and all the kids took trucks and cars dipped in paint and rolled them across white t-shirts. It was a hit, so at a Bug Party, we had kids dip their fingers in paint and use their colorful finger prints to create bug shirts (lady bugs, caterpillars, spiders, etc.). Painting t-shirts is a fun way to make a wearable keepsake.
As you choose favors, look for things that kids actually enjoy having. It’s a sad day when a party ends in tears because the favors break before they even make it out the door. Punching balloons are surprising hit and are really inexpensive, and you can never go wrong with edible treats or fun how-to’s (i.e. a piece of origami paper with instructions from the internet).
Tomorrow we’ll talk about Thank You Notes. We’ve got some fun tips to make this easier. In the meantime, leave us a comment with your favorite party favors.
Like decorations, activities for a kid’s birthday party can hinge on the theme. When you’re planning these, think of a welcome activity, an icebreaker and some theme-related games and projects.
As kids are arriving, we always have a activity that they can jump right into. This keeps everyone occupied while you’re welcoming guests and chatting with parents.
One idea that we’ve used a few times is to have each kid decorate something that you can add to a keepsake for the birthday boy or girl. At our Thomas the Tank Engine party, the birthday boy decorated an engine cut out of poster board, while his friends each decorated a train car with their name on it. At the end of the party, we hung the train like a border around his room as a reminder of his great day.
One year, our son had a Chef’s Party. As each guest arrived, we gave them an apron and let them decorate it with fabric puff paint. We got the aprons for a great price at Oriental Trading — an awesome resource for activities, decorations and favors.
During our son’s puppet party, we had a puppet show going on that kids could watch as they were arriving.
Once everyone is there, consider playing a game that can help kids get to know each other. Team games are a good idea (three-legged or relay races, hot potato, tug of war or offer a group project). You can also do a memory game that requires everyone to learn and remember each other’s names. Baby shower games are great icebreakers. Do a Google search on these or team builders or ice breakers to get more ideas.
Games and Projects
Activities can tie in with the theme. At our Monster Party one year, the kids all made slime and fill buckets with it. Then they put on big monster feet that we’d made out of old cereal boxes and foam craft paper, and they raced one another to transfer the slime from one row of buckets to another.
At our American Girl party, we used the Hobo Code introduced in the Kit books to do a big scavenger hunt with each clue paying homage to one of the American Girl historical characters. And at the Puppet Party, kids made sock puppets and watched a puppet show.
Whenever we play games, we have a small prize for the winner and a candy bowl for the non winners. As someone gets out, they get to pick a treat from the candy bowl. It allows for friendly competition without creating sore losers.
Pinatas are always a big hit, and you can find (or make) one that coordinates with the theme. Plus, the candy or toys that the kids collect can be a part of the party favors.
As a homeschool family, we are BIG fans of fun (but also educational) activities. For example, our Backyard Habitat taught kids the essential elements of a habitat, and our Community Super Heroes Party introduced party goers to the local firehouse, ambulence corps and rescue squad.
We also like activities that double as party favors. My son recently had a big sleepover, and the kids made t-shirts. They drew pictures on white shirts with colored permanent markers, then they drizzled rubbing alcohol on the drawings to spread the color and make psuedo-tie dyed shirts. The shirt was their party favor.
As you plan activities, think about the timeframe for the overall party. Plan at least 15 minutes for the welcome activity, and then divide the rest of the party into segments, allotting an estimated time block for each activity, including cake and presents. Keep your schedule handy during the party to stay on track.
Stop in tomorrow. We’ll be talking about Party Favors!
Good food is an American birthright, and we are the land of plenty! But party food can mean different things to different people.
There are three basic aspects to planning food for kids’ birthday parties:
- The Cake
- Snacks or Meal
I’m not a huge fan of cooking. My darling husband is the chef and baker in our house. He’s been known to make some fun cakes (a treasure chest, a fire engine, a dinosaur, a spider, and a giant baby block, to name a few). But because I’m not the big cook, I typically schedule all of our parties between 1:00 and 5:00 pm. That way, guests have lunch before they come and dinner when they leave. We choose to provide snacks, drinks, cake and coffee and tea.
The cake serves a few purposes. It’s a great way to emphasize the theme, adds to the decorations and feeds the people. If you’re industrious and like to bake (like the dad in our house), you can find all kinds of ideas online. Choose something that will highlight your theme and then start searching. Check out Pinterest, Family Fun, Martha Stewart and iVillage.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the cake pan. For our daughter’s American Girl party, we served beautiful petit fours in honor of Samantha. Cup cakes baked in wafer ice cream cones are another big hit. Cake pops are also really popular right now, and they can help keep minimize portions of the high fat and sugary fare.
Snacks and Meals
When planning other foods, you can either keep it simple, or tie it into the theme. One year we had a Community Super Hero party. For snacks, we made each child a fire truck. The cab of the truck was a juice box wrapped in red paper. The back of the truck was made from a small cereal box (the individual serving kind) with the top cut off. It was also wrapped in red paper, and we cut sandwiches into quarters and lined up the pieces in the cut cereal box. We draw on wheels and ladders, and voila! We had little fire engines.
During our Cooking Party one year, the activities WERE the food! The kids made individual pizzas and chicken cordon bleu, decorated their own cupcakes and had a donut eating contest.
But as I said earlier, we don’t typically get too elaborate. Usually, I like to make a fruit platter and crudite (veggie platter) with dip. If you go that route, I have few tips. Grapes work well, but grab your kitchen scissors and cut off small bunches. Quartered oranges, pineapple, and strawberries also work well. Stay away from apples and pears because they tend to brown quickly, and blueberries are another no no. Inevitably some will fall and be squished, staining whatever they touch.
For veggies, we’ve found that broccoli and cauliflower are not a big hit with everyone. When we did include them, they were always the last to go. Sliced bell peppers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber (cut in lengths) are popular choices.
If cooking is your thing, then you might opt to serve a meal. Buffet style food is always great at a kid’s party, since the last thing kids usually want to do is sit down for a formal meal. Make-your-own sandwiches with a cold cut platter, rolls and condiments are often a big hit. Taco bars are another popular choice, and similar to that (but a little more unique) is a mashed potato bar. Offer plastic parfait cups with delicious mashed potatoes and a choice of toppings such as salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, chives, nacho cheese and bacon bits.
Speaking of cheese, you can do a psuedo-fondue by keeping a warm ninja crockpot with melted cheese and put out toothpicks and a wide range of dippable foods such as mini hot dogs, meatballs and cut veggies.
At the beverage table, leave a permanent marker next to the cups with a little sign asking people to label their drinks. It will save on wasted cups. We like to offer water and ice tea and avoid sugary drinks.
During cake, we put out coffee and a carafe of hot water with a basket of tea bags, along with a gallon of milk for kids to wash down their sweets.
What are some of your kid party food favorites?
This week we’re talking about planning great kid parties, and today we’re turning our attention to the invitation. Sure you can text everyone or send a Facebook message, but if you want to do something more, read on.
Once you have a theme in mind, grab your planning notebook and make a list of who you’ll invite. Jot down phone numbers next to the names because you’re bound to a have few who don’t respond by the deadline, and you’ll need to make calls.
Okay, I have to interrupt myself to air a small pet peeve. I’ve been doing birthday parties for more than 15 years (since our oldest’s first birthday), and I have seen a disturbing downward spiral in RSVP etiquette. With each passing year, I find myself having to make more and more calls (or send texts) to those who have not responded. What’s going on? If you have any thoughts on what’s causing this ugly trend or any ideas on how to fix it, please comment below! I’m dying to know what’s happening. Okay back to party planning.
With your list made, it’s time to decide on the invitations, which can run the gamut from a group text to an intricate note in a bottle. One year our oldest son had a puppet party, and we turned paper lunch bags into hand puppets (girl puppets for girls and boy puppets for boys) and wrote the invitation on the back.
Another year we did a Backyard Habitat party, and glued a blank card to the back of a packet of seeds. We wrote party details on the card and sent them out in regular envelopes that we had decorated with a garden scene.
If you’re going for a handmade invite, get the whole family involved. Put up a crockpot, invite grandma and aunts and uncles and cousins, and set up an assembly line with each person in charge of a different aspect. Like the old quilting bees, this can be an invitation bee, and it gives us another reason to get together with people — something that seems to be dwindling in this age of digital relationships.
Speaking of digital — if you want to save postage, check out Evite.com, which lets you customize a digital invitation for free. You can add emails manually or link to your email account and/or Facebook to add people. The beauty of this method is that guests can leave messages, ask questions, see who is coming and get directions, and you can track RSVPs and send group messages and updates.
But I happen like to Facebook Events even better than Evite. Like Evite, Facebook let’s you track your list and send group notifications about the party. It also sends reminders to the people who are coming and let’s them talk to each other easily. I use Facebook for a lot of things, so I find it easy for parties because I’m already there a few times a day.
For more party invitation ideas, check out these websites:
Pinterest (my fave for ideas and how-to’s on all aspects of party planning)
Stop by tomorrow. We’ll be talking about party food!