Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Cabin Fever Cures

Tomorrow morning I'm putting on my parenting expert hat and doing a spot on Pittsburgh Today Live (KDKA - the CBS affiliate) with Kristine Sorensen on helping parents survive the short winter days when trapped indoors with a mess of little kids. I remember those days well, even though the White Power Ranger in the above photo of my kids just celebrated his 2oth birthday, a fact which kind of freaks me out.

Anyway, here is "SMI," or the first three parts of my SMILE system - five easy parenting strategies that work in almost any tough situation, even snow days! (For that matter, they work pretty well for people of any age, with or without kids.) I've included some practical examples of how to implement them, with a focus on ideas that work well this time of year. I promise to add the last two strategies - the "LE" - tomorrow. (I'd put everything up today, but I need some time tonight to do something about my hair and figure out what I'm going to wear, especially since I have to sit next to the skinny and lovely Ms. Sorensen tomorrow morning. And I know for a fact she has two kids, so I can't just blame the difference in our looks on my motherhood status. Drat. Well, I am a lot older than she is.)

STICK TO SAME AND SIMPLE Routines, rituals and clear rules keep your child secure and happy.

  • Develop a schedule and easy routines for each day's Big Events like meals and bedtime. (Visit if you need help with family life routines, or if you're like me and are prone to a certain, well, slobbiness.)

  • Ease post-holiday blues with a few fun traditions as you transition back into normal routines, like letting everyone eat a little of the now-stale gingerbread house on the day you put the holiday decorations away.

  • Teach the Golden Rule (over and over and over), and use catchphrases (like “Use your words not your body” or “Inside voices please”) to remind your child that punching and screeching are more than you can bear at the moment.

MAKE THE MOST OF MUSIC AND ART These soothe the savage beast – and help civilize her too.

  • For some reason, kids are more likely to comply with demands if you sing them. Singing in an opera voice will even make my husband do what I want, as long as I agree to stop the minute he cooperates. Adapt the lyrics to familiar all-purpose tunes like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush” or just make up a chant that kind of has rhythm.

  • Know why movies always seem better than real life? Soundtracks. (And professional make-up artists help too.) Put on music to create or change the mood in your home. It doesn't have to be kid music. In fact, on a blizzardy, cranky day - it's probably best to avoid anything sung by purple dinosaurs or by adults acting like freakishly cheerful little kids.

  • Use arts and crafts to bust stress and teach kids to follow directions. I highly recommend my friend Judy Press's arts and crafts books if you need ideas. Try The Little Hands Big Fun Craft Book (Williamson).

  • Here's a quick and easy "craft" or "science project" (depending on which your kid prefers). Pour about an inch of milk into a shallow plastic container. Drop dots of food coloring over the surface (they should kind of sit tight where you drip them). Pour a small amount of dishwashing liquid into another small container and give your child a toothpick. Show him how to dip the tip into the soap and then lightly into the center of one of the food coloring drops. WOW! If you go easy on the soap, you can repeat this for quite a long time before there's just too much soap in the milk. Just be nice and don't hog this activity just because it's so much fun.

INVOKE IMAGINATION AND HUMOR They’re great tools to prevent rebellion and create warmth.

  • To make your child stop pinching her little brother, ask her to fly like a dragon or trot like a pony to the other room and fetch something for you.

  • To encourage hat-wearing, put a mirror at kid-height by the winter clothes hooks - and allow considerable vamping and silliness. Get boots on reluctant tootsies by pretending to be Prince Charming outfitting Cinderella with her glass galoshes.

  • Stock up on funny books, silly CDs, outlandish dress-up clothes, and anything else that gets your gang giggling.

Need more ideas than this and can't wait for me to post more of them? Check out my award-winning parenting books, FussBusters at Home and FussBusters on the Go (Peachtree).

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