A Community Without Homes

When Hurricane Sandy arrived, my family, like yours maybe, hunkered down and prayed for the best. We huddled in our basement because we were afraid trees would fall on our house and felt that was the safest place (we were fortunate not to be worried about flooding). When the worst had passed and we were without power, like millions of other people, we did the best we could with candles and flashlights and layers of clothing. After two days we got power back and we started to feel normal again.

I had spent much of the week immediately after the Hurricane when I wasn’t taking care of my family, trying to help my organization communicate as effectively as possible to our constituents about the state of Lower Manhattan.

But on that Friday it became clear my synagogue, Oceanside Jewish Center, had taken a huge hit. Not only was the actual building without power and heat, but so were our Rabbis and our president. In fact, according to some reports we have seen, about 80% of our community had been affected by the storm, many with extensive damage to their homes. We are literally a community without homes.

I’ve heard about this in other places, in other cities, in other countries, but this was right on my doorstep. I recognized many of the places in the photos and videos I saw in the news, places I’ve ridden my bike or taken my kids or walked dozens of times.

The Rabbi and I sent out an email to our members letting them know we were thinking of them and asking if there was anything we can do. The responses were heartbreaking. People had lost their cars, their homes, were living with family/friends or had relocated to other places, were staying in a cold house without power or heat because they had nowhere else to go. It was overwhelming, reading these emails in the warm comfort of my home.

How did we get so lucky?

Finally, the synagogue and our Rabbi got power and we were able to open the building up as a warming center for a few hours every evening for people to get a bite to eat, some coffee, charge up their devices and use our computers.

We sent out an email every day, letting people know we were thinking of them, reminding them of what we were able to offer and asking them to let us know if they needed anything. As things got even colder, people started asking for a place to stay because their home was too cold.

Two nights ago, a family from our synagogue moved in with us. We had never met them before, but knew it was something we needed to do when we found out the two kids were 4-year old boy/girl twins, since we have almost ten-year old boy/girl twins. When they walked into our home on Wednesday, it was clear they had been devastated and I again felt overwhelmed by what they must be experiencing. We helped make the kids feel at home and before long all four of the kids were playing together and laughing. I’m not sure I had ever been prouder of my own children than how they made these strangers feel welcome in their own home.

Can you imagine not having had a warm place to sleep for over a week?

Our main job as parents is to protect our kids, but we can’t protect them from Mother Nature. We spend so much of our lives trying to help our kids succeed in life, to build a career or to become emotionally healthy. We almost never think about where the next meal will come from. We don’t worry about whether they will have a warm place to sleep tonight. These poor kids have lost almost everything; clothes, toys, and maybe, most importantly, a sense of stability. The stress their parents must be feeling, trying to make sure their children have a warm place to sleep, have food to eat, it must be all-consuming, not too mention dealing with the disaster they experienced and trying to figure out how they can move forward. The poor father stayed in their house, without heat or power, afraid that what little possessions they had left would be taken by looters. This is Long Island, folks, not some developing country far, far away.

I know many of you have already donated to an organization like the Red Cross, but if you haven’t and still want to help, would you consider helping my synagogue and, this family specifically, with clothes, toys or money? Please send me an email and we can figure out how you can help.

There are thousands of families still dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy. Many of these families will never forget what they experienced this past week or so. I just hope they will be able to recover from it.

MetroFamily Publishes Is Your Child Over-Scheduled?

MetroFamily, an Oklahoma-based parenting magazine, published in their August 2012 issue, Jeremy’s article entitled, Is Your Child Over-Scheduled? This article focuses on the signs to determine if your child is over-scheduled as well as suggestions for what to do if they are.

Signs your child might be over-scheduled:

  1. Sleep Problems
  2. Emotional Outbursts, Frustration, and Anxiety
  3. Declining School performance

Three ways to reverse the pattern:

  1. Prioritize Activities
  2. Discuss Before Joining
  3. Plan Ahead

Remember, having only planned activities and no free time every day is to much for anyone (children and adults!). When our kids start having something scheduled every day (or even most days), it is probably too much.

By teaching our children to manage their own time, we are not only helping them right now, but teaching them a life lesson that will help them in high school, college and beyond.

Parenthood Publishes Jeremy’s Article on Conquering Children’s Fears

Parenthood.com has recently published Jeremy’s article, entitled Help Your Child Conquer Her Fears. The article, as the title suggests, helps parents be there for their children and the fears they experience.

Jeremy includes the five key things to remember when dealing with your children and their fears:

  1. Redirect her attention away from the fear and onto happier thoughts.
  2. Provide unconditional support, no matter how many times your child comes to you with a fear.
  3. Reassure him while you model how he can soothe himself.
  4. Offer a small physical object that makes her feel connected to you or to home.
  5. Never tease a child about her fears.

Check out the article for details on all five key points. Jeremy concluded the article by saying;

Certain fears may seem irrational or even silly when someone is afraid of something that doesn’t frighten you. But for children, this big world is already a little scary and when they have bumped into something that really frightens them, we can help them by being supportive, encouraging and positive so they can learn to think that way on their own.

Working Mother Quotes Jeremy On Making Dinner Special

Working Mother Magazine quoted Jeremy in their June/July 2012 issue. The article, entitled Low-Tech Table Tactics, is a brief article on how to take advantage of bonding time during dinner and includes tips from Jeremy.

In our topsy-techie world, it’s easy to succumb to digital distractions—smartphones, TV, gaming devices—at the table. You may permit them to help the kids (and you) make it through dinner, but “they mean lost opportunities to build strong family bonds,” says parenting expert Jeremy G. Schneider.

His tips include

  1. Playing music
  2. Promoting discussions
  3. Creating a topic list in case it is hard fro family members to talk

The article is a good reminder that even in the crazy days of school or summer, make dinner special time for you and your family to come together and connect.

ParentGuide News Publishes Jeremy’s article for Father’s Day

ParentGuide News published one of Jeremy’s articles for their Father’s Day special. The article, called The Father-Child Connection, focuses on how Dads can connect with their children even if they are working away from home every day.

Jeremy started with noting one of the most informative research studies he has ever read.

What I found most interesting were findings relating to which parent a child chooses to soothe him or her when hurt or awakened in the middle of the night. The study found that even when the mother worked full-time, 80 percent of the time the child would choose the mom to meet a physical or emotional need. But with a stay-at-home-dad, the children in the study were just as likely to go to the mother as they were to the father. This tells me that despite working full-time, mothers are able to develop bonds strong enough to soothe their children when they are upset— even when mom is away during the day. This made me wonder, “How can we working dads develop similar bonds with our kids?”

If Moms can do it, so can Dads.

Jeremy wrote about how he became the Night Watchman for his kids and how that changed his relationship with them tremendously, and his confidence as a father.

He ends the article with 5 tips for bonding with babies as well as other tips for building a strong connection with your children.

Additional Tips to Foster Father-Child Bonds

  • Change into “at-home” clothes after work. This sends a message that you’re in dad mode, not work mode.
  • Take over bath duty. Play with your kids while they’re bathing. Then dry them off and get the kids ready for bed.
  • Handle all diaper changes when you’re home.
  • Feed your children. If they no longer need your help eating, fix their plates, then sit, eat and talk with your kids.
  • Take over “tuck-in time” at bedtime as many nights as you can. Develop special nighttime routines that involve reading, singing or cuddling.
  • Be the one to soothe kids back to sleep when they wake up in the night.

School Family Asks Jeremy for Advice on Cheating Children

SchoolFamily.com has published an article on children who have a good track record in school and good behavior, but then get caught cheating called, When Your Child Cheats, Take A Parental Time Out. In the article, they quote Jeremy extensively about the things a parent needs to consider when their child cheats and what it may mean for them and their family.

“Parents need to take a time out for themselves to view their reaction,” says Jeremy Schneider, a New York-based therapist, blogger, and syndicated columnist who specializes in parenting and relationships. “Otherwise, we go off on [the child] because we’re embarrassed, angry, whatever, and end up adding fuel to a fire that might not be there.”

It is important to understand how your child got to the point where they felt cheating was the best option for them to solve their problem.

“There could be time-management issues that she needs help thinking through. There’s so much pressure [for teens] to succeed at such an early age now, vs. getting the skills they need—mentally and emotionally—to succeed in life.”

Parents may also need to think about any pressure we’ve been adding to our children’s lives.

Another factor is that kids want their parents to be proud of them. “They feel an added pressure to prove us right,” Schneider says. “And when they aren’t able to, they want to save us from that experience [of them not doing well], but sometimes without thinking through the consequences.

“It’s hard to remember how our kids view us,” he adds. “Not as people, but as all-powerful beings. A sense of desperation to avoid [letting parents down] can lead to cheating.”

When good kids cheat, it is more a symptom of a larger problem, than the actual problem itself. By addressing the larger issues, there is a very good chance we can prevent the cheating from ever happening again.

Green Child Magazine publishes Jeremy’s article on Importance of Family Time

Green Child Magazine recently published an article Jeremy wrote called, Managing Kids and Technology; The Importance of Family Time. The article goes into detail about messages parents might be sending their children without even realizing it and specific steps they can take to send more conscious messages about technology and family time.

All parents—moms and dads—who stay at home with their kids for long stretches of time need all of the peer support (virtual and in-person) that they can get. The question becomes, when is the best time for you to get that support? Do you try to restrict it to when your kids are taking a nap, playing with friends, or engaged in homework and aren’t aware that you’re using a device? Or do you immediately take a call, or respond to texts or emails when you’re with your kids, without any explanation as to why?

Jeremy goes further to say, “Most of us have jobs where there is ALWAYS more to do. Will we ever really be able to accomplish enough where we can avoid worrying about whatever is next? Probably not. I do think that there are some steps we can take to lessen our work-related stress and keep it from running over into parenting time.

Check out the article for more information on his 4 tips listed below;

  1. Keep a To-Do List
  2. Give yourself a break
  3. Prioritize
  4. Make room for transitioning between work and family

When we prioritize family time, it becomes easier to remember to leave our “smartphone” in our purse or pocket and enjoy the time with our family.

Momarama Quotes Jeremy on Managing Screen Time

Momarama has published a piece on limiting screen use in your families called, Too much media? Managing kids’ screen time, and quoted Jeremy in it.

The focus of the piece was to help parents set limits with their children in terms of time spent in front of a screen. Parents don’t need to feel out of control when it comes to how much time their kids spend in front of technology.

“Establish the idea that using technology is a privilege,” Schneider said. “If you set up fairly firm boundaries about how and when technology can be used, this can make things smoother in your house day-to-day because your kids will know what to expect.”

Require kids to do homework and household chores before screen time. Consequences for failing to do so might be to lose screen time for a while. “Extra time can be [given] to recognize good behavior, too,” Schneider said.

Obviously, the more consistent parents are with their children about time spent in front of screens (TV, iGadgets, computers, etc.), the easier it will be for parents to set limits.

The Online Mom quotes Jeremy on Technology and Parenting

The Online Mom posted an article recently entitled, Want your child off the screens? Try turning off yours, which quoted Jeremy helping parents think about how much time they use their own devices and what kind of example that gives their children.

Journalist Debra-Lynn B. Hook gives a personal example of how she uses technology while trying to set limits with her own son and then goes on to explain;

Unfortunately, when you’re a parent, the nuance of social media and technology can’t wait for human evolution and/or for the excitement to die down. Which is where marriage and family therapist and technology expert Jeremy G. Schneider comes in.

Schneider suggests parents take this family tech quiz:

Do you frequently respond to emails (work or personal) while your kids are right next to you?

Do you frequently take time out to post to Facebook or Twitter when you’re with your family?

Do you rush to your computer immediately after dinner to jump back into your online game to unwind at the end of the day?

Do you put in your headphones while you clean up after dinner so that no one can talk to you?

Now consider this: How would your kids answer those questions about you?

Ms. Hook concludes the article with this excellent quote;

Funny how the rules of technology keep changing faster than we can keep up. But the rules of good parenting remain the same.

The challenge for most of us, is remembering the rules of good parenting in the chaos of technology all around us.

Modeling Technology Behavior for Our Family

This past week, I read several articles talking about ways families can stay connected and how teens rely on their parents for how to behave on the Internet and with mobile devices.

I am the role model for my nine-year old twins in so many ways, of course, it makes sense that they would follow my lead when it comes to technology. Will they spend time hanging out in front of iTunes like I do, listening to music, buying new songs, updating playlists? Probably.

But will they spend so much of their time texting their friends or updating their status when they get their own phones? Only if my wife and I do. Many parents are upset that their kids spend so much time using their mobile devices when they are supposed to be spending family time.

However…

  • Do you frequently deal with emails (work or otherwise) while your kids are right next to you?
  • Do you frequently take time out to post to Facebook or Twitter when you’re with your family?
  • Most importantly, how would your kids answer those questions?

The truth is, even if I think I don’t use my phone that much, if my kids perceive I do, that’s all that matters. They will learn I don’t truly value my time with them, that it is okay to prioritize our gadgets over our family. As with so many things, if my kids feel that way, whether I think so or not, that is all that matters.

Take some time to open up that discussion with your family. “Do you feel I use my ‘mobile device’ too much?” Maybe you can create a code word to help them remind you to stay with them, a code word you could then use with them when they do the same to you.

Family connectedness is extremely important, but it will take a little work on everyone’s part to help make it special.