More Time for Dads to Get Involved

According to a recent poll, Moms report that they are still doing more parenting than Dads. In fact, Moms report they spend 3 more hours a day parenting than Dads do.

That’s a lot of time.

And a great opportunity for Dads to be more involved.

No matter the reason, this is a chance for Dads to get more involved in the lives of their children and a chance for Moms to get much needed down time so they can take care of themselves.

Two quick tips to help Dads be more involved:

  1. Can you take your kids to school one day a week? Yes, schedules are challenging, but if you can get them ready in the morning and take them to school once a week, you will find yourself sharing some very special moments with your kids. Special moments are golden.
  2. Can you put them to bed several times a week? Particularly if you have to be at work earlier in the morning, putting your kids to bed is a great way to spend time with your kids. You can help them get ready, read to them and then tuck them in. Not only is this another opportunity for special time together, it will give your partner time for herself to relax and unwind.

There are certainly other ways to be more involved, but starting with taking them to school and putting them to bed will make a huge difference for your entire family.

CJAD Radio Montreal

CJAD Radio in Montreal interviews Jeremy Schneider about stress and children

CJAD Radio in Montreal, Canada interviewed Jeremy Schneider on a recent study about stress and children. Kim Fraser asked questions about if parents’ stress can affect children (which it certainly can), if we should share financial stress with our children (teach them about the value of money, without burdening them about monetary stress), and what are the signs a child is over-scheduled (for Jeremy’s full article, check out ParentCentral.ca).

Jeremy talked about how important it is for parents to manage our own stress for two main reasons.

  1. The better parents are able to manage our own stress, the less of an impact it has on our children
  2. The better parents are able to manage our own stress, the more we teach our children about managing theirs and give them the tools to do so.

You can listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking on the screenshot below.

The New York Times Motherlode seeks Jeremy’s help to resolve a quandary

The New York Times Motherlode section has been featuring parenting quandaries and asking experts to respond and give their feedback and perspective. This week Jeremy Schneider was chosen as one of the experts included in the quandary resolution.

The quandary involved teenagers coming over to a house to watch Glee. The mother, called Sylvia in the article, prepared the basement so the teens could watch down there. She had checked on them and they seemed fine, but she received reports from her daughter that a couple of the kids seemed “drunk” though the mother was not convinced her younger daughter knew what that really meant.

The next day one of her teenage daughter’s friends remarked that she thought two of the boys had been drinking–possibly before they even had gotten to the house (since there was no alcohol for the teens to drink in the basement).

The quandary was should the mother tell the parents of the two boys–especially considering the mother of one of the boys in question picked up her son after the Glee party. Jeremy’s full response was

Sylvia seems to have done quite a bit to prepare an environment for her kids’ friends so they could enjoy Glee together safely. There’s no way she can control what they do before or after they are at her house. Should she have checked in on them while they were watching the show–especially after her daughter reported them acting weird? Maybe. But her daughter confirmed that they weren’t drinking in the basement; should Sylvia kick the boys out for “acting strangely” in front of her daughter and her friends? If she had seen evidence of them drinking, there would be a stronger reason to contact the boys’ parents. But especially since one of the boys’ parents actually saw them immediately after the gathering, there is no reason to contact the parents.

She can sleep peacefully at night knowing she did well as a parent that night.

 

eHow Features Jeremy in The Christmas Balancing Act

Jeremy was again featured on a major website this week. eHow.com published an article called, The Christmas Balancing Act to help parents to enjoy the holiday season without too much stress and pressure.

When stress gets the best of you in December, it may be time to take a step back, slow down and refocus. Jeremy G. Schneider, a New York-based family therapist and father of 9-year-old twins, said he struggles with balancing not only holiday gatherings and shopping but also four family birthdays in December. “There’s pressure to get gifts, there’s financial pressures to somehow pay for it all, there’s obligations to family and friends and work parties and we lose sight of what the holidays are about,” Schneider said. “But that has made us focus even more on taking time out for ourselves.” Schneider opted to take his family on vacation during the holidays one year to slow down the stress of the holidays. “We went to Disney World to get away from it all and just spent some time together, the four of us.”

They also discussed ways to reduce the financial cost of the holidays, which can reduce the emotional toll as well.

Finding ways to minimize the cost of Christmas has also helped the Schneiders reduce stress and maintain holiday cheer. “We do things to minimize costs, such as a Secret Santa-like gift giving, so we don’t buy presents for everyone in all of our families, and we set a strict limit to the price of the gift.”

 

Babble.com and ParentCentral Published JGS Tips

Earlier this week Jeremy had an article published on ParentCentral.ca, the parenting website of the Toronto Star, called, 5 Signs Your Child Is Too Busy.

Sure, all of your child’s extra-curricular activities seem important. Who wouldn’t want their kid to know how to swim or play the piano or skate?

But once you’re a few months into the school year, you may start to see signs that your child is too busy. So how do you know if you’ve passed the over-programmed tipping point with your kids? And what can you do about it if you have?

The article goes into 5 signs and some suggestions for what to do if your child is too busy.

Babble.com, one of the bigger parenting sites and recently acquired by Disney, published many of the tips Jeremy suggested in the article on their own website.

As therapist Jeremy Schneider notes in his column for The Star, “Parents feel remiss that they’re not being good parents if their kids aren’t in all kinds of activities,” wrote Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap said in a recent Psychology Today article. “Children are under pressure to achieve, to be competitive. I know sixth-graders who are already working on their resumes so they’ll have an edge when they apply for college.”

Who knows what next week will bring?

 

More Than 20 Newspapers Publish JGS Tips

This morning, Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT had several tips published in an article on Signs of Over-scheduling Your Child that was syndicated to over 20 newspapers throughout the United States including the Miami Herald, Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee, and The Charlotte Observer.

Jeremy was quoted about the side-effects of over-scheduled children, “The go-go-go adrenalin and momentum makes it very hard for kids to slow down at bedtime, relax and fall asleep.”

But over-scheduled kids may have more than just sleep issues. “Kids who don’t have down time do not have time to process their emotions,” Schneider said. “Whether consciously or not, we all use down-time to process our feelings about the day’s experiences. When kids don’t have time to process the events of their day or their life their emotions become clogged and things build up. This makes them more likely to throw temper tantrums, overreact to problems, cry over more simple things, etc.”

Jeremy has been interviewed in over a dozen different publications, radio and TV shows before this recent article. For some of the other articles where he was quoted, please visit the Press Room.

Use A Pacifier to Soothe Her to Sleep?


I had dinner with one of my closest friends the other day and we walked out of the restaurant into the blazing, devastating heat and slowly made our way into a Whole Foods at Union Square just to survive. While we walked around the Whole Foods, going down the escalator, wandering through the aisles, then going back up the escalator to start all over again (it was cooler downstairs than up), our conversation soon turned to parenting.

She had just spent a couple of weeks taking care of her new niece and explained one of the challenges her sister was having. Her niece, let’s call her Sara, had been having trouble sleeping through the night, waking up 3, 4, even 5 times a night. Sara’s grandmother was recommending giving her a pacifier so she could learn to soothe herself at night. But Sara’s mother didn’t want to use a pacifier for a number of reasons. And, understandably, she liked being the one that could make her little girl feel better, feel safe enough to go back to sleep. I know I love that feeling as well.

Of course, the problem was Sara and Sara’s mother were exhausted, neither of them getting enough sleep. My friend and I talked about whether my wife and I used pacifiers (which we didn’t) and what my thoughts were. Fortunately, I had one of those moments of insight and understanding. Sara’s grandmother was right that Sara needed to figure out how to soothe herself at night, but it didn’t have to be a pacifier.

When we tried to help our kids sleep through the night, we tried a number of things and finally found some that worked for each of them (because of course, it was different for each). For my girl, she used an Elmo stuffed animal, while my son used a blue woobie (a very small blanket) with satin edges and a little teddy bear in the middle. I explained that we didn’t hit pay dirt right away with both of them, though it was much easier with Lucas than with Dorit. Dorit didn’t like the woobie she had and finally we realized she felt connected to Elmo and that helped.

The truth is it is so much of trial and error. We tried something for a few nights and if it didn’t help we tried something else. If it did and they slept through the night, we didn’t change anything at all until it stopped working…we didn’t change our clothes, we didn’t shower, we changed nothing. We were so relieved when they slept through the night we would do anything to replicate it.

My friend yesterday let me know that they found a woobie for Sara and that both mommy and little girl are sleeping much better. Who knows how long it will last (I hope a LONG time!), but it was a nice reminder that parenting is so much about problem-solving and about trying to hear what our children are telling us in their own special way.

It also was a pleasant reminder that there isn’t a right way to do this parenting thing, only a way that works best for our families.

The Assumptions We Make As Parents Can Cause Their Own Issues


Recently I read an article about the messages we send our kids. In it Jim Taylor, Ph.D, author of Your Children Are Listening, talked about the conflicting messages we give our children and also where they come from. Coincidentally, I recently had an experience that made me aware (once again) of the assumptions we make and these two issues collided in my brain.

Sometimes we send our children explicit messages on purpose, things like manners, behavior, etc. Sometimes we send messages by example. I had a great professor in grad school, Stephen Treat, who said they never hassled their kids about their homework. He and his wife both had graduate degrees and they both taught at schools.

“Education was in the air we breathed in our home.”

But there are all those times as parents when we send messages to our kids without realizing it and may not even mean to.

For the last several summers, my wife and I have sent our kids to crappy camps. We didn’t know they were going to be crappy camps, but that’s how they turned out, unfortunately. But this summer was going to be different, dammit! This summer we were going to splurge on a special camp for two weeks and give our kids a great camp experience.

Except that at least one of them every day has been utterly and completely miserable, crying as if we were dropping them off at Guantanamo Bay instead of a cool camp. Yet they still had a good time. How do I know? I asked them.

“What was the best camp you’ve been to?”

“This one,” they both told me.

“Is that because the others were so bad?”

“Yeah,” they replied in chorus.

Okay, not a ringing endorsement, but an improvement over the years past certainly.

Except for the misery and torture they seemed to experience.

And it made me wonder why we were trying to give them such a great camp experience? They weren’t begging us for a better camp experience. In fact, I’m not sure they cared about camp all that much. It is just the time between when school ends and when it begins again for them.

Then it hit me.

My kids love school–excuse me. My kids LOVE school. They love learning. They love their teachers. They love their friends. They love the whole experience. Camp is an interruption for them.

I was the opposite. I hated school growing up. I looked forward to camp during the whole school year. Camp was the only place I felt special, felt confident, felt I was close to the real me. Nine months of feeling pretty terrible and two great months. I never wanted camp to end.

I wanted them to have the same kind of camp experience I did and I think they felt pressure to be happy there when in reality, they didn’t want to be at camp; they wanted school. I inadvertently imposed my own issues on them and maybe made things a bit harder for them. I think there were a lot of things about this camp that was tough for them to deal with (would’ve been tough for me to deal with, frankly), but maybe my assumption about how important camp is made things more difficult for them.

We’re always sending messages to our kids. Some are very obvious. Some are good. Some are not on both counts. I didn’t want to send a message that having fun at camp was important. It was supposed to be fun! (Ironically, I intentionally decided not to send them to a sports camp because that’s what I went to and knew that wasn’t for them.)

The truth is, I would much rather them LOVE school and be happy for 9 months out of the year than what I went through. It would be nice if we could help them enjoy summer a little better, but in the meantime, I’ll be a bit more aware of what message I send them about camp.

What inadvertent messages have you sent your kids?

The Kids Are Away and Conflicting Emotions Are in Play


My Okapis are away (at their grandparents) and it is time for the parents to play.

If only it were that easy.

For my wife, it is very hard for her to be away from our kids. The same kids she gave birth to at the same time. The same kids she spent all day with for the first 4.5 years of their lives. The same kids she has taken to school (or camp) and picked up almost every single day since. She loves our children with every fiber of her being and the downside is when they are not around she feels an ache of missing them.

For me, the guy that has had to work away from home ever since they were born, it is not as hard. I am used to putting my family in a special place and locking it up so it doesn’t make me as sad when I am not with them. I wouldn’t be able to function if I felt the ache of missing them every day. In fact, I get excited, not that they aren’t around, but that I get to have more time with my wife. She was my first real love and everything good in my life started with her. It is so easy to have our husband and wife roles consumed by father and mother roles and it is nice we can get back to us.

Obviously, I love my Okapis, but I really enjoy the time when they are away (and even feel a little guilt writing that down for people to read). The truth is coming home at night is easier and less stressful (no worries over dinner and showers and getting them to bed on time). Getting ready in the morning is ummm…easier and less stressful. Basically, without our kids life is easier and less stressful.

Last night we went out with a good friend and had dinner and drinks at one (kind of crappy) place and then had more drinks and dessert somewhere else (that was much better). Wonderful conversation, good friends, tasty margaritas (at least at the second place) and delicious desserts (fried Oreos!). Then Gem and I came home and we watched another couple of episodes of Battlestar Galactica (we just started it over the weekend and are really getting into it). The whole evening was relaxed and lovely.

Then we went to bed and walked past their empty room and even I felt the ache of missing them. They’ve only been gone less than 36 hours, but I’m a jumble of emotions. A sense of freedom. We can do anything we want without worry. Go out to dinner, have drinks, stay out late, go into New York City. ANYTHING! But they’re doing stuff and experiencing things I don’t know about. I am missing more of their lives and that is sad for me. Are they okay? Are they going to sleep without us? How are they feeling?

My Okapis are gone and conflict is in the house. My wife is torn between her ache and her wanting to enjoy the time with me. I am excited about the time with her, the freedom, but feel a guilt about enjoying time without them, as if parents don’t need their own time. As if, when we pick them up this weekend, I won’t be one of the happiest men alive to see them again.

In the meantime, however, I plan to have a lot of fun with my wife and our friends, coming home whenever we want and making as much noise as we want.

It’s the Balance of Technology That Matters Most For Our Kids


There is some research now on the effects of technology and social media on our children. I’ve been tweeting about it a bit lately. It worries me because obviously I care about my children’s ability to function well in society, to develop strong interpersonal skills, to be able to entertain themselves without a screen. But I also know if they are not incredibly comfortable with technology, they are going to fall behind and have trouble. Technology will only play a more significant role in all of our lives as we get older.

I enjoy knowing how my friends are doing via Facebook. I post on Twitter and try to keep up because I need to. I have four email accounts I check frequently. Heck, I get text messages every time someone scores in a Phillies or Eagles game. We have four computers, an iPad, two AppleTVs, two Kindles and who knows what else in our house. Our children are going to spend time in front of a screen.

I know I can help them by setting limits for them. I can help them by teaching them about technology and how to use it and the benefits of it. But it has struck me that the trick will be to teach my kids how to balance the influence of technology in their lives, to be able to have control over it than feel controlled by it.

How many adults do you know who can’t have a meeting without looking at their phone? How many adults do you know who can’t have a meal without checking their phone? Or watch a movie and are checking their friends’ Facebook status or email or Twitter or whatever it is?

Back in the day it was much easier to be in the moment, to experience what was happening when it was happening. Now, it is much easier to distract ourselves, but it is also much easier to not be fully present. By splitting our time, maybe we catch the drift of the movie or conversation and we keep up with what our friends or favorite stars or teams are doing, but there is a price, a toll we pay.

We’re missing the experience, the connection of the moment whoever we are with, whatever we are doing.

None of the best moments in my life happened on my Blackberry. My best moments are those times when I’m somewhere with my Okapis (my nickname for my children) and we are so fully in the moment that nothing else in the world matters. The best times are when my wife and I are somewhere together, fully together, and the world only exists for us. None of those moments happened with a Blackberry in my hand, but with it tucked safely into its holster on my hip, forgotten.

That’s what I want them to understand.

I want them to know how to use technology, to be comfortable with it, but to be able to know there are many times when we need to stop and live in the moment as well. I want them to remember what is happening right now is almost always more important than what is happening on some screen.