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Helping Your Child Adapt to Changes

The past few years have been full of change, adjustment, and relearning. While we are all learning to navigate these changes in addition to other normal life challenges, parents also have the added responsibility to help their children. Consider these tips on how to help your child successfully navigate changes.

  1. Be open and honest. Children look to caring adults for advice and guidance. Talk about potential changes and what they can expect. Be as open as possible with them about your thoughts and feelings, while also being sensitive to what they can understand developmentally. Acknowledge their fears and answer their questions the best that you can.
  2. Help children explore their feelings about change. Encourage children to use writing, drawing or other creative methods to explore their feelings about changes.
  3. Involve children in decisions about change. While they may not be able to control changes they are experiencing, including them in decisions can help them feel more in control.
  4. Keep their routine as normal as possible. Children need stability and structure. Daily, predictable routines can provide comfort, stability, and dependability to children, especially during times of change.
  5. Put yourself in their shoes. When compared to adults, children have limited experiences. Some things that are very important to them may seem insignificant to adults that have more experience and perspective. Make an effort to see situations from your child’s perspective and respond with empathy.
  6. Get support. Work together with teachers and child care providers to support children through big changes. When needed, seek professional help for support.

Change is inevitable and will happen to everyone. By following these tips, you can know you are doing what you can to support youth in adapting to changes successfully.

Additional resources:

Signs of distress in children and how to help them reduce stress and support their well-being: https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-care/how-to-recognize-signs-of-distress

Teaching children positive coping skills:  https://www.easternflorida.edu/community-resources/child-development-centers/parent-resource-library/documents/positive-coping-skills-during-life-changes.pdf

References

Dalton, L., Rapa, E., & Stein, A. (2020) Protecting the psychological health of children through effective communication about COVID-19. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 4(5), 346-347. https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S2352-4642%2820%2930097-3

Stephens, K. (2007). Ways to teach children positive coping skills during life changes. Parenting Exchange. https://www.easternflorida.edu/community-resources/child-development-centers/parent-resource-library/documents/positive-coping-skills-during-life-changes.pdf

Unicef. (n.d.) How to recognize signs of distress in children. https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-care/how-to-recognize-signs-of-distress

By Naomi Brower, Extension Professor and AJ Evans, USU Extension Intern




Working Through Religious Differences in Marriage

Disagreements with someone you love can be challenging. The conversations can be uncomfortable, especially about firmly held beliefs. Differences in religious beliefs or spirituality can even become a source of pain and discontent if not addressed in a respectful and accepting manner. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the religious landscape of the United States is rapidly changing. With adults who identify as non-affiliated, atheist, or agnostic increasing yearly, changes and differences in religiosity and spirituality have the potential to negatively impact relationships. This is further complicated because these things affect more than Sunday worship, including decisions on parenting, finances, and friendships. Even couples practicing the same religion may not agree on religious or spiritual practices, including how often to attend church service or engage in church activities. It is important for couples to recognize the pitfalls and potential for hurt when engaging in a mixed faith relationship or when one partner’s beliefs change, no longer aligning with their spouse’s beliefs. 

In spite of the challenges that come from significantly different beliefs, there are many mixed-faith marriages and relationships that thrive.

Consider these tips from John Gottman, psychologist, author, and relationship expert, to help navigate religious differences in intimate relationships. 

1. Explore your own relationship with your faith.
There is a difference between identifying with a religion or spiritual practice and engaging in that faith. Explore your religious or spiritual identity and what that means to you. It is necessary to understand your own faith identity in order to navigate the differences with your partner. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Did you grow up in a religious or spiritual household? If so, what was practiced? What was your experience like?
  • What brings you peace? What helps you get through hard times?
  • Which aspects of your religious or spiritual beliefs do you hold onto tightly?
  • Which aspects do you feel more flexible about?

 
2. Acknowledge the differences and what they will mean for your life together.
Avoidance is not a sustainable option. It is important to identify the differences that may affect you so you can plan together on how to best manage them as a couple. According to Gottman, 69% of problems in relationships are perpetual, meaning they are not solvable. While that number sounds high, it is reassuring to know that this is normal and includes happily functioning couples. Instead of trying to change the other person’s mind or beliefs, approach these conversations with curiosity and interest, try to understand your partner’s point of view, and realize that this is an opportunity to increase your love for them.

The way you start a conversation can predict how the rest of the conversation will go or be perceived. Be intentional in your tone of voice and the words you use to initiate a conversation. Using soft start-up techniques such as “I messages” and positive statements to start conversations allows your partner to better receive and understand what you are saying.

3. Share stories
Sharing stories is a great way for you and your partner to get to know each other better. Share about your cultural and religious experiences in a way that is not threatening and invites understanding.
 
4. Participate before negotiating. 
It’s important to show genuine interest and curiosity in your partner’s beliefs and practices. Go with them to their religious events and services. This is not a promise to leave your own beliefs and convert, but it is a powerful way to communicate that you value them and are embracing who they are. 
 
5.  Make Repairs. 
Mistakes are inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up, just apologize and move forward. Well-used humor (not sarcasm) can help ease tense moments. The main goal of making a repair is to determine what when wrong (without blaming) and resume being on the same team to address an issue instead of treating each other as the issue that needs to be fixed.
 
6. Consider therapy.
Talking about faith is deeply personal and can be hard, despite our best efforts. Some differences might seem impossible to overcome. Seeking the help of a professional can provide relief. Find a therapist who specializes in helping interfaith couples.
It is unlikely that you will change someone else’s views, feelings, or beliefs on the topic of religion or spirituality, but you can practice respecting each other’s beliefs and purposely refrain from criticizing or attempting to sway them.

Gottman maintains that disagreements provide an opportunity for increased intimacy and connection, and religious differences provide an opportunity for increased respect, understanding, and love.Working Through Religious Differences in Marriage

By: Elizabeth Davis, Utah State University Extension professor, Elizabeth.Davis@usu.edu




What to Do When Your Child Misbehaves

Determining how to manage a child’s misbehavior can be a parenting challenge. It is frustrating when children ignore what they are asked to do, or they do just the opposite. Consider this information that explains why commonly used strategies don’t work and provides tips on what to do instead.

Strategies that are generally ineffective:

  • Threats. Threats are often used to get children to behave; however, when parents do not follow through on what they said was going to happen, they are teaching their children that they don’t really mean what they say. Examples of threats include: “You’d better stop crying right now, or else…,” or, “I’m going to take away your phone for good if you don’t put it away right now.” Telling your child that you will do something you never intend to do isn’t helpful because the child will likely test you to call your bluff.
  • Bribes. A bribe often includes a reward given before the desired behavior occurs. For example, “If I give you a piece of candy, will you stop screaming?” This teaches children that all they have to do to get what they want is misbehave and then promise to stop. Another example might be, “I will let you have extra screen time now if you promise to do your homework later.” This teaches a child that they simply have to say they will do something in the future to get what they want right now.
  • Spanking. Physical punishment, such as spanking, is ineffective and harmful to children. In fact, research has shown that spanking is associated with more aggression and problem behavior and an increased chance of mental health problems in children. One theory about why spanking doesn’t work is it teaches children that when the threat of physical punishment exists, they should behave, but once the threat is gone, they have no reason to behave appropriately. 

Research-backed strategies that work: 

  • Consequences. Consistent, logical consequences can be a valuable tool for changing a child’s behavior. They will begin to learn that their choice led to a result (good or bad). Parents can use positive consequences or rewards to reinforce desired behaviors and negative consequences to reduce the likelihood of undesired behaviors. Positive consequences can include earning privileges, doing a fun activity, or taking away a chore. Negative consequences might include doing extra work around the house or losing privileges.
  • Time out. Time out can be effective for both younger and older children. Although a time out is usually viewed as a consequence, it is actually a strategy that helps your child emotionally “reset.” When they are experiencing strong emotions, they are often unable to listen to you, think rationally, or do what you want. Once they have had time to calm down, they are more likely to follow through with your request.
  • Consistency. Consistency is critical when it comes to correcting behavior. Imagine how confusing it would be if your boss got mad at you for doing something one day and then watched you do the same thing the next day and didn’t mention it. The same thing happens to kids when they receive mixed messages. They are likely to learn much faster when we consistently respond the same way to the same behavior. 

Finally, an important factor that influences our ability to correct our children’s behavior effectively is the quality of our relationship with them. The relationship can be improved by verbally recognizing positive behavior, letting children know you understand they are having a hard time before you correct their behavior, and making them feel like you are on their side no matter what. While you may need to correct undesired behaviors in the moment, focus on the long-term goal of building a positive relationship with your child. This will go a long way toward reducing how often you have to deal with negative behaviors in the future.

Further information with references and links can be found at: https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/faq/tips-for-correcting-a-childs-misbehavior.

By: Lisa Schainker, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, Lisa.Schainker@usu.edu




Healthy Partner Relationship Boundaries

We all have personal boundaries that we want to be respected. This includes boundaries in romantic relationships, but how do we know if these rules we set are healthy? Healthy relationship boundaries exist when both partners feel respected and heard. Unfortunately, boundaries are often seen as controlling, when in fact open and honest conversations about your limits will create a healthier and more satisfying relationship (Cosio, 2014).
 
Every individual and every romantic relationship will have different boundaries that work best. To identify your boundaries, have a conversation with your partner where you both openly discuss your rules. Talk about why your boundaries are important, and let your partner respond with how it makes them feel (Barkin & Wisner, 2013). 
 
Below are three types of boundaries and examples of each, to help get your conversation started with your romantic partner:
 
1. Physical Boundaries are your personal “bubble” of space and the physical touch you are comfortable with (Therapy Aid, 2016). To create healthy physical boundaries in your relationship, have a conversation with your partner about the physical space you need at different times. You can also talk about what types of physical touch you are comfortable with and when you are comfortable with public displays of affection.
 
2. Emotional Boundaries focus on how people make you feel (Therapy Aid, 2016). Sometimes in relationships, we overshare or mention something that is a sensitive topic to our partner; which can lead to emotional limits being crossed. To create healthy emotional boundaries, use I-statements when explaining your needs to your partner (e.g., “I feel safe when we share this kind of information with each other;” Selva, 2021). 
 
3. Time Boundaries are how you spend your time (Therapy Aid, 2016). Sometimes it can feel like your partner expects too much of your time, and they may feel like you spend too much time on things other than the relationship. You can create healthy time boundaries by explaining to your partner when you need personal time and how they can help make sure you get it, as well as planning time to spend together one-on-one with full attention for one another (Barkin & Wisner, 2013).
 
Creating healthy boundaries is a gradual process; it can take time for both partners to adapt to the other person’s limits. Healthy boundaries will grow, change over time, and protect or even strengthen your romantic relationship as you continue to take the time to respect each other. 

Resources to learn more:

Establishing Boundaries: Essential or Selfish?
 
Personal Boundary Worksheet
How to Respect and Set Boundaries with your Spouse

References

Cosio D. (2014). How to set boundaries with chronic pain patients. The Journal of family practice, 63(3 Suppl), S3–S8.

Barkin, J.L., & Wisner, K.L. (2013). The role of maternal self-care in new motherhood. Midwifery, 29(9), 1050-1055.

Selva, J. (2021, February 24). How to set healthy boundaries: 10 examples + PDF worksheets. Retrieved from 
https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/   

Therapist Aid. (2016). What are personal boundaries? Retrieved from: https://uhs.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/relationships_personal_boundaries.pdf

By Emma Cambell, BS & Ashley Yaugher, Extension Professional Practice Assistant Professor, PhD




Make Family Meals a Priority In September – and Keep the Habit

American families who eat one meal together every day are among the minority. In today’s fast-paced world, eating Sunday dinner as a family is a great tradition, but it is a giant step away from more regular time spent eating and socializing around the table – the norm just one generation ago.

In recognition of its importance, September has been named National Family Meals Month. Why all the fuss about sitting down together for a routine that may only last 15-20 minutes? The benefits are numerous.

Utah State University Extension’s Create Better Health Utah (SNAP-Ed) program lists a few of the benefits – especially for children whose families eat together five or more times a week as opposed to those whose families eat together two times or less each week:

      *  Nutrition and physical development – Kids eat more fruits and vegetables, get a wider variety of nutritious foods, have lower rates of childhood obesity and make healthier food choices when they are on their own.

      * Emotional development – Youth are better able to manage negative emotions, are at less risk of developing eating disorders, and have more positive interactions with others.

      * Social development – Children learn important turn-taking skills, have improved communication skills and learn appropriate ways to share thoughts, feelings and opinions.

      * Academics – Kids are more likely to earn A’s and B’s in school, and they develop larger vocabularies – even more than those who read together with their parents.

      * Behavior – Youth are much less likely to use marijuana, alcohol or tobacco or have friends who use these substances. They are also less likely to engage in other risky behavior such as premarital sex.

If a family is new to the idea of eating meals together, there will undoubtedly be a few challenges. For example, it may be unrealistic to go from zero meals together to one every day. So, set a realistic goal all family members can agree on – it may just be Sunday dinner once a week, and that is a great start. If dinner isn’t the best option, perhaps family breakfast time on Saturday may work better for you.

Here are some additional tips for making family mealtime a positive experience:

* Plan meals ahead of time.

* Schedule a set time for meals.

* Involve all family members in the meal preparation and clean up.

* Turn off the TV, phones and all other electronic devices.

* Have pleasant conversation and leave discipline and other negative emotions for another time.

Additional helps are available from Create Better Health Utah, including conversation starter ideas and making meals fun using themes (e.g., Taco Tuesday). In addition are ideas for menu planning with recipes, such as citrus chicken salad, oatmeal nut pancakes and honey glazed chicken. You will also find tips on preparing foods, eating healthier and incorporating physical activity in your day.

Learn more about family mealtime and eating healthy on a limited budget here. You can also contact your local USU Extension office to find out about upcoming classes taught by Create Better Health ambassadors in your area.  




National Preparedness Month: Be Prepared to Create “A Lasting Legacy” 

It is well known that preparation can help overcome fear, and since September is National Preparedness Month, now is a great time to evaluate your preparedness supplies and plans. This year’s theme, “A Lasting Legacy,” means that the life you’ve built is worth protecting, and preparation can help you do that.

           The website: https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit has an option to download a printable Basic Disaster Supplies Kit. The list also has suggestions for “unique needs” that include pets and elderly adults.

Recommendations for the Basic Disaster Supplies Kit include:

  • Water – 1gallon per person per day for at least 3 days for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable foods
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air as well as plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal off windows and doors if sheltering in place becomes necessary
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities such as natural gas
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Cash
  • Prescription medications

Other items can be included, but adding size and weight to the kit may require additional portable totes or backpacks. Things to consider adding include pet supplies, changes of clothing and sleeping bags. A complete list is found at the link above.

Remember that assembling a kit is not a one-and-done task; it requires regular maintenance. You may consider placing a recurring reminder in your calendar to update and replenish the kit. Canned and packaged food will expire, batteries will lose power, and you may think of things to add or adapt to better suit your current situation.

The link also describes where to store your kits – namely in three locations:

  • Home: Keep the kits in a designated place and have them ready in case you have to leave quickly. Make sure all family members know where they are kept. Consider including a list of pre-determined additional valuables that can be located and loaded in 5-15 minutes if there is time, space, and transportation available. The list can be taped to the container top or stored in a pocket of the backpack.
  • Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medications and comfortable walking shoes. These should be stored in a “grab and go” container in an easily accessible location.
  • Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your vehicle. It can be similar to your work kit, but you may also want to include some form of shelter and source of warmth should you need to leave your car.

          The key to facing potential disasters is to be prepared and informed. Being proactive and preparing now will help reduce the fear of being hungry, cold or injured in the future.

By:Kathleen Riggs, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor, kathleen.riggs@usu.edu, 435-586-8132




How to Help Dad Feel Connected When New Baby Comes

Congratulations, baby makes three!  Family and friends gather around to celebrate, mom and baby receive gifts and attention while dad is sometimes left out. Dad needs the chance to be involved and to have opportunities to bond with his baby as well.   How can dad share the joy and the work of this new bundle of love? 

Keep reading for some tips to help dads feel involved and connected with their newborn.

  1. Start before the baby is born.  When you find out you are pregnant you can simply say, “we are pregnant.”  Yes, mom facilitates the growth and development of the baby- her body is the one that changes but dad made a significant contribution to the wondrous event.  Mom and dad can both be involved in planning for the baby- what color for the baby’s room, etc.  Dad can be included in the baby shower or have a new dad party such as golfing with his buddies and dad can make positive health choices just like mom.
  2. In the hospital, dad needs the chance to kangaroo care the newborn also. Kangaroo care involves placing the baby on mom or dad’s bare chest.  This happens naturally if mom breast feeds, but dad needs time to bond with the baby also.  Once home, don’t just relegate dad to diaper changing duty as his only time to be with the baby. Let dad be involved in feeding.   “Once nursing is established, when your baby is about 4 weeks old, you both may want to introduce a pumped bottle so that dad can feed the baby (and mom can get some more sleep), …baby may resist initially, so keep the pumped bottle a consistent part of the evening routine.” (Stewart, 2015)
  3. Plan for, and ask for, Paternity leave giving new dad time off from work to spend with baby and practice his skills comforting and caring for the baby.
  4. Allow each parent to learn how to soothe baby in his or her way. Mom has motherly instincts, dad has fatherly instincts as well.  As long as parent and baby aren’t in danger, give each other the opportunity to figure out how to soothe, diaper, and feed the baby in their own way.

If you both made the effort to learn all you can through studying books, attending new baby and parenting classes, or other quality information, you can feel confident that you both are capable of caring for your new addition together.

References

Stewart, R.  (2015 September) Let Dad Be Dad: 6 Ways to Encourage New Fathers.  WebMD https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/let-dad-be-dad

Sax, L. MD, PhD 2016. The Collapse of Parenting

Sandler, E. (2015, July) Post-Baby Mental Health, For Dads.  Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/promoting-hope-preventing-suicide/201507/post-baby-mental-health-dads.

By Catherine Hansen, USU Extension Assistant Professor




Nine Tips to Help Youth Manage Screen Time

Not surprisingly, children are spending more time with screen media than ever before, and at younger ages. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the average 8-to-12-year-old child spends 4-to-6 hours a day watching or using screens. Teens spend up to 9 hours daily, and research also suggests that they spend an average of one hour daily on social media.

Excessive screen time often leads to less outdoor or physical activity, less interaction with family and friends, sleep challenges, and increased mood problems (depression, anxiety, etc.). Youth may also be exposed to developmentally inappropriate content, cyberbullying, predators, and more.

Despite this, not all screen time is bad. There are many benefits and opportunities, including connecting youth with friends and family, promoting social support and inclusion, and providing educational opportunities.

Parents play a critical role in helping children navigate the digital world. Consider these tips:

1. Set limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization encourage families to ensure plenty of time for physical activity and social interaction. There isn’t a magic number for the appropriate amount of screen time per child, but it is important that what they watch and play is quality, age appropriate, and that parents know what their child is doing.

2. Select high-quality media. While not all media has to be educational, help maximize screen time with media that helps children think critically, develops their creativity through creating songs, art, poetry, etc., or that helps them connect with and understand the world around them.

3. Spend time with your child. Screen time doesn’t have to be alone time. Watching and playing together can increase social interactions, learning, and bonding. 

4. Create boundaries and tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes and gatherings screen-free to build social bonds and engage in two-way conversation. And since electronics can be a potential distraction after bedtime and can interfere with sleep, consider keeping screens out of their rooms. You may want to designate an inaccessible place to charge electronics at night or download apps that disable the device at bedtime.

5. Teach children to be good digital citizens. Share your expectations of how to act responsibly online and what your children should do if they see inappropriate content.

6. Discuss the importance of privacy and the dangers of predators. Youth need to know that once content is electronically shared, they will not be able to remove or delete it completely. Teach youth about privacy settings, and be sure to monitor their activity to help keep them safe.

7. Establish consequences. Consider setting time or location limits if your child has difficulty putting a phone away when you ask, watches inappropriate content, or engages in inappropriate media-related behavior.

8. Model the manners and behavior you want to see. Avoid texting in the car. Model good digital citizenship in your interactions with others online. Limit your own media use.

9. Create a family media plan. Agreed-upon expectations can help you establish healthy technology boundaries in your home. Create a family media plan that promotes open family discussion and rules about media use. Include topics such as balancing screen/online time, content boundaries, and not disclosing personal information. Having these conversations encourages age-appropriate critical thinking and digital literacy. For information on creating a family media plan, visit www.healthychildren.org/MediaUsePlan.

Media and digital devices are an integrated part of our society today. They can be an excellent resource, but there should be boundaries. Digital devices can never replace the benefits of face-to-face interactions and learning. 

By: Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension professor, Naomi.Brower@usu.edu and Elizabeth Davis, USU Extension associate professor, Elizabeth.Davis@usu.edu




Three Things to Consider with Student Loan Forgiveness and Delayed Repayment Plan

The long-awaited details of President Biden’s student-loan forgiveness plan have been officially announced. In summary, based on last year’s tax return, the plan cancels up to $10,000 of federal student loan debt for individuals making less than $125,000 per year (or households making less than $250,000). Pell grant recipients can qualify for up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness. (See full details of the student-loan forgiveness plan here.)

You may qualify for $10,000-$20,000 in student loan forgiveness, but keep in mind that whatever you owe beyond that will need to be repaid. The pause on federal student loan payments is extended through December 2022, with payments starting again in January 2023.

You can check your eligibility through the Department of Education (DOE) and sign up to receive email updates, which will be critical moving forward. If the DOE already has your income information, you could be granted forgiveness automatically. If not, applications will go live in December – another reason to sign up for updates at the DOE website. 

Here are three essential action items to consider for repayment.

1. Prep for Repayment. Adjust your spending now so you are ready to start making payments in January. It’s hard to believe that it’s been several years since people have been required to make payments on their student loans. How much will your monthly payment be in January? Can you pay yourself that amount in a separate savings account in September, October, November and December? Practice going without that income for a few months. Consider that you now have four months to get used to not spending that money on your discretionary expenses. Start setting it aside now as you’ll soon be required to pay your student loan bill, due every month beginning January 2023. Not sure where to start with budgeting? Sign up for a free personal finance webinar.

2. Watch for Scams. Don’t give money or information to people promising student loan forgiveness. Red flags include: charging upfront fees, asking for personal information over the phone or through email, pressure to decide quickly, asking you to cut off communication with your loan servicer, claiming to be affiliated with your loan servicer or the DOE, etc. If you experience this, cancel your payments, contact your servicer, and submit a report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can also report it to the DOE.

3. Take Advantage of Time. The extended payment pause does mean that borrowers have four more months of no interest accruing on their debt. Now is the best time to work on lowering the principal balance (also lowering future interest fees). Making extra payments is the simplest way to do that. Create a free account at the USU Extension-sponsored PowerPay.org website to see how additional payments can impact your debt repayment strategy. 

By: Amanda Christensen, Utah State University Extension professor and Accredited Financial Counselor, Amanda.Christensen@usu.edu




Four Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Summer is winding down, and many children are hitting the books instead of the snooze button. In addition to encouraging children to stay organized and responsible with their time and activities, it is important to have conversations about social tips that will help their relationships with friends, teachers and other school employees.

Here are four things to discuss with your children as they head back to school:

  • Make time to be kind.  One of the best ways to make friends and a good first impression at school is to be kind. There are three simple things children of all ages can do – the three S’s – smile, serve and share. A smile is the first thing most people will see and remember. It shows friendliness, warmth and openness. Serving others in small ways will also open doors to friendship. A simple compliment or grabbing something that has fallen on the floor for someone can work wonders. Sharing paper, crayons or a treat can help as well. Parents can model these principles and invite their children to be kind and respectful to everyone.
  • Show gratitude. Just like with kindness, gratitude shows others you are open, thoughtful and humble. Children can give thanks to anyone they meet, from the bus driver, to the gym teacher, to the principal. They all work hard and need to hear expressions of thanks. Letters, texts and sticky notes are simple ways to show gratitude to others. Cultivating gratitude in children starts with parents’ willingness to express sincere thanks to others, especially their children.
  • Notice and appreciate the good in each day. Children are often bombarded with negativity, sometimes from the beginning of the day. From teasing and quizzes to homework and bad hair days, our brains are wired to focus and dwell on the tough things that happen. When children come home from school, ask about the best part of their day. Parents can do this at dinnertime or right before bedtime as well. It’s good to get good at noticing the good!
  • Be quick to forgive. New schedules and routines can bring new challenges and stress. Be patient with your children, especially the first few weeks of school. When parents keep their tone of voice low and are quick to forgive, it helps teach children to be quick to forgive as well. Similarly, teach children to be patient with others and quick to forgive offenses, including those from friends and teachers.

By: David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, David.schramm@usu.edu