Column No. 12: Children and Sleep (April 2010) * Return to Top
Children and Sleep
One of the first questions I ask parents who come to me about their children's academic and school behavioral issues is: how much sleep does your child get every night? It's surprising how many parents answer 6-7 hours. Anytime I observe in the classroom, there is always at least one child yawning or with his or her head down. New research has shown that are serious consequences for children who do not get enough sleep. These include problems in health (lowered immunity, weight gain, and asthma), emotion (ability to regulate behavior, depression, and anxiety), and school (poor memory, low grades and standardized test scores, and tardiness).
Helpful Hints for Parents
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep for his or her age. 5- to12-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours of sleep, and teens need 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep per night.
- Enforce consistent bedtimes.
- Supervise bedtime routines. Lowering arousal levels by prohibiting the use of phones, games, and TV for an hour before bedtime, and not allowing caffeinated beverages or late-night eating helps promote healthier sleep.
- If you are able, every child should have his or her own sleep space, or at least his or her own bed. Cooler temperature in the bedroom helps sleep.
- Set a good example by getting enough sleep yourself.
Column No. 9: Five Suggestions for Parenting Grateful Children (July 2007) * Return to Top
My last adventure, Murder of a Botoxed Blonde, shows what happens when women are valued only for their looks, and feel they have nothing to offer after they're replaced by the next big thing. There are many reasons girls grow up feeling that way: magazines, TV, movies and music videos, to name a few. But I think the programming begins even earlier, reinforced by parents who give their kids everything but their time. Without limits, it's hard to know right and wrong. If your child only needs to bat her eyelashes and smile pretty to make mommy and daddy buy her that new convertible, she never has to find her inner strengths and hidden talents. Your child won't learn how to cope with the real world, she won't value what she has, and she won't understand the consequences of her actions. With this in mind, I've come up with:
Five Suggestions for Parenting Grateful Children
- Limit the consumer items you buy for them. They do not need every new video game, designer purse, and makeup item they see advertised or their friends have. If they really want it, have them put it on their birthday or Christmas list. Even then, if it's something totally outrageous — say a new Lexus for their sweet sixteen — don't buy it.
- Just because they live a life of plenty, doesn't mean they shouldn't be aware that others don't. Younger children can help you gather clothes and toys for donating to the less fortunate. Teens can volunteer at shelters and soup kitchens.
- Chores are not a four-letter word. By the time they reach five years of age, you should start giving them age-appropriate tasks. By the age of twelve, they should have tasks that really contribute to the running of the household.
- Learning to respect property, including their own, is a valuable lesson. If they break or lose any nonessential item, do not replace it. If they want another, they must earn the money for it. If they break or lose someone else's property, loan them the money to replace it, but make sure they repay you.
- As Nancy Reagan taught us: Just Say No. Once you've made a decision, do not let them talk you into changing your mind.
Column No. 7: Three Times Five: Ways to Help Your Teen (January 2006) * Return to Top
Hi, it's me, Skye. Sorry it's been so long since I've written my column, but The Scumble River Star got a new owner in November 2002, and it's taken me this long to convince her that she should continue my column. Plenty has happened in between, but my biggest news is that I inherited a big old house. It needs a lot of work, but unfortunately I hired Beau Hamilton as my contractor. You can read all about it in Murder of a Real Bad Boy.
Three Times Five: Ways to Help Your Teen
- Five Ways to Help Your Teen Make Good Decisions
- Give your teen practice in making decisions. Use non-critical areas such as food and clothing choices.
- Allow your teen to find his or her own way to solve a problem, even though you could find it quicker or easier. Explore together the possible consequences if certain choices are made.
- Let your teen learn from his or her mistakes. Allow poor decisions (if they are not life-threatening), then let him or her learn from the consequences.
- Make it a family practice that no one, including you, is allowed to make decisions when angry or upset.
- Acknowledge your teen's good decisions. Point them out when made, and refer to them when future decisions are required.
- Five Ways to Help Your Child Enter Middle School
- Throughout fifth grade, talk about the differences between elementary and middle school — number of teachers, classrooms, etc.
- Help your child understand that students have to adapt to different teachers, not the other way around.
- Visit the middle school several times together, and attend all the orientations and open houses.
- Discuss the fact that your child is moving from being the "top dog" to the bottom of the ladder.
- Together make a list of your child's expectations for middle school. Make a plan on how to ensure those expectations are met.
- Five Ways to Communicate With Your Teen
- Get in the habit of talking. Try to have a time set aside each day when neither of you have any distractions. Use good eye contact.
- Find something to praise, and remember to express your love.
- Don't be afraid to ask for clarification, and don't jump to conclusions — give your teen a chance to explain.
- When the consequence of a conflict won't harm your teen, give her or him the opportunity to disagree without being accused of "talking back."
- Don't feel like you have to know everything. It's okay to say, "I don't know. Let's find out together."
Column No. 5: Surviving Your Child's Homework (September 2001) * Return to Top
Hi, Skye Denison, school psychologist, here. Hope everyone had a great summer. I spent mine as a lifeguard at the recreation club beach. It was pretty boring, except when the monster* was sighted. But it's back-to-school-time, and as usual I have a little advice for you.
*"Not a Monster of a Chance" is a short story which appears in the anthology, And the Dying is Easy.
Surviving Your Child's Homework
- First, help your child find a place to work that is right for him or her. If your student is easily distracted, a desk or table in a secluded area is best. If you need to keep an eye on your student, the kitchen or dining room table is probably more practical.
- Next, to avoid wasting time, keep your child's study area stocked with materials such as paper, pencils, rulers, dictionary, pens, highlighters, scissors, glue, tape, colored pencils, stapler, etc.
- Most children need help organizing and setting priorities, especially with long-term projects. Start each night with a review of their homework, and make a prioritized list of assignments.
- For long term projects, use a large calendar, and write in which part of the project needs to be completed by what date. Studying for tests would fall into this category.
- It is important to establish a routine for homework completion. Pick a time, and then sit with your child for the first few minutes to get her started. Check to see if she will need help with something. About midway through the session, check progress. A small reward, such as a cookie or hug, will keep them motivated. If your child needs a break, set a timer so she returns to work at the sound of the bell.
- A general rule of thumb as to how much homework a child should be expected to do is: ten minutes per grade level. So, a first grader should have no more than 10 minutes of homework per night, and an eighth grader should have no more than 80 minutes per night. Of course, if the student saves up all his work for the night before a project or test, this rule is thrown out the window. Good luck with the 2001-2002 school year.
Column No. 4: An Alphabet's Worth of Books (May 2001) * Return to Top
Hi, it's Skye Denison. Sorry I haven't been able to write my weekly column for the Scumble River Star, but when my grandma died this spring, I felt I had to put everything aside and concentrate on solving the mystery. But now school is almost over, and parents have been asking me what to do with their kids this summer. Since I've just agreed to be a lifeguard at the area recreation club, and don't want the beach to be over-run with bored kids, I thought it best to give you some suggestion.
An Alphabet's Worth of Books
- First, have your child pick a theme. It could be mysteries (my favorite), science fiction (Simon's choice), sports or biographies, basically anything that captures his or her interest. Next, go to the library and ask the librarian to help pick books within your child's reading level. Now, offer a small reward for completing titles from A to Z.
- Another thought for a summer project is to make a book called Alphabet of Feelings. Kids can use a nice notebook and cut out pictures, draw or write poems about that day's feelings.
- Summer is also a good time for kids to do increased chores. Gardens need weeding and watering, lawns need mowing and surfaces need fresh paint. This is a perfect opportunity to teach them the lesson of help they neighbor. Maybe there's an elderly or handicapped person near you who could use a hand one morning or afternoon a week.
- If your kids still come to you and say, "I'm soooo bored." Well, then I guess I'll see you at the beach! Oh, and bring plenty of sunscreen.
Column No. 3: Coping with the Holiday Season (December 2000) * Return to Top
Hi, Skye Denison here. This is my first Christmas back home. Believe me, I know how hard it is to come "home for the holidays" or any other time, so here is a column I wrote for The Scumble River Star newspaper. Thought it might help some of you cope with the holiday season.
Too often, the holiday season brings more stress than celebration. The expected good times are tinged with tension. There are not enough hours in the day to handle the hectic demands of the season on top of one's normal busy schedule. This results in a state of exhaustion.
Coping with the Holiday Season
- Time constraints increase Stress, so:
- Make a list of all the things you need to do.
- Prioritize the items, and get rid of activities you do not feel are essential. Be realistic about what really has to be done.
- Cross off the activities as you complete them. Go ahead, it feels soooo good.
- Share your list with your family, and tell them that you expect them to pitch in and do their share.
- Don't forget to put "time for self" on your list!
- Money is another source of holiday Stress. Impulse buying, stores, and credit cards entice us to spend more than we have, then punish us with high interest rates, so:
- Use deferred billing only if you know you can pay off the charges before interest starts to be added.
- Make a list of items before going to the store, and do not buy items that are not on the list — this cuts down on impulse spending.
- Reflect on the true meaning of the holidays, and keep within your budget. Don't let love be confused with money. People, even children, will forget what you bought them, long before you pay off your credit card charge for that item.
- Whenever possible, use only cash.
- Relative is just another word for Stress. Too much unwanted extended family togetherness can lead to tension and hard feelings. Long-repressed feelings of favoritism and perceived past injustices may emerge.
- Try to limit time spent with family members who tend to agitate or cause ill feelings.
- Steer conversations around unpleasant topics or past indiscretions.
- Maintain a pleasant, cooperative, approachable façade, even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom once an hour and scream.
- This is not the time for overnight guests, but if you must have them, provide as much privacy for yourself as possible.
- Children can be the biggest causes of Stress, even though we love them. Their school schedule has ceased, and their home schedule is often unpredictable at this time, causing them become out of control.
- Try to set and keep a daily schedule for the children, with regular bedtimes. Let them know in advance what the day's plans are.
- Be sure to allot rest time in the plans.
- Make sure to save some time to enjoy your children — time with mom and dad playing a board game, reading a book, or just talking are what the kids will remember, long after the last toy is broken or lost.
Most of all, do only what you are comfortable doing. Happy Holidays!
Column No. 2: The Four Pitfalls of Parenting (October 2000) * Return to Top
Hi, Skye Denison, school psychologist here. Boy, have we had a lot of excitement in my hometown of Scumble River, since I moved back a few months ago. I wasn't too thrilled to have to return to Scumble River. I had been gone for twelve years and had not left on the best of terms. (Don't ask.) So, even though I expected things to be a little uncomfortable when I returned, I never expected murder. At least I was able to find out who really killed Mrs. Gumtree. Now that things have calmed down, I was able to write my second column on parenting tips for the local paper. Thought you might be interested in a seeing it too.
The Four Pitfalls of Parenting
If you see yourself in one of these types, don't be too upset. There usually is a little of each of these in all of us. The thing to remember is moderation. It's okay to set limits, defend your children, and have strong beliefs — just not to the extreme.
- Director parents are strict disciplinarians who are both angry and rigid. They don't listen to their kids, nor credit their kids with having any common sense. The children's individualities are swallowed by the parents' rage. They see their children as no more than extensions of themselves. This tends to cause rebelliousness in most kids, although some react the opposite way and become so insecure that they can't make decisions to save their lives, which makes them vulnerable to peer pressure. Hey, I'm not telling you to let your kids run wild. Discipline is a good thing. I'm just saying choose your battles. Don't get bogged down with the little things.
- Don't Ask, Don't Tell parents are powerless and submissive, often having low self-esteem, and in a constant state of denial. They are permissive and easily shocked. The children end up taking control of the home. These are the mothers or fathers who deny that their "little darlings" could ever do anything wrong. They abdicate control and decision-making to their kids. There is no limit-setting in this house. These are the toughest parents to deal with as a school person.
- Guilt Inducers are another of my favorites. These moms or dads create dependencies which suffocate the children. These parents are so needy themselves that they use guilt and shame as a way to control their children's behaviors. Kids who are raised by this type have difficulty leaving home.
- Believers are rigid, and see things only one way: no shades of gray for these parents. They follow some type of doctrine or religion. The belief itself becomes more important than the family.
Column No. 1: Skye's Six Rules to Connection (May 2000) * Return to Top
Hi, my name is Skye Denison and I'm a school psychologist. Recently I was forced to return to my hometown: Scumble River, Illinois. Having escaped from here twelve years ago, this was not a voluntary move on my part. The whys and wherefores that forced me back to Scumble River are too sad to talk about. Let's just say that none of it was my fault, and someday the people whose fault it is are going to pay.
Anyway, I'm thirty, single, and broke — just the circumstances in which everyone wants to return to their hometown. Oh, yeah, I gained a little weight too, and believe me everyone in town feels the need to comment on that. As if this weren't enough, my first week back I found a body. My Uncle Charlie would say that if I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all.
One good thing has come from all of this. The local newspaper has asked me to write a column with parenting tips. I love to give my opinion, so here goes.
A lot of Scumble River parents tell me they don't feel they "connect" with their children. So I've come up with:
Skye's Six Rules to Connection
- Listen to what your child is saying to you. Sounds easy, but many of us listen with half an ear to adults, and a lot less than that to a kid. A good way to check this out is to paraphrase back what your son or daughter just said. Believe me, they'll correct you if you're wrong.
- Plan regular times when it is just you and your child. A good way to do this is to take only one in the car when you run an errand. You wouldn't believe how much a kid will tell you in a moving car, especially if you have a no-radio rule.
- Don't interrogate your child. When he or she walks in the door say, "Hi, glad you're home," rather than a barrage of questions about their day. Leave interrogation for the police. If you tell them about your day, chances are they'll tell you about theirs.
- Criticize less. Praise more. Some parents should cross-stitch this saying into their foreheads. Hey, it's okay to have consequences for a child's actions, just don't talk the thing to death. Notice the good things they do too.
- Don't try to change a child's feelings or dismiss them. If he hates his dumb older brother, find out why. Don't just tell him he doesn't really hate him.
- Treat your child with respect. I've seen some parents treat their dogs better than their kids. And I'm not just talking about the Scumble River Doozier family!
Created 25 December 1999 * Updated 29 February 2020
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