Pam has been writing about hands-on activities for children and teens for more than twenty years. As an engineer, author, and mother of three, she enjoys helping children see what they can accomplish for themselves with simple materials and a little encouragement. Her books include: The Absolute Best Play Days: From Airplanes to Zoos (and Everything in Between), which offers 52 themed chapters suggesting crafts, art projects, snack ideas, read-aloud storybooks, indoor and outdoor activities, related videos and DVDs, and ways to safely adapt each project for a range of ages from 2 to 7; The Braces Cookbook: Recipes You (and Your Orthodontist) Will Love, co-authored with daughter Brenda, which includes comfort food recipes and clever tips for tender teeth; The Braces Cookbook 2: Comfort Food with a Gourmet Touch, co-authored with Phoenix chef Amee Hoge; and Jump Start 5th Grade Activities, which she also co-authored, including science and engineering explorations for the do-it-yourselfer.
Pam has been an invited speaker for the International Nanny Association and gives workshops for moms, school children and scout troops on topics ranging from inexpensive home-play to the ways that engineers help people lead better lives. She was previously on the advisory board for Haystack Toys, a non-gender-specific toy company; provides recipes for the American Association of Orthodontists; is a member of the Arizona Book Publishing Association; and is an outreach speaker for the Society of Women Engineers.
Q: My 7 year old son has just figured out that everyone is going to die, and he is upset in the extreme now, vacillating between forbidding any talk of dying as it makes him too sad, and asking incessant questions about death and making declarations concerning death ("I never want to get any older; I don't want you or daddy to get any older").
He's upset enough that he was literally trembling tonight in bed, and has already woken from a nightmare within two hours of falling asleep. He's an intense, sensitive and gifted child, who also has had a language disorder, so some of his emotional development is still slightly behind his peers.
We've been talking about death with him honestly (as we perceive it in our non-religious household), and gently.
Is there anything we can do to lessen the shock of learning and coping with this? Or do we just have to ride it out?
For a non-religious household, you can focus on the fantastic things he likes to do and how he makes the world a better place - his hobbies, his favorite books, maybe drawing or building - the creative side of living. Make sure you do not say that someone "has gone to sleep forever" as that will really be scary! Accurate words are best. You can acknowledge his statements, (Yes, someday a long time from now we will all die) but say, "I like to make sure that every day I do good and fun things as much as possible. How about you?" Ask him, "What are the kinds of things that you like to do now, and what new things would you like to try?" Steer him into productive/helpful/healthful activities. Does he have a special friend you could have him do more things with? Is there a long-term project you could start together, like building a treehouse or a model car or learning to bake or start drawing to illustrate his own book (maybe online?) Again, acknowledge that although none of us can stop getting older, we get to do more things when we *are* older, and isn't that cool? Small steps, small projects, and the chance for him to make some new decisions may help him see that making the most of every day we have is a positive approach. At nighttime, is there a change you make? add a nightlight, add soft music, leave a "Guard Bear" at his doorway, let him have books and a flashlight (they make ones that shut off automatically) with him. Lastly, yes, this is a stage - one more parenting challenge, but kindness and hugs (if he allows them) will help. Best wishes. | (view all answers to this question)
Q: My sophomore loves to go to parties with juniors and seniors and to stay out late. What's an appropriate curfew for a sophomore in high school?
Of course the sophomore loves hanging with the older kids (mine did too), and I assume you're talking about Friday and Saturday nights. If your teen is responsible and is with a group that stays out of trouble (and are safe drivers - another topic), I think that midnight is fine. But, hold firm on that so it doesn't keep getting pushed back, and set specific consequences ("If you're late, you will not be allowed to go to the next movie/party when asked and that note is going on the calendar as a reminder"). We always said, Remember SHAM: Stuff Happens After Midnight (mainly with regard to drunk drivers being out and about). Also, insist on the cell-phone being turned on and not ignored so they can be reached if something comes up on your end, and, if they change plans of where they will be, you need to be updated. | (view all answers to this question)
Q: My teenage son has not been doing his homework, and we have punished him for it. He has forged our signature on the forms and is now threatened with suspension. He was in top class til last year. Why is he lying why does he feel unable to come to us for help till it's too late?
You have several issues here: why he didn't do the homework, why he lied about it, and why he feels it's either okay and/or necessary to forge your signature. If he was a good student prior to this year, he could either have been influenced by new friends that schoolwork is pointless, or he could have one or more incompetent teachers from whom he is unable to learn (we've sure been through that, particularly with higher level math and science teachers - you wonder how they got the job and kept it). He may have been intimidated to ask the teacher for help (or tried and got nowhere), or he may have asked you and that didn't work either. (In my family, we have to really watch it that we don't launch into long lectures when a simple clarification is all that was needed.)
So, did he stop coming to you for help on academics? The counselor should have the listening skills to get him to explain, maybe without you being there, whether it was peer pressure, the "school is worthless because I don't get it" attitude, or "my parents don't get it" or "my parents' expectations are too high." Lying has to be presented as extremely serious and only leading to situations where he can't lie his way out of it: he either turns in results or does not get a grade (college life) (let alone the higher moral issues).
Believe me, we went through most of this just this year with our very, very bright junior who had a 4.2 but wanted to drop out of school due to similar reasons ("No one likes me" - an exaggeration, and "the teachers are masochists"). Your school may agree to keep him if you and he both sign an agreement involving the following types of tasks: time at home without the laptop computer (eliminating Facebook distractions) or cellphone (ditto), time studying at the dining-room table in full view of one or the other of you but with scheduled breaks, weekly time with one or more teachers (assuming there were several critical subjects with poor grades), and agreement to sit with one of you to review test results as they come in. You and they must also lay out the reality of what his life will entail if he is suspended. You can review progress after two weeks, and ease up a bit if things are improving.
A small reward may also be in order if he not only show remorse but gets his act together and makes progress. If not, you may need to pay for some time with a licensed counselor to get him to admit what's really bugging him and why he feels he can't go to you. It can be hard for the parent to admit he/she may have contributed to the problem (again, been there done that), but nothing can be solved until it's identified. (We paid for our daughter to retake a course at a community college - she did great - the problem really was with the high school teacher,and the school just wouldn't make a change for us.) Best wishes. | (view all answers to this question)
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