Fall Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

One of the greatest ways you can provide a child with a sense of belonging and establish a team environment in your home is to do fun things together.  Whether it’s establishing a new tradition or trying something new together that you may never want to do again, it’s always a good idea to connect as a family. Family connection time allows you to not only be together, but create fun memories together.  Talking, laughing, exploring, teamworking (yes, I just made that up), fighting (wait, what? Let’s just be real here–anytime you get family together, there is going to be some of that). But even the fighting within our families provides an opportunity for us to grow as a family and learn how to handle conflict and differences in opinions in respectful ways.  

Because family connection is so important, over the next few weeks, I will be sharing a fun fall outing or activity for you and your family to do together.  This weekend, how about a Neighborhood Fall Scavenger Hunt. We have done these in our own neighborhood, but we may shake things up tonight and go to another neighborhood to try this one out.  

PRINT YOUR COPY HERE

This fall, take time to connect as a family as least once a week!  Your relationships will grow; your laughter will increase and maybe…just maybe, the fighting will be minimized. 🙂

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

Back to School (and Remote Learning) Tips

Back to school time is hard every year…any year…but especially THIS YEAR!

These past 5 months have been hard—haven’t they?  We have all been facing unprecedented circumstances for our generation.  And our children are certainly a part of a life-changing pandemic that we have no idea about the true ramifications on their lives.

To make things even more difficult for our family…over the past 5 months, my mother-in-law’s physical and mental health quickly declined and just last week, she passed away.  My husband is a teacher and because of the coronavirus and the schools being closed since March, he was able to go up and take care of her and honor her during her last days on earth.  He had been gone so much over the past 24 weeks that I had a whole new appreciation for the single parent!  Wow–it was exhausting for all of us.

And starting next week, I will be facilitating remote learning for all three of my children even though I was counting on having the time to dedicate to serving, teaching, and coaching families through Real Life Families and taking classes for grad school to get my master’s in Psychology–Child and Adolescent Development.

But I may not have time to do those things.  My own family comes first.  My job as a parent comes first.  I may have to pause grad school.  I may have to do less for Real Life Families.  I just don’t know what I will be able to do this fall.

I know you’re probably facing some of the same dilemmas and fearing some of the same challenges too.

I have no idea what to expect from this whole remote learning thing nor do I know how long it’s going to last nor do I know if I’m going to have the patience to handle it all.  But I do know that as a family, when we face potential problems, crazy challenges, or unknown circumstances, it is critical that we remember that we are a team and we can solve any problem together.

So whether your kids are doing remote learning or actually going to school this year, here are some great tools to help you and your family…


1.  THE PROACTIVE TOOL:  Let’s think ahead.  Identify potential problems or sources of conflict IN ADVANCE.  Set up expectations and consequences IN ADVANCE.  If your kids are older, get them involved in setting up their own expectations and consequences about their school work.  Work as a team to set healthy boundaries and find a system that will set your kids up for success.  Don’t wait for problems to fester or continue to break your relationship.  Solve the problem as quickly as possible and get ahead of the problems as much as possible.


2. THE ROUTINE TOOL helps you take your expectations about school work and put them into a checklist helping your kids create a routine.  Kids thrive on routines.  Routines help kids’ bodies and minds get into a rhythm.  Routines help their day feel more predictable and provide a sense of safety and security.  Plus, putting their expectations into a routine helps kids grow in responsibility and hard work.  Checklists can be a great visual reminder of your expectations too.

Here are a few checklists we have used to help establish a strong routine. Feel free to print them off and use them or use them as a springboard to create your own checklist specifically for your kids. You can even get them involved in writing them or drawing or cutting out pictures for them too.


3. THE PRACTICE TOOL helps you focus on your job as a parent–teaching and training your kids…preparing them for life…to be responsible, respectful, capable human beings. If your kids aren’t meeting the expectations that you’ve set up as a team, then that simply means they need more practice.  Little kids especially need practice in getting used to their new routines.  Practice their routines together as a team until they feel confident to do them on their own. (This may take a while depending on your child’s personality and temperament. Be patient with them as they learn.).

But with older kids, a conversation could go like this:  “Hey, I’ve noticed you haven’t been showing responsibility in getting your daily checklist done.  Because your’e older and we are a team, is there anything that we need to discuss or change or that I can help you with so that you show responsibility and get your stuff done?  Do we need to practice your checklist Saturday morning before you go play with your friends?  Or do we need to add additional consequences? Or do you feel you’ve got this and just needed a little reminder about the importance of following through with your responsibilities?”  This usually does it.  If not, then practice time it is!  The Practice Tool reminds us that our kids are learning and need more practice…not more punishments.  Just follow through with any consequences that have been set up in advance but focus on helping them practice and improve every day.


4.  THE CONNECTION TOOL is your greatest parenting tool no matter how your kids are getting their schooling done this year.  Remote learning or in-person learning doesn’t change the fact that your kids will always need time with YOU!  The Parent Child Connectedness (PCC) model supports The Connection Tool and is defined as the “quality of the emotional bond between parent and child and by the degree to which this bond is both mutual and sustained over time.” No matter how old our kids are, they value time with you.

Being proactive, developing a strong routine, and allowing your kids to practice that routine will definitely help make this very strange 2020 back-to-school time better.  But making sure to be intentional about spending time together, building that strong relationship with your kids, and solving any problem as a team will help anything…including school work…be even better.  And these tools may just be able to help you be a little bit more patient too!

And if you need help in establishing routines or handling some of this back-to-school stuff, please don’t hesitate to email me or set up a coaching session or two with me.  I’m here to help!

Lord, be near us all as we transition to this back-to-school season.  Guide us in finding a routine that works for our individual family.  Give us patience to be the teacher to our kids that You are calling us to be—not just in school work, but in life work. 

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

CHRISTINE LEEB
Executive Director and Founder of Real Life Families

Marriage and Parenting Coach–Helping Families Build Better Relationships

What Our Anxious Kids Need During COVID-19

It is certainly frightening times…things are so uncertain…there are so many unknowns.

All the mask-wearing, school and event-cancelling, and deadly virus-talking is enough to make anyone anxious.

It’s no surprise that my daughter has started pulling out her eyelashes again.  She struggles with an obsessive compulsive anxiety condition called Trichotillomania.  We had started to make so much progress through counseling and even tools I’ve developed, and for months, she had completely stopped hair-pulling.  And now this…

Sometimes there is no tool and not enough counseling to completely halt anxious feelings or the actions that go along with it.  That’s the life of an anxious child. But really, that’s just life.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s imperfect. And it can be very frustrating.

If you or your kids are struggling during this time, first of all, you are not alone. I’m right there with you!

But there are some tools we can use to make things a little better and ease some of our child’s anxiety (and even our own):

1. The Prayer Tool

God reminds us in Philippians 4:6-7 not to worry about anything, but instead pray about everything. We can come alongside our kids who tend to worry and remind them about the power of prayer.  Pray with them. Ask God to protect your family and your loved ones and watch over our whole community and world. What a great example of putting our worry energy into prayer energy.

  • A simple prayer for worry to teach kids:
    • God, please take my worries away
    • and watch over me and my family every day. 

You can pray with your child. You can also remind them to pray on their own. You can even give them a journal/diary where they can write or draw out their worries or prayers. Set up a little time every day to pray and talk about their anxious feelings together.

Anxious kids need to get their anxious thoughts and feelings out (otherwise that anxiousness will turn to anger.) Yikes!

2. The Routine Tool

Most kids thrive on routine, but anxious kids especially need routine. Routines are predictable and make kids feel secure.  And in such an unpredictable time, why not give them something they can count on.  Now that we are all home together all day every day, take time to create a routine in your day together. For our family, our routine basically revolves around regularly scheduled meals. On most days, everything in between is just play time. But when we need more structure in our day, I give them a sticky note of chores.  Then they need to complete their checklist before they have any TV or electronic time. And of course, any chore completion is always better with teamwork, so it’s OK to work with your kids to Team Clean their rooms with them or turn on some fun, dance music and do the house-cleaning together.

Your anxious child may complain about the chores (which is normal), but will definitely thrive on having the routine—even if it is a relatively loose one like ours.

3. The Connection Tool

Routine is definitely helpful for chores and schoolwork, but so is intentionally planning on some one-on-one time with our kids as well as time together as a whole family! The best thing we can do with our anxious children is to reassure them of our love and attention.  That is certainly one way that God is making all things good in this situation. For more ideas of ways to connect as a family or with your kids individually, you can print out these 2 resources and use them as a checklist:

The more we point our kids to the Source of our peace through prayer, the more we can create some routine and normalcy in their days, and the more fun and light-hearted moments we can provide will not only build our relationship with our anxious child stronger, but will also ease their anxiety longer.

Lord, you are the Source of our Peace…even during times of fear and uncertainty. Remind us that our anxious kids feed off our own anxious thoughts and words. Be our Source of Peace. Remind us to pray about everything and be grateful for what You are doing in our families during this time.

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

38 Ways to Connect with Our Kids

Kids don’t need one more toy…one more TV show…one more activity…nor one more minute on an electronic device.

They need more time with US!

They are craving it.  They will do anything to get it…including whining, fighting, bickering, moaning, groaning, complaining, fit-throwing, etc.  Even laziness, disrespectfulness, disobedience…you name it! In fact, most misbehavior can somehow be linked to the desire for our attention.

The truth is that if we give our kids more attention in positive ways, they won’t try to get our attention in negative ways.  Here are positive ways to intentionally connect and build a close, positive relationship with our kids (thank you for our board members for helping with this list)…

  • Each day (or as much as you can), ask them: “What do you want to do for our (Take-10 Time, Special Time, Our Time, etc.)?” Then do it for 10 minutes. For older kids, each time, take turns doing something they like and then having them do something that you like.
  • Leave a note that says “You’re awesome because…” on their pillow, on the bathroom mirror, at the breakfast or dinner table, etc.
  • Each month, do something special with them on the day of the month they were born.  (Do something special with your spouse on the day of your anniversary!) You could let them pick the dinner for that night, stay up later for one-on-one time like a movie or game night.
  • Find a book that has a movie to go with it. Read the book together. Then, watch the movie together. (Charlotte’s Web, Benji, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Wonder, A Dog’s Purpose, etc.)
  • Make a special meal together.
  • Learn something new—play the guitar, learn a new language, learn how to draw cartoon characters, etc.
  • Rub their back at night while you do the same 4 bedtime questions
    • I always ask:
        • 1. What was your favorite part of your day?
        • 2. What was your least favorite part of your day?
        • 3. How did you show kindness/love/teamwork/integrity (choose any character trait you are working on) today?
        • 4. Do you have any questions or anything else you would like to share about your day?
  • Give them a high five.
  • Tell them what makes them unique and why you love that about them.
  • Do a puzzle.
  • Memorize Bible verses.
  • Look through photo albums or make a new photo album.
  • Dig through the attic or basement relics.
  • Get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. (Vitamin D is so good for our mood!)
  • Try to recreate a science experiment you find/watch on YouTube or create one of your own.
  • Pop popcorn and watch a kids’ movie together.
  • Bake cookies.
  • Try a new fruit or vegetable. (Bonus–Eating healthy keeps our immune systems strong!)
  • Build or create something—sand castle, Legos, mud mountain, artwork, an invention, a rocket, a model airplane, a play-doh creation, etc.
  • Make a list of your top 10 things you love about them and share it with them at dinner time. (Have them do the same for you!)
  • Have a special notebook for writing back and forth with each child.
  • Go around the dinner table and share your high and low of the day.
  • Make a special breakfast on Saturday mornings.
  • Tell them a story about your favorite childhood memories at bedtime.
  • Read Bible stories together every night.
  • Snuggle and read a book side by side.
  • Do a house project–rearrange furniture, repaint a room, etc.
  • Color or paint a picture. You could even draw a silly picture of each other.
  • Learn how to sew on a button together.
  • Take turns telling jokes.
  • Play “Don’t laugh” where you tickle them and tell them not to laugh.
  • Tickle their “Grumpies” out.
  • Have an “I Love You the Most” Contest–where you take turns shouting “I love you the most.” “NO—I love YOU the most.”
  • Have a staring contest.
  • Play “Rock, Paper, Scissors”.
  • Leave little gifts at the breakfast table on Saturday mornings.
  • Make homemade slime.
  • Hug them every day and say “I love you” every day.

You can print this out as a checklist— 38 Ways to Connect with Our Kids

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

27 Ways to Connect as a Family

The Connection Tool

Even though I don’t like the circumstances behind this social distancing, and I do not take how scary this virus is lightly, I do believe that God makes all things good. And the good I see already happening is that we are getting back to the basics…family time. Not always on the go, not frantically running around from activity to activity. Just taking time to breathe…to connect…and for some families…to reconnect.

I believe that we’ve all been sucked into this “rat race” of busyness and have been made to feel that this is how our lives should be. In a sense, over the years, our society has gotten into the habit of family-distancing. We’ve been running around pouring our energy into our work, into kids’ activities, and even into volunteer activities instead of pouring our energy into our families and into building close relationships with our spouse and with our kids.

So again, even though I do not like that something like this virus is the reason behind families being forced to spend time together, I do believe that God is going to bless this time for all of us…if we make the most of out it. I’m seeing families out on bike rides…I see families walking around our neighborhood together. And I think–“Yes, this is how things should be more often.”  Maybe this time can be spent not only reconnecting but also reprioritizing our time and learning to put more time into our families.

Together, let’s turn this social-distancing into family-connecting!

Here are a few ways (thank you to our board members who helped with this list) to put The Connection Tool to good use and connect as a family—

  • Have a family movie night and pizza night.
  • Create a new family recipe.
  • Design a Family Flag.
  • Come up with a new family motto.
  • Start a new tradition—the crazier, the better!
  • Play Board Games.
  • Build a fort and watch home videos.
  • Make a family photo album or scrapbook or picture video.
  • Make up a family rap, poem, song, or rhyme. Bonus points for coming up with hand gestures. Extra bonus points for performing it! Extra extra bonus points for posting it on Social Media!
  • Have a “Taste the Rainbow Night”—where you buy fruits and vegetables of every different color of the rainbow and try them together (healthy food = healthy bodies)
  • Pretend to travel to another country—make food, listen to music, learn some new words, and imagine you are there! (We recently went to “Jamaica” as a family)
  • Have a dance party and each make requests of your favorite dance songs.
  • Put on a family concert (with actual instruments or with pots and pans and other household items).
  • Make up a skit and perform it.
  • Take donations to your local food pantry.
  • Have a Nerf Gun fight (Please wear your safety goggles)
  • Go on a Weird Nature Walk where you try to find weird things.
  • Have a family devotional time.
  • Design a family t-shirt. Come up with a team name, logo, and motto. Bonus points–order shirts for the whole family!
  • Get a head start on yard work or plant a garden – start with seeds in a cup.
  • Take turns letting each family member be the “teacher” where everyone gets to teach something they enjoy doing.
  • Do a “Show and Tell” time where everyone gets a few minutes to share their favorite item in the house.
  • Make a list of how your family can make the world a better place.
  • Start a “Wall of Gratitude” where you write down everything that you are grateful for.
  • Have a pillow fight. (Have safety rules in place—no heads or necks).
  • Come up with a secret family handshake.
  • Do a big “I love you” family hug every day.

Here’s a print-out 27 WAYS TO CONNECT AS A FAMILY in case you want to use this as a checklist. 🙂

Put on love which binds them together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

4 Tools to Help Keep Your Cool

I was yelling back and forth with my daughter last night.  In fact, we were screaming at each other.

“I love you!”

“No, I love you more!”

“No, I love you more than that!”

“No, I love you infinity!”

We were laughing, yelling, and yes, arguing at how much we loved each other and I thought…”This is the only reason parents should be arguing with or yelling at their kids.”

Now, let’s be real for a second.  Kids push our buttons.  Kids tick us off.  Kids frustrate the heck out of us.  Right?  And sometimes our “go-to” is to yell.

So don’t worry–I never want you to think that I’m this perfect parent who has never yelled or lost her cool.  Um, no.  There have been so many times I’ve beat myself up at the end of the day for losing my mind on my kids. We all have moments like that.

But hopefully, we can all learn from our mistakes and improve for next time, right? We don’t have to let these patterns continue over and over. And with the Teamwork Parenting Approach, I’ve learned to apply simple tools that help keep me more calm…
The Connection Tool

1.  Spend more time spending time with them.  This right here will make all the difference.  If you don’t do anything else I share, do this…spend time with your kids!  The Connection Tool reminds us that when we work on developing a close positive relationship with them and just delight in being with them, there isn’t as much time to argue. Our kids also feel less of a need to argue (especially if they are arguing just to get attention or get a rise out of us.  Remember, kids will seek our attention no matter how they can get it!)

Proactive Tool (1)

2.  Set expectations and consequences up in advance.  The Proactive Tool reminds us that often kids misbehave and arguments ensue when expectations and consequences aren’t clear and fair and agreed upon in advance.  Together, you can come up with a list of expectations and consequences BEFORE they go to the store or restaurant or to a friend’s house or get a phone.

Practice Tool (1)

3.  Take time to practice the expectations you’ve set.  The Practice Tool reminds us that kids need practice!  Whatever the “hot buttons” are in your home…whatever causes the most amounts of arguments…you don’t have to take it.   Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of an argument. Do it during a peaceful time of day.  Practice kind words. Practice respecting the “no”. Practice sharing.  Practice getting out of the house on time or a new bedtime routine. Over and over and over.  Practice how to do things right—even if they don’t have time to play on any electronics or watch TV.  “I know you’ll get this, so we will keep practicing together.  We are a team and I’m here to encourage you.”
Character Tool (1)

4.  Point out the good.  The Character Tool teaches us that during a quiet, non-angry time–point out the good character traits they are demonstrating. Our entire parenting focus should be on teaching character. How about let’s take time to thank our kids when they choose not to argue.  Thank them when they choose to be respectful of your “No”, when they choose to listen and obey, when they choose kind words.  If they are having a bad day, give them space and grace.  Encourage them by saying:  “Tomorrow is a new day. And I know you’ll improve.  I’m always here to help. We are a team and we love each other!”  And then pray together for more team unity in your home!

Remember that we are on the same team as our kids.  We are in loving authority over them, and God is trusting us to teach them well.  It is my prayer that when you apply these teamwork tools, you will find more positive interactions in your home and maybe someday you will soon find that the only time you and your kids argue is about how much you love each other too!

Lord–remind us every day that as parents and God’s servants, we must not be argumentative, but gentle listeners and teachers who keep our cool, work firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. 2 Timothy 2:24 The Message

Here’s to building better families–

Christine