5 Ways to Help Your Kids Deal With Rejection

There are 15 spots on the Little League team, and 30 kids are trying out. There’s one lead role in the musical, and 10 kids are auditioning. And out of six candidates vying for student council president, only one will win. Kids take risks all the time when they try out for something, and sooner or later, they’re going to face rejection. How they handle it depends a lot on how you deal with it.

The key is changing the concept of failure and helping kids see competition as a way to improve their skills, according to California State University professor David Hibbard, who has studied the development of perfectionism among kids. “That way, a ‘failure’ is not a failure at all; it’s the road to competence and mastery,” says Hibbard.

Here are five ways to lessen the blow for your child and turn a negative experience into a strength-building one:

1. Manage expectations.

You can’t shield your child from disappointment, but you can help him prepare for the possibility. Without being a naysayer, remind him that many more kids are trying out this year or that he’s up against players with more experience. By making him aware of the hurdles he faces going in, he’ll gain a better perspective if things don’t work out.

2. Offer encouragement, not accolades.

When kids are competing for a spot, there’s no such thing as “the best.” There may be three, five or 10 equally strong contenders — all of whom think they’re No. 1. Tell your child you’re proud of the work he’s done to prepare for the tryout and that you think he has as good a chance as anyone else (assuming that you do), but stop short of telling him he’s the best.

3. Allow venting.

When your child doesn’t make the team, don’t put a cheery face on the situation. It’s a huge blow for her in the short term, and she needs you to acknowledge how painful it is. Let her cry or stomp around furiously for a few minutes, knowing that you accept and support her no matter what. Then, talk about the feelings around disappointment. “Having a warm, compassionate discussion helps a child learn from the competition,” says Hibbard.

4. Help your kids reach out.

Kids often retreat after a rejection — particularly a public one. But pulling back only reinforces the feelings of being a loser. If a friend made the team or won the election, encourage your child to call and offer congratulations. Suggest that he email the coach and find out what skills he should work on. Your child will see that failing at one attempt doesn’t affect his relationships or reputation.

5. Set new goals.

Once your kids have gotten past their disappointment, help them develop new goals to work toward – shaving a minute off their speed before the spring track tryouts or improving their vocal range before the next set of auditions. Stress to them that both failure and success are the result of trying, and that many failures have led to future victories.

By giving them the tools to handle rejection, you’ll teach your kids that it’s worth setting goals and taking risks, no matter what the outcome.

NCHS Red Light Safety Camera Campaign can save lives

Keeping our families safe on the road is a very important task that we undertake as parents. We drive carefully, keep our cars in tip-top shape, and make sure everyone is buckled in safely on each and every trip. Unfortunately, we can’t control what other drivers on the road are doing. We must rely on the police and essential safety equipment, such as red light safety cameras, to help keep us safe.

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that 113,000 people were injured and 676 were killed in crashes that involved red-light running in 2009 – two-thirds of the victims were pedestrians, bicyclists and occupants of vehicles hit by the red-light runners.

The study also showed that red-light safety cameras helped save more than 150 lives in 14 of the biggest U.S. cities from 2004 to 2008. Had the cameras been operating in all 99 U.S. cities with populations more than 200,000, more than 800 lives could have been saved.

Each time we enter an intersection, our families are at risk of becoming the victim of an accident – whether on foot or in a vehicle. Red light safety cameras help to change driver behavior and reduce the risk to our loved ones, however many people are unaware just how valuable these cameras are to those on the road.

The National Coalition for Safer Roads has created a powerful video, showing just how tragic the consequences of running a red light can be.

You can find the National Coalition for Safer Roads on their website, Twitter and Facebook pages, for more information about this important initiative.

Summer Fun for Parents: Welcome to “Camp Chaos”

Summertime is just around the corner….so close I know my son can taste it. He is visibly at-ease, excited, more joyful. He likes school….but he LOVES summer break: unstructured fun, no homework, a lack of routine. But what about working parents whose employers are totally unreasonable and won’t give them 10 or 11 weeks off in the summer? Or parents like me who simply quake at the thought of all those weeks of unstructured time and the inevitable results…”Mommm, I want to set up a lemonade/ smoothie/ popsicle/ ice-cream/ brownie stand on the corner. Will you go shopping/make everything/do set up and clean up?”; “Mommm, [insert friend here] is away on vacation, will you play soccer/climb a tree/have a water fight with me?”; “Mommm, I’m bored!” Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my son. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have made the scary decision to take some time off from work this year. But the length of summer break in the US seems to me the epitome of the phrase “too much of a good thing.”

Dealing with the Long Break

There are many ways that parents can address the summer break. The one that has worked for our family is summer day or overnight camps. While these can seem expensive, they may be more economical and offer more variety than summer-long childcare. And there are ways to economize, such as using dependent care spending accounts (essentially paying with pre-tax dollars), choosing part-time camps, or going with providers, like the YMCA, who offer income-based fees or discounts. The key is to look for camps with sufficient experienced staff that offer a variety of activities and events/trips that meet your children’s interests. But that is easier said than done. There are lots of providers offering lots of different camps at different times and in a variety of locations and formats. It takes significant advance research and parent networking to come up with a plan. Has anyone noticed how much effort, stress and confusion this process can create for parents? Or am I alone here?

Welcome to Camp Chaos

I got the first taste of the summer camp gauntlet after he left daycare, when registration for our company-sponsored camp opened in February – and his school hadn’t yet finalized any plans for their camp program. How was I supposed to coordinate different camps when the programs operated on different registration schedules? And I couldn’t wait to register for the company camp since spaces were so limited. Then there was the challenge of coordinating summer camps with summer vacations – especially trips involving relatives who didn’t have to work out their summer plans while the ground was still frozen.

Once other camp programs began opening their registrations, I encountered my next hurdle: too much choice! So many providers….so many camp themes! Camp Invention or Rock Climbing? Hogwarts Express or Robots? Chess or Hip Hop Dancing? And don’t ask 7-8 year olds. They want to do them all…completely ignoring that some are held the same week. How do I get my arms around this chaos?

Bring out the Spreadsheet!

Yes, I admit it. I created a spreadsheet. Well, two actually. The first one outlines the different camp options/providers by week, putting the camps into priority order (based on extensive mother-son discussions) in case of full registrations or other issues. This approach (below) worked fairly well in the past but got more complicated this year when half-day camps became an option due to my being off work. I hate to say it, but I used the planner to spread half-day camps out across the summer and avoid too much “home-alone” time!

After the camps were booked (marked by blue on the planning spreadsheet!), I created sheet number two to ensure we showed up at the right location each week – and to deal with all the variations in start/end times and requirements for food, clothing and miscellaneous materials. I also included handy info like the phone number and deadlines for registration changes and final payments. A printout of this sheet lives on a cupboard in the kitchen and is a savior each Sunday evening (or often Monday morning!).

I’m sure there’s got to be a better way to coordinate this process, but I was reassured that I’m actually not alone when the local YMCA manager told me he sees parents with all sorts of camp-coordination approaches: from lists and notes to flow-charts. BTW – for those of you who are new to this, here’s my list of “things to consider” that should help this process go a little easier.

  • Since you usually can’t meet the staff when camp registration opens, check their brochure or website for information on the training staff receive and the ratio of counselors to children. Some camps, like the YMCA, hold parent informational sessions just before the start of summer – this is a great way to get the feel for what you’ve signed up for, or see if you can attend as a preview for the following year.
  • Check that CPR and first-aid certified staff will be onsite at all times.
  • For outdoor camps, be sure you are satisfied with the rainy-day arrangements – both the facilities and activity plans.
  • With all-day camps, even specialized theme camps like chess or music, check that there are a variety of activities planned – including time for the kids to move. At younger ages, kids can’t focus on only on one activity all day. This I know from experience!
  • Start your search with places or groups you already know: your community or child’s school may have camp programs, as often do local museums, zoos and cultural centers. If your child does extracurricular sports or enrichment programs, these groups may also hold camps. This can work well since you are familiar with the organizers and know that your child likes the activity

In the end, we all just want to give our children a safe and enriching summer experience with memories to last a life-time.

What about your experience? What has worked for you in navigating the summer break and camps?

Your Child’s Identity May Have Already Been Stolen

When was the last time you checked your child’s credit report? According to a recent report on NBC’s TODAY Investigates, identity thieves are stealing baby social security numbers and racking up thousands of dollars of debt without anyone knowing. In fact, there are thousands of victims nationwide – and most don’t get discovered for years.

How is this possible? There is a problem with our current system of using social security numbers (SSNs) as identification

  • First – the way the number is generated. You probably don’t know this but your social security number is basically a code, whereby the first 3 digits indicate the state of birth, and the last 6 stand for an approximate date of birth. With very little effort, thieves can predict social security numbers – even before a child is born.
  • Next – there is a flaw in the way the number is used.
    • When someone applies for a loan, banks typically only check the social security number to see if the credit is good. Most banks do not even check if the name on the loan application matches the social security number because there is a fee to do this.
    • According to a 2011 Carnegie Mellon CyLab report, there is also currently no process for organizations, like an employer or creditor, to check what name and birth date is officially attached to a SSN. As long as an identity thief has a SSN with a clean history, the thief can attach any name and date of birth to it.
    • Finally, because many commercial and public sector entities do not treat Social Security numbers as unique identifiers. It is possible for one SSN to appear on multiple credit files, employment reports, criminal history – all mapped to different names.

How big a problem is this? Really big. In fact:

  • According to the CyLab report – out of 40,000 children, approximately 4,300 had someone else using their social security number. This is >10%!
  • The largest fraud was for $725,000
  • The youngest known victim was 5 months old.

What are the consequences? According to TransUnion, one of the 3 national credit reporting companies:

  • Identity theft will affect your child’s credit and employment history if the thieves obtain credit cards or even get jobs.
  • If the thieves are arrested for other crimes, those crimes will go on your child’s record.

Things to watch for:

  • Your child begins to receive suspicious mail, like pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, in his/her own name.
  • You try to open a financial account for him/her but find one already exists, or the application is denied because of a poor credit history.
  • A credit report already exists in his/her name. If the child has one, he/she probably has been targeted already, since only an application for credit starts a report.

What can you do?

As of June 25th 2011, new SSN’s will be more randomized – which will make this more difficult for identity thieves – but if your child already has one, their number may already have been compromised

  • If you’ve seen any of the signs, it may be a good idea to run a credit check. Note – you cannot use standard free credit check reporting systems to run a check on a child…however, TransUnion has a great site that can help guide you through the process
  • If you see signs that your child’s identity has been stolen, immediately put a freeze on your child’s credit. (State by state information on this can be found here)
  • The Identity Theft Resource Center, for free, will assist parents in disputing all erroneous entries on credit reports. The agency will also help parents address the possibility that an imposter is using their child’s identity to obtain a driver’s license or escape conviction records or child support payments.
  • Finally, if you suspect your child’s identity has been stolen, call the police and the Federal Trade Commission which oversees and polices this type of activity. An FTC guide to disputing errors can be found here.

Keeping our eyes open today, will hopefully prevent heartache down the line.


Reference Material

Is Your Kid Breaking Internet Safety Rules at School?

Back in the day, my biggest distractions in class were note-passing and idle doodling. But today, 66 percent of kids ages 8 to 18 use cell phones, and 76 percent have iPods or other MP3 players, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. On top of that, most schools offer some amount of Internet access. That’s why almost all schools today require kids and parents to sign a document that didn’t even exist for our generation: Internet Acceptable Use Policy.

The Internet Acceptable Use Policy explains the school’s philosophy on Internet use and the rules regarding online behavior. It also gives an overview of the consequences of violation and a list of students’ and staff members’ rights. An Acceptable Use Policy should both recognize students’ right to benefit from technology and protect them from harm.

Parents are an important part, says Doris Stephen, education programs assistant in the Education Technology Office of the California Department of Education: “They need to know what their children are being taught in school and how they are going to use the Internet. They need to know that the children are doing it in a safe manner.”

Here’s what to do if your child’s school district doesn’t require your signature, or if you’re a little hazy about what you signed at the beginning of the year.

Get a copy of the policy

Check the school’s website. Many schools post their Acceptable Use Policies online so parents and kids can easily reference them. If it’s not there, call the school and request a copy or ask your child to bring one home.

Discuss it

Talk about the policy. Discuss scenarios that might seem innocuous but are actually prohibited. For example, does your child’s school prohibit using Internet resources to lobby for a political candidate? Can kids visit file-sharing sites and download music? Are there any penalties for using profanity in email sent via the school’s computers? Help your child read between the lines too: If the policy prohibits harassment, ask, “What constitutes harassment?” Talk about your child’s typical Internet use at home and ask whether these things are prohibited at school.

Most important, discuss the consequences of violating the policy. Most policies include penalties that range from warnings and account suspension to expulsion and legal action.

Be respectful

Because Acceptable Use Policies include a lot of language about what not to do, they can seem to imply that kids aren’t to be trusted. But a good policy is centered on the educational value of the Internet and keeps free speech in mind. So don’t just discuss the things your child shouldn’t do; talk about all the useful ways they can use the school’s technology to get more out of class.

Post it somewhere accessible

Whether it’s on the fridge or saved as a shared document in your Google Docs accounts, keep the policy on hand. If it’s top of mind, your child may be more likely to follow it and avoid getting into trouble that could affect his — or someone else’s — future.

7 Signs Your Kids are Ready for Sports

You may think your kids are ready for organized sports, especially when so many of their peers are signing up. But many young kids don’t develop the physical, emotional, or mental skills it takes to compete until second or third grade.

Kids who start too soon may end up feeling frustrated or humiliated, or suffering physical injuries. Most experts agree that 6 is the youngest age to start playing organized sports, and many recommend waiting until your kids are 8. But kids develop at different times, so readiness depends more on their size, skill and maturity than on age.

To make sure you’re not jumping the gun, look for the following signs before considering sports for your kids. They will be ready for sports when they:

  1. Show an interest in sports. There’s no reason to push your kids into team sports if they have no desire to play. In fact, forcing them can make them resent all organized sports. So if your kids aren’t ready yet, let them run around outside with their friends; it will give them the exercise they need until they find sports they’d like to try.
  2. Are strong and skilled. If your kids are smaller and weaker than their peers, or if they can’t throw, bat or catch very well, they’ll be at a huge disadvantage. They’ll also be more likely to get injured. Before you send them onto the field to compete with kids who are naturally more able, spend another year practicing with them in the backyard so they can build their physical strength and skill.
  3. Can understand and follow directions. Processing and acting on information from multiple sources – coaches, parents, teammates and bossy siblings – is a real challenge for many young kids. Most won’t have that ability until they are 6 or 7, at the earliest.
  4. Focus on an activity for two hours. When you see young kids picking weeds or staring up at the clouds during practice, you know they don’t have the attention span to stick with an entire game. The ability to sustain focus comes with age, not experience, so it’s better to wait until your kids mature.
  5. Get the concept of teamwork and taking turns. Playing organized sports means sharing the spotlight and giving everyone their turn at bat. Hogging the ball – and everyone’s time and attention – won’t make your kids very popular.
  6. Get along with other kids. If your kids have trouble navigating social situations or working in a group at school, they’ll have an especially tough time with the dynamics and competitive nature of a team. Give them more time to build up those skills off the field.
  7. Can handle losing without losing it. Winning is easy; losing can be devastating. If your kids tend to cry or get angry when they lose at sports or board games at home, they are probably not ready for a graceful defeat in public.

Organized sports are a great learning experience and an excellent way for kids to stay fit – but they’re also supposed to be fun. Your kids will enjoy themselves more when they’re ready for it.