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How to Talk to Your Kids About…Imaginary Friends

Why Imaginary Friends?

Being a toddler can feel very restrictive. Always being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Older siblings and friends want your toys and you are always competing for attention. Imaginary friends are the ideal companions. They never take your toys, they do what you say, and never steal your attention. They can also serve as an outlet for children to express their emotions, a scapegoat to blame things on, and can serve as a protector when kids are scared.

Imaginary friends can worry parents. We are afraid that something is wrong with our child or that they won’t ever have real friends. There is no need to worry. Good research shows us that kids who have imaginary friends have plenty of real friends. They are creative, independent and sociable.

As parents, how should we talk to our children about imaginary friends?

DON’T make fun of imaginary friends, or make your kids feel dumb for having them.

DON’T initiate, by asking about the imaginary friend. Wait until your child initiates to play along.

DON’T let your child use their imaginary friend as an escape goat.

DON’T use the imaginary friend to get your child to do what you want.

  • DO welcome and accept the imaginary friend. Just keep it in the context of pretend. As adults, we can pretend too.
  • DO provide lots of opportunities for your child to use their imagination. Play with them so they learn how to role-play and make believe.
  • DO spend plenty of time with your child so they aren’t making up friends because they aren’t getting enough attention from you.
  • DO provide opportunities for your child to communicate and express their feelings, so they don’t use imaginary friends to communicate how they feel.

And most important…

  • DO learn from the experience. Imaginary friends can give valuable insight into how your child really feels. If the imaginary friend is scared of the dark and doesn’t want to go to bed, it could mean your child is afraid of the dark. Listen to what your child’s imaginary friend is saying and be open to the insights it might provide.

Having an imaginary friend is very normal. Unless your child is becoming withdrawn, and refusing to interact with others, you can usually rest assured that after a little time, the “friend” will be dismissed.

Until then, be open and kind to your family’s new addition.

13 Ways to Help Our Kids Prepare for and Deal with Peer Pressure

The school bell has rung and the new school year is in full force. No matter where we live, or where our children go to school, all kids have something in common; they will be faced with peer pressure. As parents, there is much we can do to help our children prepare for, and deal with the pressure that will come from their peers.

1. Believe in our kids, they will believe in us.

Our kids need to know WE believe in them. We know they can make right choices and we know they are strong. Tell them. Point out their good choices and the consequences of right choices. Point out their strengths.

We as parents also need to make right choices. Are we being the best parents we can be? Our children should expect that we would protect them, and do what is best for them. Even if they grumble, or disagree, it is our job to stand our ground and do what is best, not be their BFF.

2. Communicate with our Children: The 3 B’s: (Be Available, Be Present, Be Patient)

As parents, we need to keep the lines of communication open with our children. Especially as they start into their teenage years. How can we do this? Start young, very young, and be available, present and patient.

First, we have to be available. It we are not available, how can our children/teenagers talk to us. We don’t have to announce that we are ready to talk, we have to naturally be there. Be there after school, turn the music off when driving in the car, eat a meal together, be awake when kids come home. Find something that your child likes to do and do it with them. It is the perfect time to not only allow our children to tell us what they are dealing with, but, it is a time for us to talk to them about the pressures that they might be feeling at school and with their friends. We have been there, we know what is going on. Sometimes our kids need us to bring things up because they don’t know how.

Once we have made time and are available, we need to be present. We need to stop thinking about all the other things we need to do, and really be in the conversations. Give our children our undivided attention.

Last, be patient and realize that communication happens over time. It is built on trust and experience. Always be available and present, and our children will start to open up.

3. Express Love

Knowing we are loved gives us confidence and strength. Even if a child does something wrong, NEVER withhold love as a consequence. Our children should know that our love is unconditional.

4. Be Confident Parents: We matter more than peers.

Naturally, children do not want to disappoint their parents, this can single handedly keep children from falling to peer pressure.

5. Role Play

This is a powerful way for us to prepare our children to fight against peer pressure. Be the forceful friend and “act out” different real life situation.

Ask hard questions….

  • “What if someone offers you drugs”?
  • “What if your friend asks you to steal something”?

Work through what your child could say. It will make it so much easier when it really happens. It is like a memory reflex and the answers will come to your child much easier. They won’t be caught off guard when it happens.

6. Talk about peer pressure.

Tell our children about peer pressure, explain what it feels like, why it happens, and when you have had it happen to you. Give them examples of times when you were faced with peer pressure and how you overcame it. Or, if appropriate, when you fell to peer pressure and the consequences for your decisions. There is strength in our children knowing we understand because we have been there. As parents when you see peer pressure happening, point it out. Our children can have a hard time seeing it.

7. Set rules…AND…Follow through

Set rules, for the every day, and if they fall to peer pressure (ex, drink the beer). Make the consequences VERY CLEAR, and…enforce the consequences. We can talk all we want, but if we don’t follow through, our children will know they can get away with breaking the rules. Make it clear to your children that just because “everyone was doing it”, doesn’t mean that it is okay.

8. Don’t let kids stay the night

Sleeping away from home makes it a lot easier for our children to fall to peer pressure. Why, because they don’t have to come home to their parents. There can be too much freedom away from home for an extended period of time.

9. Wait up for your child

Be awake when your kids come home. Teens will think twice about falling to peer pressure when they have to come home and face you. It is also a really good time for you to be present and talk with your kids about their night.

10 Encourage Opinions

It is okay for our children to have an opinion. In fact we want them to have opinions about what is right and wrong, and how they feel about sex, drugs and alcohol. Help them develop their opinions. Have conversations where you help your children think through the how’s and why’s. Teach them to be critical thinkers. It will give them confidence, and children with opinions are more likely to speak their minds, which is exactly what they need to do to stand up to peer pressure.

11. Teach Conflict Resolution

We deal with conflict our entire lives; at home, at work, at school. Standing up to peer pressure can bring conflict. Teaching our children conflict management skills will not only prepare them for peer pressure, but, prepare them for life. Home is a great place to practice dealing with conflict. As a parent, when there is a problem, we want to jump in and fix it. Don’t. Let children do all they can to work out a resolution on their own. You will be surprised to find that kids can, and will solve their own arguments and conflicts.

12. Teach our kids how to choose good friends.

Our children need to be taught social skills, and how to choose good friends, and be a good friend. Encourage them to choose friends with similar core values and beliefs. Teach them what friendship means, and how good friends treat each other. (A good friend doesn’t pressure you to do anything).

13. There will be mistakes, don’t make them public

When our children do fall to peer pressure, don’t make it public. Spreading the word about your child’s poor choices will not help them make better choices. It will just weaken your relationship. It will hurt the trust that you have tried to build and weaken your children’s resolve. Instead, teach them how to take responsibility for their choices. Help them reflect on what has happened and why.

We owe it to our children to prepare them for the peer pressure they will face. It will not only help them, but help our family relationships as well.

Have your children felt the pressure of their peers?

How do you handle good and bad choices your children make?

Do you ever have a hard time enforcing consequences?

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Rejection

Rejection is part of life. And although it is not fun, it is something that we all have to deal with.

How do you talk to your kids

As parents, it is key for us to help our children understand rejection, long before it hits them, so that the situations don’t set them back, discourage them, or keep them from trying again.

When your child is faced with rejection, don’t overreact. We need to sympathize with them, listen to them, and let them know they are understood. Then we can work to develop a plan to handle the situation.

After rejection, children are already feeling sad, hurt and vulnerable. They need us to be supportive and loving. It is not the time to lecture, say “I told you so”, or try to prove a point. This will only make our children feel rejected again.

Conversations about rejection need to focus on a few key points…

  • Help children understand what rejection is. Explain that it is a part of life.
  • Talk to them about the fact that not everyone will want to be their friend, or include them. That is okay and is not a reflection on them.
  • Talk to them about not relying on others to define their worth.
  • Talk to your child about choosing friends who are kind and accepting.

It is also important for us as parents, to model good behavior when it comes to rejection. Our children watch everything we do.

Rejection

Lastly, talk about past situations where your child (or when you) have worked through rejection. Talk about the strategies they used and help them apply “what worked” to new situations.

There is no way around it, rejection will happen. Preparing our children ahead of time will give them the courage to work through it and move on.

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Strangers

As parents, we know we need to talk to our children about strangers, but it is hard to know how to talk to our children without scaring them.

Start by helping your children understand what a stranger is. A stranger is anyone that your family doesn’t know very well. They don’t have to look mean and evil like TV portrays.

When I was explaining strangers to our daughter, she said, “but we don’t know policemen, so are they strangers?”

Ah, after talking about bad strangers, be sure you explain that there are also Safe Strangers. Safe strangers are those people that our children can go to for help. Firemen, policemen, and teachers are good examples.

Once your child understands what a stranger is, talk about dangerous situations.

Explain to your children that anytime an adult…

  • Asks your child to keep a secret
  • Asks them for directions or help
  • Does or says something that makes them uncomfortable
  • Encourages them to disobey you or do something wrong

They need to get away and tell an adult immediately.

Next, role-play situations that your child might be faced with. (Helping your children understand that in these situations, it is okay to say “no” to an adult). Some examples might include…

  • A stranger asks your child if they want a ride home
  • A stranger stops to ask if your child has seen their missing dog
  • A stranger asks your child for directions
  • A stranger asks your child if they want a treat or candy.

Talk to your child about what to do if they are ever faced with one of these situations.

  1. Never get close to the car, or the stranger. Keep your distance.
  2. Yell “No” as loud as you can and run away from the stranger.
  3. Tell an adult, or safe stranger what has happened right away.

Practice possible dangerous situations so your children know what to do. This will give them more confidence if the situation ever presents itself, and will give you a little peace of mind as you send them out the door each day.

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Diversity

Children are very quick to point out differences. With their limited experiences and understanding, it is hard to explain that differences are a wonderful part of life. Talking to our children about diversity can be tricky. We don’t want to compromise our family values, but we want to cultivate a true respect for everyone.

There are a few key conversations we can have, that will help.

  • Have a “diversity” conversation. Talk about differences that exist in your family. “Jill’s favorite color is pink, yours is blue. Your favorite food is spaghetti, mommy loves chicken” Explain that we are all different, and that is a good thing, not bad. When you encounter new people, explain that there are differences and similarities between all of us just like having different favorite colors. This simple conversation will help our children begin to understand diversity and see that liking different colors and foods is not bad, just different.
  • Challenge your children to get to know someone new on a regular basis and find out what they have in common. If they conclude that they have nothing in common, teach them that they still deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Tie this back into your “diversity” conversations. “Remember, Jill likes a different color than you do, we don’t treat her mean because she likes something different.” Talk about how treating others with respect means that we take some time to get to know them and understand them. Our children need to understand that they might not like all the other kids, but they need to give them all a chance. In our house we encourage our children to meet someone new at school each week. Then our children talk to us about all the things they learned about the new person during dinner each Friday night.
  • Talk about the fact that diversity does not mean we forgo our values. Begin when children are young, and explain that there are choices that other people make that are not acceptable in our home. That is fine, but that doesn’t mean that we are rude or judgmental because they choose differently. To raise children who accept diversity talk to them about different cultures and traditions. You can start with something as simple as having them try different foods.

We will find that by talking to our kids about diversity, they will also learn key values like love, respect, kindness, and compassion for others.

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Bedtime

Bedtime is hard for many families. Everyone is tired, worn out, and short on patience. As parents, if we stick to a routine and change the way we think about putting our kids to bed, it will really help with the bedtime battles. It can be a great time of day when we relax, connect, listen, talk and teach.

Remember, sleep breeds sleep. The more your child sleeps, the more your child will sleep. We need to stop thinking that skipping naps will make getting them into bed easier.

To make bedtime an enjoyable time of day for everyone, ESTABLISH A ROUTINE. By sticking to a routine, kids know what to expect. This will help them feel safe and secure because things are predictable. Predictability brings comfort.

Your routine should include…

  • Setting a bed time and sticking with it. The more lenient you are with bedtime, the more going to bed will be a battle.
  • Starting your bedtime routine at least 30 minutes before you want your kids to be in bed. This will allow time for your child to wind down, just like we need to do. Rushing them through bedtime prep does not allow them to do and say all that they need to in order to feel ready to stay quiet and sleep.
  • Establish a sequence in which you will accomplish the same bedtime tasks every night. (For example…Put on Pj’s, go to the bathroom, brush teeth, read a book, talk about the day, say prayers, hugs and kisses, lights out).
  • Change the way you think about bedtime. Time to start thinking about bedtime as a way to connect with our children. A time to laugh and snuggle and talk.

When talking to your kids about bedtime…

Don’t threaten. (“If you don’t go to sleep, you can’t play tomorrow”). This only makes things worse. Instead, stick to a routine, give lots of time to get ready for bed, and talk about the fun things that you will do, like “Tell me what you liked best about today and then we will turn out the lights”.

When kids get out of bed, be firm and say “You need to sleep in your bed”. Then, with little to no words at all, return them to their beds. At first, you might have to do this a lot. Keep with and don’t give in, not even one night.

Don’t get 10 glasses of water. Only respond to requests once. Explain that they can have one request and that is all. They will learn to use that request wisely and pretty soon, the requests will stop. Going up every time they call will fuel the fire and drag the process out for hours.

If bedtimes are already difficult in your family, remember that behavior can be modified. Establish and stick to your routine, don’t give up hope, be patient and don’t quit.

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