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NURTURING AND PARENTING EDUCATION
ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES


All children of all ages need the opportunity to nurture. Often, the youngest children in families may be the most demanding because they have not learned to temper their demands in the face of a more helpless sibling. Spending time with family or friends who have younger children, having a pet, or caring for a plant are all ways to foster children and teenager's nurturing skills.

It is just as important - possibly more important - to spend time developing these skills with your sons who often don't know they will need these skills as much as your daughters will when they grow up.

FOR ALL AGES:
VISITING WITH BABIES, TODDLERS & PARENTS

Take your child or teen to visit a baby or toddler and its parent.

With your child or teen, think of questions in advance to ask about the responsibilities of caring for the baby, what the baby can do and not do at that age, and what the baby understands and needs at different ages.

Have your child or teen observe the baby and parent together and interact with the baby his or herself.

Afterward, talk about what your child or teen learned and felt as he or she observed the baby and parent. What ideas did this experience give them about parenting and its responsibilities? What questions do they have about themselves at that age?

If possible, repeat the visits every month so your child or teen can observe the baby's development over time and learn about how a parent's responsibilities change with their growing child.

FOR PRE-SCHOOL AND EARLY ELEMENTARY STUDENTS:
HOW BABIES WORK

Get the book "Baby Science: How Babies Really Work" by Ann Douglas (Owl Books, 1998) from the library, or purchase it. Read it and look at the pictures with your child, and do some of the suggested exercises to help them understand more about what it's like to be a baby. Read some of the other books on the booklist at www.parentingproject.org/ptpm_reading.htm If you can, do this before your child visits with a baby (See next activity.)

UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

Helping young children to understand and talk clearly about their emotions now will increase their understanding of themselves and others - including their own children - in the future. Keep this chart for your whole family for a week.

Create a "Family Emotions Chart" to post on the wall or fridge with seven columns listing each day of the week and at least eight to ten rows that list a variety of emotions on the left. Solicit young people's suggestions of which emotions to list.

Assign a different color crayon or marker to each family member.

At the end of each day, have each family member mark a big colored dot next to the emotion that best describes how he or she felt that day. If necessary, mark more than one emotion for the day.

At the week's end, family members connect their dots with their crayon color.

Review the week's chart as a family and discuss what you see: Was this a typical week? Which weekdays felt best or worst? Did the weather affect people's moods? Which family members had similar feelings and which had different feelings and why? Whose moods were even and whose were varied? Does looking at the chart help your children understand themselves and their family members better?

Bring the charts in to school or a group meeting to share and discuss as a class and discover the many emotions other children and adults have every week!*

*This activity was taken from the workbook "Parenting Rewards & Responsibilities: Parent & Home Involvement" by Marilyn Swierk, MS, CFCS, CFLE, Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2000 which can be purchased by visiting

FOR LATE ELEMENTARY THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS:

BABYSITTING SKILLS

Encourage pre-teens and teens to take a certified babysitting course and offer them some kind of badge, reward or other recognition if they do. Not only will this increase their knowledge of child development and parenting skills, it help them take better care of their siblings and get babysitting work. Contact your local SafeSitter classes or Red Cross chapter or consult local paper listings to find a certified babysitting course in your area.

MAKING PARENTING DECISIONS

Parents must make countless important decisions every day. Help young people develop the skills they'll need to make wise parenting decisions by practicing the following decision-making process with them:

First, make up a few decision-making scenarios. Examples include, "Carol would like to have a baby, but suspects her husband is becoming an alcoholic. What should she do?" or "Children in the neighborhood are picking on Bill and Carla's son. Bill and Carla want to help him. What should they do?" Let your family choose one or two scenarios to explore.

Use the six steps of the decision-making process to work together to find a resolution to the scenario. Be sure everyone contributes his or her ideas to the process. If necessary, write responses on separate sheets of paper first.

The Decision-Making Process:

  1. Identify the exact decision to be made.

  2. List all the options.

  3. Create a two column chart to list the pros and cons of each option.

  4. Consider your values: What is important to you and your family?

  5. Make a decision and take action.

  6. Evaluate the results of your decision and take responsibility for consequences.*

PREVENTING SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME

As a family, find out as much as you can about shaken baby syndrome and take action to prevent this problem from occurring in your community.

Have your children and teens use the Internet, library, and calls to social service agencies and pediatricians to research what shaken baby syndrome is, how often it occurs, and why it happens.

Discuss reasons why people might shake their babies, how the problem can be prevented, and where parents can go to get help. Discuss what your children or teens can and should do if they suspect someone is abusing their child.

Talk about the reasons babies cry and ways to soothe a crying baby.

Finally, work with your family to help prevent this problem locally by raising people's awareness of shaken baby syndrome. Actions to take together might include creating and handing out flyers outside grocery stores or malls, creating and hanging posters around the community, writing a letter to the editor of the local paper, and writing an article for the high school paper. *

FOR ALL AGES - SET THE BEST EXAMPLE

Most important, model the behavior you want to encourage in your children. Children deserve the respect inherent in an adult's apology: "Jane, Mommy really lost her temper before. I am so sorry. Do you want to talk about how you felt about that?" Children will learn from your modeling how to be more considerate to their siblings, their peers, and eventually their own children.

*These activities were taken from the workbook "Parenting Rewards & Responsibilities: Parent & Home Involvement" by Marilyn Swierk, MS, CFCS, CFLE, Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2000.


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