Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Friendly Letter

One of the best ways to have a close relationship with your child is to write to her and have her write back to you! This helps establish a wonderful way of communicating that may come in very handy when she is a teenager and has trouble talking to you. It also gives her practice in writing!

This two-way correspondence can take several forms:
• Letters—you can have a mailbox in your house where you leave letters or cards to each other. Have your child decorate a box to make it look like a mailbox. You could have an area for writing and making cards set up in your home, if you have room!

• Journal—a journal can pass back and forth between the two of you. Your child can creatively decorate the cover.

• E-mail—this is appropriate for older children but often the only way they’ll communicate once they’re a teenager.

Here’s the most important part—save these letters or at least some of them. You could put them in a binder or a pretty file box according to the year. Then when the time is right you can present them to her; perhaps when she is having a child of her own? It’s also fun to look back and revisit time gone by.

Do you write to your child? Do you have any ideas to add to mine? Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Visiting the Zoo

When taking your child to a zoo it is important to be well prepared. For our annual Bronx Zoo trip the children visited the website and mapped out their routes. ( That way they wouldn’t be running all over the zoo and having to backtrack which wastes time and energy. Other large zoos have websites to check out as well. There are many wonderful smaller zoos close to home, too. (Springfield, MA:, Rhode Island:, and the Boston area:

Along with planning what you and your child want to see at the zoo, planning food and rest times is important, too. Most zoos let you bring in water bottles and bag lunches and snacks. Portable, non-perishable food is best. We toted a sandwich for lunch along with granola bars, cheese sticks, and water bottles. As we ate our way through the day my mini backpack got lighter and lighter! Zoos do have food available for purchase which is always an option. Keep in mind it’s expensive and the lines can be long.

Weather is always an important thing to consider. Rainy? Raincoats and/or umbrellas are in order. Sunny? Sunscreen and sunglasses are a must. Hot? Humid? Chilly? Dress accordingly. Nothing ruins an outing like being over or underdressed. Again, the internet is your best friend. Go to and type in the location of the zoo. The weather for your destination will be displayed.

The most important thing about visiting a zoo with your child is to take the time to teach your child to act calmly and quietly around the animals. They’ll see more critters that way! Never let your child bang or knock on the glass enclosure. And be sure to read about the animals you are viewing. If your child asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, don’t make one up! Be honest and say you don’t know but that you’ll help your child find out. If you see a zoo docent, ask them. If not, make a note of the question and remember to look it up when you get home.

A public outing is also a great opportunity to teach your child manners. Chances are they might see people who look a little different than they do. Talk ahead of time that staring, commenting, or pointing at people is rude. Also practice walking single file on a narrow path or sidewalk. It’s rude to be a sidewalk hog! Preparing your child in these ways helps make your day more enjoyable and less stressful. It also provides your child with appropriate examples and expectations resulting in him being better behaved as well as more pleasant to be around.

Visiting the gift shop at a zoo is a great way to bring home a memento for your child and support the zoo. (Zoos depend on gift shop revenues.) A good way to make this a good experience for the both of you is to save the shopping for the end of your day. That way you’re not lugging your souvenirs around and chance losing or breaking them. If your child has not need for one more stuffed animal, consider something practical like a water bottle or baseball-style cap. Set a dollar amount spending limit and help him shop. Some children need more guidance than that. You could tell him to choose from three things you’ve preselected such as a tee shirt, postcards, etc. That way you won’t be spending a lot of time wandering aimlessly through the gift shop.

A visit to a zoo can be a day of discovery for your child. Being prepared helps to make it more enjoyable! It’s also a great opportunity to teach him about the importance of conservation. We need to work together to keep our planet safe and healthy for all its critters. Go wild!

Have you brought your child to a zoo? Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Helping Children Deal With Loss

Death is a part of life. This is a tough thing to deal with at any age. Helping children process the death of a loved one can be challenging. Occasionally my students lose a family member. During my first year in the classroom, one of my students lost her older sister, a high school student. It was a really difficult time. Thankfully, we have adjustment counselors on hand to aid in the grieving process.

The loss of a pet can be very traumatic for children. I can usually tell when something is bothering one of my students. I take them aside and quietly ask if there’s anything wrong and if they’d like to talk about it. I give them options like taking a walk, visiting the counselor, writing about it, or just sitting quietly. Sometimes I’ll call their parents to get more information.

This year two of my students lost their dogs. I loaned them my cherished copy of “Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant. It’s a wonderful book that children and their families can find comforting during a sad time. She has also written “Cat Heaven” which I’ve recently added to my collection.

Children often feel powerless and not in control of much in their lives. Death is no exception. Although grief can look very different for children, they go through a grieving process just like grownups do. The website, Partnership for Parents has a wonderful article about grief at different ages. ( Scholastic is another great site with a comprehensive article by Dr. Bruce Perry that parents and teacher may find helpful. (

One of the best things a parent can do is let the teacher know about any loss a child is experiencing. That will allow him to support the child in the school setting. Every child is different and how you choose to help your child grieve is up to you. Just know that there is a lot of support out there, both on the Web and in your community.

Have you helped your child deal with death? Please leave a comment and share your experience. I’d love to hear from you.