Smooth Sailing Into Summertime

The transition to summertime can feel a little precarious for children and grown-ups alike. Schedules and routines may change. Caregivers and environments may be different. Familiarity may be less available. What to do?

The first step is get yourself comfortable with what’s to come. Solidify a plan, ask questions of new caregivers, reflect upon successful transitions from the past. Then support your child. I often recommend that parents, depending on their child’s age and need, use one (or a few) of the following:

  • Write a social story. This can be 4-6 pages (or so) and describes, in child-friendly language, what is ending and what is beginning. Talk about the emotions a child may be experiencing and mention the “tools” that child has for managing those emotions. Use photographs if you can to show the child in each step. For younger children, I write the story. For older children, I try to engage them in the story telling, or include fill-in-the-blank sections for them to add. There are many social stories available online as well.
  • Use a calendar. Some children love to have a calendar at their eye level that they can check from time to time. One week may show a small picture (photo or drawing) that depicts them and friends from school. The next might show the logo from the camp they are attending. You could also include photos of grandma and grandpa, or friends you may be visiting. Try to strike a balance between giving a general sense of where they are going to be and when, with giving too many details that can inhibit flexibility.
  • Write out the sequence. For many children, simply writing down what is going to happen on a piece of paper can be incredibly supportive. Recently, I used this strategy with a client who seemed to be showing some increased anxiety. Though no one was quite sure what it was about. It turned out, he had been feeling sad about leaving his current teachers but was also concerned that he would be on a bus to camp without any grown-ups. Writing down the sequence of events opened a discussion during which I explained what a counselor was and the fact that they would be on the bus.

I find that supporting transitions is helpful for all children (and most grownups too). Even when we don’t see external signs of anxiety related to transitions, children may be wondering what’s to come. Let me know how it goes!

As always, a friendly reminder that you don’t have to do it alone! Whether you have concerns about developmental delays or you’re going through some bumps you’d like to smooth out. If I can help you accomplish the goals you have for yourself and your family, please reach out. You deserve to feel competent, joyful, and EMPOWERED, when you are with your children. They should feel self-confident and have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. I can help you do that!

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This blog has been repurposed from the Dana’s Kids website. To learn more about the writer, Dana Rosenbloom M.S. Ed., click here.

Live Your Healthiest Lifestyle Through Chitta Wellness

We recently had the opportunity to partner with Roma van der Walt, Owner of Chitta Wellness, a personal and group training program that provides transformative tools to achieve your ideal body. Read our Q&A below to learn about her impressive journey, and how you can be on your way to living your healthiest lifestyle.

Q: What has your experience been in fitness and wellness, and what inspired you to start Chitta Wellness? 

A: My own experience in fitness has been as an athlete from a very young age. I started with horseback riding and track and field before I went to elementary school, by the end of fourth grade, I was competing and by 6th grade I took up the Modern Pentathlon. Modern Pentathlon is a beautiful sport because it combines some very technical sports like fencing, shooting and show jumping (horses) with very linear sports like swimming and running. I think being a multi-sport athlete is what I still use in my work with Chitta Wellness to make sure people don’t get bored in their training. You would be surprised how many non runners I was able to start running a bit and now they love it and send me photos from their holiday running trails. Just as one example.

I started Chitta Wellness because after almost a decade of sitting at a desk, I realized that it wasn’t for me and it was actually making me sicker. I developed anxiety and back issues. Now that I make my own schedule and work with people, I’m much happier and much more efficient when I do work on the computer.

I want to help people be happy and healthy and make wellness and fitness an integral part of their life, especially parents because children learn from experience from a very young age.

Q: Talk about the “three Ps” Chitta Wellness focuses on. What do each of these mean and what can someone expect to learn in each of these focus areas?

A: The three p’s are pre-conception, prenatal and postpartum fitness. Each of these phases is a special one in a woman’s and in a couple’s life. When a couple decides to conceive, there’s often a moment of “OH!”, our life is about to change. Parents strive to be healthier whether it’s the woman carrying the child or her partner. During pregnancy, the general advice from the medical field is limited to not doing too much but women aren’t sick, they are “just” pregnant and working out has proven to be very beneficial to both the mother and the baby. I think my son really liked it when I ran with him in utero. Postpartum is usually when parents run into a whole new set of problems. Personal time and fitness are a rare commodity and have to be juggled with childcare, so offering them workouts 1:1 and in groups that are at convenient times or where they can bring their children has always been something that I offer. Babies and children are welcome in my workouts and you would be surprised how well it works out (pun intended).

Q: Some people thrive with 1:1 training and others in group training. Does Chitta offer both? What kind of atmosphere is best for beginners?

A: Chitta Wellness offers both. Beginners are usually most comfortable 1:1 I have found, especially if they are pregnant or postpartum and then eventually they merge in to a group setting or they choose to work out with their partners. I love working with couples. It’s almost like therapy, just more fun. In my groups, I don’t discourage talking. I try to bop in and out of the workout and partner exercises without interrupting the flow of conversation too much. It’s cathartic, people want to exchange themselves and I have learned a LOT about child rearing, body issues during and post pregnancy and there’s alway a point in every workout where someone either cries or laughs and then gets uplifted by their peers. There’s nothing more beautiful for me than to see people come together that way!

Q: What are some key takeaways you hope to leave your customers with after a class or session?

A: Inclusivity, fun and wanting to come back. I don’t tolerate unfriendly behavior of participants towards each other. We are all busy and stressed and rather than taking that out on someone else (or me) I expect people to discuss it and maybe we can all help find a solution. I also hope to see all genders, ages, colors and denominations in my workouts because again, it teaches me and everyone else a ton to hear diverse viewpoints and it gives so much food for thought. Inclusivity in an age of social media and often upsetting global news day-to-day, that discourse is something we don’t get in too many areas of our lives. Or we simply don’t meet people outside of our immediate circle. In a workout we’re all exposed and have to face some insecurities so it’s very real. Ultimately what I have noticed and people in my workouts, is that most of us really strive for the same values in life for ourselves and our families. So for me, that’s incredibly reassuring to see.

To learn more about Chitta Wellness, visit their website!

Chitta-Wellness

Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell

Parents of Newborns Are Exhausted – How Everyone Can Get More Sleep

Moms and dads alike suffer from a lack of sleep with newborns.

A mere 5 percent of parents with babies under six months old get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night. In fact, many aren’t even getting a few hours of uninterrupted sleep at night with 43 percent of new parents only getting an average of one to three hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Nighttime feedings, colic, diaper changes, and other needs can keep parents up at night. Even when the baby is sleeping, parents may lose sleep to other factors, including housework and worrying about providing a good life for their child.

Even for stay at home parents, the age-old advice of sleeping when the baby sleeps doesn’t actually happen: 41 percent say they can’t sleep during their baby’s naptimes.

New parents are so desperate for sleep that half of them would pay $100 or more for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. One in ten says they’d pay $1,000.

Healthy Sleep for the Whole Family

Sleep deprivation is a fact of life when you have a new baby. Sometimes, the only way out is through. Most babies start sleeping through the night by six months, so there is an end in sight. But there are ways to get better rest and improve the quality of your sleep in the early months with your child.

  • Practice healthy baby sleep habits. When your baby sleeps well at night, so can you. Start healthy sleep habits early, maintaining a consistent bedtime and naptime routine. Follow predictable patterns throughout the day, such as wake, eat, play, and sleep, so your baby learns that after playtime comes time to rest. Make bedtime more restful than naptimes, allowing household noise and light to persist during the day to reinforce daytime cues. At night, reinforce nighttime cues by keeping your baby’s nursery cool, dark, and quiet.

  • Say yes to help. Accept offers from friends and family members who want to help. Don’t be too proud to let someone bring dinner, or do your dishes or laundry, or just hold the baby while you take a quick nap or practice self-care.

  • Go to bed early. Don’t feel silly about going to bed when your baby does. Even if it’s 8 or 9 p.m., you may need those hours to fit enough sleep into your night.

  • Take shifts or alternate nights. When both parents can’t sleep through the night, everyone suffers. Uninterrupted sleep is best, so you’re able to get into deep, restorative sleep rather than shallow, choppy sleep that isn’t as restful. Try taking shifts, such as 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., then 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., with one partner on call to get up and tend to the baby’s needs for the entire shift while the other can sleep uninterrupted. Or, take the one night on, one night off approach so you can get a full night of uninterrupted sleep every other night. These approaches work best when the sleeping partner is isolated and able to rest without being disturbed.

Focus on your health. When you have a new baby, self-care can fall by the wayside. But it’s important to keep up with healthy habits including diet and exercise when you’re sleep deprived so you don’t fall into unhealthy patterns. Splurge on a new mattress and enjoy those few hours of sleep all the more. Make time to get exercise, such as walking with your baby in a stroller or carrier, and pay attention to what you’re eating. Casseroles dropped off by friends and family might be delicious, but take a break and have a salad or smoothie now and then so you’re not suffering from sleep deprivation along with poor dietary choices.

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Article written by the team at The Sleep Help Institute.

Childcare Tips for Children With Behavioral Challenges

We spoke with a couple Bell Family sitters who have years of experience working with children with behavioral challenges or special needs, and wanted to share their tips, so you too, feel comfortable and confident in the same situation.

Bell Family Sitter #1: Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who has been working with children with Autism and other special needs for over nine years.

Working with children with special needs is just like working with other kids in many ways. These children need you to care for them, help them, play with them and more! I think it is important to keep in mind that these children and kids like everyone else. However, depending on their needs, it may be hard for them to communicate, follow directions, get around or tolerate less preferred things. 

If you are working with a kid with special needs, always speak to the parents about their limitations so you are prepared. For example, if the child has trouble communicating, they may be more likely to have behaviors when they want to ask for things they need. The more information you can get from the parents regarding the child’s needs and routines, the better!  Also, ask about any safety concerns you should be aware of. This is a very important question! You want to make sure you know what to do in case of an emergency since the child may not react like other children, or may be more prone to danger because of his or her special needs. 

If you can, try to observe how the parents interact with the child before they leave you for the day. This will typically give you a good idea of the ways to communicate with the child and what the child may enjoy. It is possible the child prefers to be alone and wants to read in the corner, that’s okay too. Let the child show you what they want to do! 

Always follow the child’s typical schedule and try your best not to change the routine too much. When transitioning between activities, it is often helpful to give a warning. For example, you may say “Okay, five more minutes until we eat lunch” while the child is playing a video game. Try to use simple language and be direct when you are giving instructions. 

Lastly, if your child is having a tantrum, remember to stay calm. You may not always understand the reason but try not to get flustered. Make sure the child stays safe and try to redirect their attention to something else and get back on schedule. Always remember these are just kids so just have fun!

Bell Family Sitter #2: Masters from NYU in Social Work with a focus on clinical social work with children and families. Currently working as a social worker at a hospital in Manhattan.

When working with children with behavioral challenges such as ADD and ADHD, certain adjustments may be necessary to your caregiving practices. Each child has their own set of needs, and what might be a useful practice with one child, might not be helpful with another, and thus it is important to gain a sense of individual differences of what has worked in the past from the parents themselves before you begin your time with families. 

Providing rewards and consequences for behaviors that are either positive or negative, providing consistency in routines and expectations, and being extra diligent with safety precautions, are all things to keep top of mind. It is important that when working with children with certain differences, we do not treat them drastically different than we would treat their siblings who are without challenges. We should instead adapt certain practices in order to ensure they continue to learn, thrive, and grow in the safest environment possible. Children who are older and have behavioral challenges may require enhanced supervision, more structure in their daily routines, and more assistance with tasks such as completing their homework.

Look to think outside of the box to find ways in which we can help children – for instance – by taking breaks in between tasks and limiting electronic use until after certain items are completed.

I worked with a family where one child had both ADHD and dyslexia, and completing homework was quite the challenge after school. We initially tried to work on assignments together right when she got off the bus in order to get it out of the way, however, it was clear that wasn’t working when she could barely sit still and complete a single question on the sheet. I realized it was important to allow some time for relaxation and mind stimulation in ways other than homework after a long day in the classroom. We began to spend some time after school kicking around a soccer ball, playing board games, and engaging in other recreational activities. Then, we designated a certain time to begin homework with additional time to wind down in the evening. I found this to be an effective way to meet her halfway, and before I knew it, she was able to focus on the assignments with a clear mind.

Such practices might not be of use with all children, but this is just an example of how we can be flexible and adjust our days with little ones in the hopes that getting through the day for them is that much more feasible and pleasurable.

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Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell

Traveling With Kids Just Got Easier

As we all head somewhere this summer with the kiddos, here are some tips from moms across America!

Laura, West Palm Beach, mom to one toddler 

Tip for car: I would first make sure you have a mirror so you can see them and vice versa. Always have snacks, toys and books on hand if no one can sit back with them to entertain. Also, make a cd or buy a cd with their favorite songs.

Tip for flying: Check as many items as possible (use one checked bag for the whole family) stroller, car seat, and diaper bag when flying. If you want to buy a seat for your baby under the age of two, check to make sure your car seat meets regulations. Try to pick a travel time that is during their nap time to keep them comfortable. It’s also a good idea to bring socks or a blanket in case it’s cold on the plane. If you allow for some screen time, make sure their favorite shows are downloaded onto the iPad.

Annie, Chicago, mom to one toddler

A book bag is the best diaper bag to be total hands free! Our favorite is to have a radio flyer wagon (the material kind). It’s easy to fold, and if you’re alone you can put other baggage in there (sometimes strollers can be more practical for the destination).

Food: Apples are great because they’re easy and don’t bruise. Veggie straws – you can count them and go over colors, and a water bottle for them because it’s fun to put the lid on/off.

Pack the blanky and have pacifiers in various pockets/purses. Markers, paper, and some favorite book(s) are great additions, too.

Lindsay, Dallas, mom to one toddler and one infant 

I pack as light as possible to save my back and energy. I just finished a 1,500 mile road trip with two under 2, with me smashed in middle of the back seat. I had books, sang songs, played construction zone with mini diggers and dump trucks, downloaded a few blippi videos and had lots of snacks to break up the hours. Everything I could get my hands on turned into an activity to keep them entertained; my water bottle, straws, pictures on my phone, I spy, and every construction equipment that we passed was treated as a meteor siting. And stop every two hours or so to run around, and get all the energy out; you and the kid!

Courtney, Cleveland, mom to twin preschoolers

Snacks, snacks, snacks … wait, did I say snacks?! My kids are snackaholics, so this is crucial. They are also at that age where they need to constantly be doing something or I hear “I’m bored!” every 30 seconds. I like to pack simple things to keep them occupied like coloring books, crayons, mini magna-doodles, even a game of rock, paper, scissors will do the trick!

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Happy and safe travels families!

Stretch. Sweat. Breathe. Repeat

It’s always a good time to focus on the wonderful you, and a great way to do that is through one of our favorite wellness and health groups, Just Like Om.

We recently teamed up with Christina Cervantes, Studio Manager and Pilates & Yoga Instructor, to learn more about the great things offered by the Just Like Om team.

Q: What kinds of services to you offer in your space? Are there classes available for both beginners and those who are more advanced? 

A: Just Like Om offers Pilates, Yoga and Wellness classes, workshops and private sessions. We have classes for all levels, each group class is defined by a level from 1-3 from absolute beginner to advanced. Our teachers are able to accommodate for a range of levels in each class. We also offer specialty classes including Parent(s) and me, Baby-wearing, Pre- and Post-natal, as well as Acro-yoga. Just Like Om has monthly workshops – some of our upcoming workshops include Introduction to Inversions, Sound healing and Childbirth education.

Q: Do you always need to a book a class in advance, or are walk-ins welcome? And how does someone sign up for a class? 

A: We encourage clients to book ahead as we can’t guarantee a spot for walk-ins. Our classes are limited in size which allows the client and teacher to have more efficient and focused class. Our schedule can be viewed on our website and through MindBody app. You can book through the MindBody app, however you are welcome to call the studio or send us an email at hello@justlikeom.com. Our Instagram (@JustLikeOM) is a place to see what’s new at the studio, meet our instructors, and see what specials we are running.

Q: Tell us about your space: Where are you located? What can people expect to see when inside?

A: We are located in the heart of Chelsea at 147 W. 25th between 6th and 7th. A half a block away from Buy Buy Baby, for all those parents out there. When you look down 25th, look for the purple awning.

When a client walks through our door they may notice the beautiful natural light. We want each person to feel comfortable. We want our studio to feel like home, a place where you can focus on yourself and your wellness. We intentionally have small, intimate classes and knowledgeable, focused instructors that love what they do. We provide your mat and props. We also have complimentary filtered water and unique boutique with locally designed clothing and handmade products from a local farm.

Q: Why is it so important for moms to take a break and focus on their health/wellness?

A: We think it is so important for Moms to take some time to focus on their health and well-being because it is so easy to get caught up in the daily business of being a mom you forget that you also need to take care of yourself.

I am a Mom of a 16 month old who has endless amounts of energy, and I feel like I get a workout everyday from chasing after her. However, at the end of the day I start to feel stiff, and know that my body was accommodating a small child. It is very important to take some time, stretch and strengthen the areas of your body that may be getting compressed or overly used. In addition to creating a healthy body, we also teach parents how to move more efficiently and utilize your intrinsic muscles in a way that supports everyday activity. Then, hopefully you can run around with your great-grandchildren. Yoga and Pilates also offer a Mom some time to focus on her breath and calm her mind.

To learn more about Just Like Om, visit their website!just-like-om

Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell

Child Pick-Up and Drop-Off Made Easy

Scenario: It’s 3 p.m., you have chores to do, errands to run, dinner to think about, and the kids are going every which direction. Does this sound all too familiar? Instead of driving yourself crazy, or getting full time care, book a sitter to help pick-up and drop-off the child(ren) from school.

The sitter is typically a college student, recent grad, or freelancer who has flexible hours, loves kids, and is available in the afternoon to pick up your child(ren) from school. After the sitter picks up your child(ren), he or she can take them to lessons, play dates, appointments, or home. The sitter can also stay after they get home to assist with homework, dinner prep, or downtime before the rest of the family gets home.

Families typically have a rotation of sitters they use to book on a month-to-month basis; some will book once per week, while another will book five days. It may be with two sitters, or five, depending on the schedule and family’s request.

This set up exposes the child(ren) to different personalities, people, and hobbies. It also makes them excited to see a familiar face at the next appointment. With a few sitters sharing the jobs, the sitters are always well rested, energetic for the appointment, and excited to see the kids!

To book a pick-up or drop-off sitter, please email us today!

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Written by our Founder & CEO, Lindsay Bell

 

Safe and Sound on the Job

In today’s world, it’s important that childcare providers (sitters, nannies, etc.) are keeping the children and themselves as safe as possible. Here are some helpful quick tips to keep in mind while babysitting, and for a full list, read here.

1. Telephone Safety

Make sure you have a fully charged phone to call or text the parents if you have a question, or there is an emergency. Nothing is more stressful to a parent than the sitter not picking up or responding.

2. Personal Safety

Make sure you are healthy when you care for children and that you are aware of your surroundings (i.e., have the parent or doorman watch you get into a taxi or uber at the end of the night).

3. Danger from Strangers

Never leave the home without the children. Do not open the door for anyone you do not know unless it is communicated by the parent.

4. Other Safety Considerations

If you feel you or the child(ren) are unsafe in a situation, remove yourself and the child(ren) out of that situation.

5. Safety Inspection Checklist

Be predictive and prepared to prevent injuries, drowning, falls, etc.

6. Preventing Accidents and Injuries

Prevent it as much as possible by being present and aware. Recognize the problem and then fix it.

7. Being Prepared for Weather Emergencies

Be smart and proactive. If the weather is going to be bad before an appointment, reach out to the family and make sure they are still on, and come up with a plan to get home safely.

8. Violence or Crime

  • Be aware at all times!
  • Avoid drawing unwanted attention.
  • Know how to exit fast.
  • If you hear gun fire; lie down with the children for cover.
  • If the home looks like it has been broken into; do not enter. Call 9-1-1

9. Play it Safe!

Always watch a child at all times especially in and around water.

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List pulled from the “American Red Cross Babysitter’s Training Handbook”

Do You Have a Birth Plan?

As I get closer to delivery (only five more weeks), my husband and I were advised by my OB to review a series of questions and “what if” scenarios. I found a detailed check list on The Bump, which provided a great starter template. But you have to keep in mind; plans don’t always go the way you envision. So, play out a few different scenarios so you are not surprised, or caught off guard!

Here are some interesting things they brought up that I didn’t really think about:

  1. Do you want the lights bright or dimmed?
  2. Do you want interns present from the birth?
  3. How do you prefer to spend your first stage of labor (i.e., in a bath tub, walking around, with music or in silence)?
  4. During delivery, how do you want to be positioned (i.e., stand, squat, lie on side, lean on partner)?

 

And here are some really important questions to ask yourself and consider:

  1. Would you like labor augmentation? Do you even know what that is?
  2. What kind of pain relief do you want to use? There are a lot of options.
  3. What level of fetal monitoring do you want?
  4. After delivery, what do you want to do with the umbilical cord and placenta?
  5. What if you have to have a c-section. Read about options and recovery. You have decisions here too (i.e., want your partner there, want to see the baby come out via mirror)?
  6. Print out your plan and keep it in your hospital bag. It’ll be a nice source of comfort.

 

**Fun fact: Lindsay had her baby only one week after writing this post! Good thing she had her birth plan (and this blog) all set.

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Written by our Founder & CEO, Lindsay Bell

Finding Harmony With Your Child

We recently got the chance to partner with Emily Chamberlin and Christopher Diaz, co-founders of Heart to Harmony, an organization centered around connecting parents and caregivers to their children through various techniques. Learn about their teachings through our Q&A below, and by stopping by their space on the Upper West Side!

Q: What is the mission behind Heart To Harmony? What kinds of things do you hope your members takeaway from your classes? 

 A: Our mission is to create a harmonious atmosphere, where families and their babies can find a deeper bond within themselves and with their child. Our participants leave class feeling uplifted and encouraged emotionally, physically and spiritually. Parents and caregivers will acquire knowledge of children’s songs, baby and me exercises and breathing techniques to do at home. These tools can be used in or out of the class to calm the mind, relieve stress and connect on a deeper level with their child.  

 Q: What types of classes do you offer? Can people of all ages register to take a class? 

 A: We offer a Baby and Me exercise and mindfulness class for ages 4 weeks to new walkers that focuses on connecting with your child through the breathe, guided imagery, singing and simple fun baby and me exercises.

 Q: Where did your passion/inspiration come from to start up Heart of Harmony? 

 A: Our inspiration came from our shared desire to create a unique program for families with little ones to meet, bond, have fun and find community. Our love of teaching, working with kids and connecting on a deeper humanistic level with others is the spark that ignited Heart to Harmony. 

Q: How can prospective members sign-up for a class? Are the class schedules flexible? 

A: Those interested in joining our Heart to Harmony family can e-mail us (chrisandemily@hearttoharmony.com) to schedule a 10 minute meet and greet prior to joining class. This meet and greet is required so that we can get to know each family on a more personal level. 

Families can sign up for a class through the “Register for class” section on our website. Payments online are made through PayPal. Cash and VENMO are also accepted prior to class.

Special discount offer for Bell Family Company families: Receive a 25% discount on your first class with Heart to Harmony! Just mention this blog and your BFC member info when signing up. 

For a great promo video to learn more about Heart to Harmony, click here!

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Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell