Posts By: Alyson Schafer

School Lunches

Making school lunches seems to be an energy drain for most families. But it doesn’t have to be! Here are some ideas to help you make 2015 a stress-free school lunch year:

1. Delegate

Sign them up for pizza lunch and accept all “bring a friend home for lunch invitations” they can wrangle!  Not every meal has to be as healthy as the menu at Canyon Ranch Spa. Balance their need for nutrition with your need for sanity.

2. One list & one rotation

Create a list together with your children of 5 lunches that they enjoy.  Most of our stress comes from thinking “WHAT CAN I MAKE FOR LUNCH TODAY?”  It’s the need to think creatively that exhausts us.  Well, I say forget creativity! You’ve been spending too much time on Pinterest. Go for a pragmatic formula instead. Research shows most families eat the same 4 or 5 meals over again and again for dinner. Why not apply the same principle to lunch?  Once you have the lunch list, your only work is in making sure the items are on the grocery list, and packing it.

3. Pack strategically

Don’t forget to label!

Mornings are a pressure keg. Take some of the stress off by packing lunches at some other time of day – maybe the most low-key time of your day is right after kids go to bed? Or pack them while you simmer dinner on the stove. Heck, why not pack three days worth of lunches at once?

4. Let the kid’s solve the boredom problem

If your kids complain they are tired of getting wieners and beans for lunch, explain you will happily remove them from the list of 5 lunches, once replacement school lunch recipes have been discovered. Have them scout out lunch options by looking at what their friends are packing. Imitation is the highest form of flattery isn’t it?

5. Pass the torch

Eventually, you’ll want your kids doing this job for themselves. That means you should spend time teaching your children to pack their own lunch, so you can pass the torch on to them.  Kids tend to eat better when they pack their own lunches, so the earlier the better!

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

Getting Your Play Room Organized for 2015!

It’s January and we’ve probably all pledged to be more organized in 2015.  My best advice to get you off to a great start is to tackle the kids play room.   After all, it’s the mass amount of toys we trip over that makes us feel like our whole house is messy! Check out these helpful toy storage ideas and playroom ideas.

1.  DOWNSIZE

The rule of thumb is that kids should be able to clean up the entire playroom independently (yes – I know, we’ll get to that issue in a minute) in about 5 minutes.    Most playrooms simply have too much stuff.  It’s an overwhelming task for a preschooler.

It’s time to cull the toy herd and find room for the new Christmas toys.  This does not mean running around with a green garbage bag threatening to give your kids’ toys to children who DO care about their toys.  (Haven’t we all had that parental fit?) Instead, it’s a group project to help create a new kids playroom environment that is more user-friendly.

2. PITCH / DONATE / STORE/ CREATE LIBRARY

Have the kids help you decide what needs to be thrown out (i.e. dried out markers) and what needs to be donated to goodwill. Some dolls and toys may no longer be played with, but they might be sentimental – those can be kept in a keepsake box.   That leaves the rest of the toys that are still in current use.  But here is the kicker – I’m betting dollars to donuts it’s STILL more than kids can clean in 5 minutes.  So here is my idea: create your own “toy lending library” or storage space.

Populate the kids toy room with a selection of toys:

    •             2 puzzles
    •             8 books
    •             1 connector set
    •             4 costumes
    •             1 riding toy
    •             etc…

You get the basic idea.  Have the kids pick what they would like to have out this week and then place the rest away in storage. Let them know that next week they can return the 8 books and pick 8 new ones from storage.  Refresh and circulate the toys weekly. This way they will be excited to see their old toys again! Even toys that were sitting out but ignored previously will create excitement again.

3.  EVERYTHING HAS A HOME

Make the playroom organized with toy storage solutions, like shelves and bins and baskets so your children know where every toy goes to “sleep” at the end of the day.   Make sure your toy storage is kid-friendly and easy to reach.

4.  CLEAN UP EVERY DAY

If you want your child to learn to be responsible, they need to understand the basic idea of cleaning up after themselves. It begins with playroom clean up and is an essential life lesson to teach children. To do this, explain to your child that it’s their job to clean up after they play with house cleaning tips. Help them in the beginning by giving instructions:  “Can you put the ball in the basket? Can you put the doll back in her crib?” Even a 16-month old can follow these simple instructions.

5. BE CONSISTENT

Make sure you are consistent in making clean up the child’s job.  If you sometimes do the clean up, or tidy up MORE after they are done, they won’t believe it’s really their job. Consistency is a key ingredient in any learning model.  It’s easier to learn if 2+3 always adds up to 5.

6.  ROUTINES

You will also find it’s easier to teach a child about cleaning up if you make it part of the family routine so it needs to happen at a regular time in the family schedule.  If you always clean up before dinner or bedtime snack, you reinforce the schedule. Say “FIRST we clean and THEN we eat”.   If they play or goof off, ignore them until they ask for dinner or a snack and then simply remind them of the family routine: “Yes, you may have a snack, but FIRST we clean up and THEN we have snack”.   After a few nights they will put it together and start cleaning up before dinner without fights or reminders.

[CONTEST ALERT]

Don’t forget to label all those toy bins and storage containers!  Need a bit of help organizing? Get 25% off all Household Labels at www.mabelslabels.com

Win a prize pack of Household Labels! Head on over to Instagram and post a photo of the messy room you need help organizing with #HelpMeMabel and tag @MabelsLabels and you could win!

Contest is open from 9:00am January 13, 2015 to 11:59pm January 15, 2015. Good luck!

 

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

 

How to Tell Your 10-Year-Old Santa Isn’t Bringing the Cell phone He or She Asked For

As soon as I post this, I am off to the mall to finish my holiday shopping.  It will be a leaner Christmas for the Schafer’s, but mostly because I bought myself a $1,000 emergency root canal last week. I can’t blame the economy on that.  I did share my thoughts on how to handle the money crisis and the upcoming holiday with children in yesterday’s Globe and Mail.  You can read it here if you’d like more information on the how to have the “money talk.”  (Gee, and we thought talking about sex was difficult!)

Frankly, I am happy to do some consumer downsizing and spend more of my energies on the other traditions that surround this season.  Here is some of what our family does:

  • I have bought each of my children a goat to give to another family through Free The Children. This is an organization my daughter is involved with, and a goat is a really tangible thing that they were thrilled to “get” for these other children.  (Yeah, I already told them. Couldn’t wait till the 25th!)
  • Last year I asked my daughter to give something to the families in Darfur (South Sudan) as her gift to me. That meant she had to do some research, and she was really moved but what she learned.  It was a gift to us both, really.  She was really proud to have sent her own money to their aid.
  • Every year my husband and I ask our children for something they have made themselves.They are 13 and 14 years old now, but I still keep this tradition going. Last year, I got a wonderful scrapbook that my daughter compiled called, “The 100 things I love about you.”  The year before, I received a tin box with a glass front, and inside the tin was a note that said, “We blew 100 kisses each into this box for you,” so I could have a kiss any time I needed one.

Be creative yourself in your quest to have the best holiday ever with your family.  If you really want those presents under the tree, see if Christmas lasagna could become a new tradition!  I think I spend more at the grocery store than the mall anyway.

However you go about it, remember that all of our stresses are in fact self-inflicted miseries.  I refuse to indulge myself that way. You always have the ability to control your attitude, regardless of how dire the situation.  Enjoy your family. That is all that matters.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

 

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