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Hi my name is Dr. Marian C Fritzemeier and I'm an education and child development specialist. I've accumulated many years speaking, writing, consulting and teaching both in the classroom and for parenting audiences. I believe the parenting process can be a fantastic and overwhelmingly fun journey with the right plan in mind. Need some help with that plan? Then you've come to the right place.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Power of Childhood Friendships

By Andrea Williams with Quotes from Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D.
Posted on: Daily Parent, August 1, 2014

Expert insight into the power of childhood friendships, for better or worse, and how to nurture friend-making skills.

Some of us can still fondly remember long summer days and recess hours spent with our closest pals, making mud pies, catching ladybugs and generally having lots of fun. As it turns out, the effects of those adolescent friendships last well into adulthood. “Being chosen [as a friend] makes a child or teen feel affirmed, and it also expands their horizon beyond the narrow world of their nuclear family,” says Dr. Jan Yager, Ph.D., author of When Friendship Hurts. “The child or teen can become friends with someone of a different race, religion, culture or socio-economic background since their siblings will most likely be very similar to them. Friendships outside of siblings expand a child or teen’s horizons and view of the world and other families besides their own.”

Conversely, not learning to develop solid friendships can negatively affect a child’s future, as Yager notes that kids who spend too much time alone can become lonely teens and adults and even begin to develop signs of depression. Truly, we live in an interconnected world, and whether it relates to effectively completing group assignments in high school or college, or securing a job post-graduation and being able to work collaboratively with colleagues, it’s important that we encourage our children to develop strong, meaningful friendships. Here’s how:
Teach kids how to be good friends.
Anyone who’s had a relationship with an overly needy or inconsiderate person knows that being a great friend to others has become a bit of a lost art. Teach your kids now how to treat others well, and you won’t ever have to worry about them being alone later. “Kids can learn to model great friendships when they are given the tools for experiencing empathy,” says parenting expert Natalie Blais. “The power of empathy has a deep and lasting impression on kids because they are not yet clouded with disappointment like adults are. Kids are constantly filled with wonder when it comes to emotion, and empathy is an experience kids must learn to master.”

Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D, an education and child development expert agrees, adding that it is up to parents to model the kind of behavior that they expect their kids to develop. “Role modeling is significant,” she says. “How parents interact with their children and their children’s friends helps them learn positive friendship skills. For example, if friends come over, the parent may suggest, ‘Emily, maybe your friends would like a snack. I can help you.’ Over time, sharing a snack becomes automatic.”

Encourage kids to seek out children who need friends.
Though cell phones have replaced land lines, and kids may actually spend more time communicating with each other via social media than face-to-face, little else has changed in the world of childhood friendships. On any playground across the country, you’re likely to find a group or clique, of popular, outgoing kids along with a smattering of quiet, more introverted kids who hang solo.

“My son is going into third grade in September, and we spent the entire year of second grade learning how to find kids who need someone to be a friend to them,” says Blais. “At the end of each day, I ask my son if he had the opportunity to be kind to someone that day. I make sure I have him consistently thinking about and looking for the chance to be kind to someone and reach out to him. Often, parents ask their kids how the day was, but they rarely ask their kids how they genuinely plugged into the situation around them and searched out the kids who needed them most.”

Get involved.
If your child is introverted, it’s important that you step in and help her begin to interact with others. The key, though, is not to push her too far outside of her comfort zone. “Years ago it was believed that children develop a temperament by age 3, but most research shows that children are born with an individual temperament,” Fritzemeier explains. “Some will be naturally outgoing and noisy, while others may be quiet and reserved. Parents who push their children to become someone they are not only increases the children’s stress levels, but as children get older, she can begin to question if her parents want them to be more like them or a sibling.”

Yager suggests parents arrange playdates for their kids (even through the elementary years) and enroll preschool-aged children in classes like Mommy and Me or Gymboree to help foster new friendships. Additionally, adds Fritzemeier, bringing a toy or pet can serve as an icebreaker and help draw other kids to your child. Also, when choosing other children to arrange playdates with, it’s important to try to find kids whose temperaments match that of your child, so she is not overwhelmed by an outgoing or boisterous personality.

Intervene when necessary.
Eventually, as your child ages and becomes more adept at interacting with others, she is bound to get involved in an unhealthy friendship. Parents, then, must toe the line between allowing their kids to be proactive in choosing their own relationships while also protecting them from significant hurt or danger. “Being a parent means taking the time to get to know the kids your child is spending time with,” says Dr. Tina Tessina, Ph.D., LMFT. You need to know their parents and hang out with them. Driving [your children’s friends] places and listening to what they talk about in the car while you’re driving is a great way to get a sense of who they are. This is most easily done while your kids are small; once they’re teens, you have a lot less control.”

If you do discover that your child is hanging out with someone she shouldn’t, Tessina suggests deftly steering her toward more positive influences without damaging your relationship with your child. “It’s best not to say bad things about the friends you don’t like; it will set you and your children against each other,” she explains. “This is why it’s so important to pay attention early on: you want to intervene before your child is too attached to someone. The best tactic is to find something your child is interested in and allow her to get involved, and distract your child from the undesirable friends. It also helps to find out what your child is getting out of the friendship. Is there some kind of acceptance for something you child feels bad about? Perhaps there’s something you don’t understand.”

Ultimately, though, if you’ve taken the time to show your child how to be a good friend and helped her to develop solid friendships while she’s young, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

Adds Tessina, “If you set up a good parameter, you can let your child make choices, because there won’t be any bad ones.”
Published in: dailyparent.com/articles/the-power-of-childhood-friendships
Photo: water-fountain-children 542463-s. Stock XCHNG.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Back-to-School: Children & Sleep

by Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2013
Author, Speaker, Educator
Ahhhh, summer vacation. Swimming, camping, amusement parks, and later bed times for children. But school is just around the corner. How can parents help get their children's sleep back on schedule so they're not tired when school starts and the alarm goes off way earlier than in the summer?
About two weeks before school starts, calculate how much earlier your children need to get up for school. For example, is your child is sleeping in until 9:00 AM and will have to get up at 7:00 AM for school, that's two hours. Figure out roughly how much earlier they need to get up each day so that they're ready for the school alarm clock. If they got up just ten minutes earlier every day, they'd be on track for the earlier wake-up time.

While you're figuring out their wake-up times, just how much sleep does your child need? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2012) recommends that school age children (kindergarteners to 8th graders) need 9 to 10 hours of sleep. 9th and 10th graders need 9.25 hours while 11th and 12th graders need 8.5 hours. Your child needs more sleep if he/she has challenges getting up in the morning. Obviously, if your child falls asleep during school, he/she needs more sleep. Another reason your child may need more sleep if they are overly active and/or acting out.
Make bedtime consistent, relaxing routine. For younger children, a bath and story time are positive ways to end the day. If your children are sensitive to caffeine and/or sugar, eliminate these in the evenings. Don't forget, chocolate contains caffeine. Keep electronics out of the bedroom two hours before bedtime. Even the light from televisions or electronic devices can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps aides sleep. Following these suggestions and a healthy breakfast will help your child be ready to learn when he/she returns to school this fall.

Graphic: sleeping-child-1-1025338-m Stock XCHNG

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Designer Jeans, Coupons and Budgets for Teens

Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2013
Author, Speaker, Educator

"Why do we always have to use a coupon to buy my clothes?" laments my eleven-year-old daughter. "I want them today."
"You know we have a clothing budget. We can get more for our money if we wait until the item is on sale and we have a coupon," I try explaining once again.

"Everyone else's mom just buys their designer jeans even if they're not on sale," she retorts trying for the mother guilt button. 
But this conversation changed significantly one year later when our seventh grader was given her very own clothing budget. "Mom, do you have any coupons? I need some jeans," I proudly heard. She was allotted a monthly amount but could use up to three months of budget money at a time if necessary. Since our daughters were in year-round school, budget money for three months seemed reasonable.

No, we didn't just give our adolescents money and let them have a free for all. We talked about special events coming up, seasonal items like coats and swimsuits, what still fits from last season, do they need new undergarments, what about shoes, ways they can update their wardrobe inexpensively, and yes, how buying items on sale and using coupons saves money. Because they knew the cost of every item purchased, they took great care of their clothes when they began doing their own laundry at age thirteen (see previous blog, Laundry or Writing?).
As they entered high school and needed dresses for special events such as the winter formal and the prom, we paid for half the dress cost up to a certain amount. Young men will need additional budget money for winter formal sports coats and renting tuxedoes for the prom. When they wanted additional clothing or designer clothing items that cost more, they used gift money or worked for extra money. Other families we know paid up to a certain amount for clothing items, such as a pair of jean or athletic shoes, and the young person paid the difference.

I'm purposely not sharing how much money we gave them for two reasons. They are young adults and inflation has occurred since they were teenagers. Secondly, each family has an income; some may have a larger budget for clothing, while others families will have smaller budgets. You may think you can't afford to give your adolescents a clothing budget, but if you honestly track how much you spend on their clothes, shoes, undergarments, etc. it adds up quickly. The point isn't so much about how much you allot for their budget, but teaching them the principles of money management.
When you transition the budget responsibility to your young adults, please resist the temptation to rescue them when they spend all their clothing money and need something. They will not learn to plan ahead and use their money wisely if you rescue them. Keep in mind that they will eventually learn to live with the consequences if you allow them opportunities to learn. And in no time, they'll start asking, "Do you have any coupons?" and you will know you've done your job.

1. Image from: Stock.XCHNG www.sxc.hu/.sale-1430736-s. Accessed 4/17/2014.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Something Happened

by Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2014
Author, Speaker, Educator
Something happened tonight that hasn't happened in seven years.

"Surprise," I chime in alongside friends gathered to celebrate our friend's 65th birthday.

I sit comfortably in a tan wicker rocking chair on the back patio while I engage in conversations. I catch up with some friends and reconnect with another I haven't seen in years. The carrot cake is delicious. I savor every bite. I'm comfortable updating friends about my life, my adult daughters, and of course, those three precious grandchildren.

But it's what I don't do that's significant. I don't sit quiet as a mouse observing so I can conserve my energy. I don't leave the group because it's too noisy to find solitude in a peaceful location. I don't excuse myself to clean up my usual spilt drink as I don't spill my Diet Coke.

I don't startle and jump because someone drops a fork on the tile. I don't roam around searching for the family cat so petting kitty provides a legitimate distraction. I don't hide behind my camera when I can't understand the conversation.

I don't wander off to "help" since I can't construct a coherent thought or form a complete sentence.
I don't walk to my car to dig up something I "forgot" when I can't track the cross talk of multiple conversations. I don't go through the motions because I'm disconnected, staring off with a blank expression.

Tonight, I do none of these things. The things I've managed to do for seven years to compensate for my brain impairment in social settings. Indeed, something happened tonight. I initiated conversations. I added to stories. I asked questions. I laughed. I enjoyed myself fully...I didn't escape.

Image from: www.stockpholio.com 4618335923_3 Tate Modern Tribute.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dancing Dog

by Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2014
Author, Speaker, Educator

Dancing Dog in Front Pack
It is 108°. The A/C is still not working. It's really too hot to do much of anything. I can't get much done sitting in front of the fan, so I sweat through the day doing what I can. I certainly can't ride my bike in this heat.
I'm going to ride in the morning. But that's my prime writing time, I argue with myself. But if I don't, I won't be primed to ride 40 miles at the Clear Lake Konocti Challenge in October.
I get up twenty minutes earlier. Throw on old clothes. Feed the dog. Feed the fish. Drink my Boost. Get my water. All I need now are my shoes and helmet. As I reach towards my bike shoes on the closet floor, I notice Dancing Dog. She's so excited anticipating that I'll take her on my bike ride, she pirouettes. Again. And again. And again.

 "Do you want to go on ride?" She pirouettes even faster; then races down the hallway towards the closet that stores her front pack.

"Stop dancing so I can put you in your pack." Then we're off for a morning ride. Dancing Dog takes it all in. She's observing what's going on, smelling the fresh air, and holding her head boldly while the wind blows on her face. She's simply taking in the moment.

I'm still grumbling. I'd rather ride in the late afternoon. I'm missing my writing time. Then I restate the truth. I'm delaying my writing time. I will write after my eight-mile ride.
With the writing dilemma settled, I focus on my ride and am in the moment, just like Dancing Dog.

"Dancing Dog, do you see the kitty?... Hi kitty cat," I sing-song as if both animals will answer. I'm now aware of the birds' songs in the quiet neighborhood. I observe a breeze, just enough to keep me comfortable.
Ahh, this is why I like bike riding. I'm in the fresh air enjoying God's nature and beauty. Oh yeah, and getting some exercise too.

Before I know it, we're heading home. Releasing Dancing Dog from the front pack, she reluctantly jumps out. I view emails as I cool down. Then I write. And Dancing Dog? She's lying next to me, living in the moment, yet anticipating our next adventure.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Feeling Inadequate? Watch Children

by Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.
Parker's First Attempt at Caber Toss
D. ©2014
Author, Speaker, Educator

            Do you ever feel inadequate? Some days everything seems difficult. Simple things like opening a sealed bag or putting on my necklace are challenging because my coordination is poor.  Other times I can't find the right word or can't even express a sentence when my brain is off.  Yes, me, Chatty Cathy. I read a book that has many thought provoking statements. Hatch! Brainstorming Secrets of a Theme Park Designer by C. Mc Nair Wilson. He did in fact work for Disney as an Imagineer.  
            "If you feel in adequate, watch children. They are highly unskilled at pretty much everything they try. But they try everything. They don't listen to maturity's hot air about being responsible, careful, or correct. Instead they fill their lives with hot dreams and imagination and fly to the stars...They roll down grassy slopes, basking in the moon-glow and starlight of endless possibilities." (p. 68)

            What a great description of childhood. It is one reason I love being around them. After I was unable to work at Merced College, I missed watching children every day as they came and went from the Child Development Center. So I began volunteering in my grandson Parker's preschool class a year and a half ago. What a delight to be with him and his friends. They are constantly trying something new.
            On Saturday my husband participated as an athlete in the Modesto Highland Games. One event is the caber. My daughter calls it, "Man in skirt with telephone pole." Six to twelve year olds could sign up to learn. Parker is not quite six, so they let him "practice" two times after the older kids were done.

            He'd never turned a caber before. He may have seen it on a video. His Papa hadn't yet done that event. But he wanted to try. And try he did. He was able to turn it on the first toss. He was so proud of himself. I was proud of him too. Not so much that he turned it, but because he was willing to try even in front of a large group.
            If they offered adults to try and turn the caber, I'm guessing there would be few volunteers. Why? McNair summaries the answer best, "...we do not live our dreams because we're too busy living out our fears." (p. 66) Parker was not even remotely afraid. He didn't wonder what others would think. He didn't hold back in case he couldn't do it. He didn't doubt himself. He just went for it. What's the "caber" in your life you'd like to try? Maybe you can try it today.

(Village Books, 2012)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ideas for, "There's nothing to do."

by Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2014
Author, Speaker, Educator

                Summer's beginning. It won't be long until your kids' whine, "There's
nothing to do."
                But don't sweat it; here are ten summer fun activities that will keep
your children occupied.

1.      Pitch a tent in the backyard and camp with Smokey the Bear

2.     Plant seeds and grow healthy vegetables to harvest and cook. I just planted sunflowers for the birds to eat this fall.

3.      Take old bread to the park and feed the birds.

4.      Sprinklers are a forgotten play activity with so many yards watered automatically. With water shortages, turn off automatic sprinklers. Parents can easily adapt water volume for small children or bigger kids.

5.     Nature scavenger hunt. Identify items for children to find. They can draw what they find, mark it off a list, or take photos of each item.

6.      Remember sidewalk chalk. Lets children express their creativity and washes off easily.

7.     Dig in the dirt with shoes off. Shovels, water, containers, and trucks provide lots of fun. Hose down children when done! This is one of my grandson's favorite activities. I keep a dirt area in the yard just for mud play.

8.       Tricycle/Bicycle Derby. Decorate bikes. Bike races by age groups. When we did this in our neighborhood, a boy in a wheel chair participated too.  

9.       Pets on Parade. Gather the pets, dress them up, and have a parade on your sidewalk. (Cats and dogs on leashes.)

10.   Don't forget Flag Day on June 14th. Buy flags from a dollar store. Children create instruments such as drums, shakers, and tambourines. Then form a parade on your neighborhood sidewalks.

Image from: Stock.XCHNG www.sxc.hu/  sun flower 1442107 by  Greeber.