My Books

Thursday, February 23, 2012

10 Tips for Family Unity

by Linda McQuinn Carlblom

A family is a close-knit unit. As such there should be a sense of unity, a certain team spirit, if you will. But family unity does not happen on its own. It's nurtured, grown, and fought for. So how does a family build this kind of camaraderie? Here are 10 tips to get you started.
  1. Play together. Make time to just have fun. Play board games or the Wii. Go to the park. Have silly contests. Laugh. Tickle. Share a hobby.
  2. Support one another's interests. Go to each others' plays, concerts, games, work picnics, and science fairs.
  3. Celebrate achievements. Or better yet, celebrate the person who achieved something. Let them know you're proud of them and acknowledge their hard work.
  4. Pray for each other. Share needs with each other. Pray together as well as individually. Tell family members you're praying for them.
  5. Be kind to each other. Say you're sorry when you're wrong. Say please and thank you. Share. Offer to help. Use common courtesy. Express appreciation. Let others go first. Build one another up. Don't allow insulting humor or name calling.
  6. Stick up for each other--whether the person you're sticking up for is there or not.
  7. Eat together. At breakfast, hear what others have on their schedule that day. Then you'll know how to pray for them. At dinner, let each person tell about their day. Ask open ended questions like, "What was the best thing that happened to you today?" "The worst?" "Most surprising?" "Funniest?"
  8. Respect each other's individual personalities. Some people are born talking, laughing and commanding the room's attention. Others are quiet, thoughtful, observant. Both are wonderful. Accept the different personalities in your family. Acknowledge the good parts of each one. Let everyone be themselves without judgment. Throw a compliment party where everyone shares one thing they love about each family member.
  9. Work together. Teamwork is often built during hard work, just as character is built through adversity. So paint the house together, do yard work, hold a garage sale, visit the sick, repair equipment, cook meals, clean the house. People, even young ones, need to feel needed and that they have a useful purpose.
  10. Guard your family time. Life is busy. So make sure you carve out time simply to chill as a family. If you're invited to an event, you don't have to go just because nothing else is on the calendar. Reserve time to do nothing together. Even if you're doing your own things in separate rooms, it's nice to listen to the sounds of your family all under one roof at the same time.
Bonus tip: Come up with a phrase to say to your family members whenever they leave the house. It may become a hallmark of your family. A friend's father used to tell them as they left, "Remember--you're a Smith." It carried a certain responsibility that they uphold their good family name while they were out with their friends.

Family unity often takes deliberate focus. You may want to have a family meeting and discuss what rules your family wants to live by. Then post them for all to see. Or list the characteristics you want your family to have, the kind of people you want to be for each other. When you see your kids living out your family creed, you'll know it was worth the effort.

How does your family create a stong bond of unity? Which of these ideas would you like to put into practice? What's a good hallmark phrase for your family?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How to Raise a Child Who Helps

By Linda Carlblom

We've all seen them, kids who clear their plates from the table and take them to the sink without complaint. Children who take out the trash without being told. Kids who genuinely seem to enjoy helping. How does that happen? A freak of nature? Here are a few tips to train your child to help.
  1.  Begin when your child is a toddler. When she's taking the silverware out of the dishwasher as fast as you can load them in, compliment her. "Thank you for helping! Can you put the silverware back in the dishwasher for me?" Show her where it goes. Helping becomes a fun game.
  2. Give kids a voice in their chores. Write down the things that need to be done. Divide the list by the number of people who will be helping. Then let them take turns choosing the items they'd like to do. So, for example, you have four people in your family old enough to help. Divide your list of 20 items by four. Each person will do five chores. Have the youngest choose one item from the list first. Then the next youngest does the same and so on until all items on the list are crossed off. Obviously, not all chores will go on this list since you don't want a five-year-old mowing the lawn.
  3. Take time to teach them how to do a job. It's easy to say, "it's faster to just do it myself." Of course it is. But it doesn't help your child learn or feel valued. Accept the fact that for a few years, things won't get done as quickly as they might if you did them yourself.
  4. Celebrate after chores are done. Give positive feedback or gentle correction if something needs more attention. "The bathroom you cleaned looks terrific! Oops! Looks like you might have forgotten to clean the mirror. As soon as you do that, you'll be done!" To celebrate, choose a movie to watch together, go get an ice cream, take a bike ride, or call Gandma.
  5. Give age appropriate jobs. Nothing is more discouraging than always failing at something. So make sure your kids succeed far more than they fail. For a list of age appropriate jobs for kids, click here.
  6. Work together on some jobs. Sometimes a big job like cleaning a room is just too overwhelming. Help them do it if they seem to need a hand. And break big jobs down into small steps like make your bed, pick up your clothes, etc.
  7. For very young kids, make a list using pictures. Instead of just listing clean your room, give them specific directions like 'pick up your toys' and draw a picture of a teddy bear so they'll know what that list item says. My kids loved having a list to work from that they could actually "read." 
  8. Show appreciation. This is a biggie. When a child helps in some way, whether asked to or not, thank them. Let them know you noticed and that their contribution is appreciated.
Raising kids to be helpful doesn't come easy. It takes consistency, patience, and guidance. But I remember one day working in the kitchen with my ten-year-old daughter and realizing that her help was really helping, not hindering my progress. All those years of letting her work beside me were finally paying off. And it was worth it!

How do you get your children to help? How do you instill in them a good work ethic? What special tips would you add to this list?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Welcoming Your New Baby

by Linda McQuinn Carlblom

The sweet baby in the picture is our new grandson, Titus Xavier, being held and admired by one of his three older brothers and his only sister.  That makes five grandchildren for those who are counting. They all belong to my daughter and her husband, who are absolutely the best at integrating a new baby into the family. To my knowledge, none of their children have ever been jealous of their new siblings or felt left out. I'd like to say I taught them how to adjust so nicely, but I'm pretty sure I had nothing to do with it. Here are a few tips I've learned from watching them and others add to their families.


1.   Share the new baby news with your children first. Enjoy the secret for a few days or even weeks within your own family before sharing it with the rest of the world.
2.   Include the kids in coming up with how you’ll tell others your good news. Be creative! Maybe they’ll design a puzzle for people to figure out or sign a card with their handprints and include one extra tiny handprint as the announcement. Think outside the box. Listen to everyone’s ideas with equal respect.
3.   Allow your children to go to ultrasound appointments with Mom to see their new baby. This helps them understand there really is a baby growing in there! If they don’t go along, show them the ultrasound pictures and talk about the new baby. Who does he look like? I wonder what his favorite color will be.
4.   Let children hug Mommy’s growing tummy. Encourage them to talk, read, sing,  or kiss it if they want. Anything as long as they’re kind and gentle.
5.   If a child’s nervous about having a new sibling, listen and validate his feelings. Assure him what he’s feeling is normal. Shaming has no place in a loving family. Build up the child by reminding him of all his positive character traits that will make him a wonderful big brother. Remind him God is there to help him in his new role.

 Post Baby
1.   Have kids draw or paint pictures or cards to take to decorate Mom and Baby's hospital room.
2.   Introduce the new baby to your older children privately.  Have some special family time before allowing extended family in to see the new baby.
3.   Allow them to sit and hold their new sibling if they want, giving gentle instruction on how to do it. Praise him for his gentleness. Respect their wishes if they aren’t interested or comfortable holding the baby.
4.   Let children help you by carrying the diaper bag, getting needed items for you, bringing the baby a toy, etc.
5.   Don’t expect your children to love the baby like you do. They may be uninterested and would rather play.
6.   If your child wants to take pictures of the baby, let him. It’s a way to show he’s growing up and is proud of his new sibling. Let older siblings take their pictures to school.
7.   Make special time to spend with your older children. Give them lap space, time to read books with you, play a game, do a puzzle, take time to talk about what's happening in their world that doesn't necessarily revolve around the baby.
Bottom line is to make the whole experience a family adventure, not just a couples event. And do it with much joy!

How have you welcomed a new little one into your family? What worked? What didn’t?