The concept of gratitude is a powerful one. In fact, thankfulness is a very important character trait to foster in children. Living gratefully encourages kids to cultivate a genuine appreciation for blessings they already enjoy, no matter how big or small. Children sometimes get caught up in wanting more things – more toys, more games, more electronic gadgets. This creates a vacuum of lacking that is difficult to satisfy. A mindful pause every now and then helps us reflect and re-examine this mindset. It inspires a healthy outlook that honours the present moment and reminds us not to take things for granted.
I like the definition of gratitude as stated by Psychology Today:
“Gratitude is an emotion, expressing appreciation for what one has – as opposed to, say, a consumer-oriented emphasis on what one wants or needs. Gratitude is what gets poured into the glass to make it half full. We can deliberately cultivate gratitude and increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, grateful thinking – and especially expression of it to others – is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.”
There is no doubt that children’s attitudes can have a huge impact on the overall culture of the classrooms. As teachers, and caregivers, we want to inspire positive attitudes and increase empathy and a sense of community in our classroom. Teaching gratitude is a sure way to do that.
Below is a list of Gratitude-Building Activities, based on my latest picture-book, Lucky Me. Please feel free to download a FREE copy for your personal use at home or in the classroom by clicking on the image on the bottom of the post.
Gratitude Building Activities for Home and School Continue reading
Playful. Mischievous. Impatient.
Meet Emily, the unforgettable star
of the new picture book
Freshly Baked Pie
Released May 13, 2017 by Words Publishing
Freshly Baked Pie is a whimsical tale about five year-old Emily who struggles to do the right thing when she is told to stay away from a cooling pie. Cleverly written by Lora Rozler and beautifully illustrated by Daniela Vasquez, Freshly Baked Pie invites readers along Emily’s imaginary battle with a mischievous pie. Never has examining rules and consequences been so much fun!
AVAILABLE MAY 13, 2017 AT VARIOUS ONLINE AND IN-STORE RETAILERS
FREE Parent and Teacher Resource Kit NOW AVAILABLE
Feel free to use the templates and activities in the Resource Kit for your personal use at home or in the classroom.
Click on the image below to download.
Thank you for stopping by! Stay tuned for Book Signing and Reading Events in the Greater Toronto Area!
“Words! What power they hold. Once they have rooted in your psyche, it is difficult to escape them. Words can shape the future of a child and destroy the existence of an adult.”
Words on a Limb is proud to announce the launch of its first picture-book:
Written and Illustrated by Lora Rozler
In this emotional and
highly visual picture book,
a lonely letter sets off on a journey to find meaning.
As it encounters various letter combinations, it is confronted by two distinct paths and must make an important choice.
Readers of all ages will be captivated by this simple, yet high concept, story that explores universal themes of discovery, relationships and the need to belong, with an underlying message about bullying. Both timeless and original, Words is an evocative tale about how letters become words and words create meaning – meaning which could ultimately build or destroy.
“A compelling story-line, simple yet poignant illustrations, engaging language, a great read-aloud that offers many opportunities for reflection and discussion with children.”
“A heart-warming story with a clever, powerful message about anti-bullying. An absolute must-have
for every parent and educator.”
Available at all major online retailers including:
For a FREE Parent and Teacher Companion Kit, based on the book, Words,
click on the image below
Attention all Mini-Artists: Join our Words-Through-Art Sketch Competition
Get out your sketch pads, sharpen those pencils, it’s time for an Art Competition. Words on a Limb would like to invite readers (ages 6-10) to send in their best illustrations, capturing the essence of the picture-book, Words. The winner will receive a hardcover edition of Words and have their work featured on our site, as well as Lora Rozler’s author website.
All entries must be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 15, 2015. Please indicate Art Competition in the subject line and specify the artist’s age in the email. The winner will be announced on August 22, 2015. Let the sketching begin!
My six-year-old daughter is an ABC, not an FOB and therefore can be considered a Banana. Thank goodness she is not showing signs of being a Twinkie but on the road to growing up Fobulously!
Immigration and exponential population growth has given rise to a global ethnic diversity of epic proportions. I don’t need to delve into statistics for everyone to know that the colour of our skin is beginning to cross international boundaries and one can no longer automatically assume it is associated with their country of birth. This has inevitably given rise to multiracial unions and first generation immigrants being born in their country of residence. We are literally becoming more colourful! Society as we know is changing at a rapid rate and it is forcing everyday people to either accept the diversity or continue to struggle to co-exist in the general rat race.
I personally love what immigration and multiracial families are compelling us to do. I relish the changing landscape of language, heightened awareness of other cultures and the beautiful ability of everyone to inhabit the same space.
As a result of emigrating from Asia to Australia, my daughter is now a first generation Aussie, hence an Australian born Chinese. She was born in a first-rate hospital for women and is most certainly not fresh off the boat. Although I try to instil some Chinese traditions in her, she is a true Banana, Asian on the outside and but practically white on the inside. I am confident she won’t grow up being Twinkie, embarrassed by our loud Asian gatherings and only being able to converse in English. Instead, she’ll be Fobulous, having the ability to assimilate in both cultures and proud to have a varied heritage.
Derogatory or not, these slang acronyms and very specific cultural terminologies, do exist. Whether we approve of it or not, the Urban Dictionary is here to stay. It is now a highly useful resource to decipher these new words! Let’s not get too caught up and start debating about the correct use of the English language. The fact is multiculturalism has actively contributed to a whole new phrasebook!
Another reason I love multi-race marriages is that they are creating new ‘breeds’ of children. We are now able to loosely and humourously identify them as Filatinos, Blacknese, Chicanese, Chindian, Korgentinian or even Blaxican! From blue-eyed kids with afros to freckled brown skin with natural blonde hair, these children no longer fit in distinctive racial silos. I look at these families and I see nothing but beauty and a whole new world ahead of us.
Food culture has also naturally progressed away from the basic meat and two vegetables. I remember watching a movie once and this man was buying a gyros from a food vendor and he proclaimed “thank goodness for immigration!” I live in a metropolitan city that has embraced multiculturalism. I am constantly surprised by how educated we have all become about the different types of cuisines. We are now even able to tell if a traditional dish was up to par and where to get the best laksa or pho in town. I enjoy having the first world gastronomical problem of not being able to decide what to have for dinner, simply because we are spoilt for choice.
Children don’t see colour. Children see people. I recall a couple of conversations that made me wish we could live in this perpetual bubble of innocence where labels didn’t create racial boundaries.
5-year-old child: Mummy, we had a new boy in our class today
Mum: Oh that’s lovely, what’s his name?
5-year-old child: His name is Dinesh and he brought these yummy spicy things for lunch called samosas.
Mum: Dinesh must be Indian?
5-year-old child: No mum, he’s vegetarian.
5-year-old child: Mummy, Mattea and I played on the monkey bars at school today!
Mum: That’s nice sweetheart. What nationality is Mattea (I was not familiar with the origin of the name)?
5-year-old child: What do you mean?
Mum: Is Mattea maybe white or Asian?
5-year-old child: Neither Mummy, he’s a boy.
Looking back at these conversations, I made a whole bunch of assumptions and generalizations. It’s interesting the thought process I was going through and I, as an adult, brought race into the mix. She simply didn’t see her friends that way. To her, they were merely her classmates she went to school with and interacted with on a daily basis. Adults feel the need to classify cultures. We need to start realizing that this will become even more difficult as the lines continue to blur. Bottom line is, don’t do it. Don’t feel the need to compartmentalize people.
Multiracial families unknowingly teach us about other cultures. My daughter’s friendships have taught her that Teita is Grandma in Lebanese, Greek salad is a culinary delight because it always has crumbly feta and its good manners to take her shoes off when entering into an Asian home. She will continue to grow up in an environment that will educate her in the cultural traditions and customs.
It is imperative children are encouraged to assimilate and embrace multiracialism. This is the most effective education system which in turn fosters tolerance and understanding. Much conflict as we know it is borne out of ignorance and no desire to understand the diverse human race. We need multiculturalism to become an innate part of society. To the point where we can no longer imagine what life would be like without it.
Multi-race children inherit multiple ethnic backgrounds and by understanding the heritage of both their parents, they usually have a broader sense of the world. It allows them to be more empathetic in different scenarios instead of just having the one view-point. They become naturally open to understanding that different people make different decision based on diverse motivations. Possessing more than one language also contributes to children being more open-minded and worldly. The subtle etymology of their language brings about insights into their ethnicity.
The scientific and genetic advantage of “cross breeding” has become a prevalent topic for research. Does heterosis exist for humans? One would think it would! Imagine a population of children that have superior qualities or increased vigor in their genes purely from combining different races! A farfetched notion? Perhaps, but it is definitely worth exploring.
We will come to a point in the human race where a single race child will become a minority. When bi-racial adults themselves have children, the traceability of race origins will become imprecise. Multiculturalism and multi-race families have changed our way of life in more aspects than one can fathom. I for one am grateful to live in a city where this is so ingrained into everyday life. I am thankful that my daughter will be intrinsically educated outside of a classroom. My only hope is that we are all able to live and love harmoniously in this ever-changing kaleidoscope.
By A.S. Chung
Amy is an author, publisher, blogger, social media maven, crusader for women and children, but most of all, our good friend. She makes some great observations above and we ask that you give it some thought. Then, let us know what you think!
Enjoy your week,
Happy Family Day Everyone!
If you are an author or avid reader, you are definitely familiar with Goodreads. If you are not, you are in for a treat, you should go ahead and visit goodreads.com. If you have visited our website often, you’ll know that we have often pointed you in that direction for further information. One of the joys of Goodreads is that we often meet terrific authors with special stories to tell.
One of those terrific authors is A.S. Chung. She reached out to us from her home in Melbourne Australia, to discuss doing a feature with her. After doing a little research, we realized that Amy (A.S.) was not only an author but she also conceived Pigeonhole Books as an avenue to create books that both empower and enrich families – especially non-traditional homes with blended, divorced, multiracial and same-sex families.
In general, mass market literature tends to shy away from books that do not depict mainstream family circumstances, understandably so if the goal of selling books is to bring as many people under the tent as possible. However, as Bob Dylan wrote, the times they are a changin’. Now, we see established authors delve into the non-traditional with titles such as Patricia Polacco’s In our Mother’s House and Leslea Newman’s Mommy, Mama and Me and of course I Wished For You: An Adoption Story by Marianne Richmond.
This coming February 16th is Family Day in Canada. We are so encouraged that Amy does a great job gently introducing young readers to families that don’t necessarily look like everyone else’s, but are still overflowing with love. The stories are told with great energy and from a child’s perspective.
Author Teresa Villegas did a piece for us a while back, sharing with us neat ideas on how to talk to kids about being born into an egg or sperm donor family. Today, similarly, we feel inspired to share Amy’s story with you. Enjoy!
About writing …
When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
Writing has always played a significant role in my life but it was always just something I did, be it for education, work or fun. I enjoy blogging and I have always loved putting pen to paper.
However, I first realized I wanted to become a bona fide writer when it became an outlet to express how I felt while going through my divorce. It was an excellent way to release all my feelings and thoughts and I was amazed how I felt afterwards. I haven’t been able to stop since then and I now write children’s picture books for kids from diverse family backgrounds.
What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
I read widely as a child. I read all the classics every child should and in most cases, the resounding style I enjoyed the most was anything which stretched the imagination. The likes of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis resonate with me, even until today. While my stories are less fictional and far from fantasy, these authors provided me with the courage to push past the boundaries and write what I wanted to, simply because I could.
When and where do you prefer to write?
Anytime is a good time! Ideas always seem to pop into my head at the most inopportune times. I’m often in situations where the concept and words flow faster than I can write because sometimes they come to me while I’m standing in a middle of an aisle in the supermarket! Most times, however, I do love to write in the comfort of my own home, in front of the computer with a cup of tea, as I lounge in my pyjamas.
What was your biggest challenge in writing your book?
Reducing the length of the manuscript. I could have gone on forever!
While going through my divorce, with a 4-year-old in tow, I was constantly worried about my daughter’s state of mind. There were plenty of resources at my disposal to deal with this life challenge, however, I felt that I needed to find an alternative way to communicate with her, to tell her that life is beautiful and that everything will be ok. I felt that telling and reassuring her was simply not adequate. So, I decided I would further highlight the good in what we currently have through loving words and beautiful illustrations. The message of the book is to hone in on the positives because at the end of the day, she has no choice. So let’s not wallow on the challenges and difficulties.
I also wanted a gentle resource for close family and friends. Divorce also affects the people around us and changes social dynamics. It makes for a difficult conversation to have with children when they’re not in this position themselves.
Based on this premise, my first attempt was a jumble of feelings on paper. There was no structure or body to the story. I simply wanted to write. When I finally finished everything I wanted to say, I had to peel it back and segment my thoughts. The result was an additional three manuscripts in the series that are currently being worked on.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Write all the time! Write about anything and have a great time doing it.
Believe in your words and your message. Don’t sway too far away from your initial goal as you may not like the finished product. Stay true to yourself.
About you …
What do you like to do when you are not writing (other than reading, of course)?
My most favorite thing in the world to do is spending time with my daughter and partner and we’re extremely active and social. Travel and photography take on a natural second and third place.
Travel continues to educate my heart and soul. I love discovering things about places I had visited before that I had never noticed in the first instance. Age, wisdom and maturity changes one’s perspective. I also love travelling with my new partner. He sees things I otherwise wouldn’t have and travelling with a child is even more exhilarating. Looking at the world through their eyes is always filled with wonder.
The camera (next to the laptop!) is my one prized materialistic possession. I love creating stories through pictures. My subjects are always people and I love being able to capture precious moments, when it was least expected.
Do you have any unique talents besides writing?
For a writer, I lead an extremely normal, left brain life. I’m afraid I don’t have any other special talents that would be deemed extraordinary.
What can we expect from you in the future?
A Brand New Day is but the first of many books in the divorce series to be published. However, I am currently working on the first book of the Pocketful of Pride series, entitled A Wishful Wedding, which delves into stories about same-sex families.
Quick Hits …
Is there an author that you would really like to meet?
I would love to have met David Eddings, an American fantasy writer. He was my “first love” and I was so engrossed and enthralled in his five book series The Belgariad as it introduced me into a wonderful world of fantasy. Much like J.R.R. Tolkien, he created an entire world, generations of characters and a language of its own. I have read all his subsequent books and feel like I have grown up with this fictional royal family! I wished I could have thanked him for immersing me into the kind of reading where I locked myself away for days and only left the room because I was hungry.
What book are you currently reading (eBook or paper)?
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx and Adultery by Paulo Coehlo. Adultery was released while I was reading Annie Proulx and I am an avid fan of Paulo Coehlo. I turned to Paulo Coelho’s spiritual words to get me through the difficult phase of divorce and in many ways allowed the slow minutes become beautiful days.
Who designed your latest book cover?
The most amazing illustrator I know, Paula Bossio. She is so incredibly talented and she has a remarkable knack of translating my words into art.
What is your favourite quote?
“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” Jesse Jackson
Visit with Amy:
Mondays and Tuesdays are fun, going on cooking adventures with Dad. We look forward to Wednesdays and Thursday too when we get to be a green thumb with Mum. Don’t forget the holidays! Spring breaks with Mum and hot summer camping with Dad. Each day is a truly special day!
A Banana Split Story is a series within the Pigeonhole Books collection that features stories about children from separated and divorced families.
Amy on Facebook:
Amy on Twitter:
When you take a moment to get to know Amy through her books, publishing, blog, interviews and social media, you’ll discover a woman who has found a way to make a difference in people’s lives, one shared story at a time. She encompasses the true spirit of Family Day – a chance to celebrate everyone who feels their family around them, no matter what it might look like.
We congratulate Amy on her success and wish her continued good fortune in her bright future. Great to meet you Amy!
Words on a Limb would like to wish everyone a happy, warm, love-filled Family Day.
A little while ago, I was pleased to connect with Stella when I was in contact with Scholastic Canada. She was very gracious and supportive to me as a burgeoning writer. Her insight and advice gave me great direction and confidence.
Stella has been the Publishing Coordinator at Scholastic Canada for several years. During that time she has also successfully published three exceptional children’s books. I caught up with her recently this fall, as she was launching her new title: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Puck.
Stella has a compelling career as a publisher and author, and I’m happy to share her story with you.
* For our teacher friends – do not miss the classroom resources available for download in the book review section below!
Where did you grow up? What were you like as a child? What part of those personality traits have stayed with you?
I was born in Nicosia, Cyprus and came to Canada very young. I grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I was a shy kid and I’m still pretty shy. I’ve learned to work around it, though. I always loved reading and sharing stories. I spent a lot of time at the public library and I always took part in the summer reading programs. I helped with the reading buddy program at my elementary school and later I tutored high school kids who needed help with English and Math. My parents would tell me stories of our village in Cyprus that I share with my own kids now.
What was your first piece of creative art that you remember (craft, book, painting) creating? Where is it now?
I always loved arts and crafts. As a kid I learned to crochet, knit, dance (ballet, jazz and Greek dancing), play the violin and piano. I even taught myself how to make pysanki (Ukrainian Easter eggs) and I’m not even Ukrainian. I decorated some eggs especially for my mom and she still displays them every Easter as part of the centrepiece.
In grade four I wrote a play called “Prince Pickleworth Stops Littering.” I worked on it for weeks and when I showed it to my homeroom teacher, he was so impressed that he asked me to perform it for the class. So a bunch of my friends and I stayed in for recess over a couple of days and then put on a show. I kept worrying that the play was going to be a disaster but when it came time to perform for the class everyone did a great job. It turned out really well. I was so proud of them. The play is lost but the memory is always with me.
Tell us about your first “YES” in your career. Where were you? How did it feel?
The first “yes” in my writing career was the one I told myself. It was a “yes” to doing what I love regardless of the outcome. I never thought I’d get published but there was no harm in sharing what I had written and seeing what happened.
My first published book started with a silly punchline that popped into my head as I was walking down the street: Sasquatchewan. I don’t know where it came from but once it was there I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I knew I had to write a joke to match that punchline. I finally figured it out, “Where does Big Foot live?” Before I knew it I had written over 150 spooky jokes and some silly poems too. I sent them to an editor at Scholastic Canada. She liked them and the next thing I knew we were working to make it into an actual book. We left out the poems and pared the list of jokes down to 101 creepy Canadian jokes, which we published under the title, um, 101 Creepy Canadian Jokes.
Getting published was actually a big surprise. I didn’t know if my jokes were any good (and, quite frankly, some are better than others).
Tell us about your writing process from idea to page. Do you envision your book completely or does it unfold for you as you write?
Most of the time I know how I want the story to start and I know how I want the story to end. I then figure out how to get from start to finish. Sometimes a story will start taking on a direction of its own and in those cases, I just let the story write itself without worrying too much about getting to the ending that I had in mind at the beginning. After I’ve worked out a first draft, I’ll figure out how that story would fit into a 32-page picture book and revise it to fit.
The air is crisp and chilly in Winnipeg as fall descends on us. We had a unique opportunity to sit and talk to one of our favourite picture book authors, accomplished writer and mom, Maureen Fergus.
Born in Regina, Saskatchewan and raised in Winnipeg, she has lived quite a journey to arrive at her dream of creating multiple picture books, several young adult novels, including a wildly popular fantasy trilogy. She admits, that in spite of all her achievements, the one thing she values is most is the recognition of her many readers and fans.
Maureen spoke to us over the phone from her beautiful home, apparently full of treasures (more on that below), in Winnipeg where she lives with her husband, three children, a hedgehog and the family dog Buddy, affectionately known as Sir Barksalot – handsome fella, no?
Here is her story. If you are a young writer, there is plenty of gold in this river.
Welcome Maureen, it’s a privilege to speak with you today. What kind of kid were you , how much of it has stayed with you?
I’ve never been asked that, that is an interesting question. I was very studious, I liked school, I was a perfectionist. I loved a good laugh, I thought I was hilarious, that certainly hasn’t changed. The perfectionist thing mellowed a lot once I had kids. You sort of have 2 choices when you have 3 kids in 3.5 years. You can continue to try to be a perfectionist and go off the deep end, or you just relax a little and except that not everything can be in its place all the time.
But in terms of the way I think and I approach situations I think a big part of that has stayed with me. In fact, I can go back and have a very clear memory of who I was at 4, how it felt to be 4, how I saw the world at 4. I can see that vividly, even at the ages of 7 or 11. This really helps me as a writer because, when writing picture books or books for middle grades or for older teens, I’m not thinking from the outside looking in, I’m thinking what a kid would do or think. I really try to put myself back in that place to write.
Do you have any creations from when you were a child?
I actually have one story that I wrote when I was 10 or 11. It was about a super pickle that goes to Ottawa and becomes a member of parliament. I was just a rambling sort of story. As a young girl, I never really wanted to be a writer, it was never my objective. I was always much more interested in science and math. I did love reading – I would keep a journal, keep up with out-of-town friends through snail mail.
I remember one other story from grade 7. I had a perfectionist teacher. Every week we had to write a story and my goal was write one that would get a 10/10. So, I wrote a story making fun of how strict she was. I wrote about me turning over the table, kicking the garbage can and how Miss Shanks got really upset. Funny enough it was a piece of writing that most closely resembles what I’m writing 20 years after. I got 10/10 for that one – the only 10/10 she gave out that year, it appealed to the perfectionist in me. Fortunately, she pushed me to get in touch with the voice of the writer I was going to become. It wasn’t a moment where I suddenly recognized I was going to be a writer, but looking back now, I realized it was the first moment when I really tapped into what that voice was going to be. I would like to go back and let her know that, even though I did not know it at the time, she had a pretty profound impact on my 20 years down the road. Continue reading
We were ever so fortunate to spend a moment with the entertaining storyteller, musician, teacher and prolific author of the first four Pete the Cat picturebooks, Eric Litwin … Mr. Eric. He is also the author of the new musical series The Nuts.
He has spent the better part of his career championing literacy through music and movement, particularly impacting new and emerging readers. Eric has travelled across the US, Canada and abroad spreading the message of building creative communities where children feel confident tackling their first reading experience, and having a fun time along the way.
He spoke to us from his home in Atlanta, where he is busy dreaming up the further adventures of the Nut Family. Here is his story:
Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid? What still holds true for you?
I grew up in Dobbs Ferry on the Hudson, a small town in the Hudson River Valley. It’s very beautiful there. As a kid I would say I was creative and quiet. I loved to read.
This is an interesting question, I give about 300 performances every year, where I entertain in front of a group, it’s hard to claim that I’m introverted and shy, but I will say that it’s been a long time since I’ve felt shy.
You have been a teacher. What were your influences encouraging you towards writing?
Wonderful question! I was a special needs teacher. I have a masters degree in both education and administration. My main interest in education was to get my students engaged and interested in reading, and feel empowered about reading. I was also a musician at night, focusing on getting my audience involved with a lot of folk type of music with interactivity. So I started using music and movement along with interactive techniques. My influences were folk tales and songs – the whole American oral tradition of music and stories.
Tell us the story about the first turning point of your career?
I taught for 3 years – I found my favourite part of teaching was creating the content and writing the story. I realized this was where my greatest gift was, so I left the classroom to create content and performances. I became a very popular performer, doing 200-300 performances every year for almost 10 years. I would perform in schools, libraries – during assemblies. Believe it or not, it was during these performances that I started to develop a writing style, which I now call interactive literacy, because I don’t have a better name for it. It basically means stories told with sing-alongs and move-alongs. There’s call-response and repetition. These techniques engage the audience and they engage the reader. It not only makes a great performance piece, but it also makes it a great early reader. That was the key to the first four Pete the Cat books.
So during those ten years I guess I did what Malcolm Gladwell calls putting in your 10,000 hours. I wrote the story of a little girl and her white shoes. It was the best story I’d ever written, I knew it was special. It was a story that would work with different characters so I would swap her out for a cool cat or cool dog. Some time after, I saw Pete the Cat at an art festival, he was a folk art character created by illustrator James Dean. I felt that this cat and the story of the girl with her white shoes were a good fit. I had a vision to blend early literacy, folk art and music together.
by Teresa Villegas co-author and illustrator of children’s book “How We Became a Family”
Talking with children about difficult topics (such as sex, birth, death, war, politics, etc.) doesn’t have to be so difficult, if you have already established an open style of communication with your child. What exactly is an “open style of communication” and how to achieve this?
Well, it turns out that it’s basically the same kind of communication style that you would have with anyone; adult or child, relative or friend. And it’s founded on a handful of common courtesies: listening, respect, empathy and love.
Open positive communication with children means paying attention by listening to them without interruption, respecting the child’s thoughts and feelings, and connecting with them by empathizing with their opinions and views. Love is what binds this all together in how we express ourselves to children and watching the tone of our voice when we speak can either cause the conversation to open or to close.
Listening and respecting others are pretty much self-evident, and is only a matter of allowing yourself to put them into action. Children learn “active listening skills” from their grade school teachers and keep us reminded of this elementary skill we adults and parents now call “being present.” When we talk to other adults, we can openly challenge that which we do not agree with. However, this approach can stifle a child’s willingness to speak openly. Since their desire is to please us, we need to make sure we do not curtail their emoting by our statements. We need to acknowledge their point of view, and then we can proceed to explain why we believe our point of view.
Empathy can be defined as the ability to feel or imagine another person’s emotional experience. An innate quality we are born with that allows us to make personal and social connections with others and to further the line of our species. Children are closer to their feelings than most adults, and that’s a good thing! We can all respect and understand the feelings of anger, frustration, uncertainty, loss, grief, and joy.
Love and the tone of voice when we are communicating, are not always one and the same. Our tone of voice conveys more to our children than any words. Statements can spill out of our mouths without our realizing how it can sound to a child. Tone of voice and listening were the two skills I immediately noticed and admired when I first met my husband before I knew what he did as a profession. As we became friends, then newlyweds and then as new parents, his listening-skills-training as a psychologist and physician, fostered an open communication style within our relationship and with our children. But you don’t need to be a doctor or married to one to put these skills into use. When attention is given to listening and noticing our projected tone of voice with our responses, we learn a lot about ourselves and how we come across to others with whom we are communicating, especially our children. When we convey patience and serenity in our conversation, it opens up discussion.
When our children ask us questions and/or interrupt us, our tone of voice may often be saying “what now?”or “can’t this wait?” or “I really don’t know how to answer that” combined with our curt words answering “yes, sure, maybe, no, not now, later, ok?” When I catch myself doing this dance of communication avoidance, especially with tough questions or topics I’d rather put off for an eternal “another time”, I’m reminded of two thoughts I’d like to share with you. I don’t remember which of the gazillion parenting books or articles where I read these, so I apologize for my failure of referencing the particular sources. Their emphasis on focusing on the moment and their wisdom reached out and grabbed my attention and my heart. They have helped me and have stayed with me to this day. I hope they do the same for you.
• Ask yourself “when your child walks into your room, does your face light up? Is your child aware of how important they are to you and how much you value their presence?”
• When you find yourself talking with another person or child, ask yourself
“Is love available here? Can I make space for love to enter into this conversation?”
When I can stop (this is a conscious ongoing process for me), and if I can remind myself of these two concepts above, it helps me to come to center with every tough question or conversation our children bring up and it becomes easier to communicate in an open, honest and authentic way.
One of the toughest topics we are very familiar with and have been talking a lot about
since our children were born, has to do with how many different ways that families are made. In today’s society, along with the advocacy of open communication and open information on the internet we know that there are many different kinds of families. For some families like ours, it takes more than the traditional concept of family. Sometimes, it takes science and the help of others.
Talking about infertility and how you built your family via IVF and an egg donor or a sperm donor is more accepted now than it was 10 years ago. Awareness is growing. However, it’s still a topic that can be hard to broach with your family, friends, and your children. It is our hope that creating a family with donor assistance will become as common to talk about and accepted in our society as adoption has become.
Within the U.S., more than 10% of all couples suffer from infertility and one in eight couples need medical help to create their families. Fortunately, there are many options with the help of medical science and a donor, but many parents are at a loss to explain this process to their child.
With so few role models to follow, it’s hard to know how to approach this conversation with young children. The following tips will help parents feel comfortable and begin telling their donor-conceived child, how they became a family through science and the help of others.
For more in-depth information please visit our website HowWeBecameaFamily.com.
How To Talk With Your Child About Their Donor Origins
1. Let Go of Your Genetic Dream Family. Acknowledging that you wont be raising a child with yours and your partners’ genes combined is heartbreaking for most couples, and it’s normal to experience this grief – if you allowed it. After experiencing years of infertility, and in your drive to become pregnant, you may have skimmed over or delayed this first crucial step. If you have not begun this subtle, yet necessary step, it may be part of what’s holding you back from feeling ready to talk about it.
2. Define Your Beliefs About Family. Defining what family means to you will strengthen your ability to communicate about how you chose to build your family, should you encounter any negativity about your decisions. Perhaps what you’ve discovered is that love, trust, relationships and support are the foundations that make up a family – not genetics. Understanding how you feel about your choices will make it easier for you to explain them to your child.
3. Affirm The Donor. Regardless of whether you chose to have an open or anonymous relationship with your donor, it’s a good idea to talk with your child about the significance of the donor’s role with appreciation and respect. Children intuitively tune in to your feelings about the donor. Because the donor will forever remain in your awareness, and because how you think and feel about the donor will affect your child, embrace them and celebrate them wholly.
4. Tell Your Child Early. Generally, it is not conception that you want to communicate about as much as the unique path by which your child has entered into your family. Therefore, begin to practice talking about the presence of the other people in that child’s life to whom they may be genetically related, normalize it as it is – a basic fact about their life. “Before you were born, we needed help from a very kind person, for us to make you.”
5. Embrace Your Child’s Curiosity. As your child learns about their donor origins, they may be curious about the donor and wonder and ask questions such as “What are they like?” What do they look like?” As your child grows, they may ask more mature questions such as “Why did they donate?” “Do they have children too?” Research shows that donor conceived people are inquisitive about their donor origins even when they experience positive parent-child relationships. Curiosity will continue and evolve and they will look to you to help them understand it all.
Using a children’s book to introduce the conversation with your child about their donor conceived beginnings is an easy way to start. The How We Became a Family children’s book series is a welcome relief for parents of children born through IVF with donor conception. There are four versions available depending on your family’s needs. Two versions are for families whose children were conceived with an egg donor, resulting in either a single child, or twins. Two other versions are for families whose children were conceived with a sperm donor, resulting in either a single child, or twins. The books are beautifully designed, with highly-nuanced illustrations with remarkable combinations of depth and whimsy to be read with children ages 2-10. Introduce the conversation with ease by simply reading together. Published by Heart and Mind Press it is now available. Each book is a high quality hardcover children’s picture book with a matte varnish cover, full color, 32 pages of heavyweight uncoated interior pages, 8″x 8″ for parents to read with their child. For more details on how to purchase a book, for your family or as a thoughtful gift, visit HowWeBecameaFamily.com.
I was able to connect with Teresa and Bernard through our site’s various communications with authors and illustrators. After reading their book, I felt their story shone a light on a topic that most of us do not typically have a chance to discover, unless of course our lives are touched by this miracle. As a bonus, we also learned some healthy tips on relating to the most important loved ones in our lives.
I want to extend a warm thank you to Teresa for taking a moment to enlighten us today. We wish them love, happiness and continued success with their blessed home and their endeavor to help educate. I encourage you to visit their website and “fill your tool box”.