Neighborhood Kids family fun in bellingham & whatcom county


Helping Kids Cope with Death

We live in a society that often avoids, if not denies, death. But it is a fact of life for all of us, including children. Few may arrive at adulthood without experiencing the death of a close family member or friend; most of us do not. How can parents best help children prepare for and deal with the reality of death?

Two young women in a cemetary. Introduce the realities of life and death to children carefully.

• First, start at the beginning. Help your kids to learn from nature. The changing of the seasons and life cycles of animals can introduce teaching points about life and death. Children’s books, television shows, and movies are helpful starting points as well; Charlotte’s Web, a well-known children’s novel about life, death, and friendship on a farm, has been adapted into animated and live-action films. Create an open sense of conversation on a level that is age appropriate for the children involved, but don’t overdo it; they don’t need every detail.

• When death arrives for the first time in your family, access the level of impact for the child. The loss of a favorite relative will affect a child differently than the passing of a neighbor, who they might see often but aren’t deeply connected to.

• Let children participate in the normal processes of life and death. Let them attend hospital visits for those who are ill with you. Attending viewings, funerals, memorial services, and wakes all have their place, depending on family traditions and situations, in helping a child come to understand death and say goodbye to the departed.

• Familiarize yourself with the Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Your awareness of the grief cycle, as developed by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying, will allow you to help your child through the varied phases.

• Take advantage of the teachable moments. In a time of death, you can articulate family beliefs and values through your words and actions.

• Allow your kids to be kids. If they are immature in response to a death, remember that it is because they are children. What may seem like overreaction to an adult might be normal behavior for a child. At the same time, some kids will show little concern or interest in the process. This may be attributed to a lack of understanding, rather than a sign of uncaring.

• Encourage storytelling and memory sharing about the departed. Look at pictures and videos to revisit memories of holidays and vacations. Allow all the emotional responses that follow during your reflection; this will communicate to your children that it’s okay to both cry and laugh during a time of grief.

• Compensate for your grief process. As the death will most likely impact you as well, it may be important to identify a close friend or family member who has not been directly impacted by the death, such as a regular babysitter, a neighbor, or a grandparent from the other side of the family, to help the child through the trauma. In turn, be aware of ways you can provide support for nieces and nephews, cousins, and neighbor kids while their parents cope with a death.

• Get help where needed. Look for resources—books and movies again—that focus on helping children. Consult your child’s teacher for recommendations and resources. Seek out professional help when needed; clergy and counselors can be a great source of support in times of grief (refer to “Considering Family Counseling” for more guidance in this matter).

• Prepare for extreme situations. The death of a sibling, parent, or another person of critical closeness will likely entail a longer, more intense time of grief, reaction, and healing.

Death isn’t an easy reality for any of us. Children deserve special consideration and care when death visits. When well-supported children can avoid being overwhelmed, they can move toward growth and maturity in adulthood.

leave a comment!

Post-Turkey Fitness Ideas

Why does everyone get so sleepy after a big Thanksgiving meal? It’s a myth that it’s because of the tryptophan in the turkey. According to blogSci, any large meal of fatty, starchy foods will make you feel “tired and lethargic.”

Boy with a football. A pick-up football game is a great Thanksgiving Day activity.

But that’s no excuse for having a lazy Thursday, even if it is a holiday. At some point in the day, make an effort to work in some physical activity into your day.

If you see a break in the rain clouds, all adults not involved in meal preparation or clean-up can wrangle the kids and head to a nearby park or school playground for a pick-up game of touch football, soccer, or kickball. Just make sure that everyone has changed out of their holiday best, as the fields might be a bit muddy during Whatcom County’s predictably soggy autumn.

Taking a walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood is also a good idea. Maybe you even want to start a family tradition of having a Turkey Day 1K around the track at your local school. You can buy ribbons or make medals out of cardboard, tinfoil, and string for an awards ceremony after the race.

Even if the weather’s not cooperating, there are still ways to enjoy some physical activity inside. If you have a basement with open space, pull pillows and cushions off the couches and beds to make a jumping trail throughout the room. Kids will love bouncing from cushion to cushion, pretending that the floor is a river of lava that they must avoid falling in. This will give them a chance to get rid of some holiday energy, and they get to be creative too.

In today’s world, there are even video games that help you work up a sweat. A few rounds of “Dance Dance Revolution” or some tennis on the Wii are activities that all family members, from toddlers to grandparents, can enjoy. Even if you don’t have a video game system, just turn on some pop music and let the kids go nuts for awhile.

What physical activities does your family enjoy before or after a big Thanksgiving meal? Share your ideas and leave a comment below!

leave a comment!

Puzzles and Games for the Holidays

As the holiday season marches along, you’re probably busy sorting out Thanksgiving menus and travel schedules. Have you even had time to take a look at the wish list for Santa that your kids started compiling way back in June? In alternative to a new video game system or latest must-have fashion item, here are some suggestions for holiday gifts that double as interactive pursuits that the whole family can enjoy together.

BOGGLE Game from Hasbro BOGGLE Game from Hasbro

“Word” You Like to Play a Game?

If you’d like to work on spelling and vocabulary with your children, there are a host of trademarked and do-it-yourself games that you can play with them.

Depending on your child’s age, you can always get “junior” versions of game like BOGGLE and SCRABBLE with simplified rules and more structured play. The great thing about SCRABBLE Junior is that the reverse side of the game board is a regular SCRABBLE board, so you can keep using it when your kids outgrow the Junior version.

If you have SCRABBLE tiles, you can also play a homegrown version of the game that my friends and I call “Speed Scrabble” (a similar version of this game is marketed as Bananagrams). Put all letter tiles facedown and have each player take seven tiles. Everyone then creates their own individual crossword of letters. When a player has used up all their tiles, they announce “Take two!” and everyone takes two more tiles from the pot. Players can rearrange their tiles to make new words as they acquire more letters. The first player to use all their tiles, with no tiles remaining in the pot, is the winner.

Have the Holidays Got You Puzzled?

When my family would visit relatives during the winter holidays, there was always a card table set up off of the living room covered with jigsaw puzzle pieces. One or two determined relatives might not be able to leave the table until the puzzle was complete, but people were welcome to come work on the puzzle as much or as little as they pleased. Even younger kids could help find border pieces or help assemble the more obvious puzzle features, like animals, while grown-ups enjoyed the challenge of putting together that big, blue sky.

Locally, you can get puzzles for a variety of ages at Fairhaven Toy Garden, or visit Mt. Baker Puzzle Books to purchase handcrafted, wooden puzzles that can also be used as building blocks.

Not All Pursuits are Trivial

Out of all the types of categories of games out there, trivia is my favorite and has been since I was a kid. My family used to bring Brain Quest® with us on road trips, passing the time with curriculum-based trivia questions that cover history, vocabulary, science, math (my least favorite), and other topics that were appropriate for my sister and I based on our age and grade.

Another car ride activity we enjoyed was our own version a game that combined the idea of “Celebrity” with the structure of “Twenty Questions” (although we never kept track of the number of questions). One person would pick a famous person—real or fictional—and the rest of the family would ask yes or no questions to determine the person in question (“Is it a woman? Is she still alive? Is it a politician?”). It was sometimes a challenge for me and my sister to come up with famous individuals that our parents would know about (and vice versa), but it was also a great way to start an intergenerational dialogue and learn about musicians or athletes that were popular when my parents were growing up.

Whether you buy a board game or create a game at home, puzzles and games are a great way to pass the time during the holidays and keep your kids’ brains active throughout their break from school.

How does your family pass the time during the holidays? What are your favorite family games? Leave a comment below!

leave a comment!