Keeping the Peace at Home: How to Stop Sibling Fighting

Our kids are together a lot during the summer — or at least a lot more than they’re used to being together.

This family time is great, it’s part of makes summer “summer,” right?

But, now that we’re in the heart of summer break, we know that with all of this togetherness often comes a fair share of sibling fighting. It might start with name-calling or teasing, but can and does often escalate to bossing around, pushing or even hitting.

Depending on the age of your kids, some arguments may be sillier than others. Depending on their gender, some arguments may be more physical than others. But regardless of your children’s age, gender, interests or hobbies, chances are they will argue. And it will drive you crazy.

However, if you take the right approach, something positive can come from all of the fighting. Here are some tips for making the most of the sibling conflict that is inevitable during the summer months.

  • Listen to them. When your kids are acting crazy, it’s sometimes hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes just letting them tell you what they are feeling might reveal the underlying reasons for their actions, or may solve or address an even bigger issue.
  • End the discussion. It’s tempting to let your kids go back and forth and back and forth, in a fight consisting mostly of “he said,” “she said.” These discussions can go on and on to no avail. You can help them move on by articulating their positions, so they know you’ve heard them, then ending the discussion. And if they persist, you can always just tell them something short and to the point, such as “Unfortunately, life is not fair … end of discussion.” Or “We all have disappointments from time to time … they’re just part of life.”
  • Figure out some fairness policies. You can help your kids understand that actions have consequences by figuring out some “punishments” to fit their “crimes.” Depending on their age (and allowance), fine them 50 cents or $1 every time they hit their sibling. Or if Henry breaks a toy from Jason’s room, let Jason take a toy from Henry’s room. Understanding bad behavior has consequences will likely at least reduce how often it occurs.
  • Focus on the positive instead of the negative. Instead of punishing Luci every time she takes something away from Rose, compliment Rose’s good behavior instead. Bad behavior can often stem from a child feeling left out, unloved or un-noticed. Paying more attention to the generous, loving, caring or good behavior might encourage more of that and less fighting.
  • Encourage cooperation and resolution. A fair share of sibling arguments or rivalry is rooted in “unfairness,” or the perception of inequality. Instead of trying to appease a competition between who gets more strawberries or who gets to take a shower first, figure out a system that is more focused on cooperation and resolution. For example, ask them how many strawberries they need instead of trying to give them both same amount of strawberries. Or ask them to create a system for how to decide who gets to shower first. If they figure out an idea or resolution on their own, they’ll be more likely to come back to it the next time they have a disagreement.

How do you resolve sibling disagreements in your family? Share your tips on our Facebook page or email Annette.shukry@seekingsitters.com!

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How to Make Your Summer “Trip” More of a Vacation

It’s no secret that “vacations” with kids are really not vacations at all.

They’re just normal life with a change of scenery, and maybe a few different activities.

And as long as your kids are relatively young, that won’t change. They’ll still need help with dinner, baths and bedtime. They’ll still whine or have tantrums when it’s not convenient at all. And it will still be hard to have an uninterrupted conversation with any adult, most of the time.

That said, you can take a few steps — or a certain approach — to make your family trip at least a little more relaxing.

  • Don’t over-plan. If you’re going to a place with lots of sights — monuments, theme parks or museums — you might be tempted to pack as much as you can into every waking minute. Don’t. Just schedule one planned activity per day and leave the rest of the day to chance. That way, you won’t get disappointed if Charlie has a meltdown at the museum or Suzie needs a nap right when your older kids are ready for the water park. It’s not a bad idea to plan more “possible sights” for every day just in case you have time. But if you don’t plan much, you won’t be disappointed if you don’t make it to every sight on your list.
  • Be present. Make the decision to unplug from your day-to-day routine, whether that’s work emails, social media or to-do lists. You’ll relax better — and remember the vacation more — if you’re able to be present with your kids. That means talking to them about what they’re experiencing, answering their questions about what they’re seeing and spending time doing the activities with them you always wish you had time for but never do.
  • Don’t worry about usual day-to-day tasks or chores. Your closet needs to be organized. The grass needs to be mowed. And you still need to work out a few details for your kids’ fall schedule. Don’t do — or even think about — these tasks while you’re on vacation. They will still need to be done when you get back. And at that point, you won’t have a vacation to miss.
  • Let the kids take the lead. If your kids are more interested in building a fort at the hotel room than going to see a monument, help them build the fort! Sometimes the most unexpected — or unplanned — activities make the best memories. Plus, if you let the kids take the lead for a bit, they’ll be in a better mood. And that might make it easier for you to take them to the see the monument later on.
  • Go out for a date night. If you’re going on a trip with other family members, ask one of them to watch the kids so you and your spouse can enjoy dinner together. Or, hire a sitter. SeekingSitters members are eligible to hire sitters in cities that have SeekingSitters services. Check out this website to see if SeekingSitters services are available where you are going for vacation. A few hours with your spouse will not only help you relax, but also help you recharge your energy for more activities with the kids.

Trips are often a lot of work to plan for, especially if you have kids. And you can only take trips so often. So when you go on your family vacation this year, make a special effort to relax as much as you can. The more you relax, the more your kids will relax, and the better memories you will all be able to take away from the experience.

This blog originally appeared on momaha.com, the Omaha World-Herald’s online community for moms.

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How to Maintain Your “To-do” list – and Your Sanity – this Summer

So here we are in summer. All of the kids are out of school and spending their time doing other things. Some may be in summer school or spending every morning at swim team practice. Others may be doing camps here and there or baseball games three nights a week.

No matter what they’re doing, their routines are different. And because their routines are different, your routines are different.

As a parent, you’re not going to be able to do everything you want in the time you’re used to doing it. However, chances are, you still need to accomplish a fair amount of tasks, whether those tasks are related to work, your kids or your home.

Here are a few tips for how to check some of the necessary tasks off your list – and also maintain your sanity – as you live through these hectic summertime months.

  • Build in extra time for everything. You’re not going to be able to “run in and out of the grocery store” in a few minutes, like you can when the kids are in school. So when you plan a trip to the grocery store or Target, build in some extra time for unplanned delays, such as a third grader who takes a while to get into the car or a toddler who stages an unexpected tantrum in a grocery store isle. That way, if these errands take longer than expected, your entire day won’t be thrown off.
  • Plan for down time. It’s OK to schedule time for yourself to read a book or magazine, watch a show or just sit on the couch for a few minutes. Parenting is a marathon, not a race, and without a little “down time,” you might get burnt out by trying to pack too much into one day.
  • Schedule a sitter to help out. If you have several errands to run or find it physically impossible to be in two places at the same time, schedule a sitter a few hours a week to help out. Those extra few hours to run errands by yourself or even spend a couple of hours with a friend over lunch might make you a much happier person. And when mom and dad are happy, so are the kids.
  • Have a flexible mindset. This is easier said than done. But anyone with kids knows you can’t plan for everything. If you go into each day with the mentality that the day might not go exactly as planned, you won’t be quite as disappointed when it doesn’t. And not planning out every moment of the day allows time for an impromptu play date or trip to the pool, which could create a great memory.Knowing that you won’t be able to “do it all,” make a list of the tasks that absolutely must get done, somehow or another. Perhaps you absolutely have to get to grocery store and get more milk, or you must finish a work project by a certain time. Make a point of completing these items first, so if everything else doesn’t get done, life can (and will) go on.
  •  Prioritize. Knowing that you won’t be able to “do it all,” make a list of the tasks that absolutely must get done, somehow or another. Perhaps you absolutely have to get to grocery store and get more milk, or you must finish a work project by a certain time. Make a point of completing these items first, so if everything else doesn’t get done, life can (and will) go on.

Summertime isn’t easy for parents. Everyone’s schedules are thrown off, which often throws everyone’s moods and sleep schedules off as well. But it’s during the summertime months that many of us have a little more time to spend with our little ones, relaxing together and creating memories. So as you cope with the changes, also cherish the changes while they last. As we all know, when school starts in a couple months, we’ll all have our schedules back again.

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To Tip Or Not To Tip Your Sitter — That is the Question

You expect your sitter to prepare food for your children during meal times and help them through their morning or bedtime routine. You expect her to keep them occupied and engaged, and also follow your household rules. And you expect her to respond to any scrapes, bruises or runny noses when they occur, keeping your child feeling safe and cared for.

But certain circumstances, either unforeseen or just plain difficult, land outside of the “typical” job description for a sitting job.

And when your sitter responds well to such events, the best way to show your appreciation is, well, with cold, hard cash.

What kinds of situations require the kind of “above and beyond” service that may warrant a tip? Here are a few for your consideration.

  • Dealing with a household emergency. Let’s say the power goes out, a pipe breaks or the furnace dies while your sitter is over. She will have to be extra resourceful to remedy the situation or keep your kids calm until the situation subsides.
  • Helping out last-minute or during a holiday. Perhaps she came to the rescue when you had a last-minute need on a Saturday night, or chose to care for your children on a night when sitters are in demand, such as New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day. A tip might be appropriate to thank her for choosing your family over something else.
  • Sitting more children. When the kids next door decide to come over for an impromptu play date, your sitter might have to work harder to make sure everyone is occupied, amicable and safe.
  • Driving kids around. It’s one thing if driving your kids to and from school, or to different activities, is included in your sitter’s regular job description. But if she is asked to taxi the kids around town beyond her regular routine, you might want to show appreciation for the extra hassle.
  • Caring for your child while they are ill. Most of us wouldn’t knowingly leave the house if one of our kids had the stomach flu, or we knew they were going to fall out of the tree and sprain their wrist when we were gone. But as parents, we all know we can’t anticipate these incidents. If they happen to occur while our babysitter is in charge, we also know from experience how much extra work it can be to provide the extra care and attention your child needs.

Use your own judgment when trying to determine exactly how much you should tip your sitter. In some circumstances, a few extra dollars, or rounding up to the nearest $5 or $10 mark might be sufficient. Other circumstances – those that require a trip to the emergency room or household catastrophe – might warrant an extra $20 or more beyond her regular compensation.

Regardless of the amount, the gesture alone will be appreciated. And chances are, if she feels appreciated, she will want to come back.

This blog originally appeared on momaha.com, the Omaha World-Herald’s online community for moms.

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Easy Meal Ideas Any Babysitter Can Prepare

Heating up a frozen pizza or mixing up a batch of mac & cheese is an easy way for a babysitter to get dinner on the table when you’re away for the night.

But they aren’t the only fool-proof menu options out there for kids.

With summer just around the corner, your babysitter may soon be preparing more meals than usual. So to help you give your kids – and your sitter – a bit more diverse (and probably healthier) menu during their time together, I thought I’d put together a list of easy meal ideas. Your sitter doesn’t have to be a gourmet chef to prepare them and chances are, your kids won’t leave the table hungry.

  • Pasta. Very few children don’t like pasta. Some like it without anything on it, others like it with a sprinkling of cheese, where as some will happily eat a meat or Carbonara sauce. Knowing your kids might prefer their noodles in different ways, think about putting together some different toppings (cheese, pepperoni slices, tomatoes) and let them build their own dish.
  • Quesadillas. Most kids love the texture and taste of tortillas. So give them a new spin on the grilled cheese standard by serving them cheese in a tortilla instead of bread. Your sitter can make one just with cheese or customize it with other veggies they may like. Or, to make the meal even more interesting, consider offering your kids melted cheese or other sauces to dip it in!
  • Breakfast for lunch or dinner. It’s more fun to eat pancakes at night or during lunchtime. And, for whatever reason, they seem to taste better to kids then, too! Scrambled eggs, pigs in a blanket, French toast or even cereals are fun and easy meals for kids to enjoy any time of the day. And they are an easy way to fill hungry tummies.
  • Smoothies. All you need to make a good smoothie is a blender and whatever ingredients you want to put into it. Maybe your kids like strawberries mixed with bananas and orange juice. Or blueberries mixed with yogurt and a mango. Make sure your refrigerator is always stocked with their smoothie ingredients of choice for an easy lunchtime meal or healthy afternoon snack.

There’s always the crockpot if you want to make your go-to spaghetti sauce ahead of time, or make some easy barbequed chicken. And some days, a crockpot recipe might be just what your kids are craving.

Whatever your standard dishes are, I’d encourage you to add to them this summer. Your kids may or may not like the new dishes! But they won’t know if they like them until they try them!

If you have any easy, babysitter-friendly meals of your own you’d like to share, please email me at Annette.shukry@seekingsitters.com. We’ll post your recipes on our Facebook page or include them in the next newsletter!

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What to Look For in a Babysitter

Trying to find a new babysitter to care for your child, especially if you’re a first-time mom, can be nerve-wracking.

You may wonder: What should I be looking for? What should I expect? What will she expect? And how will I know if my expectations are too high?

The short answer? Don’t sell yourself (or your kids) short.

As a guardian of your child and the person responsible for his or her safety and wellbeing, your expectations for your sitter should be high. Your kids deserve it.

As you start the process of hiring a sitter, it’s is helpful to articulate or put in writing the attributes you value and why these attributes are important. Having this list might make it easier to identify the right sitter when you find her. To make this easier, I thought I’d share a few attributes that are important to us as we are interviewing candidates to add to the SeekingSitters team.

  • Reliability. You want a sitter who respects the babysitting job – and your time – enough to show up on time. In fact, if she’s really good, she’ll show up early to discuss your instructions and plan for the day.
  • Preparedness. Good sitters come to work with ideas on what to do while they’re with your kids, such as games, crafts or other activities. After she arrives, she may just end up following your kids’ lead on what they want to do. But, the point is, she has a plan in case your kids claim to be “bored” at some point.
  • Experience. Every sitter has to start somewhere, but you’ll want your sitter to have some kind of experience before they care for your kids. That experience may include caring for siblings at home, sitting for other families, or maybe taking a babysitting class offered by the American Red Cross. Plus, experienced caregivers generally handle difficult or unexpected situations better than someone with no experience. In addition, you’ll want a sitter who has obtained a couple of important certifications, including First Aid or CPR.
  • Ability to Take Charge. While your sitter should be fun and playful, she should also know how to be an authority figure and enforce your household rules as needed. If you leave specific instructions (no more snacks after teeth brushing or no TV until after homework is complete), she needs to make sure your kids follow them.
  • Attentive and Loving. Good sitters give your child a snack when he is hungry, and console him when he scrapes his knee. You want a sitter who is always listening to your child and interacting with him in a gentle, loving way instead of constantly checking her phone for emails or text messages.

At SeekingSitters of Omaha Metro and Lincoln, we work hard to find sitters who match all of these qualifications. It’s important to us that we provide sitters who are qualified and dependable, but also sitters who truly want to be caring for children. Sitters who want to be caring for children, rather than just making few extra dollars, will try harder to make the experience as good as possible for you and your kids.

And at the end of the day, a great experience for everyone is our ultimate goal.

This blog was originally published April 28, 2015 on momaha.com, the Omaha World-Herald’s online community for moms.

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How to Let Your Sitter Go

She has the most important job in your house when you’re away.

But, you’ve decided, for what could be a myriad of reasons, it’s time to let your sitter or nanny go.

Maybe you’re cutting back on your work hours. Perhaps your family is moving to a different city or your youngest child is starting kindergarten. Or maybe your sitter just isn’t doing her job.

Whatever the reason, it’s never easy to say goodbye to the person who regularly cares for your kids when you’re away. So here are a few tips to help you make this process as easy – and amicable – as possible.

  • Determine your timeline. Decide when you want to break the news and also terminate the employment. If you’re youngest is going to kindergarten or you are moving away, it may be obvious to your sitter that she won’t be needed after the change occurs. In this case, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with her as soon as possible to let her know when her final day of work will be (for her planning purposes as well as yours). If you are letting your sitter go for poor job performance, however, the sooner you cut ties, the better.
  • Figure out your plan. Figure out how much longer you will need your sitter’s help and work backwards from there. If you need your sitter’s help right up until moving day or the first day of kindergarten, you might be able to give her a solid date. If that date is a couple of months away, be prepared to pay her as usual until the last day. And, depending on the situation, it might be a good idea to be ready to offer a couple of weeks of “severance” that will be paid after her last day, just to give her more incentive to stay with your family through the transition. If you’re planning to dismiss her immediately, due to poor job performance, be prepared to present her with her last paycheck, and collect any household items she has, such as keys or credit cards.
  • Break the news to your sitter. Since no one likes to be the bearer of bad news, this is the especially difficult part for many people. To make it as painless as possible, plan to keep the conversation short and succinct. Your sitter might get emotional or defensive, so be prepared for that. If she is leaving on good terms, offer to write her a letter of recommendation or share her resume with your network. The more you can prepare ahead of time for this conversation, the easier it will probably be. Because this is a potentially difficult conversation, it’s usually a good idea to have it when the children are not around.
  • Tell your kids. In most cases, your kids will have a close relationship with your sitter or nanny, so it might be tough news for them to take. If your sitter is leaving on amicable terms, you might want to tell your kids with your sitter, so you can both reinforce the idea that it isn’t your kids’ fault that she is leaving. You may even want to plan a farewell meal or simple party, to help provide closure for both your kids and your sitter. If your sitter is being terminated for poor job performance, however, you should let your kids know after the sitter has left, and give them a simple, matter-of-fact reason for why she was let go (ie. “She doesn’t pick you up at school on time,” or “She forgot to make sure you were wearing your seatbelt, and that’s not OK”).

Life is full of chapters. The chapter when your kids are cared for by a long-term sitter or nanny was never supposed to last forever. But goodbyes, especially if they’re on good terms, are never easy. The better you plan and prepare, however, the easier the process will be. And the easier it will be for everyone to move on.

This blog was originally published on momaha.com, the Omaha World-Herald’s online community for moms, on April 8, 2015.

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