When Friends Part Ways: 6 Ways to Help Your Child

Katie and Megan met on the kindergarten playground and were immediate best friends. They shared giggles and secrets, sleepovers and a love of snickerdoodles. They went from first grade to seventh grade in a flash and were side by side the whole time. They were inseparable.

Then, something changed. Megan made the basketball team and discovered a new circle of friends. Not-so-athletic Katie felt she was left on the outside of the circle. Megan began spending more and more time with her new friends. Her interests and activities didn’t ever seem to include Katie. Feeling hurt and left out, Katie cloistered herself in her room at home and turned to books and music for solace.

Megan and Katie were never again as close as they had been back in those carefree kindergarten days.

When things change and friends part ways, it’s hard on everyone. Parents need to be prepared to help their child survive a friendship breakup.

“Each developmental stage is unique,” says Janet Breen, a licensed professional counselor with Methodist Family Health, a nonprofit organization that provides psychiatric and behavioral health care to children and families in Arkansas. “Parents should recognize and be sensitive to the importance of peers in each stage of their child’s life and how it affects their self-esteem, identity and choices.”

When faced with turmoil and change in your child’s friendships, parents should consider these suggestions:


When a child is in emotional pain or distress over the loss of a special friendship, just having someone to listen is the best therapy. Parents need to be prepared to be pushed away as a first reaction. But don’t give up. Find opportunities for one-on-one time, such as sharing a long walk or a baking project in the kitchen. Let your child know that you are willing to listen to anything they want to share when they are ready to share it.


Avoid the temptation of offering lots of advice and pouring out decades of your own wisdom and experiences, or launching the next great inquisition. Most children resist this approach. Instead, recognize that your child can discover his or her own answers to how to respond and how to act. Appropriate questions might include:

  • How has this affected you?
  • How has it affected the other person?
  • How does this fit with your idea of what a friendship is all about?
  • Should all friendships last forever?
  • What do you see as your alternatives?

Only after you have listened to your child’s responses should you offer to share your ideas if your child is interested.


Show your children how friendships should function by having good friends around you who are trustworthy, loyal, fun, and who share your values and goals.


To encourage friendships, get your children to spend time with their friends at your home. You can be sure they’re safe. You can help your child build relationships in an environment you feel good about. Plus, you can supervise and observe (from a distance), and then ask questions about the relationships you see.


Encourage your adolescent or youth to participate in extracurricular activities like sports, music, a part-time job, a local club or society, or something where they can develop new relationships with like-minded people.


Mobile phones, Facebook, instant messaging and technology can be good and bad for young friendships. By keeping an eye on what your child is sending and receiving (non-intrusively), you can help your child make good decisions. Plus, if managed the right way, it can give you plenty to talk about together.

Children need positive friendships for healthy development. Parents who offer support and guidance while encouraging increasing independence will weather the storm of friendship breakups most successfully.

Jane Dennis is director of communications for Methodist Family Health. Call (501) 661-0720 or visit www.methodistfamily.org for more information on these and other parenting issues.

Happy MLK Day: Taking Time to Talk to your Children, Taking Time to Read the Full Speeches

Today is Martin Luther King Day, an opportunity to honor the a man (and so many who stood with him) who fought for equality for all.

Chances are your children were out of school and maybe even you had the day off from work. Perhaps you engaged in a service day in your community or walked in a parade or march. Have you taken the time to talk about the legacy of Dr. King with your children? It’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on King’s legacy and how his message of peace and equality are as important today as ever.

Far too often Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words are reduced to short quotes and sound bite snippets. Although poignant and powerful, these quotes seldom capture King’s radical and holistic vision for a truly just America. So why not spend a while this evening reading some of King’s speeches in their entirety? Most of them are easily accessible online and often audio recordings exist as well.

If you’re children are too young to understand and too busy to sit still, perhaps wait until after bedtime and take a few moments to read. After all, it’s not just our children who can learn from King’s message of peace and justice.

Here’s the full transcript of the “I Have a Dream Speech” from 1963.
You can listen to the audio here.

10 Ideas to Strengthen Your Homework Help

Homework strikes fear in the hearts of many parents. You may not remember facts you learned in school, like the significant battles of the civil war or the difference between a simile and a metaphor. Some things you learned are obsolete now (Pluto is no longer considered a planet. It was demoted in 2006.).

Here’s the good news: When it comes to homework help, asking the right questions is more important than knowing all the answers. Use these smart prompts to direct your child’s work and teach important learning- management skills.

1. Do you have a written (or online) assignment to follow?

Students may struggle with homework because they don’t recall what they were supposed to do. Make sure your child is using the guidance his teacher provided, so he completes all the objectives. Encourage him to track his progress by crossing off items as he finishes.

2. Do you understand what your teacher is asking you to do?

Even a detailed assignment won’t help if your child doesn’t understand it. Make sure your child grasps the particulars before she begins, so she doesn’t waste time doing the wrong things. Consult with the teacher if unclear expectations are a perennial problem.

3. What materials will you need?

Tracking down materials creates unnecessary distractions. Encourage kids to gather supplies before starting a project, so their work isn’t interrupted by a frantic search for the calculator, scissors or glue stick. Keep oft-needed items in a homework caddy for easy access.

4. Are there words or ideas you don’t know?

Your child may get stuck because he doesn’t understand one or more crucial concepts. Help him identify these obstacles and search for remedial information. Encourage kids to find answers in their textbooks or online, rather than offering your interpretation. Students who can find information on their own become empowered learners.

5. Did you do similar problems in class?

Most homework assignments are opportunities to practice skills kids learned at school. Direct your child to class notes and worksheets for examples and review them together to refresh her memory. Kids should repeat the in-class procedures to solve homework problems. Shortcuts may lead to omissions or errors; teachers often require students to show work step-by-step.

6.What is the timeline for completing this assignment? Are there milestones you’ll have to accomplish?

Kids may fail to finish big projects because they wait until the last minute to begin. “Older children with assignments that will take several days or weeks to complete will need help in learning to manage those assignments,” says Donna Elder, M.A., a senior literacy specialist with the National

Center for Family Literacy. Clarify steps your child must accomplish and write due dates on the calendar. Kids should make their own deadlines for initial steps, like buying supplies or doing library research. Project planning reduces stress for everyone.

7. How can we break this assignment or project into smaller chunks?

Breaking assignments into segments can help kids maintain momentum. Divide a long list of objectives into subsets and use a timer to stay on task. It’s easier to read social studies for 15 minutes than to plod through an entire 35-page chapter. Short breaks between work periods let kids stretch and refresh.

8. Where can you find the answer to the question?

Textbook authors use section headings, bold words, text boxes, graphics and summaries to present material in an accessible way. Smart students use these tools to locate answers quickly and to organize information. Help your child use textbook cues to hone his search skills, take notes, and create his own study guides. Structured material is much easier to learn and remember than unrelated ideas.

9. How did you get your answer? Why did you answer this way?

Monitor the homework process by checking kids’ work. “If there are errors, help kids self-correct by asking them to explain their logic or to show you what source of information they used,” says educational psychologist Jennifer Little, Ph.D., creator of Parents Teach Kids (www.parentsteachkids.com), a collection of modules that show parents how to teach foundational learning skills at home. If your child insists his wrong answer is right, Little says, “Let it go.” Errors show the teacher what needs to be covered (again) in class.

10. Where can you go to get extra help?

Your child may be anxious that there isn’t an instructor standing by during homework. Let her know it is okay to reach out if she’s stuck. There’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Do your best to keep a positive attitude during study time. “Homework is not a punishment,” says Elder, “It takes practice to learn new skills. Reinforce that message by rewarding progress.” A warm hug or an encouraging word can make all the difference.

Heidi Smith Luedtke is a personality psychologist, former educator, and mom of two. She shares psychology lessons for real life at HeidiLuedtke.com

Heidi Smith Luedtke earned her doctorate in personality psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her scholarly research on well-being, identity, personality assessment and sexual assault has been published in top peer-reviewed journals. She is a dynamic, award-winning teacher and loves to share lessons from psychology with live audiences of all sizes.

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Election Day: Are You Talking to Your Children About Voting?

Today is Election Day. Regardless of how you vote most of us agree that exercising our right to cast a ballot is a fundamental part of democratic freedom.

We came across this image from the non-partisan group Moms Matter and we’re sharing it here to remind parents how important is for children to see, and hear about, their parents engaging in the voting process.

Many of us likely remember our own parents or caregivers talking to us about the importance of voting, perhaps even taking us to the polls with them.

What are your memories of your parents voting? And are you taking your children with you to vote? Have you taken the time to talk to them about the battles so many fought to gain this right?

Twice as Nice: Parenting Multiples

“Is there a baby in there?” I asked impatiently. It was my first ultra-sound and I was waiting for the technician to confirm this welcome surprise of a pregnancy. Her silence was unnerving. “Yes, there is definitely a baby in there,” she answered. “But hold on just one…” her voice punctuating the word “one” and trailing off as she moved the stethoscope around my belly. My husband, watching the screen intently, shifted his weight, uncrossed his legs, sat up a bit straighter in his seat. Continue reading

Apps for Parents Featured in iTunes

iTunes has done us a favor and collected some of the best iPhone, iPod, and iPad apps for parents. Of course, these apps are always available on iTunes, but I’d act quick to make sure you take advantage of any deals that may be going on. (Sometimes app developers will discount their app while it is being featured by iTunes, but no guarantees. Sometimes they’ll actually increase the price once they’ve received the notoriety.)

The apps are arranged into 6 categories:

New Parents: Most of these apps are filed under Medical, Health & Fitness, and Education, which makes sense if you recall your first months as a parent. For you new parents out there, maybe the free Diaper.com app can help you order up some cloth diapers for your little one.

Busy Parents: Like the iTunes write-up says, “‘busy’ doesn’t begin to describe your day.” So these apps don’t assume to solve all your time-crunching issues. But apps like Red Rover can help you plan your day if you’ve need to “discover kid-friendly places, find great activities and connect with parent friends on the go.” Sounds helpful to me.

Playtime: Yes, dads, this is playtime for the kids and you. But these aren’t just games. For instance, check out our personal favorite in this category, Project Noah. If you have ever read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, you understand how important it is to establish a strong connection between our children and nature. Project Noah is a great way to help kids learn about biodiversity in your area and so much more.

Mealtime: A great find in this category is an app called Fooducate, which helps you “grade” the food you buy, or are considering buying, tells you why it is good or bad, and gives you options. For instance, scan the UPC of that chocolate Power Bar you’re thinking of buying, and it will give you a grade based on the ingredients – taking into consideration processed ingredients, whole ingredients, preservatives, possible carcinogens, vitamin content, etc. Not happy with the grade? Get recommendations for options according to the food type (in this case, a food made to provide energy) and find out why it is a better option. (You may be surprised how often one simple fruit or vegetable provides everything you’re looking for and more.) Use it and you will feel 10x more food-smart and know that you’re providing your family with the best options.

Bedtime: On the road with the family and don’t have your copy of Pat the Bunny? Never fear, it’s on your iPad. You’re the hero!

Personal Assistants: Some of these could also be filed in the Woah, Life Just Got More Complex category. That is why services like Mint.com made their free app. If you use the online personal financial planning/management service provided by Mint.com, you’ll want to download this app to greatly extend their already amazaing services.

What apps do you use that help your life as a parent just a little easier? Tell us below!



The first time it happened, I was folding laundry.

My son was about eight weeks old. I grabbed a bright yellow onesie with the words “Cool Dude” emblazoned across the front in big red letters. In all honesty, I can’t recall where the thing came from. Probably it was one of the many, many baby items that our friends with older boys had graciously given us. Continue reading