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Teaching Social Skills

Two experienced area teachers have launched Sociable Kidz LLC to help children ages 5-15 to navigate friendship, problem-solving and communications skills. Based in Mamaroneck, the teachers will hold sessions of 3-5 students after school and on Saturday mornings. Through role-playing, social stories, hands-on-activities and games, the teacher’s will work with students to teach them how to successfully manage many of the difficult situations they encounter. In addition, weekly parent support groups will be held to review the social skills taught to the children. Included in the eight-week sessions are free initial consultations with each family and the child.

Teachers Susan Hendler and Monica Weber together have 28 years of experience working with children. Hendler holds a masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois and Weber has her Masters in Special Education and Early Childhood Education.

For more information, email sociablekidz@sociablekidz.com visit www.sociablekidz.com or call (914) 374-5024.

Think...then Jump by Dana Perri

Hartsdale resident and award-winning author Dana Perri has launched her own company to publish her children’s book series and products, www.thinkthenjump.com. Dana had been in the TV production industry for 20 years before turning her business and creative energies to writing children’s books. The fast paced lifestyle of production and NY living prompted her to create Think…then Jump™, a motto for living thoughtfully. She noted that in this ever rapid world of instant message, texting, Twitter and all the rest, we often find ourselves typing in, shouting out, acting out before we think of our behavior, and our children are following in our footsteps. For Dana, Think…then Jump™ is more than a children’s book series. It’s a way of life; a mantra that we can use as a gentle reminder to stop, take a breath and not just react. She acknowledges that it is important for children to learn about taking action, but feels it is equally important for them to learn about being mindful of the things they do and say. The goal behind the Think…then Jump™ concept is to focus on some simple but important things in life – kindness, sharing, thoughtfulness and responsibility for one’s actions. Think first; a simple yet often forgotten concept. Dana’s debut book, The Grumpy Frog, is a celebrated winner of the iParenting Media Award. Her second book, The Careless Frog, received an honorable mention from DIY Book Festival Awards.

Here is an interview with entrepreneur Dana Perri:

Tell us about your children’s book series.

The book series, which is mainly geared toward children 3-9, focuses on a little frog named Rana, who in various situations finds that he often jumps too quickly and doesn’t always make thoughtful decisions. With the help of his wise bird friend, Lulu, Rana the Frog learns that taking the time to think about his words and actions helps him make better choices. That is the basis behind Think…then Jump™, taking action but taking the time to be mindful about the splash we make in life.

What makes these books different?

The books are unique in their simple, direct stories and the vibrant, bold illustrations that children are completely drawn to, especially since they have a playful, child-like quality to them. The illustrator, Juan Carlos Casas, who by the way is my husband, used an interesting technique and was able to deliver the exact visual impact that I was looking for: Big, bold images with a splash of color that is not neatly colored within the lines. There is also another unique aspect to my books. I have included questions at the end in a section I call “Questions to Ponder”. These aid in opening up a dialogue with children, revealing their comprehension of the story as well as helping them to verbalize their feelings. This section has been very well received by the children, and especially the parents and teachers. My goal is to spread kindness and thoughtfulness, one word, one act, one leap at a time.

You were a TV production executive for many years, what spurred your career change?

For several years I had been trying to devise a new career path. Although I had a great deal of success and fun working in the TV industry, I found myself yearning to follow my heart and try to make a meaningful contribution. I suppose in a way I had Oprah’s ‘Live Your Best Life’ proclamation ringing in my head. This became even more pressing after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. By that time I had already written 5 stories in the series but just hadn’t done anything with them. My diagnosis made me realize that there is no time like the present to strive for and achieve your goals. And so began my glorious journey. The fact is that I have been writing in some form or another most of my life. Television production is a form of storytelling, so in some ways all I did was simply tweak the medium for telling my stories. At first, it was scary leaping into a new career, but mostly it is exciting to find joy in pursuing what makes my heart smile and feel like what I am contributing in a meaningful way.

Why did you choose to use your own company to publish these books?

There are several reasons and these are in no particular order of importance. The world of big business has been changing for some time and that is in part due to all the technology readily available. I first noticed this within the music industry, as that was my main focus in my TV career. I saw a radical change in how people made their music purchases. I think the publishing industry is feeling that same trend. I even noticed that here in Scarsdale, the Barnes and Noble shut down, which in my mind represented a big change. You can now get books downloaded anywhere, anytime through a multitude of devices. It completely alters the usual book buying/selling experience and thus the methodology has shifted. Entrepreneurs with good ideas now have the tools through technology and social media outlets to promote, sell and sustain a complete business entirely through their own efforts. I saw an opportunity to publish my own books and jumped on my lily pad. I did my due diligence. I tested the stories with children and had them reviewed by parents, educators, librarians and copywriters, each giving me excellent feedback, which I incorporated. I felt the product was strong and that I could market it on its merit. Another reason, publishers usually do not allow authors to collaborate with the illustrator. At the time, I didn’t feel I could work in that paradigm. I had a clear vision for the books and simply could not be absent from that part of production.

One other important aspect to publishing myself was to inspire my nieces and nephew. Since my husband and I don’t have children, they are an important part of my life. After years of hearing my stories, they continually questioned why the stories couldn’t be made into books. Their innocent and positive view of a world without obstacles or boundaries made me realize that anything is possible if you put forth the effort. And so, in a way to prove to them and myself that with passion, determination and hard work anything can be accomplished, I took the leap (of course, after a lot of thinking!!)

Where can people buy your books and shirts?

My products can be found on my website, www.thinkthenjump.com. The books can be found on Amazon and locally at the following locations. I would also like to add that I am an approved BOCES artist and available for Author School Visits.

Greenburgh Nature Center
99 Dromore Rd?
Scarsdale, NY 10583
www.greenburghnaturecenter.org

Reading, Writing & Wrapping
30 East Parkway
Scarsdale, NY 10583

Stone Barns Center
630 Beford Road
Pocantico Hills, NY 10591
www.stonebarnscenter.org

Hopelessly Devoted to You

If I am ever inspired to write a memoir, I would label the chapters according to the roles I have played in my day: daughter, student, lawyer, wife, mother, teacher, caregiver, concierge.

Concierge? Yep, that’s me, just like the frumpy, cranky woman in Elegance of the Hedgehog, a book (I absolutely hated) by Muriel Barbery. How, you might ask, did I work my way down to this low paid, low talent, underachiever’s status in life? The answer is simple: I had children.

It isn’t a big stretch from soccer mom, to helicopter parent, to concierge. Here’s a sample of how it works. Daughter number one is on a semester abroad program in Europe. She’s on spring break on Gran Canaria, a Spanish island off the coast of Africa, and the internet on her phone isn’t working. Solution? Send a text message to Mom asking her to find a phone number for a taxi service on the island. I am immensely flattered that she trusts my technology capabilities – my daughter is no dope with respect to how to woo me – and on the third try I succeed in locating a number that actually belongs to a cab company. Even while I am busy praising myself on my computer skills, I do wonder why she didn’t wander down to the front desk of the hotel to ask the English speaking Swede who runs the place.

But truly, I know the answer to this question. It was easier to text me, 3000 miles and five time zones away, and my daughter knew I would jump right on the job. I would feel like a sucker in my concierge status if I were unique in my willingness to be used. Happily, or unhappily, I am not. Every mother of a certain age seems right there with me.

I didn’t even come up with the job title. I stole it from a friend, who is the president of the board of trustees of a world class college, a retired bank executive and an artist, when she is not dog walking, dropping clothes off at the dry cleaner, or waiting for appliance repairmen in the apartments of her two daughters who are busy making their ways as a lawyer and a doctor.

The examples abound. My college roommate recently spent an entire Sunday on Google maps and her cell phone while her son tried to navigate from their home in central Connecticut across New York and into Northern New Jersey to make it to his first paid acting job. He hadn’t focused on the Nor’easter that slammed the regions south and west of him, hadn’t left enough time anyway – in his mother’s opinion -- to make the trip, and then he kept running into roads that were closed by fallen trees and flooding. He blew off his mom’s advice about his departure time (“Mom, not everybody drives 50 on the highway like you do”) but was on the phone instantly when he ran into trouble. He missed the opening curtain but, with the help of his personal concierge and her laptop, he got there in time for his entrance.

I was standing on line at Dunkin Donuts behind a woman who got a phone call from her son at college in Pennsylvania who wanted to know whether he should eat breakfast then (it was 10), if he was having lunch at noon, and going to a Seder at 6. She told him what to do (which was eat; what else does a mother say to a son?) and placed her coffee order.

Another friend left a meeting she was attending when her college senior called up, freaking out that her ride home for spring break had changed plans and now she was stuck with too much stuff to shlep home on the train. The school is in Manhattan but it was pouring rain and rush hour so the round trip was inconvenient and endless but her mom made it anyway.

I have been known to spend hours on the phone with Expedia changing plane reservations for my daughter in Paris who doesn’t want to use up the minutes on her international cell phone and Expedia won’t let you make changes on line. I have another friend who scheduled a day around securing concert tickets for her undergraduate son because the internet portal opened up during one of his classes and he was sure the show would sell out before he got back to his computer. Then there is the mom who, from her home in New York, found an eminent doctor in Akra, Ghana, to treat the third-degree burn her daughter got from the exhaust pipe of a motorcycle. She has preferred not to ask how her daughter’s leg came in contact with the exhaust pipe because she has a pretty clear notion that riding motorcycles in Africa was among the dumb things her daughter wasn’t supposed to do on her semester abroad.

We replace their lost cell phones, get their shoes repaired, service their cars, and schedule their haircuts. We rack our brains for connections so they can land summer internships and first jobs. We revise their resumes, proofread their cover letters, and house them in recessionary markets. Occasionally, we try to be more than the unpaid help and we give unwelcome and unsolicited advice and then we elect not to notice when they ignore us. We wonder how we made it through college and our young adult years when we called our parents once a week, if that, from the phone in the hall.

Maybe it’s that most of the concierge mothers I know are or have been hard-charging professionals who often wished in their busy pasts that they had a mom to call the plumber or do the laundry. Maybe it’s because our kids can get hold of us any hour of the day or night from anywhere in the world. Maybe it’s because we love staying connected to them, even if it is at their convenience and when they need a job done.

I know there will be a time when my children don’t call me three times a day for “a huge favor” but by then maybe I’ll be too busy babysitting for their kids.

Bahama Drama, A Cautionary Tale

I just returned from the famed spring break trip to the Bahamas, an annual rite for some entitled high school seniors. This year it was a trip with a twist – parents decided to go along with their kids in an effort to assure their safety.

Though my older children had taken similar trips and I had read Principal John Klemme’s article warning against it, I thought that if I was on the scene to supervise, my daughter could enjoy her break and I could be sure that she enjoyed it my way. Not wishing to make an example of my daughter by denying her a break with her friends, I put aside my reservations and booked the trip. However, I now realize that it's impossible to protect a teen in the Bahamas, whether you're on the scene or a thousand miles away at home.

When I set eyes on the Atlantis I was stunned. I had never seen an island resort of this scale and was awed by the expanse. A cross between Las Vegas and Disneyworld, splashed with aqua features and floor-to-ceiling fish tanks, Atlantis offered a stunning array of options. If gambling was your thing, there was a dazzling casino directly off the lobby. An underwater explorer? Go downstairs to see collections of sharks, stingrays, jellyfish and tropical fish. An epicurean? There’s island outposts run by Nobu, Mesa Grill, Carmines and even a restaurant from Jean- Georges. A thrill seeker? Climb up the Power Tower and hurl yourself into the deep Abyss.

Tasteless, tacky and inauthentic it is, but once you find the lost land of Atlantis you can easily get lost in the maze of attractions.

And the parents did try it all. Blessed with gorgeous weather we arose the next morning and embarked on the serpentine paths to find a place to sit. As there were few direct routes, we found ourselves walking in circles, dead-ending at gurgling hot tubs and spending precious minutes trying to get from one pool to the next.  The Moms spent the day sunning while the Dads were drawn to a nearby golf course and the casino. We spotted the men a few afternoons after they had emerged from the blackjack tables, their pockets bulging with bills. At the beginning I didn’t even notice all the water slides and rides as the architects have cleverly submerged “the lazy river” below grade as it snakes through the property. Though I heard screams from the Mayan Temple, it never registered that those were the voices of the riders.

One afternoon, one of the Dads roused my friend and me from our lounges to encourage us to try one of the rides. Reluctantly we got up and waded into the “river” to grab a raft. In minutes we were shooting down the rapids, forward and backwards, screaming in fear and delight. Through a maze of dark tunnels and tidal waves we toured the entire property and enjoyed the sun.

Initiated into the world of water attractions we decided to try something more daring and timidly clutched our rafts and ascended the Tower of Power. Up and up we climbed, getting shakier by the minute, especially when we reached the top of the stairs and saw the terrifying angle of the chute. With nowhere to go but down, and not wanting to be called a wimp, I boarded my raft and heeded the instructions of the Bahamian operator at the top. “Grab the handles, cross your legs, and keep your butt up.” With that, my friend and I flew down a 90-degree shoot in a double raft, airborne at times, and we quickly found ourselves twisting and turning in a dark tunnel. Ultimately we plunged into a pool of water, floated down and the fun continued. At one point, we were shot up a long ramp, powered by rushing water only to be hurled downward at terrifying speeds again.

Screaming at the top of my lungs, I could not remember getting an adrenaline rush like that ever before. I was hooked.

What happened to the kids? There were hundreds at Atlantis from all over the country, with and without parents. From what I saw, neither the water rides, nor the shark tanks seemed to hold much allure for the teens. Many seemed focused on drinking …whether it was planning the nights’ events, securing the liquor, plotting to get into the club or sleeping off the previous night’s hangover. Surrounded by myriad attractions and pleasures I was surprised that the power of a drink could trump it all. They often stayed out late, slept late and spent the rest of the day recovering from their hijinks. Though I tried to convince my daughter to avail herself of the daytime attractions, evening activites were much more compelling.

While the adults were busy acting like kids, the kids were making an attempt to be grown-up. We discovered the joy of the rides and enjoyed the fitness classes, walks, the dolphins and the ocean. The kids stayed up all night pushing their limits. Though most of the high schoolers on break in the Bahamas made it through the week without incident, there were scary reports of a drug bust, and students who drank too much and ended up in the hospital.

All in all did this model work? Should you take your kids on a spring break? In my view, unlimited alcohol and an unsupervised vacation is more freedom than 17 year-olds can handle. Though the days passed quickly, at night I found myself in my room sick with worry that my daughter would have a bad encounter with a strange man in the casino or get drunk and lured away from her friends at the bar. How would I locate her in this vast facility? With thoughts of Natalie Holloway in mind I wondered how I had endorsed this vacation. Putting aside the potential dangers, I realized that by paying for this vacation, I was enabling and encouraging this five-day binge.

The most terrifying slide at Atlantis is called the "Leap of Faith.” On the last day, as a veteran of “The Surge” and “The Drop”, I thought I could take that leap. I waited on line for a half hour and asked the photographer to take my photo before I took my final jump. With wobbly knees I sat down to go and peered down the chute. In a flash I realized I couldn’t do it. I scrambled back on my feet and retreated to a less terrifying slide.

In retrospect, taking my daughter to the Bahamas for this bacchanal was a leap of faith – and if I had to do it again, I would not take the risk.
 

Ten Tips To Promote Cheerful Compliance From Your Child

Parents constantly ask me how they can get their children to do what they are asked, without making a fuss. I want even more! I want our children to do what they have to do with a great attitude and without having to be asked. I hope you find these tips helpful

 

  1. 1. Who is in charge around here? You! You are the parent. You make the decisions and what you say goes. You can be a loving, supportive parent who listens actively to what your child has to say, but you are still the parent and the proverbial buck stops with you.
  2. Before you give your child an instruction, think about it for a minute. Is it important? Does your child have the ability to do it? If so, speak in a firm, polite voice that communicates your confidence in your child's willingness and ability to attend to the task at hand.
  3. When your child does as asked, give a sincere thank you that let's your child know how pleased you are.
  4. If your child does not do as asked, consider the element of surprise. Say nothing but decide upon a consequence that you are confident you can act upon without anger.
  5. Maintain a calm, even disposition no matter what is going on. Do not react. Behave in a way that feels right for you, but keep your mood and emotions in check at all times.
  6. Make it feel good for your child to do the right thing. Focus five times as much attention on what your child does right than on what they do wrong. Praise loudly, sincerely, with full eye contact and focus. Conversely, negative behavior deserves as little attention as possible.
  7. Treat your child with true respect. Motivate and encourage instead of lecturing and scolding. In every situation, allow your child the gift of doing what he can and should do independently. Hold the bar high and motivate your child to reach it. Let him know that you believe he can achieve what is asked of him, but that you are available to help him along every step of the way.
  8. Help your child develop his self worth by focusing on his acceptance, belonging, and his competence. Make sure your child understands that he has your full acceptance, that he belongs as an active member of your family at all times, and that he has the competence to do what is expected of him.
  9. When you have a quiet minute, ask yourself how you might be contributing to your child's behavior problems. For example, are you engaging in unnecessary arguments, making mountains out of molehills, or so absorbed with a problem at home or at work that you are less "present" than your child needs you to be? Be honest with yourself and make changes as you see fit.
  10. Every day we have numerous opportunities to share our unconditional love and acceptance with our children. Pick one action every day to demonstrate the true depth of your love and respect for your child, and you will be amazed at the incredible change in your child's behavior

Elizabeth Pflaum lives with her husband and four children in Westchester, New York and provides individual parent coaching to clients and their families. She offers parenting classes and workshops throughout the tri-state area, is a frequent guest parenting expert on WABC’s Eyewitness News and other television shows and writes articles about all topics relating to parenting and childhood. For more information, visit her website at http://www.aaapparentcoach.com

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