Talking to Your Child’s New Teachers

So it’s the first day of school and your RAD kiddo is starting with a new teacher. Now if you’ve done some pre-work, hopefully you’ve picked the best possible teacher match for your child. One who will understand your child’s special issues. But you still haven’t been able to talk directly to them. Now that you have the chance, here’s how talking to your child’s new teachers will be the most effective.

Depending on the age of your RAD kiddo, it may be important to consider what “baggage” may have followed them to their next grade. One of the reasons we changed schools with August after third grade was because we didn’t think he’d get a fair shake in fourth grade at the same school. And it was a good move because he had a great fourth grade year. Hopefully a new teacher will start the new year clean but it’s always hard to know.

Next you might want to make sure you have all your RAD kiddo’s “tricks” laid out for the new teachers to understand. For example, if August couldn’t be right he liked to be first. He’d always finish his tests first even if he got the answers wrong. He thought that made him seem just as smart as getting all the answers right. Something I shared with his fourth-grade teacher. Other specific learning issues can be shared in an IEP meeting but there may be some things that are not necessarily learning-related that the teacher needs to know. These things may be more about RAD behaviors than learning so you will want the teacher to understand.

We made a plan with his teacher to give August an “escape plan” for when he feels overwhelmed in the classroom. A way for him to get out of the room (he was in a trailer due to overcrowding) when his anxiety level got too high. And we did the same thing in high school. These are conversations to have as early in the year as possible. The more systems in place, the better chances for success.

If your child has any quirks or eccentricities, make sure the teacher knows about them. August preferred to stand. He would stand next to his desk rather than sit down. It wasn’t disruptive but he did it starting in kindergarten. So I made sure teachers knew he might do it so they wouldn’t continually reprimand him. It wasn’t a big deal and it made him calmer.

And definitely make sure you talk about RAD. Manipulation, triangulation, hoarding, control, impulsivity…all the big guns. One of the posts I see most on Facebook during the school year is from parents who have been called into school or worse yet by DFS because the child has made claims to their teacher about their treatment at home. Or that they aren’t being fed. Since they spend so much time at school and teachers are mandatory reporters, RAD kiddos can triangulate easily with a teacher to get parents in trouble over false claims. Make sure the teacher is aware, particularly if it has happened before. Write it down if you have to. Write it down anyway.

For a great letter to teachers that I probably have shared before, click here. And to cover all the bases, here’s one for bus drivers and bus monitors! 

While I’ve never used any of Nancy Thomas’ methods personally, the letter I’ve linked to above is from her website and it is incredibly thorough. It covers a lot of things I would have never thought of like: don’t be alone with the child, do not sympathize with the child, if you hear something from the child that sounds weird call the parents, make eye contact and many more. Use it as a checklist to remind you of behaviors of your own RAD kiddo that you want to make sure you talk over with the teacher.

Now all this may sound like you’re going to leave the teacher with a picture of your child as a devil-child. One that is going to scare them to death before the first week of school is even over. That is not at all what I’m suggesting. Make sure you are balancing their story with lots of information about what they are great at and what they are passionate about. That will help tons when they might need to be redirected or they’re feeling overwhelmed and need to take a break. And the more the teacher knows your child, the more comfortable they will feel when maybe things go off the rails. You know your child best; laying a good foundation with their teacher will go a long way to ensuring a successful school year.

Until next time,

Shannon

The Importance of the Teacher Match

When it’s back-to-school time one of the most exciting things for school children to find out is, “Who is my teacher going to be?” The learn from older brothers and sisters and friends what the personalities of the teachers of the higher grades are and they know who they want to have. And they hope their friends get in the same class! But for RAD kiddos, the importance of the teacher match is even greater.

When August was in 3rd grade, he had a teacher (whose name I’ve blocked out) that was a disaster. Not just for him, but there were so many things that I didn’t agree with. Making reading scores public on the board among other things that were demeaning to all the children. August had just gotten his IEP the year prior and I wasn’t good at advocating for him yet.

So when she started having problems with him I didn’t quite know what to do. She put a presentation board around his desk to block him from other students. They were in a mobile classroom and she lost him once when he ran away. After Christmas break we were meeting with her and she asked if we’d ever thought about homeschooling. When we said we were looking at lots of options for the next year she replied, “You don’t have to wait until next year.” That’s when we decided to move schools…

I had gotten enough of an education from that experience to be on it when it came to knowing what would work for August for 4th grade. He got a male teacher who was cool and athletic. When we had his IEP meeting in October, the team was astonished reading his file from the previous school because of how well he was doing. The importance of the teacher match.

The next example showed up in middle school. August had always done best in science and math. He seemed to have a block when it came to anything language-based. Nothing we could identify by testing but reading was very tough for him. We show up in middle school and the system is to team teach with a pair of teachers: one does math and science and one does history and English. All of the sudden August is doing great in history and English and awful in math and science. He raves about his English teacher and he can’t stand his math teacher. What do you know? The importance of the teacher match.

What I learned from these and from conversations about this with August’s psychiatrist is that this is RAD in all it’s glory. RAD kiddos do not trust. And very quickly they size people up and label them as good or bad. And once they get into one of those categories, it is hard if not impossible to get out. August did not trust the teachers he had problems with because they did not choose to understand him. In spite of my efforts to let them know what would work, they chose to try and make him conform and the result was disastrous. The teachers that listened and learned and were willing to give just a little had a great year with a great kid.

I had conversations with the principal about August’s teacher choices. Do not be afraid to start at the top. Everyone will benefit from your child having a good year. Bring your resources; I even had August’s psychiatrist in a meeting to explain the “good person/bad person” concept so they didn’t think I was making it up. And if the teacher match isn’t working, get the IEP teacher and principal involved and make a change as soon as possible. I was trying to be nice and assume it was always August’s fault. When I recognized the pattern and saw that it wasn’t always and took charge, it made a world of difference!

Until next time,

Shannon

 

 

Back to School Already?

Classes start here where I live on August 6th! And back in North Carolina the year round schools started the new year this week! Seems like we were just talking about how to survive the summer and it’s over. But it’s back to school already. And for many RAD kiddos it’s a cluster of anxiety-producing thoughts. It represents change and the unknown and new stressors which can all be triggers.

What can we as parents do to try and minimize the potential problems and make the new school year start as low stress as possible for both our RAD kiddos AND us? Here are some ideas based on my past experience with getting August back to school. I’ve also done some research to find some best practices out there to draw on which I think might help as well.

Meeting the Teacher – This isn’t the regular “meet the teacher/back to school night” that the whole school goes to. I will be talking about this in depth next week. But we figured out by third grade that for August, the right teacher personality made a HUGE difference in his success. So that by the move from fourth to fifth grade I was sitting down with the principal to discuss who August’s teacher would be and creating an avatar for his transition to middle school of the type of teacher that would be ideal for him. Not every teacher will “get” your child. It’s worth the extra effort to put in some pre-work to make sure the teacher is the right fit.

Start the Conversation Early – If you live here in the Midwest it’s already too late to be early! but if you’re an area that starts school after Labor Day, make that transition as slow and steady as possible. Let them get their heads around the idea that school is coming. They already know it and it may seem like the best move is not to invite the anxiety until it’s necessary. You know your child best; maybe it is. But the sooner they can start taking control of those feelings the better in my opinion.

And you can make it fun! Get out the calendar and start crossing off the dates! Plan special days for back-to-school shopping and make a bucket list of things to do before the big day! It will help with easing the tension and make back to school something to be excited about and not to dread.

Put as many decisions in your child’s hands as you can – Remember that our RAD kiddos are control freaks. And not much in their young lives are going to feel as out-of-control as the first day of school. So let them make decisions. What’s for lunch the first day? What to wear? What notebook colors to buy? What’s for dinner the night before? Bus or carpool? Anything that will make them feel they are in control of their environment will go a long way toward lessening the anxiety. 

Here are some more tips from the American Association of Pediatrics which may freak you out but will help you think through all possible scenarios. Take a deep break; it’s a long list. Remember it’s designed to help!

I know with a lot of us, we don’t know how the day is going to go until the day gets here. One of the fun parts of reactive attachment disorder…the surprises! But hopefully these tips might help keep the surprises to a minimum. 

Here’s to a fabulous start to the school year for you and your RAD kiddos!

Until Next Time,

Shannon

 

Summer “School”? – Forward with the Past

This is the last of my series on how to tackle weaving some learning into summer break. Hopefully I have helped find some fun and interesting ways to help you and your children keep learning alive while still letting them feel like they’re getting a rest from school. This week we are looking at one of my favorite subjects…history!

For RAD children who traditionally have memory issues, the names, dates and places of history can be rough. And for children in general, the boring events of the past don’t always catch or keep their attention. So how do you find ways to make history interesting and engaging? Here are a couple of ways I did it with August when we homeschooled that seemed to have some success.

Visual Timeline
Materials needed: Long piece of string, paperclips, index cards, markers
Pick an event from history or a topic you want to study (World War II or when the states got added to the US). Have the kiddos write the events on index cards. Or draw pictures. Just make sure the dates are on there too.

Hang the string somewhere in the house if it’s raining or outside if it’s not. Depending on the length of time you’re covering, separate the string into segments. It may need to be every 10 years or every 50 years or every 100 years. Put those segment markers on index cards then secure them to the string with paper clips.

Then let your children put their cards on the string with paperclips at the approximate time when their event happened. When finished, you have a timeline of the total event. If you are doing something that happened more recently (World War II), you might also add events from your own family (birth of grandparents, when your house was built), to give them perspective on how things in their own life intertwine with history.

Musical History
August loves music. Not all kinds but he has enough of a universal affection that I was able to use music to get him to understand history some through music.

We would pick an event and study it by finding songs that were popular at the time. Songs with lyrics were particularly helpful during wars because often they spoke of the hardships of the troops, the loved ones left behind or what they were fighting for.

Other times the styles of music reflected the economic climates of the period, the personality of the ruling class, new inventions or technology and many other historical achievements. He could listen to music for much longer than he would listen to me drone on about a subject and the researching was  interesting to him. Now he was in middle school at the time. I’m not sure this would work at the younger ages. But it was fun!

Other Resources

  • Learning Liftoff has five great ideas here
  • Here is a huge list of history internet games if you just can’t get them off the computer!
  • And if you’re the crafty type (I am not) here are some ideas for history crafts to make!

As usual, I will move these links to my resources page so you won’t have to remember where you saw them!

Next week we will be starting to talk about getting ready for school to start. Can you believe it? School starts here the second week of August. And I know year round school has already started its new year in some places. But that’s next week. Don’t invite in the anxiety before you need to!

Until next time,

Shannon

 

Summer “School”-Summer Writing Ideas for Kids

This may be one of the hardest subjects to find a summer  “work around”. I know for August, he’d rather pull out his      own teeth than write. In fact, it was something we ended      up getting an accommodation for on his IEP. That he could  do everything on the computer rather than have to hand write any papers. He hated it so much and his fine motor skills were so delayed. But being able to write a coherent sentence is a critical skill for so many aspects of life. So let’s learn some tricks for doing some writing this summer!

First, a DO NOT do. DO NOT drop your child at the kitchen table with a pencil and a journal and make them write something every day with a fixed length and a subject prompt. You are sealing the casket of their never wanting to write again as long as they live. I mean it, don’t do it. For one, it’s summer and that sounds boring even to me and I’m a grown-up. For two, no one, especially a child is going to want to write or write well about a topic not of their choosing. 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s try some good ideas:

  • Get outside and find something fun to write about. Get cheap clipboards and paper and head out to the park and sit in the grass. Let them find a bird or a tree or a flower that looks interesting and describe it. Or go for a nature walk and find a bench to sit on a see what’s around you to write about. Maybe a frog hops by and you can make up a story about where it came from and where it’s going. 
  • Write a story together. August loved Goosebumps books when he was younger and a few of them were written so that the reader could decide how the story went. You get to a page and then it gives you a choice of which page to turn to next. Your choice decides how the story proceeds. He loved those. Taking turns adding a sentence to a story you create together allows you to connect and engage with your child. Neither can see the sentence the other writes until you are finished so you don’t know where the other is taking the plot. At the end you can read your creation for the rest of the family!
  • Write to distant relatives. I talked about this in a previous blog but it really is such a special idea. I now live in my grandmother’s house and as I’ve gone through her things (she was quite the pack rat) I have found letters she saved. Some from me and other grandchildren, great nieces and nephews, and other children in her life. All these sweet letters in their big chunky little child handwriting that she obviously treasured can’t be replaced by an e-mail or a facetime video. Even a postcard would make grandma’s day!
  • Get a pen-pal. When I was in middle school I had a pen-pal in Australia. I don’t know how I found her but we wrote for several years before we lost touch. I remember learning that our seasons were opposite. That blew my mind. I loved getting those letters. In the days of technology I know it is super simple to just find someone on the internet but the point of this is to make the connection. If your child is adopted maybe find someone from their home country. There are a few ways to find one here. Another option is www.globalpenfriends.com. I’ll put both of these on my Resources page so you won’t have to remember which blog post you saw them in!

If you are the parent of a RAD kiddo, I’d like to suggest a writing opportunity for you. As I was researching this post, I came across a place called Blue Monarch. It is a facility for Moms and their children to stay when the moms are trying to recover from addition and abuse. Many of the children staying at the facility have not had a stable grown-up in their life and the facility seeks pen-pals for the children. If you are interested in being a pen-pal to a child there, check out the program here

As always, being a good role model is one of the best ways to get your children involved in writing. Writing down five things you are grateful for at the end of each evening as a family, maybe after dinner, would be a nice way to connect and show your dedication to writing. There are lots of ways to incorporate writing into your summer!

Until next time,

Shannon

Summer “School”? Let’s get down with Science!

We’ve talked about Reading and Math so what’s left? Science! And we figured out we could find ways to do reading and math everywhere all summer. Can we do the same with science? You bet! Let’s find some ways to have Summer School Science with our RAD kiddos in fun and creative ways.

OK, so is the hair standing up on the back of your neck the way it was last week with math? Does any word ending in “-ology” make you break out? And were you the one they still tell stories about that start with, “Remember that girl that blew up the Chem Lab…”? Don’t worry, you don’t have to be able to build a DNA molecule to have fun with science. And you don’t have to be afraid to jump in and try to some fun ideas that will get you and your kiddos laughing and learning together!

Nature Walk
Here’s one of the first and easiest ways to experience science with your  kiddos. Go on a nature walk. But don’t make it about the destination; make it about the journey. A scavenger hunt of things you find on a walk at your local nature trail could include (depending on your location):

  • cocoon
  • worm
  • pine cone
  • bug
  • sedimentary rock
  • spider web

You see the idea. Check the internet for many printable  scavenger hunts which are designed based on the age of your children. And don’t be afraid to get dirty! Because that’s the fun part! And remember, when you’re walking, take only pictures; leave only footprints. 

Science Experiments
This can be another fun event for a rainy day. Luckily, many science experiments use regular household items and don’t require a lot of special equipment. And the best part is they get all of you together to do something interesting and the learning is kind of secret! Shhhh!

Here’s one I used to do when I was a kid. I don’t have an explanation for how it works, but it has fascinated me to this day. Maybe there’s a scientist among you that could chime in and give us the why.

  1. Fill a shallow pan halfway with water. Doesn’t have to be a particular temperature.
  2. Sprinkle regular black pepper over the top.
  3. Put bar soap in at the edge of the pan.
  4. Give it a second and watch what happens!

There are a lot of these kind of quick and easy home science experiments you can try here

Board Games
Another way to learn and have fun together is science board games. And there are several that can help learn general science and specific disciplines. Here are a few that jumped out at me:

  • Totally Gross: The Game of Science – Kids and parents will enjoy plenty of laughs answering silly science questions and acting out the Gross Out challenges
  • The Magic School Bus Science Explosion Board Game – Use science knowledge and strategy skills to be the first to explode a volcano!
  • Dr. Dreadful Scabs and Guts Game – Learn fun facts while exploring your anatomy!

For a very comprehensive list of science board games, check out this site.

Science can be dirty and gross and fun and a great way to connect with your RAD kiddo. They will love the chance to explore and won’t even know they’re learning! And that’s the best part.

Until next time,

Shannon

 

Summer “School”? – Let’s Do Math!

I love math. But I continually find I am in the minority. When I was working in advertising I remember a young Account Coordinator crying in my office saying, “I got into advertising because I thought there’d be no math!” And believe me, advertising was nothing but math. And  you might be getting the same from your children during the school year! So how do you get them interested in math over the summer when it’s already been a battle? Of course, you have to make it fun!

Since August is adopted, I can brag about him without sounding egotistical. He’s insanely good at math. He can do calculations in his head freakishly fast. The biggest problem he had in school was having to show his work. He could always get the right answer in his head; he just didn’t know how he got it and he couldn’t show you how. His fascination with money was the root of this math wizardry I think, so it’s not that he came by it with good intentions but hey, however it worked, right? 

The great part about math is that it is everywhere and there are opportunities to work on math and be very sneaky about it! Depending on the age of the child you can find ways to build math knowledge and they may never even know they were learning. For some great ideas, check out this article from Great Schools. Things like cooking, estimating how many beans are in a package of jelly beans, adding up prices in the grocery store and more all engage children and allow for great connections and conversation around the topic of math.

But for the child who just can’t get away from the screen…maybe on the long car trip or in the doctor’s waiting room, there’s an app for that. Some children just do better on their own and that’s OK. Common Sense media has this list of the best math apps to help boost math skills over the summer. Sometimes we all need the quiet that some screen time gives. If it includes some learning, all the better!

Money Bags Game

Last week we talked about what to do on a rainy day. It could be educational! There are a lot of board games that use money not to mention having to count how many spaces to move your little guy around. Depending on the age, try Monopoly, Life, Pay Day, The Allowance Game and Money Bags. All involve a variety of math skills and allow for the whole family to connect and play!

The biggest part of helping with math skills over the summer is getting out of your own way with disliking math. If you don’t like it, they won’t either. So work it out for yourself, play a game, and “add” math to your fun-filled summer!

Until next time,

Shannon

Summer “School”? Part Two: Reading Fun for Everyone!

When August was little he would rather pull out his own teeth than read. He loved being read to but ask him to read and the nightmare would begin. Some of it wasn’t his fault. First, English isn’t his first language though he was age appropriate for English within a year of coming home. And between the RAD and the ADHD you could tell him how to read a word at the top of the page and he won’t remember it by the bottom. His short-term memory was non-existent. I’m sure it was frustrating. In elementary school there was a reading program where you could read a book then answer questions about it online in the library. August would carry around the biggest, thickest hardback book he could find and take a test on it, not having read a word, because he wanted to appear smart and well-read. He would always finish his tests first because he thought if he couldn’t get the right answers at least he’d have that honor.

It’s not uncommon for children with RAD to have learning issues. Usually RAD comes with bonus disorders like ADD, ADHD, ODD, FAS or any one of a multitude of other acronyms which make learning more challenging, particularly reading. So how do we keep reading interesting and how do we keep it going through the summer when there are so many other distractions that seem way more fun? Here are some tips that will help with reading but also with the all important task of connecting with your child:

  • Set a good example when it comes to reading by being a reading role model. We talked about this last Wednesday with our Summer reading list but reading isn’t just about books. Surround yourself with reading materials: newspapers, magazines and books should always be readily available, not just stuck away on dusty bookshelves.
  • Provide a reference book to the things you talk about. DON’T GOOGLE IT. When you talk about presidents or a science fact, hit the library and find the book that has the answers. There are books for every age level on almost every topic. If you can’t find it ask; a child who watches you follow a librarian through a library will start to see that person as a superhero!
  • Make a bookstore or library trip an event. Lunch and the library as a regular summer outing. When the boys were little there was a great drugstore with a soda fountain down the street from the library. We’d go there either before or after the library. The boys could get hot dogs or PB&J and chips and often the wonderful man behind the counter would give them free ice cream. They’d spend an hour in the library finding the books they wanted because we made it an outing not just an errand.
  • If you are reading and you find something you think might interest your child, share it. If you know they love weather (August was fascinated by it in first grade) and the characters in your book are going through a tornado, read that passage. You can edit out any inappropriate language on the fly but your child will be thrilled at hearing something they are interested in and from a “grown-up” book. And you are connecting with them in a whole new way.
  • Have a family read for leisure time. Show that reading isn’t a chore. Maybe it’s a half-hour after dinner. Dishes can wait. Cuddle up with a book on the couch all lined up together. Let your child pick anything they want, even if it’s the insert packaging to a video game just as long as they are reading and sitting beside you. My mom used to let me stay up an extra half-hour if I would read. It was a bribe but I bought it. It made me a reader and I am forever indebted to her for that.
  • ALWAYS have something to read-for you and your child. I know the smartphone is the go-to babysitter for long lines or traffic these days but how about a book or magazine? Again, modeling good behavior isn’t that difficult. Pulling out a book (even that joke book we talked about yesterday!) shows that reading matters and no time is wasted when it’s spent reading. Get the big bag lady purse and be prepared!
  • Talk about their need for reading in the future. What do they want to be when they grow up? Will they need to be a good reader? Almost every profession-doctors, lawyers, mechanics, teachers, firefighters, baseball players, rock stars-all need to be able to read well. Understanding that level of importance may help them learn to take on the challenge for themselves.

If you aren’t a reader, this is the time to become one. You may not be aware of it, but even if you don’t feel the connection with your RAD child, they are watching. Everything you do and say is being recorded, positive and negative. And you might even find that what you didn’t enjoy in your youth, you find a new love for when you can share it with your children. Grab a summer read, cuddle up with your children and dive in!

Until next time,

Shannon

Summer “School”?

Ahh summer break. Brings joy to the hearts of school children everywhere and terror to the already weary parents who’ve endured a school year of homework supervision, lunch packing, carpooling, classroom parenting, reading prompting, field trip volunteering, awards ceremony attendance and now have their precious littles all day every day for 10 weeks and counting…

But the reality is that students lose 20-50% of what they learn in the previous school year over the summer. Isn’t that incredible? And when you add on that in this day and age that the last 3-4 months of most school year’s anymore are teaching to standardized tests I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t more than that. So maybe we want the summer to be more productive? Maybe we want to keep some momentum through to the next school year? But maybe we don’t want to go crazy in the process?

The idea of “teaching” your own children is probably daunting for most parents. The idea of “teaching” your own children over the summer probably doesn’t sound like much fun. If you’re a parent of a RAD child, the idea of combining those two probably sounds like the worst idea imaginable! I don’t blame you. When my boys were little, and before some of the ideas I will share in this post, I got workbooks and all sorts of tools to keep them learning through the summer. And getting August to do a few workbook pages and spend half an hour reading every day was like asking him to pull out his own fingernails. He would do almost anything rather than schoolwork. He would do chores, that’s how much he hated it!

So the key is to find ways to make learning happen while “hiding” it in plain sight. Luckily, the technology world is here to the rescue! The following is a list of some of the best ways to get your kids, RAD or not, to do some learning over the summer and head back to school without missing a beat!

  • Freerice.com
    If you only find one place to go this summer, this is it. This site has question to answer on language, geography, humanities, science and math. You can select the difficulty. But here’s the best part: for every correct question, the sponsors donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme. You can watch the bowl fill up and see your progress. You can work as a team! My boys loved this one!
  • playkidsgames.com
    This site was developed by parents for children in grades 1-8 to enhance learning in math and reading. The games are fun and interactive. You can set up an account and your children can pick the games they want to play.

While websites are certainly easy and most children would love to spend the day on a computer or a phone, that’s of course not the best way to spend the summer! Here are some other creative ways to get your children to learn without them even knowing!

  • Let your children pay for groceries or other items during shopping trips. Give them a few dollars and a small list and let them figure out if they have enough money.
  • When driving, let your children practice reading by asking them to look for street signs to help navigate.
  • Do multiplication with spaghetti or sticks in the yard. Go pick 3×5 sticks; show me 3×2 pieces of macaroni.
  • Have your child write a dinner menu
  • Open ended questions are great for building vocabulary.
    I am happiest when…
    My favorite TV show is…because…
    When I feel angry I…
    A trip I’d like to take is…
    This is especially helpful with RAD children to get them talking!
  • Have your child retell a movie you go to see from beginning to end over dinner

There are lots of ways to incorporate learning into the summer that won’t drive you OR your child crazy! I will share more tips and tricks over the next few weeks every Tuesday so stay tuned for more fun ideas!

Until next time,

Shannon

Where's All My Money Go? Oh Yeah…

Two weeks from today I will be visiting colleges with my younger son. A blessed event to be sure but also one that strikes fear into the heart of many parents. How do I pay for it? Please don’t let him like the out-of-state one! With August, the money woes started long before that. I have told him since an early age he will never have two nickels to rub together. The concept of saving any money he ever got has never been an option. It all needed to be spent immediately. The lack of impulse control and need for immediate gratification was just too much. Trying to explain that if he waited to add his Christmas money from his NC relatives to his Christmas money from his Ohio relatives to buy something even better was like trying to explain how to build a space shuttle. And we were lucky enough to be fairly financially secure so he thought the money for whatever he wanted would just be there. If not in cash, then on one of those credit card things…no matter that those card things had to be paid for someday! I’m not sure how he handled his affairs in the couple of years he was living on the streets before he was incarcerated. I know a little of how he made his money. Not the best choices. He tried a job once. Lasted three days. I even helped him open a bank account. He’s drained the money from the savings account we had for him as a child, where we insisted half of any birthday money go as a way to teach saving when he was little. When he wanted to get his own place his father and I ran the numbers with him multiple times on what it took to live on his own. He kept saying that wasn’t how much it really cost. Maybe as his pre-frontal cortex continues to develop that aspect of his behavior will grow. But I fear his impulsiveness will always run the show. But for those RAD parents out there who may have that battle yet to wage, I have these tips for teaching money sense to your kiddos! Preschoolers & Early Elementary (7 & Under) Think about it like tying shoes…it’s one of those things that you learn at this age and you have to practice.

  1. Communicate about money: Don’t hide your discussions about money. Don’t discuss your stress about not having enough to pay the bills but if you get a sweet deal on shoes or you’ve saved enough for a family trip to an amusement park, share the celebration as a family. And use the money terms (“save”, “share”, “choose”) and financial values (“save for a rainy day”) so they understand how you view and value money.
  2. Involve them in your shopping: When you recognize a good deal and verbalize it, it shows your child that you see the value and are making a decision about buying it. At checkout, let the child buy something themselves, hand over the cash and all. One of the biggest problems we had with August when he was little was explaining to him that a $20 bill was better than having $18 one-dollar bills. He just wouldn’t buy it. He liked have more bills. This resulted in the purchase of a Nintendo handheld game thing one year with $150+ dollar bills and a very pissed off GameStop cashier.
  3. Open a savings account: As I mentioned above, we set the rule of half of birthday money going into a savings account. The boys balked at first but they caught on and they became cool with it (at least in public) and got good at the math when they got money!
  4. Play Games: Duck Duck Moose, Bringing Home the Bacon, or even playing with a calculator while you shop and adding up the price of what is bought. Seeing the total will help them realize the actual costs of things.
Older Elementary Kids & Tweens (8-12) These children can begin earning money and developing personalities around money and you’ll learn which of your children are spenders (August) and which are savers.
  1. Brainstorm ways to earn: They won’t care about managing your money but they will care about managing money they earn. Help them think about their passions and talents. Love animals? How about walking neighbors’ dogs or pet sitting? If they are crafty how about making something to sell? They can research and create a business plan figuring out how much to charge by looking at others doing the same thing in the market, considering costs and figuring out what they need to make a profit.
  2. Talk about spending choices: One of the hardest things to do will be to talk about what to spend the money they earn on without criticism. The positive reinforcement of good choices is more important than the punishment of bad ones but you can begin to talk about wants versus needs. If you are out and your child wants a toy you weren’t going to buy and you say OK, make sure they know it’s their money they’re spending not yours. It will be coming out of their savings account. That’s a powerful lesson.
  3. Be positive about your job: This may be where I lose some of you. I know there are days when going to work may be the last thing you want to do. Or you may be working because you have to or for the benefits. But kids need to feel excited about the idea of earning money and what it allows them to do so paint on that smile!
  4. Model Philanthropic Behavior: Even if it’s a stretch to the budget, let kids see you helping those less fortunate. Remember that kids see everything and will take those behaviors into adulthood. Even if it’s some spare change into the Salvation Army bucket at the holidays. And ask them for input into your charitable giving choices. If they want to give their money too, let them be part of the conversation.
Teens & College-bound kids (13+) Now is the time to begin to involve your kids in your family’s financial situation. This is especially true when conversations about college get closer. Talking about credit scores and applying for financial aid and scholarships should be open discussions.
  1. Track dollars: There’s an app for that! Current is great one which has spending, saving and giving “wallets” tied to a debit card which parents can make deposits to and set up notifications for. However it is tracked, make sure there’s a conversation that follows so they can see where their money goes. As for credit cards, most experts say not until they have their own source of income and can make their own payments.
  2. Play “What If?”: Discuss tricky money situations and how to handle them. Who pays on dates? How do you decide? What if your date’s family is super-rich? While there may be no right or wrong answer, having the conversations will help your child become more savvy about the situations.
I know this is a lot to take in but you really only need the parts that apply to your child’s age! Money has been and always will be a monster to deal with and RAD does not make it any easier. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s found tips or tricks that have worked for them in handling money with their kiddos! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>