RKwritable.jpgMany kids are returning to school after nice Spring Breaks spent on vacation or at home with their families. While mothers often breathe a sigh of relief on that first Monday back (no more “I’m booooored…what can I do?” for another three months!), it can be a bittersweet return.

Rice Krispie Treats offered me a unique way to stay connected with my kids upon their return to school. They sent me a box of their Rice Krispie Square Bars, with new wrappers you can write on, and suggested I send a little love note along with their packed lunch. They also offered me the opportunity to chat with the amazing parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, about staying connected with our kids. Here’s how they introduced her to me,

Michele Borba, an internationally-renowned educator and award-winning author of 23 books including ”The Big Book of Parenting Solutions”, is often sought out for her opinion and has appeared over 80 times on the Today show as well as other guest appearances on Dr. Phil, The View, The Doctors, CNN American Morning, and CBS ‘s The Early Show.  Borba frequently advises parents on the importance of checking-in and connecting with their kids throughout the day and provides practical, solution-based strategies for busy moms and dads.

I knew I had a lot to learn from her, and confessed quickly that while I knew my five year old daughter would love a handwritten note on her Rice Krispie Snack Bar, and my nine year old son would get a kick out of it, I was hesitant to send a love note for my tween son. She was quick to assure me that while I’d get the least amount of appreciation from him, he was the one it was most critical that I stay in touch with during the day.

Research shows that staying “connected” to our kids reduces their chance of getting into some risky behaviours, but Borba acknowledged that staying connected is tougher and tougher as we compete with their peers, technology and their busy lives. As parents we need to get creative as they age to find a “common connector”. I mentioned that my son and I watch Modern Family together, and she suggested that I pepper conversations through the week with mention of the show, to reinforce that we do have something in common.
Other useful tips for connecting with your tween?
  • Especially with boys, it’s better to talk to them when they’re doing something else. Don’t try to sit them down after school and have a formal conversation. Instead, chat with them as they’re playing Playstation or ministicks in the basement. They may seem distracted, but they’re great at multitasking and will be more willing to engage in conversation.
  • Teens’ preferred method of communicating is texting, so if you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em. I mentioned that occasionally I’ll chat with my son online, and while it seems kind of silly at first to be typing LOL, etc., it’s just another way of connecting with him on his level.
  • Pick certain times of the day where the entire family (kids and parents) unplug. No typing, no texting, no talking on cells (and in my case I’ll add a fourth “t”…no twitter). Even if you’re not talking to each other, it’s a good break from technological communication.
  • Turn off the radio in the car and talk. Again, kids are more likely to open up in a conversation when they can avoid eye contact, so that drive to the arena, swimming pool, or mall is the perfect time to ask the questions you need answered. Turning the radio off may require a weaning process, so start small with a suggestion like, “We’ll have the radio for ten minutes, and then talk for five.”
  • Finally, we all acknowledge that the days of the entire family gathering around the dinner table and regaling one another with stories are gone. Lives seem busier than ever, and often families need to eat dinner in shifts to accommodate everyone’s schedules. Borba suggested that it’s not the dinner conversation that’s important, it’s the ritual, and families can develop their own ritual at any time. Maybe everyone meets in the kitchen for a bowl of ice cream at 8:30, or maybe it’s on the couch with popcorn to watch hockey on Saturday nights.
I did send Rice Krispie Square Treats with written messages with all three of my kids the first day back to school after March Break. As expected, my five year old daughter loved hers and my nine year old son thought it was pretty cool. I asked my almost-twelve year old son that evening whether he liked his note. He looked at me sideways, managed a half-smile, and said, “it was o.k.” High praise indeed.
Rice Krispie Square Treats are available in stores now.

ricekrispiebasket.jpg

Kellogg’s is offering one lucky UrbanMoms member a great gift basket of items that parents can use to stay connected with their kids, including the Rice Krispies writable wrappers (plus a lunch bag and sharpies for lunchtime notes), a few games and bedtime books. It’s valued at over $150 and it can be yours just by sharing in the comments section what you do to stay connected with your kids.

The contest ends on April 15, 2011.

Click here for contest Rules and Regulations.

UrbanMoms.ca members are eligible to win so don’t forget to sign-in.  Not a member yet?  Click here to join.

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