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Should my child join a robotics team?

Posted on Jan 16, 2018 12:00:00 PM by Laurel Robinson

You may have been hearing about robotic teams lately, and wondering if it’s a good fit for your child. There are several robotics teams in the area, and they are worth looking into!  

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First, though, consider the cost and the demand on your schedule.  Teams may meet 2-3 times per week, and fees of $100-$300 may be due up front.  If there is not room in your schedule during the school year, look into a summer robotics camp.

A robotics team can start as early as age 6-10, with a lego-based league that is a more gentle introduction to robotics principles. By high school, the teams are still fun, plus hard work, and more oriented toward coding and technology. FIRST calls their Robotics Competition “the ultimate Sport for the Mind,” and quotes its high-school student participants as saying it is “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.” In addition to FIRST leagues and competition, there is also VEX Robotics with its own teams and competition schedule.

At any age, kids who participate in a robotics program can gain a variety of skills from the experience: in addition to analytical thinking, math, and coding, they will inevitably experience trial and error; problem solving, managing time, resolving conflict, working with a team. These are the kind of life skills that kids can only learn by doing.  

3 Ways To Help Your Child With Anxiety & Stress

Posted on Nov 14, 2017 3:30:00 PM by Laurel Robinson

According the the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million adults in America suffer with a form of anxiety. Children are not immune to anxiety, although they may have a hard time labeling what they are feeling.  

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Is your child stressed out or anxious? Do they dread going to certain places? Do they procrastinate, or have nervous habits, or get stomachaches?  Do they resist activities by acting up? Do they focus only on the negative and what might go wrong? These are all signs of anxiety.

How can we as parents help our children through this?

First, be compassionate. If you have ever felt nervous about something you can identify with what your child is feeling.  Even though our kids’ anxiety sometimes comes up in the most inconvenient ways (nausea, avoidance behavior, last minute crises), we need to take a step back and remember that parents are the protectors of children. We also, in a sense, represent the Lord to our kids.  We are their first mentors and disciplers. So, even if we are worried about getting to work late, having a mess on our hands, or embarrassment, we also need to consider the experience that our child is having in this moment. We must pray for wisdom: does this child need “tough love” right now to push through -- or a timeout and a listening ear?  Most likely they need our reassurance, but we should not dismiss their fears.  It can be a tricky balance.

Second, empower the child.  Anxiety is not alway as simple as “mind over matter,” but sometimes mental tools and strategies can be helpful. Encourage your child to do their best and focus on the positives.  Remind them that you will be here for them no matter what. If they are worried about their performance, walk them through what “doing your best” will look like.  For example, there is only one winner in a race, but the rest of the runners are still successful and accomplished if they have trained, practice, and persevered. They have overcome their own obstacles and perhaps beaten their own records. This is worth celebrating!  While you are giving your child this pep talk, check your own motives. Have you been pressuring your child to perform, compete, dominate?  If so, pray and surrender your child’s future to the Lord once again.

If you have techniques that help you when you are anxious, share them with your child.  Simple things like taking a deep breath, repeating a calming phrase or verse, or distracting yourself from obsessive thoughts can be helpful.  They may sound simple, but they are not necessarily things that a child would come up with on their own.  Practice them together until they can do them independently.

Third, talk to their teachers. Explain the strategies you are using, so that your teacher can reinforce them and possibly report back to you any progress or problems. This can create a positive cycle of improvement, or at least provide you with more information that you can use as you go to the next step.

If these changes in approach do not seem to bring any results, you might consider therapy. Child therapists, using play therapy or therapy animals, can get your child to reveal the troubling thoughts they haven’t mentioned to you.  Sometimes it is surprising, such as a bad dream they didn’t even want to revisit, or an experience that they didn’t want to relive. Once they speak about it, the therapist and parents can address the issue.  

Therapists can also help you identify when your child may need some further help such as medicine.  Some forms of anxiety are more deep-seated and beyond the realm of behavioral therapy.  Naturopaths might help you consider helpful modifications to your child’s diet, or ways your child get better sleep.

When you see signs of stress and anxiety in your child, do not ignore it, hoping it will go away.  Talk to other adults in their life to see what may be causing it, and be your child’s closest advocate. Having the support of family goes a long way toward healing.

 

For more helpful information see:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/9-things-every-parent-with-an-anxious-child-should-try_b_5651006.html

https://adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

The Importance of Serving

Posted on Apr 26, 2017 11:30:00 AM by Laurel Robinson

Service hours. Volunteering. Giving back.  Whatever the label it is an important part of growing up into a wonderful human being.

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At Liberty Christian School, 8th graders recently invited and fed homeless men from the Helping Up Mission (HUM) in Baltimore. In February, the 8th graders also traveled to Costa Rica for a week long missions trip. As we think through what that was like for everyone involved, we can easily see the importance of service, whether it is providing food or clothing for those in need, picking up trash, helping to build a house or a playground, or going on a summer missions trip:

Helping others.  In doing some acts of service you may not feel as though you are filling a huge need but simply putting a “drop in the bucket.”  However, every little bit does help--and what would happen if we all declined to help because our individual contribution was not going to make a huge difference?

Inspiring others. The stories that we read in which a young person starts a campaign, reaches out, or gives back are often the most inspiring stories of all.  Sometimes grown-ups can get jaded, or too absorbed in their own responsibilities or troubles. Each young person doing good in the community may inspire several adults to get back into the spirit of giving, or at least regain their trust that kids are capable of kind and selfless acts.

Developing compassion. Many service projects start with a compassionate vision of a person or a group of people; however, some of us may go along because we have to or because others are doing it.  But once we actually show up, we may be stretched outside of our comfort zones; we will see the real needs that prompted the project and our hearts may be touched. We may be moved to greater ways of helping and find more rewards than we knew possible.

Developing humility.  Similarly, when you come face to face with a homeless person you will experience the fact that they are a person. You may realize that any of us could be homeless if only a couple of details in our circumstances were to change.  You will develop a greater awareness of your own neediness and possibly of ways in which your living differently could impact others.  Other forms of service can humble us simply due to the fact that we spent a day scrubbing dirty things instead of entertaining ourselves. However it is developed, humility is a wonderful quality.

Sharing the Gospel with others.  If you meet the physical or material need of a person it may touch their heart more than you know.  It may open up a “door” for you to talk about deeper needs or discuss the Gospel. In her book  Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis describes how she feeds, clothes, and cares for orphans in Uganda. They know the love of Jesus because they see the love that she has for them. In many cases this is a love that no one had shown them before.

Experiencing the power of God. Katie Davis writes, “People are people.  They all need food and water and medicine, but mostly they need love and truth and Jesus. I can do that. We can do that.  We can give people food, water, medicine, love, truth, and Jesus. ...We can’t do it in our own strength or out of our own resources, but as we follow God to wherever He is leading us, He makes the impossible happen.”

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In Matthew 25, Jesus paints us a picture:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. ...Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

When it comes to “giving back,” that is really what it’s all about. We love because He first loved us.  We give generously because we have received generous blessings from God.  It’s never too late to start!

Moderating Screen Time

Posted on Feb 7, 2017 5:00:00 PM by Laurel Robinson

Should I moderate my child’s screen time?  If so, how can I place limits on my child’s screen time?  These are the questions that linger in every parent’s mind as we go through our hectic days.  We see our kids looking at screens, and we may not always have time to look over their shoulders. But we also have the unique role of seeing their hearts and the fruit of what’s going on in their hearts.Screentime 1.png


Why moderate screen time?

 In kids and adults, online activities can affect the way a person’s brain works. If we are constantly getting pop-up notifications, for example, our brains adapt to this norm and it becomes difficult for us to focus on a singular task for very long even when we want to.  We find ourselves interrupting our tasks with unnecessary distractions because that is how we are accustomed to operating. With this in mind, it would be wise for the entire family to set some boundaries on how electronics, email, social media, and games are used--for emotional and spiritual health.  You can even hold one another accountable to the guidelines you set together.

A recent study shows that a reasonable amount of screen time can actually be healthy for teens.  Researchers in the UK analyzed data that measured the screen time and well-being of just over 120,000 15-year-olds. They found that there was no direct link between screen time and well-being, but that those who used electronics more than a certain amount did experience decreased well-being. To be specific, on average, the teens' well-being peaked at “about 1 hours and 40 minutes of video-game play, about 1 hour 57 minutes of smartphone use, about 3 hours and 41 minutes of watching videos, and about 4 hours and 17 minutes of using computers.”  Any more than that, and the numbers trended toward unhappiness.

There are no magic (or even scientific) formulas to use, for your child is unique and wonderfully made by God. Beyond statistics, the bottom line is that as parents, you know your child’s heart and habits. You are in a position to observe whether screen time is making your child happy or sad, fulfilled or frustrated. There are so many factors to consider and ultimately, you want to encourage activities that enrich their life,and steer them away from those things that spawn dissatisfaction.


Avoiding negative screen time

If you identify a form of “screen time” that seems to be detrimental for your child (e.g., social media that leads to feeling left out, or a video game causing frustration), talk to them about it; help your child form their own conclusions about how to avoid it. Try to frame it in a positive, self-care context. This will be good for them now and in the future. If your child doesn’t choose to avoid it, you have the authority to place limits on their interaction with it. Or you can offer substitute forms of social interaction,entertainment, or whatever they are getting out of it.


Moderating positive screen time.

For any form of “screen time” that seems to make your child happy (e.g., chatting with good friends or building in Minecraft), it is still wise to encourage a time limit. Some clear-cut ways to set limits on screen time include the following:

  • Allow “unlimited” screen time, but only after homework and chores are done.
  • Allow screen time only on weekends.
  • Allow only 30 minutes of screen time after school, as a little break before homework.
  • Allow screen time only when you are present to supervise or be involved.
  • Allow as much screen time as your child “earns” by doing specific chores with specific values set for each chore.

During any allotted screen time, you will still want to be sure that your child spends it on something that is edifying for them!


Limiting Websites.

If your child has access to the internet, consider using an app that can help you supervise what your child is doing online. Covenant Eyes and Disney Circle are two examples of products that you can use to filter and/or review what your child sees online. One mother told me recently that her daughter comes to her with questions instead of Googling things because she knows her Mom sees every site she visits. This has led to good conversations and more engagement that they may not have had. Now that’s a win-win!

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