It’s no surprise that most kids look forward to summer vacation all year long. After all, who wouldn’t want more time to relax, have fewer responsibilities and enjoy great weather for fun activities?
While summer should be enjoyable, we also need to think about ways to keep some structure at home. Children’s mental health actually thrives when we give them routines and rules; plus, too much freedom may lead to boredom. When children don’t know what to do, they may gravitate to their smartphones, tablets or laptops, and too much screen time may raise the risk of anxiety, depression or obesity.
An added bonus to a summer routine? The transition back to school will go more easily.
Here are some suggestions of ways to help your child maintain structure this summer:
Looking for more ideas to keep kids mentally healthy over the summer? Head over to OnOurSleeves.org and sign up for our free e-community for weekly emails with a different recommendation from our behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. You can also follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
This was a guest post by Ariana Hoet, PhD; Clinical Director of On Our Sleeves® and Pediatric Psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Another Father’s Day is fast approaching. As we prepare to get another pair of funny socks or some sort of weapon needed in our arsenal of weekend warrior tools, let us make this Father’s Day a little different.
As we reflect on being a father, and being a partner, let us take a moment to think about the things we really need more of. Those gifts that will truly make us happier and make a lasting difference in our lives:
While channeling our inner Brene Brown here, it is true. Vulnerability is the “birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.” Imagine the freedom we will truly experience when we let go of anxiety and ask for help. Taking it a step further, the powerful life lesson we pass on to our little ones when they see Dad being vulnerable.
We are currently switching to a big boy bed at home and slowly going into potty training. Vulnerability has never been more evident in our household than now, but it is also a needed companion, as my wife and I navigate these delicate and often messy times.
Like any part of our lives, albeit work, home, extracurricular, etc., we need to find a community of men to share ideas with and to learn from. Maybe your dad still calls the remote “the clicker” and talks about the days of Reagan, but imagine the wealth of knowledge he can pass down on to you as a dad. Think about those friends who had kids before you and the years ahead they are on potty training, travel soccer and college prep. Pick their brains, learn from them.
We began our podcast and partnered with local dad blog CBUS Dads to ensure we were part of a community trying to learn more and be the best versions of themselves. Blindly beginning a podcast, but meeting so many amazing people along the way has been worth the countless hours put into this passion project. It may be challenging at first to find, but is worth its weight in gold, nuggets of information shared among like minded people.
We need to stand up and stand out on things that hold us back from truly "dadding." Like more changing tables in men’s rooms and gender-neutral bathrooms at our favorite public places. Teaming up with CBUS Dads, we are currently hosting a Dadvocate for Change campaign advocating for just this. We have talked to businesses, had conversations with elected officials and even partnered with mom-owned Pluie, who has hit the Columbus market with the first of its kind self-sanitizing changing table.
Families come in all different shapes and sizes, meaning there are many more areas of our communities and psyche we need to Dadvocate for. We have had numerous stay-at-home dads on our podcast who shared the unchartered waters of striking up conversations with moms typically at playgrounds, while attempting not to look like they are making a pass at them. Imagine a Dad trying to get his child into a playgroup but is left out because Mom is not a part of it. We all can give the gift of Dadvocating for change!
Sure, another bottle of bourbon from a local distiller is never frowned upon and anything to help up the lawn mowing game is always a strong gift, but let us take a moment this month to look at what gift(s) will truly help us this year.
Stay strong Dadass.
-Matt Lofy, Regular Contributor
We’ve all been there with kids, whether it’s in the car, at home or even at the park; no matter where you are, kids seem to find a way to use the phrase “I’m bored.” Your first instinct may be to supply them with an endless supply of ideas, after all we are here to help, right? I’m here to encourage you to simply respond by acknowledging their statement and feelings, but allow them to figure out what comes next. This might sound something like “I’m really sorry to hear that, I know I don’t like feeling that way. You are so creative I know you’ll figure something out!” There are two parts to this answer that are important:
By validating their feelings they will feel heard and seen. Sometimes we might feel frustrated at the very idea that they could be bored given all the things they have at their disposal for entertainment. We also may be having a time where things are busy in our adult lives and might even feel a slight bit of wishing our lives would slow down enough to feel bored. Try to recognize that feeling as your own and leave space for their feeling too. Remember, they are used to being in school with their friends all day where they do art, PE, swimming, reading, recess, and more. Summer time is a big shift for them so they are adjusting to a slower pace. If we respond negatively to their statement this immediately shuts down conversation as well as any bit of creativity they might have (and they’ll need that later to fix the boredom). Having your feelings shut down never feels good so try to remember to always start with a statement that validates what they are feeling, it will open a connection and make them feel as though you are listening to them.
Encouraging without suggesting is where things get tricky. As adults who care for children we often want to see them happy, healthy and thriving. The desire to see them happy can place us in the role of fixer of problems. Stepping in to help guide a child and assist them in fixing a problem has a time and place, but I am here to tell you this is not one of them. When we start suggesting solutions to their boredom problem we are unintentionally reinforcing the idea that they cannot fix the problem themselves. We are taking away their power as intelligent, creative, capable beings that can navigate their way through this feeling. By reminding them of some of their strengths and encouraging them to use them to solve the problem on their own you are telling them “you got this, I believe in you.”
Summer is an amazingly fun time for many children. Remember, bored is not a dirty word, just a skill that needs to be intentionally developed and cultivated. By encouraging them to use the skills they already possess, we are helping them to trust themselves to solve their own problems. Feeling bored can increase a child’s creativity, problem solving skills and much more. I sincerely hope your summer is filled with many fun activities and enjoyable experiences - with a little boredom too!
-Shaun Ditty, Regular Contributor
Full disclaimer to start: I acknowledge, it’s odd to reflect about Christmas in June, but these have been strange times, so I’m going with it.
I recently stumbled on notes I took the night of December 25, 2020. This was the first I’d seen them in nearly 18 months. I forgot I documented every aspect of that day, but upon discovery, I recall being moved to do so, because I was thankful for that day.
The notes outlined that we played board games and watched A Christmas Story, my all time favorite holiday movie. The gifts ranged from much-needed golf lessons for me, camping equipment for my baby girl, legos and monster trucks for my son, and horseback riding lessons, personalized stationery, and of course, an American Girl doll for my oldest daughter. The wife and I indulged in mimosas and cheese strata in the morning, and our Christmas feast included brussel sprouts, scalloped potatoes, dinner rolls, and ham.
None of these details are overly important, although I have dreams of Christmas ham 365 days a year.
After reviewing my notes after a year and a half, there were three particular themes that were significant if not downright special about this day:
That holiday was special, despite not seeing extended family or friends, which is sad and not customary. My family of five made the most of it, and in the process, developed new, unplanned traditions and made unforgettable memories that I’m forever grateful for and enjoyed recalling - even on the cusp of summer.
-Steve Michalovich, Regular Contributor
A few days post-Dadvocate event, and I’m overwhelmed and tired.
As one of the organizers, I’m overwhelmed by the tremendous show of support of our Dadvocate for Change Kickoff and Diaper Drive we hosted on Saturday, May 14 at North High Brewing in Dublin.
With nearly 60 attendees and eight community and business partners, we were able to collect over 3,200 diapers (and still growing) and over 700 wipes, totaling 128 families in need we were able to help. I’m overwhelmed with the kindness of those who showed support.
I’m overwhelmed by the excitement of Addie and Brittany, cofounders of Pluie, who joined us from the Chicago area. They installed the first of many Pluie changing tables coming to Columbus area businesses. North High Brewing now has the first one and soon they’ll be installing at Easton, COSI and the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium just to name a few.
I’m overwhelmed that Clay Gordon of 10tv and Jackie Orozco of Good Day Columbus would cover our story and that legendary radio host and local podcast icon, Dino Tripodis would invite us on Sunny 95. All were amazing opportunities to bring the conversation before those we wouldn’t necessarily reach through our podcast and blog.
I’m still overwhelmed that in the five minutes we hosted a formal presentation at the event, my son Tuckerman decided it was the ideal time to come and cold clock me in the daddy bits.
There is still so much more work to be done for easier access to changing tables in area businesses, along with now the national supply chain issues around baby formula and increasing prices around diapers. Now is the perfect time to seek out overwhelming change to better impact all families in our region.
-Matt Lofy, The Dadass
There I stood in the parking lot during a gnarly October rainstorm under the open hatch of my Escape thinking to myself, why?
While staring down at my half naked son on his second birthday, as if staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, there I was uncomfortably changing him through the crisp autumn breeze and pouring rain nervous I might get peed on. All the while, everyone was warm and dry enjoying the party inside.
Why you ask? It’s quite simple. Because our family’s favorite place to go in town to watch airplanes didn’t have changing tables in either bathroom. Drenched in wet clothes and on my second beer it hit me. More. Places. Need. Changing. Tables. Especially in the men’s rooms.
Speaking from my own personal experience, if an establishment we visit has one at all, it’s most likely in the women’s restroom. As I’ve posted before, our son listens better to me during changing, and I genuinely enjoy the bonding time. So, it’s even more of an inconvenience when there isn’t one in a men’s room.
After consuming a bit more, the creative juices really got going, and more thoughts began to pour through my crazy, little head. Why don’t more places ensure changing tables in both bathrooms? As people cry out for gender neutral bathrooms, where’s the inclusion that everyone can have access to change kiddos in them? What if you’re a family with two dads, and there isn’t a changing table in the men’s room? How can society indirectly teach my son that only mommies can change diapers in public? How many bare baby asses have been changed on this booth I’m sitting in right now? This is a huge problem in our society, loaded with social issues, sanitary concerns and a "Dademic".
Since then, The Dadass Podcast and CBUS Dads have been hard at work seeing how we can ignite conversations and begin making meaningful change. Emails have been sent out and connections made. Through networks, we were introduced to the moms who founded Pluie, helping to bring self-sanitizing changing tables to Columbus for a safer, more comfortable changing experience. We’ve reached out to elected officials and area nonprofits and are finding other ways to spark a conversation that moves the needle in a small way with the hope of profound impact one day.
This isn’t just a parenting issue. This effects friends without kids who want to invite out the friends with kids. They need to consider who is “family-friendly” and who is prepared for families to attend.
As restaurants and establishments come back stronger from the impact of COVID, how many more people could patronize them if they had changing tables. Personally, our food and drink tabs could have already installed multiple throughout Columbus, that we’re no longer able to frequent as much.
Imagine the conversations of breaking down stereotypes of gender roles, effecting systemic change for family equality or even a small enhancement a business can make that helps increase loyal customers - all of this can help if we continue to have the conversation.
Are you ready to join us?
We did it. We took our kids to Disney World.
Full disclaimer: if you’re looking for tips and tricks on how to plan the ultimate Disney World trip, please stop reading. This isn’t that. This is more my mere recollection of my 96 whirlwind hours at the happiest place on Earth.
As a child of the 90s, I grew up on Disney. I’ve argued before that the early 90s were the pinnacle of Disney movies. I’m not sure if that’s a hot Millennial take or fairly valid, but I’ll save that discussion for another blog. Regardless I’m a Disney fan, but had never been to Disney World (neither had my wife).
Our trip was our kids’ Christmas presents. One of our family values is Experiences Over Possessions, so this gift fit this mantra.
I can’t stress this enough: my wife absolutely crushed planning our trip. Countless hours spent. Solicitation of help from not one, but two Disney-specific travel agents (yes, these are actually a thing, and I don’t know how you’d survive the trip without the careful guidance of one). She did everything. She’s a rockstar all the time. I was worthless leading up to our voyage.
We got into town mid-day, so we spent day one at the resort, settling in and swimming at the biggest pool I’ve ever seen. After the Ohio winter, a twilight dip was welcomed by us all. We booked the Art of Animation resort, which we all thoroughly enjoyed and can vouch for.
Day two was completely dedicated to the Magic Kingdom. I was a bit shell shocked upon arrival. The crowds were huge, but I’m not necessarily anti-big crowds. What took me back was the pace. Everyone is frenzied, panicked and relentlessly checking the Disney mobile application on their smartphone while sprinting to their next attraction, trying to beat line wait times. The efficiency the Disney app provides with real-time updates and scheduling is amazing and convenient, but I found it jarring to see so many people’s attention consumed by their screen while simultaneously trying to enjoy a very immersive, real-life experience.
I also underestimated the Disney fanatics. Again, I’m a fan, but not a super fan. But if you don’t have a Disney shirt in Disney World, did you really even go to Disney World? It seems the real pros design their own t-shirts. A few dads adorned prints addressing the costs of a Disney vacation. One with Mickey’s silhouette and just the word “broke” was equally hilarious, accurate and sad. This one was my favorite:
And speaking of, and this is hardly a spoiler alert, but Disney World is the most expensive place I’ve ever been. I was slapped across the face by this fact on night one when I ordered a 18-ounce beer and a small seltzer for the wife at the resort, and the total was $31.
If I do have one pro tip, it would be in the beverage and hydration department though: first aid locations across the parks have cold, filtered water available for refillable water bottles. We packed ours and stayed well-hydrated throughout our visit.
We also packed our double jogging stroller, as this was a common recommendation, even for kids our ages. Of course, on day two we got a flat front tire that could not be repaired. Kudos to the engineering prowess of BOB Gear, as this posed a minor challenge and inconvenience, but we were able to power through.
In late March, the temperatures were consistently in the 80s, which isn’t terribly hot, but enough to wear you down after cooking all day. As my wife stealthily documented, sweaty back is real, especially pushing a broken double stroller. I can’t imagine the central Florida heat and humidity (and resulting sweaty back) in the summer months.
Not surprisingly, highlights from most of my trips are the meals. Two dining options I recommend:
It was important to refuel (i.e., overindulge) given we walked 28 miles in three days spent across Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Covid protocols across the parks were basically nonexistent, aside from not being able to touch or come into close proximity with the mascots. I found it interesting that the one job in the parks that required a huge mask was not allowed to be near the guests, but someone smarter than me can explain that one. [UPDATE: literally the same day this published, we read in one of our favorite mommy blogs that Mickey will hug again!]
All of the rides were terrific, but not surprisingly, Space Mountain was a family favorite and lived up to the hype. I highly recommend the new Star Wars section for any Star Wars enthusiast. My mind was blown by the Kilimanjaro Safari and the proximity to a variety of animals. A few others were memorable: Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Slinky Dog Dash, Avatar Flight of Passage, and the Winnie the Pooh ride (but I might be biased, since I’m a Pooh guy).
Part of the carrot for our timing of our trip, was that the high school marching band that my brother-in-law is the director for was marching in the parade. It's always awesome to see his amazing band, but Disney parades are beyond any other I've seen before.
When we’d get back to the resort at night, the kids would ask if we could go swimming. As tired as I was, this trip was once in a lifetime, so I happily obliged. I certainly have no regret ending every long day with a pool session and to hear their laughs a little while longer before passing out.
Disney World is hot, crowded and expensive, but man, you can’t beat the memories created and the wonder in your children’s eyes as they experience this mecca for family entertainment and amusement. We’ve been home a week, and my kids are still asking for and cracking up at my amateur Mickey, Goofy and Donald impressions.
I don’t know if and when a return trip might be, but I’m truly grateful we had this time as a family at the happiest place on Earth.
-Steve Michalovich, contributor, CBUS Dads
Matt Lofy, The Dadass: this podcast we started two years ago has been a wild ride thus far. We’ve published over 80 episodes and special recordings so far, and we were super psyched and humbled to be awarded “podcast of the year" at the 2021 Columbus Podcast Awards last August.
Coming into 2022, Shaun (aka The Dude) and I started asking ourselves what’s next? How can we both grow our platform and challenge ourselves to do good in our community? How can we advocate for causes near to our hearts?
Steve Michalovich, founder, CBUS Dads: Earlier this year, Matt looped me into the conversations Shaun and him were having, and I was incredibly excited and motivated to find even small ways to drive change and make impacts in our community with our combined platform.
Matt: One major conversation we wanted to address was changing tables in men’s and gender-neutral restrooms. This idea came out of frustration on my son's second birthday at one of our favorite local places. I was out in the pouring rain changing his diaper in the back of my SUV. Kids or no kids, we've all been there where our decisions of what local business to support depends on if they're kid-friendly or not.
Steve: I’ve of course experienced this same situation countless times, as this is not an uncommon gap many restaurants and other destinations have. In fact, I was stunned to learn that only 15 states have baby changing station accommodations legislation. So we started reaching out to our networks to see what organizations around town might be interested in trying to drive dialogue on this topic and collaborate on a campaign to help get more diaper changing tables into some of our favorite spots around town.
Matt: Our outreach led us to the amazing, proudly female founders and operators of Pluie, a startup with the mission to modernize the outdated public restroom changing table experience and ensure all parents and caregivers on-the-go have access to a clean, safe and comfortable place to change their baby’s diaper.
Steve: We were immediately blown away by their technology that is revolutionizing and disrupting a dated product. Pluie offers the world’s first and only self-sanitizing diaper changing table for public restrooms, powered by a patented UV-C light system, which is known to kill 99.9 percent of germs including influenza, e. Coli and, especially relevant today, coronavirus.
Matt: Addie, Pulie’s founder, had a similar experience to mine involving a diaper blowout that inspired her to design and patent a better changing table. Through this kinship, we hit it off immediately!
Steve: Since we started talking to the Pluie team, they’ve appeared on Good Morning America, and coincidentally, Columbus was a market they were looking to expand to. I’m super pumped for their trajectory and getting the opportunity to collaborate with them on this campaign.
Matt: We had recently recorded with North High Brewing founder Tim Ward, and to say that I’m a fan of theirs would be an understatement. We approached Tim to see if we could install a Pluie in any of their local locations and host an event there. Him and the team of course obliged, so we will be celebrating the first Pluie installed in Columbus on Saturday, May 14 from 2-5 p.m. at their Dublin location.
Steve: As if beer and celebrating this milestone which will hopefully be a catalyst for more changing tables across central Ohio isn’t enough, we will be collecting diapers and monetary donations to benefit Bottoms Up Diaper Bank during the event. We hope to see you there, and please consider making a donation to this incredible local institution!
Matt: We envision this campaign as just the start for our Dadvocate platform, which we see representing our community impact arm of what we have created with The Dadass Podcast. Stay tuned for more ways we hope to #DadvocateForChange!
No matter your personal views, the events unfolding in Ukraine impact all of us to some degree, and children are no different. War is not a novel concept in the world, but the stakes seem to be higher as two large countries are embroiled in a conflict that can potentially draw involvement from other nations as well. Many of us would like to think that we can shield our children from distressing and scary events in the world, but that is not the case. Kids hear and see things even if we try to shield them from it, especially as they get older. If you don't address it with them, they are left to process it themselves or turn to other unreliable sources. As of 2019, more than 50 percent of teens were getting their news primarily from social media. I can imagine that number has only gone up since then.
So, today I would like to share some advice on how to talk with the children in your lives about scary, violent or otherwise traumatic events they may be exposed to:
Be proactive - don't wait for them to come to you
Reassure them in a realistic way
Leave the door open for further discussion
Encourage them to use emotion words and share your own feelings, appropriately
You don't have to know all the answers
Focus on who is trying to help
Avoid blaming or chastising entire groups of people
When you are able to have these conversations with the children in your life, it not only helps to work through the current issue and stress they may be experiencing. These talks will open the door for them to come to you with other questions and concerns they have to ensure that they get reliable and realistic information. It is incredibly important for children to have adults in their lives who model effective ways to discuss difficult issues, manage emotions and resolve conflict. These skills are crucial throughout life and contribute to resilience and overall success in life. A relatively short conversation now can have a ripple of positive effect throughout their development.
This a guest post authored by Dr. Parker Huston, formerly the director of the Nationwide Children's Hospital On Our Sleeves campaign and now owner of Central Ohio Pediatric Behavioral Health. Check out his recent appearance on The Dadass Podcast.
I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. My wife and I hardly acknowledge it. Not that we aren’t madly in love, have opposition to giving gifts or aren’t always looking for an excuse to have a date night. It just feels like a manufactured holiday conveniently located during a down time in the calendar. Bah Humbug!
Despite my personal indifference, I volunteered to plan my second grader’s class Valentine’s Day party. The PTA sent an email recruiting parents who would be willing to help, so I raised my hand.
My motivation: my oldest hasn’t had a normal year of school yet due to the pandemic. In turn, we as parents haven’t had a normal year of parenting an elementary-aged child. Parents entering the school is not permitted, and most school events and field trips are still on hiatus. I saw planning the party as one small opportunity to feel connected to her day-to-day school life and helping in some small way.
The PTA was explicit in that the party would only be 30 minutes, and I had a $25 budget to maneuver with. I put my thinking cap on and came up with two activities I pitched to her teacher via email:
I created 21 individual bingo boards with a subset of 30+ kid-appropriate compliments and affirmations. Fittingly, I purchased heart candies with messages for the kids to fill out their boards. School-approved candy and mechanical pencils were purchased for winning prizes. This was fun, because my daughter helped me in drafting the boards.
I developed a template for students to write and/or draw something they appreciate about an assigned, random classmate for them to share and/or post in the classroom. While her teacher green-lit this concept, I’ve been told they didn’t get around to doing this activity [INSERT SHRUGGING EMOJI].
I don’t deserve a medal. Nothing I planned is overly novel or creative. But the feedback I received (opinion of one from my daughter) is that Bingo was a ton of fun for her and her classmates, and everyone loves mechanical pencils! This, plus efficiently only spending $11 of my allotted budget, I’ll take as wins.
I’ve been told since the festivities by the lone male member of the PTA board that I was the first dad in the history of the elementary school to volunteer to help plan a party. Whether that’s true or not, I’m happy I contributed.
Coincidentally, this week our home school district announced masking will be optional starting next week and volunteers can start coming back into the building again for the first time in two years. Not sure if this is my first or last class party I’ll plan, but fingers crossed for more normalcy for school-aged kids and the parents who want to be involved - even if it just means buying suckers and drafting bingo sheets.
-Steven Michalovich, CBUS Dads contributor
CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.