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Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly this Holiday

December 23, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Enjoy alcohol responsibly this holiday season

Holidays are full of social gatherings. In a lot of families and communities, alcohol is a holiday staple, and even mine are no exception. Through my work as a family counselor, though, I’ve seen the affects that irresponsible drinking can have on a family. The World Health Organization states that consuming alcohol can have social consequences along with some health risks. We need to be conscious of what image we give our middle and high school children of social drinking, specifically holiday drinking.

Parents and caregivers are role models. Middle and high school students are still children who are very prone to impressions. What you do around them affects them and makes them view some behavior as appropriate (even when the behavior is not) just because they saw you do it. This holiday, let's plan for responsible social drinking that does not send a misleading message.

  • The first important fact to remember is that in the U.S. you have to be 21 years or older to legally consume alcohol. Make sure that you teach that fact to your children.
  • Talk to your child about responsible drinking and moderation of drinking frequently. As a role model, you can model this behavior by limiting your drinking to be safe and prevent losing control. Eat when you drink and only drink if you’re not driving. Draw attention to your responsible choices by saying, “I’ve had enough, thank you,” or “I have to drive, so no drinks for me.”
  • Keep an ear out for the way you talk about alcohol drinking. Examples that can send a misleading message are “I need a drink because I had a hard day” or “I want to drink to relax.” Your child might begin to think alcohol is a cure for a hard day or a relaxant. We don’t want to teach our children to use alcohol as an emotional crutch.
  • Have open lines of communication with your child to discuss questions related to alcohol. Don’t threaten them with harsh punishments in order to scare them away from drinking too young. Instead, talk to them openly about the risks of drinking and the toll it takes on a growing body and mind. Invite them to share their opinions about drinking and the opinions they’ve heard their friends express.
  • Keep all alcoholic beverages in a controlled area. The harder it is to sneak a drink, the easier it is to avoid temptation.

If possible, avoid having alcohol during your holiday gatherings at all. If this isn’t possible, you can control the amount of alcohol you give your guests to prevent others from overdrinking.

There are several responsible drinking sites that provide good tips for you this holiday season. Remember that happy holidays are safe holidays!

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5 Places to Find Free or Inexpensive Books

December 19, 2013

By Dr. Bruce Marchiafava

Inexpensive books

As holiday gift giving is in full swing, it’s the perfect time of year to help put books in children’s hands. Between infancy and age six, a child could easily read 25 or more children’s books. Since children will outgrow books within a few months, you can acquire books in various ways that won’t break the bank.

  • Library. If you have a library, it will have a children’s section. Remember that librarians are a wealth of knowledge. They can help you select the right books for your child’s age.
  • Internet. While you’re at the library, you can use their computers to find websites that offer free books for children to read. Two such sites are Children’s Story Books Online – Stories for Kids of All Ages and Children’s Books Online: The Rosetta Project. The second site offers its books in a dozen or so different languages.
  • Friends and Families. You can trade books with other young parents, or ask friends or family members to borrow their old favorites. 
  • Garage Sales. Most garage sales have books for sale, especially children’s books, at a minimal cost. 
  • Goodwill and Other Recycling Center. Some centers collect books for resale. Again, costs are low, and you can trade your books with other parents.

Reading doesn’t have to be limited to books, however. Take a trip to the grocery store or the doctor’s office. Read the cereal box on the breakfast table. Read words on TV, especially on Sesame Street and similar child-oriented programs. It’s easy for parents to build a home rich in literacy, setting their child up for a lifelong love of reading.

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Grown Kids and Changing Traditions

December 18, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

Change is good even around the holidays. If you have a grown son or daughter who is now married, it is best to start considering what this means as you merge families and holiday traditions. Even though deep down we know it’s important to embrace our child’s new life, I have witnessed full-grown women—grandmothers even—pout like children as they mumble over how “it just won’t be the same” without their homemade dressing at Thanksgiving. Yes, it seems the new in-laws are infringing on a holiday tradition.
 
Although the world will not end if your cornbread stuffing doesn’t make its yearly debut, it sure can feel like it. If your son or daughter is now part of another family because of their engagement or marriage, it may seem they have been “stolen” from you, and the holidays only serve to emphasize that.  If ever there was a time to look at the glass half full, now is that time. Respecting your son or daughter as the adult he or she is, means accepting his or her decisions and new family. This may mean your child moves away and doesn’t come home for the holidays, or that he or she lives nearby but plans to spend the holidays with his or her spouse’s family.
 
Think positive thoughts, count to ten and breathe. This phase of your life can be an adventure. Now is the time to think of you for a change! If less is required of you around the holidays, just show up and have fun. Enjoy watching your son or daughter and get to know your new family. Soon, you will be making new holiday traditions that you can enjoy with your grandchildren.
  
If you take a moment to reflect, you realize how blessed you are to have a growing and happy family. You will be surprised how many of your traditions your children will carry on themselves. And who knows, maybe this time next year you will be on a cruise to Aruba sipping a cold drink instead of baking cornbread.

 

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

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How to Talk to Your College Student About Life on Campus

December 17, 2013

By Jessica Vician

How to talk to your college student about life on campus

Your college freshman is back home after completing his or her first term. You’re so happy to have your child home, but what do you do now? As you have probably learned, your job as a parent didn’t stop when your child went away to school. He or she might have been homesick and called crying, or maybe didn’t call at all because he or she was so busy and having fun. Regardless of how your child coped while at school, you should use this break as an opportunity to talk about this new life and find out how things are going. 

When children leave home and live on their own for the first time, even in a dormitory, they need to learn how to take care of responsibilities without the help of mom or dad. You should check in on how your child is handling several big changes. Too often, those students who are overwhelmed by college life, end up dropping out over the holidays. Be as supportive as possible to help motivate your child to keep going or even just to reaffirm that your love and support is still there and still unconditional.

  • School. How are your child’s grades? Has he or she found an effective studying routine? Ask about most and least favorite classes, and find out why. If you also went to college, you can bond with your child over similar likes and dislikes. It is also important to address any concerns you might have about your child’s grades or courses at this time. If he or she is performing poorly, offer tips on improving study habits and focusing on academics.
  • Career. When you are asking your child about courses he or she likes, watch your child’s facial expressions. If your child’s eyes light up when talking about a certain class, he or she is clearly passionate about the subject. If your child has not yet declared a major, suggest exploring career options related to the subjects that he or she is passionate about. Even if your child has declared a major and is happy with that choice, talk about a double major or a minor in the other subject for extra experience.
  • Health. Has your child gained or lost a significant amount of weight since being away? Has he or she been sick frequently? These are signs that your child might be having trouble managing stress or taking care of him or herself without parents there to help. Ask your child what types of food he or she is eating. Make sure it is a balanced diet with protein, vegetables, fruits, and enough water. While weight gain or loss can be a touchy subject, focus the conversation on nutrition and exercise, as getting the proper nutrition will help your child focus better when studying, perform better at school, get sick less frequently, and be happier and healthier. Exercise is a great stress reliever and boosts endorphins, which help put us in a better mood. This lesson will be important for the rest of your child’s life. 

It’s important to check in with your child regularly, even when he or she has moved out of your home. Your child is going through many changes and learning how to be an independent adult, which is more difficult than it sounds. Asking specific questions about how your child is doing not only helps you learn how to help him or her but also communicates that you still care.

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5 Ways to Keep Skills Sharp Over Break

December 16, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

Keep Skills Sharp Over Break

The upcoming winter break offers a welcome respite from the daily routine of school and a chance to visit with family and friends. While even teachers appreciate time to relax, we know how important it is to take the time to pursue our own interests and refresh our own love of learning. This time off provides opportunities to learn, develop, and retain academic skills for teachers and students alike. Here are my top five tips for parents to keep their students on their academic toes during break:

  • Visit a museum. 
Local museums often have reduced or free admission to students who present a valid school ID. Take advantage of the extra time during winter break and visit one. It is a great chance for students to see new things and explore.
  • Read a book. 
This may seem to be a lame idea to teenagers, but research shows that the number one way to improve tests scores is by reading. I advise my students to read and read often. Set some time aside during break for your child to read about something they are interested in. The act of reading requires concentration and imagination, which are great skills to reinforce during break.
  • Work ahead
. Students can use the time over break to work ahead in their classes, especially the ones they are having trouble with. Teachers often have the next assignment posted on the school’s website and you can help your student get a jump start on what is coming next in the classroom after break. Even just a preview of what’s to come can be helpful.
  • Play board games. 
In my family we regularly play classic board games, especially during the holidays when we are all gathered together. These games can help improve a number of skills relevant to academic success: teamwork, problem-solving, spelling, thinking on your feet, etc. A couple of my favorites are Bananagrams, Scrabble, and Monopoly.
  • Watch current events. 
Watch a documentary or news program with your students. Sometimes classrooms can be disconnected from what is happening in current events. With the extra time available during winter break you can choose to watch something on television regarding current events. This can be a way to help you student connect the classroom to the outside world.
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