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Gift Idea for Students: the Gift of Saving!

December 11, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

Gift Idea for Students: The Gift of Saving

As a teacher of personal finance I regularly tell my students the most important thing about building a healthy financial life is to save. Expert financial advisors say that 5 to 10 percent of your income is a good number to shoot for, but the more you save, the better. 

There are three basic principals in being successful at saving money:

  1. Pay Yourself First (PYF). This is a strategy to stay disciplined in regularly contributing to a saving plan by paying into it first. Every time a paycheck is earned, take 5 to 10 percent off the top and add it to the savings plan.
  2. Save for the long term. The true power of saving money can only be unleashed when money is saved over a long period of time in an interest-bearing account at a financial institution. Money deposited at a financial institution is also insured by the federal government through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to 250,000 dollars per account. So, the savings cannot be lost or stolen no matter what happens to the bank. 
  3. Start ASAP. The sooner you start to save, the sooner that money will grow. 

This holiday season provides a perfect opportunity to start educating your student on the importance of savings. Use part of any gift money to open up a savings account for your child and encourage relatives who wish to buy something to do the same. 

Additionally, state governments across the country are encouraging parents to save for their children’s college fund by creating special investment opportunities called 529 plans. There are significant tax breaks for those participating in these plans and other benefits depending on which state you live in. In Illinois, the 529 plan is known as Bright Start. For more information about opening this type of account and the benefits of having one, see Bright Start Savings.

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A Time for Giving

December 11, 2013

By Amanda Gebhardt

Toy Donations

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day, a day that commemorates the monumental statement of what it means to be human adopted through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This holiday season it’s important to remember those around us who struggle for their basic rights to a standard of living that ensures their health and security. In the rush of the holidays, it’s easy to forget that giving doesn’t just mean gifts, but also giving of ourselves to those in need.

Earlier last month, my husband passed a giving tree in the lobby of a building here in Chicago. Each tag had the gender and age of a child and what he or she was asking for. Standing there in that lobby on the way in between workday appointments he read the card for a three-year-old little girl. The request was for sweaters.

This past November, our daughter, Abby, turned three years old. I can’t imagine the sheer amount of clothes, toys, and general things she will be gifted this holiday season, not just by us, but by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Here in the same city, though, another little girl will be lucky if a stranger helps her keep warm. My husband saw that card and felt for that little girl, knowing how much we have to be thankful for and remembering his own childhood and the way his mother struggled to raise two boys on a cashier’s pay. 

The holidays are a time of celebration and togetherness, but mostly, they are a time of giving. We give love and kindness to those in our lives and community who need it. Our daughter is just getting old enough to understand what the holidays are and what she can expect. We want her to always be more willing to give of herself than to take for herself. Such a value can be developed at every age. The following are some of the ways I’ve been able to find to help begin teaching children the importance of giving. 

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

  • Talk to your child about giving to others and why it is important.
  • Work together to choose unused toys and clothes to donate to those in need.
  • Create a special donation bank where children can put loose change and have them choose a charity to give it to.

Elementary Students

  • Have your child pick out a special toy at the store to donate to Toys for Tots or a similar organization. 
  • Send a package to an American soldier through one of these organizations.
  • Visit a nursing home or a hospital.

Middle and High School Students

  • Volunteer as a family at a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Help organize a food drive at school.
  • Sponsor an impoverished child or family.

With each new generation learning to give to each other, hopefully we will help create a world where no little girls ever go cold. For now, at least, our family was able to help one more stay warm this winter. Find out more about what you and your family can do at organizations like Chicago Cares, the United Way, and the American Red Cross

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The Holiday Brady Bunch: Blending Families

December 9, 2013

By Sunny P. Chico

The Holiday Brady Bunch

Holidays are about spending time together as a family and celebrating. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re always growing and changing. One of the things I love most about my own family is how it grew over the years to include some of the people I now hold most dear. When my husband and I married, I was blessed with what I call my three bonus daughters from my husband’s first marriage, while I brought with me my two children from my first marriage.

To be honest, I never had a big conflict. We may not always see eye-to-eye on different things, but as I can attest, the same is true for mothers and daughters everywhere. Even though my stepdaughters were raised Jewish and my children are Catholic, we celebrate holidays through our cultures and the uniqueness of our religions. 

So, during this time of the year when families get together, how do you avoid conflict between blended families?

  • Be patient. I remember our first Christmas together as a blended family. I made my traditional Christmas dinner: a Cuban meal. My husband’s girls, who at the time were 10 and 11 year-olds, wouldn’t have any of this. Now, about thirteen years later, this meal has become one of their favorite meals of the year!
  • Learn about other customs. Don’t make your new family members do anything they don’t want to do and instead try to make them feel welcome. Make sure that you are taking the time to learn about their customs and try, as much as you can, to be a part of them. Christmas is about celebrating each other’s uniqueness, cultures, and beliefs. But most of all, it is about celebrating each other and the gift of family.
  • Create new memories. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon old ones, though. You can come up with new traditions like a family sleepover on Christmas Eve, for example. In my family, everybody expects my famous breakfast quiche on the morning of the 25. It has become a true family tradition!

Remember why you are together. If there are major conflicts, remember that this isn’t just because you are a blended family. All kinds of families have issues. There’s a lot of stress during the holidays and at a certain point conflicts are normal. Remember to respect each other’s differences and remember what you love about each other.

Understanding and a true sense of family don’t happen overnight. I can’t stress enough that this takes time and you need to be patient and consistent. Family is forged through our shared joys and struggles. Be there for each other and you will grow stronger together. It can and will happen!  

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About YOU: The Books, The Program, The Movement

December 5, 2013

by Jessica Vician

About YOU: The Books, The Program, The Movement 

“Every parent I have ever met wants to be a great parent.” 

That realization, combined with the birth of her grandson and an extensive career in education, sparked Sunny P. Chico’s desire to help parents do the best they can to help shape their child’s life. She believes that every parent has to power to guide his or her child to educational success. Chico first wrote the series YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher to help parents do just that. After a strong interest from educators for ways to better support their parent communities, Chico and her team expanded the YOU Program to include workshops that bring parents together to critically evaluate their own strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge gaps across the continuum of balanced parenting and to learn how to be the kind of parent they want to be. 

The books and workshops continue to empower parents to be pillars of strength for their child’s academic, social, behavioral, and physical well-being. In turn, these participants have inspired us to bring this community of parents together in a new way to continue to learn how to provide the very best of what this world offers to their child. 

The YOU Parent site is a gathering place to provide community support, information, and advice to parents of all backgrounds that will inspire and help them boost their child’s achievement as a student and prepare them for adulthood. We know that it’s the differences that make us great and that can offer us perspectives we never thought to consider. That is why YOU Parent celebrates all cultures and ethnicities. We’re here to find pride and strength in our differences and to build a world without boundaries or limitations so that all of our children have a real chance to succeed.

Through each article, poll, or message, we hope to give you the tools you need to continue growing as a parent. When you read an article that you can relate to, head over to the forum to share your thoughts with us and the other community members. Participate in the weekly polls so we can learn more about you and deliver content tailored toward your needs. Send us questions so we can answer them in Questions from YOU. Join the movement. Help us all become better parents so our children can lead a better world. 

Welcome to YOU Parent. 

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Early Childhood Food Aversions

December 4, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Early Childhood Food Aversions

The holidays are coming and food is always part of them. We all have different food preferences and so do children. I have worked with many children who do not enjoy eating as much as other children their age. Some children, however, have medical issues that arise because of their eating.

I remember working with an 18-month-old who would refuse to eat any food with texture. He preferred yogurt, milk shakes, broth, and bananas. His mother thought it was only a picky eater phase and that he would be over it fast. He would gag, vomit, or simply refuse to open his mouth if the food his mother offered had any bumps or clumps. His special diet caused a lot of stress on his mother. It was a long struggle for this family. Together, with an occupational therapist, the family slowly introduced gradual textures and helped this boy tolerate new foods. After several months of therapy, he now can eat a variety of foods without a battle.

Significant food aversions can directly affect each child's family and can typically make eating together a stressful event. It’s important to understand what a food aversion is. According to Zerotothree.org, a food aversion is categorized as sensory difficulty and is a common feeding disorder found in early childhood. There is a combination of inability to tolerate oral stimulation, anxiety, and defiance when experiencing a food aversion.

Your child’s relationship with food begins when you first introduce solid foods. Talk to your pediatrician about when to begin introducing your child to cereals and baby food.  You need a lot of patience and time to begin feeding your baby with a spoon. Remember until now, your child’s mouth muscles are used to nursing. With practice, your baby will graduate slowly to table foods. If not, then you could be facing some stressful times. This problem could be related to food aversions.

What are the signs of food aversion? Around 6-10 months of age, when you begin to introduce your child to a variety of baby foods, he or she may begin to show dislike for certain textures, colors, temperatures, and smells of foods. Since your baby is too young to tell you that he or she does not like the food, your baby will tell you in some other way, such as:

  • Spitting
  • Gagging
  • Vomiting
  • Refusing to eat

What should you know about addressing food aversions? There are different approaches to helping a child overcome this issue. Remember that your child cannot control this and needs your help.

  • Never force your child to eat.
  • Be patient.
  • Work closely with your pediatrician to seek the appropriate help for your child.
  • Be consistent with the sensory diet and strategies that you try.     

With patience, consistency, and the right support, you and your child can overcome food aversions and children can grow up with a healthy relationship to food.

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