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4 Time Management Tips for Busy Parents

January 30, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

Time management tips for busy parents

There are times when you may feel like your son or daughter’s personal assistant. You make sure they eat, have the right outfit, and that they arrive on time to all their appointments. Your minivan is more like a limo service shuttling the crew back and forth between activities.

Even though extracurricular activities such as dance, music, and sports are an important part of your child’s experience, they can become a headache if not managed efficiently. Regardless of whether you’re a single, working, or at-home parent, time management is key for your son or daughter’s success in school. Consider these four tips to help manage your family’s time:

  1. Calendars. Have your children help keep a calendar of the week’s events on the refrigerator door or another place in your home where every member of the family is sure to see it.

    Since I am a working mom, it is sometimes difficult to attend all of my daughters’ events, especially when they are scheduled during the normal course of a business day. Fortunately, at the beginning of each school year, and even every month, their teachers distribute a calendar of activities. With these, I am able to map my days out and plan ahead with my employer and colleagues. That way, no one schedules a work meeting when my time is blocked off beforehand for personal time with my children.

  2. School comes first. There is only so much your son or daughter can do outside of school while still keeping up with their rigorous academic schedule, which can include special projects or assignments and exams. It’s important to remember that although these extra activities are important, if they interfere with his or her performance at school, homework always takes precedence.
  3. Share the load. Schedule time at your local public library to study for a change of pace, or get together with other parents to form a homework group, taking turns at each of your homes. This will give you the occasional break as you juggle busy work and school schedules.
  4. Relax. Although it is important to make sure your children are involved in interesting activities, they also need time to play, relax, and just be silly. This is essential for maintaining a healthy outlook on life as they tackle all the responsibilities they are held accountable for. Try planning an impromptu picnic at a local park or even on your living room floor. Taking a walk around the neighborhood to observe nature is also a refreshing way to recharge and reenergize.

In time, you will find the perfect balance of activity, rest, and play that is most beneficial for your children and yourself.



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.

Tags :  emotionalsocialacademicphysicalparenting
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Limiting Options: Avoid Hearing “No”

January 29, 2014

By Stephen J. West

Peanut butter and jelly and macaroni and cheese

Photo by Libby VanWhy

In the college courses I teach, I ask my students to answer open-ended questions to help them form their personal opinions. While this strategy is great for helping adults learn how to influence the world they live in, I’ve found that it isn’t nearly as productive when it comes to getting my two-year-old son to decide what he wants for lunch.

“No!” my son will often respond, sometimes even before he hears what I’m asking. Like many toddlers, he has a willful personality and prefers to make his own choices. I believe this is a positive attribute, but when “no” becomes his favorite choice for daily rituals like putting his shoes on or brushing his teeth, it can make life difficult.

To embrace my son’s desire to have a say in things while keeping his answers productive, I need to give him more structure than open-ended questions provide. According to Monte W. Davenport, Ph.D, “the determined child desperately wants her parents to be in control; however, she does not want to give up whatever control she has.” This concept helped me understand why the questions I was asking my son were unproductive. Instead of asking, “do you want to eat lunch?” as I usually would, if I rephrased the question as, “do you want peanut-butter and jelly or macaroni and cheese?” my son has control over what he eats while I have control over when he eats.

Providing your child with limited options works great in most scenarios, whether it’s time to take a bath (“do you want bubbles or not in your bath?”) or get dressed to go to school (“do you want to wear your bulldozer shirt or your monkey shirt?”). Using limited options allows you to control the structure of your child’s life while giving him or her the chance to feel control within that structure.

When providing your child with limited options:

Make eye contact. Acknowledgment of the choice emphasizes the structure, and confirms they have a say in the matter.

Provide options you are happy with, and stick to them. Make sure not to offer a choice that you don’t want your child to make. And don’t negotiate! Your child will quickly learn that his or her options aren’t firm if you change or add to them.

Avoid ultimatums. “Or else” isn’t a choice, and children are smart enough to know the difference between a choice and a threat.

When decisions need to be made, giving your child two or three choices provides the power he or she wants and provides you with the control you need.

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DIY: Make a Pampering Coffee Scrub with Your Kids

January 28, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Jessica Vician makes a pampering coffee scrub with her friend, Byrdie Von Hines.

Photos by Josh Hines

What mom doesn’t yearn for a spa day? Juggling schedules, from school to daycare to feedings, is exhausting. Sometimes you just need an hour or two at a spa to relax, unwind, and exfoliate. But let’s not kid ourselves—there’s no time for that!

Don’t worry— I have a solution that will work with your schedule and allows you some bonding and teaching time with your children, regardless of their ages. Make an exfoliating coffee scrub! You likely have all of the ingredients in your kitchen already.

This scrub is easy to make for kids aged two and a half and up. If younger children are helping you, supervise them throughout the process to make sure they don’t eat any ingredients or get the liquids in their eyes. As your kids help you make the scrub, teach them about measurements and fractions.

Once the scrub is ready, turn your shower into a spa! Massage it on your skin to exfoliate the dead skin cells away and moisturize your skin. If you have teenagers or college-age children, they will likely want to use some as well so be sure to include them in this DIY-activity.

Let’s start with the ingredients. They’re pretty simple.

Ingredients include sugar in the raw, coffee grounds, oil, and vanilla extract

1 cup coffee grounds

I like to use a winter-themed blend, like gingerbread, for a delicious added scent.

0.5 cup sugar in the raw

This sugar is courser than other sugars, but if you don’t have that you can use brown sugar.

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of oil

Use any oil you have. I always have a lot of olive oil on hand, but you could use a massage oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, etc.

Jessica Vician helps Byrdie Von Hines measure the coffee grounds.

Have your kids measure out each ingredient, putting them into a medium-sized bowl as they finish measuring. Show them that the ½ cup of sugar is half of the one cup of coffee scrub to help them understand fractions. Then have them stir the ingredients thoroughly, making sure to evenly distribute the wet ingredients throughout the dry ingredients.

Pour the scrub into a plastic container with a lid if you’re using it at home (I use old gelato containers). If you’re giving it as a gift, use a glass mason jar or pretty jam container.

The coffee scrub is ready to use in a Mason jar.

Voila! You now have a coffee scrub to use in the shower for a spa moment no matter how busy you are. And in the process of making a little something to pamper yourself with, you helped your children learn real-world fraction use and how to measure, all while bonding through an activity. Enjoy!

Thanks to Josh Hines for this article's photography and to his daughter, Byrdie Von Hines, for her excellent coffee scrub-making skills. For more of Josh's photography work, visit his website.

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7 Outcomes of Effective Parent Engagement

January 27, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

How time is spent from birth through high school. Because 92 percent of a child's life is spent at home, parental engagement is critical. It starts with you.

For a long time schools have focused their energies on parent involvement, measuring how often and how many parents show up to events and parent-teacher conferences. The higher the numbers, the more schools think they have high parent engagement. But parent involvement and parent engagement are two very different things.

An effectively engaged parent not only supports education at school, but also supports it at home. Such a parent engages in quality communication with teachers and school officials as well as with their own child. An engaged parent attends to the needs of the child while building the foundation for academic success. After all, 92 percent of a child’s life from birth through high school is spent at home while only eight percent is spent at school.

How do you know when you have effective parent engagement? Look for the following seven outcomes that are clear indicators that parents are effectively engaged at your school:

  1. Higher Attendance Rates – when parents make education a known value at home, they make school attendance a priority. Engaged parents insist their students show up to class ready to learn.
  2. Higher Graduation Rates – when parents have high expectations of their children, children thrive and succeed. Engaged parents encourage their students to persevere.
  3. Lower Teacher Turnover – a school culture that is built on family engagement and participation reduces the burden on teachers and allows them to get back to what they love: teaching. Engaged parents help to keep teachers from burning out.
  4. Lower Rates of Bullying – children learn morality, kindness, and compassion most effectively at home. Engaged parents focus on their child’s citizenship and personal value system.
  5. Higher Self-Control – parents provide necessary structure in a child’s life. Engaged parents set boundaries that students thrive within.
  6. Better Nutrition Choices – the habits that are developed at home are habits that a child will carry with him or her into adulthood. Engaged parents make health and well-being a priority.
  7. Higher Scores – decades of research have shown that one of the prominent components in children who succeed is having parents who are fully and effectively engaged in their education and their life. Engaged parents lay the foundation for success.

Parents will always bear the burden of a child’s growth and development, so when schools make parent engagement a priority, they are making their students’ success a priority.

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Top 5 Winter Movies and Lessons to Learn from Them

January 23, 2014

By Amanda Gebhardt

Top 5 Winter Movies

Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve learned to look forward to cold, snowy afternoons bundled on the couch under blankets and sweatshirts. Spending time snuggled together as a family, enjoying classic winter movies that promote positive values is a great way to make memories and strengthen family bonds.

While there are plenty of fantastic holiday movies that families can watch together every year, now that the holidays are over, the YOU Parent staff wanted to highlight the movies that are fun all winter long. We took a staff poll, and pulled out five of our favorites and the lessons our kids can learn from them.

  1. Home Alone, PG 
    Not only does Home Alone promote resourcefulness in the face of adversity, but it also serves as a reminder that help can come from unexpected places—namely a misunderstood neighbor who ends up saving the day.
  2. Harry Potter, PG 
    Much of the Harry Potter series is set in the deep snow of winter, while students warm themselves by the fires of the Gryffindor Common Room. Families can enjoy watching a plucky underdog realize his potential for greatness through loyalty, compassion, and a strong sense of justice, or even read along with the books to find more adventures with Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
  3. Groundhog Day, PG 
    My own personal favorite, Groundhog Day is an annual tradition in my house. We get friends together on February 2nd and sit around with hot chocolate and watch Bill Murray get a second (and third, and fourth, and…. thousandth) chance at being a good person and finding happiness.
  4. About a Boy, PG-13 
    About a Boy follows a man with no close friends or family living his life by wasting money and lying to women. Through an unlikely friendship with a lonely boy, though, his world opens up and his life becomes one of meaning and joy. While it may not be appropriate for young audiences, this movie shows the value of honesty, compassion, and selflessness.
  5. Adventures in Babysitting, PG-13 
    A universal favorite of everyone polled, Adventures in Babysitting is a timeless comedy that still makes us laugh and cheer. Ultimately, this is a story of friendship and the lengths one friend will go to for another in distress. It also is about the push and pull of growing up and of being young but having responsibilities—something even those of us who are all grown up can still remember and appreciate.

As the snow lingers and you want to experience winter vicariously from the warmer states, snuggle close, and happy watching!

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