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Summer Water Safety

June 19, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Two children swim in a pool.

The first day of summer is almost here. The weather is heating up and our kids love to be around water to play, cool off, or simply hang out. Children love to go to pools, rivers, and beaches. While these are great places for your family to swim, it’s important to take safety precautions to prevent water accidents.

  • Never leave your child unattended in or near water even if there is a lifeguard on duty. Assign an adult who knows how to swim to watch your child while you are occupied. Never leave a child responsible for another child in water.
  • Get certified in CPR and first aid by the American Red Cross. In a worst-case scenario, you may be able to save someone’s life. 
  • Be close to your child (at least an arm’s length) when in the water. Remember that beaches and rivers have currents and are unpredictable. You want to be close enough to be an immediate aid to your child if needed. 
  • Be extra careful and always use a life vest, floaties, or foam swimwear as an extra precaution. Do not rely only on the swim gear to protect your child in water. The best practice is to use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  • Establish clear rules before going near or in water, keeping everyone’s safety in mind. Stick by these rules and follow through with consequences if the rules are broken so your kids respect them. 
  • Swim classes are great to teach yourself and your child to swim as an additonal safety precaution. Search for affordable swim classes in your area, like at the local YMCA.

As a parent and caregiver, know that accidents can be prevented if you are careful when your children are near or in water.

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Youth Mentor Nely Bergsma

June 18, 2014

Nely Bergsma

Nely Bergsma is the co-founder and executive director of the Penedo Charitable Organization (PCO). Nely co-founded PCO, along with her sister and our program author Sunny P. Chico, to support at-risk girls in the same Chicago neighborhood where she and her sisters grew up. PCO works with teachers, psychologists, and social workers to mentor at-risk girls from sixth grade through high school, providing full scholarships to those who complete the program. Founded in 2009, PCO now serves 40 girls, adding 10 new participants to the PCO family each year.

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College Tours: Parent Engagement Activity

June 18, 2014

By Mario Vela

A group of parents and teens participate in a college tour.

For the last four years, I have been working with high school students in several underserved communities on Chicago’s southside. I’ve seen many students affected by violence, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and poverty. I understand what these students are going through, as I grew up in a similar environment.

I often see students with an incredible amount of potential derailed by difficult circumstances. Many students tell me that their parents prevent them from better education options, like good financial aid packages at strong schools, because their parents don’t want them to move away. Every single time that I interact with students in these types of situations, the most impactful advice I provide is the most simple: take your parents to your preferred college or university.

Each time one of these students takes his or her parents to visit the college or university, the student returns amazed by how his or her parents become the school’s biggest advocate. The student also returns with a greater sense of conviction in his or her education and an improved focus on finishing high school.

For parents, I understand that there may be challenges to visiting colleges or universities outside of your area, but recognize these benefits:

  • These visits demonstrate that you are invested in your child’s educational success.
  • Your child gains a sense of motivation by becoming future-oriented in his or her educational possibilities.
  • You personally will become better informed of the culture of the university. What does the school value? Fraternities and sororities? Diversity? Sports?

If you are unable to visit a particular college or university, many schools offer virtual college fairs. While these fairs may not provide the full visitation experience, they should be able to answer your questions and address your concerns.

A few questions you might ask when you visit the school include:

  • Demographics. Does the diversity match your personal expectations?
  • Culture. What does the university value? Does this match your expectations? If your child is bilingual, does the school offer bilingual sessions?
  • Employment post-graduation. What is the employment rate of new graduates?
  • Crime rates. Some parents argue that they are nervous that something may happen to their child if he or she goes away to school. Take time to review the school and where your student may live.
  • Financial Aid options. Many colleges and universities have great financial aid packages to attract students. Let your child apply to several schools of interest, regardless of cost, since he or she may be eligible for a scholarship or strong financial aid package.
  • Prepare your child. Help your child prepare for success by asking questions concerning his or her interests, including academic programs, extracurricular activities, and clubs.

Your time and efforts are beneficial in helping you and your child make the most informed decision. Visiting a university campus will offer a glimpse into your child’s future and may provide a better understanding of the values of that school.

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Going Away to College: Transitioning the Younger Sibling

June 17, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

A girl helps her older sister unpack outside of the dorm.

As parents, the academic success of our children will remain a primary focus for quite some time. Before we realize it, our children are grown and it is time to send them off to college! Such a milestone can, and often does, change the family dynamic. How do you prepare your other children for the absence of their sibling as he or she goes off to college?

The impact of a brother or sister going away can be very great on a younger sibling. Older brothers and sisters play an important role in one another’s lives. They are often the family members a younger child looks to for support and guidance. How do we, as parents, help our children grow through this transition?

  • Take the time to talk with your college-bound child about the siblings who will remain at home. Gently remind your child that it is natural to be excited to head to college but not to lose sight of the sibling he or she is leaving behind. Discuss what the expectations are as your child looks to this new and exciting time in life.
  • Include the younger child in the transition process. Have him or her be a part of the preparation for the move. Bring the younger sibling along when you drop off your teen at school.
  • Encourage your child to regularly check in with the younger sibling. A quick text or regularly scheduled chat on the computer or cell can ensure that they stay connected. When your college-bound child makes an effort to communicate to his or her sibling, it assures the sibling that they may be out of sight, but never out of mind.

College is an important milestone in your child’s life. It is natural to focus your energy into ensuring that he or she makes a smooth and successful transition. When you acknowledge and address the impact of your child’s absence on his or her siblings at home, you can help ensure that no one feels unimportant or left behind. After all, as a family, you are all in it together.

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Family Outings: Movies in the Park

June 16, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

Two parents and their baby sit on a blanket in the park blowing bubbles.

Summer is one of my favorite seasons for many reasons. Why? The weather is gorgeous and people look a little happier, but mostly because it is the best season for family outings. There are many affordable options to have a fantastic and memorable day or evening with the family.

One of my favorite family outings is watching movies outside. Every summer the Chicago Park District features their Movies in the Parks. Each event is free and you can bring food, snacks, beverages, a cozy blanket, folding chairs, and even your pet (given that he or she is trained and safe to be in public surrounded by people). The movies vary from classics like The Wizard of Oz to recent popular cartoon movies.

Movie times start differently depending on the park but are mostly in the evening around dinnertime. I like to whip up summer dinner classics such as hotdogs and burgers to take with us. I load my picnic basket with plates, water bottles, and healthy on-the-go snacks such as bananas, apples, and crackers.

My family and I arrive at the park hours early. Depending on where the movie is playing, you can get a beautiful location that is great for scenic walks, taking pictures, or simply catching up in your child’s life. About a half hour before the movie is scheduled to start, we set up our blankets and chairs so we get a good view of the screen and eat our dinner. It’s a great experience with your family and still stands as a cherished memory of mine.

This family outing has become a summer tradition for me over the past few years. In a world driven by constant technology updates, it is refreshing and rejuvenating to slow down and enjoy the presence of my family. Pictures are taken, memories are made, and it makes me feel a stronger connection to my family.

The best memories any parent can have with his or her child is time spent with them. I highly recommend researching anything and everything your community or city has to offer for the summer. Even if you don’t live in Chicago, a nearby park district might offer movies in the park or you can always visit a drive-in theatre. Many of them are free or low-cost and geared toward bringing families together.

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