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Confronting Fear: Stage Fright

July 22, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Confronting Fear: Stage Fright | A girl in a dance costume sits on the floor with her head buried in her arms.

As your child prepares for another year in school and continues to advance his or her academic knowledge, your child will also continue to build confidence. However, there is a larger entity that can halt your child’s confidence level and prevent him or her from moving forward in certain achievements: fear.

While your child is learning many new skills and more information, he or she is also learning about perception and the value of being liked by others. Sometimes, the fear of being rejected by his or her peers can cause a child to retreat and avoid certain activities that put him or her at risk for those negative feelings.

One of the most popular fears that develops and continues to exist in adulthood is stage fright, or the fear of performing or speaking in front of others. An important step to overcoming any fear includes determining what the fear is really about so you can address the cause.

Common fears associated with stage fright include:

  • Being made fun of by peers.
  • Showing vulnerability to others.
  • Making a mistake and being seen as less than perfect.

If your child has stage fright, try these approaches to help him or her overcome the fear:

  • Build confidence. If the child is confident in the subject matter he or she is speaking about or performing and trusts that skill, he or she will be less likely to fear making a mistake.
  • Practice. In order to build that confidence, the child should practice speaking or performing in front of small groups of people that eventually grow larger. Start by having your child speak or perform to you, then close family, then a larger group of family friends.
  • Focus. Remind your child to focus on the speech or performance, not on their fear, not on the things that could go wrong, and not on doubting him or herself. Your child should practice this positive concentration during rehearsals and during the actual event.

Just as it’s important to practice a speech or performance, it’s also imperative to practice these techniques. If your child has a severe case of stage fright, it may take many speeches and performances to overcome the fear. However, by addressing the true causes of the fear and practicing techniques to resolve and overcome them, your child can beat stage fright and build confidence that will last through adulthood and for his or her lifetime.

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4 Tips for Blending Families

July 21, 2014

By Dr. Tyffani Monford Dent

4 Tips for Blending Families | Three kids from a blended family smile for the camera.

“You are treating me like a stepchild.”

I have heard that saying for as long as I can remember. Only as I got older did I understand that such a statement meant that one was being treated as “less than.”  I was troubled by this idea that society doesn’t expect stepfamilies or other forms of blended families to exist as a functioning unit.

I grew up within a blended family. So blended, in fact, that it was sometimes hard to keep the family tree straight. Yet, I have learned that blending families can be like putting oil and water together—unless you are constantly tending to it or stirring it, it is natural for them to begin to separate. Throughout our lives, all of my siblings have worked diligently to cultivate our sibling bond. However, as I look back, I also recognize the role the adults in our lives had in ensuring that we would view it as a bond worth having.

For those of you who are beginning the process of blending your families, you must be willing to put in the work. Here several guidelines to help everyone through this journey.

  1. Naming ceremony. Depending on your children’s ages and the involvement of their biological parent in their lives, talk with them about what they will call the new parent. Forcing your child to call someone “mom” or “dad” just because you love that person may cause resentment in your child.
  2. Meet the parents and stepparents. If your child continues to have a relationship with his or her biological parent, it is imperative that all of the adults sit down and have a discussion. The conversation needs to include a talk on what is acceptable discipline by the stepparent.
  3. Nothing compares. Do not make comparisons between your ex and your current spouse in front of your children. Regardless of how well or poorly the ex treated you or cared for your child, he or she is still your child’s parent and your child’s loyalty may still be with your ex.
  4. Treat all children as your own. As you interact with your new children, always ask yourself the question, “If these were my biological children, how would I handle this?” The goal is to begin to make no distinction between the kids you birthed and the ones you inherited. Children can be very perceptive and will likely be looking to see if you treat them “like your own.”

Blending a family takes time. Just like you had to figure out that you wanted to be with your new spouse, give your child the chance to decide that this blended family thing can be alright. Answer his or her questions, listen to any grumbling, and be supportive as your child tries to figure out his or her place in your new world.

Let’s begin to work to change the meaning of “treating like a stepchild” into something that is positive, or eliminate the phrase altogether.

[Editor’s note: The author uses biological parents and their children as an example, but the same advice applies to adopted children when blending a family later in life after the primary parents are no longer together.]
 


Dr. Tyffani Monford Dent is a licensed psychologist, motivational speaker, and author. She lectures and trains on issues of mental health disparity in minority communities, children’s and women’s issues, and sexual abuse intervention and prevention. Dr. Dent is also the executive director of Monford Dent Consulting & Psychological Services, LLC and the author of the book Girls Got Issues: A Woman’s Guide to Self-discovery and Healing.

Tags :  socialemotionalmarriageparenting
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Too Hot To Play Outside: Fun Indoor Activities

July 17, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

Too Hot To Play Outside: Fun Indoor Activities | Fruity freeze pops and blueberries sit in a bowl.

I always recommend playing outside as much as you can when summertime rolls around. There are countless benefits to playing outside, including fresh air and space for exercise. But when the summer heats up, it’s crucial to know when it’s too hot for your child and to have some fun indoor activities ready to go.

Did you know that children heat up faster than adults do? Not only do they have faster metabolic rates, but also they don’t sweat as much as adults. So even if you’re not uncomfortable in the heat yet, your child could be at risk for heat-related illness.

According to these weather guidelines for children, 80°F or below is considered safe and comfortable for children. Anything above 90°F is considered uncomfortable and can be hazardous to your child’s health. Humidity also plays a factor, so use your best judgment based on where you live and continually check in with your child.

Look at the weather forecast every day. If the temperature is expected to rise above 90°F, it is safer to keep children indoors than to risk playing outside. Playing indoors can be just as much fun with these easy and entertaining activities:

Twister. Any type of board game would do, but Twister can be a lot of fun! It’s not messy, doesn’t require a lot of space, and children love attempting to be as flexible as possible to reach all the colored circles.

Fruity freeze pops. These are so simple and refreshing that I wish I knew about them when I was a kid! There are many ways to make these. In an ice cube tray, add cut up fruits and fill the rest of each cube with yogurt. Wait until frozen and enjoy! You can also blend fruits in a smoothie maker and pour the liquids in an ice cube tray with a wooden stick.

Scavenger hunt. Anything that involves frantically running through the house without getting in trouble is exciting for children. Hide some objects and make a list of what you hid. Give the list to your child and allow him or her a certain amount of time to find these objects. If you have a bigger family, you can add points to the objects found and whoever has the most points wins!

Video Games. No, I do not mean place your child in front of a TV for hours. There are many fun and active family games that you can all play on the Wii and PlayStation. My kids and I love Just Dance and Wii Fit. My favorite game on Wii Fit is the Hula Hoop®. I look ridiculous and everyone gets a good laugh!

Even if it’s too hot to play outside, your family can still have fun with these indoor activities. Remember that it’s sometimes safer to keep the kids indoors during hot days.

What are some of your family’s favorite indoor activities? Tell me in the comments below.

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Helping Your Child Successfully Transition to High School: Part II

July 16, 2014

By Ana Vela

Helping Your Child Successfully Transition to High School: Part Two | A mother puts her arm around her teen daughter, who is wearing a cap and gown for graduation.

Transitioning from eighth grade to high school is a big milestone and a critical time in a student’s life. According to a research brief from the University of Chicago, students who pass their freshman level classes are very likely to graduate from high school, while those who fail a class or two are at high risk of never graduating. Many students finish eighth grade, but drop out before they even start high school.

In last week’s article, Helping Your Child Successfully Transition to High School: Part I, I encouraged parents to help ease that transition with tips that focus on a child’s emotional and social well-being. Today I will address the physical health and academic achievement approaches, as all four of these factors are key to a child’s success.

Physical Health
Children continue to undergo several physical changes in high school, and will question and explore those changes.

  • During the summer, have a health care provider perform a physical exam for your child. Make sure all vaccines are up to date, have eye and hearing exams performed, and allow your child to ask any questions or concerns they may have about their physical changes. Assuring your child that they are developing normally will help ease them into the transition.
  • Have “the talk” with your child, if you haven’t done so already. Whatever your personal stance is on teen or premarital sex, make sure you communicate it with him or her. Don’t allow your child to face situations without any form of knowledge to make the best decision for him or herself.
  • Foster a healthy lifestyle for your growing child. He or she will face unhealthy food choices, from vending machines to the freedom to leave school during lunch and eat at unhealthy food establishments. These unhealthy choices can lead to weight gain and low self-esteem, health issues such as diabetes, and poor performance in the classroom. Ensure you supplement healthy choices for your child at home, and teach him or her to make healthy choices.

Academic Achievement
As indicated by the National High School Center, “the most powerful predictors of whether a student will complete high school include course performance and attendance during the first year of high school.” As a parent, you can have a big impact by making education a known value to your child. Set positive expectations for your child's success in high school as he or she begins to transition.

  • Foster your child's interests and start discussing possible careers. Come up with a plan together to get him or her to that career. Choose high school programs and extracurricular activities that support his or her interest. Find universities that offer degrees related to your child's career aspirations. Understand minimum requirements and deadlines to help guide your child to achieve success.
  • Monitor your child’s attendance rate at school. Help your child to develop life skills to wake up on his or her own, gather required materials for the school day, and arrive to school in a timely manner. Remember to be a positive role model yourself by being punctual to any of your commitments as well.
  • Allow your child to indicate the best way, place, and time for him or her to study. Then support and monitor your child to ensure he or she completes homework on time.

Just remember that being an involved and supportive parent is essential to helping your child transition successfully into high school and be on the right path to graduation. For more information, read part one of this series.

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Emergency Preparedness Plan

July 15, 2014

When we think of summertime, we think of carefree and fun months, filled with parties and downtime spent with friends and family. While we hope this is the type of summer you and your family will continue to enjoy, none of us can predict when emergencies or tragedies will strike. For this reason, it’s important to have an emergency plan in place for your immediate household and for your extended family and friends.

We discovered this 2013 article, which outlines an emergency plan for parents and their college-bound children, through our Twitter feed recently. While it focuses on a plan for families with children away at college, we think it applies to families with children of all ages.

The five-point outline includes the following touchpoints for emergencies:

  1. Communication.
  2. Emergency Kit.
  3. Self-defense Techniques.
  4. Meeting Spot.
  5. Public Emergency Plans.

In case of any type of mass emergency, remember to use text messages and social media to let family and friends know you are okay and leave the phone lines clear for critical emergencies.

Read the full article and emergency preparedness outline here.

Tags :  physicalemotionalhealthsafety
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