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Speak Up and Get Involved on Cesar Chavez Day

March 31, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Speak Up and Get Involved on Cesar Chavez Day | Speak Up! Get Involved! | On Cesar Chavez Day, we honor his life and spirit through community service. Today, we encourage you to channel that passion into advocating for your child's well-being and education.

Today is Cesar Chavez Day, when we not only celebrate the labor movement and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, but also honor his life and spirit through community service.

The mission of YOU Parent is to provide community support for child success. By empowering other parents to speak up and get involved in their children’s education, we all provide a better future for our children, the community, and society as a whole. Use this day as inspiration to make a difference in your community starting with your own child and then by inspiring other parents to do the same.

Get Involved
How can you get involved in your child’s education? It starts with understanding a child’s four needs for success: physical health, emotional well-being, social well-being, and academic achievement. When these needs are met, the child can become a better student, receive a better education, and therefore lead a fulfilling and successful life.

Success for every child involves a wheel of nurturing: academic achievement, physical health, social and emotional well-being

Get involved in these areas of your child’s life. If you cater to these needs, your child will be better able to pay attention in school and will arrive to class ready to learn.

  • Make sure he or she is eating well and getting enough exercise. 
  • Tell your child you love him or her and give lots of hugs. 
  • Watch your child play with his or her friends—does your child show others respect and enjoy the social time? 
  • Ask your child to go through homework with you and let him or her teach you the lesson to encourage academic success.

Speak Up
Of course, you can’t do it alone. If you’re taking care of your child’s needs at home, you still need to ensure he or she is getting a good education at school. Speak up and advocate for your child’s education—it will not only benefit your child, but the other students at the school as well.

  • Stay in regular contact with your child’s teacher and attend parent-teacher conferences.
  • Volunteer for the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) or another parent organization at your child’s school and influence school policies that will benefit the students. 
  • Ask the school principal for parent engagement programs, like the YOU Program, that teach parents how to meet their children’s needs and teach educators how to better work with parents to boost student achievement. 
  • Bring parent engagement programs and knowledge to local community organizations and help educate other parents on the need to be present and involved in their children’s lives. 
  • Ask other parents for help when you need it. Can’t pick up your child from school? Ask a classmate’s parent and reciprocate later. By seeking help from and giving it to other parents, you’re building a stronger parent community for the kids in your neighborhood.

Cesar Chavez spoke up for what he believed in and rallied for change for the betterment of individuals and society. We believe that every child should have access to a strong support network so that he or she can succeed in life and give back. You can provide that support and inspire others to do the same. Speak up and get involved today to make a difference tomorrow.

Learn more about how strong parent engagement can help your child succeed in school and in life in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. 

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Scholarship Hunting: 3 Places to Find Them

March 26, 2015

By Judy Razo

Scholarship Hunting: 3 Places to Find Them | Don't go through a complicated maze to find scholarships for your teen. Try these three easy tips and remember to apply for both big and small scholarships. | The illustration shows a "find the tuition" maze.

Did you know that students should start applying for scholarships as early as eighth grade? That’s right, from ages 14 through 21, your child should be applying to about 10 scholarships for every $1,000 of college tuition that you would like paid regardless of how much Financial Aid you think your child will receive.

I know, it sounds like a lot of work. But graduating from college with no debt for either one of you will make it all worth it.

So where can you find these scholarships? I’ll warn you: you will need to dig for them. But don’t worry; I can teach you where to look.

Local Organizations
Many community organizations and local business in your town offer scholarships. Ask your employer and have your friends and relatives ask theirs. Some of these scholarships may be smaller, but there are fewer people competing for them and every dollar counts.

National Searches
Start looking for scholarships from around the country. Simply search for “scholarships” online or have your child sign up for scholarship search services such as College Greenlight, BigFuture by College Board, or Fastweb. These services are free and will match your child with scholarships for which he or she qualifies, taking some of the legwork out of having to research the scholarships one by one.

Skilled Competitions
Many talent competitions offer cash prizes or scholarships to the winners—all money that can go toward paying for college. Encourage your child to participate in contests and competitions using his or her talents, like writing, singing, dancing, and sports.

Always try to apply for smaller scholarships along with large ones. As I mentioned, competition for larger scholarships is a lot steeper than for small ones so the chances of winning a smaller or lesser-known scholarship is greater. However, don’t shy away from big ones like from Coca-Cola or Dell either; you never know what scholarships your child will win unless you try.

Lastly, remember to let your child do most of the work when applying to scholarships, but be available to guide him or her through the process, help with research, and proofread his or her applications. These tactics will help your child learn the application process so he or she can take initiative and apply alone once in college.

Find out everything you need to know about choosing a college, financing it, and college and career readiness in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. 

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Diagnosing + Managing Cerebral Palsy in Young Children

March 24, 2015

By Noralba Martinez

Diagnosing + Managing Cerebral Palsy in Young Children | Ribbon image courtesy of Children's Neurobiological Solutions

Tomorrow is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. As an early intervention specialist and licensed professional counselor for an Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program in Texas, I have worked with many children with cerebral palsy. It’s very important to know that there is still light and hope that comes with this diagnosis. Part of that hope comes in early intervention, when you learn more about the diagnosis, how to accommodate any necessary changes, and start treatment. 

Adam poses for his school picture.

One story that I find particularly inspiring is about a boy named Adam. Adam was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was about two years old. His mother was told he would never walk, but thanks to the awesome team of people who work with and believe in him, he started walking when he was three and a half years old.

In Texas, where I live, a cerebral palsy diagnosis is considered an automatic medical qualifier for ECI services, which means that these children can receive free or reduced price treatments. Luckily, Adam has been able to receive therapy from ECI services thanks to this qualifier. Therapy has given Adam the opportunity to do things some people never thought he would. Check with your local ECI program to see if it’s the same in your area.

About the Disorder

  • Cerebral palsy (CP) is a diagnosis that is given when several permanent movement disorders appear. 
  • Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to or abnormal development of parts of the brain that can affect balance, movement, and posture, among other functions.

Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

  • Symptoms include: gross motor delays as a baby, stiff or floppy muscles, lack of coordination, oral movement difficulty, trouble speaking, sensory problems, difficulty walking, and tremors.
  • Severity and symptoms vary between each person with CP.
  • Symptoms are more noticeable in the first years of life, so be sure to schedule and attend all well-baby check-ups for regular screenings.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Early diagnosis of cerebral palsy is key to begin treatment and therapy to alleviate the severity of some symptoms. 
  • Early intervention therapy, coaching, and support are available for CP children and their families.

For Adam, treatment includes his mother and therapy team encouraging him daily to keep pushing himself. They make adaptations so he can do things independently and they look for assistive technology so he can speak and make his own requests. As you can see, Adam has made tremendous strides thanks to ECI services and treatment.

Now that you’ve taken the time to learn more about cerebral palsy, show your support tomorrow by wearing green to bring awareness to this disorder.

If you suspect your child may suffer from cerebral palsy, speak to your pediatrician right away. Early diagnosis is critical in treating this disease.

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Deal a Royal Flush of Family Fun

March 19, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Deal a Royal Flush of Family Fun | Playing card games is a great opportunity for family bonding with kids of all ages. Try it this spring break and see what you learn about your kids. | A photo shows a father playing cards with his daughter and son.

It’s spring break time, and you know what that means: lots of time with your kids. Whether you’re taking a vacation or a staycation, there’s probably a lot of down time and the kids could quickly be complaining, “I’m bored!”

Fret not. I have the solution to all of your problems. Okay, maybe not all of them, but to the boredom problem. Card games. That’s right. That simple deck of 52 cards or a box of Uno can go a long way. The genius of playing card games with your kids lies in the process.

You start by trying to teach them a game. Explain the rules and try a few practice rounds to help each other learn. This first part makes everyone a little uncomfortable, because you’re trying to remember the rules. And if you’re playing with teenagers, they’re getting over the fact that this is so uncool but also kind of fun.

Then the real game begins. Each person is strategizing, using his or her brain, reading other players’ faces and interpreting their strategies, and the competitive drive to win is building. You’re getting to know each other in a different way—seeing how each of you learns, how you act when frustrated or happy, and how competitive each of you is. You’re bonding.

And that, my friends, is the goal of the game. Card games can be simple or complex, but they’re inexpensive conversation starters for your family. They’re learning opportunities for young kids—building fine motor skills, learning math and colors, participating in social interaction—but can adapt as your kids age. You can learn new, more complicated games together as your kids grow, and by the time they’re teenagers, you’ll be aching for some good old-fashioned family fun.

As a teen, I played card or board games with my family when the power went out and we had nothing to do but hang out in candlelight. And even though I was always hammering to get out of the house to see my friends, I genuinely had a good time.

Even as an adult, card games remain a great opportunity for bonding. When I first met my now father- and stepmother-in-law, I felt awkward because I didn’t think we had much in common. Toward the end of our week-long visit, we started playing card games after dinner and I left that trip having a strong understanding of who they are as individuals, as a couple, and as parents to my partner. Everyone loosened up and I learned that we have much more in common than I had imagined. My only regret is that we didn’t play cards on the first night—I would have been much more relaxed if we had.

So during this spring break, or any future vacations or electricity-free nights due to summer storms, gather your kids around the dinner or coffee table and play a card game together as a family. Invite your kids’ friends if you want to get to know them better. You’ll all learn a little more and appreciate each other by the end of the game.

Find more ideas on spending quality time with your kids, no matter their age, in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. 

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How to Remain Strong Parents Through Divorce

March 17, 2015

By Nely Bergsma

How to Remain Strong Parents Through Divorce | By modeling positive behavior, being honest, and keeping a united front, you and your parenting partner can remain strong parents during your divorce. | A young girl looks at her father as he and her mother each tug one of her arms.

When our children were 6 and 12 years old, my now ex-husband and I decided to divorce. It was not an easy decision for us by any means, and is very personal and unique to any family going through it. While some moments were more difficult than others, we remained positive, honest, and always put the healthy development of our children first. Now that our kids are 17 and 24 years old, I feel I have a good perspective of how our divorce affected them during various stages of their development. As you work through the dissolution of your marriage, keep these things in mind for your children.

Sharing the News
It’s difficult to tell your children that they may not be seeing one parent every day, or that they may be going from one home to another. There are a few key strategies to remember when you talk to them:

  • Remain honest.
  • Keep your explanations simple, direct, and age appropriate.
  • Whenever possible, address any concerns and fears your children may have together as parents.
  • Both parents should agree to share the same explanations with your children to avoid confusion.

Modeling Behavior
As challenging as it can be at times, parents should always remember that they model their own behavior to their children. If children witness arguing, they may become argumentative. If they witness anger and sadness, they may become angry and sad. Such emotions put them at risk of acting out, making bad choices, and becoming involved in toxic friendships and relationships. Both parents should try to model positive behavior with their children.

Keep a United Front
While you may have begun to build lives apart from each other, your children will always see you as “their” parents. Their level of understanding of the choices you made or will make as parents can depend on several factors. Their age and maturity may require different methods of communicating with them. Regardless, maintaining a positive and unified front when it comes to parenting will allow children to positively grow and develop successfully within all aspects of their lives.

Just as it is important for two people to parent together within a home, it becomes equally—if not more important—to remain in balance during and after a divorce.

If you have gone through a divorce with children, what was the biggest struggle you faced? What was the best strategy you used? Tell me in the comments below.

If you're struggling with how to model positive behavior during a difficult time, learn how to promote healthy relationships in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. 

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