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4 Key Strengths of American Parenting

February 11, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

4 Key Strengths of American Parenting | Tolerance, Engaged Parenting, Pregnancy, Education | A family poses for a photo, wrapping themselves in an American flag.

One common goal in every city, state, and country is that parents want to raise healthy and happy children. I’ve talked to you about parenting styles in other countries, but what are some things that Americans do that other countries don’t factor in? After much research, I’ve found four key strengths of American parenting.

Tolerance
American parents encourage their children to develop and understand tolerance, likely because we live in a very diverse country. Because of this diversity, children and adults are able to recognize and respect different ways of being, so that as we interact with others we can build bridges of understanding, trust, and respect across cultures. Furthermore, this diversity makes our country a more interesting place to live, as people from different cultures contribute language skills, unique ways of thinking and knowledge, as well as new experiences to our collective culture.

Engaged Parenting
American parents tend to be more active in their children’s school and academic life than parents from many other countries. For example, in Japan it is uncommon for the parents to be engaged with school events and activities. Whereas in America, we have the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), regular parent-teacher conferences, chaperone field trips, and even participate in fundraisers for the schools.

We are also more involved in and spend more time on other things, like birthdays. Unlike in Ireland, where parents simply theme birthday parties as birthday, in America we spend lots of time planning the perfect party for our kids, complete with themed cakes, decorations, and more. It might be seen as excessive in other countries, but it makes our kids happy, and sometimes even the parents, too (I’m one of those moms).

Pregnancy
Just in the last 20 years, pregnancy care in America has improved significantly. When I was pregnant with my son two years ago, I had multiple ultrasounds to check both his and my health. My mother (who had five children) would tell me how lucky I was because she never received ultrasounds. She didn’t even know any of our genders until we were born!

While my mom’s story seems odd now, to this day most women in Norway won’t see an obstetrician during their pregnancy—just a midwife every once in a while. And thank goodness for payment plans in the States. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, if you do not pay your clinic bill the day you are in, you are put on a hospital lockdown and may not leave or receive proper prenatal care.

Education
We take education very seriously in the United States, but some parents have different opinions on the best education style for their kids. Luckily, there is an array of education options for American children, from public to private school, Montessori, and even homeschooling. According to a 2012 report released by Education News, the number of children being homeschooled in all states has increased by 75 percent since 1999. The report shows that homeschooling is becoming more popular due to safety concerns, academic advantages, and cost. It’s not an option in all countries, though. Germany and Brazil are just some of the countries that have banned homeschooling.

No matter the location of where you parent, everyone can agree that they want to provide the best environment for their child. Are there things American parents do that you think other countries should try? What are they? Tell me in the comments below.

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My Story: Why I Chose to Stop Breastfeeding

February 10, 2015

By Ana Vela

My Story: Why I Chose to Stop Breastfeeding | There's a lot of pressure in the parenting community to breastfeed for at least a year. Why this mom decided to stop after seven months. | The image shows a baby breastfeeding.

Ever since I was pregnant, medical staff, family, and friends all talked about the benefits of breastfeeding. It made perfect sense to do it. Once my daughter was born, our pediatrician insisted that I breastfeed her until she was at least one year old. In the first weeks, my daughter and I struggled a bit, but once she latched on and I was fully producing milk, it felt like nothing would stop us from reaching that one-year goal.

Maternity leave was surreal. It was a time where I wasn’t working, had minimal obligations, and all I had to do was focus on my baby. Once that time ended and I returned to work, I instantly felt the pressures of returning to the person I used to be prior to having a baby: an executive director who worked long hours, a friend who was always willing to socialize any day of the week, a spouse who had a strong and attentive relationship, and someone who had household responsibilities. Now there was also a baby at home waiting for her mother to provide her breast milk, love, and attention. As someone who considers herself a strong and independent woman, I took on the challenge to still manage all of these roles.

Finding the time to pump became increasingly challenging. My work habits made it difficult to pause during the day to pump. I wanted to cram in as much work as possible in order to leave at a decent time. Traveling for work for several days at a time also became a burden. Planning ways to continue pumping while being in all-day business meetings was no easy feat. Socializing was tough, too, since I had to be more aware of my alcohol consumption and couldn’t stay out as much as I wanted to. Needless to say, I was losing this battle.

And then it happened. My milk supply began decreasing significantly. I took it as a signal that I was failing my daughter. There are several causes linked to a decrease in milk supply. I was experiencing several of those causes in my life and it was showing, which continued to add more stress on me. At some point it felt like I was formula-feeding more than breastfeeding because I couldn’t provide enough milk for my growing baby.

In the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, the importance of modeling positive behavior comes up a lot. I realized that if I wanted my daughter to be happy, I needed to be happy. As the end of the calendar year approached, I analyzed what I could eliminate in my life to be happier—breastfeeding was on the top of my list.

With pressure in parenting to breastfeed, I was starting to feel uncomfortable letting people know I was willingly quitting. I didn’t want to be judged, or feel worse than I already did. Even my daughter’s pediatrician was not very supportive when I asked for medical advice in stopping. Not much research is out there where women openly discuss this, so I wanted to offer some personal advice.

  • Make sure your baby is comfortably consuming formula milk through a bottle.
    Knowing your baby is getting the proper nutrients before you quit breastfeeding will ease the stress. My baby’s pediatrician and I discussed this before I quit, and I recommend that you speak to your doctor to ensure your baby is ready for the transition.
  • Set a goal to quit and establish a gradual transition.
    I set a date to quit based on an upcoming weeklong business trip. Gradually, I decreased my feedings fewer times a day as the weeks went by and my supply continued to decrease. Stay strong in your plan—your body will naturally show signs of wanting to continue breastfeeding.
  • Enjoy your decision to quit.
    Although I felt guilty at first, I started to fully embrace not having to breastfeed anymore. Remembering why I made the decision in the first place helped. I continued to bond with my baby, began socializing more, and even focused on exercising. I was very fortunate to also have my husband be very supportive of my decision.

I’m proud to say my daughter and I had an amazing breastfeeding journey for her first seven months. Breastfeeding is a different experience for everyone, and only you know what is best for you and your baby. With less stress in my personal life I can really enjoy my time with my family, and I no longer feel like I failed my daughter. In the end, I made a decision that was right for me, and in turn right for my baby.

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8 Valentine's Day DIY Crafts

February 6, 2015

By Jessica Vician

8 Valentine's Day DIY Crafts | Try some of these DIY Valentine's Day crafts with your kids this weekend. | An illustration of two characters with hearts floating between them.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner—can you believe it? At YOU Parent, we include our kids in as many holiday activities as possible to up the fun factor. Try some of these DIY crafts with your kids this weekend.

Valentine's Day Décor
When your kids help you make the holiday décor, they’ll take pride in the house and their contributions to the decorations.

Valentine’s Day Cards
Instead of purchasing cards, let your kids make their Valentine’s Day cards to share in the classroom. These unique options should be a hit with classmates.

Check out our Valentine’s Day Activities Pinterest board for more ideas.

Tags :  holidayactivitiesfamily funDIY
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4 Food Assistance Programs for Families

February 4, 2015

By Jessica Vician

4 Food Assistance Programs for Families | A child's hands hold a piece of toasted bread with a heart cut out of the middle.

The winter months can be difficult—regardless of the part of the country in which you live, the weather is cooler and bills may be a little higher, which can make affording nutritious food difficult for some families. There are many assistance programs that will provide food, healthcare referrals, nutrition education, and discounts to families who qualify. If you are in need of food assistance this winter, read through this list of four popular programs to see if you’re eligible.

SNAP
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) provides nutrition assistance, including food stamps and other benefits, to families who need support getting food. Not all families are eligible, as the household’s gross monthly income must not exceed a certain number. For example, if you have a two-person household and make more than $1,265 per month (before taxes), you will not be eligible for SNAP. If you think you may qualify, contact your local SNAP office to apply. Many states allow you to apply in several different ways. For example, in Illinois, you can apply online, mail in a paper application, or apply at your local family community resource center.

WIC
WIC is a special program from SNAP that offers food, healthcare referrals, and nutrition education to certain women, infants, and children (hence the WIC name). Portions of the program can even help with formula purchases and buying fresh fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets. To be eligible for the WIC Program, women and children must meet several requirements, including residential, income, and nutrition risk. Women must either be pregnant, breastfeeding (up to one year after the child’s birth), or postpartum (up to six months after birth or end of pregnancy), and the child cannot be older than five. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment to apply for the WIC Program, contact your WIC state agency by phone.

National School Lunch Program
Depending on a family’s income level, some children are eligible to receive a free or reduced price lunch during school, thanks to the National School Lunch Program. These meals, which are subsidized by federal and state funds, meet the latest USDA nutrition requirements. You can apply for this program by contacting the appropriate state department or organization on this website.

Feeding America
Feeding America is a network of local food banks, pantries, and programs that serve people throughout the nation. If you are in need of assistance, you can use the food bank locator tool on their website to contact your local food bank. Their website also has a great list of other assistance programs that you may be eligible for, along with their contact information.

There are many programs that can help you and your family this winter and throughout the year—you just need to find them. Hopefully this list helps ignite your search. Here’s to a healthy and fulfilling 2015!

Tags :  physicalhealthy eatingbudgethealth
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Infographic: Black History Month

February 3, 2015
Black History Month Infographic
Black History Month Infographic
Illustration by Leah VanWhy.
Tags :  infographicacademicculture
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