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Finish These 4 College Application Steps Before 2016

December 15, 2015

By Kevin Rutter

Finish These 4 College Application Steps Before 2016 | If your high school senior hasn't already, he or she should be finalizing college applications this month. Encourage your student to complete as many of these more time-consuming final tasks before the New Year to avoid falling behind. | High school students walk the halls at school.

If your high school senior hasn't already, he or she should be finalizing college applications this month. Encourage your student to complete as many of these more time-consuming final tasks before the New Year to avoid falling behind. 

Request Reference Letters
Make sure your student does not leave this step for the last minute. Teachers and counselors have a full plate and it is difficult to fulfill last minute requests to write a great letter of recommendation. Sit down with your child and write a general letter of reference that highlights positive characteristics, academic achievements and extra-curricular activities. This sample letter can then be given to recommenders to guide them and make completion faster.

Complete FAFSA Documents 
W-2 forms are needed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application will determine how much state and federal aid will be available to defer tuition costs and it operates on a first-come, first-served basis. The money runs out, so it is imperative that your child submits the FAFSA as soon as possible and they need your tax information.

Parents, you have a critical role in completing the FAFSA. The forms will require you to provide evidence of your family’s income by using your tax documents, W-2 and 1040 forms. You will be able to submit the FAFSA sooner if you have this information available. All schools offer free services to parents to help prepare these documents, so take advantage of them.

Schedule and Prepare for Interviews
Several students of mine are currently having interviews to make the final determination on a scholarship opportunity or admission to an institution. Interviews can be tough, but there are some simple strategies that can help your child feel more confident about them.

  • Practice, practice, practice.
    Generally, interviews involve the same kind of questions: Tell me about yourself, why do you want to go to school here? Tell me about a time when you were a leader, where do you see yourself in 5 years? Review these questions with your child and help them refine their answers.
  • Make a good first impression.
    First impressions also play big role in determining the outcome of an interview. Practice shaking hands with a firm grip and eye contact, get your student there at least 15 minutes early, and make sure he or she is dressed for success.
  • Send a thank you note.
    A hand-written thank you note, sent after the interview, is also a nice touch that can separate your child from the competition.

College Admission Test Prep
These tests can produce a lot of anxiety. The best way to have your student feel better about them is to do some research about what specifically will be on the exam. Once that is determined, the student can put in some practice time. This is especially important for admission tests that involve timed essays. Getting the timing right takes rehearsal and repletion. Check with the school counseling office to see if there are any practice tests available so that the format and question types can be reviewed.

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Do you let your baby cry or do you comfort them?

December 10, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Do you let your baby cry or do you comfort them? | Before you became a parent, you probably talked to your partner and friends and researched what to do when your baby cries. Should you rush to the baby’s side and comfort him or her, or should you let the baby cry it out? | A mother holds her crying baby.

Before you became a parent, you probably talked to your partner and friends and researched what to do when your baby cries. Should you rush to the baby’s side and comfort him or her, or should you let the baby cry it out?

Everyone has an opinion, and many insist theirs is the right one. But what’s best for you? We want to hear which approach—or combination of approaches—you take.

Cry It Out
Some research suggests that letting a baby cry for a short period of time won’t cause any harm and may actually help the baby and the parents sleep longer in the end.

You can try “controlled crying,” during which you wait a certain amount of time before comforting your child. With this method, you first wait two minutes, then the next time three, and gradually extend the amount of time you wait to comfort your child. The intention is that your child will learn to soothe him or herself back to sleep.

Soothe the Baby
Others are strongly against the cry it out or controlled crying approach, stating that a baby’s cry is the only way he or she can communicate. If ignored, the parent isn’t giving the baby what he or she needs.

For example, Ask Dr. Sears, a website with advice from several pediatricians, says,

The cry is a marvelous design. Consider what might happen if the infant didn’t cry. He’s hungry, but doesn’t awaken...He hurts, but doesn’t let anyone know. The result of this lack of communication is known, ultimately, as ‘failure to thrive.’ ‘Thriving’ means not only getting bigger, but growing to your full potential emotionally, physically, and intellectually.

So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do you let your baby cry it out, do you soothe him or her immediately, do you practice controlled crying, or do you just do what you can in the moment?

Tell us in the comments below and share why you do what you do. We can all learn from each other. And remember, if someone does it differently than you, that’s okay. We’re all doing the best we can.

Tags :  parentingparenthoodinfantbabyemotional
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4 Hanukkah Facts for Kids

December 8, 2015

By Jessica Vician

4 Hanukkah Facts for Kids | It's Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. Even if you don’t celebrate the holiday, your children will likely have questions about it. Take this opportunity to educate them during the eight days and nights with these four facts.

Sunday night kicked off the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. Even if you don’t celebrate the holiday, your children will likely have questions about it. Take this opportunity to educate them during the eight days and nights with these four facts.

The History
In Hebrew, “Hanukkah” means “dedication,” which honors the Jerusalem holy temple’s rededication after the Jewish victory of the Syrian-Greeks.

Beginning on the 25th of the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights. The reason it falls on different days and weeks each year is because the Hebrew calendar is lunar.

The Tradition
The family lights one new candle each night on the menorah, which commemorates the Maccabee miracle, when one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days to rededicate the temple.

The Celebration
Throughout the week, children play with a dreidel toy, which is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. The child with the most gelt, candy coins that represent charity, at the end of the game wins.

The Spelling
Kids often wonder which spelling of Hanukkah is correct and why there are so many options. The truth is that most of the spellings you see in English are correct. There are several spellings (for example, Chanukah or Hanukkah) because the guttural sound of the Hebrew letters is difficult to translate into English.

What questions have your children asked about Hanukkah? How does your family celebrate? Tell us in the comments below.

Tags :  holidaysculture
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5 Must-Do Holiday Family Activities

December 3, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Must-Do Holiday Family Activities | Try these free or low-cost holiday activities with your family this season to start a new tradition and inspire wonder and holiday magic. | A photo of the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo, courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo. 

Children make the holidays magical. They open our adult eyes to wonder, hope, faith, and a jolly good spirit while reminding us to take a few moments to really appreciate everything we have.

Spark your family’s joy and wonderment with these holiday activities, which are some of my favorites. Then share yours in the comments below so we can all try something new this year!

Christkindlmarket
Many towns offer a traditional German holiday market, inspired by the one in Nuremberg, Germany that started in 1545. These markets often feature local artisans, shops, and traditional German food, while some, like the one in Chicago, even have vendors visiting from Germany.

Bring the kids for the food, music, culture, and the opportunity to speak a little German. Teach them how to say good day (guten tag), goodbye (auf wiederschen), and thank you (danke).

Zoo Lights
Get several families together, bundle up, and visit your local zoo for Zoo Lights this season. While the animals might be sleeping, many zoos turn on their holiday lights at dusk, which will warm your hearts and give your kids something to dream about that night.

Holiday Windows
Every December, my family would drive to the Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) on State Street in Chicago to take in the holiday windows and music in the brisk winter air. With a different theme every year, I was always excited to see what magic would be dancing around in the windows.

Check with your local Chamber of Commerce to see if your town decorates holiday windows or head to the nearest city for adorned windows, music, and other special events for kids.

Holiday Giving to Kids and Charities
When I was in elementary school, every year my family would take an angel from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. We would go shopping together for that child’s Christmas gifts. Not only was it fun to shop for someone my age, but it also taught me that the holidays aren’t just about Santa and receiving gifts. They are about giving to those who need help.

Once I was in high school, my student council hosted toy drives. After we organized all of the toys, we would deliver them to the families’ homes. Witnessing the pure joy in the children’s faces was the greatest gift we could ever receive. Ask your middle school or high school student to help organize a toy drive at his or her school this year.

Even if your family can’t afford to sponsor an angel or donate to Toys for Tots, save a little extra change for the Red Kettle program. Before you enter or leave the store, give your child that change to put in the red kettles and explain how that money helps other children. You’re teaching the spirit of giving, which is one of the most important parts of the holiday season.

Snuggle Time
One of the best activities you can do with your family over the holidays is also free! Cuddle up on a cold morning or evening in bed or on the couch. Make some hot chocolate, light a fire, and watch a holiday movie or play a game together. After all, what are the holidays without family and love?

What are your family’s must-do activities and traditions over the holidays? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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5 Ways to a Healthy Immune System This Holiday

December 1, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Ways to a Healthy Immune System This Holiday | December is a busy time for families. With the school parties, vacations, and family visits, it’s especially important to make an extra effort to keep the family healthy. Make sure you're doing most of these things to keep your child’s immune system healthy for the holidays.

December is a busy time for families. With the school parties, vacations, and family visits, it’s especially important to make an extra effort to keep the family healthy.

You might be thinking, “I can’t add anything else to my plate this month!” Don’t worry: you’re probably doing most of these things already to keep your child’s immune system healthy for the holidays. Check the list and add whatever you’re missing.

Teach Them to Avoid Germs 
Remind your kids that it’s especially important to wash their hands and avoid germs during the holidays. Every time they come inside, before eating, and after playtime, ask them to wash and dry their hands.

Discourage your kids from sharing drinks, food, or utensils with anyone during the holidays, too. Even with the best intentions, we all have different germs and can get each other sick.

Settle the Stomach
If your child has a party to attend or you know grandma makes lots of cookies for holiday dessert, ensure the day’s first meal healthy and packed with nutrients. Make a spinach, egg, and cheese sandwich on a whole-wheat English muffin, and include yogurt rich in probiotics.

For lunch, include those nutritious greens, grains, and protein and add a probiotic drink like GoodBelly to make sure your child’s stomach is ready for the heavier food.

Plan Physical Activities
The day after a big party, plan a fun physical activity with your child like sledding, ice skating, or going to an indoor trampoline park. The fun exercise will keep your child in peak physical condition and sweat out all those cookies!

Make Time for Resting
The holidays are a very stimulating time physically, socially, and emotionally. Make sure your child gets a little extra rest this month so he or she has enough time to recover. Even an extra half an hour of sleep goes a long way.

And for those days that you plan heavy exercise, remember that you’ll also need to plan a nap or early bedtime.

Remember The Multivitamins
Even with healthy eating, physical activity, and rest, your kids can still pick up a virus over the holidays. Encourage them to take their daily multivitamin and get plenty of vitamin C and zinc to ward off those viruses.

As always, before starting a new health regimen, check with your child’s pediatrician. These tips should help you and your children avoid getting sick over the holidays, but if your child has any special conditions, talk to the doctor first.

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