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Why It’s Okay to Cry

September 10, 2015

By Sandra Braceful-Quarles

Why It’s Okay to Cry | Children cry from the moment they are born, which is a good thing. They convey many emotions through crying. Learn how to understand your child's tears and why it's okay to cry. | A mother comforts her crying daughter.

Waaaah! Waaaah! Waaaah!

That sound is expected, welcomed, and provides the first form of communication from the moment your child enters the world. Infants cry to signal a need: hunger, feeling uncomfortable, tired, frightened, etc. Parents are eager to comfort and console, listening to the sounds, tone, and inflection of the cries, which help you learn what your child needs or the message trying to be conveyed.

As children grow and develop language skills, the expectation to use words, appropriate behavior, and problem solving skills increases. The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines crying as “an emotional response to a distressing experience or situation.” Helping your child confirm, discuss, and overcome a crying experience lays the foundation for how he or she will cope and resolve issues as an adult.

Confirm and Validate
If your child is crying, there is likely an issue. Be careful not to say, “Don’t be sad,” or “Don’t be scared.” Those statements send the message that it’s not okay to cry. Instead, say, “I see you are crying. Is everything okay?”

You can also use comforting words in a tone that confirms you recognize there is an issue that your child needs to discuss. This initial validation provides the comfort that a child will need when developing problem-solving skills. Your child may need a hug or a period to just cry until he or she is able to say what is wrong.

Discussion
The next step is moving from tears to words. Getting your child to say or articulate his or her feelings is important for many reasons.

  1. You learn the reason for the crying and can begin to address how your child can handle or cope with his or her feelings.
  2. You are teaching your child how to talk through the emotions. As your child’s guide and teacher, you can show him or her another way to address the feeling.
  3. If you’re not talking about the problem, then it could affect how your child deals with his or her feelings. Discussion is meant to help your child work through issues.

Resolve and Overcome
It will take a lot of practice for your child to begin resolving issues on his or her own. Every time you have a discussion, reinforce your child’s problem-solving skills. Your discussions can then gradually shift to the child doing the talking.

There may be times when the same feeling or issue will arise and you can say, “How did we handle that last time?” Ask for ideas or suggestions to resolve the problem to help your child think about how to feel good again.

This is not an overnight process. As your child develops, your reinforcement will help him or her master these issues alone.

Crying is what humans do naturally. It is the first sign that all is well when we are born. As children mature and develop into adults, the expectation is to work through their feelings. Crying is the beginning of that stage as your child learns to understand, accept, and manage his or her emotions. Of course, it’s okay to cry.

The YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books and program include valuable strategies and information on how to help you talk with your child through each stage of development. You can purchase the books on Amazon.

Sandra Braceful-Quarles is an educator, community liaison, and tutor working in the south suburbs of Chicago. As an active member of her worship community, she is passionate about giving back and volunteering to help others. She and her husband have three children and two grandchildren.

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5 Ways to Focus in the Digital Age

September 8, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Ways to Focus in the Digital Age | Children are having trouble focusing more than ever, which is affecting more than just their homework-- it's affecting their ability to emotionally develop. Help your child learn to focus with these 5 tips. | A child plays a video game with his headphones on.

Smartphones, tablets, laptops, game consoles, televisions. All of these digital devices make us more connected yet more distracted than ever. As any adult office worker can tell you, constant Internet access grants instant information but also makes it easy to lose focus on the task at hand and enter a digital rabbit hole.

It especially affects our children. With all of these opportunities for information and distraction, students aren’t fully developing their ability to concentrate and focus. That means more than just being easily distracted in class—it means that the neurons in their brains don’t learn to fire in a way that allows them to focus. If their brains don’t fully develop this function, it could affect their successes in life.

“This ability [to concentrate] is more important than IQ or the socioeconomic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success, and health,” psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman said during an interview on KQED Radio.

Not only will children be unable to focus on their academics, they might not develop social and emotional skills needed to become well-developed adults. So how can you help your children focus in this digital age of distraction?

  1. Do light exercise.
    Get extra energy out of their system with a quick game of Horse or a bike ride before starting homework.
  2. Turn off all devices.
    While some assignments will require Internet research, make sure all other devices—smartphones, tablets, games, television, etc.—are off or are in another room. Have your child do as much homework and prep work as possible before accessing the Internet.
  3. Have your child make a task list after school.
    With a list of items he or she needs to accomplish, your child might be more focused to cross items off that list. Just as lists help adults, they can help children.
  4. Check in on computer time.
    If an assignment requires Internet research, check in every ten to fifteen minutes to make sure your child stays on task. If he or she is struggling to avoid surfing, sit and help them stay focused.
  5. Take breaks.
    If your child gets distracted after some time focusing on homework, let him or her take a break. Have some fruit or a glass of water, let their mind rest, and then return to that list.

These are just five ways to silence the distractions and help your child focus. By teaching him or her these valuable skills, you are giving your child the tools to succeed in school and in life.

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5 Things Working Parents Must Give Up for Balance

September 3, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Things Working Parents Must Give Up for Balance | Working parents must give up these 5 destructive thoughts in order to achieve a work-life-parenting balance. | A father gets dressed for work while caring for his baby.

Understatement of the year: parents must sacrifice A LOT for their kids. And working parents juggle more than just schedules—they juggle conflicting emotions about working instead of staying home with their kids.

In an article for Forbes, Amy Morin lists five things successful working parents often give up for a work-life balance. Not only is this list accurate for working parents, but most apply to stay-at-home parents, too.

The list of things these parents give up includes:

  1. Shame of asking for help
  2. Need to split time equally
  3. Neglecting themselves
  4. Always trying to make their kids happy
  5. Guilt about working

Read the full article here.

For any parent, it’s important to remember to ask for help when you need it, allocate time wherever your life needs it most, take care of yourself so you can then take care of your family, know you won’t always make everyone—including your kids—happy, and avoid feeling guilty about working.

Parents have many reasons for working while raising kids. From financial needs to career ambition, it’s important that you do what you need. Your kids learn from you, whether that’s how to balance raising a family while working to put food on the table, or pursuing a career that makes a difference, you are their first role model.

Take care of yourself and seek balance.

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Save Your Child’s Immunization Records

September 1, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Save Your Child’s Immunization Records | How long should you save your child's immunization records? Until they finish their doctorate. Once your child graduates from high school, they will need those records to apply for undergrad, graduate, and post-graduate school, so keep them just in case. | A doctor fills out an immunization form.

You know you need to save your child’s immunization records for a while, but just how long should you save them?

The short answer? Until your child finishes a doctoral program.

I know it seems extreme, but the reality is that pediatricians aren’t in business forever. While high schools keep records for some time after students graduate, if you or your child moves away, it’s hard to track those records down.

11 years after graduating high school, I decided to go to graduate school and needed to provide proof of certain immunizations. At that point, I had no idea where those records were. My pediatrician had retired long ago, and my undergraduate school wasn’t able to provide them. Luckily, my high school still had my records and my parents still lived nearby so my mom was able to pick them up for me.

However, most high schools won’t keep these records for more than a few years after graduation. To avoid your child needing to repeat vaccines or have extensive blood work done to prove immunity, keep these immunization records until your child is ready to take them for safe keeping.

The vaccines required may vary by state and school, but generally your child will need proof of the following:

  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
  • Meningococcal meningitis
  • Tetanus/Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis B

While your child might not have plans for graduate or doctoral studies right now, keep those immunization records in a safe place for many years after he or she graduates from high school, especially if you move. It might not seem like a big deal now, but your child will thank you if he or she ever pursues an advanced degree.

To learn more about college and career readiness and supporting your child’s health, read the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set, available on Amazon.

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Special Needs: How to Advocate for Your Child’s Education

August 27, 2015

By Lynn Samartino

Special Needs: How to Advocate For Your Child's Education | All parents should know how to advocate for their child's education, but it's especially important for parents of children with special needs. This special education teacher takes you through three key strategies to advocating for your child. | A teen sits with his head in his hand while struggling to take a test.

All parents should know how to advocate for their child’s education, but for parents of children with special needs, it is especially important. As a special education teacher, I want to get to know the parents of my students, build a rapport with them and involve them in their child’s education.

Many parents focus on their child’s social, emotional, and physical well-being at home (which is very important), but leave the entirety of education to teachers. As the YOU Program demonstrates, these pieces go hand-in-hand, so a teacher-parent partnership is critical for a child’s academic success.

To ensure your child receives a highly qualified education in accordance with their special education services, work on these three things: knowledge, involvement, and communication.

Knowledge
To advocate for your child, you must educate yourself on school details and your child’s educational rights.

  1. Understand your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
    All students receiving special education services have an IEP. Each year, you will review that IEP with necessary school staff to ensure your child is making progress through goals and objectives. This is the guide to your child’s education.

    Prepare for the annual meetings by learning what the IEP fully entails, why your child has one, what the components mean, and how it is implemented. The IEP lays out the framework for your child’s education and the school should follow everything outlined in it.

    If you need help understanding the IEP, meet with your child’s teacher or a staff member who can explain each section. Although it is discussed thoroughly during the IEP meeting, if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to schedule a follow-up meeting.

  2. Speak with other parents at the school.
    Get to know other parents of the school community. You can learn from each other, including how to successfully advocate for your child’s education (and possibly what doesn’t work as well).

Involvement
When you are involved in your child’s education, you are well informed and have a better understanding about how to advocate for your child. When teachers and staff see and know that you’re involved, we can better collaborate and partner with you.

  1. Volunteer in the classroom.
    By volunteering and occasionally being present in the classroom, you can ensure that your child’s IEP is being implemented appropriately. If you have a paid job in the classroom, you can help support the IEP implementation. Through these opportunities, you can communicate regularly with the teacher to make sure the appropriate services are being provided in the least restrictive environment.
  2. Attend parent-teacher conferences and school-sponsored events.
    Plan ahead and attend parent-teacher conferences, family reading night, or any other events offered throughout the school year. Build rapport with the community, school, staff, and teachers at these events. You can learn more about education and how the school operates.

Communication
Whether asking questions, communicating your child’s needs, or just discussing an assignment, communicate regularly with all the teachers and staff that your child works with daily. Technology provides ample opportunities for communication, so use it to your advantage.

  1. Email key staff members.
    You or your child’s teacher can start an email chain with the necessary school staff so that everyone can work together for his or her educational success. Regular emails are convenient and make it easy to check in quickly.
    At the beginning of the school year, share your email address with the teacher so they can keep you regularly informed. Ask the teacher if they have a website for you to view assignments, important dates, and lesson materials.
  2. Say hello during pick-up and drop-off.
    If you pick up or drop off your kids at school, have a brief chat with the teacher every so often. Many things can be communicated in just a few minutes and issues resolved. It is great for me to quickly touch base with my students’ parents before the day begins or at the end of the day to inform them of the accomplishments made during class time.

Think of the process of advocating for your child’s education as a three-legged stool. The stool supports us when we need to sit, but it must have all three legs to balance and stand. Those three legs are parental knowledge, involvement, and communication. By practicing those three “legs,” your child can succeed in school, no matter what his or her needs are.



Lynn Samartino, M.A. is an upper inclusion special education teacher for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students at Chicago Public Schools. In her 10+ years of experience, she has spearheaded after-school programs, developed the Inclusive Model, and managed the integration of new technology into academics.

She holds certifications in general and special education with endorsements in middle school, language arts, social science, and English as a second language (ESL).

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