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We Need to Talk About Child Sexual Abuse

August 25, 2015

By Jessica Vician

We Need to Talk About Child Sexual Abuse | Child Sexual Abuse is a terrifying potential reality. While we don't want to think about it, parents must talk to their children early to help them avoid dangerous situations and know how to tell you if something happened. Read on for how to talk about it. | A young girl sits against the wall with her head in her hands.

Child sexual abuse is something that no parent wants to face. The horror of this potential reality prompts many of us to avoid discussing it with anyone, including our parenting partners, other parents, and especially with our children.

Many of us think, “If I tell my son or daughter how to recognize wrong behavior, I will introduce them to a world of fear and scary things.” While that worry is valid, it’s more important to educate them early on to help prevent it from ever happening.

According to the National Children’s Advocacy Center, parents should talk to their children in early childhood before they might be targeted by an abuser. The NCAC also lists 10 things you can talk to your children about regarding abuse, and what to do when a child tells you about abuse.

To better understand why early conversations about abuse are important, watch this animated video from The Times of India. It illustrates one scenario of how Komal, a 7-year-old girl, deals with sexual abuse and suggests how you can talk to your child about preventing it.

Hopefully you never have a reason to seek this kind of help for your child, but if you do, or if you just need additional information to prepare for your talk, try one of these hotlines and their websites.

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
Talk to a counselor, learn about the signs of abuse, report abuse, and seek emotional support.

Child Abuse Hotline
This list of child abuse hotlines in each state allows you to locally report abuse or neglect.

It’s a difficult topic to think about, and even more difficult to talk about. As the second half of the video demonstrates, starting the conversation early can help teach your child how to get out of a bad situation and how to report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.


How I’ll Raise Feminist Sons

August 20, 2015

By Jennifer Eckert

How I’ll Raise Feminist Sons | Just because you don't have a daughter doesn't mean you can't raise a son to be pro-gender equality and a feminist. | A boy pushes a stroller with a doll in it.

A few weeks ago I was at Barnes & Noble looking for a gift for a little girl who had invited my son Bobby to her birthday party. I was walking past one of the display tables in the kids’ section when a book called Rosie Revere, Engineer caught my eye. (For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a book about a girl named Rosie who dreams of becoming an engineer and whose great-great aunt is the World War II icon Rosie the Riveter.) I loved the concept of the book—a female character who is interested in a field that has been traditionally viewed as masculine—and I am a huge fan of Rosie the Riveter. I immediately decided that the book would be a great gift for Bobby’s little friend. For an instant, I sighed and thought about how, as a mother of two sons, I would never be able to buy these types of books and share my passion for girl power and leaning in.

Then I had a thought: By assuming that I could only pass on my beliefs to a daughter, wasn’t I contributing to the problem that made gender equality initiatives necessary? In other words, why couldn’t I raise my boys to be feminists?

The idea that traditional women’s issues—topics such as domestic violence, paid parental leave, and affordable childcare—are men’s issues, too, is a rather recent development. The NO MORE campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault was launched in 2013 (and gained a massive audience with its PSAs featuring NFL players), and the HeForShe movement for gender equality was kicked off in 2014 with actress Emma Watson’s speech at the United Nations. Both efforts emphasize the idea that women and men will benefit from gender equality.

With regard to my sons, I know that the younger they are when I begin teaching them about gender equality, the better. I also know that as they get older the lessons are going to get much more complicated than “both boys and girls can wear pink or blue.” I know it’s going to be an uphill battle because stereotypical notions of what it means to be male and female are all over our media culture. Finally, I know that I am going to need my husband's help with the plan because it’s important that our boys see both male and female role-models practicing what we preach.

Fully aware of these obstacles, here are some thoughts on what we as a society can do to raise boys who truly see women as equals:

Avoid gender stereotypes in language use.
So many gender stereotypes have become common expressions in our culture, but they still subtly reinforce the notion that men are stronger than women. For instance, the phrase “throw like a girl” is used to indicate weakness in boys and girls alike, whereas someone who “mans up” is seen as strong and stable. 

Discourage aggressive behavior and encourage a healthy expression of emotion.
The expression “boys will be boys” is often used to justify aggressive behavior in young males. It implies that there is an uncontrollable biological urge behind this behavior, and therefore, that men shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. In addition, men have it drilled into them from boyhood that the expression of any emotion except anger is a form of weakness. However, research has shown that suppressed emotions can make people more aggressive. 

Don’t divide household responsibilities along traditional gender boundaries.
Boys should see Mom (or another female role-model) tackle traditional “male” chores, such as mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, or fixing a leaky toilet. They should witness Dad (or another male role-model) performing traditional “female” chores, such as changing diapers, doing laundry, or loading the dishwasher. Boys should also be expected to perform a wide range of household chores across traditional gender boundaries. 

Be conscious of gender bias when choosing toys and activities.
It’s so easy to subconsciously steer boys away from toys and activities that are considered “feminine”—especially when stores guide us into this way of thinking by categorizing products as appropriate for boys or girls. Kudos to stores like Target, which recently announced that it is eliminating gender-based signage in its toy, bedding, and entertainment departments.

Find teachable moments in our media culture.
Since it’s nearly impossible to get away from it, take advantage of mass media to draw attention to gender roles and how they are portrayed. For instance, lead a discussion about how stereotypes are perpetuated in advertising and on sitcoms. How many commercials for household cleaning products feature women versus men? How many sitcoms portray fathers as incompetent when it comes to taking care of the children?

I have the next 18 years to practice these suggestions as I guide my sons from infancy through adolescence. I hope that in doing so, I raise strong and sensitive men who believe women are their social, political, and economic equals—and that’s what feminism is all about.

Jennifer Eckert is an editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with one husband, two sons, and three cats. 


Build a Strong Relationship With Your Child’s Teacher in 4 Steps

August 18, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Build a Strong Relationship With Your Child’s Teacher in 4 Steps | Beyond the first impression, you need to establish a good ongoing relationship with your child's teacher to demonstrate your respect and dedication to your child's education. Here are four ways to do that. | A mother extends her hand to her child's teacher in a vector image.

Arrive on time. Respect and listen to the teacher. Say please and thank you.

These three simple tips are a great way for your child to make a strong first impression during the first week of school. These tips also help you make a good first impression with your child’s teacher.

Beyond the first impression, you need to establish a good ongoing relationship with your child’s teacher so that they know you respect them and care about your child’s education. It also communicates to your child that you value his or her education and performance. Here are four ways you can start building that relationship.

1. Pick up your child from school one day to introduce yourself.
Introduce yourself to the teacher and communicate that you want to help them by making sure your child is prepared to learn when he or she comes to school in the morning. Letting the teacher know you both want the same thing—for your child to learn and succeed—is a great first step.

2. Provide your contact information and an open invitation to connect.
Yes, the school office already has your contact information, but giving it directly to your child’s teacher with the invitation to reach out if they have any concerns or successes to report shows them that you’re open to talking, you take your child’s education seriously, and you’re an engaged parent.

3. Show your appreciation.
Send thank you notes from you and your child with his or her homework every few months. Let the teacher know that even when you’re not there, you appreciate what they do for your child.

Need more ideas to show appreciation for your child’s teacher? Try these 9 suggestions, courtesy of a teacher.

4. Be respectful and start with the teacher.
If you learn of an issue in the classroom or with your child’s academic performance, talk to the teacher before anyone else. You demonstrate respect by honoring their expertise first and not immediately rushing to the principal.

If you’ve tried this method and you’re not satisfied with the teacher’s response, then let them know that you would like to discuss the situation with their supervisor. Being honest about taking the discussion to someone else maintains transparency and invites the teacher into that conversation to better resolve the issue.

Language Barrier
These are simple ways to establish a good relationship with your child’s teacher, beginning in the fall and continuing throughout the school year. But what happens if you don’t speak the same language as the teacher? You can still make the same efforts, but it will require a little planning on your end to get started.

1. Ask the school to provide a translator.
Ask the school’s translator to be present when you introduce yourself to the teacher and give both the teacher and translator your contact information. Work with the translator to find an effective method for open and, if necessary, frequent communication between you and the teacher through the school’s translator.

2. Find a friend or family member to translate your thank you note.
You can write it in your language at the top of the note and then have your friend write the English translation at the bottom. This way, the teacher sees your writing and your intention, but also understands your message in their language.

Teachers want to build a good relationship with you just as much as you want to build a good relationship with them. Start with these steps and you will notice a difference with both the teacher and the student.

The relationship with your child’s teacher is important, but did you know that your child only spends eight percent of their time at school? Learn how you can support their education the other 92 percent of the time in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, available on Amazon.


Reflect + Reenergize with These Back to School Activities

August 13, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

Reflect + Reenergize with These Back to School Activities | Regroup and gather your thoughts and emotions before the school year starts with your family with these 4 activities. | A girl blows bubbles in the park.

You are on top of your game. You have registered your child for school, taken him or her to the doctor for a yearly physical examination, and shopped for uniforms and school supplies. It’s all done. You’re ready for back to school. So why does it feel like something is missing?

It may be time to regroup and gather your thoughts and emotions in anticipation of another school year. It is also a great time to gather the family to do a few simple yet calming activities to help recharge everyone’s batteries.

1. Blow Bubbles and Make Wishes
Take a blanket or beach towel to the park and a couple of bottles of bubbles. Lie on your back and blow bubbles into the air. Make wishes for the new school year as each bubble flies away toward the horizon. Emphasize to your child that these are more than wishes left to chance, and that he or she really has control over the outcome of what they wished for based on the effort they put in.

2. Create a Sidewalk Masterpiece and Let Go of Summer
With giant sidewalk chalk, create a mural on a sidewalk. Take pictures of the finished design because it will soon wash away in the rain. Use this time to reflect on how the summer has come and gone, too, but that the memories you have will remain. The school year is another opportunity for all new adventures. You can print out a copy later and make a “first day of school” card for your son or daughter. 

3. Play Frisbee and Have Fun
It’s a low-impact and inexpensive sport that does not require much agility or skill, but will have everyone running around, letting go of stress, and giggling.

4. Role-play Teacher and Student to Prepare
You can do this at the kitchen table. This is a great time to role-play situations that may come up at school. For example, mom can play a student who is unruly and distracting, and someone else can play along to see how to remedy the situation.

Do you recommend your son or daughter change seats? Should they tell the teacher? Think of different scenarios than can come up in places like the school cafeteria, hallway, or gym class. 

Prepare for kindergarten, high school, or address new school anxiety.

These are only a few examples of how to spend the last few days of summer winding down and revving up for the school year ahead. Each family is different, so you may want to think of fun, simple games and activities you did as a child and make those part of your back-to-school tradition each year. A quick pause from the busyness of it all will give your son or daughter time to reflect and refuel for their demanding schoolwork and extra-curricular activities ahead.

Having an impact on your son or daughter does not have to cost tons of money, nor does it take much time. You will appreciate the sweet memories you are making when they have outgrown their desire to hang out with you on a lazy afternoon. 

Need more suggestions on preparing your family for the school year? The YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books provide activities and checklists to help.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.


Breakfast + Dinner: A Student’s Meal Ticket to Success

August 11, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Breakfast + Dinner: A Student’s Meal Ticket to Success | Your child can't focus or succeed in school if they're hungry. Be sure that they have a healthy breakfast to help them focus in class and a healthy dinner to help them sleep so they're rested the next morning. | A family eats breakfast in the morning.

“Breakfast might not just be the most important meal of a child’s day—it might be one of the most important meals of their life.”

If that’s not a statement that makes you want to stuff your child full of eggs, fruit, and whole wheat toast in the morning, I don’t know what is.

That statement opens a report from CNN about a study on the benefits of students eating breakfast versus the disadvantages of those students not eating breakfast.

The study found that kids who eat breakfast miss less school and do better in math, which in turn makes them 20 percent more likely to graduate high school. That might seem like a stretch, but the long-term study gets even more real when revealing those graduates will earn an average of $10,000 more annually than non-high school graduates.

The takeaway? If you want to increase the chances that your child will graduate from high school and therefore have a better life as an adult, you need to start by feeding him or her breakfast.

Why? Breakfast gives your child energy and nutrients that can help him or her focus in class. If your child is hungry, he or she can’t focus on what the teacher is doing, which will prevent him or her from learning and retaining skills and lessons.

Need some quick and healthy breakfast ideas

Okay, so you know why your child needs a nutritious breakfast. You also know that he or she will have a nutritious lunch at school. But what about dinner?

Dinner is also critical for your child’s success for the same reasons breakfast is. A healthy dinner gives your child the nutrients he or she needs to grow and be a healthy child. It also helps your child sleep better.

Sleep is critical to helping your child succeed in school. Without a proper night’s rest, your child will have trouble staying awake, paying attention, and retaining the day’s lessons in class. To help your child get a good night’s sleep, include protein and carbohydrates (meats, fish, beans and fiber-rich grains) at dinner.

This article offers quick and healthy dinner ideas, including a recipe.

If you are unable to afford to provide your child with breakfast in the morning, talk to the school about applying for the free and reduced price lunch program, which may extend to breakfast. For help providing a nutritious dinner, seek out a food assistance program.

For more information on how your child’s physical health affects his or her academic success, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books. 

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