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Raising Children in America

January 28, 2016

By Lorena Villa Parkman

Raising Children in America | Moving to a new country is a complicated journey, especially when adapting to a new culture and following a different set of social rules. Here are a couple of things you may encounter in American culture. | Photo of an American flag.

Moving to a new country is a complicated journey, especially when adapting to a new culture and following a different set of social rules. Families encounter new values that may conflict with their culture’s values. Not only do parents have to adapt to the changes, but they must also balance old customs with new ones for their children.

Here are a couple of things you may encounter in American culture. Consider how to merge your home country’s values with those here to help your child acclimate.

Dating at a younger age
In the U.S., children start dating more seriously in high school. It is generally considered normal to let two teenagers go to the movies together, go out to dinner alone, or go as a couple to a school event like prom.

Of course, it’s your right to decide what rules you set before you let your child go out with a romantic interest. If you allow your child to date, you might ask him or her to call during the evening to check in and speak with other parents about what they do to keep their children safe while dating.

Sleepovers
Your elementary school child might be invited to sleepovers at friends’ houses. Usually the host family prepares activities for the kids to enjoy, like movies, games, and snacks.

If you feel a bit uneasy, ask the host family what they are planning for the night. Leave your phone number so they can reach you if your child feels homesick during the night or if something else happens.

Talk to your child before the sleepover, assuring him or her that you will pick them up if they are uncomfortable. You can also call to check in on your child before bedtime if you’d like.

Parent engagement in school
In some cultures, talking to or questioning teachers or school authorities is seen as disrespectful. But in the U.S., parents are expected to be involved in school and to talk to teachers about their concerns.

Parents can call or email the teacher at any time to discuss their child’s academic and social progress. Don’t feel intimidated—rather, take this opportunity to advocate for your child’s education.

Leaving home to live on campus
In some countries, teenagers live with their parents when they go to college (if they study in the same city). In the U.S., leaving home to go to college is seen as a rite of passage. In some universities, it’s even mandatory to live on campus for at least the first year of college.

See this as a great opportunity for your child to be independent, learn how to tackle daily life chores, and encounter new experiences and cultures.

It’s difficult to get used to a new normal in American culture, but work with other parents to establish trust and do what feels right to you. Build confidence and learn more about your adoptive country—you will be able to help your child with any obstacle he or she encounters in their journey toward success in America.

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3 Easy Exercises for Kids

January 26, 2016

By Jessica Vician

3 Easy Exercises for Kids | Did you know that kids need at least an hour a day of physical activity]? While they might get some of that at recess, try these three exercises with your kids at home to help strengthen their muscles. | A group of kids stretch on colorful mats.

While many New Year’s resolutions focus on adults losing weight, a health focus is just as important for kids. Did you know that kids need at least an hour a day of physical activity? While they might get some of that at recess, try these three exercises with your kids at home to help strengthen their muscles.

1. Plank for core strength
If you’ve ever taken a yoga or core strength class, you probably know how to do a plank. Have your child lie on his or her stomach and then push up with the forearms and toes on the floor. Keep the body straight, sucking in the belly and tightening the glutes (butt muscles). Start by holding the pose for 30 seconds, resting for 30 seconds, and then holding again. Try it three times.

After practicing for a few weeks, work up to holding the plank for 45 seconds and eventually a minute. Make it a competition for more fun—who can hold it the longest while still keeping their body straight?

2. Push-ups for arm and core strength
If your child is younger or overweight, start these push-ups with knees on the floor. Keep the arms just wider than shoulder-width apart, and keep the knees in line with the hips. Suck in the belly and push up and down, bending the elbows. See if your child can do 12-15 push-ups in a row. Try three sets of these 12-15 reps during each session.

When 15 reps become too easy, have your child do push-ups with toes on the floor (no knees), and eventually increase the number of push-ups he or she does each time.

3. Walking lunges for leg strength 
First, start with a regular lunge. Stand straight with feet together and step forward with your right foot, bending both knees to about 90-degree angles. Your back knee will be closest to the ground but won’t touch, and the front knee should be lined up with your ankle.

To move into the walking lunge, step forward with your left foot, moving into a lunge with the left leg (same as the instructions for the right leg lunge above). Keep moving down the hall for 20 total steps (10 with each leg). Do this exercise of 20 steps three times.

Once this exercise becomes easier for you and your child, add small hand weights of one to three pounds for an additional challenge.

Regular exercise helps your child regulate stress, feel happier, and be healthier. Take the challenge and do these three easy exercises with your child every day for a month and see how much better both of you feel.

Do you have a favorite exercise to do with your child? Tell us in the comments below.

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4 Ways to Stay Close to Far-Away Family

January 21, 2016

By Ana Vela

4 Ways to Stay Close to Far-Away Family | A girl writes a letter to her family in another state.

Being very close with my family, I never imagined raising a child without them nearby. And yet, that’s where life has taken me—1,200 miles away. Seeing how close my parents are to my brother’s children (who live near them), I was nervous at the thought of my daughter missing out on that bond by living so far away.

Because of that, I made a point to make sure family continued to be central in our home. Here are some methods I developed for our daughter Mariana to maintain a close relationship with my family, regardless of the distance.

Schedule phone and video calls.
I schedule calls and FaceTime with my family every other week. Mariana loves to “talk” on the phone and loves seeing her cousins on video. To help my family feel like they are not missing out on Mariana growing up, I make a list of any new things Mariana is doing to share with them during that call. And my nieces share their schoolwork and drawings with us.

If you don’t have FaceTime, you can use Skype or Google Hangouts to have a video call with your family.

Send mail.
My 18-month-old can’t write yet, but that doesn’t mean she can’t send mail. Together we send cards, drawings, stickers, and photos to her cousins just so they know she’s thinking of them. What kid doesn’t like to get mail? And it gives us something to talk about on a follow-up call.

Plan for visits.
With our family budget, both sides plan to travel and visit the other one time a year, usually around birthdays or holidays. Making these plans give us all something to look forward to and talk about, and my nieces love counting down the days until they see their little cousin.

Capture and talk about memories.
We love taking photos when we’re with each other! Weeks and even months after our visit, we’ll take time to look at the photos again. My husband and I use the photos to tell our daughter stories, while pointing to and naming each family member. That way she continues to recognize them and stay connected.

I’m happy to see that Mariana enjoys being with my family and that she recognizes them when we connect through these other methods. So far it doesn’t feel like the distance has lessened the bond.

What methods do your family use to stay connected? Share in the comments below.

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Help Your Student Prepare for College Entry Exams

January 19, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Help Your Student Prepare for College Entry Exams | Help your high school junior prepare for the exams with these three tips. | High school students take exams.

If your high school junior is planning to apply to college, he or she should take the first college entry exam this spring. While colleges consider many factors during the admissions process, grade point average (GPA) and entry exam scores are very important, as they indicate how well the student may do in school.

Help your high school junior prepare for the exams with these tips.

Create a game plan.
Depending on the college, your student may need to take an SAT and/or ACT test. Ask your child to create a list of schools he or she wants to attend (including back-up choices) and find out which admission tests those schools require.

Then decide on exam dates. For example, the College Board recommends that students take the exam in the spring of junior year and then again in the fall of senior year. Students often take the exams more than once to try to improve their scores.

Once you have decided on exam dates, register for the exams to secure your child’s spot.

Study smart.
Make the most of studying for the exam. Many of the questions should cover topics that your student has already learned, but it’s important that he or she has a good grasp of these topics and concepts going into the exam.

The SAT website has several free practice options available, from a question of the day to sample questions and tests. You can also purchase a study guide or take an online course through the site for a fee. The ACT website also features a question of the day and sample questions for free, and you can purchase a study guide for more help.

Seek low-cost prep programs.
Your child’s high school may offer free or low-cost study sessions to prepare for the tests. Take advantage of these classes, as they teach your child how to maximize time on the tests and strategically answer questions.

You can also search community centers in your area to see if they offer free or reduced-cost prep sessions. Many companies offer online prep courses, which are less expensive than in-person courses, and some may offer free trials of their products.

A strong score on these admission tests can greatly increase your child’s chances for college admission and scholarships, especially at highly selective schools. Your child has already been preparing in his or her daily coursework, but it’s important that he or she makes an extra effort to prepare for these tests to ensure the best outcome.

Do you have any tips for college admission testing success? Share in the comments below.

Tags :  academiccollegehigh school
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Teach Your Child Conflict Resolution to Create Positive Change

January 14, 2016

By Amelia Orozco

Teach Your Child Conflict Resolution to Create Positive Change | "The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically...intelligence and character—that is the goal of true education." | Image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with that quote.

Celebrating the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a great way to create change for good in our homes and communities. His insistence on nonviolence in the face of hatred and racial discrimination shows us that even the toughest fights can be fought without one flying fist.

“I have decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems...hate is too great a burden to bear,” Dr. King said at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in August 1967.

Even today, both in the mundane and in the monumental, we must make the conscious choice to decide to follow the path of love and peace.

As parents, our actions dictate the manner in which our children interact with others. In a world saturated with news of riots in the streets stemming from racial discrimination, our demeanor matters more than ever. After all, your home is your child’s first school and you are his or her first teacher.

In high school, where adolescents experience both physical and emotional maturity, it is just as important to address these issues. This is the day and age when the skewed images of perfection are dictated by social media. Bullying abounds behind the mask of a phone or computer as people lash out and insult each other with abandon, never fearing the consequences. At this formative stage, a young person can still be swayed to one side or the other. Will your children be the peacemakers or the fighters?

To be peacemakers, it starts with a plan to agree to resolve conflict intelligently. Conflict resolution is taught in many schools and organizations around the country, but you can also practice at home with your teenager.

Unpack ideas such as:

  • How to de-escalate an argument
  • Dealing with anger
  • What our body language communicates to others
  • Training our tempers
  • Acknowledging our feelings and others’

We are all entitled to be angry, but what we do with that anger can have significant consequences in our lives, whether they are good or bad.

Ask your teen’s school if they currently offer a conflict resolution program for students. If they do not, ask if they can offer one in the near future. Your opinion is very important in your child’s education and most schools are open to new ideas that affect positive change.

At home, encourage your child to stand up for him or herself and others to affect positive social change. It starts with your child’s world and can grow larger as his or her peers are affected. What change will your child make to honor Dr. King’s legacy?



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.
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