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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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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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Good Times for All: 10 Thanksgiving Family Activities for All Ages

November 24, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Good Times for All: 10 Thanksgiving Family Activities for All Ages | How can you spark that good energy early and ensure everyone makes the most of the holiday before and after that meal? Encourage your kids to take advantage of their family time this year with these activities for all ages. | A family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner.

Sitting down to the table on Thanksgiving is a great feeling. The cooking is done, the food smells delicious, and everyone is eagerly awaiting that first bite.

So how can you spark that good energy early and ensure everyone makes the most of the holiday before and after that meal? Encourage your kids to take advantage of their family time this year with these activities for all ages.

Kids 3-10

  • Get crafty. Prepare Thanksgiving-themed art projects for your kids to do with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Use our Pinterest board to find cute project inspiration.
  • Sing a song. Rent a karaoke machine for the kids to sing their favorite songs after dinner. The adults can sit back and digest while the kids put on the show.
  • Perform a play. Speaking of shows, if you have a group of future Tony Award winners in the house, ask them to put on a play at the end of the day. They’ll spend the afternoon working on the script and rehearsing, and they’ll be so excited to share their talent with the family after dinner.

Ages 11-13
Middle school kids are sometimes difficult to please. If yours like playing with younger kids, encourage them to help with the play or karaoke show. You can also try these conversation starters:

  • Make it a game. Before guests arrive, challenge your child to talk to each member of your extended family by the end of the day. Give them a few questions to ask everyone throughout the day and invite your child to talk about their common threads at dinner.
  • Cook together. Task your tween with a recipe and encourage them to ask an aunt, uncle, or grandparent for help. It will give them a project to work on together and spark more conversation.
  • Have a deck of cards handy. Playing cards can bring the family together, as games encourage us to be competitive and rely on each other to teach and learn the rules.

Ages 14-18
Just like kids in middle school, teenagers might need a little prodding to make the most of the holiday with family. In addition to cooking together and playing cards, try these activities with your teen:

  • Give them talking points. Encourage your child to ask aunts, uncles, and grandparents about their first concert, the first album they bought, or other things that interest your child. While the answers may highlight the age difference, they can also spark conversations about what it was like to live through certain decades that your teen missed out on.
  • Start a new tradition. Ask your teen what kind of holiday tradition they would like to see every year. Assuming it’s doable, have your teen explain their idea to the family at dinner and start right away.
  • Give your teen something to look forward to. If your teen is more focused on seeing friends, host a dessert party after dinner. Your teen can invite their friends over and the family members who are still there can meet the friends and share in that experience.

College students
Your student coming home from college for the holiday will probably be grateful for a home cooked meal and a comfortable bed, so take advantage of that gratitude and encourage them to learn more about their other family members.

Once a person starts college, they start to see the world a little differently. Their studies are more focused on what they want to learn, not what they’re required to learn.

Embrace that shift by encouraging your student to talk to their grandparents. They have lived through a different time than your child and might shed some light on topics your child might be more interested in now.

For instance, did a grandparent serve in Vietnam? What were politics like when the grandparents were growing up? What types of shows were on television?

Not only will the grandparents want to share about their past, but your child will gain great perspective and learn something about their family that they might not have known before.

Do you have tried-and-true activities that foster family bonding over the holidays? Share your secrets below so we can try them this week!

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12 Winter Exercises to Keep Your Kids Fit

November 19, 2015

By Jessica Vician

12 Winter Exercises to Keep Your Kids Fit | These are 12 easy and fun ways to keep the kids fit through the winter. Don’t let the weather stop your family from getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. | A young child and mother have a playful pillow fight with the father on the bed.

As the weather cools, it can be difficult to keep your child physically active indoors. While summers are full of playing outside, riding bicycles, rollerblading, and even hoverboarding, the cooler temperatures and wet weather puts an end to the outdoor fun.

But just because the kids are inside doesn’t mean the exercise and fun should stop. Exercise is critical to your child’s physical development and must continue in every season to help your child:

  • Strengthen his or her bones and muscles
  • Reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Lower his or her blood pressure and blood cholesterol (yes, it’s important for kids, too!)
  • Reduce and cope with stress

Kids ages 5-12 should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

While your school-aged child should get some of that 60 minutes during recess, fill in the extra time (and get the full 60+ minutes on the weekends) with these fun activities both in and out of the home.

In Your Home

1. Crank up the tunes and throw a dance party. Practice routines from YouTube videos.

2. Hop on the bed and have gentle pillow fights.

3. Host hallway races, encouraging the kids to beat their best times.

4. Have a big basement? Play crab soccer.

5. Run to find the best hiding spot during a physical game of hide and seek. 

Outside the Home

6. Visit a trampoline park for bouncing basketball, dodgeball, or just jumping.

7. Find an indoor laser tag center for running, hiding, and fun in the dark.

8. Roll your little ballers into a family bowling night.

9. Kids can practice their swings at an indoor golf center in the off-season.

10. Swim their energy away at an indoor pool.

11. Practice a single lutz or play hockey at an indoor or outdoor ice skating rink.

12. Have a snowball fight after each big snow.

These are 12 easy and fun ways to keep the kids fit through the winter. Don’t let the weather stop your family from getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Join in on the fun for your health and fun family memories.

What activities do you do with your family in winter? Tell us in the comments below.

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