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14 Ways Your Child Can Share Love

February 14, 2017

By Jessica Vician

14 Ways Your Child Can Share Love | A son hugs his mother.

Valentine's Day means different things to different people. Ask a 5-year-old and he or she might tell you it's a day that your friends give you cards and candy at school. A 12-year-old might hope to receive a special note from a crush. A single 20-something might see it as a day to avoid altogether, while a couple who has been together for many years might order pizza and snuggle under a blanket while watching a favorite TV show.

This year, I'd like to recommend taking a moment to think about how you can teach your child to share their love with the world. We all need more love and joy in our lives and who better to show it than a child? In celebration of the 14th of February, here are 14 ways your child can share their love with you, a friend, or even a kind stranger.

  1. Smile.
    Being on the receiving end of an unexpected smile can change someone's day, especially if that smile is from a child.
  2. Say, "thank you."
    Teach your child to express gratitude by saying, "thank you" when someone does something nice for him or her.
  3. Hold the door.
    Holding the door for a stranger is a small gesture that makes us appreciate the kindness of others. This is an especially good tip for teens.
  4. Pay a compliment.
    Encourage your child to compliment someone at least once a week. From "nice coat" to someone in another grade to "great throw" at football practice, a little compliment goes a long way.
  5. Hug.
    Everyone needs a hug. Ask your child to hug a close friend or family member to express their love and gratitude.
  6. Give together.
    Let your child pick out a birthday present for a family or friend so that he or she can take pride in the gift and learn how good it feels to give. It will encourage your child to give often as he or she grows up.
  7. Perform random acts of kindness.
    From holding that door open to picking up a stranger's dropped glove and returning it, small and random acts of kindness make others happy.
  8. Pay it forward.
    The next time someone does something nice for your child, encourage him or her to take some of that good feeling and give it to someone else. Did your child find a dollar on the sidewalk? Encourage him or her to give 50 cents to a person in need, or to buy a friend's soda the next time they're out.
  9. Beam with pride.
    Take a walk around the neighborhood and point out the great things your community is doing. When you take pride in where you live, you create a positive environment around you. Your child will feel this, too, once you've shown him or her the work that goes into the community.
  10. Give positive feedback.
    When your child is kind to others, point out the positive behavior and reward it.
  11. Tell a joke. Then repeat it.
    Tell your child a joke that's easy to remember and age-appropriate. Then ask him or her to tell other people, since laughing makes everyone happy.
  12. Leave a note.
    Ask your child to write a note to someone he or she appreciates. It can be a "thank you" note to a teacher, an "I miss you" note to a family member who lives far away, or even an "I love you" note to mom or dad.
  13. Plant.
    Plant a tree, a bush, or flowers nearby. Planting a living green is like saying, "I love you" to the Earth.
  14. Say, "I love you."
    Speaking of "I love you," say it to your child and to those around you who you love, and encourage your child to do the same. It's that simple.
Tags :  holidayssocialemotional
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5 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Positive Body Image

January 23, 2017

5 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Positive Body Image | A teenage girl looks into the mirror as she fixes her dress.

For preteens and teenagers, body image is closely related to self-esteem. As their bodies change and they go through puberty, they are more self-conscious and vulnerable to what others might think of them. As a parent, you have significant influence over your child and can help him or her develop a positive body image.

1. Model positive behavior by accepting your body.
Your children, no matter their age, mimic the behavior they see and hear at home. If you speak negatively about your body—or those around you—your teenager will likely share that attitude about their own body.

Do you complain about extra pudge on your belly? Your daughter will start looking at her stomach and thinking it's too large, even if it's perfectly healthy. Does Dad complain about hair loss? Your son might start worrying about losing his hair, instead of appreciating what he does have.

2. Encourage activities that feel good.
Shift the focus to your child’s abilities rather than to his or her physical appearance. Exercise helps your child feel good about his or her body. Remind your child that this is about being fit—not necessarily thin—and about focusing on health rather than appearance. Focus on the positive feelings about being strong, healthy, and able to participate in different activities.

3. Help your child understand that bodies change and that there is no ideal body shape.
We come in different shapes and sizes. Focus on how strong, agile, or healthy your teen's body is and talk about all the things that it’s capable of doing.

If you believe your child is over or underweight, check with his or her health provider instead of making assumptions. If your suspicions are confirmed, make gaining or losing weight fun and a family activity—everyone can eat more greens and protein and try new physical activities together.

4. Praise your child.
Teenagers need praise from their parents. They need to know you recognize when they're doing a good job, be that at school, in music, with friends, or in sports.

When you praise your child, be specific about the accomplishment and highlight positive character traits and talents. For example, tell your teen how you've noticed how compassionate he or she is with a friend who has been going through a tough time, or how you thought he or she did a great job in the game by passing the ball when a teammate was open. Your child will soon focus more on his or her character and values than on his or her physical appearance, building a healthy self-image.

5. Encourage your whole family to be healthy.
If your child sees that the whole family is trying to have a better self-image and healthier lifestyle, it will be easier for him or her to follow. The family can make simple changes like avoiding fast food, buying or cooking nutritious meals, and exercising together.

If a healthy lifestyle becomes part of your family practices, your child will model these habits throughout his or her life and keep a positive self-image thanks to a wholesome approach.

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Parental Engagement: When Your Ex Remarries

January 10, 2017

By Amanda Alpert Knight

Parental Engagement: When Your Ex Remarries | A mother shares what she has learned about her kids as they get used to their dad remarrying. | The photo shows a man cutting through a paper family.

Typically when I use the term parental engagement, I’m talking about how involved parents are in schools and their children’s lives. I’m referring to the depth and the breadth in which a parent is engaged in a child’s educational, social, emotional, and physical activities. This article is not about that.

My ex-husband is engaged. Less than two years after we divorced, my ex-husband emailed me that he is engaged. My feelings aside, I remembered an article I wrote about striving for a kinder divorce for the kids—something I have since discovered is somewhat of a unicorn. As an educator and a mother, I have observed my children through this process and can offer my thoughts on what I think can lead to the greatest success as this transition continues.

1. Kids come first—bottom line.
In the process of dating, engagement, and wedding planning, it's critical to let your kids know that they are always number one.

Even if they aren’t directly expressing that they are feeling replaced, left out, or simply concerned, your kids need your attention, affection, and positive reinforcement. As the families are blending (and even thereafter), children need time with their parent. I recommend making one-on-one time a priority with each of your kids without the soon-to-be spouse.

2. It’s not about the party.
The day after my ex got engaged, he told my oldest about how much fun the wedding would be—tuxedos, a tropical location, the dancing—it sounded like a dream; who wouldn't be excited? But each night thereafter, I heard about the concerns, the worries, the long term: Where will I sleep? I don't get along with my stepsibling. I don’t want the wedding to happen so soon.

While the newly-engaged parents are in bliss and excited, the kids are full of emotions. It's important to see and hear those emotions and concerns, as children need space for them. They need to know that those emotions are okay and are going to be addressed, both by the engaged parent, the soon-to-be stepparent, and the other one. There is real life after the party, and while it's okay to get the kids excited about the wedding, you also need to address the day-to-day changes that will occur.

3. Respect your child's parent and your past relationship.
Not everyone will agree with this, but I think respect for the past relationship is critical when approaching a second marriage when kids are involved. You created children together and are co-parenting, so it's important to speak respectfully to and about the other parent, especially when speaking to your kids.

As I stated in my previous article, I have always envisioned a time when my ex and I could be friends, where we could work together to better one another in our new paths and not destroy each other. If we can each respect and appreciate the relationship we had—even though it's over—we can move forward happy for the other person and therefore create a better environment for our children. Constructive behavior is better than destructive behavior.

4. A new spouse isn’t a substitute for the other parent in your child’s life.
Remember that each person is a parent seven days a week, not just when you each have custody.

I recently met a man who dated a woman with children for about five years (he doesn’t have children of his own). He knew he had approached the situation in the right way when the children introduced him to people as their friend, John. He wasn’t trying to be a substitute for their father or play a fatherly role. He understood that wasn’t his place nor did he need that to feel part of their lives. I had so much respect for how he explained his approach to dating a woman with children. He respected the parenting relationship and didn’t try to break that or interfere. He was simply the children's friend, which was of immense value to him.

These four rules are the result of going through this process with my kids. Each situation is different, but I think everyone can agree that respect for your parenting partner, regardless of your relationship status, goes a long way during and after a divorce.

While my dating process is slow and calculated—a casual jog where I watch my footing and carefully select my paths— when I find the right partner, I will reflect back on what I have learned about putting the children first and respecting my children's father. Regardless of divorce, my ex and I are still engaged in each other's lives as co-parents of two of the most amazing children I’ve ever known. I hope our actions fill them with love instead of worry.

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Life Skills for Every Age

January 3, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Life Skills for Every Age | Try teaching your child these life skills for his or her current—and future—age.

We spend at least 12 years in school expanding our academic minds and wading through social, emotional, and physical waters, but in all that time, we never take a class on life skills. Perhaps that is because those skills are better taught through experiences than in a classroom setting, and also because those skills can be learned before school begins and after it ends. Try teaching your child the life skills below for his or her current—and future—age.

Early Childhood
Infants
Babies start learning life skills from the moment they are born. Swaddling and holding your baby establishes comfort and trust between the two of you. Speaking and reading to your baby will help him or her learn to talk and read sooner than if you didn't practice these skills.

Toddlers
There are many things that toddlers can start doing to care for themselves, but you will probably need to help them start or finish these tasks. For instance, you can teach your toddler to put a shirt or pants on. He or she might need help with the armholes or taking the shirt off, but practice makes perfect.

Another big step for toddlers is learning how to hold a cup and eventually learning how to drink from a cup without a lid and without spilling. Use this learning opportunity with caution—start with a sippy cup with a lid and use clear liquids, staying away from more expensive furniture or rugs until your child has mastered this skill.

Elementary
Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Once your child starts kindergarten and elementary school, social life skills will become more important. Model positive behavior by resolving disputes with your parenting partner or your child in a calm manner. If your child witnesses you arguing with someone else, talk to him or her about it afterwards, explaining in simple terms what the argument was about, how each person felt, and how you resolved it. Ask your child what he or she does at school when there is a disagreement to apply this concept to his or her life.

4th through 6th grade
At this stage in a child's life, academics become more rigorous so it's a great time to establish and/or cement strong study habits, as they will be even more important in middle and high school and on through college, especially as your child's social life expands. Boost your child's excitement about studying by creating a special study area for him or her.

Middle School
Even though you've been teaching your child about hygiene as he or she has grown up—including brushing teeth, washing hands, showering, etc.—puberty has its own hygiene rules.

Talk to your child about the importance of regular showers and where to clean (those armpits will be getting stinky now!), whether or not to start shaving, changing grooming habits, etc. Helping your child learn how to care for an adult body will save him or her from some of the embarrassment that comes with puberty.

High School
Exercise is an important part of a child's life, which is usually done through gym class, sports, and playing with friends. But as kids get older, they become less active, especially if they are not in sports. Since high school sports are more competitive, it's harder for less athletic teens to get the exercise they need.

Make an effort to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise a day into your teen's life. It can be as easy as an after-dinner walk every evening or finding an activity that he or she enjoys, like skateboarding, snowboarding, or golf. Getting in the habit of daily exercise now will help your teen stay healthy in college and beyond.

What life skills have you taught your children? Share your ideas and stories in the comments below.

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What is your pledge for 2017?

December 27, 2016

By Jessica Vician

What is your pledge for 2017? | Pledge to encourage your child to do one small thing each day to make his or her world, and in turn, the greater world better. | Two kids sit on their parents' shoulders as they happily watch fireworks.

As we embark upon a new year and say goodbye to 2016, it's important to focus on small things we can do everyday to make the world better. Sometimes it's hard to believe that one person can make a difference in the world, but if each person does one small, kind thing—for him or herself or for others—the effect can snowball so that more people will be affected by those small acts.

Before focusing on larger resolutions, make a pledge to encourage your child to do one small thing each day to make his or her world, and in turn, the greater world better. You can also pledge to do small things that make your life and your family's life better. Here are some ideas:

Be patient and teach kindness.
When you've had a hard day but your child wants to talk or play, resist the temptation to walk away. Take three to five minutes to listen to your child and watch his or her face light up when sharing a happy story or playing with his or her favorite toys.

By doing so, you are practicing parent engagement and modeling positive behavior, and it will probably make you feel better!

You can also teach kindness to your child by using small teachable moments throughout the day to show your child what kindness, acceptance, tolerance, and common niceties look like in practice.

Smile every morning.
When you see your child for the first time in the morning, no matter how old he or she is, smile and greet them happily. Ask your child to smile back. This small action puts everyone in a better mood and helps them start their day positively. If it's hard to keep a 2017 pledge for you, start with this one.

Eat together away from the screens.
If your family doesn't share at least one meal a week together, or if meals are shared in front of the television or with phones in hand or on the table, start this ritual once a week. If you already do it once a week, try for two times a week, and so on.

Coming together over food is a happy, comforting tradition all over the world. Who knows what you will learn about your partner and your kids when there aren't any distractions?

One fruit, one vegetable per meal.
When you or your parenting partner prepare meals, do you actively plan at least a serving of each food group? Personally, I tend to focus more on vegetables than fruits, and recently realized that my lack of fruit might be responsible for craving less healthy sweets like cookies or cupcakes.

If you or your child doesn't like vegetables, try one of these tricks to incorporate them into your meals. Take an apple, banana, or cup of washed berries with you for a morning or afternoon snack, and give the same to your child. It's an easy way to make sure you and your family get the nutrition you need.

Spend 15 minutes talking about homework each night.
Let your child explain the homework that he or she has already done. It reinforces your child's learning and gives you an opportunity to understand the lessons. Take it further and tell your child a story about a real-world application of the lesson.

Not only is this activity great for parent engagement, it also keeps you on top of your child's homework without seeming too strict and allows you to determine your child's strengths and opportunities for improvement so you can engage those with activities outside of school.

What pledges are you and your family making for 2017? We'd love to hear your ideas, so please share in the comments below.

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