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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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Throw a Kid-Friendly New Year’s Eve Bash in 4 Steps

December 31, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Throw a kid-friendly New Year's Eve Bash | There’s no need for a sitter if you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve bash that both kids and adults will love. The key is to provide food, drinks, games, and music that all ages can enjoy. | A child smiles as he holds a sparkler on New Year's Eve.

There’s no need for a sitter if you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve bash that both kids and adults will love. The key is to provide food, drinks, games, and music that all ages can enjoy.

Serve sparkling drinks
The bubbles are half the fun of a New Year’s Eve party, so serve club soda with lime, sparkling apple cider, and other sparkling fruit drinks (like sparkling cranberry juice or orange sparkling water).

Set up the non-alcoholic drink station with ice, colored straws, and plastic cups (and sippy cups depending on the children’s ages), and keep it separate from the adult alcohol drink station so kids can serve themselves.

Dish out food that makes you feel like a kid again
Everyone loves mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and pizza. Buy some mac and cheese bites and pizzas from the frozen section of the grocery store and cook grilled cheese, cutting it into quarters. Put a vegetable tray with hummus on the coffee table.

With these finger foods, you don’t need to make anything separate for the kids or adults. Everyone will be happy to eat like a kid again, and the kids can reach the healthiest options since they’re sitting right on the coffee table.

Create a radio-friendly playlist
You know your kids love singing along to Top 40 radio, so embrace the songs you both like and create a playlist that everyone will dance to. Choose the radio edits to avoid any swear words.

Celebrate the ball drop in an earlier time zone
If you’re trying to get your kids back into an earlier sleep routine for school, you won’t want them to stay up until midnight local time.

Ask your adult guests to celebrate an earlier ball drop (if you’re on the East Coast, watch London’s countdown; if you’re in the Central, Mountain, or Pacific time zone, watch New York’s countdown). The kids will get the experience of the countdown and can go to sleep whenever they’re ready without feeling like they’re missing out.

Are you going out or staying in with the kids tonight? Tell us your plans in the comments below. 

Tags :  holidaysactivitiesfamily funsocial
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The Santa Tracker Awakens

December 24, 2015

By Jessica Vician

The Santa Tracker Awakens | Grab your children, sit them on your lap, and find out where the reindeer are flying him right now with Google’s Santa Tracker. | A globe sits with a Santa hat on.

It might be daylight where you are reading this message, but somewhere in the world it’s nighttime and Santa Claus is delivering gifts to good girls and boys!

Grab your children, sit them on your lap, and find out where the reindeer are flying him right now with Google’s Santa Tracker.

Show your kids how big the world truly is and throw in a quick lesson on time zones.

Keep the Learning Going
This tool is Google’s version of an advent calendar, where kids can unlock a new game, video, or lesson each day before Christmas Eve, when the Santa Tracker really takes flight.

Even if your family hasn’t visited the site every day, you can still go back to Santa’s Village and try the activities from the days leading up to today.

Check it out with your children and awaken that Christmas magic and wonder.

Merry Christmas from all of us at YOU Parent, and to all a good night!

Tags :  holidaysactivitiesfamily fun
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Our 7 Favorite Christmas Articles

December 22, 2015

By Jessica Vician

We’ve wrapped up seven of our favorite Christmas articles and put them under the proverbial tree to gift you with helpful tips and inspirational stories.

Merry Christmas!

Sometimes when families get together, conflict can arise, so how do you avoid it between blended families during the holidays?

The Holiday Brady Bunch: Blending Families by Sunny P. Chico
Holidays are about spending time together as a family and celebrating. When my husband and I married, I was blessed with three daughters from my husband’s first marriage while I brought with me my two children from my first marriage.

Even though my stepdaughters were raised Jewish and my children are Catholic, we celebrate holidays through our cultures and the uniqueness of our religions. 

Sometimes when families get together, conflict can arise, so how do you avoid it between blended families during the holidays?

Read on for Sunny’s three tips to avoid conflict with a blended family.

Change is good even around the holidays. If you have a grown son or daughter who is now married, consider what this means as you merge families and holiday traditions.

Grown Kids and Changing Traditions by Amelia Orozco
Change is good even around the holidays. If you have a grown son or daughter who is now married, consider what this means as you merge families and holiday traditions.

Keep reading for Amelia’s advice on how to embrace new traditions with your expanding family.

Holidays are full of social gatherings where alcohol is often a staple. Through my work as a family counselor, I’ve seen the effects that irresponsible drinking can have on a family. We need to be conscious of what image of social and holiday drinking we give our middle and high school children.

Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly This Holiday by Noralba Martinez
Holidays are full of social gatherings where alcohol is often a staple. Through my work as a family counselor, I’ve seen the effects that irresponsible drinking can have on a family. We need to be conscious of what image of social and holiday drinking we give our middle and high school children.

Click to read Noralba’s tips for responsible social drinking that doesn’t send your teen a misleading message.

The true meaning of Christmas for Christians is about celebrating the gift God gave us through the birth of his son. It’s a time to reflect on how blessed we are despite the bad moments we faced throughout the year.

True Meaning of Christmas by Sunny P. Chico
The true meaning of Christmas for Christians is about celebrating the gift God gave us through the birth of his son. It’s a time to reflect on how blessed we are despite the bad moments we faced throughout the year.

Read more about what Christmas means to Sunny and her family and how to reconnect your kids to the true meaning of Christmas.

The holidays are a time of giving, and what better way for your child to show love and appreciation than with a homemade card? We created these holiday card templates for you to download and print for a DIY family activity.

DIY Activity: Holiday Cards - Free Download!
The holidays are a time of giving, and what better way for your child to show love and appreciation than with a homemade card? We created these holiday card templates for you to download and print for a DIY family activity. 

Click for the free download, grab the crayons, and start coloring!

Try this easy DIY activity with your children to make heartfelt, homemade ornaments and jewelry from plastic take-out containers.

DIY Shrinky Dink: Repurposed Plastic Ornaments and Jewelry by Judy Razo
Here’s another fun DIY activity for the kids to try.

Creating gifts together is a great way to teach your children the concept of giving—they create something they’re proud of and then give it away for the sake of someone else’s joy.

Try this easy DIY activity with your children to make heartfelt, homemade ornaments and jewelry from plastic take-out containers.

Spark your family’s joy and wonderment with these 5 holiday activities. From being awed by zoo lights to “transporting” to Germany for a Christkindlmarket, create magical holiday memories with your family this season.

5 Must-Do Holiday Activities by Jessica Vician
Spark your family’s joy and wonderment with these 5 holiday activities. From being awed by zoo lights to “transporting” to Germany for a Christkindlmarket, create magical holiday memories with your family this season.

Read through my top 5 holiday activities and share yours in the comments.

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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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