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Taking Care of YOU in the New Year

January 1, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

Happy New Year! We wish you the best in 2014.

Happy New Year!

There is something indescribable about the sense of peace and possibility that comes with another new year. We gather with our friends and families, huddle together beneath fireworks, or toast our dearest friends, both new and old.

This is the time of resolutions and resolve, and there is no better time than now to make the decision to put our best foot forward and step into a new phase of life and successful parenting. It’s a new year, and it can be a new you!

Use the rest of this month to set goals and make plans in what I like to call the four areas of success.

  1. Academic Achievement. As your child heads back to school after winter break, stay committed to engaging in his or her education. Remember, YOU are your child’s first teacher, and you have the power to lay the foundation for success.
  2. Physical Health. Set goals to make healthy living a priority for your family. Stay active, stay safe, and make sure to stay focused on taking care of YOU.
  3. Social Development. Take this time to connect with your community and with neighbors and friends. Keep your support network strong and reinforce those relationships that add value to your life.
  4. Emotional Well-being. A balanced life should always be one of our top priorities. Breathe deeply and always remember the blessings life has brought you. Surround yourself with love and peace, and love and peace will keep you. 

Throughout the rest of the year, don’t give up on your goals and plans. Set regular check-ins with yourself and your support network so you know that you and your family are on the path for success. On your journey, check back here with YOU Parent for tips and support in achieving your goals. We believe in YOU!  

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Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly this Holiday

December 23, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Enjoy alcohol responsibly this holiday season

Holidays are full of social gatherings. In a lot of families and communities, alcohol is a holiday staple, and even mine are no exception. Through my work as a family counselor, though, I’ve seen the affects that irresponsible drinking can have on a family. The World Health Organization states that consuming alcohol can have social consequences along with some health risks. We need to be conscious of what image we give our middle and high school children of social drinking, specifically holiday drinking.

Parents and caregivers are role models. Middle and high school students are still children who are very prone to impressions. What you do around them affects them and makes them view some behavior as appropriate (even when the behavior is not) just because they saw you do it. This holiday, let's plan for responsible social drinking that does not send a misleading message.

  • The first important fact to remember is that in the U.S. you have to be 21 years or older to legally consume alcohol. Make sure that you teach that fact to your children.
  • Talk to your child about responsible drinking and moderation of drinking frequently. As a role model, you can model this behavior by limiting your drinking to be safe and prevent losing control. Eat when you drink and only drink if you’re not driving. Draw attention to your responsible choices by saying, “I’ve had enough, thank you,” or “I have to drive, so no drinks for me.”
  • Keep an ear out for the way you talk about alcohol drinking. Examples that can send a misleading message are “I need a drink because I had a hard day” or “I want to drink to relax.” Your child might begin to think alcohol is a cure for a hard day or a relaxant. We don’t want to teach our children to use alcohol as an emotional crutch.
  • Have open lines of communication with your child to discuss questions related to alcohol. Don’t threaten them with harsh punishments in order to scare them away from drinking too young. Instead, talk to them openly about the risks of drinking and the toll it takes on a growing body and mind. Invite them to share their opinions about drinking and the opinions they’ve heard their friends express.
  • Keep all alcoholic beverages in a controlled area. The harder it is to sneak a drink, the easier it is to avoid temptation.

If possible, avoid having alcohol during your holiday gatherings at all. If this isn’t possible, you can control the amount of alcohol you give your guests to prevent others from overdrinking.

There are several responsible drinking sites that provide good tips for you this holiday season. Remember that happy holidays are safe holidays!

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How to Talk to Your College Student About Life on Campus

December 17, 2013

By Jessica Vician

How to talk to your college student about life on campus

Your college freshman is back home after completing his or her first term. You’re so happy to have your child home, but what do you do now? As you have probably learned, your job as a parent didn’t stop when your child went away to school. He or she might have been homesick and called crying, or maybe didn’t call at all because he or she was so busy and having fun. Regardless of how your child coped while at school, you should use this break as an opportunity to talk about this new life and find out how things are going. 

When children leave home and live on their own for the first time, even in a dormitory, they need to learn how to take care of responsibilities without the help of mom or dad. You should check in on how your child is handling several big changes. Too often, those students who are overwhelmed by college life, end up dropping out over the holidays. Be as supportive as possible to help motivate your child to keep going or even just to reaffirm that your love and support is still there and still unconditional.

  • School. How are your child’s grades? Has he or she found an effective studying routine? Ask about most and least favorite classes, and find out why. If you also went to college, you can bond with your child over similar likes and dislikes. It is also important to address any concerns you might have about your child’s grades or courses at this time. If he or she is performing poorly, offer tips on improving study habits and focusing on academics.
  • Career. When you are asking your child about courses he or she likes, watch your child’s facial expressions. If your child’s eyes light up when talking about a certain class, he or she is clearly passionate about the subject. If your child has not yet declared a major, suggest exploring career options related to the subjects that he or she is passionate about. Even if your child has declared a major and is happy with that choice, talk about a double major or a minor in the other subject for extra experience.
  • Health. Has your child gained or lost a significant amount of weight since being away? Has he or she been sick frequently? These are signs that your child might be having trouble managing stress or taking care of him or herself without parents there to help. Ask your child what types of food he or she is eating. Make sure it is a balanced diet with protein, vegetables, fruits, and enough water. While weight gain or loss can be a touchy subject, focus the conversation on nutrition and exercise, as getting the proper nutrition will help your child focus better when studying, perform better at school, get sick less frequently, and be happier and healthier. Exercise is a great stress reliever and boosts endorphins, which help put us in a better mood. This lesson will be important for the rest of your child’s life. 

It’s important to check in with your child regularly, even when he or she has moved out of your home. Your child is going through many changes and learning how to be an independent adult, which is more difficult than it sounds. Asking specific questions about how your child is doing not only helps you learn how to help him or her but also communicates that you still care.

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Early Childhood Food Aversions

December 4, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Early Childhood Food Aversions

The holidays are coming and food is always part of them. We all have different food preferences and so do children. I have worked with many children who do not enjoy eating as much as other children their age. Some children, however, have medical issues that arise because of their eating.

I remember working with an 18-month-old who would refuse to eat any food with texture. He preferred yogurt, milk shakes, broth, and bananas. His mother thought it was only a picky eater phase and that he would be over it fast. He would gag, vomit, or simply refuse to open his mouth if the food his mother offered had any bumps or clumps. His special diet caused a lot of stress on his mother. It was a long struggle for this family. Together, with an occupational therapist, the family slowly introduced gradual textures and helped this boy tolerate new foods. After several months of therapy, he now can eat a variety of foods without a battle.

Significant food aversions can directly affect each child's family and can typically make eating together a stressful event. It’s important to understand what a food aversion is. According to Zerotothree.org, a food aversion is categorized as sensory difficulty and is a common feeding disorder found in early childhood. There is a combination of inability to tolerate oral stimulation, anxiety, and defiance when experiencing a food aversion.

Your child’s relationship with food begins when you first introduce solid foods. Talk to your pediatrician about when to begin introducing your child to cereals and baby food.  You need a lot of patience and time to begin feeding your baby with a spoon. Remember until now, your child’s mouth muscles are used to nursing. With practice, your baby will graduate slowly to table foods. If not, then you could be facing some stressful times. This problem could be related to food aversions.

What are the signs of food aversion? Around 6-10 months of age, when you begin to introduce your child to a variety of baby foods, he or she may begin to show dislike for certain textures, colors, temperatures, and smells of foods. Since your baby is too young to tell you that he or she does not like the food, your baby will tell you in some other way, such as:

  • Spitting
  • Gagging
  • Vomiting
  • Refusing to eat

What should you know about addressing food aversions? There are different approaches to helping a child overcome this issue. Remember that your child cannot control this and needs your help.

  • Never force your child to eat.
  • Be patient.
  • Work closely with your pediatrician to seek the appropriate help for your child.
  • Be consistent with the sensory diet and strategies that you try.     

With patience, consistency, and the right support, you and your child can overcome food aversions and children can grow up with a healthy relationship to food.

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