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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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Parent Engagement in High School

November 29, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in High School | Parents can facilitate discussions about a healthy lifestyle, including character, self-esteem, and relationships to help them become a well-adjusted adult and a strong candidate for college. | Two teenagers walk to class with books in tow.

High school is a big test for parent engagement. While it can be a time for parents to relax as their teenagers become more independent and take on more responsibilities, it’s also important for parents to facilitate discussions about a healthy lifestyle, including character, self-esteem, and relationships. As your teenager becomes an adult, these important skills and traits will help them become a well-adjusted adult and a strong candidate for college.

Emphasize Character
Since your teenager was a baby, he or she has learned the values and morals that are important to your family, which have shaped his or her personality and character. Now, your teenager is exposed to new ways of thinking and behaving every day. While it’s important for your teen to think for him or herself, you can reinforce those strong values and emphasize the importance of having a strong character.

For example, if your teen wants to quit a sport or a club because it’s too hard, discuss the importance of overcoming challenges and working hard. If he or she is challenging curfew, talk about responsibility. As you apply the concepts of these values to your teenager’s life, he or she will learn how his or her character influences everyday decisions.

Promote Healthy Relationships
As your teen develops stronger friendships, he or she may also start dating more seriously in high school. While you don’t have as much control over who your child dates or spends time with, you still have the power to encourage healthy relationships.

Think about what a healthy relationship means to you. Model that behavior with your parenting partner or significant other. Talk to your teenager about what makes a healthy relationship: open communication, mutual respect, trust, etc. Also discuss what makes an unhealthy relationship: constant fighting, feeling small or unimportant, and violence.

Learn to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship and how to help your teen get out of it here.

Facilitate a Healthy Lifestyle
Teenagers are busy. Between school, sports, extracurriculars, and spending time with friends, it’s hard for parents to keep track of them. It’s also difficult to monitor their health, as they likely eat more meals and snacks on-the-go. Here are some tips to keeping them healthy during busy times.

  • Sit down for breakfast together every morning to ensure your teen starts the day with a nutritious meal.
  • Keep healthy grab-and-go snacks at home, like granola bars, apples, bananas, and oranges.
  • Ask your teen to sit down for a family dinner a few days a week if his or her schedule allows.
  • Take evening or weekend walks together to catch up while getting exercise.

Prepare for College
You have been and always will be an advocate for your child’s education. When it comes to preparing for college, ensure your child is taking the right steps and meeting with the right people from freshman year registration day.

  • Meet with the school counselor to determine what classes your child should take each year to qualify for college admission, including courses that count for college credit, like Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
  • Save your child’s best work for a portfolio, should he or she need it for college admission.
  • Encourage your child to get a well-rounded education by participating in extracurricular activities and clubs.
  • Stay on top of college testing deadlines, like the PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT.

You have spent your teenager’s life preparing him or her for adulthood. High school is a critical part of the race, as your child will take what he or she has learned and apply it as he or she moves toward independence. Use these best parent engagement practices to keep your teenager on track.

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Parent Engagement in Elementary School

November 22, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in Elementary School | How to guide your child through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support. | A father plays cards with his son and daughter.

As your child begins elementary school, your role as your child’s primary teacher transitions to his or her official teacher at school. While the school will now lead your child’s formal education, you still need to guide him or her through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support.

Here are some ways you can practice parent engagement while your child goes through elementary school.

Encourage Friendships
As your child starts spending most of the day at school, he or she will primarily be socializing with peers. According to Sunny P. Chico, author of YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, “These early friendships teach your child how to interact with the world.”

Encourage your child to develop friendships with classmates and children from the neighborhood by arranging play dates outside of school, like inviting a classmate over on the weekend. Teach your child what being a good friend means: being kind and considerate of each other’s feelings.

Listen to Your Child
Think back to your childhood. Are there times when you tried to tell your parents something but they didn’t listen or didn’t understand the severity of what you were telling them?

Sometimes when our children reach out to us about problems, we dismiss them as trivial childhood quarrels or tattling. But it’s important for your child to know that he or she can express an issue and you will hear it. Listen to what your child is saying, ask questions about how he or she feels, and think about whether it might be a symptom of a greater problem, like bullying. If so, contact the teacher and work together to resolve the situation.

Eat Healthy
What are the typical breakfasts, snacks, and dinners your family eats during the week? If your refrigerator and pantry have healthy foods and limited junk or processed foods, your family is more likely to eat healthy, have better nutrition, and perform better at school and work.

Make slow transitions to healthier food. For example, the next time you’re at the store, instead of buying potato or tortilla chips, buy crunchy carrots and hummus to dip them in. Small changes can help your child transition to a healthier diet over time.

Address Struggles and Developmental Delays
If your child struggles with learning in any capacity, speak with his or her teacher about being tested for special education services. These services can range from speech therapy to additional help for disorders like autism or dyslexia.

By working with the teacher to determine what struggles your child is having in school, you will find out if there is a greater issue that you and the school can address to help your child learn and succeed. If so, start the process for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that defines what services, programs, or accommodations your child will receive from the school.

For a mother’s story about her son’s experience with an IEP, click here for Part I and here for Part II.

As your child grows, you will still nurture his or her social and emotional well-being, physical health, and academic development. Your role will change, but you are still your child’s strongest advocate.

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4 Tips for Backpack Safety

September 20, 2016

By Jessica Vician

4 Tips for Backpack Safety | AOTA's National School Backpack Awareness Day: Pack it light, wear it right! The AOTA dinosaur wears his backpack right.

Did you know that your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of his or her body weight? Think about that for a moment: 

  • A 50-pound child’s backpack should only be five pounds.
  • An 80-pound child’s backpack should only be eight pounds.
  • A 120-pound teen’s backpack should only be 12 pounds.

How heavy is your child’s backpack with all of those books, notebooks, and supplies?

September 21st is the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day and a great opportunity for teachers and parents to ensure students are carrying the lightest loads possible and in the most efficient manner.

Here are four tips to packing and wearing a backpack to evenly distribute weight and prevent injuries:

  1. Pack the heaviest items to the back and center of the pack.
  2. Keep sharp tools away from your child’s back.
  3. Use both shoulder straps to evenly distribute the weight on your child’s back.
  4. Keep the straps tight so the backpack is even with your child’s shoulders on top and doesn’t droop below the hipbones on bottom.

Read through AOTA’s infographic for more backpack fitting tips.

If you notice your child has back pain, see his or her pediatrician or doctor. Bring the backpack to the appointment so the doctor can see how your child wears it and how heavy it is. If the backpack is more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight, talk to his or her teacher about bringing home fewer books each night.

How heavy is your child’s backpack? Weigh it on the scale and tell us in the comments below.

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How to Manage Food Allergies

July 19, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How to Manage Food Allergies | Did you know that one in 13 children has a food allergy? | A peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bowl of macaroni and cheese can be deadly for someone allergic to peanuts or dairy.

Did you know that one in 13 children has a food allergy? According to Kids with Food Allergies, the following foods cause the most allergic reactions in the U.S.:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (like walnuts or pecans)
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish (like shrimp, lobster, crab)
  • Fish

With so many common foods and ingredients, it may seem impossible to either diagnose your child’s food allergy or cook for a friend with a food allergy. But there are ways to manage it.

Diagnosing Food Allergies
If you suspect your child has food allergies, speak to his or her pediatrician immediately. The doctor can run tests and diagnose the food allergy.

Some signs to look for include: rashes, itching, swollen lips or tongue, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and trouble breathing.

If your child’s doctor diagnoses him or her with a food allergy, follow the doctor’s directions to avoid future allergic reactions. Refer to FoodAllergy.org’s parent resources for helpful information.

Some changes will include:

  • Adjusting the way your family eats by eliminating the foods your child is allergic to.
  • Learning to read food labels, looking for any ingredient that may contain the allergen.
  • Teaching your child to manage the allergy and cook with other foods as he or she gets older.
  • Alerting friends, family, teachers, and school administration about your child’s food allergy and how to avoid putting your child in contact with the allergen. Use this publication from FoodAllergy.org to help educate the school on your child’s allergy.

Cooking for Your Child’s Friends with Allergies
If your child’s classmates or friends have food allergies, you might first find it frustrating to have to make so many accommodations. While your feelings are valid, try to put yourself in the child’s shoes.

You can accommodate your child’s friends’ allergies by starting with these efforts:

  1. Avoid cooking with the allergen.
    Refer to the top of this article for a list of the most common food allergens and ask a teacher or the child’s parents what the child is allergic to. You can also ask the child’s parents for recipes and tips for preparing his or her favorite foods.
  2. Avoid cross-contact when preparing foods.
    Say you’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your son. Normally, you might wipe the peanut butter off the knife before dipping it in the jelly. That method is fine for a child without peanut allergies, but could be fatal for a child with peanut allergies.

    Instead, you would use a new knife for the jelly (and make sure no one in your house has ever dipped an unclean knife in the jelly) before giving a child with a peanut allergy a jelly sandwich.

    Think of it like preparing food for a strict vegetarian. You wouldn’t use the same knife to cut a juicy ham and then cut tofu with it. Nor would you pick chicken out of a salad. You would make a separate salad for the vegetarian, washing all of the tools used on the chicken salad with hot soap and water, washing your hands between preparations, etc.

Remember, food allergies can be fatal. Take them seriously and educate anyone who cooks for your child about his or her needs. If a friend has the allergy, ask his or her parents for advice on how to cook for the child. Information is the best way to prevent any accidents.

Tags :  physicalhealth
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