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What questions should I be asking on college visits?

June 21, 2016

By YOU Program Facilitator

What questions should I be asking on college visits? | A group of parents and students gather during a college tour to listen to the tour guide speak.

Question: My daughter will be going to college next fall, so we’re visiting schools this summer. What questions should we be asking during these college visits so that she makes the right choice?

Answer: First, your daughter should make a list of schools she would like to attend and discuss these choices with her guidance counselor. The counselor may help her narrow down her choices based on which schools offer strong programs relevant to her intended career choice, offer potential scholarships for her academic and/or extracurricular strengths, etc.

Class Size
As you research the schools, including asking questions during a visit, find out the average class size for incoming undergraduates. Think about your daughter’s learning style and evaluate whether she will succeed in that size of a class. For example, if she needs extra attention from the teacher, a large school with classes of 300 students might not be the best fit for her.

Financing
If you are concerned about financing college, meet with a financial aid counselor during your visit. Discuss work-study programs, potential scholarships, and funding options for your family.

Living Arrangements
Ask about typical living arrangements for an incoming freshman, including meal packages. Do freshman usually live in residence halls? Does the school have requirements for students to live on campus? If so, for how many years?

Visit some of the dormitories so that your daughter can see what her living situation will be like. Is it clean? Is it safe and well lit at night?

Safety
Ask about the safety measures the campus takes to protect students both during class times and after class. Your daughter needs to be safe walking to and from class and on nights and weekends when living in the dorms.

Create an agenda for your visits with a list of questions you need answered, people with whom you’d like to meet (schedule those appointments in advance), and places on and off campus you would like to see. With that agenda, you can ensure you hit all the important points while still having time for fun together as a family.

For more information on choosing a college, college admissions, and preparing for college, see the third book in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set.

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6 Summer Activity Ideas for Every Age

June 7, 2016

By Jessica Vician

6 Summer Activity Ideas for Every Age | Once your child finishes school for the summer, it’s time for less traditional and more fun learning. Keep your child’s mind stimulated throughout the summer to prevent them from losing the knowledge they gained over the past year with these activities.

Once your child finishes school for the summer, it’s time for less traditional and more fun learning. Keep your child’s mind stimulated throughout the summer to prevent them from losing the knowledge they gained over the past year.

To avoid the summer slide, ask your child’s teacher for a list of learning outcomes they accomplished this year and think of ways to incorporate that knowledge into your activities throughout the summer.

Your kids can also try these activities for additional stimulation this summer.

For toddlers

  1. Plant seeds and watch them grow. 
    Teach your child how plant life begins.

    Buy a packet of seeds—try an herb that you cook with frequently (basil, mint, and cilantro grow quickly with minimal human effort)—and some soil. Follow the directions on the seed packet and they’ll be growing in no time.

    This activity teaches your child that plants need food to grow just like kids do. The seeds need soil and water to nourish them, like kids need water and healthy foods to nourish them.

    Get excited with your child when the first sprouts break through the soil—it’s a big accomplishment for both the plant and your child!

  2. Develop their fine motor skills.
    Fine motor skills involve the movement of muscles in smaller actions. According to Baby Center, “it's equally important that kids work on their fine motor skills—small, precise thumb, finger, hand, and wrist movements—because they support a host of other vital physical and mental skills.”

    To help your young toddler develop these skills, prompt your child to stack toy blocks, sing songs with hand movements like “Wheels on the Bus,” and go to the playground and let them figure out the play equipment.

    For more activities that will develop your child’s fine motor skills, read this article.

For elementary students

  1. Join a summer reading program.
    Your local library likely has a summer reading program for your child’s age group. Encourage him or her to be social and read by enrolling in a free or low-cost program.

    You can also create an independent summer reading program. Challenge your child to read two books a month (at his or her reading level) and offer a reward, like a family dinner at your child’s favorite restaurant. Remember Book-It? It still exists and you can set up an at-home version.

  2. Create a DIY summer. 
    Teach your child how to make common things like lip balm, lotion, exfoliating scrubs, and even household cleaners. The American Girl YouTube channel has great video tutorials and Pinterest has an endless supply of ideas and directions.

    Your child will learn math skills, like how to measure and a practical application of fractions, as well as learn what goes into these products.

    Supervise your child and use natural ingredients instead of potentially dangerous chemicals, as there may be an unexpected reaction combining different liquids and solids.

For teens and tweens

  1. Learn an instrument.
    Enroll your child in a music class this summer. Learning to play and read music can teach your child valuable emotional and academic skills by engaging both the right and left sides of the brain. It also helps him or her learn to focus, improves critical thinking skills, and nurtures your child’s emotional maturity, according to VH1 Save the Music.

    If your child already plays an instrument, register him or her for a class in a different musical style. For example, if he or she knows how to play guitar, enroll in a blues or jazz guitar class, or a class modeled after your child’s favorite artist. If your city or town doesn’t offer those types of classes, find YouTube videos that focus on learning new songs.

  2. Learn to code.
    Your child should learn to code for many reasons. For one, there are so many jobs out there that require a minimal knowledge of HTML and CSS. And like learning a foreign language, it increases brain mass.

    Let your teen learn and invest in his or her future this summer with these free online resources that teach coding.

Do your kids have favorite summer activities that keep them learning in a fun way? Share them in the comments below!

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4 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Anger

May 24, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

4 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Anger | Teach your child to manage his or her anger and channel it toward a productive outlet.

Dealing with an angry child is one of the most frustrating and difficult parts of parenting, but you can teach your child to manage his or her anger and channel it toward a productive outlet.

After all, anger turns into aggression, which can lead to harmful behavior such as hurting someone or destroying property. According to one study, one in seven kids who show signs of aggression early in life have a higher risk of school failure, adult unemployment, physical violence, and mental illness.

Help your child manage his or her anger by communicating that anger is a normal emotion. Accept your child’s anger—do not deny or repress his or her emotions. Then, try a combination of these four suggestions.

  1. Let it out
    Communication is one of the best ways to understand what is really going on. Let your child vent and vocalize his or her anger or frustration. Listen to your child for a few minutes before responding, as it will help you understand the problem and decide what to do next.
  2. Bring in reinforcements
    Ask a close friend or family member to come over or speak with your child by phone. Ask someone your child trusts, like a godparent, aunt, uncle, close family friend, or even a favorite babysitter. If your child won’t talk to you about the problem, he or she might talk to another trusted adult.
  3. Provide physical outlets at home and at school
    Encourage your child to journal, exercise, meditate, talk to someone, listen to music, or take a walk. Depending on the situation, your child might need 10 minutes alone to collect his or her thoughts and calm down. Teaching these coping mechanisms now will help your child manage his or her anger later in life, too.
  4. Always model positive behavior
    Children observe how their parents react to situations. Parents must be aware of the powerful influence their actions have on a child’s behavior. If you curse or even punch a wall when you’re angry, don’t be surprised when your child does it. Children mirror our behavior, so always set a good example and deal with your anger the way you want your child to.

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to help your child grow and respect him or herself. This vital process takes years of patience but pays off in the long run, as it helps your child become a happy adult. The earlier in life you teach your child how to manage anger and share his or her feelings, the more outbursts you can help prevent.

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3 Sex and Pregnancy Topics You Must Cover with Your Teenager

May 10, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Prep Teens For the Future | 3 Sex and Pregnancy Topics You Must Cover with Your Teenager

It’s the part of parenting you dread: the sex talk. Yes, you have to do it. No, sex ed at school is not enough.

Your teenager needs to know your expectations of them regarding sex. Even if they disagree with your stance, they need to know it. Do you discourage sex at a certain age or life stage? Will you help your daughter get on birth control if she asks?

They especially need to know how to protect themselves and their partners. Because if we know anything about teenagers, we know they don’t always listen to their parents, but they care about themselves a lot.

Appeal to those selfish qualities as you educate your teen about:

  • Respect for themselves and for their partners, both in body and mind.
  • Protection for themselves and for their partners
  • Myths about sex and protection.

Respect.
When it comes to any kind of sexual activity, from kissing to intercourse, your teen needs to respect themself and their partner. That means not doing anything they’re uncomfortable with and not doing anything their partner is uncomfortable with.

How can you encourage this respectful behavior in your teenager? Talk to them about what they want in life. What kind of job or home do they want? Do they want a family? Then talk to them about how they can achieve those goals.

They’ll need an education and to work hard to have the career and home they want. And they’ll need to wait to start a family until they have reached certain milestones in getting those other things. Putting life in perspective may help them shift their priorities.

Protection.
Waiting to start a family leads us to protection. Birth control and condoms are critical when anyone is engaging in sexual activities; birth control helps prevent pregnancy and condoms help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.

While it may be uncomfortable talking about protection with your teenager, it’s important to teach them the importance of protecting themselves and their partners. That protection is part of respecting themselves and their partners. Talk to your daughter about protecting herself from pregnancy and STIs and talk to your son about protecting himself from STIs and getting a female partner pregnant.

Myths.
While teenagers have access to more information via the internet than their parents ever did, rumors still hold strong. Here are some popular myths that have stood the test of time:

When you talk to your teenager about the myths of protection and sex, present the facts so they are properly educated. If they won’t listen to you, you can always share the above links and ask them to research these facts on their own.

While an uncomfortable conversation, educating your teen on respect, protection, and sexual myths is an important parenting step. After all, it will greatly impact their present and their future.

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Is your teen in an abusive relationship?

April 12, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Is your teen in an abusive relationship? | Nearly 1.5 million teens in the U.S. admit to being physically harmed by someone they are romantically involved with in the past year. How can you recognize the signs? | A teenage girl rests her head on her hand, looking upset, as her boyfriend tries to explain.

Did you know nearly 1.5 million teens in the U.S. admit to being physically harmed by someone they are romantically involved with in the past year? And that number is only the amount of teens that admit to it.

This type of violent behavior often begins as early as 6th grade, according to DoSomething.org. And it’s not happening in scary places—60 percent of rapes of young women occur in their home or at a friend or relative’s home.

How can you recognize the signs of an abusive relationship?
Even though your child is in a transitional period as a teenager, you still know his or her core personality the best. Look for negative behavioral changes and listen to how your teen greets his or her significant other to see how they behave around each other.

Pay attention to these potential signs:

  • Excessive texting and calling
  • Criticizing appearance (for example, hairstyle or clothing)
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Bruises, scratches, welts
  • Harmed or dead animals or pets on your property

How can you confront your child about an abusive relationship?
If you suspect that your child is in an abusive relationship, you will need to talk to him or her. Before you bring it up, it’s a good idea to speak with a professional.

Find a therapist or organization that specializes in abusive relationships or teen relationships and talk to them about your concerns. A professional will have the best advice for confronting your child about the relationship.

Here are some online organizations that can help:

In the meantime, keep these tips from Love is Respect in mind when talking to your child:

  • Talk about the behavior, but not the significant other.
    Your teen may become defensive if he or she thinks you’re attacking the significant other, so it’s important to keep the behavior separate from the person.
  • Don’t demand a break-up.
    Ultimatums rarely work, especially on teenagers. It’s more important to listen and help your teen come to the conclusion on his or her own that it’s time to leave the relationship.
  • Be supportive.
    If your teen is sharing his or her concern with you, listen and be sympathetic. Don’t criticize your child; instead, show your support by praising him or her and speaking to your teen’s worth and potential.

Setting the tone for healthy relationships is important in the teenage years. Even if your child is in a bad relationship now, you can help him or her leave and get on a path to healthy, loving relationships in the future.

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