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5 Ways to a Healthy Immune System This Holiday

December 1, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Ways to a Healthy Immune System This Holiday | December is a busy time for families. With the school parties, vacations, and family visits, it’s especially important to make an extra effort to keep the family healthy. Make sure you're doing most of these things to keep your child’s immune system healthy for the holidays.

December is a busy time for families. With the school parties, vacations, and family visits, it’s especially important to make an extra effort to keep the family healthy.

You might be thinking, “I can’t add anything else to my plate this month!” Don’t worry: you’re probably doing most of these things already to keep your child’s immune system healthy for the holidays. Check the list and add whatever you’re missing.

Teach Them to Avoid Germs 
Remind your kids that it’s especially important to wash their hands and avoid germs during the holidays. Every time they come inside, before eating, and after playtime, ask them to wash and dry their hands.

Discourage your kids from sharing drinks, food, or utensils with anyone during the holidays, too. Even with the best intentions, we all have different germs and can get each other sick.

Settle the Stomach
If your child has a party to attend or you know grandma makes lots of cookies for holiday dessert, ensure the day’s first meal healthy and packed with nutrients. Make a spinach, egg, and cheese sandwich on a whole-wheat English muffin, and include yogurt rich in probiotics.

For lunch, include those nutritious greens, grains, and protein and add a probiotic drink like GoodBelly to make sure your child’s stomach is ready for the heavier food.

Plan Physical Activities
The day after a big party, plan a fun physical activity with your child like sledding, ice skating, or going to an indoor trampoline park. The fun exercise will keep your child in peak physical condition and sweat out all those cookies!

Make Time for Resting
The holidays are a very stimulating time physically, socially, and emotionally. Make sure your child gets a little extra rest this month so he or she has enough time to recover. Even an extra half an hour of sleep goes a long way.

And for those days that you plan heavy exercise, remember that you’ll also need to plan a nap or early bedtime.

Remember The Multivitamins
Even with healthy eating, physical activity, and rest, your kids can still pick up a virus over the holidays. Encourage them to take their daily multivitamin and get plenty of vitamin C and zinc to ward off those viruses.

As always, before starting a new health regimen, check with your child’s pediatrician. These tips should help you and your children avoid getting sick over the holidays, but if your child has any special conditions, talk to the doctor first.

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Good Times for All: 10 Thanksgiving Family Activities for All Ages

November 24, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Good Times for All: 10 Thanksgiving Family Activities for All Ages | How can you spark that good energy early and ensure everyone makes the most of the holiday before and after that meal? Encourage your kids to take advantage of their family time this year with these activities for all ages. | A family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner.

Sitting down to the table on Thanksgiving is a great feeling. The cooking is done, the food smells delicious, and everyone is eagerly awaiting that first bite.

So how can you spark that good energy early and ensure everyone makes the most of the holiday before and after that meal? Encourage your kids to take advantage of their family time this year with these activities for all ages.

Kids 3-10

  • Get crafty. Prepare Thanksgiving-themed art projects for your kids to do with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Use our Pinterest board to find cute project inspiration.
  • Sing a song. Rent a karaoke machine for the kids to sing their favorite songs after dinner. The adults can sit back and digest while the kids put on the show.
  • Perform a play. Speaking of shows, if you have a group of future Tony Award winners in the house, ask them to put on a play at the end of the day. They’ll spend the afternoon working on the script and rehearsing, and they’ll be so excited to share their talent with the family after dinner.

Ages 11-13
Middle school kids are sometimes difficult to please. If yours like playing with younger kids, encourage them to help with the play or karaoke show. You can also try these conversation starters:

  • Make it a game. Before guests arrive, challenge your child to talk to each member of your extended family by the end of the day. Give them a few questions to ask everyone throughout the day and invite your child to talk about their common threads at dinner.
  • Cook together. Task your tween with a recipe and encourage them to ask an aunt, uncle, or grandparent for help. It will give them a project to work on together and spark more conversation.
  • Have a deck of cards handy. Playing cards can bring the family together, as games encourage us to be competitive and rely on each other to teach and learn the rules.

Ages 14-18
Just like kids in middle school, teenagers might need a little prodding to make the most of the holiday with family. In addition to cooking together and playing cards, try these activities with your teen:

  • Give them talking points. Encourage your child to ask aunts, uncles, and grandparents about their first concert, the first album they bought, or other things that interest your child. While the answers may highlight the age difference, they can also spark conversations about what it was like to live through certain decades that your teen missed out on.
  • Start a new tradition. Ask your teen what kind of holiday tradition they would like to see every year. Assuming it’s doable, have your teen explain their idea to the family at dinner and start right away.
  • Give your teen something to look forward to. If your teen is more focused on seeing friends, host a dessert party after dinner. Your teen can invite their friends over and the family members who are still there can meet the friends and share in that experience.

College students
Your student coming home from college for the holiday will probably be grateful for a home cooked meal and a comfortable bed, so take advantage of that gratitude and encourage them to learn more about their other family members.

Once a person starts college, they start to see the world a little differently. Their studies are more focused on what they want to learn, not what they’re required to learn.

Embrace that shift by encouraging your student to talk to their grandparents. They have lived through a different time than your child and might shed some light on topics your child might be more interested in now.

For instance, did a grandparent serve in Vietnam? What were politics like when the grandparents were growing up? What types of shows were on television?

Not only will the grandparents want to share about their past, but your child will gain great perspective and learn something about their family that they might not have known before.

Do you have tried-and-true activities that foster family bonding over the holidays? Share your secrets below so we can try them this week!

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Score High with These 4 Middle School Study Tips

October 29, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Score High with These 4 Middle School Study Tips | Middle school signals the beginning of an adult approach to academics and studying. The switch to multiple classes with different teachers prompts students to juggle deadlines and learn valuable time management skills. That’s why it’s critical that they develop strong study skills now to help them through middle school, high school, college, and beyond. | Two middle school students study in the library.

Middle school signals the beginning of an adult approach to academics and studying. The switch to multiple classes with different teachers prompts students to juggle deadlines and learn valuable time management skills. That’s why it’s critical that they develop strong study skills now to help them through middle school, high school, college, and beyond.

Here are four tips to get your student started.

Determine Learning Style
Is your child a visual learner, an auditory learner, a kinesthetic learner, or a combination of those styles? Once students know how they learn best, they can use learning techniques that complement their needs.

Read up on how to find and adapt to your child’s learning style.

Eliminate Screens
Televisions and smartphones are distractions that hinder good time management. Set up a study room away from the TV and ask your child to put his or her phone in the kitchen.

Encourage your child to do as much studying or homework as possible before doing any research on the Internet, which can break concentration and lead to surfing. If he or she has a paper to write, your child can create an outline first and then do the online research once he or she has a general idea of how the paper is laid out.

Start with Short Study Periods
If your child is having trouble with motivation or focusing for a longer period of time, start small. Ask him or her to go to the study area and work for 15-20 minutes. Then your child can take a short break, perhaps to play a quick game on the smartphone, and return to studying for another short interval. Gradually increase these intervals to 30 minutes, then 45 minutes, and on.

Be Strategic
Which option would motivate your child more: starting with a subject he or she doesn’t like, so that the reward comes by eventually getting to the subject he or she enjoys; or would starting with the subject he or she likes get the studying underway sooner?

Research effective reading and memory improvement techniques to help your child be efficient when studying. This website offers tips on acronyms, acrostics, and how to read effectively.

Making an effort to help your child improve his or her studying skills is the first step to achieving academic success as an independent teen and adult. These skills will help your child for years to come, so start today.

For more tips on helping your child through the middle school years and reaching academic milestones, read the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, available on Amazon.

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My Story: I Was Bullied in Middle School

October 20, 2015

By Jessica Vician

My Story: I Was Bullied in Middle School | Middle school is an awkward time with puberty and grooming issues. It's ripe for bullying. Here's one person's story about how bullying gave her four stitches in her head. The author also offers tips on how to address it with your middle school student. | Two students make fun of another student in the hallway.

Friendship in middle school is a complicated thing. Casual friendships can end with a mood swing or a sudden need to be more popular. But these mood swings or changes in social status can result in something more dramatic and way less cool: bullying.

I transferred to a new school district for middle school. It was hard for a new kid to make friends, but I was fortunate that a group of people welcomed me into their circle. Unfortunately, the day came that one of those girls decided to bully me.

She was the girl who chose to pick on someone new each day. I knew she did that and didn’t agree with it, but since my friend options were limited, I never stood up to her or defended those she would bully.

Inevitably, one day it was my turn. While in the library, she walked up to me and started threatening me. I was confused and asked her why she was acting like that. She responded by pushing me. I tried to leave, but she pushed me again; this time with such force that I tripped over a cart and my head hit a table. At the emergency room I received four stitches on the side of my head.

I have other, less dramatic stories about girls making fun of me because of awkward grooming issues, like knowing when to shave my legs and how to pluck my eyebrows. These comments not only injured my self-esteem, but they led to an overwhelming feeling of isolation and suicidal thoughts.

While my parents obviously knew about the bullying incident in the library, how would they know about the smaller, less severe but more frequent episodes? Like many kids, I didn’t want to tell my parents because I was ashamed and embarrassed. Instead, I acted like nothing was wrong so they wouldn’t notice. So how can parents help their children if they don’t know what’s happening in the hallways?

Worried about elementary school bullying? Read this article.

Know your child’s popularity.
According to a UCLA psychology study, popular students are more likely to become bullies, and students often become more popular if they bully others.

It seems silly to pay attention to things like popularity, but if you know where your child is on the social popularity scale, you can look for signs of being a bully or a victim.

For instance, if your child isn’t in the popular crowd, it’s important to get a sense of how he or she feels about that. If your child isn’t happy with his or her friend circle, look for signs he or she might be bullying others or be a victim of bullying.

Pay attention to behavioral changes.
Talk to your child about his or her friends and the other kids in school. Get an idea whether your child feels like he or she fits in.

If your child was once confident and starts to lose self-esteem, ask about their friends. Is your child trying to change social circles or is your child happy and satisfied with his or her social life?

If your child won’t speak to you about it, talk to his or her friends’ parents to see if you can get an idea of what’s going on. If that’s not an option, share this woman’s story about middle school bullying—it might spark a conversation and help you find out how your child is doing.

Look for physical signs of bullying. 
If your child is being physically bullied, it won’t be difficult to spot the signs: bruises, scratches, ripped or unusually dirty clothing. But if your child is being verbally bullied, it will be harder to recognize the signs.

Many children who are bullied will start feeling physically ill before returning to a place where they have been bullied. I used to get horrible stomachaches before going to the classes where students would tease me. If your child starts having more instances of upset stomachs, headaches, colds, etc., ask if kids are making fun of them. They might not expect that question and are likely to give you an honest answer.

Understand that bullying can happen anywhere: in the hallways between classes, at the desks before class starts, on the walk home from school, even—in my case—in the library with teachers looking on. Recognize the signs and reach out to your child before it takes a toll.

Learn more about bullying and how to help your child develop a healthy self-esteem in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book series, available on Amazon.

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5 Ways to Focus in the Digital Age

September 8, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Ways to Focus in the Digital Age | Children are having trouble focusing more than ever, which is affecting more than just their homework-- it's affecting their ability to emotionally develop. Help your child learn to focus with these 5 tips. | A child plays a video game with his headphones on.

Smartphones, tablets, laptops, game consoles, televisions. All of these digital devices make us more connected yet more distracted than ever. As any adult office worker can tell you, constant Internet access grants instant information but also makes it easy to lose focus on the task at hand and enter a digital rabbit hole.

It especially affects our children. With all of these opportunities for information and distraction, students aren’t fully developing their ability to concentrate and focus. That means more than just being easily distracted in class—it means that the neurons in their brains don’t learn to fire in a way that allows them to focus. If their brains don’t fully develop this function, it could affect their successes in life.

“This ability [to concentrate] is more important than IQ or the socioeconomic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success, and health,” psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman said during an interview on KQED Radio.

Not only will children be unable to focus on their academics, they might not develop social and emotional skills needed to become well-developed adults. So how can you help your children focus in this digital age of distraction?

  1. Do light exercise.
    Get extra energy out of their system with a quick game of Horse or a bike ride before starting homework.
  2. Turn off all devices.
    While some assignments will require Internet research, make sure all other devices—smartphones, tablets, games, television, etc.—are off or are in another room. Have your child do as much homework and prep work as possible before accessing the Internet.
  3. Have your child make a task list after school.
    With a list of items he or she needs to accomplish, your child might be more focused to cross items off that list. Just as lists help adults, they can help children.
  4. Check in on computer time.
    If an assignment requires Internet research, check in every ten to fifteen minutes to make sure your child stays on task. If he or she is struggling to avoid surfing, sit and help them stay focused.
  5. Take breaks.
    If your child gets distracted after some time focusing on homework, let him or her take a break. Have some fruit or a glass of water, let their mind rest, and then return to that list.

These are just five ways to silence the distractions and help your child focus. By teaching him or her these valuable skills, you are giving your child the tools to succeed in school and in life.

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