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Register for These Low-Cost Summer Programs Now

March 4, 2015

By Kevin Rutter

Register for These Low-Cost Summer Programs Now | There are many options for low-cost summer programs out there, but the least expensive and most fun book up fast, so start your research this week. | A group of kids run through the grass while smiling and holding hands.

Summer seems like a long way off, especially to those of us in the colder states, but it’s already time to start planning your children’s summer activities. Summer is a great time for kids to learn something new, socialize with their peers, and play. But the best and least expensive programs book up well in advance, so now is the time to start your research.

Growing up, my mom gave me the brochure for summer activities at the local park district and told me to choose one myself or she would choose one for me. I’m glad she did because it got me out of the house to meet new friends, exercise, and learn about things I would not have encountered in my daily routine.

As a teacher, I receive countless letters and emails about summer programs for my students from a wide variety of institutions. There are many low-cost summer programs available in your community. Here are some places to start looking:

  • YMCA. They offer day camps, specialty camps, and overnight camps, in addition to daily activities for children. 
  • Park districts. Many park districts offer summer day camps that include field trips, learning activities, and sports. They can even cost less than $5 an hour per child.
  • Library Reading Camps. Your child or teen can join others to read together and discuss books. All they need is a library card.
  • Church camps. Ask your church if they offer youth programs in the summer. These are usually free or discounted compared to other organizations.
  • Local colleges. Local colleges and universities offer various programs for children of all ages, from early childhood daycare to teen theatre programs.

Over the years I have had several students who were accepted into really amazing summer camps, only to have the parents say no because they were too afraid to let them go overnight. I strongly encourage parents to let their child attend these types of trips for the experience after checking with teachers, counselors, and program administrators about the details of the camp including itineraries, safety, and ways to communicate while away.

Summer is a great time for your child to step away from school and take advantage of the great opportunities out there to expand horizons and develop skills. Feel free to use my mother’s motivational technique: your child chooses an activity outside of the house or you do!


Dangers of Prescription Medication

February 18, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

Dangers of Prescription Medication | How to talk to your teenager about prescription medication use and overdose dangers. | A teenage girl, looking depressed, stares at pills sitting on her bed.

Today’s drug scene looks much different than what many parents may have been schooled on. It is wise to assume that our children must know more than to “Just Say No” nowadays, but to also know why they should refuse drugs in the first place. Aside from the typical street drugs, they should know about prescription medications and why they should only take those prescribed to them by their doctor.

To begin, it is essential to refrain from accusing your son or daughter of any wrongdoing without clear evidence. Doing so may alienate them, which may be difficult to remedy. Instead, be a role model when using medications, and make time for this important conversation.

It is best not to even start.
One good piece of information to share with your son or daughter is that the younger a person starts using any type of drug, drinking alcohol, or smoking cigarettes, the tougher it will be to break the habit later in life. In addition, many of these drugs—which may be seemingly harmless to them—are known as gateway drugs, or drugs that entice the use of harder drugs. Children’s formative years are truly influential to the rest of their lives. Remind them that as with many habits, it can happen gradually, so it is important to be fully aware of their decisions to ingest any type substance.

Use your thinking cap while it still works!
Thinking that an occasional pill here or there will not do any harm is dangerous because there could be long-term effects. Your son or daughter could be allergic to one of the ingredients in the medication, which may cause some type of illness, paralysis, or even death. Although there may not be any signs of ill effects even when used for years, there can be lifelong repercussions. Some are addictive and may cause heart disease, complications to the nervous system, and behavioral problems that result in making bad choices. Any of these factors, of course, will affect physical and mental health well into the future.

Stay one step ahead of the game.
As a parent, it is important to keep track of all your medications. Aside from storing them somewhere private and safe away from your children, you should also know how many pills you currently have, both at home and in refills at the pharmacy. In addition, try to only purchase your prescriptions from one drugstore to avoid the possibility of someone trying to get your refills at different locations. Nowadays, drugstores have online and automated services that will indicate how many times your prescriptions have been filled. This will keep track of everything in one secure place.

Finally, because YOU are your child’s first teacher, remind your son or daughter how proud you are of their decisions and accomplishments. Have an open door policy, where they are always welcome to talk to you about anything without pre-judgments. Allow them to use social media or texting to communicate with you if they prefer. As a parent, you have become more keenly aware of their style and gestures, and can pick up on cues that will help you start these important conversations with them.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.


5 Tips to Help Your Children With Homework

February 17, 2015

By Noralba Martinez

5 Tips to Help Your Children With Homework | Help your child with their homework with these tips, even if you don't know the material yourself. Great parent engagement tips. | This image shows a young girl sitting at the table working on homework while her mother looks on.

As a parent, part of your role is to help your children learn many skills that they will use throughout their lives. Your children will gradually transition from easy homework to more complicated projects. What if you do not understand or comprehend their homework? What if the language is foreign? What if you feel like you can’t help?

Thinking about all these questions can make anyone stressed. I want to share some ideas to alleviate your concerns and empower you with answers for your children. Try the following five strategies to aid you with homework assistance.

  1. Partnership. Be your children’s partner in school. Attend all parent-teacher conferences and open houses before school begins to create a partnership with your children’s teachers. This will allow easier communication with the teachers and access to guidance with homework. Build partnerships with parents in your children’s classes to ask them questions, too.
  2. Homework Time. Sit with your children and let them know how important school is. Turn all electronics off to give your children your undivided attention. Allow them to teach you the homework lessons they know. This will strengthen children’s confidence and allow you to learn some of the information they are learning in school.
  3. Tutoring. Inquire about free tutoring services in your children’s school. Ask about homework assistance and guides. Attend tutoring sessions with your children so you can learn new approaches to teaching your kids from the tutors.
  4. Learn. Enroll in any free or low-cost classes that can help you gain knowledge about the subjects with which you are having difficulty.
  5. Support. You are not alone. Read the tips on pages six through eight in this document and review this helpful advice, too.

Be an active learner with your children. You can gain and access new information with them while doing homework together. No parent knows all the answers and they, too, seek help to bridge the gap.


Accepting Your Teen's Personal Style

January 28, 2015

By Ana Vela

Accepting Your Teen's Personal Style | A teen poses for a photo with her skateboard in a leather jacket, big round sunglasses, flannel and printed shirt.

During the teen years, your child will begin defining his or her identity. According to PBS's This Emotional Life, "the main goal of identity formation in adolescence is to develop a clear sense of self." There are many ways teens will explore their identities—one of those being personal style.

Fashion becomes a very important form of expression to a teen. As a parent, you have a critical role in helping your child shape the image he or she projects to the world. It's possible your teen will decide to make personal style choices that do not align to what's considered normal in society. Or your teen may make choices that you do not agree with. Regardless, be supportive through these phases to help your teen's self esteem.  

As someone who dressed "weird" as a teenager, being bullied and teased in school didn't nearly hurt me as much as having my own mother disapprove and be embarrassed of my appearance. 

According to Dr. Alexandra Dells-Abrams, a transpersonal psychologist, low self-esteem has been linked to violent behavior, school dropout rates, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic achievement. If your teen feels that you do not like his or her identity, it may lead to further feelings of isolation and a household of constant arguing.

This happened with my family while I was a teenager. If my mother had attempted to understand me and be more supportive, the tension in our household would not have existed. Should this situation arise with my daughter, I plan to handle it differently to help build my daughter’s self-esteem. 

Here are various ways you can help as your teen explores his or her personal style:

Encourage Your Teen's Style

  • Find something to compliment him or her on. You may not like all the choices your teen made, but maybe there's one thing you can compliment.
  • Try to purchase gifts that align with his or her style as a way to show support. Buying gifts that do not align may be viewed as a sign of disapproval.
  • Talk to your child about the fashion choices you made as a teen. Show him or her photos if you have any. Have a good laugh about it, as it will help your teen see that everyone goes through an awkward phase.

Define Fashion Boundaries 

  • Outline what fashion choices are appropriate and inappropriate. Make sure your child understands what personal style options break the school's dress code and are not permitted.
  • Guide fashion choices based on the occasion. Help your child express him or herself even in situations such as a job interview, formal event like a wedding or funeral, or eating at a nice restaurant.

Teach Responsibility

  • Consider giving your teen a fashion budget. This will empower your child to make purchases within his or her budget, and will teach responsibility.
  • Discuss career options with your teen and what the dress code may be in a professional setting. Point out how social media images can be viewed by potential employers. Help your child understand how permanent personal style choices (such as a tattoo) may impact his or her future. Once your teen has that understanding, he or she can make a more informed choice.

Monitor Your Teen’s Behavior

  • Keep track of your teen’s school grades and performance to make sure his or her identity exploration is not negatively impacting his or her academics.
  • Meet your teen's friends. Are they making the same fashion choices? How do they behave when they are together?

Having good communication with your child will be critical. Find out why he or she is making the choices before you negatively judge your teen. Adolescence can be an awkward phase, and it will be so important that your teen knows you are there to support him or her through it.


Resolutions: 11 Tips for Academic Success

January 27, 2015

By Maureen Powers

Resolutions: 11 Tips for Academic Success | New Year's Resolutions: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, academic success

Throughout January, YOU Parent has featured a series on making resolutions that address a child’s four core needs for success in life: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and academic development. This piece on academic development concludes the series, but look back through the January articles for those addressing the three other needs.

Many strong families place value on learning and education. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is an active mind. Modeling a lifetime approach to learning is one of the best things you can do for your children. Start the New Year off fresh by making a commitment to focus on learning and academics for the whole family. Try any of these 11 tips and see the difference it makes with your child by next year.

  1. Learn a new skill, take music lessons, or enroll in a dance class at the local community center. 
  2. Sign up for college classes and work toward that degree that you have always wanted.
  3. Make a small library appropriate for the whole family by placing a basket of books from the public library next to the couch.
  4. Make a point to read in front of your children and let them know how excited you are about the news article or story.  
  5. Read whatever your teenagers are reading and carve out time to talk about it.
  6. Short on time but have a long commute? Use the time to ask about school. Get over-the-seat baskets for the car and fill them with brainteasers and books.
  7. Download a new trivia application and play it with your children. Check out this site for free games.
  8. Read a book to your child that is also a movie. When you are finished reading the book, rent the movie and watch it together. Talk about the differences between the stories, and the role of an author and a screenwriter.
  9. Choose one school event to attend each quarter that is not a parent-teacher conference.
  10. Find out about your child’s life at school. Open his or her backpack every day and talk about the fliers, completed work, and homework in the pack.
  11. Allow your child to do homework with friends at your house. Older children will enjoy having study parties before a big exam. 
Do you have tips to help your child succeed in school? Share your resolutions for modeling positive academic behavior in the comments below.
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