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How can I help my teen appreciate holiday time with our family?

December 3, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I help my teen appreciate holiday time with our family?  | A teenage girl sits on the couch, ignoring her family, talking on her cell phone.

Question: My teenage daughter doesn't want to spend time with our family during the holidays. She would rather hang out with her friends and their families. How do I get her to appreciate her time with us?

Answer: You’re not alone with this concern. Many parents of teenagers have the same issue, as teenagers are in a time of transition. In order to compromise with her and keep the peace, acknowledge this growth and allow your daughter to take on a more adult role in holiday preparations and celebrations. Being part of holiday preparations will allow her to feel included and welcomed as an adult participant in the family instead of as a child. It will also validate her by showing that you recognize her transition and value the woman she is becoming. You may consider the following:

  • Ask her to choose and prepare one recipe for the holiday menu, offering help as needed. Sharing the kitchen and working on the same project will help you bond and will demonstrate that she can share responsibilities with you.
  • Start a new tradition. Your teen may feel a sense of loss for the role in the family she held as a child, or even for the level of holiday excitement and wonder that fades with age. A new tradition, such as holiday volunteering or planning a trip, can be a great way to unite the family.
  • Stay true to the family traditions your teen is still attached to. No matter how busy your family life is, or how much tension your teen brings to the family, make a point to continue the traditions that still excite her, whether it’s holiday baking, decorating, or watching classic holiday movies or TV shows together. This is a great way to reaffirm your love and appreciation.

Whatever you do, try to limit fights by working with your daughter to find happy compromises. Make it a goal to help your daughter associate holidays with fun times with parents, grandparents and extended kin, while still allowing her some time to see her friends when activities aren’t planned.

Learn more about the issues addressed in this question in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book series. For information about making time for each other, see the Through High School and Beyond book on page 36. In the same book, read about sharing responsibilities with your child on page 40.


Thanksgiving Prep with the Whole Family

November 26, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Thanksgiving Prep with the Whole Family | A mother and teenage daughter prep vegetables for dinner.

Thanksgiving is a holiday full of tradition and meaningful history. It’s a time to give thanks, make wonderful memories with our families, and teach our children the importance of cooperation. Since Thanksgiving is such a family-centered holiday, why not get everyone involved with mealtime preparation and cleanup?

Here are some quick things you and your family can do to make Thanksgiving less stressful for you and more enjoyable for everyone (including the little ones).

  • Plan Ahead. Do all of your shopping ahead of time. Let your children help with the Thanksgiving dinner list and shopping. Ask teenagers to do the grocery shopping or let your grade school-aged kids find different ingredients while you’re at the store. Younger kids can put food items in the grocery cart and check them off the list.
  • Food Preparation. Allow your children to assist as much as they can, as extra sets of hands can be extremely helpful. Let your teenager make a dish on his or her own. Allow your younger child to mix and pour anything that is not dangerous. Younger kids can also get lightweight food items from the pantry, shelves, and refrigerator for you.
  • Fun Snacks. Make fun and simple snacks with your children. From turkey-shaped cookies to candy apples, adults and children enjoy eating a quick snack before or after dinner. I found some great Thanksgiving snack ideas here and here.
  • Set the Table. Ask your children to help you decorate and set the table. Let them use their imaginations or try fun projects together. We started a Pinterest page to inspire you. 
  • Clean Up. Encourage everyone to help clean up. Depending on their ages, your children can sweep, clean, and throw out the trash, amongst other chores.

Most importantly, enjoy this holiday with your family and remember to praise all of your children’s efforts. Encourage independence and individuality while your children help make this the best Thanksgiving ever. And remember to take pictures!

What are your favorite ways to get the family to help with Thanksgiving? Tell me in the comments below.


5 Thanksgiving Activities for Kids

November 21, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

5 Thanksgiving Activities for Kids | A multi-generational family sits at the table during Thanksgiving dinner.

Holidays can provide abundant opportunities for kids to learn, and Thanksgiving is no different. From the story of its origin to emotional and social activities that will become cherished traditions, even family who don’t live in the United States can learn about the holiday and connect with your children in meaningful ways.

Try these five activities with your children and extended family this Thanksgiving:

  1. Tell Stories
    Share the story of the English settlers and Native Americans’ first Thanksgiving dinner. This story can help even your youngest child remember the true meaning of the holiday. Use words like “exploration,” “feast,” “celebration,” “families,” “neighbors,” and “sharing” when discussing the story.
  2. Give Thanks with Notes
    As the holiday approaches, hide thank you notes for other members of your family to find, and encourage your children to do the same. These notes can say anything from “Thank you for taking out the trash” to “Thank you for being a good listener.”
  3. Draw Pictures
    If your children cannot read or write yet, they can still participate by creating a special picture by tracing leaves and then coloring in the shapes. You can leave them notes with smiley faces. These will remind your children how much you appreciate them.
  4. Donate to Charity
    Thanksgiving is also a wonderful time to donate to charity. Your children can help organize a drive for food, toys, or clothing at their school or playgroup. Inspiring them to take action will make them conscientious citizens who aspire to help others. It’s exciting to see how these activities awaken a desire to ask more questions.
  5. Share the Cooking Process
    Making a list of ingredients, shopping, and preparing a favorite Thanksgiving recipe will give you quality family time and many learning opportunities, from measuring exercises to a test in patience while waiting for the food to cook.

These activities can help your children and family create positive memories that will keep the happy thoughts coming until next year’s celebration.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving activities to do with your children? Tell me in the comments below.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. 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.


8 Parent Engagement Activities

November 13, 2014

By Jessica Vician

We love parents. Show us your pride as an #EngagedParent.

Our goal at YOU Parent is to provide tools that help you raise your child to the best of your ability through parent engagement. But what is parent engagement?

Parent engagement is a collection of activities you can do with your child that aid his or her core needs: social, emotional, physical, and academic development. From birth through high school and beyond, there is always an opportunity to engage with your child, but some ways are easier than others.

Here are eight parent engagement activities that you can do with your child. Each activity addresses one of the four core needs.

Easy: Sit down for a family dinner and talk about your days. What was the best thing that happened all day? What was the worst? What did each of you learn that day?

Difficult: Have a few of your child’s friends over for dinner. Ask about their families, favorite subjects in school, and their hobbies. You can learn a lot about your child through his or her friends. Getting the kids to talk might be tough at first, but in the end it will demonstrate to your child that you care about his or her social life.

Easy: Tuck your child in for bed and lay beside him or her to cuddle for a few minutes before sleep. Show your love with a hug or squeeze.

Difficult: If your child is acting distant or difficult, confront him or her directly and don’t end the conversation until you know the real reason your child is acting that way. Confrontation is uncomfortable, especially if you’re not prepared for the response. But helping your child address a problem now can save his or her life later—especially if your child is dealing with depression, bullying, or other serious problems.

Easy: Talk a short walk with your child. Catch up on each other’s lives.

Difficult: Train for a 5K with your teen. Training might be challenging, but accomplishing something together is a memory you both will cherish forever.

Easy: Check your child’s homework each night and ask him or her to tell you about the work. How did your daughter get the answer to that math problem? Ask her to talk you through the formula or equation.

Difficult: Email the teacher to proactively communicate about your child’s progress. While sending an email isn’t difficult, taking the first step and reaching outside of your comfort zone might be. Don’t worry—teachers want to hear from you before there’s a problem, so you will be making a great impression.


Standards-Based Report Cards + the Common Core

November 12, 2014

By Maureen Powers

Standards-Based Report Cards + the Common Core | An apple and pencil sit on the desk in front of a grading scale.

The school year started months ago. Regardless of what part of the country you live in, progress reports or quarterly report cards have been issued. While you likely want to review those reports to evaluate how your child is performing, there is a chance the grading system may have changed.

Some schools continue to use traditional letter grades A through F but many schools now use Standards-Based Report Cards. What are these standards? Standards describe what students are expected to know and be able to do at each age and grade level. Student progress is determined by measuring how close the student is to being “proficient” at the skill in the standard.

The acronym FAME can help parents remember progress toward the standard:

F= Falls Below the Standard

A= Approaches the Standard

M= Meets the Standard

E= Exceeds the Standard

In the Unites States today, 43 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have adopted the Common Core State Standards for children in elementary through high school. Understanding what your child is expected to know and be able to do is important and will help him or her be successful in school. You can find more information about your state’s requirements through the Core Standards website.

In addition to the elementary through high school students, all 50 states in the nation have now created early learning standards for three- and four-year-old children. Many states have even added educational guidelines for infants and toddlers. The American Psychological Association has created a State Resources for Early Learning Guidelines Toolkit where you can find links to the early learning standards in your state.

You might need to use your child’s teacher as a resource in deciphering a new report card. Ask if the report card measures what students are expected to know for that reporting period or by the end of the school year. If you don’t understand the new criteria, contact the teacher and ask him or her to walk you through the report and explain how your child is performing. This is a learning opportunity for parents, too.

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