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Parents and Schools: A Partnership to Prevent Bullying

January 8, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

When I was growing up, my sisters and I were the first Hispanic students in our northern Chicago neighborhood. As you can imagine, we were not immediately accepted by many of our classmates. Kids can be cruel, and we felt that very personally, sometimes on a daily basis. As much as I want to protect every child from ever experiencing that, I know as an educator that the bullies out there are sometimes facing their own trauma, and have no idea how to cope with it other than by lashing out.

When someone is bullying, they have a lot of aggression, a lot of pain, and misplaced anger. Sometimes it’s ignored because others view it as just the way kids are—kids are cruel and they’ll grow out of it. In many instances, though, bullying starts with what the child sees at home. The child will model the behavior he or she sees at home. Children need to get their frustrations and energy out, and they will mimic the behavior of others because that is the only way they know. If they see violence in the home, they will be violent. If they hear shouting in the home, they will shout. If they see swearing or name-calling, they will repeat those behaviors outside of the home. The child will absorb and internalize those behaviors and feelings and may bully others as a result.

We have lost too many kids to bullying. We’ve lost them to suicide, and we’ve lost them academically and socially. Whether these children are the victims of bullying or they are the bullies themselves, grades get worse, students drop out of school, and some join gangs or engage in other high-risk behaviors. We need sustainable prevention and intervention embedded throughout the school curriculum.

We have to remember that bullying is always present in our children’s lives and in our schools, therefore educators need to continue to address it just as they address curriculum and learning. Educators can’t do that, though, without parents who are supporting their children at home and are communicating with the school about what their children are going through. Both parents and educators are here to give our children and students the best chance in life. To do that, we have to work together on issues like bullying. When left unchecked, these issues can destroy our children’s futures, but the right intervention can save lives and strengthen our communities.

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Taking Care of YOU in the New Year

January 1, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

Happy New Year! We wish you the best in 2014.

Happy New Year!

There is something indescribable about the sense of peace and possibility that comes with another new year. We gather with our friends and families, huddle together beneath fireworks, or toast our dearest friends, both new and old.

This is the time of resolutions and resolve, and there is no better time than now to make the decision to put our best foot forward and step into a new phase of life and successful parenting. It’s a new year, and it can be a new you!

Use the rest of this month to set goals and make plans in what I like to call the four areas of success.

  1. Academic Achievement. As your child heads back to school after winter break, stay committed to engaging in his or her education. Remember, YOU are your child’s first teacher, and you have the power to lay the foundation for success.
  2. Physical Health. Set goals to make healthy living a priority for your family. Stay active, stay safe, and make sure to stay focused on taking care of YOU.
  3. Social Development. Take this time to connect with your community and with neighbors and friends. Keep your support network strong and reinforce those relationships that add value to your life.
  4. Emotional Well-being. A balanced life should always be one of our top priorities. Breathe deeply and always remember the blessings life has brought you. Surround yourself with love and peace, and love and peace will keep you. 

Throughout the rest of the year, don’t give up on your goals and plans. Set regular check-ins with yourself and your support network so you know that you and your family are on the path for success. On your journey, check back here with YOU Parent for tips and support in achieving your goals. We believe in YOU!  

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Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly this Holiday

December 23, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Enjoy alcohol responsibly this holiday season

Holidays are full of social gatherings. In a lot of families and communities, alcohol is a holiday staple, and even mine are no exception. Through my work as a family counselor, though, I’ve seen the affects that irresponsible drinking can have on a family. The World Health Organization states that consuming alcohol can have social consequences along with some health risks. We need to be conscious of what image we give our middle and high school children of social drinking, specifically holiday drinking.

Parents and caregivers are role models. Middle and high school students are still children who are very prone to impressions. What you do around them affects them and makes them view some behavior as appropriate (even when the behavior is not) just because they saw you do it. This holiday, let's plan for responsible social drinking that does not send a misleading message.

  • The first important fact to remember is that in the U.S. you have to be 21 years or older to legally consume alcohol. Make sure that you teach that fact to your children.
  • Talk to your child about responsible drinking and moderation of drinking frequently. As a role model, you can model this behavior by limiting your drinking to be safe and prevent losing control. Eat when you drink and only drink if you’re not driving. Draw attention to your responsible choices by saying, “I’ve had enough, thank you,” or “I have to drive, so no drinks for me.”
  • Keep an ear out for the way you talk about alcohol drinking. Examples that can send a misleading message are “I need a drink because I had a hard day” or “I want to drink to relax.” Your child might begin to think alcohol is a cure for a hard day or a relaxant. We don’t want to teach our children to use alcohol as an emotional crutch.
  • Have open lines of communication with your child to discuss questions related to alcohol. Don’t threaten them with harsh punishments in order to scare them away from drinking too young. Instead, talk to them openly about the risks of drinking and the toll it takes on a growing body and mind. Invite them to share their opinions about drinking and the opinions they’ve heard their friends express.
  • Keep all alcoholic beverages in a controlled area. The harder it is to sneak a drink, the easier it is to avoid temptation.

If possible, avoid having alcohol during your holiday gatherings at all. If this isn’t possible, you can control the amount of alcohol you give your guests to prevent others from overdrinking.

There are several responsible drinking sites that provide good tips for you this holiday season. Remember that happy holidays are safe holidays!

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Early Childhood Food Aversions

December 4, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Early Childhood Food Aversions

The holidays are coming and food is always part of them. We all have different food preferences and so do children. I have worked with many children who do not enjoy eating as much as other children their age. Some children, however, have medical issues that arise because of their eating.

I remember working with an 18-month-old who would refuse to eat any food with texture. He preferred yogurt, milk shakes, broth, and bananas. His mother thought it was only a picky eater phase and that he would be over it fast. He would gag, vomit, or simply refuse to open his mouth if the food his mother offered had any bumps or clumps. His special diet caused a lot of stress on his mother. It was a long struggle for this family. Together, with an occupational therapist, the family slowly introduced gradual textures and helped this boy tolerate new foods. After several months of therapy, he now can eat a variety of foods without a battle.

Significant food aversions can directly affect each child's family and can typically make eating together a stressful event. It’s important to understand what a food aversion is. According to Zerotothree.org, a food aversion is categorized as sensory difficulty and is a common feeding disorder found in early childhood. There is a combination of inability to tolerate oral stimulation, anxiety, and defiance when experiencing a food aversion.

Your child’s relationship with food begins when you first introduce solid foods. Talk to your pediatrician about when to begin introducing your child to cereals and baby food.  You need a lot of patience and time to begin feeding your baby with a spoon. Remember until now, your child’s mouth muscles are used to nursing. With practice, your baby will graduate slowly to table foods. If not, then you could be facing some stressful times. This problem could be related to food aversions.

What are the signs of food aversion? Around 6-10 months of age, when you begin to introduce your child to a variety of baby foods, he or she may begin to show dislike for certain textures, colors, temperatures, and smells of foods. Since your baby is too young to tell you that he or she does not like the food, your baby will tell you in some other way, such as:

  • Spitting
  • Gagging
  • Vomiting
  • Refusing to eat

What should you know about addressing food aversions? There are different approaches to helping a child overcome this issue. Remember that your child cannot control this and needs your help.

  • Never force your child to eat.
  • Be patient.
  • Work closely with your pediatrician to seek the appropriate help for your child.
  • Be consistent with the sensory diet and strategies that you try.     

With patience, consistency, and the right support, you and your child can overcome food aversions and children can grow up with a healthy relationship to food.

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Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

November 11, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

New learning opportunities for your children abound on a typical day, but when a special holiday approaches, it can be one of the most memorable ways to teach some of life’s greatest lessons. A holiday such as Thanksgiving can provide abundant ways to learn. From teaching its origin through stories and activities to developing emotional and social activities that, in time, become cherished lifelong traditions, you can use this time to connect with your child in meaningful ways.

If your family or your children were not born or raised in the United States, it is a great way to learn Thanksgiving facts and traditions. Appreciating the intricate details of history makes for a greater understanding of your immediate community and the world.

Here are some ideas of Thanksgiving activities for you and your child to enjoy together: 

Tell Stories
Share the story of the first Thanksgiving dinner with the original English settlers and Native Americans. 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. In my family, we pause before each meal, whether it is a holiday or not, to reflect on what we have, which makes it a more natural practice at Thanksgiving. See National Geographic Kids for a brief story, which includes photos of people and artifacts.

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.”  

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 the shapes in. You can leave them notes with smiley faces. These will remind him or her how much you appreciate them. Read this inspiring article of how writing shapes your child in more ways than you may think.

Donate to Charity
It is also a wonderful time of year to make a list of local charities. 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 is exciting to see how these activities awaken a desire to ask more questions.

Share the Cooking Process
Making a list of ingredients, shopping, and finally, preparing a favorite Thanksgiving recipe will give you together time, a learning opportunity, and unforgettable memories. 

Memories are made through these emotional and social activities, but they are most remembered by the hands-on activities during the holidays. By using age-appropriate tasks, everyone in the family can feel they have contributed to the Thanksgiving feast, and when the food is finally served, it will have taken on a much deeper significance.


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.

 

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