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Articles and expert advice to help you guide your child to educational success.
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Emergency Preparedness Plan

July 15, 2014

When we think of summertime, we think of carefree and fun months, filled with parties and downtime spent with friends and family. While we hope this is the type of summer you and your family will continue to enjoy, none of us can predict when emergencies or tragedies will strike. For this reason, it’s important to have an emergency plan in place for your immediate household and for your extended family and friends.

We discovered this 2013 article, which outlines an emergency plan for parents and their college-bound children, through our Twitter feed recently. While it focuses on a plan for families with children away at college, we think it applies to families with children of all ages.

The five-point outline includes the following touchpoints for emergencies:

  1. Communication.
  2. Emergency Kit.
  3. Self-defense Techniques.
  4. Meeting Spot.
  5. Public Emergency Plans.

In case of any type of mass emergency, remember to use text messages and social media to let family and friends know you are okay and leave the phone lines clear for critical emergencies.

Read the full article and emergency preparedness outline here.

Tags :  physicalemotionalhealthsafety

When can I start leaving my children home alone?

July 11, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

When can I start leaving my children home alone? | An emergency checklist

Question: My kids are six and eight years old. My eight-year-old tells me that her friends can stay home alone but I’m not sure when the right age is to leave my kids without a parent or babysitter. When can I start leaving my children home alone?

Answer: This is a difficult question to answer because there are many factors that come into play when deciding how old a child should be when he or she is left alone. Those factors include:

The Law
Each state has its own legal age at which a child can be left unsupervised by an adult. However, the legal language is sometimes confusing. For example, in Illinois, a minor under the age of 14 “should not be left unsupervised for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.” The law may not define what is “unreasonable,” so it’s difficult to assess the age and/or time period a child can legally be left alone.

Check with your state’s Department of Children and Family Services to see what age they say children can be left alone and honor the law.

Even if your children are at an age in your state when they can be legally left alone, if they are not mature enough to spend time alone, take care of themselves, or react appropriately in dangerous situations, you should not leave them alone.

Think about how your daughter handles responsibility. Does she complete her chores and homework without much prompting from you? Does she listen when you talk to her and follow instructions well? If she does and is at the legal age in your state to be left alone, she might be ready to stay home alone.

As mentioned above, the oldest child (or even a babysitter) needs to be able to react quickly and appropriately if danger arises. The child should know how to use a fire extinguisher, fire escape plans, how to treat minor injuries, how to call 911 in case of a serious emergency, and more.

If you are considering allowing your daughter to stay home alone, practice emergency drills so she is prepared if something happens.

If your daughter will be babysitting her younger sibling, it’s important that she knows how to care for that sibling. Teach her about any allergies or other concerns that might affect the sibling in your absence. And always remind them both not to take a bath without adult supervision, as children can drown in just an inch of water.

These are just some of the factors to consider before letting your child stay home alone. Be sure to look into your state laws and consider your child’s maturity and safety skills before leaving her alone.


Fireworks Safety

July 3, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

People gather to watch a brilliant, professional-grade fireworks show.

There are many ways to celebrate Independence Day but fireworks are the notorious winner. Fireworks are a big part of the celebration and from a distance they can be very beautiful. But up close, they can be extremely dangerous. There are almost 9,000 fireworks victims treated in U.S. hospitals each year. 44 percent of those injured are children under 20 years old.

The Facts:

The only way to prevent a firework injury is to not play with or be near any fireworks. Regardless of their ages, do not give children access to standard fireworks. Novelty fireworks such as smoke bombs, snakes, and party poppers are safer for children but should still be supervised by an adult.

Instead, I recommend making homemade noisemakers to make your own ruckus in the celebration. Younger children are mostly attracted to firework noises, so these noisemakers are an easy and safe way for them to participate. Put uncooked rice in an empty plastic bottle, tightening the cap, and shake. Or give them a box of macaroni and cheese that you haven’t opened yet. You would be surprised how fun shaking these bottles and boxes can be for a young child.

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals. If someone is setting fireworks off at home or if you are attending a party where someone has fireworks, they should follow these safety rules:

  • Do not let small children light fireworks.
  • Keep water buckets near as a precaution and have a fire extinguisher available.
  • Wear eye protection when lighting fireworks and light one firework at a time.
  • Do not relight a dud, or a firework that doesn’t explode. After waiting at least 15 minutes, move the dud into a water bucket to let it soak. Throw it out the next day.
  • Do not throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, buildings, or flammable materials.
  • Leave any area immediately if you do not feel safe.

Sometimes the best seat in the house is your backyard or front porch. Use your best judgment on the location for viewing fireworks. And remember, have fun!

Tags :  holidaysafetyDIYphysicalactivitiesfamily fun

Summer Water Safety

June 19, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Two children swim in a pool.

The first day of summer is almost here. The weather is heating up and our kids love to be around water to play, cool off, or simply hang out. Children love to go to pools, rivers, and beaches. While these are great places for your family to swim, it’s important to take safety precautions to prevent water accidents.

  • Never leave your child unattended in or near water even if there is a lifeguard on duty. Assign an adult who knows how to swim to watch your child while you are occupied. Never leave a child responsible for another child in water.
  • Get certified in CPR and first aid by the American Red Cross. In a worst-case scenario, you may be able to save someone’s life. 
  • Be close to your child (at least an arm’s length) when in the water. Remember that beaches and rivers have currents and are unpredictable. You want to be close enough to be an immediate aid to your child if needed. 
  • Be extra careful and always use a life vest, floaties, or foam swimwear as an extra precaution. Do not rely only on the swim gear to protect your child in water. The best practice is to use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  • Establish clear rules before going near or in water, keeping everyone’s safety in mind. Stick by these rules and follow through with consequences if the rules are broken so your kids respect them. 
  • Swim classes are great to teach yourself and your child to swim as an additonal safety precaution. Search for affordable swim classes in your area, like at the local YMCA.

As a parent and caregiver, know that accidents can be prevented if you are careful when your children are near or in water.


My son wants to go to one school and I want him to go to another. How do we make the decision?

May 23, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A group of middle school kids walk to school on a city street.

Question: My oldest child will be starting high school in the fall. He wants to become a scientist and wants to attend a specific high school for their well-regarded science program and strong reputation for research. However, the school is in a neighborhood that is a bit unsafe and inconvenient, so I’d rather he went to a nearby school. This other school doesn’t have as strong of a science program, though. What should I do?

Answer: It’s wonderful that your son knows what career he wants to go into at such a young age, and even better that he has researched the best options for his education. To be so devoted to his academic and professional career is a very unique quality, especially at his age.

It also can be very difficult to juggle just one child’s schedule, let alone multiple, and we understand that having your son at a nearby school is much more convenient for your family.

Think about how much further your son will go in his career if he starts studying at a school that caters to his career goals now. Talk to the school counselor to see if that school’s program will help him get into a better college that caters to his career choice.

Now think about what will happen if you insist that your son goes to the nearby school that doesn’t cater to his strengths and career goals. Will he resent you? Will he work as hard in a program that doesn’t develop his interests? Will he be challenged at this school?

Only you and your son can answer those questions and make the decision, so it’s important to ask yourself what will happen in each scenario. Are there compromises that both of you can make in each scenario?

Finally, regarding the unsafe neighborhood, remember that there is danger everywhere, even in safe neighborhoods. If the danger is a very strong concern for you, voice your concerns with the school administration. How do they address the danger? Use the school as a resource to help you and your son make the decision.

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