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Socializing Your Baby

April 4, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Socializing Your Baby | Just as you are your child’s first teacher, you are your child’s first friend. Taking his or her social cues from you, your child will slowly learn which faces and noises elicit reactions and how to mimic your facial expressions. | A dad smiles with his daughter.

Just as you are your child’s first teacher, you are your child’s first friend. Taking his or her social cues from you, your child will slowly learn which faces and noises elicit reactions and how to mimic your facial expressions. Eventually, he or she will start interacting more frequently by babbling, smiling, and crying around you to communicate. Those early communication skills are your child’s first steps toward socialization.

Since so many of your baby’s social skills are the result of interacting with you, it’s important to communicate often with him or her. In the first month, you can encourage these skills by making exaggerated facial expressions—raising your eyebrows, opening your eyes and mouth wide, sticking out your tongue—while speaking to your baby.

As he or she grows, keep talking to your baby as much as you can. Talk through your chores, as you change diapers and dress your baby, even as you prepare meals. These verbal cues slowly help your baby learn to talk and build the bond between you.

This Baby Center article details the monthly social developmental milestones for babies, which can help you know what to look for as your baby grows.

Every baby is different, and every parent has different expectations and needs for their child. The socialization skills and activities outlined above are easy to do at home, but what if you want to get out and expose you and your baby to other youngsters and parents?

There are plenty of options, from play dates with friends and their babies to classes at socialization centers like Gymboree. This mom, Brittany, wrote about her experience taking her eight month-old to a class, saying it helped her daughter interact with other youngsters and improve her motor skills. As your baby gets older, he or she will start taking an interest in other babies and you can begin nurturing those social skills, too.

While your baby is young, enjoy the bonding time as you teach him or her to socialize through interactions with parents, grandparents, siblings, and close friends. The parental bond will be the strongest social bond in the first year, so enjoy it!

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Fame-seeking on Social Media

March 28, 2017

By Sunny Chico and Jessica Vician

Teenage Fame-seeking on Social Media | As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

There are many reasons we need to pay attention to our teenagers on social media, and a prominent one is bullying. There have been multiple times when criminals have aired their crimes on Facebook Live, like the recent rape of a 15-year-old girl and a the torture of a special needs 18-year-old man.

What made these people—some of whom are teenagers—want to broadcast it for friends and strangers to see? 

Social and Emotional Development
Social media plays a strong role in teenage social and emotional development.

Unlike television, where you just sit and watch, social media is an active medium. Teens are chatting, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. They're having unsupervised conversations with each other, which can have a lasting effect on their development.

Knowing what teens are doing on social media, we have to ask, "What could motivate these kids to broadcast rape and torture of teenagers?"

Fame
The answer? The need for fame.

I read a great article that talked about teenagers and the value of fame. The researcher noted that in the past 50 years, popular television shows have promoted friendship, family, and community. Think about Friends, Happy Days, and The Cosby Show.

But in the past 10 years, television has changed. Now popular television promotes fame. It's reality TV—American Idol, The Voice, Real Housewives, the Kardashian's. Even Hannah Montana, which your kids might have watched when they were younger, is a normal teenager by day but a pop star by night.

The value of fame is everywhere for our teens, so it's only natural that they seek it in a place that is very public and yet very private—social media.

Internet fame is the most accessible fame that teens have access to. A well-hashtagged Instagram post, a YouTube video or tutorial that goes viral, even a smart, witty tweet might get retweeted by someone famous.

It feels great to have someone—let alone hundreds, thousands, even millions—recognize and appreciate you, what you said, or what you did. And in some cases, just getting noticed is enough—like in the example of the teens and 20-something who broadcast the torture of their 18-year-old peer on Facebook Live.

Those kids were noticed for doing something horrible. But they were noticed, which might be all that mattered to them. For kids who aren't getting enough attention from their parents, often times negative attention is better than no attention at all.

How to help
So how do we prevent our kids from seeking negative attention or seeking fame online?

We don't need to keep them off of social media. After all, when used well, it's a great communication outlet for them and a way to connect outside of school with peers they might not spend time with in school.

But we do need to nurture our kids offline—in real life—to make sure they are receiving the attention, the understanding, the love, and the pride from us that they need so they don't go seeking it online, and especially in a negative way.

Share affection
You can start by showing your kids love. If your daughter plays basketball, go to the games and give her a specific compliment afterward, like, "You did a great job finding teammates who were open and passing to them. I'm really proud of you—you're a great team player."

If your son is on student council, ask about the meetings and if he is on a committee. Compliment him on his leadership skills and being brave enough to speak up to help shape the school.

Even if your kids aren't involved in extracurriculars, compliment them on what you love most about them. Maybe it's their compassion for their peers, or how they help you clean up after dinner. Specific compliments, aside from "I love you," go a long way to help them feel loved and truly noticed.

Our kids learn from us. They learn to speak, smile, even frown from watching us at a young age, and that continues as they get older.

Be respectful
Treat your friends with respect, and avoid talking poorly about others, especially around your kids.

Refrain from engaging in negative posting on your social pages as well, as you want to continue to model positive behavior.

Watch better TV
Watch television shows that promote friends, family, and community—not fame. If you must watch shows that promote fame, watch them together and talk about what the people are doing. If it's The Voice, focus on the talent instead of criticizing. If it's the Kardashian's, focus on their familial bond, or talk about why negative behavior is good for TV but not for real life. 

Talk to the school
If you're worried that your teen is spending too much time on social media, is being a bully online or is being bullied, think about what you can do to help. For example, if your teen is spending too much time on social media, find a school sport or club that your teen would like and encourage them to join. Reroute their need for socialization to offline activities.

If your teen is being bullied, talk to the school about how to address the bullying. Teachers and counselors can help you take action.

It starts with you
Remember, you are your child's first teacher. Just as you taught them how to talk, you can teach them how to find confidence and pride in themselves in the real world. By nurturing their emotional needs, they won't be as likely to hurt others in social settings—whether that's in person or online.

And while everyone seeks a little bit of fame, if you show them your love and pride for them, they might be less likely to seek it online from strangers. All it takes is a little extra love. 

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14 Ways Your Child Can Share Love

February 14, 2017

By Jessica Vician

14 Ways Your Child Can Share Love | A son hugs his mother.

Valentine's Day means different things to different people. Ask a 5-year-old and he or she might tell you it's a day that your friends give you cards and candy at school. A 12-year-old might hope to receive a special note from a crush. A single 20-something might see it as a day to avoid altogether, while a couple who has been together for many years might order pizza and snuggle under a blanket while watching a favorite TV show.

This year, I'd like to recommend taking a moment to think about how you can teach your child to share their love with the world. We all need more love and joy in our lives and who better to show it than a child? In celebration of the 14th of February, here are 14 ways your child can share their love with you, a friend, or even a kind stranger.

  1. Smile.
    Being on the receiving end of an unexpected smile can change someone's day, especially if that smile is from a child.
  2. Say, "thank you."
    Teach your child to express gratitude by saying, "thank you" when someone does something nice for him or her.
  3. Hold the door.
    Holding the door for a stranger is a small gesture that makes us appreciate the kindness of others. This is an especially good tip for teens.
  4. Pay a compliment.
    Encourage your child to compliment someone at least once a week. From "nice coat" to someone in another grade to "great throw" at football practice, a little compliment goes a long way.
  5. Hug.
    Everyone needs a hug. Ask your child to hug a close friend or family member to express their love and gratitude.
  6. Give together.
    Let your child pick out a birthday present for a family or friend so that he or she can take pride in the gift and learn how good it feels to give. It will encourage your child to give often as he or she grows up.
  7. Perform random acts of kindness.
    From holding that door open to picking up a stranger's dropped glove and returning it, small and random acts of kindness make others happy.
  8. Pay it forward.
    The next time someone does something nice for your child, encourage him or her to take some of that good feeling and give it to someone else. Did your child find a dollar on the sidewalk? Encourage him or her to give 50 cents to a person in need, or to buy a friend's soda the next time they're out.
  9. Beam with pride.
    Take a walk around the neighborhood and point out the great things your community is doing. When you take pride in where you live, you create a positive environment around you. Your child will feel this, too, once you've shown him or her the work that goes into the community.
  10. Give positive feedback.
    When your child is kind to others, point out the positive behavior and reward it.
  11. Tell a joke. Then repeat it.
    Tell your child a joke that's easy to remember and age-appropriate. Then ask him or her to tell other people, since laughing makes everyone happy.
  12. Leave a note.
    Ask your child to write a note to someone he or she appreciates. It can be a "thank you" note to a teacher, an "I miss you" note to a family member who lives far away, or even an "I love you" note to mom or dad.
  13. Plant.
    Plant a tree, a bush, or flowers nearby. Planting a living green is like saying, "I love you" to the Earth.
  14. Say, "I love you."
    Speaking of "I love you," say it to your child and to those around you who you love, and encourage your child to do the same. It's that simple.
Tags :  holidayssocialemotional
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Life Skills for Every Age

January 3, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Life Skills for Every Age | Try teaching your child these life skills for his or her current—and future—age.

We spend at least 12 years in school expanding our academic minds and wading through social, emotional, and physical waters, but in all that time, we never take a class on life skills. Perhaps that is because those skills are better taught through experiences than in a classroom setting, and also because those skills can be learned before school begins and after it ends. Try teaching your child the life skills below for his or her current—and future—age.

Early Childhood
Infants
Babies start learning life skills from the moment they are born. Swaddling and holding your baby establishes comfort and trust between the two of you. Speaking and reading to your baby will help him or her learn to talk and read sooner than if you didn't practice these skills.

Toddlers
There are many things that toddlers can start doing to care for themselves, but you will probably need to help them start or finish these tasks. For instance, you can teach your toddler to put a shirt or pants on. He or she might need help with the armholes or taking the shirt off, but practice makes perfect.

Another big step for toddlers is learning how to hold a cup and eventually learning how to drink from a cup without a lid and without spilling. Use this learning opportunity with caution—start with a sippy cup with a lid and use clear liquids, staying away from more expensive furniture or rugs until your child has mastered this skill.

Elementary
Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Once your child starts kindergarten and elementary school, social life skills will become more important. Model positive behavior by resolving disputes with your parenting partner or your child in a calm manner. If your child witnesses you arguing with someone else, talk to him or her about it afterwards, explaining in simple terms what the argument was about, how each person felt, and how you resolved it. Ask your child what he or she does at school when there is a disagreement to apply this concept to his or her life.

4th through 6th grade
At this stage in a child's life, academics become more rigorous so it's a great time to establish and/or cement strong study habits, as they will be even more important in middle and high school and on through college, especially as your child's social life expands. Boost your child's excitement about studying by creating a special study area for him or her.

Middle School
Even though you've been teaching your child about hygiene as he or she has grown up—including brushing teeth, washing hands, showering, etc.—puberty has its own hygiene rules.

Talk to your child about the importance of regular showers and where to clean (those armpits will be getting stinky now!), whether or not to start shaving, changing grooming habits, etc. Helping your child learn how to care for an adult body will save him or her from some of the embarrassment that comes with puberty.

High School
Exercise is an important part of a child's life, which is usually done through gym class, sports, and playing with friends. But as kids get older, they become less active, especially if they are not in sports. Since high school sports are more competitive, it's harder for less athletic teens to get the exercise they need.

Make an effort to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise a day into your teen's life. It can be as easy as an after-dinner walk every evening or finding an activity that he or she enjoys, like skateboarding, snowboarding, or golf. Getting in the habit of daily exercise now will help your teen stay healthy in college and beyond.

What life skills have you taught your children? Share your ideas and stories in the comments below.

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What is your pledge for 2017?

December 27, 2016

By Jessica Vician

What is your pledge for 2017? | Pledge to encourage your child to do one small thing each day to make his or her world, and in turn, the greater world better. | Two kids sit on their parents' shoulders as they happily watch fireworks.

As we embark upon a new year and say goodbye to 2016, it's important to focus on small things we can do everyday to make the world better. Sometimes it's hard to believe that one person can make a difference in the world, but if each person does one small, kind thing—for him or herself or for others—the effect can snowball so that more people will be affected by those small acts.

Before focusing on larger resolutions, make a pledge to encourage your child to do one small thing each day to make his or her world, and in turn, the greater world better. You can also pledge to do small things that make your life and your family's life better. Here are some ideas:

Be patient and teach kindness.
When you've had a hard day but your child wants to talk or play, resist the temptation to walk away. Take three to five minutes to listen to your child and watch his or her face light up when sharing a happy story or playing with his or her favorite toys.

By doing so, you are practicing parent engagement and modeling positive behavior, and it will probably make you feel better!

You can also teach kindness to your child by using small teachable moments throughout the day to show your child what kindness, acceptance, tolerance, and common niceties look like in practice.

Smile every morning.
When you see your child for the first time in the morning, no matter how old he or she is, smile and greet them happily. Ask your child to smile back. This small action puts everyone in a better mood and helps them start their day positively. If it's hard to keep a 2017 pledge for you, start with this one.

Eat together away from the screens.
If your family doesn't share at least one meal a week together, or if meals are shared in front of the television or with phones in hand or on the table, start this ritual once a week. If you already do it once a week, try for two times a week, and so on.

Coming together over food is a happy, comforting tradition all over the world. Who knows what you will learn about your partner and your kids when there aren't any distractions?

One fruit, one vegetable per meal.
When you or your parenting partner prepare meals, do you actively plan at least a serving of each food group? Personally, I tend to focus more on vegetables than fruits, and recently realized that my lack of fruit might be responsible for craving less healthy sweets like cookies or cupcakes.

If you or your child doesn't like vegetables, try one of these tricks to incorporate them into your meals. Take an apple, banana, or cup of washed berries with you for a morning or afternoon snack, and give the same to your child. It's an easy way to make sure you and your family get the nutrition you need.

Spend 15 minutes talking about homework each night.
Let your child explain the homework that he or she has already done. It reinforces your child's learning and gives you an opportunity to understand the lessons. Take it further and tell your child a story about a real-world application of the lesson.

Not only is this activity great for parent engagement, it also keeps you on top of your child's homework without seeming too strict and allows you to determine your child's strengths and opportunities for improvement so you can engage those with activities outside of school.

What pledges are you and your family making for 2017? We'd love to hear your ideas, so please share in the comments below.

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