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Our 14 Best Back to School Tips

August 2, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Our writers and program author have over 150 years of education and parenting experience combined. From all of that expertise, we’ve gathered our best 14 back to school tips and put them in one place—right here!—so you don’t need to look any further. From starting a new school to saving money on school supplies to sending your (no longer a) baby off to college, we have you covered.

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | From starting a new school to saving money on school supplies to sending your (no longer a) baby off to college, we have you covered. | An elementary school student chooses a pack of pencils for her back to school supplies.

Starting a New School

Starting preschool, kindergarten, high school, or a new school system altogether can be stressful for some children. As parents, we must ease that transition so that their first experience in each school setting is one of comfort and excitement instead of fear and anxiety.

Here’s how you can prepare your child, depending on what new school he or she is starting:

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | "Back to School" is written on an illustrated chalkboard with paint, rulers, and assorted school supplies in the image.

Back to School Tips

For kids returning to the same school, there are a few basic things you must do before they can start, including:

Once you have checked those activities off the list, relieve some of the anticipation and pressure of the first day of school.

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | Going Away to College | A father watches his son grab his dorm supplies from the car.

Going Away to College

For teenagers heading off to college, it’s an exciting time. But for many parents and the siblings still at home, the first time a child goes off to college can be challenging. Learn how to prepare your family with these articles.

Whatever your child’s age, when you prepare him or her for school physically, emotionally, and socially, he or she will settle more easily into a successful academic routine. Use these activities to bond as a family before the transition and you’ll create happy memories before the school year begins. 

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How to Emotionally Prepare Your Teen for High School

July 26, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How to Emotionally Prepare Your Teen for High School | How your teen handles this new adventure will have a big impact on his or her academic success, so use these five points to guide your support. | A group of teens preparing for high school pose in front of their lockers.

When it comes to preparing for high school, academics seem like the easy part. After all, starting high school means multiple middle schools merging, old friends meeting new friends, teenage emotions and hormones clashing, navigating the delicate dance of high school dating, and finding out what makes everyone tick.

While you will want to establish academic expectations, study habits, and routines with your teenager before high school starts, you will also want to help him or her prepare emotionally and socially. How your teen handles this new adventure will have a big impact on his or her academic success, so use these five points to guide your support.

Encourage them to find themselves.
Your teen can get a sense of the school before he or she starts by attending plays, concerts, and sports games at the high school. He or she can evaluate which of these activities, if any, interests him or her and can plan to audition, try out, or join clubs or groups associated with the activities.

In addition to finding his or her interests, your teenager should prioritize finding friends who promote happiness and even some who challenge your teen to be a better person. Encourage your teen to make friends who make him or her happy instead of being popular. While popularity is usually important to teenagers, his or her happiness is more important.

Use orientation to reduce first-day jitters.
Your teenager should attend orientation to get a better understanding of his or her new school in preparation for a smooth first day.

To make it more fun, encourage your teen to attend with a good friend from middle school. Let them figure out their locker combinations, find the fastest route from class to class, and learn where their friends’ lockers are.

Be friendly and avoid gossip.
PBS Kids has a great explanation of rumors and gossip and how both can be used to hurt others. Familiarize yourself with these scenarios so you can discourage your teen from gossiping.

At the same time, you can encourage your child to look at high school as a fresh start. While he or she will keep some or many friends from middle school, eliminating previous animosities toward other classmates and giving everyone a clean slate will help your teen make new friends and stay on good terms with as many people as possible.

Give them more independence.
As teens form stronger friendships, start dating, and move into adulthood, they will distance themselves from their parents and families. That’s okay in moderation. Just as you let your child start feeding him or herself as a toddler, you can let your teenager work out problems and manage his or her life with little guidance.

Ensure your teen knows you are always available to talk, and make sure he or she spends enough time on homework, eats healthy when at home, etc., but give your teen time to spend with friends, join clubs and sports teams, and more. Part of high school is preparing to live independently in college, so teens need to earn gradual independence from their families at this time.

Pay attention to their friends.
Just because you encourage your teenager to spend time with his or her friends doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep an eye on those friends. Invite them over for pizza and offer to drive them to the movies or the mall. By spending even a little bit of time with your teen’s friends, you will learn more about them and identify potential bad influences. You will also be relieved if your teen’s friends are great kids who make your teen happy.

Starting high school can be stressful for teenagers and their parents, but by practicing these support tips, you both will be better prepared.

Has your teenager already entered high school? How did you help him or her prepare? Share in the comments below.

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5 Fixes for Your Toddler’s Temper Tantrum

May 17, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

5 Fixes for Your Toddler’s Temper Tantrum | Tantrums are a normal part of a child's development, but that doesn't mean they're fun. Here are 5 ways to deal with them.

According to my mother, my 3-year-old son is exactly like me when I was a toddler. She doesn’t say this with pure joy in her voice—it’s more of a warning. I was a climber, a talker, and had a whirlwind of temper tantrums growing up (and can still throw some minor fits).

Despite the term, "terrible twos," temper tantrums can start as early as 12 months and continue beyond age four, though they occur most often during a child’s second year. While not fun, tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development. Through the process, they learn to cope with frustration.

When encountering a tantrum, first rule out the basics. Is your child:

  • bored? 
  • uncomfortable? 
  • hungry?
  • over-stimulated?

If it’s one of the above, then address that problem immediately.

Otherwise, take a moment to look at the bigger picture of what is causing your child to throw a tantrum. Get creative and find a tactic that works for you and your child when entering Tantrum Town.

  1. Calm down
    When my son gets hysterical, I tell him as calmly as possible that he needs to calm down before we move forward with anything. I ask him to breath slowly and hold my hands. There will be times when you think you can’t keep your composure, but it’s critical when telling someone else to calm down. Yelling solves nothing.
  2. Give them your undivided attention
    One morning, I was driving my son to daycare in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We were running late and I was listening to the traffic report on the radio. Suddenly, my son started making an angry whining sound. Already short-tempered, I asked him what was wrong. He was angry that I wasn’t hearing him point out all the things he was seeing out the window.

    I quickly realized that he was trying to share things that were exciting to him while I was busy stressing out. When you notice a tantrum starting, get out of your head and take a moment to appreciate what your child is trying to share with you. Sometimes they just need a little attention.
  3. Check yourself
    Are you having a rough day and taking it out on your child? We try not to, but sometimes it happens. Kids can pick up on those negative vibes and will poke at it until they share the same unhappy feelings. Leave the drama from work, relationships, or anything else at the front door. If you bring it home, you’re asking for a tantrum.
  4. Ignore them
    During certain situations (e.g. a tantrum in line at the grocery store) you need to remain strong. We’ve all tried bribing them with candy or toys just to get them to be quiet, but that only lasts for so long.

    Instead, explain that their behavior in public is unacceptable. If your child is still not listening, ignore them and wait until you get outside to have a more personal conversation about the behavior.
  5. Communication is key 
    It’s a simple concept: talk to your child and pinpoint what the problem is. My son has excellent verbal skills, so when he starts whining and making noises I ask him to use his words so I can understand why he is upset and fix the problem.

    It’s easy to think you are already listening to your child, but if the TV is on or you’re texting someone, you aren’t 100 percent listening, are you? Give your child the same respect you desire and get to the cause of the tantrum. The more you practice, the easier it will be for both of you to settle down, cope with your child’s emotions, and move on.

What are some ways you address your child’s tantrums?

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Plan a great Mother’s Day with these 5 ideas

May 3, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

Plan a great Mother’s Day with these 5 ideas | What does a mother want for Mother’s Day? Show her that you love her and truly value everything she has done for you and your kids with these 5 ideas.

What does a mother want for Mother’s Day? While cards and flowers are a nice gesture, she would genuinely appreciate something original—and originality is more fun and heartfelt for you and the kids!

Show her that you love her and truly value everything she has done for you and your kids with these five ideas.

1. Ask her what she wants
Some mothers may want to spend the day with family, while others might like a day to themselves. Ask her what she would like to do. Maybe she wants to sleep in but would like to go out for dinner with the family. Perhaps she wants to go to a movie by herself. The best gift is one she truly wants and needs, not what someone else wants for her. Let her do what she wants on Mother’s Day.

2. Create a photo album of memories
Support family time by sharing happy memories on Mother’s Day. Gather photos she hasn’t seen in a long time and ask extended family to share photos they’ve taken over the years. You can even make a quick photo book from your Facebook and Instagram accounts.

3. Plan us time
When you have children, me time and us time often is pushed down the list of things to do. But it’s good for the soul and helps maintain a healthy relationship. Grab a sitter if possible and make dinner reservations for a date night.

4. Start a fun tradition
With the kids, brainstorm unique and fun activities you can do for Mom. Need a starting off point? Think of a Mother’s Day sing-a-long with her favorite songs or a scavenger hunt for her to find little gifts the kids made. Check out our Pinterest page for more activity ideas.

5. Teach your kids to appreciate Mom
This one is sure to bring a happy tear to Mom’s eye. Encourage your kids to think hard about all the things Mom does for them. Put it in their perspective: what if they had to wake up early every day and make breakfast and lunch for Mom, get her dressed and ready for work, then go to school themselves, come home, and make dinner for everyone? And then on the weekend, they have to do her laundry, clean the house, and take her to sports practice. When would they ever relax?

If they can imagine how hard it would be for them to take care of Mom, they might appreciate what she does for them. Once they understand, ask them to write a list of what they are grateful for and give it to Mom as a gift.

Whatever you decide to do, celebrate her individuality and demonstrate how much you and the kids appreciate everything she does for your family. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to impress her, but spend time and put thought into showing her how much your family loves and appreciates her.

We’re always looking for more ways to celebrate moms. What have you done in the past for Mother’s Day?

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Why You Should Always Send a Birthday Card

April 26, 2016

By Sunny P. Chico

Why You Should Always Send a Birthday Card | Download these birthday card templates and print them for your kids to send.

Along with better weather and greener outdoors, spring brings a lot of birthdays and celebrations. While some celebrations are easy—birthday parties with your child’s classmates are frequent—some are harder for your family to celebrate, like when family members live far away.

But there’s an easy solution that keeps your children in touch with far-away family members and brings joy to the recipient: birthday cards.

A few years ago, I was visiting with my beautiful mother and came upon a colored box, which she kept near her bed. I asked her about the box and she told me that its contents helped her relax when she got anxious, go to sleep when she had trouble, and put a smile on her face every day.

The box was full of birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, and retirement cards. I asked her which ones brought her the greatest joy and she said that she only kept the ones with a handwritten message inside. Greeting cards come with beautiful and thoughtful messages pre-written, but the most special cards are those that have an extra handwritten message by the people you love.

I immediately realized that I had been mimicking this behavior ever since my children were born over 30 years ago. I have an old hatbox that I keep my cards in! Anytime I receive a handwritten card, I put it in my hatbox instead of throwing it away. My mother helped me realize that there is still joy and comfort that these cards will bring me in the future.

We live in a very busy world that is dominated by technology. We text, we email, etc. It makes us more efficient in many ways—I know it helps me a great deal—but this communication cannot take the place of the very special messages inside my hatbox.

After finding my mom’s box of cards, I took a look inside my hatbox. I was surprised at what I experienced. I laughed and cried at the beautiful memories, and felt like I had touched many people’s lives. It was a journey looking back. I particularly paid attention to the handwritten messages, which became more meaningful.

I quickly started searching for only those that had handwritten messages. Reading the cards made me pause and think. It made me slow down for a short time and reflect.

I will go through my hatbox from time to time, but I now know that it will be one of my prized possessions by the time I am 80. It will help me relax, go to sleep, and put a smile on my face every day.

Take those extra minutes to write your thoughts in the cards you give, and encourage your children to do the same. Those handwritten cards will be a gift that lasts a lifetime.

To help your children share cards with their loved ones, the YOU Parent team created these card templates that you can download and print for your use.

Tags :  socialemotionalactivitiesfamily
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