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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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Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys

February 7, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys | A young girl plays with soft, plastic blocks on the floor.

If you're a parent and you're online, you've seen the news about Sophie the Giraffe. Yes, Sophie can develop mold on the inside if your teething child drools into the air hole, or if you ignore the manufacturer's cleaning tips and immerse it in water (even if that water is soapy or part bleach).

This news has sparked a bit of panic in parents—and rightfully so—as many people are allergic to mold and we want our kids to be healthy.

So how can you best keep those toys clean and prevent green fuzzy spores from forming on and inside them? These tips will get you started.

Good, Old Fashioned Cleaning Solutions
Use a clean sponge or cloth soaked in hot water and soap to wipe down the surfaces of your child's toys and play areas.

If they need a stronger scrubbing, make a paste out of baking soda and water to scrub, and add vinegar for extra power.

You can even create a mild bleach solution. To be safe, confirm the proper ratio of bleach to water with your pediatrician. I have read that one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water should be fine, as long as you allow the solution to dry before giving the toy back to your child.

Let The Machines Do The Work
Plastic or rubber toys that don't have an air hole can usually go in the dishwasher on the top rack. If the toys are smaller, put them in a mesh bag first and tie it up tight so they won't get loose.

The mesh bag method also works in the washing machine, especially with Legos and other smaller toys. Instead of wiping each block down by hand, you can clean them at once one load.

Follow The Instructions
When in doubt, look at the manufacturer's cleaning tips on the box or online to see what they recommend. Some fabric toys can be tossed in the washing machine, but some should be spot-treated. Wood toys should be wiped down but not put in the dishwasher, as the heat may dry out or splinter the wood.

In the case of Sophie the Giraffe, the manufacturer recommends wiping her off, but not soaking her in water. Since Sophie has an air hole, water can get trapped inside and turn to mold. Keep that in mind when washing any toy and make sure you drain and dry it properly.

Do you have any toys that you've found tough to clean? Tell us in the comments below or email us at info@youparent.com and we'll help you find a safe way to clean them.

Tags :  healthbabyinfanttoddlersafety
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5 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Positive Body Image

January 23, 2017

5 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Positive Body Image | A teenage girl looks into the mirror as she fixes her dress.

For preteens and teenagers, body image is closely related to self-esteem. As their bodies change and they go through puberty, they are more self-conscious and vulnerable to what others might think of them. As a parent, you have significant influence over your child and can help him or her develop a positive body image.

1. Model positive behavior by accepting your body.
Your children, no matter their age, mimic the behavior they see and hear at home. If you speak negatively about your body—or those around you—your teenager will likely share that attitude about their own body.

Do you complain about extra pudge on your belly? Your daughter will start looking at her stomach and thinking it's too large, even if it's perfectly healthy. Does Dad complain about hair loss? Your son might start worrying about losing his hair, instead of appreciating what he does have.

2. Encourage activities that feel good.
Shift the focus to your child’s abilities rather than to his or her physical appearance. Exercise helps your child feel good about his or her body. Remind your child that this is about being fit—not necessarily thin—and about focusing on health rather than appearance. Focus on the positive feelings about being strong, healthy, and able to participate in different activities.

3. Help your child understand that bodies change and that there is no ideal body shape.
We come in different shapes and sizes. Focus on how strong, agile, or healthy your teen's body is and talk about all the things that it’s capable of doing.

If you believe your child is over or underweight, check with his or her health provider instead of making assumptions. If your suspicions are confirmed, make gaining or losing weight fun and a family activity—everyone can eat more greens and protein and try new physical activities together.

4. Praise your child.
Teenagers need praise from their parents. They need to know you recognize when they're doing a good job, be that at school, in music, with friends, or in sports.

When you praise your child, be specific about the accomplishment and highlight positive character traits and talents. For example, tell your teen how you've noticed how compassionate he or she is with a friend who has been going through a tough time, or how you thought he or she did a great job in the game by passing the ball when a teammate was open. Your child will soon focus more on his or her character and values than on his or her physical appearance, building a healthy self-image.

5. Encourage your whole family to be healthy.
If your child sees that the whole family is trying to have a better self-image and healthier lifestyle, it will be easier for him or her to follow. The family can make simple changes like avoiding fast food, buying or cooking nutritious meals, and exercising together.

If a healthy lifestyle becomes part of your family practices, your child will model these habits throughout his or her life and keep a positive self-image thanks to a wholesome approach.

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4 Brain Breaks for High School Students

January 17, 2017

By Jessica Vician

4 Brain Breaks for High School Students |  When your teenager starts learning about complicated topics, brain breaks can help them focus and can even enhance the learning experience. | A teen girl takes a brain break with a cup of milk.

Once your teen enters high school, he or she will be learning important foundational knowledge that can be built upon in future years of study. For example, learning the basics about RNA and DNA in biology class could lead to studying genetics. Learning about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand could lead to a desire to learn more about international politics.

When your teenager starts learning about complicated topics, it can be difficult to wrap his or her head around them and can lead to an exhausted brain. But brain breaks can help your teen focus and can even enhance the learning experience.

Dr. Judy Willis discusses the science behind brain breaks in this Edutopia article. Basically, if your teen takes a 5-minute break from studying every 30 minutes, and uses that time to relate the learning to his or her life or even just gets the blood flowing again through exercise, it will help him or her retain the knowledge.

As your teenager starts studying a new topic that may be challenging, try one (or all four) of these brain break ideas. 

  1. Research the topic your child is learning about and share an interesting fact about the topic or about one of the leading minds on the subject. For example, if your teenager is studying Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, take a brain break to talk about how Einstein said that he often thought in music. Your teen likely loves listening to music, and knowing that he or she has something in common with the person who developing this complicated concept might help alter the way he or she thinks about learning it.
  2. When taking a break from reading a novel, spend five minutes role-playing as a character from the story. Ask your teen questions and have them answer as they think the main character would.
  3. When learning about eyesight or perhaps learning about a person who is blind, blindfold your teen during the brain break and have him or her try simple, everyday tasks so he or she can appreciate the sense of sight more. It's slightly removed from learning about lenses and corneas and only gives a minor example of what it's like to live without sight, but it might spark more of an interest in the subject.
  4. Is your teen learning a foreign language? During a brain break, do jumping jacks together while counting in that language. For more advanced work, conjugate verbs in that language during the jumping jacks.

Do you have any favorite brain breaks that you use with your kids? Share with us in the comments below.

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Parental Engagement: When Your Ex Remarries

January 10, 2017

By Amanda Alpert Knight

Parental Engagement: When Your Ex Remarries | A mother shares what she has learned about her kids as they get used to their dad remarrying. | The photo shows a man cutting through a paper family.

Typically when I use the term parental engagement, I’m talking about how involved parents are in schools and their children’s lives. I’m referring to the depth and the breadth in which a parent is engaged in a child’s educational, social, emotional, and physical activities. This article is not about that.

My ex-husband is engaged. Less than two years after we divorced, my ex-husband emailed me that he is engaged. My feelings aside, I remembered an article I wrote about striving for a kinder divorce for the kids—something I have since discovered is somewhat of a unicorn. As an educator and a mother, I have observed my children through this process and can offer my thoughts on what I think can lead to the greatest success as this transition continues.

1. Kids come first—bottom line.
In the process of dating, engagement, and wedding planning, it's critical to let your kids know that they are always number one.

Even if they aren’t directly expressing that they are feeling replaced, left out, or simply concerned, your kids need your attention, affection, and positive reinforcement. As the families are blending (and even thereafter), children need time with their parent. I recommend making one-on-one time a priority with each of your kids without the soon-to-be spouse.

2. It’s not about the party.
The day after my ex got engaged, he told my oldest about how much fun the wedding would be—tuxedos, a tropical location, the dancing—it sounded like a dream; who wouldn't be excited? But each night thereafter, I heard about the concerns, the worries, the long term: Where will I sleep? I don't get along with my stepsibling. I don’t want the wedding to happen so soon.

While the newly-engaged parents are in bliss and excited, the kids are full of emotions. It's important to see and hear those emotions and concerns, as children need space for them. They need to know that those emotions are okay and are going to be addressed, both by the engaged parent, the soon-to-be stepparent, and the other one. There is real life after the party, and while it's okay to get the kids excited about the wedding, you also need to address the day-to-day changes that will occur.

3. Respect your child's parent and your past relationship.
Not everyone will agree with this, but I think respect for the past relationship is critical when approaching a second marriage when kids are involved. You created children together and are co-parenting, so it's important to speak respectfully to and about the other parent, especially when speaking to your kids.

As I stated in my previous article, I have always envisioned a time when my ex and I could be friends, where we could work together to better one another in our new paths and not destroy each other. If we can each respect and appreciate the relationship we had—even though it's over—we can move forward happy for the other person and therefore create a better environment for our children. Constructive behavior is better than destructive behavior.

4. A new spouse isn’t a substitute for the other parent in your child’s life.
Remember that each person is a parent seven days a week, not just when you each have custody.

I recently met a man who dated a woman with children for about five years (he doesn’t have children of his own). He knew he had approached the situation in the right way when the children introduced him to people as their friend, John. He wasn’t trying to be a substitute for their father or play a fatherly role. He understood that wasn’t his place nor did he need that to feel part of their lives. I had so much respect for how he explained his approach to dating a woman with children. He respected the parenting relationship and didn’t try to break that or interfere. He was simply the children's friend, which was of immense value to him.

These four rules are the result of going through this process with my kids. Each situation is different, but I think everyone can agree that respect for your parenting partner, regardless of your relationship status, goes a long way during and after a divorce.

While my dating process is slow and calculated—a casual jog where I watch my footing and carefully select my paths— when I find the right partner, I will reflect back on what I have learned about putting the children first and respecting my children's father. Regardless of divorce, my ex and I are still engaged in each other's lives as co-parents of two of the most amazing children I’ve ever known. I hope our actions fill them with love instead of worry.

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