Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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My son won’t share anything with me. How can I get him to speak to me?

February 7, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A son puts his hand up to stop his mother from speaking to him.

Question: My 10-year-old son won't tell me about his day or talk to me about anything. How can I get him to speak to me?

Answer: Sometimes children don’t want to share with their parents, whether they’re teenagers, toddlers, or in between. There are many reasons, from shyness to privacy wishes. Whatever the cause, it’s still important to speak with your son daily about his life, even if it’s just a few sentences at dinner.

Here are some quick ways you can sneak in a conversation with him.

  • Tell him about your day. Often times sharing about you will prompt him to talk about himself.
  • Watch TV. Sit with him and watch one of his television shows and ask questions about the plot or characters. He might share his thoughts on the show as well. A word of warning: you might want to wait until a commercial so you don’t interrupt and aggravate him.
  • Visit someplace new. Take your son to dinner at a new restaurant and ask about his food. If his initial response is one word, ask more detailed questions. Why did he choose a cheeseburger instead of pizza? What’s his favorite cheese?

While he talks, listen to his tone. Is it normal for him? If so, then he might just be going through a phase where he doesn’t share much with his parent(s). If he sounds upset or angry when answering normal questions, or avoids answering them, he might be dealing with a problem. Find a quiet, safe place to speak with him about it. Tell him you noticed he hasn’t been himself lately and you want to help him. If he’s not receptive, you may want to speak with his teacher or school counselor to see if they have any insight into what could be wrong.

For more information on speaking with your child of any age, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher three-book set. For information on speaking to younger children, see pages 46 and 60 in Through The Early Years. See pages 43 and 77 in Through Elementary and Middle School for newer ways to interact with your child. If you are worried that your child is suffering from depression or struggling with peers, see page 64 in the same book and reach out to a school counselor for additional help.


Building Healthy Teen Relationships

February 5, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

Build healthy teen relationships

Building healthy teen relationships can be one of the more challenging responsibilities we as parents and mentors of teens have. The teen years are a period of great physical and emotional growth for children. Up until this period in their lives, most children have likely remained close to home, guided by their parents. As they enter and journey through the teen years they become more independent of their parents and rely more on themselves, their friends, and their peers. What can we as parents and mentors do to assure that our teenagers will build healthy relationships and make good choices?

Teens must learn communication, boundaries, trust, and respect for one’s self and for one another. We set the examples. If we do not communicate effectively, our teenagers may not turn to us with any problems they may encounter. They in turn may not be able to communicate in their personal relationships in a positive way—they may withhold their feelings or perhaps act out in anger. Have a conversation with your teenager; take time to listen to what he or she is saying. Offer guidance more than advice or opinions.

If we do not set boundaries, our teenagers may encounter difficulties in understanding the consequences of their actions in the relationship they have with others and make poor choices. Set curfews, assign household chores, and hold your teenager accountable for meeting his or her responsibilities. Reward your teen with praise and encouragement.

And lastly, if we as parents and mentors do not set examples of trust and respect, our teenager may be at risk of not trusting and respecting themselves or others, resulting in unhealthy relationships. Trust and respect your teenager in your words and actions.

While the teen years can be challenging, they can also be exciting and joyous. Both parent/mentor and child need to remain aware, stay balanced in their opinions and be conscious in their choices in order to build healthy teen relationships.


7 Outcomes of Effective Parent Engagement

January 27, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

How time is spent from birth through high school. Because 92 percent of a child's life is spent at home, parental engagement is critical. It starts with you.

For a long time schools have focused their energies on parent involvement, measuring how often and how many parents show up to events and parent-teacher conferences. The higher the numbers, the more schools think they have high parent engagement. But parent involvement and parent engagement are two very different things.

An effectively engaged parent not only supports education at school, but also supports it at home. Such a parent engages in quality communication with teachers and school officials as well as with their own child. An engaged parent attends to the needs of the child while building the foundation for academic success. After all, 92 percent of a child’s life from birth through high school is spent at home while only eight percent is spent at school.

How do you know when you have effective parent engagement? Look for the following seven outcomes that are clear indicators that parents are effectively engaged at your school:

  1. Higher Attendance Rates – when parents make education a known value at home, they make school attendance a priority. Engaged parents insist their students show up to class ready to learn.
  2. Higher Graduation Rates – when parents have high expectations of their children, children thrive and succeed. Engaged parents encourage their students to persevere.
  3. Lower Teacher Turnover – a school culture that is built on family engagement and participation reduces the burden on teachers and allows them to get back to what they love: teaching. Engaged parents help to keep teachers from burning out.
  4. Lower Rates of Bullying – children learn morality, kindness, and compassion most effectively at home. Engaged parents focus on their child’s citizenship and personal value system.
  5. Higher Self-Control – parents provide necessary structure in a child’s life. Engaged parents set boundaries that students thrive within.
  6. Better Nutrition Choices – the habits that are developed at home are habits that a child will carry with him or her into adulthood. Engaged parents make health and well-being a priority.
  7. Higher Scores – decades of research have shown that one of the prominent components in children who succeed is having parents who are fully and effectively engaged in their education and their life. Engaged parents lay the foundation for success.

Parents will always bear the burden of a child’s growth and development, so when schools make parent engagement a priority, they are making their students’ success a priority.


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.


Modeling Good Behavior to Prevent Bullying

November 25, 2013

By Sunny P. Chico

Model Good Behavior For Your Child

Whenever I think about bullying, I can’t help but think about what kinds of things we may be unintentionally teaching our children. As an educator, parent, and grandparent (as well as an aunt, a sister, a daughter, and a friend), I’ve seen how closely children model their behavior after their parents. How we treat each other and those around us will be how our children treat the people around them at home, in school, and well into adulthood.

This is why, as parents, it’s so important to think about what values we model at home. First, we have to show how to communicate respectfully, whether it’s with our children, our partners, or with our own family and friends. There’s a respectful way to have a disagreement where nobody is wrong, where you agree to disagree. We all lose our cool, but it’s important that when that happens, you go back and explain to your child why you lost your cool and that this was not a good way to behave.

It is also important to remember that the behaviors we allow in the home are behaviors that our children will practice out in the world. Recently I’ve seen how my daughter models this with my grandson, David. He says to me, “Nana, I don’t like it when your voice is raised.” I tell him, “I’m not raising my voice, it’s a different tone, David.” But still, I see that my daughter has instilled in him a sense of how our words, actions, and even tones, affect each other, and that it’s always important to be aware of how we’re treating each other.

As parents and grandparents, this awareness can help us guide and shape our children in a way that can prevent bullying later in life, but we can’t always prevent it at first. All we can do is deal with it as best as we know how.

If you ever learn that your child is bullying or being bullied:

  • Talk to your child. Try to understand the situation.
  • Seek assistance from the teacher. Find out what the teacher has observed and what he or she recommends.
  • Review the school bullying policy. Many schools are legally obligated to follow their stated bullying policy exactly as written.
  • Work with the school to make an action plan. Determine what steps will be taken, what the ideal outcomes are, and when to assess progress.
  • Sometimes, it may be best to call the other child’s parents and say, “I need your help.” You should make this discussion as positive as possible, and not angry or negative. Let them know what is happening. Tell them, “My son told me about this today, and I was wondering if I could seek your help with it.” 

We all want the best for our children and want to protect them from any pain or heartbreak, but so often the best protection—and prevention—is to be a positive role model for them.

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