Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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Paisanos: 3 Tips To Help Your Child During the Holidays

December 9, 2014

By Ana Vela

Paisanos: 3 Tips To Help Your Child During the Holidays | A mother buckles her children into the backseat of the car.

When we think of the holidays, we think about being with family. Well, what if your family is in a different country? You then travel hundreds, even thousands of miles to be with your loved ones. That’s what paisanos, about 2 million people, do every year. Paisanos (countrymen) are Mexican citizens who live and work in the United States and travel to Mexico to visit family. For paisanos, this migration can start as early as one week prior to Thanksgiving, returning to the U.S. after New Year’s.

When I was growing up, we were considered paisanos, as my father would drive us from our home in Virginia to spend the holidays in Mexico. I recall other paisano families leaving before the school holiday break to get a head start on the long drive to Mexico and to spend as much time with family as possible. While it’s wonderful to spend an extended amount of time with their families, taking children out of school before the designated break can have a serious impact on them as students.

Schools who serve students from paisano families understand the setbacks these students experience when they return to school. El Valor, the second-largest provider of early childhood education programs in Chicago, plans for this every year. “Sometimes families leave for a whole month,” says Clara Lopez, vice president of El Valor. “It’s important to build awareness around the importance of attendance so families can make better decisions. Routines are everything for a child.”

The Mexican government established a Paisano Program to help make travel to Mexico during the holidays as smooth and safe as possible. Yet, there is no information regarding the impact to U.S. students during this migration. Here are some tips to help your child have a successful return to school:

Value attendance
Do not take your child out of school before the holiday break. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, attendance is an important factor in student achievement. Each day your child misses class is a day that your child misses an opportunity to learn and may fall behind, making it more difficult to catch up. If you have no other option, then at least notify the school and your child’s teacher of his or her planned absence so you can work together to ensure your child does not fall behind academically.

Keep up the routines
Although it may be challenging during travel, try to keep some level of consistency for your child such as bedtime, meals, reading, and learning activities. This will help your child have a smoother transition when he or she returns to school. Contact your child’s teacher for ideas to help him or her continue to learn while traveling. “At El Valor, we hand out educational goody-bags to families filled with books and activities to provide some level of comfort for the children,” says Lopez.

Take advantage of the quality time
Life can get busy. Use the substantial travel time to catch up with your child. Ask about school, friends, and how he or she is feeling. It’s also a great time to discuss your child’s cultural identity and encourage practicing his or her native language. According to an article in The New York Times, “Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.” Being bilingual also prepares your child to succeed in a globalized job market.

Enjoy your travels and family, and remember to make every opportunity a learning experience for your child. I myself still hold on to the fond memories during our paisano travels.


DIY Activity: Holiday Cards – Free Download

December 4, 2014
DIY Activity: Holiday Cards – Free Download | Two "happy holidays" cards colored by children. Click this image and print for the free download.
Cards illustrated by Dex Gonzalez. 

The holidays are a time of giving, and what better way to show love and appreciation than with a homemade card? We created these holiday card templates for you to download and print for a fun DIY family activity. 

Just click here and you will see a downloadable PDF for both cards and envelopes. Right click on the image and choose "print." 

Use this activity as an opportunity to teach your child about the importance of giving and showing loved ones he or she cares. Ask your child who he or she wants to send cards to, and encourage him or her to customize the card for each person. For example, in above right card, a YOU Parent staff member's nephew said he loves his aunt so he drew a heart and a smiley face. For babies too young to express feelings, dip their hands in a non-toxic finger paint and stamp it in the blank space. Your child can write whatever he or she wants in the inside of the card so it's special for each recipient.

We hope you enjoy making these cards with your child. It's a wonderful free activity for parents and children to do, and a true pleasure for the loved one to receive such a thoughtful gift. 


How can I help my teen appreciate holiday time with our family?

December 3, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I help my teen appreciate holiday time with our family?  | A teenage girl sits on the couch, ignoring her family, talking on her cell phone.

Question: My teenage daughter doesn't want to spend time with our family during the holidays. She would rather hang out with her friends and their families. How do I get her to appreciate her time with us?

Answer: You’re not alone with this concern. Many parents of teenagers have the same issue, as teenagers are in a time of transition. In order to compromise with her and keep the peace, acknowledge this growth and allow your daughter to take on a more adult role in holiday preparations and celebrations. Being part of holiday preparations will allow her to feel included and welcomed as an adult participant in the family instead of as a child. It will also validate her by showing that you recognize her transition and value the woman she is becoming. You may consider the following:

  • Ask her to choose and prepare one recipe for the holiday menu, offering help as needed. Sharing the kitchen and working on the same project will help you bond and will demonstrate that she can share responsibilities with you.
  • Start a new tradition. Your teen may feel a sense of loss for the role in the family she held as a child, or even for the level of holiday excitement and wonder that fades with age. A new tradition, such as holiday volunteering or planning a trip, can be a great way to unite the family.
  • Stay true to the family traditions your teen is still attached to. No matter how busy your family life is, or how much tension your teen brings to the family, make a point to continue the traditions that still excite her, whether it’s holiday baking, decorating, or watching classic holiday movies or TV shows together. This is a great way to reaffirm your love and appreciation.

Whatever you do, try to limit fights by working with your daughter to find happy compromises. Make it a goal to help your daughter associate holidays with fun times with parents, grandparents and extended kin, while still allowing her some time to see her friends when activities aren’t planned.

Learn more about the issues addressed in this question in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book series. For information about making time for each other, see the Through High School and Beyond book on page 36. In the same book, read about sharing responsibilities with your child on page 40.


Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2014
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. From YOU Parent.
Tags :  holiday

Thanksgiving Prep with the Whole Family

November 26, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Thanksgiving Prep with the Whole Family | A mother and teenage daughter prep vegetables for dinner.

Thanksgiving is a holiday full of tradition and meaningful history. It’s a time to give thanks, make wonderful memories with our families, and teach our children the importance of cooperation. Since Thanksgiving is such a family-centered holiday, why not get everyone involved with mealtime preparation and cleanup?

Here are some quick things you and your family can do to make Thanksgiving less stressful for you and more enjoyable for everyone (including the little ones).

  • Plan Ahead. Do all of your shopping ahead of time. Let your children help with the Thanksgiving dinner list and shopping. Ask teenagers to do the grocery shopping or let your grade school-aged kids find different ingredients while you’re at the store. Younger kids can put food items in the grocery cart and check them off the list.
  • Food Preparation. Allow your children to assist as much as they can, as extra sets of hands can be extremely helpful. Let your teenager make a dish on his or her own. Allow your younger child to mix and pour anything that is not dangerous. Younger kids can also get lightweight food items from the pantry, shelves, and refrigerator for you.
  • Fun Snacks. Make fun and simple snacks with your children. From turkey-shaped cookies to candy apples, adults and children enjoy eating a quick snack before or after dinner. I found some great Thanksgiving snack ideas here and here.
  • Set the Table. Ask your children to help you decorate and set the table. Let them use their imaginations or try fun projects together. We started a Pinterest page to inspire you. 
  • Clean Up. Encourage everyone to help clean up. Depending on their ages, your children can sweep, clean, and throw out the trash, amongst other chores.

Most importantly, enjoy this holiday with your family and remember to praise all of your children’s efforts. Encourage independence and individuality while your children help make this the best Thanksgiving ever. And remember to take pictures!

What are your favorite ways to get the family to help with Thanksgiving? Tell me in the comments below.

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