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Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly this Holiday

December 23, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Enjoy alcohol responsibly this holiday season

Holidays are full of social gatherings. In a lot of families and communities, alcohol is a holiday staple, and even mine are no exception. Through my work as a family counselor, though, I’ve seen the affects that irresponsible drinking can have on a family. The World Health Organization states that consuming alcohol can have social consequences along with some health risks. We need to be conscious of what image we give our middle and high school children of social drinking, specifically holiday drinking.

Parents and caregivers are role models. Middle and high school students are still children who are very prone to impressions. What you do around them affects them and makes them view some behavior as appropriate (even when the behavior is not) just because they saw you do it. This holiday, let's plan for responsible social drinking that does not send a misleading message.

  • The first important fact to remember is that in the U.S. you have to be 21 years or older to legally consume alcohol. Make sure that you teach that fact to your children.
  • Talk to your child about responsible drinking and moderation of drinking frequently. As a role model, you can model this behavior by limiting your drinking to be safe and prevent losing control. Eat when you drink and only drink if you’re not driving. Draw attention to your responsible choices by saying, “I’ve had enough, thank you,” or “I have to drive, so no drinks for me.”
  • Keep an ear out for the way you talk about alcohol drinking. Examples that can send a misleading message are “I need a drink because I had a hard day” or “I want to drink to relax.” Your child might begin to think alcohol is a cure for a hard day or a relaxant. We don’t want to teach our children to use alcohol as an emotional crutch.
  • Have open lines of communication with your child to discuss questions related to alcohol. Don’t threaten them with harsh punishments in order to scare them away from drinking too young. Instead, talk to them openly about the risks of drinking and the toll it takes on a growing body and mind. Invite them to share their opinions about drinking and the opinions they’ve heard their friends express.
  • Keep all alcoholic beverages in a controlled area. The harder it is to sneak a drink, the easier it is to avoid temptation.

If possible, avoid having alcohol during your holiday gatherings at all. If this isn’t possible, you can control the amount of alcohol you give your guests to prevent others from overdrinking.

There are several responsible drinking sites that provide good tips for you this holiday season. Remember that happy holidays are safe holidays!

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Grown Kids and Changing Traditions

December 18, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

Change is good even around the holidays. If you have a grown son or daughter who is now married, it is best to start considering what this means as you merge families and holiday traditions. Even though deep down we know it’s important to embrace our child’s new life, I have witnessed full-grown women—grandmothers even—pout like children as they mumble over how “it just won’t be the same” without their homemade dressing at Thanksgiving. Yes, it seems the new in-laws are infringing on a holiday tradition.
 
Although the world will not end if your cornbread stuffing doesn’t make its yearly debut, it sure can feel like it. If your son or daughter is now part of another family because of their engagement or marriage, it may seem they have been “stolen” from you, and the holidays only serve to emphasize that.  If ever there was a time to look at the glass half full, now is that time. Respecting your son or daughter as the adult he or she is, means accepting his or her decisions and new family. This may mean your child moves away and doesn’t come home for the holidays, or that he or she lives nearby but plans to spend the holidays with his or her spouse’s family.
 
Think positive thoughts, count to ten and breathe. This phase of your life can be an adventure. Now is the time to think of you for a change! If less is required of you around the holidays, just show up and have fun. Enjoy watching your son or daughter and get to know your new family. Soon, you will be making new holiday traditions that you can enjoy with your grandchildren.
  
If you take a moment to reflect, you realize how blessed you are to have a growing and happy family. You will be surprised how many of your traditions your children will carry on themselves. And who knows, maybe this time next year you will be on a cruise to Aruba sipping a cold drink instead of baking cornbread.

 

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

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5 Ways to Keep Skills Sharp Over Break

December 16, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

Keep Skills Sharp Over Break

The upcoming winter break offers a welcome respite from the daily routine of school and a chance to visit with family and friends. While even teachers appreciate time to relax, we know how important it is to take the time to pursue our own interests and refresh our own love of learning. This time off provides opportunities to learn, develop, and retain academic skills for teachers and students alike. Here are my top five tips for parents to keep their students on their academic toes during break:

  • Visit a museum. 
Local museums often have reduced or free admission to students who present a valid school ID. Take advantage of the extra time during winter break and visit one. It is a great chance for students to see new things and explore.
  • Read a book. 
This may seem to be a lame idea to teenagers, but research shows that the number one way to improve tests scores is by reading. I advise my students to read and read often. Set some time aside during break for your child to read about something they are interested in. The act of reading requires concentration and imagination, which are great skills to reinforce during break.
  • Work ahead
. Students can use the time over break to work ahead in their classes, especially the ones they are having trouble with. Teachers often have the next assignment posted on the school’s website and you can help your student get a jump start on what is coming next in the classroom after break. Even just a preview of what’s to come can be helpful.
  • Play board games. 
In my family we regularly play classic board games, especially during the holidays when we are all gathered together. These games can help improve a number of skills relevant to academic success: teamwork, problem-solving, spelling, thinking on your feet, etc. A couple of my favorites are Bananagrams, Scrabble, and Monopoly.
  • Watch current events. 
Watch a documentary or news program with your students. Sometimes classrooms can be disconnected from what is happening in current events. With the extra time available during winter break you can choose to watch something on television regarding current events. This can be a way to help you student connect the classroom to the outside world.
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Gift Idea for Students: the Gift of Saving!

December 11, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

Gift Idea for Students: The Gift of Saving

As a teacher of personal finance I regularly tell my students the most important thing about building a healthy financial life is to save. Expert financial advisors say that 5 to 10 percent of your income is a good number to shoot for, but the more you save, the better. 

There are three basic principals in being successful at saving money:

  1. Pay Yourself First (PYF). This is a strategy to stay disciplined in regularly contributing to a saving plan by paying into it first. Every time a paycheck is earned, take 5 to 10 percent off the top and add it to the savings plan.
  2. Save for the long term. The true power of saving money can only be unleashed when money is saved over a long period of time in an interest-bearing account at a financial institution. Money deposited at a financial institution is also insured by the federal government through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to 250,000 dollars per account. So, the savings cannot be lost or stolen no matter what happens to the bank. 
  3. Start ASAP. The sooner you start to save, the sooner that money will grow. 

This holiday season provides a perfect opportunity to start educating your student on the importance of savings. Use part of any gift money to open up a savings account for your child and encourage relatives who wish to buy something to do the same. 

Additionally, state governments across the country are encouraging parents to save for their children’s college fund by creating special investment opportunities called 529 plans. There are significant tax breaks for those participating in these plans and other benefits depending on which state you live in. In Illinois, the 529 plan is known as Bright Start. For more information about opening this type of account and the benefits of having one, see Bright Start Savings.

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A Time for Giving

December 11, 2013

By Amanda Gebhardt

Toy Donations

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day, a day that commemorates the monumental statement of what it means to be human adopted through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This holiday season it’s important to remember those around us who struggle for their basic rights to a standard of living that ensures their health and security. In the rush of the holidays, it’s easy to forget that giving doesn’t just mean gifts, but also giving of ourselves to those in need.

Earlier last month, my husband passed a giving tree in the lobby of a building here in Chicago. Each tag had the gender and age of a child and what he or she was asking for. Standing there in that lobby on the way in between workday appointments he read the card for a three-year-old little girl. The request was for sweaters.

This past November, our daughter, Abby, turned three years old. I can’t imagine the sheer amount of clothes, toys, and general things she will be gifted this holiday season, not just by us, but by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Here in the same city, though, another little girl will be lucky if a stranger helps her keep warm. My husband saw that card and felt for that little girl, knowing how much we have to be thankful for and remembering his own childhood and the way his mother struggled to raise two boys on a cashier’s pay. 

The holidays are a time of celebration and togetherness, but mostly, they are a time of giving. We give love and kindness to those in our lives and community who need it. Our daughter is just getting old enough to understand what the holidays are and what she can expect. We want her to always be more willing to give of herself than to take for herself. Such a value can be developed at every age. The following are some of the ways I’ve been able to find to help begin teaching children the importance of giving. 

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

  • Talk to your child about giving to others and why it is important.
  • Work together to choose unused toys and clothes to donate to those in need.
  • Create a special donation bank where children can put loose change and have them choose a charity to give it to.

Elementary Students

  • Have your child pick out a special toy at the store to donate to Toys for Tots or a similar organization. 
  • Send a package to an American soldier through one of these organizations.
  • Visit a nursing home or a hospital.

Middle and High School Students

  • Volunteer as a family at a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Help organize a food drive at school.
  • Sponsor an impoverished child or family.

With each new generation learning to give to each other, hopefully we will help create a world where no little girls ever go cold. For now, at least, our family was able to help one more stay warm this winter. Find out more about what you and your family can do at organizations like Chicago Cares, the United Way, and the American Red Cross

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