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A Kid-friendly New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2013

By Amanda Gebhardt

Kid-friendly New Year's Eve

Every year I am amazed by how quickly midnight rolls around on New Year's Eve. There have been quite a few that we’ve missed because we were distracted by a conversation or a game with family and friends. It wasn’t always like that, though. I remember when I was growing up and it felt like the night stretched on forever. There were many years where even though my parents said I was old enough to stay up to watch the ball drop on TV, I still ended up sound asleep well before midnight.

The last three New Year’s Eves have been quiet evenings at home with friends as our young daughter slept her way into January. This year, while she’s still much too young to stay up until midnight, she’s not too young to be introduced to the fun and excitement of the New Year. They say that the people you start the New Year with will be the ones who stay with you throughout the next twelve months, so why not make sure this New Year’s Eve is one that helps bring your family together?

  • Watch an earlier ball drop. Young children need their sleep no matter what day of the year it is. In order to keep disruption to a minimum but still let your child enjoy the spirit of the holiday, make time to watch an earlier countdown. Throughout December 31, people will be counting down to midnight in places around the world. Whether it’s airing on TV, or you find a live stream of it, you may be able to watch the ball drop as early as you want. For those on the east coast, Paris and London will hit midnight at about six or seven o’clock, respectively. For those on the west coast, you can tune in to the ball drop in Times Square at about eight o’clock.
  • Keep snacks healthy. Serve fresh vegetables and fruit salad instead of potato chips and try out some healthy salsa or hummus recipes with baked tortilla chips.
  • Serve sparkling water. A touch of bubbly makes New Year’s Eve special, but it doesn’t have to be a sugary drink like sparkling grape juice or sparkling apple juice. A small sip of club soda can provide the fizz without a sugary overload. For older kids, have some fun by finding recipes online for them to try mixing their own kid-friendly drinks for the night.
  • Set family goals. Talk to your child about the upcoming year. Share things you are looking forward to and goals you want to accomplish. Encourage him or her to do the same. Use this time to reflect on the past year, any joys or sorrows your family went through, and make plans to start the next year off on a positive and productive note.

Whatever you do this New Year’s Eve, remember that the traditions you put in place with your children will be carried with them the rest of their lives. For me, it never feels like New Year’s Eve without nachos and board games. With so many options for healthy nachos, I’m so excited to begin passing these traditions on to my daughter this year!


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!


Take the Parental Involvement Pledge

December 4, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

Parental Involvement Pledge

As parents, we have responsibilities beyond that of the CEO of a company, a director of a major motion picture, or a political leader. Although some days you may feel you are all three! Fortunately, if you take initiative, parenting can be rewarding and fun. In essence, as parents we own the education of our children. Knowing that gives us an incentive to maximize its effect in our children’s lives.

Parenting and education go hand in hand because you, as the parent, are the first teacher your child knows. Parental involvement in school is something that is welcome, contrary to some beliefs that educators may not want “meddling” parents. On the contrary, anything you can do to supplement what your child’s teacher is already doing, will make your child more interested in his or her school-time activities. Following are some practical ways to start a movement of parental involvement in education that will create rippling effects long into the future. 

First, volunteer in the community and make an effort to communicate with other parents, even those in other schools. You will stay well informed on current curriculumand events as well as future plans. You will then be prepared to shape what you do at home with your child so that they can be more knowledgeable when the time comes to contribute at school.

Second, start a community group involving other parents who would be willing to take the Parental Involvement Pledge, and start making some advances in a learning environment that may seem stale to your children. Together, parents can commit to taking turns volunteering at the schools, spending time reading to their own children, and brainstorming together on how to enrich their child’s education. Some parent groups can plan field trips together outside of the normal school outings, which may address specific interests and fields of study. Create your own pledge. 

Finally, talk it up. Have lively discussions, in-person or online about parenting and the pledge to do more. Start a blog or a coffee group. Encourage other parents with your enthusiasm and passion for your community. It is not necessary to have a degree or even professional work experience. Having a desire to see your children and your community excel is more than enough to thrust you and your peers into action.


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.


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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