Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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Why It’s Okay to Cry

September 10, 2015

By Sandra Braceful-Quarles

Why It’s Okay to Cry | Children cry from the moment they are born, which is a good thing. They convey many emotions through crying. Learn how to understand your child's tears and why it's okay to cry. | A mother comforts her crying daughter.

Waaaah! Waaaah! Waaaah!

That sound is expected, welcomed, and provides the first form of communication from the moment your child enters the world. Infants cry to signal a need: hunger, feeling uncomfortable, tired, frightened, etc. Parents are eager to comfort and console, listening to the sounds, tone, and inflection of the cries, which help you learn what your child needs or the message trying to be conveyed.

As children grow and develop language skills, the expectation to use words, appropriate behavior, and problem solving skills increases. The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines crying as “an emotional response to a distressing experience or situation.” Helping your child confirm, discuss, and overcome a crying experience lays the foundation for how he or she will cope and resolve issues as an adult.

Confirm and Validate
If your child is crying, there is likely an issue. Be careful not to say, “Don’t be sad,” or “Don’t be scared.” Those statements send the message that it’s not okay to cry. Instead, say, “I see you are crying. Is everything okay?”

You can also use comforting words in a tone that confirms you recognize there is an issue that your child needs to discuss. This initial validation provides the comfort that a child will need when developing problem-solving skills. Your child may need a hug or a period to just cry until he or she is able to say what is wrong.

The next step is moving from tears to words. Getting your child to say or articulate his or her feelings is important for many reasons.

  1. You learn the reason for the crying and can begin to address how your child can handle or cope with his or her feelings.
  2. You are teaching your child how to talk through the emotions. As your child’s guide and teacher, you can show him or her another way to address the feeling.
  3. If you’re not talking about the problem, then it could affect how your child deals with his or her feelings. Discussion is meant to help your child work through issues.

Resolve and Overcome
It will take a lot of practice for your child to begin resolving issues on his or her own. Every time you have a discussion, reinforce your child’s problem-solving skills. Your discussions can then gradually shift to the child doing the talking.

There may be times when the same feeling or issue will arise and you can say, “How did we handle that last time?” Ask for ideas or suggestions to resolve the problem to help your child think about how to feel good again.

This is not an overnight process. As your child develops, your reinforcement will help him or her master these issues alone.

Crying is what humans do naturally. It is the first sign that all is well when we are born. As children mature and develop into adults, the expectation is to work through their feelings. Crying is the beginning of that stage as your child learns to understand, accept, and manage his or her emotions. Of course, it’s okay to cry.

The YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books and program include valuable strategies and information on how to help you talk with your child through each stage of development. You can purchase the books on Amazon.

Sandra Braceful-Quarles is an educator, community liaison, and tutor working in the south suburbs of Chicago. As an active member of her worship community, she is passionate about giving back and volunteering to help others. She and her husband have three children and two grandchildren.


5 Things Working Parents Must Give Up for Balance

September 3, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Things Working Parents Must Give Up for Balance | Working parents must give up these 5 destructive thoughts in order to achieve a work-life-parenting balance. | A father gets dressed for work while caring for his baby.

Understatement of the year: parents must sacrifice A LOT for their kids. And working parents juggle more than just schedules—they juggle conflicting emotions about working instead of staying home with their kids.

In an article for Forbes, Amy Morin lists five things successful working parents often give up for a work-life balance. Not only is this list accurate for working parents, but most apply to stay-at-home parents, too.

The list of things these parents give up includes:

  1. Shame of asking for help
  2. Need to split time equally
  3. Neglecting themselves
  4. Always trying to make their kids happy
  5. Guilt about working

Read the full article here.

For any parent, it’s important to remember to ask for help when you need it, allocate time wherever your life needs it most, take care of yourself so you can then take care of your family, know you won’t always make everyone—including your kids—happy, and avoid feeling guilty about working.

Parents have many reasons for working while raising kids. From financial needs to career ambition, it’s important that you do what you need. Your kids learn from you, whether that’s how to balance raising a family while working to put food on the table, or pursuing a career that makes a difference, you are their first role model.

Take care of yourself and seek balance.


Our Love-Hate Relationship with Food

June 9, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Food | As the parent and your child’s first teacher, you have the power to set the tone when it comes to how you approach food and what your family eats. | A family of four sit at the dinner table, full of salad, roasted chicken, water, and tomatoes.

We can foster love or harbor hatred in a relationship. When we are hurt, we can choose to just walk away. Why then is it so difficult to turn our back on that slice of cake? Even when we know that eating unhealthy foods is harmful, we may fall into temptation for a number of reasons. Some of them are time-related. You may be running around in the morning and it is easier to pop a couple of waffles in the toaster than to make oatmeal. In the evening after a hectic day, you may opt for the microwave chicken nuggets for the kids instead of baked chicken.

Although these are quick fixes to the everyday problem of time management, they can easily become a way of life and a way of coping with stress. And if you’re modeling that behavior with your kids, they will likely do the same as they get older.

The good news is that just as bad habits are easily made, so are healthy ones. As the parent and your child’s first teacher, you have the power to set the tone when it comes to how you approach food and what your family eats. Expect to work hard at replacing the old with the new. Even if it seems like a struggle, it’s important to persevere. In time, you will be happy with the results, and much healthier, too! Here are some obstacles you may face, and some suggestions to get around them.

On the Run
Days, weeks, even months can seem to go by in a blur with the frenzy of activities that both parents and children are involved in. Your son or daughter is in an extra-curricular activity that requires him or her to go there right after school. You have meetings or other get-togethers after work. For both parents and kids, it is important to plan ahead and avoid the pitfalls of eating fast food because it is convenient or on the way to your destination.

Plan ahead and pack healthy snacks such as baby carrots, a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread, and a banana. Also, make sure each member of the family has a water bottle they can refill throughout the day and take with them everywhere they go.

Special Events
Whether it's a wedding, a funeral, or a family reunion, the central focus is always the food. So how do we get around the obstacles “out there” when we find ourselves in those situations? If any of these events are potlucks, you are in luck. Bring a dish that is healthy and fun such as a fruit salad in a carved out watermelon or chicken kabobs with colorful veggies. Even if it is not a potluck, you can still eat healthy from what may be offered. Just make sure your plate is full of more leafy greens, crunchy veggies, and lean chicken or fish instead of fried, breaded, or processed foods such as potato chips or pizza.

Always opt for water instead of a soft drink. In fact, many times our body may “act” like it’s hungry when, in fact, it may only be asking for water. According to registered dietitian Sioned Quirke, "the same part of your brain is responsible for interpreting hunger and thirst signals, which can result in mixed signals.

At Home
Finally, at home base, it can be much easier to control what ends up on the table and on our plates. It begins at the grocery store when we choose foods from the outer walls of the store first (most fatty and processed foods can be found in the middle aisles). Always take a list of what you need, basing it on the meals you plan to make for the week, including snacks.

Choose fresh fruits and vegetables with plenty of naturally wrapped snacks such as oranges, bananas, and pears. Pick the leanest meats, avoiding sausages and hot dogs if at all possible. These can be for a special occasion, but as your habits change so will your cravings, so don’t be afraid to excluded these items from the table. Challenge your family to try new flavors and textures. You may be surprised at their positive reaction.

We strive for healthy relationships with our children, with our significant other, and with people at work. Rarely do we pay attention to our commitment to our bodies and the food we consume.

Per the Centers of Disease Control, “more than one-third of U.S. adults (34.9 percent) and approximately 17 percent (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged two to 19 years have obesity.”

With these statistics on obesity, we must make these changes with a sense of urgency in order to live happier and longer lives. In addition, a good attitude about exercise and physical activity in general (yes, even housekeeping) can make all the difference in how easy the transition will be for you and your family.

Learn more about modeling positive behavior for your child in our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. 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.


Teach Toddlers to Share

May 26, 2015

Article and Photograph by Nikki Cecala

Teach Toddlers to Share | Young children might not be able to understand why they should share, but you can teach them how to share in the meantime. | The author's son Seth and nephew Daniel get along on the playground.

On a rainy Saturday afternoon at my sister’s house, our sons, who had just turned two, were playing with their new birthday toys. Everything was going well until one of them saw the other having the time of his life with a particular toy. You know where this is going.

My son, Seth, was jumping off a large plastic car (don’t worry, the rug beneath the car kept it in place) when Daniel decided he wanted to jump off of it, too. Seth ran back around, pushed Daniel to the side, and climbed on the car to jump. As you can imagine, this left Daniel sad and crying.

Seth stood near the car with a concerned look on his face. He seemed curious as to why Daniel was crying, but he wasn’t making the connection that it was a result of his actions. Seth gave Daniel a hug, which Daniel accepted, and then attempted to get on the car again. I realized this was a great teachable moment to show the boys how to share nicely, so I used these four tactics to help.

Be patient
Successfully teaching a child to share involves many stages. It’s not something learned quickly, especially for a two year old. While you can teach a toddler to share at this age, he or she likely won’t fully understand the concept or value of sharing for a few more years. You may need to show and tell your child repeatedly how to share, which can take time to learn and change their behavior, so remember to be patient when teaching.

Put it in perspective
Never force a child to share without explaining the reasoning for it. Instead, create an environment that encourages your child to want to share on his or her own. Saying, “Sally, you need to share your doll because your cousin Mark is over,” is not going to teach Sally the importance of sharing when Mark or any other child is at her house. Put sharing in perspective for her by saying, “When you go to Mark’s house, he shares his toys with you so that you can play together. Wouldn’t it be nice to share your toys with Mark so he can play with you here?”

Model positive behavior
As stated in the first book of YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, “Children learn to control their behavior by imitating the behavior of adults around them. They will learn more from what they see you do than they ever will from what you say.” Take the opportunity to demonstrate how you share with your partner, grandma, or a neighbor. It may not seem like much, but your child is observing and learning how to behave, which can make a big impact.

Encourage them
When encouraging Seth and Daniel to take turns, I always told them whose turn it was and cheered the other on when he completed the jump.

“Good job Seth! Now it’s Daniel’s turn to jump.”

This strategy worked out well because although they were antsy waiting for their turns, they knew to wait until the other was done based on the name I was announcing. It kept them more calm and orderly. Are the boys excellent sharers now? No, about an hour later they were bickering over a new toy, but jumping in and guiding the situation helped a lot. We took the first step in learning how and why to share, and they were both more willing to because of our earlier experience.

How do you encourage sharing with your children? Tell me your story in the comments below.

Do you want more lessons that develop your child's social and emotional well-being? Check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon


When Mom and Dad Are Smokers: Modeling Behavior

May 12, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

When Mom and Dad Are Smokers: Modeling Behavior | When you become a parent, lifestyle choices matter. Firsthand, secondhand, and thirdhand smoke affect kids in ways you might not even realize, like frequent sickness and asthma. Quitting smoking will model a positive behavior with your children. | A boy shakes his finger at his dad, who is about to light a cigarette.

What was once a status symbol is now a stubborn habit you wish you didn’t have. Smoking, while it may have seemed like the cool thing to do back in high school, is anything but that today. The constant pressure to lead healthy lives combined with bans on smoking in many public spaces such as restaurants and bars have caused smokers to become part of the minority.

Aside from new laws or the negative stigma that may convince some smokers to quit, becoming a parent is another reason to stop. Although it is a tough habit to kick, doing so helps parents create an all-around healthy environment for their children.

Lifestyle Choices Matter
Whether you are buying groceries, exercising, talking to a friend, or having a smoke, each activity has an impact on your son or daughter. Your children model their behavior based on yours. For example:

  • If the items in your grocery cart are unhealthy, your son or daughter may adopt the same habit of eating unwholesome food.
  • If your children constantly see you taking part in physical activity and enjoying it, they will soon want to join you in this positive experience.
  • If your language is negative and derogatory when they hear you talk to a friend or a stranger, they will believe it is acceptable to use swear words.
  • Whether you smoke in front of your children or step outside, your son or daughter may subconsciously accept smoking as a natural part of life.

The good news is that parents can take a holistic approach by making overall smart lifestyle choices and in effect, positively affect their children.

Avoid Sickness
Some of the reasons to not smoke around your son or daughter are the direct effects of any form of the smoke. This includes secondhand smoke, which is a combination of the smoke that emits directly from the cigarette and from the smoker’s mouth. Thirdhand smoke is that which settles on furniture and clothing that later makes its way into a child’s mouth and skin.

These indirect forms of smoke contain more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and cause cancer. If a child suffers from asthma, the secondhand smoke can make breathing even more difficult. Whether a child suffers from asthma or not, cigarette smoke causes the airways to become swollen, narrow, and filled with a sticky mucus.

Tobacco smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 respiratory infections in babies every year. In addition, it causes a higher rate of preventable throat and ear infections. Up to 26,000 new cases of childhood asthma are reported each year because of tobacco smoke.

Another reason to stop altogether is to make sure you will be around longer for your children. Some of the fatal illnesses that affect adults who smoke are coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

Be Their Hero
In today’s information-saturated society with images flooding the Internet and television, children seek someone to look up to and emulate. Whether they pretend to be princesses or monsters, chances are your sons or daughters first learned this behavior from their environment and the media. You, as your child’s first teacher, can also be their first role model.

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to make an impact on your son or daughter. You may struggle to quit smoking, to eat healthy, or just to complete a project at home. Whichever it may be, demonstrating your stamina and overall joy in getting it done will make a lasting impression on your children. It’s easy to take these little moments for granted, but often they are the most striking on young, impressionable minds.

Learn how to model positive behavior for your child in our our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. 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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