Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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Resolutions: Physical Well-Being

January 20, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Resolutions: Physical Well-Being | New Year's Resolutions: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, academic success

This month, YOU Parent is featuring a series on making resolutions that address a child’s four core needs for success in life: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and academic development. Visit us next Tuesday for the final article addressing academic development.

Children mimic so much of our behavior it’s sometimes a little unnerving. Do you remember how bad you felt the first time your toddler said a cuss word, without even realizing what he or she had said? What about the pride you felt the first time your child voiced an opinion that sounded like something you would do—something so unique that it linked the two of you together?

Whether it’s good or bad, our children model our behavior. That’s why it’s so critical to behave the way you want your children to, from watching your language to living a healthy lifestyle. We live in a challenging time for health—teen obesity has quadrupled in the past 30 years and anorexia and bulimia are prevalent in the teenage years and beyond. How you choose to behave around your children can make a big difference in their physical well-being in childhood, through the teenage years, and beyond.

This year, try one or more of these resolutions to promote a healthy lifestyle with your children.

  1. Eat healthier.
    Load your plate with vegetables and fruits of all colors. A colorful diet of whole foods will give your body more nutrition and energy to tackle anything that comes your way. Do some research online to find out which foods keep your immune system ready and have the most vitamins and minerals, and talk to your kids about why those things are important. Need inspiration? Read how this mom teaches her kids about nutrition in the foods they eat every day.
  2. Exercise more.
    Some people love to exercise and others loathe it. But exercise isn’t just about going to the gym. Find weather-appropriate activities you can do with your family to get the blood flowing and your bodies sweating (try dancing, playing in the snow, or indoor jungle gyms this winter). Sign up for a 5k race with your teen and train together. Whatever you do, you’ll be releasing toxins and kicking those endorphins—which help you fight pain and stress—into gear. You’ll feel better immediately and your body will thank you.
  3. Speak positively about your body.
    Most of us have something (or many things) we’d like to improve with our bodies. Whether it’s a trimmer tummy, losing the stretch marks, or bigger goals, it’s okay to want to improve within reason. But be careful how you speak about your body in front of your children.

    Instead of looking in the mirror and saying, “I’m so fat,” find something you like about yourself, and share it with your children. “I love my tiger stripes because they remind me of when you were born,” or “I like that my body curves in at my waist and back out again like an hourglass.” Ask your children what they like about their bodies. Your child will pick up on your attitude and message, regardless of what you say, so why not make it positive to promote better self-esteem?

These resolutions seem small and simple, but they may be more challenging than you expect. That’s okay. Take the challenge and choose at least one of these resolutions for 2015. Not only will your body and mind thank you, your children will benefit from the important lessons you’re teaching them.


Resolutions: Emotional Well-Being + Self-Esteem

January 13, 2015

By Nely Bergsma

Resolutions: Emotional Well-Being + Self-Esteem | New Year's Resolutions: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, academic success

This month, YOU Parent is featuring a series on making resolutions that address a child’s four core needs for success in life: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and academic development. Visit us each Tuesday in January for the latest article addressing each of these needs.

For most of us, the New Year arrives hand in hand with setting resolutions to change behaviors, make positive life choices, or perhaps try to experience things that we never have.

Self-esteem and a healthy emotional well-being can act as an armor against many of the situations families face from early in life to adulthood both inside and outside of the home. As parents, we can set resolutions that model positive behavior to help our children build healthy self-esteem.

Children with healthy self-esteem benefit in many ways throughout their lives. They tend to be comfortable in social settings and enjoy group activities as well as look to experience new things with confidence. When challenges arise, they work toward finding resolutions and voice their opinions without belittling themselves or others. Here are two New Year’s resolutions you can make to help your child develop strong self-esteem and emotional well-being.

Be a positive role model.
When our children see parents being hard on ourselves, or being pessimistic or unrealistic, they risk looking at themselves the same way. As parents, we can make the resolution to nurture our own self-esteem more than ever this year. We can look at ourselves, our children, and situations that may arise in a more positive and realistic manner. Make simple changes such as personal cleanliness, positive interaction with others, simple acts of kindness, speaking positively about yourself, and avoiding hostile situations.

Enhance the home environment.
As parents, we are responsible for providing a safe home environment for our children. Children who do not feel safe or are abused are at greater risk for having poor self-esteem. Let us take stock of the home we have created for our children this year.

  • Is the home clean and orderly? That will help children feel safer, more comfortable, and take pride in their homes. 
  • Do we have arguments in the home? How are they resolved? Try to make disagreements as levelheaded and respectful as possible. Listen to each other and compromise in a solution. This behavior teaches children the best way to disagree. 
  • Is there trust and open, respectful communication in our home? When we listen to our children when there are problems, we establish trust and respect for them. Children raised in a family who trust and respect each other will have more confidence and stronger self-esteem. 

It is important that we look to identifying behavior, situations, and things in our lives that are within our control. The best way to model healthy self-esteem is to look at these obstacles in a realistic way and make positive changes while our children are watching and interacting with us.


Resolutions: Social Well-Being

January 6, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

New Year's Resolutions: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical health, academic success

This month, YOU Parent is featuring a series on making resolutions that address a child’s four core needs for success in life: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and academic development. Visit us each Tuesday in January for the latest article addressing each of these needs. 

Just as important as tending to your son or daughter's physical needs is the need to nurture their social and emotional lives. Being conscious of our own reactions and interactions with others is the first model of discipline that he or she will see. That's why among any of the other New Year's resolutions we can make as parents, one of them should be to monitor our own behavior so as to educate our children to become better communicators by being aware of their emotions in different social settings.

It begins when they are just infants. You may have heard how important it is to hold your baby, and the positive effects of a caregiver's affectionate touch. It lets the baby know he or she is in a safe and nurturing environment, providing stability. As a parent, you can begin to instill social skills as well. One way is to use real words and not "baby talk" when responding to your child. Using appropriate tones and corresponding facial gestures are important, too. For example, if you are asking a question, your words will ring a certain way, and your face will show the expression.

As your son or daughter achieves other milestones, it is important to integrate valuable social lessons into daily interactions. Instead of avoiding situations where you know he or she will have a difficult time such as sharing a toy or eating at a restaurant, create these opportunities to point out why he or she should behave a certain way. Also, tell him or her it is alright to feel emotional at times, and that there are constructive ways to express themselves. My youngest daughter's kindergarten teacher created a "feelings wheel" where she can turn the dial to a face to express her emotions such as happy, sad, scared, and so on. We can then talk about the emotion and find a way to move the dial back to "happy" together.

Modeling Positive Behavior
In some families it may seem acceptable to yell at each other. Some disagreements may escalate into screaming matches where no one wins, and everyone involved feels worse. As parents, this is another behavior we can resolve to change. By yelling, we are communicating that we are not in control of a situation. Many times it also makes the person being screamed at feel threatened or humiliated. These are all emotions we would never want our children to feel outside of the home, so this social skill is definitely one to pay close attention to. In recent years, there have been more reported cases of bullying, which may be the result of a volatile home environment that involved yelling.

As part of a parent's resolution to show more positive behaviors in social situations, we can take a step back during a conflict and reflect on how to react. Children are keen to their surroundings even if it appears they are not paying attention. They can pick up on cues such as tension in your voice and certain behaviors. If your body language expresses calm and contentment, your son or daughter will mirror that. The same goes for when you are anxious and angry. Keeping your cool also keeps your head clear. For children, decluttering the mind is vital when learning new concepts at school.

Paying attention to the types of words you use is also critical. If you are used to saying things like, "I hate when..." modify it to "I prefer when…" Instead of just stating a problem, which the world is full of, try providing an alternate solution instead. Your son or daughter will understand that they too can resolve problems instead of just sit around and complain about them.

Social Media and Friendships
Although the name "social media" implies a large network of friends all discussing fun topics, it is a far cry from that. Let your son or daughter see your positive online posts and refrain from going on rants about people. Show them that putting people "on blast" is the equivalent of yelling and that it will not make him or her feel any better nor will it resolve any problems. Let your behavior model a respect and appreciation for different cultures and people.

Resolve to nurture your friendships this year. Show your son or daughter what a friend's behavior is supposed to look like. Be kind and thoughtful. Call your friends to see how they are doing. Visit a friend who may be experiencing a tough time. These actions will encourage them to foster friendships, and not just on social media, but at school and in the neighborhood.

The social skills and emotional behaviors you model for your son or daughter today carry over to their early schooling to their college years, and finally, to their workplace tomorrow. You will be proud to see your son or daughter as a successful, well-rounded person who appreciates differences and is kind to others.

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.


5 Ways to Bring Back Your Child’s Sleep Routine

December 16, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

5 Ways to Bring Back Your Child’s Sleep Routine | A boy sleeps while tucked into his bed.

The holidays are an exciting time for adults and kids. Families go out-of-town to visit relatives, host visitors, go on vacation, or simply take time to stay home to relax. With so much going on during the holidays, it’s hard to keep a consistent schedule, let alone a consistent sleep routine. But don’t stress if your child wants to stay up a little late to catch up with family over school break. Here are some tips to help your child get back into his or her sleep routine before school starts up again in January.

Keep the Bedtime Routine.
Stick to a pre-bedtime routine throughout the holidays, like taking a bath, putting on PJ’s, and reading a book. This helps your child predict what's next and know that there will be no negotiation. 

Slowly Return to A Set Bedtime.
As you get closer to returning to school, slowly start moving up bedtime. Try moving it up by 15 to 30 minutes each night the week before school starts, and keep the normal school night bedtime for at least the weekend before school starts again.

Begin turning off all media devices one hour prior to your child’s bedtime routine. It will help him or her wind down and signal that it’s almost bedtime.

Turn Down the Lights.
Dim lights around the home and play classical music or white noise sounds. Use a dim lamp or night-light to promote security.

Bedtime Snacks.
Offer honey or cheese and crackers as a last snack (this combination has been proven to be effective to bring on sleep.) For more food ideas that help bring on sleep, see this article.

Above all, remember that you are the role model for all habits and routines. According to the CDC, your toddler should be sleeping 11-12 hours a day, while your school-aged child should sleep at least 10 hours a day. Model positive behavior for your child by valuing sleep, too. Try these tips with your child and you’ll both feel more rested in no time.


Black Friday: Family-Friendly Alternatives

November 25, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Black Friday: Family-Friendly Alternatives | Cartoon images of people fight over items in a store, stack shopping carts full of goods, and race toward the front door of a store.

Black Friday. Those two words probably evoke a strong emotional response from you, whether you shudder in disgust or your heart flutters with excitement.

It’s easy to see that Black Friday has become a cultural phenomenon, with some national chains now opening on Thanksgiving evening. My Facebook feed on Friday morning is filled with photos and stories of how many cups of coffee people drank to stay up all night shopping, battles over the last $200 giant flat screen television, police interventions, and more.

We all love good deals, but what kind of impact does your participation have on your child? Are you at home the Friday after Thanksgiving enjoying breakfast together, talking about the fun times you had with family the day before? Are you decorating the house together for the upcoming December holidays? Or are you just getting back from a night out shopping, trying to hide presents before your child sees them and then heading back to bed to catch up on all that sleep you missed while your son or daughter plops in front of the television?

Black Friday deals are a great opportunity to save money on gifts you may need to purchase for the holidays, but they also prompt us to buy “gifts” for ourselves that we might not otherwise buy. If you come home with a new television or other adult “presents” that you start using right away, you start to model negative behavior to your child.

Stepping away from the family during a holiday to shop demonstrates the importance of materialism to your child and can devalue the significance of family and spending time together. And you don’t want to interrupt your child’s sleep routine to bring him or her with you on this shopping trip. That can leave your child cranky and a bit off all weekend.

While there is value in potentially saving hundreds of dollars on your holiday gifts and getting the shopping out of the way early, there are other ways to do both without giving up quality family time.

Small Business Saturday
As a response to Black Friday, which is dominated by big-box stores and national chains, local businesses and American Express founded Small Business Saturday in 2010. It has grown significantly in the past four years and is worth checking out in your town.

Bring your child with you on Small Business Saturday to local shops and let him or her help you choose gifts for family and friends. Not only is this a safer shopping experience (I haven’t heard of police needing to get involved or fights breaking out), but you don’t have to interrupt anyone’s sleep to shop during normal business hours, and you can use it as an opportunity to teach your child why you buy gifts for others at this time of year.

Cyber Monday 
Small Business Saturday sounds great, but if you ditch Black Friday and bring your child with you on Saturday, how are you going to buy him or her gifts on the sly? Cyber Monday is your answer. Larger stores keep the deals going on Cyber Monday, which is the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Order those gifts online and get significant savings, special products, and sometimes even free shipping.

These are just two alternatives to Black Friday, but I’ll bet there are many more. I don’t want to discourage you from holiday shopping, but these options can help you maximize family and parent engagement time while providing teachable moments with your child—instead of caffeine-fueled fights in the fluorescent-light glow of a store in the middle of the night.

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