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Back to School Resolutions

September 5, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Back to School Resolutions

It seems that we celebrate the New Year twice a year—once on January 1 and once when school starts. After all, a new school year affects our annual calendar more than the official holiday. As we change our routine with the new school year, it's a great opportunity to reflect on the previous school year and set goals for the upcoming school year.

This year, I challenge you to sit with your children and discuss their "Back to School Resolutions." Think about and ask these questions:

  • What does your child want to accomplish this year? 
  • What were the best parts of the last school year? 
  • What were the hardest parts? 
  • What are they excited about this year?

It's a great time for your family to reevaluate priorities and form resolutions to keep everyone organized, happy, and healthy for this school year. Here are some suggestions to consider for your resolutions:

  • Physical fitness—Are your kids getting at least 60 minutes of exercise a day? Are you getting at least 30 minutes a day?
  • Nutrition—Is everyone eating whole foods with vitamins, protein, and fiber?
  • Sleep—Most kids should get at least 10 hours of sleep a night and adults should get eight hours.
  • Study goals—Do your kids have a specific place to go for quite, uninterrupted study time each day? 
  • Music—Which instruments are your children learning? Are you exposing them to a new style of music?
  • Teacher partnership—Have you introduced yourself to your children's teachers and communicated a desire to partner with them for your child's success?

What is your family prioritizing this school year? Tell us in the comments below.

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From a Teacher: 3 Tips for Parents to Start the School Year Right

August 15, 2017

By Kevin Rutter

From a Teacher: 3 Tips for Parents to Start the School Year Right

Successful students need engaged parents to support them. On behalf of all teachers, I'm asking you to continue to support your child's education as the school year begins. You can make this year successful for your child with these parent engagement tips:

  1. Update your contact information.
    Teachers will need to reach you at some point during the year, so make you're your contact information is up-to-date. If you've moved or changed phone numbers, please contact your school’s attendance office and provide the new information. Having the correct contact information creates the right environment for a timely communication flow between the school and home.
  2. Take advantage of technology.
    We've seen a technological revolution in schools in the past decade. There are new tools available for parents to monitor what is happening with their student at school. Your child’s grades and attendance data should be accessible for review online. These systems can also send you text messages if your child cuts class or their grades dip below an acceptable level.

    Technology allows parents to be more active participants in their child’s education. Please contact your school’s main office to learn how to connect with these applications.
  3. Attend an open house or parent-teacher conference. 
    Make a point to attend open houses or parent-teacher conferences whenever they are offered. It shows your child that you care about their education and shows the teachers and staff the same. Schools also use these events to showcase programs and services that are available for parents to help boost their engagement in their child’s education.

Keep communication lines open with your child’s school by providing updated contact information, using educational technology, and meeting with your child’s teachers and school staff. By following these tips, you will get the most out of your engagement and increase your child’s success in school.

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4 Ways to Keep Your College Student's Grades in Check

August 1, 2017

By Judy Razo

4 Ways to Keep Your College Student's Grades in Check

Parenting is different when your child is in college. Your child might not live at home so you can't keep track of study habits and you're no longer entitled to receive your student's grades.

So how can you keep those grades in check when your son or daughter doesn’t have to show them to you?

  1. Trust your child.
    Start by acknowledging that your child is now considered an adult, and therefore, you should respect and trust them as one. This will only strengthen your relationship and keep the lines of communication open between you, which in turn will make your child feel comfortable enough to show you their grades, no matter what they look like.
  2. Establish a protocol for academic struggles.
    Before your child starts college, discuss a protocol in case they have trouble with a class or grades begin to slip. Present it as a “just-in-case” plan that both of you hope you won’t have to use.

    As a parent you have high expectations for your child. As a son or daughter, your child doesn’t want to hear that you think they're going to fail, so be tactful in your delivery. Acknowledge that going to college is very different than going to high school and this plan will provide wiggle room as your child adjusts.
  3. Agree to share grades.
    Before your student leaves for college, agree on when they should share their grades. This will set expectations and keep your child on track as they remember the agreement to share grades after midterms and at the end of the semester.

    The agreement will vary depending on the relationship between you and your child. If you are able to, you could offer to pay tuition in exchange for a strong GPA. You could also incentivize your student by offering to increase the monthly stipend or upgrade their living or lifestyle arrangements each semester contingent on academic progress.
  4. Walk through their degree plan together.
    Lastly, you can take your parent engagement level a step beyond just grades by having your student walk you through their degree plan and sit down at the end of each semester to check off the completed classes. Stay open-minded to your child’s choices and be supportive if they choose to change their major.

Remember to be confident that you raised a well-rounded and prepared child. This is the opportunity to allow all of the things you taught them to kick in; you just have to be patient, open-minded, and give it some time. Your child will apply what you have taught them and learn new techniques that will pay off.

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9 Ways for Your Child to Be Physically Fit & Healthy

July 11, 2017

By Jessica Vician

9 Ways for Your Child to Be Physically Fit & Healthy | Being active and eating well for life is such an important lesson that it needs to be practiced in and out of school.

Did you know that the President Physical Fitness Test—the gym class staple that you might have loved if you were athletic and loathed if you weren't—ended in 2016? Without those annual check-ins to see how your elementary student did in comparison with their peers, how can you gauge their level of physical fitness and health?

The good news is that the President's Challenge has been replaced with the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, which better assesses a student's overall health instead of only athletic fitness. According to the Health and Human Services website, this program focuses on helping students stay fit for life—not just for an annual test. This means that your child is learning to be active and eat well for their lifetime instead of only focusing on athletic competitions.

Being active and eating well for life is such an important lesson that it needs to be practiced in and out of school. As you know, healthy decisions and patterns you start now can stay with your child throughout their lifetime, so use the tips below to make healthy decisions for your family.

Get 60 minutes of physical activity every day
Your child needs 60 minutes of physical activity five days a week. You need at least 30 minutes. Try these small activities to reach those goals:

  • Walk to a neighborhood friend's house instead of driving. Let your child bike, skateboard, or scooter while you walk.
  • Wash the car by hand together. Let your child wipe down the interiors while you start on the exterior. Then switch and vacuum while your child soaps up the exterior parts they can reach.
  • Start a vegetable garden and tend to it daily. From watering to weeding, you and your child will gain activity points while reaping healthy vegetables to eat once they've grown.
  • After dinner, head outside to the basketball hoop (in your driveway or at a nearby park) for a few rounds of Horse.

Ensure meals & snacks hit all the food groups
Each meal should offer a lean protein, fruit or vegetable, and a whole grain.

  • Focus on one food group per snack, like a hard-boiled egg for protein in the morning, and an apple and peanut or almond nut butter in the afternoon for a fruit and protein.
  • Switch from sodas, juices, and sports drinks to water. For flavor, make an herbal (non-caffeinated) iced tea or add strawberries and cucumbers to water.
  • Get creative with your grains. Instead of regular pasta, try farro, bulgar, barley, or quinoa. You can even find quinoa pasta at the grocery store for a healthier option in your favorite shape.
  • Find a recipe for your family's favorite restaurant or take-out meal. Cooking it at home will eliminate a lot of extra sodium, sugar, and fat.
  • Reroute your family's sugar cravings away from candy bars, cookies, and other processed sweets and satisfy them with lots of fruits. The natural sugars are a healthy way to feed the craving.

What tips do you have for establishing healthy practices for your kids in the early years that will stay with them for life? Share in the comments below.

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Guide Your Teen's Emotional Development

May 23, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Guide Your Teen's Emotional Development | Parents must be present to guide their teenager's emotional development in different ways depending on their age and needs. | A teenage girl talks to her mother.

As you probably remember, the teenage years are taxing on everyone involved: the teenager, their parents, and brothers or sisters. Hormones are in flux and drama follows teens everywhere. Parents must be present to guide their teenager's emotional development in different ways depending on their age and needs.

In the first few years, it's important to focus on developing a positive body image. As mentioned by Dr. Denise Witmer in her article on Very Well, girls who develop early are often uncomfortable with their new, more mature bodies, but boys who develop early are often more confident.

Pay attention to your teen's physical development and that of their friends. Ask questions to understand how they are feeling. Are they developing earlier or later than their friends, and does that concern them? Assure them that in a few years, everyone's bodies will catch up to each other. Share an anecdote about what you went through, or a story about their favorite aunt or uncle or family friend.

Help build your teen's body confidence by complimenting them when they look nice or try a new look. As your teenager starts to express themself through fashion, embrace the change and show them that you notice—compliment a new hair style or their experimentation with jewelry. This mom shares more tips on how you can accept and embrace your teen's new style.

As your teen gets older and moves past the awkwardness of puberty, they will start focusing on independence and more privileges. Parents will need to set boundaries and stick to their rules, as they will be tested during this time. Teenagers will challenge the rules, argue about fairness, and desire more private time and time with friends, making it difficult for parents to know how to guide them.

First, remember that this behavior is normal and your teen doesn't hate you (even if they say they do). They are simply becoming more independent, which means you're doing your job right! You will question yourself and your rules often, which is okay—try to step back and look at situations objectively to see what rules are working and what rules aren't working. Then figure out why. You and your teen might even be able to compromise on some of the rules if you both understand the other's concern.

For example, let's say the issue is curfew. You might set curfew at 10:00 PM on weekends, but your teen's friends have a later curfew. Your teen feels left out having to leave early and wants an extension. You are worried about safety coming home late at night. To compromise, why don't you let your teen start heading home at 10:00 PM. That way, they don't have to leave too early or rush to get home on time. They can text you at 10:00 PM when they leave (even sharing a photo if you prefer), and you know they're on their way and will be home shortly.

Between physical and emotional changes that come with puberty and the desire for greater independence, the teenage years are tough on the whole family. Remember that you are your child's first teacher, even when they forget that. As their teacher, try to keep a cool head and take a step back for perspective on what they're going through. If they know you're hearing them and you're willing to compromise when possible, you will earn their trust and can help them through these emotional times.

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