Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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Why should teens expand their circle of friends?

July 18, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Why should teens expand their circles of friends? | The Breakfast Club had a point—bring teens of different backgrounds and interests together and they'll learn something.

During high school, teenagers find their group of friends and spend most of their social time with them. It's easy for teens to stay inside that group and ignore the many classmates who are different from themselves and their friends.

While people aren't as easily categorized as The Breakfast Club characters are—the brain, the princess, the athlete, the basketcase, and the criminal—often groups of friends fit into molds like them. Within each group are unique individuals with strengths and weaknesses.

Just as The Breakfast Club teens learn in the movie, interacting with people outside of their group of friends can help your teenager become more empathetic and gain a more inclusive view of their community and the greater world. They will learn to find something in common with people who may seem very different from them but at their cores are not.

When the school year begins, encourage your teenager to step outside their friend group and engage with other peers. If your teen is athletic and spends most of their time with other athletes, they can join a club to meet other teenagers. If your child is academically focused, they can try a social club or a sport.

By branching out and meeting new people, your teenager may gain confidence and a greater sense of who they are as an individual instead of as part of a group. This confidence and understanding of others will build character and stay with them through adulthood.

Tags :  high schoolsocial
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How can I help my child choose better friends?

June 13, 2017

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I help my child choose better friends?

Question: My daughter starts 4th grade in the fall. Some of her friends from this past year were bad influences—they made fun of kids in the class and would pressure my daughter to play tricks on those kids during recess. I want to start next year fresh by helping her choose better and nicer friends. How can I do that when I'm not there?

Answer: Just as with adult friendships, sometimes children end up with friends who don't share their moral code or treat others the way they do.

Assuming the friends from this past school year were mostly school friends—that is, your daughter won't see them much this summer—you have the opportunity to use the time away to teach her what qualities to value in a friendship and make new friends this summer.

For instance, look at your daughter's friends who you feel are good influences. What characteristics do they possess? Are they kind, compassionate, trustworthy, considerate? Talk to your daughter about those types of qualities, using her friends as examples.

"Angel always thanks me after we have her over for dinner. That shows she is grateful for our food and our company. What are you grateful for?"

In the same manner, you can start a conversation about negative qualities. Share a story from your childhood when someone treated you unkindly and relate it back to the friends who make fun of classmates.

"When I first got glasses, there were boys in my class who told me I was ugly and called me 'four eyes.' They hurt my feelings and made me cry. Did anyone in your class this year get glasses? Did anyone make fun of them? Instead of hurting their feelings, you can tell them you like their glasses and are happy they can see better!"

Then you can talk about what to do when classmates make fun of other people and talk about those values and traits that we want in our friends.

Use the summer to reinforce her friendships with positive people and when she starts back at school, remind her of the qualities we all want in our friends. If she finds her way back to the friends from this past year, make an extra effort to have these conversations.

Tags :  elementarysocialbullying
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Celebrate Your Child's Teacher During Teacher Appreciation Week

May 9, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Celebrate Your Child's Teacher During Teacher Appreciation Week

Image courtesy of PTA.org

Teachers do so much for our kids—not only do they educate, they also look out for their social, emotional, and physical well-being while at school. They're building confidence and self-esteem while curbing bullying. They're teaching for academic success and inspiring a thirst for knowledge outside of the textbook.

With the PTA's Teacher Appreciation Week in full swing, how will you thank your child's teacher for all that they do?

The PTA put together a toolkit that will help you and your fellow parents say thanks. From thank you cards to appreciation certificates to flyers, head over to their site to download and print.

You can publicly thank the teachers on social media using the PTA graphics included in the kit and the #ThankATeacher hashtag.

Ask your child to name several things they like about their teacher. If your child is old enough to write, have them write a thank you card. If they can't write yet, write the thank you card for them.

For older kids, ask them to think about what they love about their favorite teachers and find things they admire about their least favorite teachers. Encourage them to write thank you cards to both. It's the least we can do for the people who do it all for our kids.

Tags :  teachersacademicsocial
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Socializing Your Baby

April 4, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Socializing Your Baby | Just as you are your child’s first teacher, you are your child’s first friend. Taking his or her social cues from you, your child will slowly learn which faces and noises elicit reactions and how to mimic your facial expressions. | A dad smiles with his daughter.

Just as you are your child’s first teacher, you are your child’s first friend. Taking his or her social cues from you, your child will slowly learn which faces and noises elicit reactions and how to mimic your facial expressions. Eventually, he or she will start interacting more frequently by babbling, smiling, and crying around you to communicate. Those early communication skills are your child’s first steps toward socialization.

Since so many of your baby’s social skills are the result of interacting with you, it’s important to communicate often with him or her. In the first month, you can encourage these skills by making exaggerated facial expressions—raising your eyebrows, opening your eyes and mouth wide, sticking out your tongue—while speaking to your baby.

As he or she grows, keep talking to your baby as much as you can. Talk through your chores, as you change diapers and dress your baby, even as you prepare meals. These verbal cues slowly help your baby learn to talk and build the bond between you.

This Baby Center article details the monthly social developmental milestones for babies, which can help you know what to look for as your baby grows.

Every baby is different, and every parent has different expectations and needs for their child. The socialization skills and activities outlined above are easy to do at home, but what if you want to get out and expose you and your baby to other youngsters and parents?

There are plenty of options, from play dates with friends and their babies to classes at socialization centers like Gymboree. This mom, Brittany, wrote about her experience taking her eight month-old to a class, saying it helped her daughter interact with other youngsters and improve her motor skills. As your baby gets older, he or she will start taking an interest in other babies and you can begin nurturing those social skills, too.

While your baby is young, enjoy the bonding time as you teach him or her to socialize through interactions with parents, grandparents, siblings, and close friends. The parental bond will be the strongest social bond in the first year, so enjoy it!

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Fame-seeking on Social Media

March 28, 2017

By Sunny Chico and Jessica Vician

Teenage Fame-seeking on Social Media | As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

There are many reasons we need to pay attention to our teenagers on social media, and a prominent one is bullying. There have been multiple times when criminals have aired their crimes on Facebook Live, like the recent rape of a 15-year-old girl and a the torture of a special needs 18-year-old man.

What made these people—some of whom are teenagers—want to broadcast it for friends and strangers to see? 

Social and Emotional Development
Social media plays a strong role in teenage social and emotional development.

Unlike television, where you just sit and watch, social media is an active medium. Teens are chatting, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. They're having unsupervised conversations with each other, which can have a lasting effect on their development.

Knowing what teens are doing on social media, we have to ask, "What could motivate these kids to broadcast rape and torture of teenagers?"

Fame
The answer? The need for fame.

I read a great article that talked about teenagers and the value of fame. The researcher noted that in the past 50 years, popular television shows have promoted friendship, family, and community. Think about Friends, Happy Days, and The Cosby Show.

But in the past 10 years, television has changed. Now popular television promotes fame. It's reality TV—American Idol, The Voice, Real Housewives, the Kardashian's. Even Hannah Montana, which your kids might have watched when they were younger, is a normal teenager by day but a pop star by night.

The value of fame is everywhere for our teens, so it's only natural that they seek it in a place that is very public and yet very private—social media.

Internet fame is the most accessible fame that teens have access to. A well-hashtagged Instagram post, a YouTube video or tutorial that goes viral, even a smart, witty tweet might get retweeted by someone famous.

It feels great to have someone—let alone hundreds, thousands, even millions—recognize and appreciate you, what you said, or what you did. And in some cases, just getting noticed is enough—like in the example of the teens and 20-something who broadcast the torture of their 18-year-old peer on Facebook Live.

Those kids were noticed for doing something horrible. But they were noticed, which might be all that mattered to them. For kids who aren't getting enough attention from their parents, often times negative attention is better than no attention at all.

How to help
So how do we prevent our kids from seeking negative attention or seeking fame online?

We don't need to keep them off of social media. After all, when used well, it's a great communication outlet for them and a way to connect outside of school with peers they might not spend time with in school.

But we do need to nurture our kids offline—in real life—to make sure they are receiving the attention, the understanding, the love, and the pride from us that they need so they don't go seeking it online, and especially in a negative way.

Share affection
You can start by showing your kids love. If your daughter plays basketball, go to the games and give her a specific compliment afterward, like, "You did a great job finding teammates who were open and passing to them. I'm really proud of you—you're a great team player."

If your son is on student council, ask about the meetings and if he is on a committee. Compliment him on his leadership skills and being brave enough to speak up to help shape the school.

Even if your kids aren't involved in extracurriculars, compliment them on what you love most about them. Maybe it's their compassion for their peers, or how they help you clean up after dinner. Specific compliments, aside from "I love you," go a long way to help them feel loved and truly noticed.

Our kids learn from us. They learn to speak, smile, even frown from watching us at a young age, and that continues as they get older.

Be respectful
Treat your friends with respect, and avoid talking poorly about others, especially around your kids.

Refrain from engaging in negative posting on your social pages as well, as you want to continue to model positive behavior.

Watch better TV
Watch television shows that promote friends, family, and community—not fame. If you must watch shows that promote fame, watch them together and talk about what the people are doing. If it's The Voice, focus on the talent instead of criticizing. If it's the Kardashian's, focus on their familial bond, or talk about why negative behavior is good for TV but not for real life. 

Talk to the school
If you're worried that your teen is spending too much time on social media, is being a bully online or is being bullied, think about what you can do to help. For example, if your teen is spending too much time on social media, find a school sport or club that your teen would like and encourage them to join. Reroute their need for socialization to offline activities.

If your teen is being bullied, talk to the school about how to address the bullying. Teachers and counselors can help you take action.

It starts with you
Remember, you are your child's first teacher. Just as you taught them how to talk, you can teach them how to find confidence and pride in themselves in the real world. By nurturing their emotional needs, they won't be as likely to hurt others in social settings—whether that's in person or online.

And while everyone seeks a little bit of fame, if you show them your love and pride for them, they might be less likely to seek it online from strangers. All it takes is a little extra love. 

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