Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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Do I have to teach my kids about Santa and the Easter Bunny?

April 18, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Santa holds a lot of wrapped Christmas gifts on the left side of the image, while on the right side, a bunny sits beside an Easter basket filled with eggs on the grass

Question: I think that Christmas and Easter should be about the religion and reason for the holiday, not about presents and candy for kids. Am I a bad mom if I don’t teach my kids about Santa and the Easter Bunny?

Answer: You’re not a bad mom if you don’t teach your kids about Santa and the Easter Bunny. Your concern is valid. In our culture, religious holidays sometimes lose their original messages and transition to being about eggs, candy, and/or presents.

The most important thing that you can do during these holidays is to teach your children about their historical and religious purposes. Make these lessons part of your holiday traditions so that you remind your children every year what the holiday is really for.

But don’t forget that the other traditions can be fun, too, especially for your children. Hunting for Easter eggs and waking up to presents on Christmas morning is exciting and magical for children. As adults, we too often forget those feelings of wonder and pure joy, but our children still have those feelings and it’s a great thing to be able to (secretly) deliver it to them through these traditions.

Instead of forgoing those traditions altogether, we suggest a compromise. Limit the amount of gifts that come from Santa, so there is less of an emphasis on gifts from a magical man. Let your children focus more on the spirit of giving between your family members and to charity.

At Easter, the children can hunt for Easter eggs filled with loose change, messages of love, and IOUs for their favorite activities. This way, they still experience the fun of finding hidden objects but the rewards are more meaningful than candy.

Of course, with these compromises you should still spend time talking and learning about the true meaning of the holidays. With this approach, everybody wins!

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Is it too late or can I become more engaged with my teen now?

April 11, 2014

By YOU Parent Facilitator

A mother enthusiastically plays a video game with her teenage son.

Question: I have not been a very engaged parent with my teenager, but now I understand why it’s so important. Is it too late or can I become more engaged with my teen now?

Answer: As parents, we can’t always make up for missed opportunities or fix mistakes. However, we can improve our approach going forward. It’s not too late for you to practice more engaged parenting techniques with your teenager.

Now is an excellent opportunity to foster your teen’s growing independence, which will prepare him or her for adulthood. Teenagers usually start to distance themselves from their parents as they become more independent, so try to slowly integrate these engagement techniques into your parenting style so your teen isn’t overwhelmed.

  • Show interest in school. Ask your teen about his or her favorite and least favorite classes. Look at the report cards. Praise your teen’s accomplishments and discuss issues if he or she is struggling in a class.
  • Support his or her physical needs. You already know that a well-nourished and well-rested child is more likely to perform better at school. If you haven’t already, start modeling positive habits by making dinners more balanced and nutritious and by ensuring your child receives at least eight hours of sleep a night. Share those meals together for engaged and quality family time.
  • Share his or her interests. Pay attention to the types of pop culture your teen enjoys. If you have similar musical tastes, share new and old favorites. If he or she is reading a book for school, buy or rent a copy and keep up with your teen’s reading schedule so you can talk about it. Sit and watch one of your teen’s favorite television shows with him or her. These bonding opportunities will help you both find a common ground and relate to each other.

These are just three examples of small ways to practice parental engagement with your teen. Remember that during the teenage years, your child will learn to become more independent to prepare for adulthood, so your engagement techniques should support that preparation.

To learn more about parental engagement and supporting your child through high school and beyond, see Through High School and Beyond in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series.

Do you have a question you’d like to submit? Write us and we’ll respond!

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How can I correct my parents’ mistakes without overcompensating?

April 4, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A mother and teenage daughter sit on the couch chatting.

Question: I disagree with some things my parents did when raising me. I want to parent differently, but don’t want to go too far in the opposite direction. How can I correct my parents’ mistakes without overcompensating too much?

Answer: Many individuals are afraid of becoming their parents. Even though we love our parents, as we mature and foster our own lifestyles we develop different values and priorities. Few things make us question priorities like becoming a parent.

You can still offer your child important guidance without going overboard. The important thing is to engage with your child early on and continue that engagement throughout his or her life.

As an engaged parent, you will learn to find a balance between what you want for your child and what he or she needs. Regardless of the parenting style you use, start practicing these techniques with your young child, which you can continue as he or she becomes an adult.

  • Talk with your child. The conversations will change through the years, but having daily chats as your child grows will not only keep you up-to-date on his or her life, but will also help you bond.
  • Listen to your child. By listening to what your child has to say, you communicate respect to him or her, regardless of age. Respect builds trust, which in turn will help your child listen to you when you express concerns or enforce rules.
  • Encourage independence. As a parent, part of your job is to prepare your child to become an independent adult who is financially responsible, physically and mentally healthy, and a contributing member to society. By encouraging your child to think independently and question his or her actions and beliefs, you can help your child become a responsible adult.

Fundamentally, we all want the best for our children. Even if you disagree with your parents’ techniques, they also wanted the best for you. It is important to remember that you can give your child the tools to become an independent, caring, and moral adult, but you can’t force him or her to become a specific person.

For more information on parental engagement, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series by Sunny P. Chico.

Do you have a question about your children? Submit it here.

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How can I help my child receive a bilingual education?

March 28, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A girl reads a book and says, "I love you." "Te amo." "Thank you." "Gracias." "Please." "Por favor."

Question: My 5-year-old daughter speaks Spanish and English, as my husband and I are bilingual and speak both languages to her. When she starts school in the fall, we want her to learn both in Spanish and English. How can we help her receive a bilingual education?

Answer: It’s wonderful that you want your daughter to continue growing up bilingual. In a world of increased globalization, knowing multiple languages is not only a valuable business skill, but also one that reduces limitations for your daughter and gives her the opportunity for greater cultural experiences.

The best option for ensuring your daughter receives a bilingual education is to enroll her in a dual language bilingual education school. These schools teach both English and another language through all grades and subjects, which will solidify her fluency in both languages.

Another option is to choose a school that offers Spanish classes at the elementary level. Since she already speaks the language a bit, she may be able to test out of the introductory course and begin at a more advanced level.

If these programs are not available in your area, you may need to supplement her bilingual education outside of traditional school time. Here are some simple ways to do that:

  • Practice “Spanish-only” time at dinner or another designated time with your child. Talk about regular things in Spanish. If your daughter has trouble remembering a vocabulary word, ask her to use the Spanish words she knows to describe it.
  • Enroll your daughter in Spanish classes at her skill level. You can find these classes at local Spanish-language schools, tutoring businesses, or even at private schools.
  • Read Spanish children’s books to your daughter. Once she can read, ask her to read these books to you. Reading in another language is one of the best ways to learn grammar rules and common phrases.

From formal education to reading exercises, there are many ways to give your daughter a bilingual education. Soon she will be ready for a third language!

For more information on dual language bilingual education, or to learn about transitional bilingual education, please refer to Through Elementary and Middle School, the second book in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series.

Do you have a question you would like us to answer? Ask us here.

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How can my wife and I manage time with our kids when we both work?

March 21, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Two siblings laugh with their parents while enjoying breakfast together.

Question: My wife and I have unusual schedules. While she works Monday through Friday, I work Wednesday through Sunday. How can we manage to spend time with the kids together?

Answer: It’s difficult to spend time together as a family when both parents work. It’s even more difficult when each person’s time off doesn’t match up.

Regardless of your children’s ages, there are small things you and your wife can do to ensure you spend time together. It will just take some extra effort.

  • Read. If both parents are home on certain nights, read to your younger children together.
  • Eat. On days when you’re all home in the morning, eat breakfast together and talk about what each family member has planned for the day.
  • Schedule. Manage your family’s schedule just as you manage your child’s schedule. Keep a calendar of events in a central location so you know when everyone is available.
  • Activities. On days off, start family activities like game nights, and sharing meals.
  • Vacations. Plan a road trip and/or vacation with your family. Spend some extended bonding time together that you will all remember when it’s tough to see each other frequently.
  • Celebrate. Try to change shifts with a co-worker every once in a while so the family can celebrate a milestone together.

These small efforts add up. From a family breakfast on Monday morning, reading before bed on Tuesday, family dinner on Wednesday, and game night on Thursday, that’s already four family events for the week.

For more information on finding time and activities to share with your family, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. In Through Elementary and Middle School, see pages 42-43, 58-59, and 84-85. In Through High School and Beyond, see pages 36-37.

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