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Bye-Bye Binky!

August 15, 2014

By Jennifer Eckert

Bye-Bye Binky! | A toddler sits with his pacifier in his mouth, looking innocent and curious.

My son’s pacifier is more than just your average piece of silicone. An ingenious invention called a WubbaNub, it is a small stuffed cat with a green pacifier attached to its mouth. We call it Fluffy Kitty, and it has been with my son since the day we brought him home from the hospital. For the past year and a half, it has been his source of comfort and the preserver of my husband’s and my sanity.

Pacifier use is one of those parenting issues that EVERYONE seems have an opinion about, but there’s really no right or wrong answer. On the pro side, pacifier use is thought to reduce the risk of SIDS, and it’s a great way to satisfy a baby’s sucking reflex. On the con side, prolonged pacifier use can lead to problems with speech development and may affect the way a child’s teeth line up. And then, of course, there is the question of when to take it away.

For my son, that moment came last month at his first dental appointment. The dentist pointed out his slightly protruding front teeth and told me that if he stopped the pacifier now, it wouldn’t affect his permanent teeth when they came in.

The thought of saving thousands of dollars in orthodontist bills was enough to convince me that Fluffy Kitty needed to go. However, the idea of depriving my son of his comfort object made me reluctant to cut him off cold turkey. So after doing a little research, I came up with the following steps to gently wean him off the pacifier.

  1. Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Upon observation, I began to realize that my son’s pacifier use during the day was a subconscious habit. If he saw his pacifier lying around, he’d just scoop it up, put it in his mouth, and go about his business. So when he was distracted, I started hiding it where he wouldn’t easily spot it. Sure enough, he didn’t seem to notice it was missing!
  2. Crib Confinement. Once my son didn’t seem to rely on it as a crutch anymore, I instilled the rule that the pacifier never leaves the crib. We made a game out of it—he would have the pacifier in his mouth when I picked him up out of bed, but then I would say, “Hi-ya!” and he would fling it back into the crib with a big smile on his face.
  3. Paci-Free Naps. The next step was to try to get my son to take his afternoon nap without a pacifier. I have to admit I had some help with this step since my son takes most of his naps at daycare. His teacher would lay him down on his cot and pat his back until he fell asleep. It took awhile the first day, but after a few days, he was napping like a champ—no backrubs necessary!
  4. A New Bedtime Routine. The final step toward a pacifier-free lifestyle involved removing the pacifier from the bedtime routine. I made a point of letting my son pick out a different stuffed animal to snuggle with when we read bedtime stories each night. My goal was to help him find a different comfort object that didn’t go in his mouth. He eventually settled on a plush white cat that my husband and I have jokingly named Fluffy Kitty 2.

We’ve only recently transitioned to this final step, and bedtime can still be a little rocky at times, but I know there is smooth pacifier-free sailing on the horizon.

Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.


Student Budgeting: Inexpensive College Textbooks

August 13, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

Student Budgeting: Inexpensive College Textbooks | A student stares at her stack of college textbooks.

Heading off to college can be both a very exciting and very expensive adventure. Did you know that the average college student spends as much as $1,200 each year on textbooks and supplies alone? That’s a lot of money! Thankfully, there are many great resources outside the school bookstore that can help your student buy or rent books for significantly less money. Pass this list along to your student so he or she can use these sites every term and save some dough.

With Chegg, one can rent, buy, or sell textbooks. Renting is especially cost-friendly, as students can rent textbooks for a semester, quarter, or try a 60-day rental, saving anywhere from 30 to 80 percent off the price of a new textbook. Students can also ship their textbooks back for free with a prepaid UPS label. To put those savings in perspective, that’s about $360 to $960 saved each year!

Amazon features a textbook section with an enhanced search for used and new textbooks. They also offer Amazon Student, which provides free two-day shipping and exclusive student deals for the first six months. After that, your student can sign up for an Amazon Prime membership at 50 percent off, gaining access to even more features.

AbeBooks is an enormous online marketplace for new, used, and rare books that average 50 percent off retail. They also offer a 30-day return policy, which is great if your student decides to drop or switch a class during the first two weeks of a term. Like Chegg, they have a buyback program that includes free shipping. is like a massive second-hand bookstore. They have inexpensive textbooks, fiction and nonfiction, and are a great resource for movies, games, and much more!

This website is really neat. Students can type in the book they need and the site will pull prices from all of the above listed websites and more. Then they can simply click on the information that best fits their price range and they will be redirected to the appropriate website to purchase the textbook. Students can also search the name of the college to find deals with student sellers, trade books, or sell them back to Slugbooks. They will provide a sale price from a variety of websites on the spot.

School Library
A simple but overlooked option. The school library may have a copy of the textbook on reserve if the professor provided a few copies. Depending on the library’s rules, students may not be able to check the book out, but may be able to borrow it for several hours at a time and read it inside the library. If the textbook isn't available on reserve, your student can always email the professor and ask if he or she would be willing to place a copy in the school library.

Before your student considers buying a textbook, I highly recommend checking out his or her syllabi and asking the teacher how much the class will use the textbooks. Some teachers list books and have no intention of using them. Some books, such as literature, may be less expensive to purchase than the hassle of renting and returning the book, especially if it’s a classic that your student intends to keep. Help your student use his or her best judgment and research each textbook needed. That effort can save a lot of money!

Tags :  collegeacademicbudget

3 Steps to Prioritize Your Relationship for a Strong Family

August 11, 2014

By Munzoor Shaikh and Sanjida Chowdhury

3 Steps to Prioritize Your Relationship for a Strong Family | A couple holds hands and rest their heads together in a park.

A great mentor of ours once told us, "If you want to be good parents, create a good marriage." Like many parents with their first child, we started out by prioritizing time and attention for our daughter. But as the proverb suggests, we found that devoting some attention to ourselves as a couple kept us in better mental and emotional shape, which has been reflected in our daughter’s development. When we ignore our needs as a couple, our daughter also acts as if she's being ignored despite the time we spend with her.

There are many ways to prioritize your relationship in order to be great parents. Here are three examples of small things you can do regularly to help.

  1. Create a vision. A vision is something to focus on and ground you as a couple. It’s not a mission statement or goals to achieve. A vision should be simple and actionable. For example, "We are a couple who shares with each other everyday.”
  2. Never miss a date. It took us a while to become regular about date nights, but it worked wonders for us. No matter how busy or chaotic the week is, we always know we have some time set aside for each other. Have a set day of the week and a backup day as well so that no week goes without a date night.
  3. Spend five minutes of “non-logistical” time together each day. There will be plenty of time to solve logistics and plan schedules and meals, pay bills, etc. Having five minutes each day to simply talk about our day, how we are doing toward our vision, or about our troubles and victories helps us stay connected. Instead of waiting for the weekend or the next vacation to fully recharge, we connect every day.

A strong relationship with your partner leads to strong parenting and a better overall relationship with your child. Setting aside couple time each day and week has helped us immensely. It can also help you and your partner maintain that strong relationship so that your whole family benefits.

Tags :  parentingmarriagesocialemotional

New School Anxiety

August 6, 2014

By Dr. Tyffani Monford Dent

New School Anxiety | A girl nervously shops for school supplies.

Everywhere you look, there are signs trumpeting “back to school.” For many of us, it seems as if school just ended, and yet we are already planning for our children to go back. Shopping for school clothes and supplies can be a stressful experience for parents, but the prospect of returning to school or starting school for the first time can provoke anxiety in our children.

Transition can be a very difficult situation, regardless of the age or circumstances. As adults, we worry when we are moving to a new city or starting a new job. Being adults, we are supposed to possess the emotional maturity, problem-solving ability, and coping skills to adequately deal with such life changes. Even then, we still struggle with change. Now, imagine how it must be for a young child who has not yet developed such skills. The saying “first impressions last a lifetime” can be adjusted to “first experiences can shape our impressions of school and learning.” It is imperative that we assist our children in transitioning into school so that their first experience in the school setting is one of comfort and excitement instead of fear and anxiety.

In preparing our children to return to school or start school, we must be willing to utilize strategies to decrease their anxiety.

  • Don’t let them see you sweat. Our children are very attuned to our feelings. If they see that you are nervous or stressed about their returning to or starting school, it will only heighten their anxiety. As parents, we are often looked at as the protector or the invincible ones. If we are petrified of the school year starting, our children are likely to figure that they should be as well. It is okay to share your own experiences with anxiety and going back to school in the past, but make sure you offer your child a “silver lining” or share how you solved the problem when you retell your own school stories.
  • Make school a familiar place. Take your children past the school where they will be attending. Let them know that this is “their school.” If the school has an open house prior to school starting, take your children. Let them meet their teachers and sit in the desk in their classrooms. School now becomes a place they know and not one that they should fear.
  • Don’t dismiss your child’s concerns about school. Regardless of whether you think that his or her concerns are not that serious, remember they are important to your child. Whether it is a concern from a previous school year or about what this first year will be like, talk to your child about his or her concern. Assist your child in problem solving. If it is not a problem but more of a concern (e.g. not being able to do as well academically as other students), come up with a plan on how you can begin to address the issue now (e.g. doing some work each night prior to school starting in that subject or talking with the teacher about extra help).
  • Help make friends/connections before the school year starts. Find out if there are kids in your neighborhood who are attending the same school. If so, schedule outings and visits with their parents to allow your child to “know someone” when he or she is entering school. Often our children seek connections/relationships and knowing that they will be attending school with friends can make school something to which they look forward.
  • Let them assist in the preparation. When it’s time to shop for school supplies and clothes, have your children be a major part of selecting the items needed. Although all Crayola 24-packs look the same, letting your children “pick” their crayons allows them to be a part of the school planning process. If possible, have your children pick their outfits for the first day of school. Everyone likes some level of control, and sometimes school can feel like something over which children have none.
  • Have run-throughs. A week or so prior to the start of school, have your children begin to do the routine expected of them when school starts. This includes bedtimes, waking up for meals, etc. Change in routine can cause distress and therefore, do not wait until the first day of school to add routine changes to all of the other “new events” that occur when your children are starting school.
  • Allow a “piece of home” to go with them. For younger children who may be experiencing anxiety about being away from home for the first time, help them identify a small object or toy that they can take with them to school that reminds them of home. Make sure that the item is small and is something that is allowed in the children’s school.
  • Treat the first day of school like a celebration. Share your excitement with your child about his or her starting or returning to school. Plan a special meal to celebrate and discuss the first day of school. Encourage your child to talk about the good and difficult situations associated with the first day and problem-solve or empathize where needed.
  • Have some “alone time” for yourself. No matter how old our children get, many of us will still cry when we drop them off or put them on the bus that first day back to school. Make sure that you take the necessary “cry time” after your child has already gone to school. Remember, back to school is also hard for us.

Dr. Tyffani Monford Dent is a licensed psychologist, author, and speaker. She is the author of the book Girls Got Issues: A Woman’s Guide to Self-discovery & Healing and is completing her second emotional wellness book geared toward the needs of girls aged 11-15. Follow her on Twitter @DrTyffaniMDent or on Facebook at Dr. Tyffani Monford Dent.


Back to School Routines

August 5, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

Back to School Routines | A boy sleeps at night.

All too soon, the bell will ring and it will be time to go back to school. It’s important to slowly transition your child back into a routine to help prepare him or her for starting school.

But before that happens, slow down for a moment and spend a few mornings or even full days with your son or daughter aimlessly enjoying the summer—reading the funnies over bowls of cereal, playing with bubbles, or having a barbecue. Take a breather to remind your son or daughter of how wonderful their break has been, even having them list all the fun things they did. If your child is nervous about the first day back, you can encourage him or her by sharing that soon he or she will be learning new and exciting things, going on field trips, and meeting new friends.

If your son or daughter has had a pretty lax schedule during the summer, this is the time to start introducing the idea of going to bed and waking up early. Hopefully, you have tried to keep the routine relatively the same throughout the summer for the entire family, but if not, it should only take about one or two weeks before classes start for your child to become accustomed to the new routine. If your son or daughter is younger, reading a bedtime story right before bed will help establish the routine. Regardless of age, start moving bedtimes and wake-up times a littler earlier each day so that by the time school starts, your child is ready for the new routine.

Many times, as parents, we are so concerned with preparing for school—and the new schedules and routines that come with it—that we may forget to address the emotional aspect of going back to school. Addressing these concerns can help your child prepare for a new social routine at school.

Talk openly about peer pressure, being friendly with new students, and communicating honestly with you throughout the school year. You can say things like, “What if there is a new girl in your class, and no one is talking to her at recess? What can you do to make her feel welcome?” You can also turn the question around such as, “What if you were the new student? How would you feel?” These enduring lessons will remain in your child’s memory long after the new jeans have faded.

By preparing your child for school both physically, emotionally, and socially, he or she will settle more easily into a successful academic routine, too.

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