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My son won’t share anything with me. How can I get him to speak to me?

February 7, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A son puts his hand up to stop his mother from speaking to him.

Question: My 10-year-old son won't tell me about his day or talk to me about anything. How can I get him to speak to me?

Answer: Sometimes children don’t want to share with their parents, whether they’re teenagers, toddlers, or in between. There are many reasons, from shyness to privacy wishes. Whatever the cause, it’s still important to speak with your son daily about his life, even if it’s just a few sentences at dinner.

Here are some quick ways you can sneak in a conversation with him.

  • Tell him about your day. Often times sharing about you will prompt him to talk about himself.
  • Watch TV. Sit with him and watch one of his television shows and ask questions about the plot or characters. He might share his thoughts on the show as well. A word of warning: you might want to wait until a commercial so you don’t interrupt and aggravate him.
  • Visit someplace new. Take your son to dinner at a new restaurant and ask about his food. If his initial response is one word, ask more detailed questions. Why did he choose a cheeseburger instead of pizza? What’s his favorite cheese?

While he talks, listen to his tone. Is it normal for him? If so, then he might just be going through a phase where he doesn’t share much with his parent(s). If he sounds upset or angry when answering normal questions, or avoids answering them, he might be dealing with a problem. Find a quiet, safe place to speak with him about it. Tell him you noticed he hasn’t been himself lately and you want to help him. If he’s not receptive, you may want to speak with his teacher or school counselor to see if they have any insight into what could be wrong.

For more information on speaking with your child of any age, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher three-book set. For information on speaking to younger children, see pages 46 and 60 in Through The Early Years. See pages 43 and 77 in Through Elementary and Middle School for newer ways to interact with your child. If you are worried that your child is suffering from depression or struggling with peers, see page 64 in the same book and reach out to a school counselor for additional help.

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Building Healthy Teen Relationships

February 5, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

Build healthy teen relationships

Building healthy teen relationships can be one of the more challenging responsibilities we as parents and mentors of teens have. The teen years are a period of great physical and emotional growth for children. Up until this period in their lives, most children have likely remained close to home, guided by their parents. As they enter and journey through the teen years they become more independent of their parents and rely more on themselves, their friends, and their peers. What can we as parents and mentors do to assure that our teenagers will build healthy relationships and make good choices?

Teens must learn communication, boundaries, trust, and respect for one’s self and for one another. We set the examples. If we do not communicate effectively, our teenagers may not turn to us with any problems they may encounter. They in turn may not be able to communicate in their personal relationships in a positive way—they may withhold their feelings or perhaps act out in anger. Have a conversation with your teenager; take time to listen to what he or she is saying. Offer guidance more than advice or opinions.

If we do not set boundaries, our teenagers may encounter difficulties in understanding the consequences of their actions in the relationship they have with others and make poor choices. Set curfews, assign household chores, and hold your teenager accountable for meeting his or her responsibilities. Reward your teen with praise and encouragement.

And lastly, if we as parents and mentors do not set examples of trust and respect, our teenager may be at risk of not trusting and respecting themselves or others, resulting in unhealthy relationships. Trust and respect your teenager in your words and actions.

While the teen years can be challenging, they can also be exciting and joyous. Both parent/mentor and child need to remain aware, stay balanced in their opinions and be conscious in their choices in order to build healthy teen relationships.



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How can I teach my children the value of money?

January 31, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Children with piggy banks

Question: My kids think money grows on trees. They think they're entitled to the latest toys and video games as soon as they come out, but I want them to work for nice things and earn them. How do I teach them to appreciate the value of money?

Answer: As a parent, it’s normal to want to give our children everything we can, especially those of us who grew up not having a lot things. We feel we need to compensate, but we have to be aware to not fall into that trap. Create a balance between what you give them and when you give it to them.

One of the first things that your children should learn is the importance of money. They need to understand the difficulties of earning it. Try giving them a certain amount of money for every age-appropriate chore they accomplish. Let them learn that they will only get money if they work hard for it.

Depending on their ages, you can apply the following strategy: suggest that your kids save up to pay half the cost of what they want and you’ll pay for the other half. If they want the item, they should be willing to earn it. Kids need to learn that if they really want something, they should wait and save in order to buy it. This strategy will also get them into the habit of thinking before spending.

Teaching your children how to save and manage money wisely will help them face future financial hurdles. You can even start teaching your children to save when they are toddlers. They probably receive birthday cards with money or checks from relatives during special occasions. Open a savings account for them and let them watch it grow. Have your children set a long-term goal for something more expensive than the toys, candy, or clothes they might have been saving for.

While you are working on helping them understand the value of money, you can use this opportunity to talk to them about the importance of donating to charities. Later in life, they will be in the habit of donating to those in need, which will help them value what they have. What kids learn about giving during childhood will last a lifetime.

Parents are the main influence on their children’s financial behaviors, so it’s our responsibility to raise a generation of conscious buyers, savers, and benefactors.

You can learn more about the issues addressed in this question in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. For information about teaching your child financial responsibilities, see the Through High School and Beyond book on page 40.

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DIY: Make a Pampering Coffee Scrub with Your Kids

January 28, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Jessica Vician makes a pampering coffee scrub with her friend, Byrdie Von Hines.

Photos by Josh Hines

What mom doesn’t yearn for a spa day? Juggling schedules, from school to daycare to feedings, is exhausting. Sometimes you just need an hour or two at a spa to relax, unwind, and exfoliate. But let’s not kid ourselves—there’s no time for that!

Don’t worry— I have a solution that will work with your schedule and allows you some bonding and teaching time with your children, regardless of their ages. Make an exfoliating coffee scrub! You likely have all of the ingredients in your kitchen already.

This scrub is easy to make for kids aged two and a half and up. If younger children are helping you, supervise them throughout the process to make sure they don’t eat any ingredients or get the liquids in their eyes. As your kids help you make the scrub, teach them about measurements and fractions.

Once the scrub is ready, turn your shower into a spa! Massage it on your skin to exfoliate the dead skin cells away and moisturize your skin. If you have teenagers or college-age children, they will likely want to use some as well so be sure to include them in this DIY-activity.

Let’s start with the ingredients. They’re pretty simple.

Ingredients include sugar in the raw, coffee grounds, oil, and vanilla extract

1 cup coffee grounds

I like to use a winter-themed blend, like gingerbread, for a delicious added scent.

0.5 cup sugar in the raw

This sugar is courser than other sugars, but if you don’t have that you can use brown sugar.

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of oil

Use any oil you have. I always have a lot of olive oil on hand, but you could use a massage oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, etc.

Jessica Vician helps Byrdie Von Hines measure the coffee grounds.

Have your kids measure out each ingredient, putting them into a medium-sized bowl as they finish measuring. Show them that the ½ cup of sugar is half of the one cup of coffee scrub to help them understand fractions. Then have them stir the ingredients thoroughly, making sure to evenly distribute the wet ingredients throughout the dry ingredients.

Pour the scrub into a plastic container with a lid if you’re using it at home (I use old gelato containers). If you’re giving it as a gift, use a glass mason jar or pretty jam container.

The coffee scrub is ready to use in a Mason jar.

Voila! You now have a coffee scrub to use in the shower for a spa moment no matter how busy you are. And in the process of making a little something to pamper yourself with, you helped your children learn real-world fraction use and how to measure, all while bonding through an activity. Enjoy!

Thanks to Josh Hines for this article's photography and to his daughter, Byrdie Von Hines, for her excellent coffee scrub-making skills. For more of Josh's photography work, visit his website.

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Top 5 Winter Movies and Lessons to Learn from Them

January 23, 2014

By Amanda Gebhardt

Top 5 Winter Movies

Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve learned to look forward to cold, snowy afternoons bundled on the couch under blankets and sweatshirts. Spending time snuggled together as a family, enjoying classic winter movies that promote positive values is a great way to make memories and strengthen family bonds.

While there are plenty of fantastic holiday movies that families can watch together every year, now that the holidays are over, the YOU Parent staff wanted to highlight the movies that are fun all winter long. We took a staff poll, and pulled out five of our favorites and the lessons our kids can learn from them.

  1. Home Alone, PG 
    Not only does Home Alone promote resourcefulness in the face of adversity, but it also serves as a reminder that help can come from unexpected places—namely a misunderstood neighbor who ends up saving the day.
  2. Harry Potter, PG 
    Much of the Harry Potter series is set in the deep snow of winter, while students warm themselves by the fires of the Gryffindor Common Room. Families can enjoy watching a plucky underdog realize his potential for greatness through loyalty, compassion, and a strong sense of justice, or even read along with the books to find more adventures with Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
  3. Groundhog Day, PG 
    My own personal favorite, Groundhog Day is an annual tradition in my house. We get friends together on February 2nd and sit around with hot chocolate and watch Bill Murray get a second (and third, and fourth, and…. thousandth) chance at being a good person and finding happiness.
  4. About a Boy, PG-13 
    About a Boy follows a man with no close friends or family living his life by wasting money and lying to women. Through an unlikely friendship with a lonely boy, though, his world opens up and his life becomes one of meaning and joy. While it may not be appropriate for young audiences, this movie shows the value of honesty, compassion, and selflessness.
  5. Adventures in Babysitting, PG-13 
    A universal favorite of everyone polled, Adventures in Babysitting is a timeless comedy that still makes us laugh and cheer. Ultimately, this is a story of friendship and the lengths one friend will go to for another in distress. It also is about the push and pull of growing up and of being young but having responsibilities—something even those of us who are all grown up can still remember and appreciate.

As the snow lingers and you want to experience winter vicariously from the warmer states, snuggle close, and happy watching!

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