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Acclimating to American Culture for Your Children

January 22, 2014

By Lorena Villa Parkman

American flag

Moving to a new country is always a complicated journey, especially when learning a new culture and following a different set of social rules. Families face new values that often conflict with their own beliefs. Suddenly, parents have another difficult task to tackle besides adapting themselves to the recent challenges of their daily life: they are forced to negotiate a balance with their children between their own customs and what they want to adopt from their new culture.

Your child wants to belong and even though you shouldn’t leave behind your own beliefs, you need to understand your new culture in order to help your child adapt to his or her new home.

Here are a couple of things that are considered normal in American culture and that you might want to know beforehand in order to understand and adapt to the circumstances:

  • Dating at a younger age. In this country, children start dating more seriously in high school. Of course, it is your right to decide what sort of rules you set before you let your child go out with a romantic interest. However, just be aware that is generally considered normal to let two teenagers go out to the movies together, to have dinner alone, or to even go as a couple to a school event such as a prom. To feel more comfortable, have your child call to check in during the evening and speak with other parents about what they do to keep their children safe while dating.
  • Sleepovers. Your elementary school child might get invitations from same-sex friends to stay over their house for the night. Usually the host family will prepare activities for the kids to enjoy: movies, board games, or snacks, for example. If you feel a bit uneasy, ask the host family to please explain in detail what are they planning for the night. Leave your phone number and address so you feel at ease that they will have enough information to reach you if your child feels homesick during the night or if something else happens. Tell your child that if he or she is ever uncomfortable at a sleepover, your child can call you to come get him or her. Again, you can also create check-in times with your child and call him or her to know the status of his sleepover experience.
  • Parent engagement in school. In many cultures, talking or questioning teachers or school authorities is seen as disrespectful. In the United States, parents are expected to get involved in school and to talk to teachers about their concerns. Parents are welcome to schedule an appointment with school authorities once in a while to discuss their child’s academic achievements and opportunities for improvement. Don’t feel intimidated—rather, take this opportunity to speak up for your child.
  • Leaving home to live on campus. In some other countries, teenagers still live with their parents when they go to college (if they study in the same city). In the United States, leaving home to go to college is almost seen as a rite of passage. In some universities it’s even mandatory to live on campus at least for the first year of college. See this as a great opportunity for your child to be independent, to learn how to tackle daily life chores, and encounter new experiences and cultures.

It might be difficult for you as a parent to get used to a different "normal" in American culture, but by working with other parents to establish trust and by doing what feels right to you, you will soon feel more at ease in this new environment. By building up your confidence and getting to know more of your adoptive country, you will be able to help your children with any obstacle they encounter in their path towards success in America.


Healthy, Energizing Snacks for the Family

January 14, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Healthy, energizing snacks include oranges, cherries, tomatoes, strawberries, and pickles

Winter can be a drain on your child’s energy levels. Between colder air and less sunlight, it’s hard to stay alert. Keep your family’s energy levels up with healthy snacks throughout the day. If you plan ahead, these snacks can be fun and inexpensive.

You should offer your child snacks in between meals. They should be packed with energy-rich nutrients and have a low calorie count in order to keep a child satisfied until the next meal. You can find packaged snacks at your grocery store or make your own at home, which is healthier and inexpensive. Just remember to package the snacks in small grab-and-go containers for quick access at any time.

Here are some tips on making healthy snacks for your family that will not break the bank.

  • Provide healthy, easy-to-eat foods. Cereal, pretzels, sliced bananas and apples, and raisins are great finger foods for young children. Be sure to include fruits and vegetables when possible for nutrients. Foods with protein will keep your child fuller for a longer period of time, so try foods like peanut butter, Greek yogurt, and cheese.
  • Prepare safe food. Slice everything small to avoid choking and teach your child to sit every time he or she eats. Cook together. When you do have the time, prepare the snack with your child to make healthy eating a family experience.
  • Model healthy eating. Eat the same snack with your child if possible. It would be unfair for your child to see you eat something unhealthy and different from what you are offering him or her.
  • Go green. You can now find snack-size containers and bags at stores to package food. Be eco-conscious and buy reusable containers.
  • Reduce serving size for children. Remember that the serving size on the nutritional information on all food packages reflect a serving size for an adult so limit the amount served to your child.
  • Practice portion control. Do not offer a big snack for your child because he or she will not be hungry to eat the next meal.

By following these suggestions, you can prepare healthy, energy-rich foods that your whole family can enjoy, keeping them alert for any activity.


NPR of Ohio Answers How the Common Core May Meet Special Needs

January 7, 2014

By Amanda Gebhardt

In 2010, a coalition of states, led by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), released the first national set of education standards in the U.S. Referred to as the Common Core State Standards, they define, grade-by-grade, the skills that students should be able to demonstrate in order to be college and career ready.

Many have criticized the standards, and there is still much debate about how the they will be assessed, but the standards themselves may offer enough instructional flexibility to support students in a variety of ways.

We read this article about how the Common Core may be used to support special needs students and wanted to share it with all of you.

Read through the article and let us know what you think in this forum.


Respect Your Child’s Teacher

January 6, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Respect your child's teacher

While your child’s educational success starts at home, as soon as your child starts school, his or her teachers will be sharing that responsibility with you. By giving your child’s teacher the proper respect and receiving respect in return, you will start to build the kind of partnership that will promote your child’s academic success. Sarah Cripe, a pre-kindergarten teacher in Kalamazoo, Michigan, offers these tips on how to work with your child’s teacher:

  • Get to know your child’s teacher. Introduce yourself at the beginning of the school year and tell the teacher that you want to know how your child is doing throughout the year. This gesture shows the teacher that you are an involved parent and they will try to help you.
  • Ask the teacher what you can do to help your child succeed. You are both working toward giving your child a bright future. Share your goal for your child so they can help him or her achieve it.
  • Don’t judge a teacher based on a bad previous experience. Unfortunately, sometimes your child will have a teacher who is not as invested or effective as you might want. However, don’t bring that negative experience into a new school year. Give the new teacher a chance to work with you and help your child succeed in the classroom.
  • Be involved. Make sure your child finishes his or her homework every night. Ask your child about his or her day at school. By being involved in your child’s education at home, you can monitor his or her success and address concerns as soon as they come up. If there is a concern, discuss it with your child’s teacher.
  • Speak directly with the teacher. Don’t express teacher concerns in front of your child. These actions could hurt his or her relationship with the teacher. Schedule a meeting to discuss the concern with your child’s teacher first, and if necessary the principal, rather than involving your child or saying something in the heat of the moment that you might regret later.

By establishing a relationship and keeping the lines of communication open with your child’s teacher, both of you can work toward the common goal of helping your child succeed in school. For more tips on helping your child succeed in school, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books.


6 Ways to Celebrate Letter Writing Week with Your Family

January 2, 2014

By Amanda Gebhardt

Celebrate Letter Writing Week with your family

The second week of January marks Letter Writing Week, and now is the perfect time to maintain the sense of love and family that was fueled by the stacks of holiday cards sent through the mail last month. Below are six things you can do to bring Letter Writing Week to the whole family.

  1. Holiday Thank You Notes. What better way to say goodbye to the last year and start the new one off right than through a gesture of appreciation? Children of any age can work with you to send out thank you notes for all of the gifts they received over the holidays. Younger children can color, decorate, write their names, or otherwise add to a note according to their skill level.
  2. Pen Pals. So many of our friends and family are scattered across the country these days. Encourage your family to stay in touch with letters. If your child is learning another language, you might even look into international pen pal programs to keep those language skills sharp and broaden your child’s horizons.
  3. Letter to the Future. Each New Year brings a whole host of new resolutions, ideas, and plans. Encourage your family members to write a letter to themselves about their goals for the upcoming year and their plans for achieving them. Seal them up and set them aside until next year where each of you can open them and see where the year took you. It may just become one of your family’s favorite New Year’s traditions!
  4. Hide ‘n Seek Letters. Play a game where everyone writes each other letters and hides them around the house at random. It can be the traditional note in a lunchbox, or an elaborate “Ode to Mom’s Meatloaf” tucked between pots and pans in the cupboard. Consider setting up house rules, where the person who receives the letter has to write one in return or be stuck doing the other person’s chores for a few days.
  5. Snow Write. For those families in the northern climates, new fallen snow can be a fun and playful canvas for family letters. You can compose one together in an open area, writing large enough in the snow for planes overhead to see, or you can take turns writing out surprise messages for one another to find.
  6. Trace It. Young children may not be able to write out their names or even form individual letters on their own yet, but two- to three-year-olds may be able to trace letters that you write out for them. This process helps develop fine motor skills and letter-sound associations, both of which are important for school readiness.

I grew up loving letters. I wrote to my cousin, to my best friend, and even to my husband while we were just dating. What role have letters played in your life? Share your answer or the ways your family celebrates Letter Writing Week with us in the forum.

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