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Activities for a Fun Family Fall

October 22, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

Activities for a Fun Family Fall | From pumpkin carving to hayrides, try these fun family activities while embracing the weather and colors of fall. | A little boy poses in front of a patch of pumpkins.

Ah, my favorite season: autumn. I don’t know about you, but here in the Midwest, fall could be a very short season for us. That is why as soon as the leaves start changing colors, I have most of my weekends booked for family fun. From Halloween baking to carving pumpkins to hayrides, I put together my favorite adventures so you can try them with your family.

Whip up some Halloween treats
Halloween treats are so fun to make… and to eat! Check out my article, 5 Healthy and Creative Halloween Party Foods, for Halloween-themed recipes to make with your family. Impress at a party with these Pinterest-worthy designs.

DIY fall décor
Instead of buying decorations for fall, spend a Friday night together making kid-friendly art. A Spectacled Owl has a great list of fall crafts you can make with the family.

Carve pumpkins
Carving pumpkins seems to have decreased in popularity, which is pretty sad because it’s awesome! Put down the technology and get your hands dirty with this fun adventure. The Pumpkin Lady offers how-to videos and hundreds of pumpkin-carving stencils to choose from.

Take a trip
Depending on where you live, a pumpkin patch or apple orchard could be anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours away from your house. Plan a day trip with the family—you wont regret it! Many have hayrides, petting zoos, pony rides, and more.

If you are tight on cash, visit for a sightseeing trip instead. The scenic views of the red and orange-hued trees are worth your while and even serve as an opportunity to teach your child why leaves change colors.

Create traditions
Whatever you choose to do for the season, make it a tradition with your family. What starts as a small event one year could be an everlasting memory for your child for years to come.

What are your favorite fall family activities? Tell me in the comments below!


How to Address Bullying in Elementary School

October 13, 2015

By Jessica Vician

How to Address Bullying in Elementary School | During National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, take some time to talk to your child about these bullying symptoms. | A group of children whisper and give dirty looks to another girl.

Every October during National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, we focus on how to prevent bullying and how to address it when it happens.

But in order to prevent and address the behavior, we need to understand it. What is bullying? According to this guide from the Department of Education, it is “when a person hurts, embarrasses, or frightens another person on purpose over and over again.”

Every parent can agree that we don’t want our children bullied and we don’t want our children to be bullies. But how can we prevent both parts of this behavior? When is it bullying and when is it just young kids working out social differences?

One challenge in bullying prevention is teaching a child to stand up for him or herself but also teaching them when to seek help from an adult. We don’t want to coddle our children or encourage “tattling,” but we do want them to resolve bullying when it happens so that it doesn’t have a long-term effect on their emotional or social well-being.

You can set a good foundation with your child by watching this “Happy to Be Me” segment from Sesame Street together. Talk to your child about whether he or she has felt like Big Bird.

  • Has your child been made fun of because of how he or she looks or talks?
  • Has your child been left out of activities intentionally?

Then ask your child what he or she did when that happened. Use the discussion tools that accompany this clip. By learning how your child dealt with a previous issue, you can determine if you need to step in and talk to the school or if your child seems to be handling it well.

Remember that this is just an initial discussion. Even if you discover your child faced bullying and handled it well, you still need to check in regularly to ensure the bullying doesn’t continue and his or her self-esteem is developing.

For more information on how to address bullying at the elementary school level, pick up the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, available on Amazon. 


5 Things Working Parents Must Give Up for Balance

September 3, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Things Working Parents Must Give Up for Balance | Working parents must give up these 5 destructive thoughts in order to achieve a work-life-parenting balance. | A father gets dressed for work while caring for his baby.

Understatement of the year: parents must sacrifice A LOT for their kids. And working parents juggle more than just schedules—they juggle conflicting emotions about working instead of staying home with their kids.

In an article for Forbes, Amy Morin lists five things successful working parents often give up for a work-life balance. Not only is this list accurate for working parents, but most apply to stay-at-home parents, too.

The list of things these parents give up includes:

  1. Shame of asking for help
  2. Need to split time equally
  3. Neglecting themselves
  4. Always trying to make their kids happy
  5. Guilt about working

Read the full article here.

For any parent, it’s important to remember to ask for help when you need it, allocate time wherever your life needs it most, take care of yourself so you can then take care of your family, know you won’t always make everyone—including your kids—happy, and avoid feeling guilty about working.

Parents have many reasons for working while raising kids. From financial needs to career ambition, it’s important that you do what you need. Your kids learn from you, whether that’s how to balance raising a family while working to put food on the table, or pursuing a career that makes a difference, you are their first role model.

Take care of yourself and seek balance.


We Need to Talk About Child Sexual Abuse

August 25, 2015

By Jessica Vician

We Need to Talk About Child Sexual Abuse | Child Sexual Abuse is a terrifying potential reality. While we don't want to think about it, parents must talk to their children early to help them avoid dangerous situations and know how to tell you if something happened. Read on for how to talk about it. | A young girl sits against the wall with her head in her hands.

Child sexual abuse is something that no parent wants to face. The horror of this potential reality prompts many of us to avoid discussing it with anyone, including our parenting partners, other parents, and especially with our children.

Many of us think, “If I tell my son or daughter how to recognize wrong behavior, I will introduce them to a world of fear and scary things.” While that worry is valid, it’s more important to educate them early on to help prevent it from ever happening.

According to the National Children’s Advocacy Center, parents should talk to their children in early childhood before they might be targeted by an abuser. The NCAC also lists 10 things you can talk to your children about regarding abuse, and what to do when a child tells you about abuse.

To better understand why early conversations about abuse are important, watch this animated video from The Times of India. It illustrates one scenario of how Komal, a 7-year-old girl, deals with sexual abuse and suggests how you can talk to your child about preventing it.

Hopefully you never have a reason to seek this kind of help for your child, but if you do, or if you just need additional information to prepare for your talk, try one of these hotlines and their websites.

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
Talk to a counselor, learn about the signs of abuse, report abuse, and seek emotional support.

Child Abuse Hotline
This list of child abuse hotlines in each state allows you to locally report abuse or neglect.

It’s a difficult topic to think about, and even more difficult to talk about. As the second half of the video demonstrates, starting the conversation early can help teach your child how to get out of a bad situation and how to report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.


How I’ll Raise Feminist Sons

August 20, 2015

By Jennifer Eckert

How I’ll Raise Feminist Sons | Just because you don't have a daughter doesn't mean you can't raise a son to be pro-gender equality and a feminist. | A boy pushes a stroller with a doll in it.

A few weeks ago I was at Barnes & Noble looking for a gift for a little girl who had invited my son Bobby to her birthday party. I was walking past one of the display tables in the kids’ section when a book called Rosie Revere, Engineer caught my eye. (For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a book about a girl named Rosie who dreams of becoming an engineer and whose great-great aunt is the World War II icon Rosie the Riveter.) I loved the concept of the book—a female character who is interested in a field that has been traditionally viewed as masculine—and I am a huge fan of Rosie the Riveter. I immediately decided that the book would be a great gift for Bobby’s little friend. For an instant, I sighed and thought about how, as a mother of two sons, I would never be able to buy these types of books and share my passion for girl power and leaning in.

Then I had a thought: By assuming that I could only pass on my beliefs to a daughter, wasn’t I contributing to the problem that made gender equality initiatives necessary? In other words, why couldn’t I raise my boys to be feminists?

The idea that traditional women’s issues—topics such as domestic violence, paid parental leave, and affordable childcare—are men’s issues, too, is a rather recent development. The NO MORE campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault was launched in 2013 (and gained a massive audience with its PSAs featuring NFL players), and the HeForShe movement for gender equality was kicked off in 2014 with actress Emma Watson’s speech at the United Nations. Both efforts emphasize the idea that women and men will benefit from gender equality.

With regard to my sons, I know that the younger they are when I begin teaching them about gender equality, the better. I also know that as they get older the lessons are going to get much more complicated than “both boys and girls can wear pink or blue.” I know it’s going to be an uphill battle because stereotypical notions of what it means to be male and female are all over our media culture. Finally, I know that I am going to need my husband's help with the plan because it’s important that our boys see both male and female role-models practicing what we preach.

Fully aware of these obstacles, here are some thoughts on what we as a society can do to raise boys who truly see women as equals:

Avoid gender stereotypes in language use.
So many gender stereotypes have become common expressions in our culture, but they still subtly reinforce the notion that men are stronger than women. For instance, the phrase “throw like a girl” is used to indicate weakness in boys and girls alike, whereas someone who “mans up” is seen as strong and stable. 

Discourage aggressive behavior and encourage a healthy expression of emotion.
The expression “boys will be boys” is often used to justify aggressive behavior in young males. It implies that there is an uncontrollable biological urge behind this behavior, and therefore, that men shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. In addition, men have it drilled into them from boyhood that the expression of any emotion except anger is a form of weakness. However, research has shown that suppressed emotions can make people more aggressive. 

Don’t divide household responsibilities along traditional gender boundaries.
Boys should see Mom (or another female role-model) tackle traditional “male” chores, such as mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, or fixing a leaky toilet. They should witness Dad (or another male role-model) performing traditional “female” chores, such as changing diapers, doing laundry, or loading the dishwasher. Boys should also be expected to perform a wide range of household chores across traditional gender boundaries. 

Be conscious of gender bias when choosing toys and activities.
It’s so easy to subconsciously steer boys away from toys and activities that are considered “feminine”—especially when stores guide us into this way of thinking by categorizing products as appropriate for boys or girls. Kudos to stores like Target, which recently announced that it is eliminating gender-based signage in its toy, bedding, and entertainment departments.

Find teachable moments in our media culture.
Since it’s nearly impossible to get away from it, take advantage of mass media to draw attention to gender roles and how they are portrayed. For instance, lead a discussion about how stereotypes are perpetuated in advertising and on sitcoms. How many commercials for household cleaning products feature women versus men? How many sitcoms portray fathers as incompetent when it comes to taking care of the children?

I have the next 18 years to practice these suggestions as I guide my sons from infancy through adolescence. I hope that in doing so, I raise strong and sensitive men who believe women are their social, political, and economic equals—and that’s what feminism is all about.

Jennifer Eckert is an editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with one husband, two sons, and three cats. 

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