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5 Ways to Prep Your Child for Overnight Camp

July 14, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

5 Ways to Prep Your Child for Overnight Camp | A boy and girl lay in sleeping bags inside a tent, smiling for the camera.

Get your favorite blanket and plush toy ready for the long night ahead—not for your little one, but for you! It may be more difficult for you than for your child on his or her first overnight camp experience. Still, because an elementary school child may not be prepared for an entire night away from home, it’s an excellent idea to prepare your child, too, as he or she takes this step toward independence.

Much like learning to read or to play an instrument, start slow and take it one step at a time.

Practice having “sleepovers” in other parts of the house. While at camp, your child will not be sleeping in his or her comfortable bed. Try these mini-sleepovers to get him or her used to sleeping somewhere else.

Sleep on the couch or in a sleeping bag on the living room floor. Camp in a tent outside. Of course, you should stay with your son or daughter to make sure he or she is safe.

Share your story. As you spend quality time together on these different adventures, open up about your first time at sleep-away camp or sleepover at a friend’s house.

Quell fears by talking out possible scenarios. Say things like, “What if someone tells a spooky story, and you want to feel afraid? What can you do?” Offer answers like, “I know it’s just a game, and part of the whole camp experience. There is nothing to be afraid of.”

Make a custom flashlight. Put your child’s name on the flashlight and ask him or her to add favorite stickers and characters. Remind your child that the special camping flashlight will keep him or her company and that light is only a click away.

Record the fun! Remind your son or daughter that overnight camp should be a fun and memorable experience. To record these moments, give your child a small notebook to write in each night, with half-written sentences such as “The best part of today was…” and “Today I learned how to…” This exercise will get his or her ideas flowing and make for some interesting journal entries that will evoke fond memories years later.

By slowly giving your child control and preparing him or her for the experiences at overnight camp, you can help your child feel more in charge and less afraid. Your child might surprise you and return home with stories about how he or she calmed friends’ fears by stepping up to the challenge as a leader.

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.

Tags :  socialemotionalelementary

Breaking Up After Baby

July 10, 2014

Did you know that 13 percent of marriages end in divorce within five years of a first child’s birth? That’s just for couples who were married when the baby was born. For couples who weren’t married but were living together when the first child was born, that rate jumps to 39 percent.

It’s not news that having a baby is tough work. Aside from the physical demands, both on a pregnant woman’s body and on both parents from lack of sleep after the baby is born, there are countless emotional demands on a couple. And I’m not even getting into the effect post-partum depression can have on the relationship, which is an entirely different and very real beast.’s ChaunieBrusie spoke with a clinical psychologist about why couples break up after having a baby. In the article, she also offers tips on how to better sustain your relationship after his or her birth. Read the article for more information and those helpful tips.

Tags :  parentingbabypregnancymarriageinfant

Helping Your Child Successfully Transition to High School: Part I

July 9, 2014

By Ana Vela

Helping Your Child Successfully Transition to High School: Part One | A mother puts her arm around her teenage daughter, who is wearing a cap and gown.

Transitioning from eighth grade to high school is a big milestone and a critical time in a student’s life. According to a research brief from the University of Chicago, students who pass their freshman level classes are very likely to graduate from high school, while those who fail a class or two are at high risk of never graduating. Many students finish eighth grade, but drop out before they even start high school.

Parents have a significant impact in helping their child transition successfully to high school. There are many factors that educators believe lead to this dismal trend, especially focusing on the academic achievement of a student. Parents should use a holistic approach with their child, focusing on emotional well-being, social well-being, physical health, and academic achievement. All of these factors affect how a child performs in high school.

Today I will address the emotional and social well-being approaches. In part two of this series, which will publish next week, I will address the physical health and academic achievement approaches.

Here are some helpful tips for parents to implement to help their child successfully transition to high school:

Emotional Well-being
Your child may be feeling anxious and nervous about transitioning to high school.

  • Talk to your child about your own high school experiences, and encourage him or her to be excited for this milestone in his or her life.
  • Make quality time with your child and develop a trusting relationship in which your child feels comfortable discussing any issues he or she encounters at school with you.
  • Attend Freshman Orientation with your child so you are both well prepared for the beginning of the year. Anything that helps your child avoid any embarrassing mistakes as a freshman will help his or her nerves.

Social Well-being
It is critical that your child socializes with friends who will positively influence your child's path.

  • Help your child transition into a responsible and independent young adult. Make it clear what your expectations are for curfews, homework and grades, household chores, driving, dating, social media and technology use, etc., as well as the consequences for not following your rules. It will help your child to balance his or her social life with your expectations, and avoid misunderstandings between you and your child.
  • Encourage your child to join extracurricular activities at the school and make friends with similar interests. Extracurricular activities boost self-esteem and look great on college and scholarship applications.
  • Find opportunities to meet your child's friends and their parents. Building that support network allows you to provide more trust and freedom for your child to socialize.

These efforts are relatively easy ways for you as a parent to engage with your child and prevent him or her from dropping out of school. Next week I will give you tips on addressing your child’s physical health and academic achievement.


Going Away to College: How to Cope

July 8, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

Going Away to College: How to Cope | A freshman unpacks the car at the dorm as his dad looks on.

From the first moment I let go of my oldest child, as he took his first step, I realized that his journey away from me had begun. Before I knew it, I was traveling with him to college, helping ready his dorm room and saying “goodbye,” once again letting go.

As parents, the emotions that we feel at each of these moments are not that different—both can be filled with excitement, worry, and hope. We are excited for all the new things our children are about to experience. We worry that they will face difficulties and challenges. We’re hopeful that they will make good decisions as they experience all these new things.

Heading off to college is an exciting time for our children. Parents are involved as their children apply to college; we celebrate their acceptance into a university and help them move in on campus. But for many parents, the first time a child goes off to college can be challenging. As exciting as this is, we have a lot of questions.

How do we prepare ourselves before our child leaves?
Making a plan for the initial goodbye can be comforting and helps to ready everyone involved. When will you be dropping your child off? Who will be going? How will you travel? Once you are there, how long are you going to stay? Figuring these things out ahead of time means things may be less difficult on the day itself, leaving only the emotional aspect to cope with.

What do we do when they are away?
In actuality, the day you say goodbye may not be the hardest part. Instead, the daily reality of living with your child no longer at home may prove to be the difficult part. You will know less about your child’s life, where he is and what he is doing at any given moment of the day. And worrying about your child’s welfare can increase the feelings of loneliness and loss.

To help prepare and prevent these feelings, discuss expectations on communicating with your child before he leaves. Set up weekly call times. Plan to visit and participate in on-campus parent activities or sports events. These are all opportunities to participate in your child’s college experience without threatening his independence.

How can we best get through the process?
Communication is key; we parents need to give our children space to become independent and enjoy their new lives, but staying in touch and finding out how they are is healthy. Before you know it, your child will return home on scheduled breaks to reconnect with you and share his experiences thus far.

If your child going to school has a younger sibling, read my tips for helping transition the sibling when the older child leaves for school.


Top 5: Albums for Kids & Parents

July 7, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Top 5 Albums for Kids & Parents

Every parent needs adult music every once in a while, but it’s difficult to compromise with kids when all they want to hear is “Let It Go.” Fret not, parents. I’ve done some research and found five artists you know (well, you might know most of them) who recorded children’s albums. Listen to these albums with your kids to keep everyone in the car happy.

Here Come the ABCs by They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants has a few children’s albums and all of them are great. They have the quirky charm of their regular albums but are perfect for kids to sing on repeat. The only problem? You might find yourself singing a list of nations from A to Z, too (see “Alphabet of Nations”).

Baby Loves Hip Hop Presents The Dino-5
The Dino 5 recorded an album that is part hip hop, part audiobook with catchy rhymes and beats even a baby will nod his head to (if he’s strong enough yet to nod his head). The stories about each of five dinosaurs, narrated by Grammy-winning poet Ursula Rucker, keep kids engaged, while members of Jurassic 5, Digable Planets, The Roots, and more play the dinosaurs in songs that will make you dance.

Papa’s Dream by Los Lobos
With a built-in story about hopping in a balloon and flying to Mexico to see Grandpa, the lively songs are sure to make any road trip more fun. It’s also a great opportunity for English-speaking kids to learn a little Spanish and for English-Spanish bilingual kids to have fun with songs in both languages.

Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George by Jack Johnson and Friends
If you’re a Jack Johnson fan, you might already own this album. It’s a happy yet mellow album in Johnson’s signature style that starts catering more directly to kids in the second half with songs like “The Sharing Song” and “The 3 R’s” providing lessons for your little ones. An added bonus for adults? Johnson’s cover of The White Stripes’ “We’re Going to Be Friends.”

The Johnny Cash Children’s Album by Johnny Cash
If you love the Man in Black, this album is for your family. The lyrics are easy to understand thanks to Cash’s enunciation, which helps your kids to learn and sing along. Some songs speak very directly to kids, like the math lesson “One and One Makes Two,” and they all have that classic Johnny Cash sound.

For an extensive list of children’s albums, check out Parent Dish’s Top 25 Albums for Kids.

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