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When Mom and Dad Are Smokers: Modeling Behavior

May 12, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

When Mom and Dad Are Smokers: Modeling Behavior | When you become a parent, lifestyle choices matter. Firsthand, secondhand, and thirdhand smoke affect kids in ways you might not even realize, like frequent sickness and asthma. Quitting smoking will model a positive behavior with your children. | A boy shakes his finger at his dad, who is about to light a cigarette.

What was once a status symbol is now a stubborn habit you wish you didn’t have. Smoking, while it may have seemed like the cool thing to do back in high school, is anything but that today. The constant pressure to lead healthy lives combined with bans on smoking in many public spaces such as restaurants and bars have caused smokers to become part of the minority.

Aside from new laws or the negative stigma that may convince some smokers to quit, becoming a parent is another reason to stop. Although it is a tough habit to kick, doing so helps parents create an all-around healthy environment for their children.

Lifestyle Choices Matter
Whether you are buying groceries, exercising, talking to a friend, or having a smoke, each activity has an impact on your son or daughter. Your children model their behavior based on yours. For example:

  • If the items in your grocery cart are unhealthy, your son or daughter may adopt the same habit of eating unwholesome food.
  • If your children constantly see you taking part in physical activity and enjoying it, they will soon want to join you in this positive experience.
  • If your language is negative and derogatory when they hear you talk to a friend or a stranger, they will believe it is acceptable to use swear words.
  • Whether you smoke in front of your children or step outside, your son or daughter may subconsciously accept smoking as a natural part of life.

The good news is that parents can take a holistic approach by making overall smart lifestyle choices and in effect, positively affect their children.

Avoid Sickness
Some of the reasons to not smoke around your son or daughter are the direct effects of any form of the smoke. This includes secondhand smoke, which is a combination of the smoke that emits directly from the cigarette and from the smoker’s mouth. Thirdhand smoke is that which settles on furniture and clothing that later makes its way into a child’s mouth and skin.

These indirect forms of smoke contain more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and cause cancer. If a child suffers from asthma, the secondhand smoke can make breathing even more difficult. Whether a child suffers from asthma or not, cigarette smoke causes the airways to become swollen, narrow, and filled with a sticky mucus.

Tobacco smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 respiratory infections in babies every year. In addition, it causes a higher rate of preventable throat and ear infections. Up to 26,000 new cases of childhood asthma are reported each year because of tobacco smoke.

Another reason to stop altogether is to make sure you will be around longer for your children. Some of the fatal illnesses that affect adults who smoke are coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

Be Their Hero
In today’s information-saturated society with images flooding the Internet and television, children seek someone to look up to and emulate. Whether they pretend to be princesses or monsters, chances are your sons or daughters first learned this behavior from their environment and the media. You, as your child’s first teacher, can also be their first role model.

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to make an impact on your son or daughter. You may struggle to quit smoking, to eat healthy, or just to complete a project at home. Whichever it may be, demonstrating your stamina and overall joy in getting it done will make a lasting impression on your children. It’s easy to take these little moments for granted, but often they are the most striking on young, impressionable minds.

Learn how to model positive behavior for your child in our our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon.

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

Dad’s Story: Planning the First Mother’s Day

May 7, 2015

By Mario Vela

Dad’s Story: Planning the First Mother’s Day | Once you have a family of your own, the meaning of Mother's Day changes a bit. Here's a first-time father's story of what he's planning for their first Mother's Day with a baby, and how it's not just Mom and Dad who he has to plan for. | The author, his wife, and his daughter pose for a selfie in the snow this past winter.

Photo of Mario, Ana, and Mariana (clockwise from top) courtesy of Mario and Ana Vela. 

My spouse and I decided to have our first child after being married for 10 years. This month, our daughter Mariana will turn 11 months old and we will celebrate our first Mother’s Day as a family.

This first Mother’s Day is especially important to celebrate because I want to thank and appreciate my wife for our new partnership and commitment now that we have a daughter. Being new parents requires a stronger focus on our relationship and how we collaborate in raising our daughter. Because of that, we’ve developed a new kind of friendship and I’ve learned that she has the ability to show a new kind of love that I wasn’t aware of that she offers to our daughter. I appreciate her commitment to our partnership and our daughter, and want to make sure I plan a special day. 
Typically I would take my wife to dinner to celebrate an achievement, anniversary, or birthday, but this is an event where Mariana’s needs and preferences will be important to our experience as well. For our first Mother’s Day, I’ll have to consider the opinions and preferences of both my wife and daughter.
Since we live in Chicago and it’s warming up, we definitely have to appreciate the ability to be outside. Gone are the days that I would choose the trendiest restaurant. Instead I will base my choice on having the option for Mariana to walk around. We make an effort to have her try different cuisines, new visuals and stimuli, and give her opportunities to interact with people, so the restaurant will need to accommodate those things.

We’ve also learned that Mariana loves—not surprisingly—ice cream, so I’ll need to find a dessert place within walking distance.

Ana, my wife, also prefers that all our plans are seamless and in order before we go out, so I will surprise her with the day’s activities as well—carefully planned so she has a stress-free day. One of the best things I can do for Ana is to listen for anything she’s been missing the last few months. Since we haven’t been able to go out as much due to the winter and having a newborn, I want to make sure we take advantage of Mariana being a little older to appreciate the food and the ability to be outside and enjoy the springtime weather.

A key lesson I’ve learned in this first year of parenthood is that there are times when you might be overextending yourself, but when that happens you can simply adjust your responsibilities. So instead of celebrating this milestone as I would have in the past, with a nice dinner for my wife and me, we can adjust our expectations and keep it family-focused.

The important thing is to show gratitude to my wife for what she’s accomplished this past year with our family. Our friendship and partnership has been strengthened and revitalized, and that’s something worth celebrating.

Do you want to learn about nurturing your child's core areas of development? Check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon


9 Ways to Show Your Teacher Appreciation

May 5, 2015

By Maureen Powers

9 Ways to Show Your Teacher Appreciation | National Teacher Day May 5 | National Teacher Appreciation Week May 4-8 | #ThankATeacher

Children in the U.S. spend an average of 900 hours in school each year. That is a lot of time! Teachers play such a huge role in our children’s lives that special teacher appreciation days are scheduled around the globe to recognize them. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States and today we celebrate National Teacher Day.

The National Education Association describes National Teacher Day as "a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives." Think about all the special things your own child’s teacher has done this year.

How can you show that special teacher how much you appreciate what he or she does for your child without spending a lot of money?

  • Give a special handwritten note of appreciation from you or your child
  • Gift a picture of your child and the teacher in a pretty frame 
  • Donate your time to cut out projects or copy papers
  • Gift coupons the teacher can cash in for help in the classroom, especially at the end of the year
  • Make homemade cards 
  • Ask your child to give the teacher hugs throughout the week
  • Gift drawings and other artwork created by your child
  • Donate books for the classroom
  • Share a small token of appreciation for every day of the week

What else can you do? Visit the National Education Association website to meet the 2015 Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples, to download celebration artwork and videos for special events, and even applaud your favorite teacher on social media for a chance to win $100!

If you are feeling crafty, check out Pinterest for creative ways to show you care.

Whatever you decide to do, take a moment to let the special teacher in your life know how much you appreciate his or her hard work.

Looking for activities that will help your child grow to his or her potential? Check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

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