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Why You Should Always Send a Birthday Card

April 26, 2016

By Sunny P. Chico

Why You Should Always Send a Birthday Card | Download these birthday card templates and print them for your kids to send.

Along with better weather and greener outdoors, spring brings a lot of birthdays and celebrations. While some celebrations are easy—birthday parties with your child’s classmates are frequent—some are harder for your family to celebrate, like when family members live far away.

But there’s an easy solution that keeps your children in touch with far-away family members and brings joy to the recipient: birthday cards.

A few years ago, I was visiting with my beautiful mother and came upon a colored box, which she kept near her bed. I asked her about the box and she told me that its contents helped her relax when she got anxious, go to sleep when she had trouble, and put a smile on her face every day.

The box was full of birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, and retirement cards. I asked her which ones brought her the greatest joy and she said that she only kept the ones with a handwritten message inside. Greeting cards come with beautiful and thoughtful messages pre-written, but the most special cards are those that have an extra handwritten message by the people you love.

I immediately realized that I had been mimicking this behavior ever since my children were born over 30 years ago. I have an old hatbox that I keep my cards in! Anytime I receive a handwritten card, I put it in my hatbox instead of throwing it away. My mother helped me realize that there is still joy and comfort that these cards will bring me in the future.

We live in a very busy world that is dominated by technology. We text, we email, etc. It makes us more efficient in many ways—I know it helps me a great deal—but this communication cannot take the place of the very special messages inside my hatbox.

After finding my mom’s box of cards, I took a look inside my hatbox. I was surprised at what I experienced. I laughed and cried at the beautiful memories, and felt like I had touched many people’s lives. It was a journey looking back. I particularly paid attention to the handwritten messages, which became more meaningful.

I quickly started searching for only those that had handwritten messages. Reading the cards made me pause and think. It made me slow down for a short time and reflect.

I will go through my hatbox from time to time, but I now know that it will be one of my prized possessions by the time I am 80. It will help me relax, go to sleep, and put a smile on my face every day.

Take those extra minutes to write your thoughts in the cards you give, and encourage your children to do the same. Those handwritten cards will be a gift that lasts a lifetime.

To help your children share cards with their loved ones, the YOU Parent team created these card templates that you can download and print for your use.

Tags :  socialemotionalactivitiesfamily

Is your teen in an abusive relationship?

April 12, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Is your teen in an abusive relationship? | Nearly 1.5 million teens in the U.S. admit to being physically harmed by someone they are romantically involved with in the past year. How can you recognize the signs? | A teenage girl rests her head on her hand, looking upset, as her boyfriend tries to explain.

Did you know nearly 1.5 million teens in the U.S. admit to being physically harmed by someone they are romantically involved with in the past year? And that number is only the amount of teens that admit to it.

This type of violent behavior often begins as early as 6th grade, according to And it’s not happening in scary places—60 percent of rapes of young women occur in their home or at a friend or relative’s home.

How can you recognize the signs of an abusive relationship?
Even though your child is in a transitional period as a teenager, you still know his or her core personality the best. Look for negative behavioral changes and listen to how your teen greets his or her significant other to see how they behave around each other.

Pay attention to these potential signs:

  • Excessive texting and calling
  • Criticizing appearance (for example, hairstyle or clothing)
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Bruises, scratches, welts
  • Harmed or dead animals or pets on your property

How can you confront your child about an abusive relationship?
If you suspect that your child is in an abusive relationship, you will need to talk to him or her. Before you bring it up, it’s a good idea to speak with a professional.

Find a therapist or organization that specializes in abusive relationships or teen relationships and talk to them about your concerns. A professional will have the best advice for confronting your child about the relationship.

Here are some online organizations that can help:

In the meantime, keep these tips from Love is Respect in mind when talking to your child:

  • Talk about the behavior, but not the significant other.
    Your teen may become defensive if he or she thinks you’re attacking the significant other, so it’s important to keep the behavior separate from the person.
  • Don’t demand a break-up.
    Ultimatums rarely work, especially on teenagers. It’s more important to listen and help your teen come to the conclusion on his or her own that it’s time to leave the relationship.
  • Be supportive.
    If your teen is sharing his or her concern with you, listen and be sympathetic. Don’t criticize your child; instead, show your support by praising him or her and speaking to your teen’s worth and potential.

Setting the tone for healthy relationships is important in the teenage years. Even if your child is in a bad relationship now, you can help him or her leave and get on a path to healthy, loving relationships in the future.


5 Ways to Make Friends for Your Toddler

March 29, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

5 Ways to Make Friends for Your Toddler | If your toddler isn’t in daycare yet, how can he or she meet other kids and make friends? It’s easier than you may think. | Two toddlers sit next to each other on the playground, looking up at the camera.

Kids love spending time with mommy and daddy, but it helps their social skills when they play with other kids. Children start developing the skills for making friends between the ages of two and three years old. But if your toddler isn’t in daycare yet, how can he or she meet other kids and make friends? It’s easier than you may think. There are many free or inexpensive ways to connect with other parents and their kids.

1. Go local
Your community is a great place to start. Check out park district classes specifically designed for your child’s age. These interactive classes are a wonderful way to meet and connect with other parents in your neighborhood. If your toddler seems to make a connection with another child in these classes, exchange numbers with the parents and schedule a play date.

2. Social media
Social media is a great way to find new friends or reconnect with old ones. Go through your friends and take mental note of people with kids.

  • Do your friends from high school or college have kids now? Reconnect beyond social media friendship and send them a message to meet up with the kids.
  • Do you belong to a local parenting group? I am in two parenting groups on Facebook and simply asked, “Are there any parents who live in the Chicagoland area?” It gave me an idea of which parents live near me and could meet up for play dates.

This website is the world's largest network of local groups. It’s easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one. A quick keyword search on the site for “kids” yielded almost 60 results, including neighborhood groups, groups for moms and toddlers, and groups for gifted kids. You can even search through the site before signing up to get an idea of how it runs.

4. Take advantage of play areas
Every Thursday evening, my sister and I go to McDonald’s with our two boys. No, not for the Shamrock Shakes. Many McDonald’s have play areas attached to their restaurants and it’s free to go in without a purchase. It’s a great way to catch up with a friend or sibling while the kids play.

5. Attend birthday parties
The idea of attending a party with 30 toddlers running around and screaming can sound a tad overwhelming, but it’s a goldmine for meeting other parents and connecting. It also gives you a chance to meet friends of friends and enlarge your circle of parent friends.

When trying to make friends for your toddler, remember that you’re making a new friend, too. Your child is always watching how you act, so set a good example by modeling positive behavior. Always be polite, respectful, and caring to other parents and their children.

For more information on building your child’s social skills and modeling positive behavior as a parent, read the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, available on Amazon.


How Women Can Make a Difference

March 8, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How Women Can Make a Difference | Every woman has qualities to become a great leader and should take inspiration from the aforementioned history makers and other women to impact their families and communities. How can you tap into those qualities to make a difference? | A girl dressed in a superhero costume stands flexing her biceps.

Maya Angelou. Susan B. Anthony. Frida Kahlo. Rosa Parks. Sandra Day O’Conner. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

Women. Leaders. Revolutionaries.

Each of these women’s actions have impacted our lives in various ways. They have shaped America’s history through artistic expression, by leading women’s suffrage, by joining civil rights efforts, and by holding respected government offices once belonging only to men. Our lives and our families’ lives are better because of their courage.

On International Women’s Day and during National Women’s History Month, it’s especially important to remind women how valuable they are to this world. Every woman has qualities to become a great leader and should take inspiration from the aforementioned history makers and other women to impact their families and communities. How can you tap into those qualities to make a difference?

Respect Yourself and Your Family
You can’t change others’ lives until you take care of your own. Take stock of your commitments and ensure you’re only doing what you can and what you want. You need to schedule time for rest and relaxation, both for you as an individual and for your family.

You’re at your best when you are rested, without stress, and inspired. Take inspiration from your family, from your hobbies, or the causes that you care most about.

Set Goals and Plan for Them
Take a few moments to write down what you want for your life and for your family. How can you obtain those goals? Set small, incremental goals that contribute to larger goals.

For example, do you want to improve the arts offerings at your child’s school? Sit down and think about the big picture needs: staff, funding, materials, and the school board’s buy-in.

Then, set the small goals. By the end of the month, you will research how much the staff and materials will cost for the program and determine the final funding costs.

The next month, you can focus on a proposal for the school board. These are small goals you can set that will help you achieve your ultimate goal.

Take a Leadership Role in Your Child’s School
The best way to make a difference in your child’s education is to be involved. While you are your child’s only teacher in the first few years of his or her life, you remain your child’s first teacher for the rest of his or her life.

Join the PTA, volunteer as a parent leader, or volunteer as a classroom aide if you have a flexible schedule. Ask your child’s teacher what opportunities are available to be more involved at school, like chaperoning a field trip. Those efforts demonstrate to your child that you care about his or her life at school.

Celebrate Others’ Successes
It truly takes a village to raise a child and make positive changes. When you see another woman taking steps to better her family and community, congratulate her. Thank her for her work, her strength, and her efforts. Ask how you can help her.

Every woman who makes a difference starts as an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. Little steps lead to big changes. By respecting your needs and setting goals for you and your family, who knows what you can accomplish? Maybe we’ll see your name in the history books 100 years from now.

Tags :  socialacademicfamilymotherhood

What manners should you be teaching your child now?

March 2, 2016

By Jessica Vician

What manners should you be teaching your child now? | A child holds a thank you chalkboard while his friend gives a thumbs up.

Think about the first manner that your parents taught you. It’s hard to pinpoint, isn’t it?

Likely “please” and “thank you,” these small but important manners are critical to forming friendships, succeeding in your career, and even making society function.

The three manners listed below are a starting point to teaching your child respect and gratitude, which will stay with them for their entire life.

Please, thank you, and excuse me.
When asking for something, your child should always start or finish the request with “please.” When the request is granted or denied, he or she should say “thank you.”

It’s especially important (and a little more difficult) to teach your child to say “thank you” when their polite request is denied. For example, let’s say your child asks Grandma for some candy, and she says, “Not now. It’s too close to dinner to have candy.” Your child should respond with a “Thanks anyway, Grandma” sentiment, demonstrating respect for Grandma’s authority and gratitude for the consideration.

“Excuse me” is also an important phrase for your child to learn. He or she should use it in public if accidently bumping into anyone or needing to go around someone. Your child should also use the phrase if he or she wants to join or politely interrupt a conversation of adults or kids.

Say hello to adults when you see them.
When your child goes to a friend’s house, he or she should greet the friend’s parents and any other adults in the house before rushing to play.

This action reinforces the importance of respecting one’s elders, being a good guest in someone’s home, and teaches them mature behavior.

Send thank you notes.
As adults, it’s refreshing when someone goes out of their way to truly thank us.

So when an adult or friend does something nice for your child—has Olivia over for dinner or takes Aiden to the amusement park—they should write a heartfelt thank you note and mail it or deliver it in person. (You can help if your child’s handwriting isn’t quite developed yet.)

The act of expressing thanks teaches your child to be grateful, to not take these actions for granted, and also develops his or her writing skills.

These are just three of the manners your child should start practicing and mastering now. After all, aren’t respect and gratitude exactly what this world needs more of?

What are you teaching your child right now? Share with us in the comments below.

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