Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Family Anxiety and the Economy

Current research points to the important fact that finances are a huge source of family stress. Dr. Malcom Smith, Family Life Specialist with the University of New Hampshire Extension Service says, “If the stress resulting from financial worries and struggles isn’t carefully handled, it can result in serious emotional turmoil in the family. This is a good time to have a good sit-down family meeting about the economy.”

If you have children, they have probably picked up on cues from you, the media, friends or other family members that there’s a lot of worry about the economy. Real fears about mortgages, bank failures, retirement-savings depletion, company layoffs and closings, raises and benefits being over-turned have us all worrying. Children are sensitive to their parents’ worries.

Here are some tips for talking to your family about the tough economy:

• Open up lines of communication. This is not the time to just hold a “stiff upper lip” and keep everything bottled up inside. The more information you share with your children, the better they will be able to be resilient to economic stress.

• Be straight but age-appropriate. Children are very sensitive to offhand comments, like “there goes our savings” or “I don’t know how we’re going to make it.” Instead, have a realistic discussion with each member of the family that’s geared towards their particular age and situation. What a young child needs to know is that you have a plan, that they are going to be cared for and that although things are different, they are going to be OK. Let teenagers know how they can help.

• Be sensitive to signs of distress. When family members aren’t sleeping or eating properly, when your children are having nightmares or look worried, it may be time for some old-fashioned family time. Turn off the TV and share some time doing inexpensive, fun things.

• Be deliberate, make a plan, and share it with everyone. Careful planning is the best way to beat tough economic times. Try to be proactive about what might lie ahead for you. Share the plan with your family and look for opportunities for them to contribute to the plan.

• This is a great time to instill good financial values in your children. Talk to them about saving, about how to pitch in. Teach them about how finances work, so they will feel both included and in control.

• Be optimistic for your family’s sake. Don’t create more stress on your family. Once you have a plan, spread the hope. The lesson of the Great Depression is that we did recover because of the resilience and ingenuity of the American family.

• Get help if you need it. Monitor your own stress levels. Marital problems, depression and emotional turmoil are often side effects of economic stress. If your employer has an employee assistance program, this may be a good time to use it.

One thing historical research tells us is that hard times pass. However, your personal recovery program will depend at least in part on the strength and resilience of your most important asset, your family!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Staying Connected when Away from your Children

No matter the length of time, nor the reason for parents becoming separated from their children and families, there are ways to stay connected. It is very important to children to have regular communication. Regular means communication they can expect and look forward to. It could be weekly, daily, or every other day. The point is to keep the lines open. Doing so will make the separation and transition periods go much more smoothly.

Use of online technology – emails, blogs, webcams and chat rooms are ways to communicate with all ages including partners, children and adult parents. With children, think about writing a story, asking about school or friends so they will write back in response to your questions, sending photo attachments, or sending websites to visit that are appropriate for children then talking about them in the next communication.

Paper communication – letter writing is not a dead art. A hand-written and mailed letter is very special. Enclosing a photograph, a journal of thoughts, a made-up story, or a personally made card are ways to communicate in writing. In addition, children can save these and share them with their friends or at school.

Videos, DVDs and audio files are great ways to stay in touch. Having a parent record their voice reading a series of children’s books for bedtime is a wonderful way to keep your voice in the child’s world.

Books can also help children begin to address their complex emotions. When reading, the point is not simply to read through the book but use the book as a tool for discussion. Once children begin to question or open-up, pause the reading and talk, affirm their safety and comfort them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The End of the Day

Walking in the door with your children at the end of the day can be a stressful time. Think about all the jobs you and your children have to do before bed . . . fix dinner, eat dinner, clean up after dinner, open the mail, do homework, feed the dog, run a load of laundry, put the trash by the road, get lunches ready for the next day, fold the laundry, look over school papers, etc.

Two of the most stressful times with children are the end of the day when you get home and when you are getting ready in the morning. These are times when things can spin out of control.

Often parents turn to TV or a DVD to entertain their children just to buy them some peace and quiet. Although this is ok occasionally, when it is over-used, we find that by the time our children are school-age, they have become nearly addicted to electronic screens.

Here’s an idea: Invest 5 minutes to save 10 minutes. Try to spend at least 5 minutes with your children right after you get home. Your child has actually missed you and needs to reconnect.

Instead of hitting the ground running, build “together time” into your evening. Get down on the floor and play a game with them, relax with your feet up and practice deep breathing exercises together, sit at the table together and play of game of 3 questions each.

Once your child has reconnected with you, they can feel more self-assured and can be on their own while you change clothes or start dinner. Remember to include them in household tasks – because they are an important part of the family and have a valuable role to play in the way the household functions. Give them each a fun job in the kitchen every evening so they can stay close to you while chores get done. You will find that 5 minutes can lead to much more than 10 minutes saved!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Evidence in Adolescent Risk Taking

If you’ve ever been around a teenager, you’ve likely heard the line, “What were you thinking?” The thought process of teenagers has not only been a mystery to most of the parents and adults who live and work with teens, but has been the center of numerous studies trying to unravel the logic, or perceived lack thereof, of the teenage brain.

Conventional wisdom and years of research have pointed to the sense of invincibility teens seem to enjoy, or the lack of ability to reason due to incomplete brain development, as causes for high risk teen behaviors. However, according to a recent report from researchers at Cornell and Temple Universities, on many occasions teens may actually be more rational in their judgments than adults.

They explain that while adults don’t take the time to calculate the risks of certain behaviors because they are already intuitively aware of them and wouldn’t even consider taking such risks, teens do take the time to weigh the risks and benefits. Some teens seek the thrill of frisk taking and will choose the risk because they believe the short-term benefits out-weigh the long-term consequences - even when they completely understand those consequences. Other teens may not intend to take the risks, but do so on impulse or under the influence of emotion.

The researchers point out that intervention messages that warn teens or risks may actually backfire among the teens who are drawn to risk because such messages become appealing. Instead they recommend interventions that help youth develop more mature, intuitive reactions that help them to avoid taking risks altogether!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

From what do children learn most?

From where or what do children learn most? Would you say from television, adult role models or from other children they play with?

Although children do pick up information from other children and from television, adult role models are actually the strongest influence. Children really do watch adults for all sorts of things. This can be good news if the adults model appropriate behavior. However, if there are no positive role models available or the role models are watching excessive TV, then television will be the next most powerful influence. That’s a bit disturbing, yes?

Studies are finding that “screen time” (including television, video games, computers, etc) may contribute to Attention Deficit Disorder. As parents, we should think twice before investing in video games and disallow games with violence and profanity. Preview games before allowing children to use them. The mother parent of several young children recently told me that her kids spent a lot of time playing video games and that one day she actually took some time to watch one game. The violence of it made her decide to remove that game from their home selection. I suggested she also limit her children’s time on the games she does approve.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest limiting all media use to no more than two hours per day, and none at all for children under the age of two. Parents should watching television with children instead of creating a cheap baby-sitting of the TV. Remove television sets and computers from children’s bedroom and monitor all media exposure, including movies.

As a parent, you can re-evaluate your practices. Don’t let screen time get out of control. Media addiction is a real and growing phenomena!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dealing with Deployment of Family Member

Dealing with family separation as a parent deploys is tough on the family. The first stage in a separation occurs when the family receives notice of the pending departure. Emotions may range from feelings of loss to denial, such as asking “Do you really have to go?”

The person leaving will begin to get their affairs in order for their departure. Everyone affected over the pending separation feels stress. Children may sense the stress and act out, have tantrums or regress to more child-like or infant-like behaviors, such as sucking a bottle or pacifier or toileting accidents. As a family, how do you prepare emotionally? Here are some ideas:

• Have a family meeting to talk about the up-coming separation. Parents should be consistent with each other so children understand that normal expectations still apply.

• Discuss how the family will continue to communicate and be in tough with one another during the separation time.

When the individual actually leaves, there will be mixed emotions ranging from anger to relief that the anticipation is over. Family members may feel a sense of being overwhelmed, numb, sad or alone. It is important to:

• Continue weekend or bedtime routines. Continue family traditions on holidays, birthdays, etc.

• Use visuals like a calendar or a timeline to help children understand when communication will occur or when reunification will happen. However, be careful about making promises that you have no control over.

• Develop a support system of friends, family and others who are experiencing the same transitions.

• Ask for help when you need it. Your family, friends and neighbors will probably be very happy to lend a helping hand when the family needs it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Gifts when Parents are Divorced

How can mothers and fathers who parent apart approach holiday giving?

The University of Minnesota Extension suggests that, when possible, both parents should communicate with each other about their child's wants and needs. Wants are those things she says she can't live without, but you know aren't necessary, such as a new video game. Needs on the other hand, are things that are necessary to have - a new jacket, underwear, clothes that fit and a host of other items that chip away at the family budget.

Once the wants and needs are determined, the parents can decide who will purchase which items from both lists. Balancing wants and needs is also much easier on each parent's budget - and children will benefit from having some of the items they have on their wish list and others they will use every day. Sometimes a child's needs are different at each household. In this case, the child may want to make a list for each parent of what they wish for and the parents may decide individually what to give.

Parents who parent apart can and do encounter pitfalls. Trying to be the parent who spends the most money on your children's gifts can turn giving into a contest where each parent tries to out-do the other with lavish and not very useful gifts. This is no gift for your child - giving your child too much, too soon, that doesn't meet their real needs, is a set up for overindulgence. You won’t win this war!

Criticizing the other parent's gift challenges your child's sense of loyalty to the other parent. When a child can't enjoy a gift because of your hostility, you are undermining your child's relationship with both of you. Be supportive, even if you don't share their excitement.

Sometimes gifts are specific to a particular household, and should stay there. However this isn't always the case. Remember, the gift is your child’s and they should be able to enjoy it at both homes. This is particularly true when the gift helps comfort your child.

It’s not always easy communicating with your child’s other parent, but it’s certainly worth the effort!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday gifts for kids don't require big spending

Purdue University Extension offers parents alternatives to over-spending on their children this year with four ways to give inexpensive gifts

• purchase less expensive toys

• shop for used items

• make your own toys

• give certificates to do something.

When shopping for inexpensive or used toys, you still have to watch out for safety and quality. It's not a bargain if it breaks right away. Look for the classic toys - blocks, sturdy dolls or sturdy stuffed animals. The best toys don't do a lot by themselves. They stimulate a child's creativity and imagination. Make sure the toy was originally safe and still is. Such items, which can often be found in stores that sell used toys or used children's clothing, should not have chipped paint or broken edges.

Homemade toys have several benefits. The great thing about homemade toys is they are inexpensive and flexible. Sometimes you can make them with the child, and you can often remake them into another type of toy. An example of a homemade gift is a puzzle that can be made by taking a piece of paperboard, like the back of a cereal box, and cutting it into several pieces.

Another idea is to create a play prop box. You take a box and fill it with items that are all related to a kind of role playing. You could have a hair salon prop box with hair rollers, combs, brushes and a hair dryer that doesn't work. Or you could make a store prop box with empty food containers, play money, bags and baskets. Often they are things you could find around the house anyway, but gathering them in one place stimulates play.

Certificates for activities can be anything from a ticket to do the child's chores around the house for a day, a date with mom or dad, tickets to play games, or a music night. Kids can turn in a ticket at bedtime or use the ticket to say up all night - they have to give a day's notice to make sure parents don't have anything else they need to do instead.

You can still have a special time at the holidays during hard economic times. You can talk with kids about financial problems, but don't overwhelm them with the concern. Holidays are all about hope, and it can be a time for the whole family to look toward a better future.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Self-centered Children

No parent has to be reminded that young children are self-centered. Very self-centered! Toddlers and preschoolers (and many early elementary-age children) cannot yet understand how others feel. In reality, how other people feel is not important to them. The fact that they think only of themselves is a developmental behavior and it’s completely normal and appropriate.

Young children are still in the process of learning about self-concept and grasping what it means to be an individual “self” that differentiates them from the rest of the people in the world around them. They want everything they see, they have a difficult time sharing without being told to share, and they have a hard time controlling their emotions when things don’t go their way.

Until about the age of 6 or 7, most children continue to be self-centered. However, they can learn about other people’s feelings with practice. Parents can help by talking about feelings – whether good or bad. “When you hit your brother, it hurts him and makes him feel sad. Do not hit your brother.” Or “I like the way you picked up your toys. That makes me happy.”

Talk about feelings, but don’t punish them for their feelings. Be consistent in how you react to their feelings and be very consistent in how you discipline them for their behavior.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Helping Children Learn About Expectations

There are important jobs a parent must do to help a children learn what is expected and set limits to guide their behavior. This is especially important as children spend more time out of the home with their friends and youth groups. These things are a part of the job:

Parental monitoring – knowing where your child is and who he or she is spending time with. Set a reasonable curfew time or check-in time.

Be there for your child - physically and emotionally. Parents who are distant, uninvolved and inconsistent confuse the child and make him or her feel like they are wandering without a connection. Children need a family connection to endure the tough times.

Expectations and family rules should be clear. Explain the rules and consequences well. Ask yourself what limits are important and then talk to children during calm times to be sure they are clear to your children.

Remember to include plenty of talks about substance abuse, too. Set rules and expectations for “absolutely no” alcohol and drug use.

Children need to have a close bond or attachment with at least one person. Emotional support from a trusted adult should always be available. When children have a sense of connectedness, they are more likely to make wise decisions about their behavior.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

By Grace Cornell Tall

Clasp the hands,
Bow the head,
Ask the Lord
To Bless the bread.

Pull the chair
Up to the table,
Eat no more
Than you are able.

Keep your elbows
Off the mats;
Save the leavings
For the cats.

(Ruff, who goes
From chair to chair,
Is getting much more
Than his share!)

Pass the dishes,
Help your mother,
Be sweet and good
To one another.

Then for this day,
Serene, unprankful,
We, your parents,
Will be thankful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holidays: Family history or family hassle?

The Iowa State University Cooperative Extension offers a few tips on family holiday gatherings for grandparents:

Grandparents play a role in determining whether holidays make family history or family hassles.
Holidays can establish traditions, strengthen family ties, and set milestones in the passage of time. But holidays also contribute to family stress. Routines change, expectations soar, and long-term problems of loneliness, family conflicts or economic stress can seem worse.

Grandparents may find themselves squarely in the middle of family hassles at holiday time.

Keeping your holiday simple doesn't mean ignoring your family's traditions. Instead, you may discover and strengthen what is most important about your family history.

As a grandparent, you might feel the pull of wanting to preserve old routines and traditions (we've always met at our house on Christmas Eve), even while realizing that new patterns would be better for you and your family (gathering the week before at your daughter's would mean less meal preparation for you and less travel with toddlers for her).

Grandparents may have changes in their economic or health status, and may need a quieter holiday celebration. Changes may conflict with family expectations of visits with every child, extensive gift giving, or elaborate celebrations.

Letting go and making changes can be difficult. To manage the hassle and strengthen family ties, consider these ideas.

Talk about feelings. Many families don't really talk about their feelings; they only suppose they know what the other party must be thinking. Have a family discussion by phone, mail or in person to decide what's important in your holiday traditions. Talk about why some traditions are especially important to each of you.

Support your children's feelings and ask for their support to say "no." Maybe you really can't cope with 16 people for five days at your house and maybe your family can't face another cross-country trip with preschoolers.

Cooperate. Consider new ways to keep the traditions that mean the most to everyone. A newly married couple may love having a chance to entertain the family at a holiday dinner. Teenagers might organize a family gift exchange drawing.

Pass on a special tradition as a gift. One father made copies of all the stories, poems and songs that were part of his family's holiday history. Now each child uses them in a new home.

Create new ways to share old traditions. Consider visits at a new time. Your family could look forward to a January visit rather than one during the most stressful holiday period. A grandchild might enjoy your pre-holiday visit to attend a special performance.

Use family history in your gift giving. Write stories about your childhood or your children's growing up years. Give a small heirloom with a written history as a gift. Choose a few old photos and accompany them with a story about the events and people shown.

Give the gift of caring; it keeps on giving year round. To have a caring family holiday, consider the changing needs of family members. Keep the best of the old while you build new family history.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vacation - A Learning Experience

To Grandmother's house we go . . .
Children learn from all the experiences you provide for them outside of school. The more positive and constructive learning experiences children have outside of school, the better they do in school.

There is probably no better time for you and your children to learn than when you're on vacation. Everyone is together, everyone is ready for an adventure, and, in many cases, everything is new.

Children can help you plan the trip. Check out library books or the Internet to gather information about what you will visit. Each child can investigate one aspect of the trip and report on it during the trip to the rest of the family. Or, for younger children, a parent can read about the area or site while riding in the car. They can help with other parts of planning-by figuring out a route or by making a list of things to pack.

Once you're on the trip, your children can serve as navigators and keep a trip log. Or try car games like "I spy with my little eye, something that starts with the letter . . ." To teach financial responsibility, you might want to give them an allowance for souvenirs, or gifts to bring to others.

Of course, you'll want to see, and talk about, some objects of interest like museums and zoos. Remember to plan some down time. Bring some books for rainy afternoons or break times. Have children buy postcards, so they can write to their friends or family back home.

Once you're back home, have the family put together a trip scrapbook. The trip may be over. But learning is just beginning.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 Reasons to Read Aloud to your Children

1. When you hold children and give them attention, they know you love them.

2. Reading to children will encourage them to become readers.

3. Children’s books today are so good, they’re fun for adults, too.

4. Illustrations in children’s books rank with the best, giving children a life long feeling for good art.

5. Books are one way of passing on your values.

6. Book will enable a child’s imagination to soar.

7. Until children learn to read themselves. They will think you create magic.

8. Reading together helps develop a child’s attention span.

9. When you give children this gift, you create special memories that last a lifetime.

Source: “Relatives As Parents Program” - Orange County Extension.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Teenagers are the Greatest!

“Teenagers are the greatest people,” was the title of an article written many years ago by Phillip Wylie. He wrote, “The finest people on earth, the finest there ever were, are America’s minor citizen, our kids, teenagers included. They have better health, are taller and more attractive, are better educated, have traveled more and read more, are more candid and direct with their relations with each other, and are more willing to fight for the ideals we adults only pay lip service.”

In thinking about Wylie’s positive words about teens, some of his phrases are right on. However, if you are raising a teen, you may often be frustrated and concerned about them. What can help?

Be honest with teens because they can be severe critics of adults they think are hypocritical or two-faced. Most teens see through dishonesty or pretension in adults. Before you make hasty decision, look at both sides.

Be open. Teens want and need to talk about things with their parents and with other adults. They also need to be allowed some privacy and independence. Therefore, adult-teen conversations cannot be one-sided, with the teen baring his soul and the adult listening and offering advice. Teens need to know that some of the same concerns they struggle with are concerns of adults, too.

Set clear and consistent limits. Teens are more likely to want to know why a particular rule has been made. Adults should respect this need for explanation and allow for some negotiation regarding rules for behavior, such as curfews. Parents should also not hesitate to say what they believe is absolutely essential and is not open to negotiation. I call these “pen” or “pencil” rules. Teens should be able to negotiate about pencil rules.

Remember that growing up means becoming independent. Effective parents accept young people making choices that they, the parent, may not have made. That is what independence means.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Teething - Baby's First Tooth

A child's first tooth is a big developmental milestone. Parents are excited about their child's first tooth, but may worry about what to expect and amount of pain the child may experience. The process of teething can be painful for both the child and the parent.

Every child is born with all 20 of their baby teeth hidden beneath the surface of their gums. For most children, the first tooth emerges at 5–7 months, although it can occur earlier or later depending on factors such as race and nutrition:

There are some common symptoms that are experienced by most babies, including drooling, chewing, swollen gums, irritability, waking at night, slight rise in temperature and diarrhea.

Remedies for teething discomfort can include: teething rings, rubbing the gums, distraction, cool damp washcloth, cold food, teething toys, frozen pacifier, and teething gel.

It is important to comfort your child while addressing their physical pain. Also, never leave a child unsupervised with any food, teething ring or cubes or similar as these can be choking hazards. Keep in mind the size and weight of the object in relation to the child. Experiment with different textures and temperatures to see what is most soothing for your teething child.

Overall, teething can cause varying levels of discomfort for a child, but it is a process he or she probably won't remember. It is important to keep a baby's gums and first teeth healthy for they set the foundation for healthy adult teeth. Parents should wipe their child's gums and tongue with damp gauze/soft cloth after feedings; and with emergence of that first tooth, begin brushing teeth twice a day until the child has learned to do so on his or her own.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Negative Discipline is Harmful

Negative discipline uses shame or hurt to tell a child he has done something wrong. With negative discipline, control comes from the parent, not from within the child.

Here are some examples: Sarcastic or belittling looks and remarks, sometimes in the form of teasing, unrealistic expectations about your child’s behavior, such as expecting him to sit still for a long time, name calling, threats of abandonment, depriving a child of basic needs such as food, water, or sleep, shaking a baby or toddler when you are frustrated or angry, long time-outs away from other people, slapping fingers or spanking parts of the body with the palm of your hand, a belt, or another object, and believing and acting as though your child is “out to get you”.

Negative discipline may temporarily stop a child’s misbehavior, but it seldom helps a child learn why her behavior was wrong. It does not show her how she can help herself behave in a better way. A child may instead learn from her parent’s behavior to be secretive, belittle other people or call them names, or threaten.

She may try to see what she can get away with. She will learn that screaming and hitting are ways to get what she wants. Negative looks and remarks, sometimes passed off as teasing or joking, are likely to damage a child’s view of herself. Young children are usually not able to understand this kind of adult humor.

Negative discipline may damage a child’s trust in her parents. It also may leave the child with feelings of powerlessness, fear, hurt, anger, or hopelessness. The result may be resentment and bitter memories that will last a long time.

Negative discipline can cause physical injuries such as bruises, pulled muscles, and broken bones. Never shake a baby! Severely shaking babies may result in neck whiplash, back and other bone injuries, paralysis, permanent brain damage, and sometimes death.

Recent research tells us that high stress brought about by frequent negative discipline can harm the brain development of babies and toddlers. This harm can cause learning and behavior problems for the child. Remember, keep discipline positive.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Examine Attitudes About Your Teen's Sports Participation

Consider the many high school games and sports events occurring with the start of the school year. Do you think they truly meet the definition of the word “game”?

Colleen Gengler, of University of Minnesota Extension suggest we take a look at a quick definition and be reminded of what organized sports can be. The word “game” is defined as “activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.”Are your teen’s sports events diversion or amusement? What ways does your teen benefit from participating in sports?

Sports can encourage positive character traits and life values. Sports participation can teach the importance of teamwork, cooperation and hard work. Youth can learn important fundamentals such as ethics, following rules, respecting authority figures, winning and losing with grace, coping with success and failure, and goal setting.

Look at why youth participate in sports. Among the reasons common to both boys and girls are: to improve skills, stay in shape and get exercise, learn new skills, and to do something at which they may already excel. Some youth enjoy competition but there must be a healthy balance between competition, cooperation and having fun. The sport itself should not be completely focused on an “I win, you lose” philosophy. Learning new things, helping each other improve and having fun while doing so all contribute to a healthy sports environment.

To further healthy experiences around organized sports, parents need to examine their own attitudes. Sometimes parents want to live vicariously through their teen’s efforts. Red flags for parental behavior might include: sharing credit for a victory or personal best, coaching from the sidelines, making mental notes to talk about with their teen after the event, or becoming disrespectful of officials. If parents find themselves behaving these ways, it’s time to take a step back.

What can parents do if their teen is involved in high school sports? First, try to be realistic about your teen’s abilities. Few teens go on to college sports, fewer yet make it all the way to their senior year, and very few young adults eventually become professionals. According to a DePauw University website, out of approximately one million high school varsity football players in the country, approximately 150 will make an NFL roster. That’s odds of 6,000 to one.

Whenever possible encourage the positive outcomes from sports mentioned earlier. You can help do that—and keep sports fun—by supporting a balance of competitive sports and involvement in other activities, as well as family time in the life of your teen. You can also serve as a good role model by applauding and cheering for all team members, being respectful of opponents and officials, talking with the families of other team members, and focusing on the positives!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's More Than Hormones!

It’s raging hormones! Typically parents blame all the ups and down of raising a teen on that one factor - hormones. Normal teen development is really made up of many changes not only in biology, but also socially, emotionally and intellectually. All of these changes are taking place at the same time. But, the timing and speed of these changes is unique to each teen.

As change occurs, it means many things for the teen: new roles in society, becoming mature sexually, and learning to deal with emotions. Other changes include more advanced thinking abilities. Teens start to consider future goals around education and lifestyle choices.

Teens also begin to recognize and challenge parents’ faults. Teens are striving to become more independent. At the same time they want to stay connected - but in new ways.

As teens experience these changes, parents can be supportive and helpful. Here are some tips:

 With emotional and physical changes, parents should remain calm.

 Discuss issues informally and listen, don’t lecture.

 Avoid comparisons to siblings.

 Recognize the teen’s need for privacy.

As teens gain abilities in thinking and reasoning, realize that a teen who debates is not being defiant. The teen is actually checking out new ideas and is on the way to becoming an independent thinker. Be willing to listen to and talk with your teen about those new ideas, but reserve serious conversations for the more important issues involving health and safety. As teens gain more social skills and want to do more on their own, parents can continue to take a firm approach but with an evolving set of boundaries.

It’s not just hormones. Teens experience many kinds of changes on the way to becoming a competent, caring adult.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grandmothers as Parents

More than two million U.S. children are being raised by their grandparents. These grandparents are in a unique situation, because for the most part, the children’s biological parents are experiencing problems that keep them from being successful parents.

These grandmothers have tremendous responsibility, taking on the role of the main caregiver to prevent their grandchildren from being placed in foster care.

In a study reported in the Journal of Family Relations, a small sample of care-giving grandmothers reported that they used seven main parenting strategies. They placed a high priority on communicating with their grandchildren. They also took a strong role in the educational process of their grandchildren.

Grandchildren who have been abused, neglected or abandoned may need extra time and support and grandmothers provided encouragement and one-on-one attention for these children. Grandparents also intentionally worked to boost children’s lagging self-esteem.

When grandmothers needed help with parenting, they turned to extended family members. Grandmothers also thought it was important to recruit male relatives to be positive role models for grandsons.

Finally, even if the biological parent was not physically located in the home, they were still present in the children’s minds. Grandmothers found ways to respond to children’s questions about their parents, explaining where they were and what happened to separate them from their children.

Parenting is not easy under any circumstances, and grandmothers who became parents face many unique challenges, yet have many strengths that enable them to be effective parents “the second time around”.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Double Day Work: How Women Cope with Time Demands

In the last 30 years, women have entered the work force in record numbers, yet even as they have taken on employment outside the home, their household duties have usually remained the same. Several expressions have been coined to describe this double duty, such as double day, second shift or double burden. Men and women do seem to be sharing tasks more, especially when they both work outside the home and have young children.

However, across all families, women still carry out most of the unpaid work, including housework, household management, child care, and elder care. A 2005 study printed in the Journal of Marriage and Family reports that women often put in anywhere from 5 to 13 hours more per week than men on household and family care.

As women face the demands of combining work and family, they develop strategies for organizing their lives and accomplishing many tasks. For example, while paid employment takes priority in the scheduling time, women do negotiate with their employers and adapt their work hours when necessary and acceptable to make themselves available for their families.

Working mothers often use weekends to catch up on household chores from the previous week and prepare for the coming week. Sometimes they lower their expectations of what absolutely must be done and reduce their housework so they can spend free time with their families, and they ask their partners and children to share with the load. Double day work provides many time management challenges for women. However, by using various strategies, women can successfully meet the demands of their busy lives.

Source: Lee, Y.S. & Waite, L. (205) Husbands’ and wives’ time spent in housework; A comparison of measure.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Guidelines for Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems

Every child faces problems with their friends and peers at some time. They may be losing a best friend to a new group of peers or fighting with a friend. While painful, these problems are a normal part of growing up. With their parents’ support and guidance, children can learn to solve such problems on their own.

Parents may want to rush in to solve problems for their children, but sometimes all children really need is for their parents to listen with understanding. Before you start giving advice, make sure your child actually wants and is ready for your ideas for solutions. Listen carefully and openly. Stay away from criticizing, belittling, or even talking about a similar experience of your own.

When a child is ready to work on the problem, help your child identify what the true problem is and invite him or her to come up with a list of possible solutions. Go over each idea and talk about the possible consequences of each one. Ask what he or she thinks sounds like the best solution. Talk to him or her about how they are going to put the solution into action or practice what they are going to say or do. Even if your child’s solution isn’t the one you would choose, let him or her use it.

Recognize that just as you survived ups and downs with your friends and peers, your child will too. And remember, most of the time, helping your child think through a problem is the best help you can give.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Older Adults and Physical Activity

Physical activity is any body movement that uses energy, including daily activities such as house or yard work and walking. Regular physical activity helps keep the heart, lungs, bones, muscles, and joints healthy. 

It also helps improve energy level and self-esteem, decrease stress, manage weight, increase strength and flexibility, control arthritis pain, prevent or delay some diseases, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, improve balance and decrease the risk of falling. Being active can help you improve your quality of life and stay independent longer.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of a moderate-intensity endurance activity most days of the week. Moderate-intensity activity should increase your breathing and heart rate. Try walking, yard work, or vacuuming.

Plan to do some strength exercises like lifting weights or using resistance bands 2 or 3 times a week. With stronger muscles, you'll be able to do more things on your own. You don't need fancy weights; use books or cans!

Include balance exercises. Try standing on one leg and then the other, using a chair for balance; practice this three days a week to help prevent falls. Tai chi also helps with balance.

Include gentle stretches to be more flexible and give you more freedom of movement. Never stretch so far that it hurts. Gentle yoga also can help improve flexibility.

Remember the goal is to get at least 30 minutes of activity during the day. It doesn't have to be all at once. Work in the garden in the morning. Mop your floor while watching TV. Take a short walk after dinner. Choose activities that you enjoy and invite a friend along. Vary your activities and routines—try a different walking path.

Set realistic short- and long-term goals. Reward yourself when you reach them! Keep an activity log so you can look back and see how far you've come. Find an exercise partner!

Physical activity actually increases your energy level. Be active for five minutes and if you're tired after that time, stop. But chances are you'll feel like continuing!

Many people find that once they start being active, it feels so good that it becomes fun and enjoyable! But if physical activity sounds overwhelming, don’t despair—if you haven’t been active, start slowly and increase your activity gradually. Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Playing With Your Child

Play is a vital part of a child’s development. Play is your child’s work. It’s as important to your child as your job is to you. Play teaches cooperation, trust and independence. It also builds self-esteem. It gives children the chance to get to know themselves, the world, and other people.

Find out what your children like to play and join them. Set aside an hour or two each week for play time. This will help you and your children to communicate well. Turn housework into play by sharing chores with them and making a game out of it.

If you feel you don’t have time to play with your child or that you are too tired, think of how important play is to your child’s growth and development. Children also want to be heard. Show them you care by listening to their feelings and dreams. From your example, they will learn how to respect and listen to others.

Give your child your full attention. Stop what you are doing and look at your child while she speaks to you. Sit or place yourself at her level.

Try to understand the world from your child’s point of view. Unkind words tell children that they are not good enough. They hurt and tear down self-esteem. Praise your child for his independent ideas. Take time to really listen to your child. Express your love freely and always use kind words.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Three Rules About How Babies Grow

#1.Change occurs in an orderly way. For example, babies first learn to hold their heads up, then roll over, and then to sit. Once they are able to sit up alone, they do not forget how to do that. They naturally move on to creeping, crawling, and standing.

#2.Development happens at different rates for each child. There is a wide age range in which normally developing children gain new skills. A child may be further along in one area than another. For example, an 18-month-old may be putting lots of energy into walking and running but may not yet be talking much.

#3.There are windows of opportunity during the first three years for a child to learn many basic abilities. A window of opportunity is a limited period of time—a few weeks or months—when it is especially easy for a baby to develop a certain ability. At these times, connections between brain cells get stronger and multiply.

You can tell when your baby has entered one of these periods because he begins to do new things. You can help him open his windows of opportunity during these special, important times. As you play and care for him, notice what he especially likes so you can help supply certain kinds of learning experiences.

Watch your baby with fascination to see changes happening. Enjoy and celebrate each day with your child. Respond to your child with smiles and words. Get other family members involved in caring and playing with your child. Be patient! Sometimes babies and toddlers seem to backtrack, but not for long. Your baby will continue to develop.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Suggestions for Stepfamilies

All families have difficulties; children playing one parent against another, communication difficulties, money issues, and parents finding time to be alone. Stepfamilies are no different. It takes up to three years for a combined family to start working like a family. Practice patience!

For parents it is critically important that you come to terms with your past. New partners deserve someone who has explored the good and bad of a previous marriage. The emotional well-being of each person is important for a healthy, new marriage. So take stock of your emotional health and do the work that is required to make yourself a relationship asset.

Each parent should strive to have good communication with the children’s other parent. That lays a foundation that meets the needs of the children as you parent apart. Communicate with ex-partners and understand that children living in two families need respectful and caring relationships in stepfamilies and, whenever possible, with birth parents.


 Love your children no matter what.

 Provide an environment with rules, expectations, and limits.

 Remember that children don’t always listen to you but they are always watching you. Modeling is important - remember to treat your former spouse civilly. Then your children will behave more civil themselves.

 The biological parent should be the primary disciplinarian. In time a stepparent has more authority. In the absence of the biological parent, the stepparent should have authority and support of the biological parent. The new parent may provide insight for a biological parent who’s willing to listen.

 First time parents may want to take a parenting class.

 Stepparents should not try to replace the parent. You are special and unique and in time will create your own relationship with the children. Allow for the biological parent to have time alone with their children.

 The new parent should be a spouse first and give the parent role time and space to develop.

Pay attention to your marriage and do something together beyond everyday duties. Your relationship will gain depth and increased satisfaction.

Finally, you will bring traditions and activities from your previous life. Add to these by creating new traditions and enjoying activities as a new family. The results will bring stability in marriage.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Helping Your Child Make Friends

Learning to make friends is one of the most significant tasks in a child’s early social development. A child usually begins this process during the second year of life playing alongside another toddler. Although there is not much interaction, children notice that they are not much different from others and they are not the center of the universe.

During the preschool years children develop social skills they’ll need to establish and maintain friendship. Though they’re still very self-centered, children of this age begin to initiate contacts with strangers. They negotiate roles, and they learn to compromise. Somehow they manage rejection, claim their possessions, and learn ways to settle conflicts. Friends do things to reinforce each other's acceptable behavior and even model behavior for one another.

What can parents do to guide the social development of their young children?

One important thing is to help a child learn how to approach other children, how to make contact. Your child will be watching how you do it. How you manage social situations affects the way your child views social interaction. Encourage your child to smile and make eye contact with others. It’s okay to suggest some words to use when a child wants to join others in ongoing play, and some ways to be sure she will be accepted, like "can I be the visiting grandma?" instead of "I want to play house too."

Provide times when your child can interact with peers in a safe and appropriate environment. If you think he’s having a difficult time making friends, try to arrange special play activities with slightly older children. They’ll provide examples of effective social skills. If your child is anxious about using his social skills, give him an opportunity to play with a younger child. He can take a lead role and this may give his self-esteem a needed boost.

As your child gets a little older and is entertaining a friend at home, try to stay out of the way so they can negotiate conflict and mange the give and take of friendship. Step in only when there is imminent danger or a squabble has gone out of control.

Don’t categorize and don't allow others to label your child as "shy," "bossy," or "hard to get along with." Social skills sometimes take a lifetime to perfect. We all know adults who are not experts at social interaction. Instead of referring to your child as "shy," you can say he is "cautious in new situations." This describes the behavior in a positive way which is better for the child.

Encourage a child’s positive efforts to get along with others, even when such attempts fail. Tell him you know it’s hard (especially if he’s shy). Remind your child that making friends sometimes takes a long time, so it’s important to keep trying. Ask questions and help him think about what the other child may need in a friend.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Growth Charts

Parents often wonder whether their children are growing at a normal rate and are at the “right” height and weight for their age. Growth charts are used to compare a child’s size and pattern of growth with a nationally representative reference sample of children the same age and sex. Growth charts have been used to monitor the growth of infants, children and adolescents in the United States for over 30 years. These charts provide growth curves for weight, length/stature (height) and head circumference. Health care providers use these charts as a clinical tool to assess the adequacy of growth in their patients.

Pediatricians use the charts at each well-child visit to document children’s growth. This helps them to identify major changes in a child’s growth patterns, which may indicate a potential health problem. Although most parents are familiar and comfortable with the traditional growth charts (i.e., weight and stature for age, weight for stature), the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends calculating and plotting Body Mass Index (BMI) for age and gender starting at age two to screen for overweight and obesity. BMI charts are publicly available to consumers, and you can use them to track your child’s growth.

A new feature of the revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - National Center for Health Statistics growth charts (2000) is the inclusion of body mass index (BMI) for age and sex. BMI, which is based on height and weight, is used to screen children (2 years and older) and youth for overweight and obesity. The BMI charts also can be used to identify children who are underweight. The information in this publication explains how BMI charts are used by health care providers to screen for potential weight problems that could lead to chronic health conditions.

BMI is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to estimate body fatness. BMI is calculated by dividing an individual’s weight in kilograms (kg) by the individuals height in meters (m) squared, or weight in pounds (lb) multiplied by 703, divided by height in inches (in) squared.

To down load the UF publication “Raising Healthy Children: BMI Charts” go to: An easy way to determine BMI is to use a BMI calculator available online. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has a BMI calculator available at:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Resolving Family Conflicts Before They Grow

Generally speaking, conflicts are like weeds in a garden. They are much easier to deal with if you catch them when they are small. Catch family problems early, before they grow into monsters. Here are a few guidelines you’ll find useful: Usually it’s best to address a conflict immediately. Avoid putting off until tomorrow what can be taken care of today.

When you’re stressed out, occasionally it may be best to avoid dealing with a problem until you’re calmer and more rested. Just don’t put it off for too long. And don’t make waiting to deal with problems a habit.

Keep the lines of communication with your child open. When your son can freely talk to you about his fears and frustrations, he’ll be able to sidestep a lot of potential problems.

When you see trouble beginning to brew, guide your child in a more positive direction: “Joshua, let’s take your ball and play catch outside.”

Set an example by dealing with problems early on, before they become bigger and harder to handle. And do so with a positive attitude, a smile and a touch of creativity.

Assist children in finding their own solutions to little conflicts that crop up. Help them feel safe and respected. Let them know that you have faith in their abilities. As necessary, guide children in finding peaceful solutions to their conflicts, but allow them to take as much leadership as possible.

While resolving problems before they get out of hand is important with your children, you can apply the same skill in many other areas of your life. Whether the conflict arises at work, among friends or with an in-law, there are some basic points to keep in mind.

Remember that differences of opinion are normal. Try to see conflict as an opportunity for learning and growing, and look for a solution both people can live with. Instead of attacking, calmly ask questions with an open mind. Avoid blaming and stay focused on one issue at a time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Can You Spoil a Baby?

Some parents think if they rush to their baby every time she cries they will create a spoiled baby who will grow to be a spoiled child and later a spoiled teenager. This is simply not the case! Most of us have a strong urge to attend promptly to baby’s distress (the crying bothers us). Those natural urges are quite appropriate. If we respond quickly the baby learns that he can trust you to take care of him and that trust in mom or dad leads to a secure attachment.

Research has shown that babies who get a quick and consistent response actually cry less than infants who have been left to cry for periods of time. When their needs are met, babies develop a basic sense of security that allows them to be more confident and ready to explore and learn. These babies then become more independent as toddlers.

Remember— your baby’s cry is a way of asking for something. Your baby needs you to provide for her bodily needs and offer comfort and reassurance. Sometimes if you answer quickly when your baby begins to fuss, the sound of your voice alone will be enough to soothe. Moving close and talking softly in her ear can provide comfort as can holding your hand gently on baby’s back or tummy. Very young babies often like to be swaddled. The snug wrapping provides warmth and security. Some babies seek comfort through sucking on a pacifier, wrist or thumb. Others prefer motion to soothe them— rocking, being carried as you walk or riding in a stroller or car.

Continuous low-frequency sound can also be effective in calming a baby— a ticking clock, humming with your lips pressed on baby's forehead or top of head, a music box, or singing softly— tunes can be from the Beatles to Brahms. Meeting all of a baby’s needs can be a tough job. No one does it well all the time. The key is doing it well as often as you can. You will hardly be spoiling your baby-you will be giving her just what she need to become happy and confident as she grows.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Handling Divorce Emotionally

Children can become frightened and feel helpless if their security is threatened. They depend on their parents to be emotionally stable. As while it can be scary and sad for parents to divorce, it is extra scary for children to see their parents emotionally out of control.

How parents handle a divorce will dramatically affect how their children will react and, in turn, adjust to the divorce. Children become what they experience and they reflect the behavior of their parents.

If parents handle their divorce maturely and encourage the child’s involvement with the other parent, children can grow up with low levels of conflict. How well parents handle their emotions when around their children, and how capable they are of relating to each other, determines how their children will manage the transition to a new family dynamic.

If you know a couple with minor children who are divorcing, give them this link for information on the Divorce class that is required for a divorce involving minor children in the State of Florida:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Winning Isn't Everything

Organized sports provide teens with a great opportunity for learning important skills and values. As a parent, the first step is finding the right sport and the right team or coach for your teen. Consider some reasons teens want to be involved in organized sports:

 Does the sport offer all players a chance to succeed, participate, and develop skills?

 Does it offer my teen a chance to have fun and be with friends?

When coaches and parents emphasize playing their best, never giving up, learning new skills, and having fun over scoring more points, youth begin to develop positive values about winning and losing. By seeing adult role models encourage team members to do their best and support each other and accepting each player’s abilities and limitations, teens learn respect for others.

Here are some tips for how your family can make the most out of opportunities to participate in sports activities:

 Discuss how family members can set realistic goals.

 Help your child develop a lifelong commitment to an active lifestyle.

 Encourage your child to play because he or she enjoys it.

 Allow your child to be involved in the decision making around sports. Support your child’s decisions.

 Encourage your child to try various physical activities.

 Consider the age and personality of each child. Families may need to increase efforts to manage competition and its impact on a youth’s development.

A healthy balance of competition, cooperation, and having fun is important whether the child is competing with himself or against others. Parents and caring adults need to work at creating an environment in which teens can compete in a healthy way.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Peer Pressure and Risky Behaviors

As your child becomes a teenager, she will start spending a lot more time with her friends and a lot less time with you. This is normal. Teens with friends are physically and emotionally healthier than those without friends. Friends during the teenage years provide care, respect, and trust. Your child's friends are going through the same kinds of things as your teen. They understand each other, they can talk about their problems and figure out ways to solve them, together.

Teens choose their friends, because of similar interests, or to make themselves more popular. Their peers influence issues such as style and activities. The focus is on fitting in. Before deciding to do something, teens often ask themselves, "What will my friends think?" This does not mean their decisions are stupid. It means that there is a trade-off between doing what one knows is right, and being accepted by peers. It also means you and your teen may identify different consequences of a behavior and may value those consequences differently.

For example,

 Missing the coolest party on Saturday night is not a big deal to you, but it seems like the worst thing in the world to your teen.

 For you, having unprotected sex might potentially lead to pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection, while your teen may feel not having sex might mean losing her boyfriend. This doesn't mean you're not important. When parents monitor their teen's behavior, the teen is more likely to choose friends who participate in behaviors parents approve of. Parents need to remain close to their teens and make sure teens balance family time with the time they are spending with peers. Parents with a good relationship with their teen will have more influence than peers

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Attachment: A Lifelong Commitment

Many people use the terms "bonding" and "attachment" as if they were the same. Actually they mean quite different things. Bonding has to do with the parent’s tie to the infant that occurs in the first hours of life. We think of bonding as occurring almost instantly, when the parent first has contact with the infant at birth. That may be a magical moment for parents, but babies do not quite realize the first moments after birth as critical to building relationships with parents. Although babies do enjoy the closeness they feel with parents immediately after birth, bonding is basically a parent phenomenon.

The term "attachment" refers to a relationship between baby and parent that develops gradually and builds over a long period of time— both parties take a role in the relationship— you could call it a lifelong partnership.

Babies come into the world ready to build relationships with the adults who care for them. Babies communicate with caregivers by gazing at their faces, recognizing their familiar voices, grasping their fingers, smiling at them, and crying when they need or want them.

As babies grow, they develop new ways of communicating and responding to caregivers. If parents learn their baby's cues and provide experiences that the baby finds consistent and responsive to his needs, he will develop a trust in himself and in others--a secure attachment relationship. It takes time for trust to develop, beginning from the earliest interactions between baby and caregiver through the first year of life.

Because this process is one of building a long-term relationship, even infants who did not have immediate contact with their parent (due to adoption, illness, or premature birth) can become securely attached. Even attachment that is not secure at the end of the first year may change for the better if circumstances improve.

Just as relationships between adults are based on what they do together over time, infant/caregiver attachment is also build upon all that is shared over the weeks, months and year of early childhood.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Navigating Your Parents' Finances

If you've had to make the possibly difficult decision to take care of your parents' finances, there are a number of steps suggested by the University of Florida Extension to help you to get things in order.

Financial educators recommend that the first step is to track their cash flow. This may be difficult because parents often hide money from their children, may not remember where they've put their money, or may not have kept records. Typically, income exceeds expenses until age 70, after which savings are usually needed to meet expenses.

Once you've determined where the money is coming from and how it's spent, check your parents' bills and expenditures to identify errors. If you find transactions that aren't clear, you can request information in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. And if you discover any suspected fraud or financial abuse, you should also report it to appropriate authorities immediately.

Finally, if they haven't already done so, prepare a net worth statement. This will help you determine how long your parents' savings will last. Identify ratios that will help you in planning their finances. For example, you should set a goal that for each dollar of debt, they should have $25 of assets. For retirees, no more than 10% of their income should be going to debt, and they should have 70 to 90% of their net worth in investment assets, although that ratio can be lower for homeowners. If necessary, seek the help of a qualified and trusted financial professional to help you navigate what's best for your parents.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reading to Children for Better School Performance

Many parents today start planning for their children’s college education funds when those children are still in diapers. Yet, there’s another investment parents should consider that could have a significant impact on their children’s entire educational experience . . . even when they’re still in diapers – READING.

Research has shown that reading to your child at a young age is not only beneficial to your child but to you as a parent as well. One of the first and most immediate benefits is spending some quality time with your child every day. An academic benefit is that reading with your child helps them to be better prepared when they enter a formal school environment. Reading together 20 minutes a day can make a difference in your child’s language, grammar and reading skills as they get older.

Reading certain types of books will also help children build their cognitive skills. For example, folktale and fables help children learn to make predictions and gain decision-making skills. Fantasy books are great for generating questions for discussion such as “what if” or “wouldn’t it be fun if.” Books about families help children learn to relate their reading with personal experiences of their own.

Here are a few tips to help you and your child form an enjoyable and educational reading relationship. First, set a specific time each day that you read together. Second, try to choose a variety of books on different subjects, but be sure to keep your child’s likes and dislikes in mind. Boys usually like books about real things – trucks, animals, etc. while girls tend to like fantasy books. Also, use expression or different voices when reading dialogue to make the story interesting.

Cuddle up with your children tonight and read a book!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

TV and Very Young Children

Television is a huge part of family life in the United States. Most households have three or more televisions and in the average American home, the television is on about six hours a day.

Television is a big part of children’s lives, too. Recent research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (2005) found that nearly 60% of children under the age of two watch TV on a typical day for an average of two hours each day. Nearly 40% of children ages six and under live in a house where the TV is “always or mostly” on, even if no one is watching.

For years, television programming for children was aimed at preschoolers and older children. Research showed that some educational programs could help three, four and five year old children build their vocabulary and develop language and thinking skills.

New programs are now targeting toddlers and even infants. Current research shows that children under the age of two do pay attention to programs that are made for them, but that babies and toddlers do not seem to learn much from TV, while they do learn more from live interactions with people. In fact, watching TV or having TV on in the background may even interfere with a child’s cognitive development and ability to focus.

Researchers admit that not much is known about the impacts of media on the very youngest children, and certainly more research is needed. But in the meantime, parents who want their children to watch TV may want to choose high-quality educational programs and make sure to balance these with time for just plain playing and talking together. That’s how young children learn best.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

School Bus Safety

The school bus is a very safe way for your children to get to and from school. In fact, school buses may be the safest vehicle on the road. Very few deaths and injuries to children involve a school bus.

Most mishaps take place outside the bus, so here are some precautions you and your children can take if they ride the bus to school.

• Don’t let your children arrive at the bus stop too early. They may be tempted to get into mischief while waiting for the bus.

• Make sure your children know what to do if they miss the bus; come back home; or if at school, report to a teacher – and never accept a ride from a stranger.

• If the stop is a long way from home, plan and talk with your child where they can go in an emergency.

• Make sure they wait well away from the road way, and stay well back until the bus comes to a full stop and the door opens.

• Set a rule that there is no running, pushing or horseplay while waiting, getting on or getting off the bus.

• Tell your children to come straight home from the bus – no detours.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Retirement and Family Life

Are you or is someone in your family approaching retirement age? Many experts define retirement as stopping work at some prescribed age. The age that many Americans define as retirement age is 65, the same age that individuals who were born in or before 1937 are eligible to receive full Social Security benefits from the U.S. government.

However, the eligibility age to receive full social security benefits for individuals born in or after 1960 is age 67. Persons born between the years of 1937 and 1960 are eligible to receive benefits that are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before their full retirement age. Whether a person chooses to retire at 65 or 55, this is a major life change. You may start receiving benefits as early as 62 or as late as 70.

As a general rule, early or late retirement will give you about the same total Social Security benefits over your lifetime. If you retire early, the monthly benefit amounts will be smaller to take into account the longer period you will receive them. If you retire late, you will get benefits for a shorter period of time but the monthly amounts will be larger to make up for the months when you did not receive anything.

Adjusting to retirement comes naturally to some people, while others find it more difficult. A persons’ health, mobility, financial resources, social ties, and the reason why a person retired all affect how a person handles retirement.

Some people go through an identity crisis, because work no longer provides a source of self-esteem and self-respect. Other retirees delve deeper into different aspects of their life, such as leisure activities, and continue or redefine their family roles of parent, grandparent, spouse or sibling.

Some retirees develop new interests or have more time to spend on lifelong hobbies. It may be time to go on the overdue family vacation, to take time to pass down family recipes, or to teach a grandchild a new skill. Many retirees develop their time to volunteering in their communities; maybe in their grandchild’s classroom at school, or by adopting a foster grandchild in the community.

Families can support a new retiree in so many ways. By incorporating them into daily family life, the whole family can benefit from retirement at any age!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ways to Keep your Teen Safe

The following research-based tips can help encourage teens to talk with you about cyberbullying and sexual solicitation, as well as keep your teens from being victims or perpetrators.

• Get access to "parental block" software that protects your child from exploring inappropriate websites. There are many options you can find by typing "free Internet blocking software" into a search engine (for example, Google).

• Keep computers with Internet access in a centralized location in the home, not in your child's bedroom and set limits on data access on your teen's cell phone.

• Check your child's computer and data use history. (Type in "Internet monitoring software for parents" on a search engine—some options are specifically geared toward monitoring your child's activity on social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace).

• Negotiate rules with your teen on cell phone use with regard to text and media messaging, and online data access.

• Set a family Internet and data use policy. Define the ground rules for Internet use, such as scheduled times, permissible websites, and limitations on cyber communication with familiar peers or close friends.

• When setting cyberspace rules, consider how vulnerable your child might be to sexual solicitation and cyberbullying. Base your decision on his or her life circumstances as well as age and stage of development. For example, rules for Internet use for children should be more restrictive than those set for teens.

• Because they value privacy, be prepared to enforce set consequences when teens fail to observe a "family Internet policy" (for example, teens can be held responsible for fixing damages from computer viruses or paying for data minutes overages) and setting appropriate limits and fair consequences.

• Teach your child what cyberbullying is and give some specific examples of what to look for; help them learn to identify and interpret information shared or comments made by the predator. Kids will often think they are the only ones experiencing this and that they should be able to handle it.

• Educate your teen about potential dangers of cyber communication and sharing information. It is very easy for a predator to learn where the child lives and goes to school from only a little bit of information.

• Help teens to role-play effective ways to respond to sexual solicitation and cyberbullying.

• If an incident involving victimization of your teen occurs, reassure him or her that Internet access will not be forever discontinued, nor will their cell phone be confiscated, unless such measures are deemed temporarily necessary for their immediate safety.

To down load the UF Extension publication For Teen Safety in Cyberspace, written by Kate Fogarty, assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida go to:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Children's Fears

Fear is common among children. While some of this can be a good thing, such as being afraid of large dogs or busy streets, too much fear can be a problem. A child with too much fear may be afraid to participate in normal activities.

Some fears can develop because your child knows someone who is afraid. For example, if you panic whenever there is a spider in the house, your child may learn to fear spiders. Don’t tell them their fears are ridiculous or make fun of them.

It helps to learn how each of your children show their fears. Some children will suck their thumb. Some will fidget. Some will whine and complain. Some will completely fall to pieces. It’s important for children to learn to talk about all of their feelings, including fear. When a child looks as if he is scared, you can say, “You are biting your fingernails. Does that mean you feel scared?”

Fears exist because children know a little bit about something but not enough about it to deal with it realistically. Help children learn about the things that scare them. Find books that can help answer some of their questions, such as why fire trucks have sirens, what spiders can do, or thunder and lightning.

Recognize courage when you see it. For example, you could say, “When we walked by the dog, you didn’t ask to be picked up, but just held my hand. Good for you, you are getting brave.”

Suggest ways to help your child cope with fear. If your child is scared of the dark, try a night light or flash light that your child can control. If he is afraid of the bathtub drain, let him be the one to pull the plug on the count of three after he gets out of the water. Limit time watching TV, particularly the news or violent and/or horror shows.