Thursday, August 29, 2013

Quality Childcare Now, More Involvement with School and Teachers Later

Most employed parents of young children would agree that it can sometimes be difficult to put their sons and daughters in the care of others during the workday. Feeling confident about the quality of these daycare arrangements can make all the difference to parents’ peace of mind.

Of course, good-quality childcare has other benefits, too. In fact, new research in the journal Child Development suggests that good childcare may also increase mothers’ involvement with children’s schools further down the road.

About 1500 children and their mothers were tracked from birth to age 5. Over the years, researchers visited the children’s childcare settings to rate their quality. Then, once the children began kindergarten, teachers and mothers themselves rated how involved and active mothers were with the child’s schooling.

Mothers of children who had attended high-quality daycare in the first 5 years of life were significantly more involved with their kindergarten child’s school experience. What made the difference? When children’s early caregivers were sensitive and responsive and provided stimulating learning activities, parents provided more enriching home environments and children developed stronger academic skills. The pay-off was stronger school-to-parent ties once the child was in elementary school. Importantly, this was true regardless of the family’s income or the mother’s level of education.

These findings provide yet more evidence of the importance of children’s early learning environments. In this case, ensuring that all children have access to quality childcare arrangements can strengthen ties between schools and parents and support children’s development during the elementary years.

Course: Carol Church, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New evidence on smoking and pregnancy

It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health – and, for pregnant women, has serious impacts on the health of their unborn babies. Smoking during pregnancy not only  increases the chance for early labor and miscarriage , but also  lowers the unborn baby’s heart rate, limits the oxygen he receives, , and increases his risk of lung disease later in life.

Now there is new evidence that provides pregnant mothers with one more reason to avoid smoking: A new systematic review published in the British Medical Journal found that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were more likely to be overweight.

The analysis reviewed a total of 30 prospective studies to identify factors during pregnancy and infancy that led to obesity in childhood. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were 47% more likely to be obese.

The review also found that children were significantly more likely to be overweight if their mothers were overweight before giving birth, or if they were fed solids before they were 4 months old.

There were also some factors that seemed to protect against childhood obesity. Breastfed babies were 15 percent less likely to be overweight in childhood. Babies who gained weight more slowly during infancy were also significantly less likely to become overweight as children.

The review offers some solid guidelines for mothers during pregnancy and while caring for young infants. The authors also noted medical professionals could use the findings to develop screening guidelines for pregnant mothers and young babies.

The bottom line: Nutrition and health during pregnancy and infancy has an important impact on a child’s health and well-being.

Source: Cornell University Extension

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Key Factors for School Achievement

Key Factors That relate to School Achievement
1.  Child’s motivation and self esteem
2.  Parenting styles
3.  The parent’s relationship with their child
4.  The parent’s relationship with the school

Tips for Building the Parent/Child Relationship
1.  Accept your child for who he/she is.  Avoid comparing your child to siblings or another child .
2.  Have standards and reasonable expectations for your child.
3.  Set reasonable and clear limits on behavior.
4.  Encourage your child to make his/her best effort.
5.  Show you have confidence in your child’s ability to solve problems and to do a good job.
6.  Praise his/her efforts and improvements in a sensitive way.
7.  Offer help when your child needs it, but do not do the work for him/her.
8.  Listen carefully to your child’s school-related issues and other concerns.
9.  Demonstrate your love through actions and words.
10. Be caring and supportive.
11.  Set a good example.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What we know about custodial grandparents

About 2 percent of children in the U.S. are being raised by their grandparents with no parent living in the home, according to the U.S. Census bureau. But what do we know about these families? And do grandparents face any particular parenting challenges that differ from more traditional households?

Researchers at the College of Human Ecology and the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research are experts in these complex relationships. They’ve published a research brief that summarizes the best way to support these families. While it’s not a comprehensive systematic review, it provides an overview of much of the evidence available on this important topic, and provides tips to caregivers who work with these families.

Among the findings summarized in the brief:
  • Most children in the custody of grandparents have some contact with their biological parents. In some cases, these interactions are helpful and positive, although others can have a negative effect. But the research clearly shows that parents play key roles in the lives of children being raised by relatives.
  • Educational programs that help biological parents become more involved in their children’s lives can benefit the entire family.
  • Confidential counseling for children is important because research shows children often feel torn between their caregivers and their biological parents.
There are plenty of other resources out there for grandparents living with grandchildren.  The U.S. Census Bureau provides statistics on grandparents raising grandchildren.  And a British non-profit organization called Mentor UK conducted an international review of the evidence on the topic with some insightful information.

“Despite the growth in the numbers of custodial grandparent families in New York and across the U.S., we actually know very little about relationship quality and parenting in such families,” said Kimberly Kopko, senior extension associate at the BCTR. “The goal of our research is to learn more about grandparents and the teenagers that they are raising and to use the findings from our research to inform policies and programs to help address the needs of grandparent-headed families.”

Source: Cornell University Extension

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Apart, Not Broken: Dads learn, connect & Create

Are you a divorced or separated father? Do you want to move:
past fear, pain, & guilt? 
Create the life you want with your child? 
Manage your relationship with your ex-partner?  Be the creator of your future?
Contribute to ground breaking research that will help other fathers?

The University of Wisconsin Madison This program is being evaluated through the University of Wisconsin, Madison as part of the doctoral program  of Shelly D. Mahon.  Please click on the link below to get more information or sign up.  Once you fill out the registration form you will be asked to: 
1.      Respond to the informed consent form and brief survey. Receipt of your consent form indicates that you read the consent form and are agreeing to participate in the program.
2.      Complete the short pre-program survey. You will be asked to complete this survey again at the end of the program.
Participating fathers who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion, a $25.00 Amazon gift card, and be entered to win an iPad! 

Learn: Listen to fathers' real experiences and insights. Have access to information and recommendations that can make a measurable difference in adjusting and parenting after separation or divorce. 
Connect: Join an online community of fathers. Learn to use creative strategies to connect with your child and manage your relationship with your ex-partner.
Create: Feel powerful in your ability to be the dad YOU want to be. Create the relationship YOU want with your child by building on your existing strengths, starting new traditions, and creating lasting memories.

This program is equipped with:
o    Videos reflecting the real life experiences of other divorced fathers;
o    A discussion forum for you to connect and share with other fathers;
o    Online tools for sharing photos, calendars, communicating & more; 
o    Current and concise information about divorce & parenting after divorce;
o    Engaging activities for you to enjoy with your child; and
o    Additional resources for you to build your own parenting toolkit.

This innovative, multi-media program is:
o    Free: No Charge!
o    Confidential: Private, online support education program
o    Efficient: Brief, 12-week series of ~30 minute sessions
o    Flexible: Spend as much time as you want on the aspects that fit your needs
o    Convenient: Available 24/7, worldwide, anywhere with an Internet connection
o    Ongoing: Starts when you register!
To register:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What we know about autism therapies

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 American children have an autism spectrum disorder – developmental disabilities characterized by delays in social interaction and communication, cognitive difficulties  and repetitive behaviors.

Autism appears in children by three years of age and typical treatments include medicine and therapy. Now there’s a new meta-analysis investigating behavioral interventions to treat autistic children.

The analysis looks at 33 systematic reviews and 68 intervention studies of autistic children. The review – published earlier this month in the journal Pediatrics – found that some intervention programs did help improve behavioral symptoms.

Intensive behavior programs – which include therapy for at least 25 hours a week – were found to be moderately effective at improving core deficits such as adapting to change, decision-making and memory. The evidence showed these programs were particularly effective when they began shortly after diagnosis, and when they address the concerns of the family and offer opportunities for them to participate.

The authors agreed that there is plenty of room for improvement.  They suggested that comprehensive therapy programs need to address even more deficits including social communication, language, play skills, aggression and preoccupation with rituals.

They also identified gaps in our knowledge about autism therapies.  Researchers need to
- Develop uniform outcome measures so that future systematic reviews can more easily pool data.
- Conduct more studies on pre-verbal or non-verbal children to determine the interventions that help them best.
- Assess how individual, specific therapies impact core deficits such as IQ and communication skills.
- Collect more evidence to determine the most effective dose and duration of therapies.

All in all, the take home message is that behavioral therapy does help children diagnosed with autism, but that researchers have a long way to go to ensure that interventions are doing all that they can to help autistic children develop and thrive.

Source: Cornell University Extension.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reading the same book repeatedly helps your child learn!

You may get bored when your child reaches for the same book every night but “repetitive reading” can actually help a child learn new words.

Some children have favorite bedtime books and always reach for them. Some parents, thinking more is always better, buy lots of different books to provide variety.

Half of a group of three-year-old children were read the same book while three different books were read to the others. The children were all tested a week later. Those who heard the same story repeated several times learned 3.6 new words on average while those who heard different stories remembered only 2.6 words.

Obviously a child needs some variety and some repetition. But maybe when Baby reaches for the same book every night, Mommy or Daddy could stifle their yawn and bow to Baby’s wisdom!

The important thing is to keep reading. Read often. Read with enthusiasm. Point to pictures and words while reading. Ask Baby to point to the picture. And don’t forget to let your child see you read to yourself. Children learn the behaviors we model.

Source:  Marilyn Heims, M,D., author of the parenting newsletter Parents Kids Right.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back-to-School Parent Checklist

1. Begin the day right with a good nutritious breakfast-it’s important for kids to get off to
a good start every day.

2. Communicate with your child’s teacher as soon as possible by sharing positive
information about your child. Share your concerns, what you feel is working well for
your child, and ask for clarification if something is unclear.

3. Organize your calendar with upcoming school holidays and events.

4. Set up an area in your home for school papers – set up a file for each child.

5. Talk positively about school in front of your child. If you have a disagreement with your child’s teacher talk to them as soon as possible but don’t share the conversation with your child.

6. Provide a quiet place for homework that is free of distractions and help your child as needed, without doing the work for him.

7. Become familiar with your child’s school rules, policies and code of conduct.

8. With your child choose which after school activities are most important and really listen to your child when he/she talks to you.

9. Be consistent with home rules on play-time, meal time, and sleep time.

10. Read all information sent home by your child’s teacher and respond when requested.

11. Attend open houses and PTA meetings to become more informed about what is happening at your school.

12. If your child is sick, keep them home, but remember to call the school or send a written excuse (follow your school’s policy). Too many unexcused absences can affect your child’s grades, or raise concerns about absenteeism.

13. Even though your mornings can be hectic, always send your child off on a positive note with a smile and a hug, to set the tone for a great day.


Friday, August 2, 2013

August Workshops

Call or email Diana for locations of workshops

6th, 3:00 p.m. “Helping Your Child Succeed in School”
7th, 9:00 a.m. “A Balanced Parenting Style”
7th, 10:30 a.m. “Enhancing Your Child’s Self Esteem
8th, 9:00 a.m. “Avoid Behavior Problems: Teach Self-Control”
8th, 1:00 p.m. “Creating Special Moments with Infants and Toddlers”
9th, 9:00 a.m. “What Does Time Mean to Children?”
10th, 9:00 a.m. “Friendship and Play Skills for Preschoolers”
13th, 6:45 p.m.”Avoid Behavior Problems: Teach Self-Control”
14th, 9:00 a.m. “Effective Discipline for School-age Children”
14th, 10:30 a.m. “What Kids Need to Succeed”
14th, 2:00 p.m. “Building Your Resilience to Stress”
16th, 12:00 p.m. “Stop Putting it Off! Overcoming Procrastination”
16th, 2:00 p.m. “Avoid Behavior Problems: Teach Self-Control”
21st, 9:00 a.m. “Improving Family Communication”
21st, 10:30 a.m. “Stress Management for Parents”
24th, 9:00 a.m. “Teaching Emotional Literacy” for child care providers

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Increase School Readiness (Right in Your Own Home)

There are many things you can do in your own home, that don’t cost a lot, but can increase your child’s school readiness skills. Try one of the following each day or pick one room in your home each week and come up with other activities:

1.    In the living room – Ask your children “how tall is the lamp?” Use a measuring tape or ruler, then count the inches with them as they measure. Ask your child to look in the newspaper ads for certain letters and combinations of letters; or have your child cut out pictures of furniture, which they could place in the appropriate room on a big floor plan you provide using a brown paper shopping bag.

2.    In the kitchen – Let your child help with the food shopping list. Ask your child to check shelves to see what's needed, your child learns to spell and say words like bread and cheese. Write a number in each cup of an egg carton. Into each cup, have your child places a corresponding number of buttons.

3.     In the bedroom – Help your child learn the different names of clothing (shirt, sock, etc.) and body parts they are attached to by using the bedroom as a place to point these words out as your child gets dressed. Say the words aloud as clothes go on and off. The bedroom is a great place to play rhyming games-"sock and clock," "bed and head" - rhymes like these are all around the bedroom. Rhyming games are fun to play when you are getting your child ready for bed and improve reading readiness skills.

4.    In the laundry room - Your child can match and count socks as they help you fold laundry. Talk about colors, count buttons,  etc.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Getting Organized for School

Tips for Getting Organized at Home for School

1.  Set aside a folder or box in a special place to keep school-related information.
2.  Put the school phone number and teacher’s name and number on the folder or inside the box lid.
3.  Make sure your children have supplies they need.  Keep extra supplies in a special place.
4.  Enlist your young child’s help in laying out school clothes at night.
5.  Decide on a weekday bedtime and stick to it.
6.  Decide how much TV and which program will be allowed during the school week.
7.  Help your child clean out his school bag once a week.
8.  Create a homework calendar.
9.  Leave lunch money in a designated place at the beginning of each week.
10.  Find out what specific topics your child will be studying during the year, then plan family                 activities to enrich the school curriculum.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Promoting Healthy Relationship Development in Teens

The late Erich Fromm had a humorous insight to relationships: “True love is like a pair of socks: you’ve gotta have two and they’ve gotta match.” So goes one of the many philosophies about what it takes to find and maintain lasting love and relationships.

Despite his somewhat casual approach to the subject, Fromm was right—couples who stay together tend to match and be more similar than they are different. It is these similarities and differences that often impact how well two people in a romantic relationship are able to communicate and interact with each other. In addition, each person also brings background influences into the relationship such as family of origin habits and processes. Individual characteristics also exert a certain amount of influence on the couple’s functioning as a whole. These components are further examined below.

Three Kinds of Premarital Predictors
Jeffry Larson and Thomas Holman have conducted the most long-term and specific studies of the premarital predictors of healthy marriages. They have synthesized these premarital predictors into three general areas:
1) background and contextual factors of each person
2) individual traits and behaviors of each person
3) interactional processes— how they effective communicate and resolve conflict.

For more information, download the publication: Promoting Healthy Relationship Development in Teens, Part II: Three Key Qualities to Foster Better Relationships at

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Benefits of Family Meals

When was the last time you and your family sat down to a good dinner? Recently there has been a shift in society’s view of eating family meals.

 Families today have busy schedules. Kids are involved in extracurricular activities, and many mothers are more active in the workplace. Although most families would say that family meals are valuable, they often allow other things to become a priority, devaluing the act of eating family meals together. Making time for family meals is beneficial to the entire family.

One way to make sure your family sits down for family meals is to ask your children to help with dinner preparation and make it a fun experience. Some fun programs you can explore are Cooking Up Fun (, Cook It Up, and Cooking with Kids (
All of these can give you some good ideas about how to bond with your children as you prepare family meals. These programs highlight the importance of family meals and the benefits of creating the meal as a family

Download the full UF Extension publication at:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Caring for Stepparents in Later Life

Most people agree with the idea that families have a responsibility to care for older family members. Yet some changes in family life have brought up new questions about caring for the elderly. What happens when a parent divorces and then remarries later in life? Should adult children care for the stepparent as well as the parent? These questions are becoming more and more important as individuals live longer and growing numbers of older adults divorce and remarry.

Researchers from the University of Missouri sampled over 1000 men and women from across the U.S. to find out how adults viewed responsibilities to parents and stepparents. In telephone interviews, researchers presented stories describing a family dilemma and asked how much help the younger adult should give to the parent or stepparent.

For example, the parent remarries after being a widower, and after a few years dies very suddenly. Should his son help the stepmother with things around the house, even though they have never gotten along? What if the stepmother has more serious health problems: Should the son help care for her? What if the older adult is a parent? Should the son provide this care?

Results showed that adult children were expected to help parents more than stepparents, out of a sense of obligation and to repay parents for past help. Stepparents who came into families later in life generally were not seen as family members, and, as a result, were not automatically entitled to caregiving aid. However, the quality of the relationship also influenced the duty to help both parents and stepparents. When the relationship was good, respondents were more likely to think that help should be given. This research suggests stepparents of all ages have to earn family bonds by building a history and developing positive emotional ties with stepchildren

Source: Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Improving Savings, Health, and Happiness by Modifying How the Family Operates the Home

Have you ever considered how the performance of your home can affect your family’s happiness and relationships. Unless you have a home economics degree, you probably haven’t given this much thought.

A new U/IFAS publications will provide you with information about how improving your home’s overall performance can help you improve savings, health, and happiness. The publication discusses ways to improve your home’s family operations, which are routines and behaviors practiced at home by your family.

The concept of overall home performance has much to do with re-thinking how we can be happier, but this is not necessarily synonymous with being comfortable. Finding ways to keep our family members together under the same roof and in a relatively peaceful state is no easy task. Many families may decide to spend extra money on the family rather than paying for unnecessarily excessive costs of maintaining a home.

This is understandable because keeping the family together and happy is a good goal and worthy of pursuit. If families focus on the various factors comprising their overall home performance, there exists the real possibility of creating financial savings for the family as well as having more discretionary time. However, improving the home performance sometimes takes place in small increments. It often requires extended periods of time before the benefits are truly noticeable.

You can find this publication at:
Other publications in this series include the following:
·         Improving Savings and Health through Minor Conservation Measures in the Home (
·         Improving Savings and Health by Maintaining Your Home at a Ready-to-Sell Level (

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and Other Effects Of Childcare

Results from a recent study of almost 15,000 children from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reveal both positive and negative effects of organized childcare and preschool, both immediate and long-term.

According to the study, day care has a positive effect on intellectual development. The children benefit from their exposure to mathematics, vocabulary, and memory skills, and those acquired skills persist at least into the third grade. Benefits were greatest among children from the poorest families.

However, children in day care lag behind children with stay-at-home moms when it comes to social development. Children with a lot of time in day care centers also have more problems with mother-child conflict and school conduct (Jacobson, 2005).

Yet, aggressive behavior, including conflict, that had been found in previous studies of young children who received full-time care outside the home turned out to be temporary, fading by the time the children reached the third grade. Another surprising result was a difference between the daycare and non-daycare groups, which doesn't show up for years. In the third grade it was found that children who spent the most time in day care had poor school work habits compared to their peers in stay-at-home or part-time day care.

In making the decision when and where to put a child in a childcare setting, parents must understand the potential impacts of childcare. By being informed of the pros and cons as well as short and long-term outcomes, parents can better prepare for their child's next important leap into kindergarten and elementary school

Source: Patricia Bartlett and Donna Davis, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Parent Time

Parenting an infant is one of the most exciting and fulfilling opportunities of a lifetime. At the same time, it can be one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life. Research has shown that babies as young as one month old can sense and will be affected by a parent who is depressed or angry. Finding the delicate balance between the new parents’ needs and the baby’s needs is very important.

Experts recommend a number of helpful strategies for couples who are new parents. First, couples should share expectations. It is important to talk to each other about parental roles and what each other needs from their partner. Next, keeping open channels of communication is critical. Make time to talk to one another and be aware of how each partner is doing in the transition to parenthood. According to Dr. Millie Ferrer at the University of Florida, having both parents involved in the caregiving of their newborn will affect their marital satisfaction.

Next, new parents need to keep a positive attitude. Couples need to continue to work on solutions to possible problems before they get out of hand. Finally, new parents should also remain open to the help and support of friends and family. Their support can assist not only in the physical and mental well-being of new parents, but they can also provide an excellent caring network for the new child as well.

Source: Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.