Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: kids

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    6 Tips for Vacationing with Children

    Are we there yet?

    He’s touching my side of the seat. 

    I’m hungry. 

    I need to go to the bathroom. 

    If you've ever taken a family vacation, you know these words are part of the package when it comes to taking a trip with children.

    Whether you're taking a two or 10-hour adventure, families can actually succeed in spending lots of time together in a small confined space, create great memories and share some good laughs. 

    Although there’s no guarantee you’ll have a perfect trip, these suggestions can help along the way:

    • Include your children in the vacation planning process. Even young children can help find information about your destination on the internet or in books. Whether you plan to camp for the weekend or take a long trip, let them help you choose the activities.

    • Mark off the miles. Once you know where you're headed, ask the kids to draw a map from home to your final stop. As you click off the miles in your car, have them fill in the road on their drawing. This will help them visualize how far away they are and may help curb a few of those, “Are we there yet?” questions.

    • Allow each child to assemble their own trip kit. Make sure you give them a size limit, like a backpack, for their goody bag. Ask them to include games and toys they can play by themselves and at least one game they can enjoy with the entire family. You can even put together your own trip bag with surprise activities or treats to share. Rand McNally has fun travel games for families, including a scavenger hunt.

    • Create tech-free time frames along the way. Remember the license plate game, road trip BINGO, Name That Tune and add-on storytelling? All of these would be great to teach your kids while giving them a break from DVDs or video games.

    • Start a daily “Positive Attitude” contest the minute you pull out of the driveway. Select a family mascot, then award the it to the person who has had the best attitude of the day every evening. The selected family member can keep the mascot until it's someone else's time.  

    • Plan “play breaks” into your allotted travel time. Even adults can find it hard to travel for long distances without a break. Instead of taking the quickest route to your vacation destination, plan some stops along the way so the children can run off pent-up energy. Have lunch at a park. Look for educational points of interest along the way and give the family a break from the cramped quarters of a car.

    All of this may require a little extra planning, but the outcome will be worth it. Since families get to spend so little time together these days, it's especially important to make the best of the times you do have with each other. Here’s to happy travels and making great memories.

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    Talking to Your Kids About Sex

    Where did I come from? What are the birds and the bees? What is sex? Sooner or later, your child will begin to ask questions about sex.

    The mere thought of that makes some parents blush and get sick to their stomach. It sends others over the edge. Isn’t it interesting that we don’t hesitate to talk to our children about crossing the street safely or the dangers of playing with fire, but the thought of talking to them about sex – something equally as dangerous – send shivers up the spine? Why?

    Many parents have concerns about talking with their children about sex.

    Perhaps you fear the discussion will promote sex instead of discourage it. Or that your child might ask you about your past. Maybe you're concerned about the potential for questions you can’t answer. Some parents say that it is just too embarrassing.

    These are legitimate concerns. However, there is no evidence to suggest that talking about sex encourages the act.

    Consider the facts:

    • 41.2 percent of high school students (grades 9-12) have had sex. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 11.5 percent said they had had four or more sexual partners. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 30.1 percent said they had had sexual intercourse in the past three months. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 3.9 percent of U.S. teens said they had had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 15 to 24-year-olds account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections each year. Centers for Disease Control 2015 STD Surveillance Report

    The Information Highway 

    If children aren’t learning about sex from you, where do they look for the answers? When Barna Research group asked, “Who should be responsible for teaching young people about sex?” respondents overwhelmingly said that parents should be the ones to teach their children about sex. But numerous surveys of teens and young adults say that television and the Internet are their top sources for information and ideas about sex, usually followed by schools, parents and peers.

    Today’s children are hearing about sex much earlier and are exposed to sexuality at virtually every turn in our society. Research has shown that by the time a child turns 18 he/she has witnessed 250,000 sexual acts on television. Interestingly, more than 75 percent of the videos on MTV show some sort of sexual act in which the woman is a sexual object. In 2009, approximately 92% of the 174 songs that made it into the Top 10 contained reproductive messages. (None of these figures include images on the Internet and social media.)

    YES! Parents Really Can Make a Difference!

    Studies show that you can most dramatically impact your child’s behavior by clearly defining your expectations within the context of close family connectedness. According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (and many other studies), perceived parental disapproval of teen sexual activity and contraceptive use significantly influences the delay of risky sexual behavior in teenagers.

    Simply put, parents should be the first and best educators of their children in all matters. This is especially true about human sexuality, growth and development, and healthy attitudes and values about relationships. Although young people tend to act embarrassed, research has shown that teens do want accurate information and they prefer getting the information from you.

    The best time to start talking with children about sex is when they are young. Look for teachable moments, such as when you see a pregnant woman or a peer's new brother or sister, as a natural discussion-starter.

    The Talk

    Focus your conversation with elementary-age children on:

    • the correct names of sexual organs and body parts,

    • explaining sex and reproduction,

    • personal boundaries,

    • pregnancy, and

    • building healthy relationships.

    If they are old enough to ask questions, they are old enough to receive correct answers. Make sure to clarify your child’s question. When you understand the question, answer it briefly and simply. If they want to know more, they'll ask additional questions. You might want to practice talking privately with your spouse or another adult.

    Middle school students need to talk about:

    • sexually transmitted diseases and infections,

    • emotions,

    • the consequences of sexual relationships, and

    • the benefits of abstinence.

    As embarrassing as it may be, it is crucial that you talk with your teen about all aspects of sex, including oral sex. It's also a good time to discuss why people date and what healthy dating relationships look like.

    Discussions with high school students should continue to be about:

    • sexually transmitted diseases,

    • healthy dating relationships,

    • wise decision-making when it comes to sex,

    • setting a standard and living by it, and

    • self-discipline, in addition to everything listed above.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    8 Ways Kids Are Smart

    According to Dr. Kathy Koch, educator, founder of Celebrate Kids, and author of 8 Great Smarts, every person, young and old, needs to know they are smart.

    “Smart is a powerful word,” says Koch. “When children discover that they are smart, they are more willing to engage with all of life, including school. Children who don’t think of themselves as intelligent don’t tend to engage. They say to themselves, ‘I’m not smart enough, so studying won’t help.’ Children who believe deep down they have a brain and they are supposed to use it are children who will have more joy and purpose, and their lives are more vibrant.”

    When Koch taught second grade, she became concerned when she realized some of her children were already classifying themselves as not intelligent. Even some of the parents doubted their child’s ability to do well at a very early age.

    “The wrong question is, ‘Am I smart?’” Koch says. “Stupid is a choice. We were not created that way. Early on in my work, I discovered research conducted by psychologist Howard Gardner from Harvard University, who found that all of us have one brain divided into eight parts, and there are eight different ways of being intelligent. The better question is, ‘How am I smart?’”

    Eight Different Ways of Being Intelligent

    • Words – power of language – talking
    • Logic – power of questions – asking
    • Picture – power of observation – seeing
    • Music – power of sound and music – hearing
    • Body – power of movement – doing
    • Nature – power of patterns – collecting
    • People – power of people – relating
    • Self – power of quiet - reflecting

    “There are many children who are smart in ways that don’t make school easier,” Koch says. “For example, if your child is self-smart or nature-smart, the classroom experience could be challenging for them. For a child who is picture-smart, when his teacher describes a historical reality, he pictures it in his mind. Many children will say, ‘You mean because I draw well, I am smart? I thought I was just a good drawer.’”

    Additionally, body-smart children are athletic, can dance or can kick the ball through the goal post with both feet. Music-smart children aren’t just talented. Those who are people-smart think with other people, brainstorm, network and read body language well. For someone who is word-smart, words are a big part of their existence. They can gossip and tease well and often arrange conversations so they have the last word. They must be taught self-control.

    I want to equip parents to recognize that their children do what they do because of how they are smart,” Koch says. “Then I can help guide them to help their children do what they do well. Children who know they are smart are more likely to flourish.”

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    Give Kids Hope After Tragedy

    When tragedy strikes, it seems to bring out the best and the worst in people.  Recently, we have witnessed what may feel like one tragedy after another. Fires, shootings and a horrific bus accident have left people reeling in pain and raw with emotion.

    While some experienced personal loss and/or injury, these events have impacted everyone in the community. In most cases, adults have words and the mental ability to process what just happened, but it is a different story for children.

    “Children watch their parents' or caregivers' response,” says psychologist Dr. Gary Oliver with the Center for Healthy Relationships. “Even if their parents didn’t say a word about the anxiety they felt, their children could feel it. Anxiety and fear are contagious. Children are very good at reading facial expressions and noticing a change in the tone of voice used by their parents.”

    Situations like this are an opportunity for parents to teach their children how to handle tragedy. What do you do in the midst of crisis? How do you practice good self-care? How do you move forward even when it’s painful?

    “In many instances adults can make a difficult situation worse by our own lack of self- awareness,” Oliver says. “Thinking about your own fears is important. Listening to your children and what they are thinking can be very helpful.  Tragedies like the bus accident, a death in the family or the loss of a home can become a great opportunity to build trust and communication, and to increase a child’s sense of security, continuity and stability.”

    Oliver has these suggestions for walking through tragedy with your children:

    • Listen to your kids. Let them talk. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers. Extroverted children will usually tell you what they are thinking.  Introverted children probably won’t, so it is important for you to understand the nuances of your child’s personality. Help them to share their thoughts by sharing your own thoughts and feelings appropriately. Comfort them and remind them that they are safe, secure and loved.
    • Be honest. For example, it is okay to say something like, “I’m not sure where we are going to live for a while.” Or, “Our lifestyle is going to change a bit.” Being honest can be very healing and therapeutic.
    • Seek to respond with patience instead of react. Children may ask lots of questions and become clingy. Model the steps that will move them toward hope and recovery. Reacting creates panic, often results in poor decision-making and tends to make things worse over time. Responding is more of a process where you acknowledge that what is happening is awful. In other words, you feel the loss, but have hope for tomorrow.
    • Focus on what you can do. In the midst of the greatest tragedy, we always have choices. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the grieving and rebuilding process, but remember that the process is unique for everyone. Don’t be afraid to seek help for you and/or your children when you feel it is necessary.

    In demonstrating these steps for your children, you will give them skills for the future. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed in the midst of tragedy, your example can guide them to keep perspective and continue to put one foot in front of the other with hope for the future.