Posts

There is pretty much nothing more exciting and scary than thinking about crossing the threshold into your freshman year of college. Your parents won’t be telling you what time to get up or that you need to study. You can stay out as late as you like with whomever you like. Don’t feel like going to class? No problemo. The professor isn’t going to report you and your parents will never know. FREEDOM!

We asked some recent college grads what most surprised them about their freshman year, and here are some things they wished they had known:

ROOMMATES

95% of college freshmen have never shared a room with anybody, so you have to figure out how to communicate, handle conflict, respect each other’s differences and create clear boundaries. This is easier said than done, but worth the discussion for sure.

ABOUT YOUR PARENTS…

They may only be a phone call away, but they shouldn’t be coming onto campus to do your laundry, making sure you get to class, nagging you to study or setting up a party so you can get to know people. This is truly your chance to take advantage of what you’ve learned and put it into practice.

BE PREPARED TO:

  • Know how to do your laundry.
  • Live on a budget.
  • Manage your time. Don’t let the freedom go to your head.
  • Go to class.
  • Get involved in a few organizations to help you meet people.
  • Avoid the temptation to go home every weekend. 

ALCOHOL, DRUGS… AND SEX

No matter where you go to school, you might be shocked at the drug and alcohol scene. You may choose to stay away from it, but your roommate might not. (And it can definitely impact your relationship…) If you do choose to participate, don’t underestimate the kinds of things that can happen when you are under the influence. Chances are great that you will participate in behavior you otherwise would not get involved in.

Use your head. If you go to a party, get your own drink. Before you go somewhere alone, tell someone where you are going or even better – take somebody with you.

You should familiarize yourself with your college’s sexual misconduct policy and definition of consent and know what a healthy relationship looks like. Think about your boundaries ahead of time. 

Maybe you want to do some things differently at college, or perhaps there are some friendships you know you need to leave behind.

Freshman year is an opportunity for a fresh start and greater independence. Take this time to become who you really want to be and surround yourself with people who will help you reach your goals. The next four years are laying a foundation for your future, and how you spend your college years really does matter.

Sometimes, truth be told, the whole thing is super overwhelming, but nobody wants to admit that’s the case. If you ever feel like you’re in over your head, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of free resources on campus to help you adjust to campus life.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 16, 2019.

We had a momentous occasion in my home this week: My last child started middle school. I was excited for him because he was starting at a new school where nobody knew him as someone’s little brother and he could create his own identity. The school has a small class size where he can be challenged academically. Then came the first day of school.

However, all the things experts suggest that parents do to have an easy and smooth morning for the first day, I failed to do. I felt like I flunked the first day of school. You may be thinking it couldn’t be that bad, but yes – yes, it was THAT bad.

First, we were out of town until the day before school began, so I felt rushed to get everything done in his room like setting up his desk. Then, since he had a growth spurt during the summer, the shorts I bought (thinking they would fit) didn’t fit when he tried them on! So… I had to search for uniform shorts. Oh, and then I had to run to the grocery store for lunchbox items (yes, we are taking lunch every day).

Enter Monday morning. I wake up early, go to his room and say, “Wake up, Sunshine; it’s a brand new day.” He turns over and says, “Mom, I’m still tired.” I reply, “Yes, you are probably tired because you didn’t go to sleep until 11:00 p.m.” And things went south from there.

We finally get to the school. We find his classroom and see everyone at their lockers. In my mind, I’m thinking, “I haven’t used a locker in eons.” We struggled to open his locker combination until another parent offered to help us. We eventually get his locker opened and place all his things inside. I give him a hug and say, “Have a great day!” But on the inside, I feel like a failure.

I go through the day worried about how things are going for him. Is he being bullied? Did he ever figure out the locker combination? What if he hates this school?

Enter Monday afternoon. I pick him up. He gets in the car.

“How was your day?” I asked.

“GREAT!” he says.  

“What was great about it?”

“I am now an expert on my locker. This school makes it easy to be good.”

As we were driving home, I was SO relieved. Did I do everything perfectly? NO. Was I frustrated? Yes. Was I a failure as a MOM? Absolutely NOT. As moms, we are so hard on ourselves. We often suffer from the curse of comparison where we look at other moms and they seem to make it look so easy while we struggle. What I’ve learned from this is that it’s important to be kind to myself, to stop seeking perfection and just be a PRESENCE in my child’s life. That’s way more important than being perfect.

Image from Unsplash.com

Dads don’t matter. Seriously, dads don’t make a difference – unless it matters that children are physically and emotionally healthy and achieve educational success. If those things matter for your children, then fathers DO make a difference.

Dr. Alma Golden, pediatrician and former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on the Family, has a lot to say about marriage and children.

“As Baby Boomers we were told these things:

  • Marriage is old-fashioned and confining;
  • Open relationships are healthier and more conducive to personal development;
  • Fathers are nice but not necessary;
  • It is better to live with a divorced mother than two unhappy parents;
  • The kids will be OK, they are flexible; and
  • Financial disparities are the reason for the differences in health and educational achievement.

“What we believed changed our world and started driving personal decisions. People started getting married later. Women are having fewer children and having them later. Single mothers are giving birth to more children. Fewer children are living with their married biological parents,” says Golden.

So how do these changes affect children?

A study of 294,000 families released in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control indicates family structure makes a huge difference for children. 

The CDC study indicates that when children grow up with their two married biological parents, they have a lower rate of delayed medical care. They’re also less likely to have ADHD regardless of income, education, poverty status, place of residence or region.

Additionally, an earlier study found that in sixth through 12th graders, the strongest predictor of getting a diploma and going to college is having a father who attends PTA meetings.

“When dads show a clear commitment to their children, encouraging them in their educational endeavors, children do better,” Golden says. “The research also indicated that a married daddy at home doubles the chances that a child learns self-management.

“Conversely, non-nuclear families seem to struggle with a lot of issues. For example, cohabiting fathers have less than half the income of married fathers. They tend to bring less commitment to the family as a general rule. The implications for the children are they have fewer resources available to them. Additionally, seven in 10 children of cohabiting couples will experience parental separation.”

Findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force in 2003 showed that:

  • Married men and women are physically and emotionally healthier. They are less likely to participate in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Married men and women live longer. 
  • People behave differently when they are married. They live healthier lifestyles and monitor each other’s health. And, the increased social support also increases the family’s chances of success.

“If we look back at the baby boomer list, what we now know is that marriage is actually beneficial for men, women and children,” Golden says. “Cohabitation is often of low-trust, stressful and more prone to violence and dissolution. Fathers are a necessity. Good enough marriages produce better outcomes than divorce. The kids are NOT flexible and may not be OK and family structure and stability are more important predictors of outcomes than finances.”

Image from Unsplash.com

Over the years, there has been a shift in the sequence of marriage and parenthood. Remember the rhyme?

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage…”

Not so – at least anymore. In fact, 57 percent of mothers between the age of 26 and 31 are unmarried when their child is born.

While you may think this is the “new normal,” it isn’t the norm for everyone.

A study by Andrew Cherlin at Johns Hopkins University shows that a college education has become more than a pathway to higher paying jobs. A college education is now a definitive factor in childbearing. Of mothers without a high school diploma, 63 percent of births occur outside of marriage. Among college-educated young women, 71 percent of births occur within marriage.

How does this trend affect children?

Research shows that this set of circumstances creates two distinct paths for children where marriage and education are the deciding factors. When children grow up in a home with their two married parents, they are more likely to experience a stable environment with access to an array of resources and educational opportunities.

In a non-married home, children are less likely to grow up with stability or opportunity to access the same type of resources.

Children from single-parent homes are five times more likely to experience poverty. But, children who grow up with their married parents in low-income homes are at far less risk of being poor.

Children need stability.

But in an interview with the news site, Vox, Cherlin shared his concern about the stability of family lives for children. Cohabiting unions typically break up at higher rates than marriages. About half of all cohabiting couples will either marry or break up within two years. Those who break up will likely create more cohabiting unions – and creating more instability.

If you believe that people with a high school diploma or less are not as likely to want marriage, think again. Katheryn Edin’s research (Promises I Can Keep) with 150 low-income women clearly indicates that these women want marriage, but they have to wait to find the right person to marry. However, getting pregnant is something they can do right away.

Most teens (74%) see marriage and children in their future – in that order. This is according to a June 2014 National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancies report.

Clearly, there is a disconnect concerning the significance of marriage and its impact on child well-being. Our society often emphasizes the importance of higher education for young people. It usually fails to address, however, the sequencing for success and the significance of marriage.

There are profoundly different outcomes for children when people attain higher education, work full time, marry and then start families.

Their chances of living in poverty drop from 12 percent to 2 percent. Also, the chances of joining the middle class move from 56 percent to 74 percent. Imagine how future generations would be impacted if more people realized the benefits of following this “success sequence.”

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Does marriage matter? People have been asking this question for decades. For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America examined how family structure impacts the economic fortunes of American families. Dr. Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and Robert Lerman, professor of economics at American University, conducted the research.

They concluded that marriage is key to productive adulthood, stable families and healthy communities.

Five significant findings emerged from this study about the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America:

  • The retreat from marriage is key to the changing economic fortunes of American family life. The median income of families with children would be approximately 44% higher if the United States enjoyed 1980-levels of married parenthood today.
  • Strong associations exist between growing up with both parents in an intact family and higher levels of education, work and income. Young men and women from intact families enjoy an annual “intact family premium.” The premium amounts to $6,500 and $4,700, respectively, over the incomes of their peers from single-parent families.
  • Men obtain a substantial “marriage premium” and women bear no marriage penalty to their individual incomes. Plus, both men and women enjoy substantially higher family incomes compared to peers with otherwise similar characteristics.
  • Growing up with both parents increases the odds of attaining higher education. Higher education leads to higher odds of marriage as an adult. Both the extra education and marriage result in higher income levels. Men and women from intact families who are currently married enjoy an annual “family premium” in their household income. The premium exceeds that of their single peers from in non-intact families by at least $42,000.
  • All populations benefit from growing up in an intact family and being married. It applies about as much to blacks, Hispanics and whites. The advantages also apply to less-educated men and women. Men with a high-school diploma or less enjoy a marriage premium of at least $17,000 compared to single peers.

Strong and stable families are economically vital.

Consequently, Wilcox and Lerman contend that business and civic leaders and policymakers should strengthen and stabilize marriage and family life in the U.S. And since the poor and working class feel the impact of the nation’s retreat from marriage most, Lerman and Wilcox believe the efforts should be focused on them.

The authors also recommend:

  • Public policy should “do no harm” when it comes to marriage. Policymakers should eliminate or reduce marriage penalties.
  • Civic institutions, private and public partners, businesses, state governments and public schools should launch a national “success sequence” campaign together. This would encourage young adults to sequence schooling, work, marriage and then parenthood. It would also stress the benefits of being born to married parents with a secure economic foundation.

Lerman and Wilcox contend that the nation’s retreat from marriage is worrisome. It not only affects family inequality, but men’s declining labor-force participation and the vitality of the American dream.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The Science of Childhood: Inside the Minds of Our Younger Selves, is a Time magazine special edition. It examines everything from understanding child development and dealing with temper tantrums to the science of play and the secrets of birth order. It’s part of an effort to help parents and other caregivers better understand how children learn and what everyone can do to help children thrive.

Since 2015, the Early Childhood Coalition, which consists of 30 organizations, has been working through the local 2.0 initiative. Its goal is to ensure that everyone in the greater Chattanooga area can access high quality resources that support optimal development of children birth-5. The plan is to engage and mobilize the community through advocacy, communication and education so that all children can achieve their potential and live their best lives.

For example, Chattanooga Basics is one of the coalition’s initiatives. This initiative is built upon the reality that parents play the most critical role in providing a strong and healthy start for infants and young children. Chattanooga Basics is closely aligned with Boston Basics, which was developed out of Harvard.

The goals for the Basics are to help ensure that:

  • 80 percent of children show up to school ready to learn.
  • Every parent has access to information about how to help their child thrive.
  • Every parent knows about the Chattanooga Basics, teaching them creative ways to engage their child.
  • Parents have the necessary support to be the parent their child needs them to be.

The Early Childhood Coalition wants all community members to know the Five Basics so they can help all children to thrive. The Coalition is calling on everyone to learn the Five Basics and to engage children in conversations around them. The reason is simple: While parents are their child’s first teacher, the entire community can rally around them to assist them in their efforts.

The Five Basics are:

  • Maximize Love, Manage Stress – Babies thrive when the world feels loving, safe and predictable. Affectionate and responsive caregiving develops a sense of security and self-control.
  • Talk, Sing Point – Babies learn language from the moment they are born. They learn through loving interactions with their caregivers, not televisions or phones instead. Eye contact, pointing and real words teach the most about communication.
  • Count, Group, and Compare – Children are born wired to learn numbers, patterns, sizes, shapes and comparisons. What they learn about math in the first few years makes a difference when they get to school.
  • Explore Through Movement and Play – Children are born curious about the world. They are like scientists. Pay attention to your infant’s or toddler’s interests. Help them learn through play and exploration.
  • Read and Discuss Stories – The more we read with young children, the more prepared they become to enjoy reading and do well in school. Even infants enjoy the shapes and colors in books, so let them hold the book and turn the pages. Point to the pictures and talk about what you see.

You may be part of a faith-based community, a child-care provider, a human resources executive or a company CEO. Or perhaps you are the neighbor next door or a relative or friend. Either way, you can help prepare the children in our community for kindergarten.

A September 2017 report showed Hamilton County schools received the lowest possible composite score on an annual state student-growth assessment. While it would be easy to place blame on entities, perhaps the best thing our community can do is to intentionally engage parents and assist them in building strong, healthy families. By resolving to help children thrive and show up to school ready to learn, the scores will improve.

To learn more about Chattanooga Basics, the Early Childhood Coalition partners and what you can do to help, visit chattanoogabasics.org.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

In 2009, Brookings Institute scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill proposed a successful path into adulthood. Called the “success sequence,” this path is most likely to lead toward economic success and away from poverty.

It includes finishing at minimum a high school education, getting a job, followed by marriage and then having children. Since proposing this path, no real test has been done to see if that approach applies to today’s young adults.

Researchers Brad Wilcox and Wendy Wang decided to measure the impact of the success sequence messaging on millennials. Wilcox is a senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies. Wang is the director of research at the Institute for Family Studies and former senior researcher at Pew Research Center. Their findings reveal some interesting data about millennial behavior regarding education, employment, marriage and family.

According to the study, a record 55 percent of millennial parents (ages 28-34) have put childbearing before marriage. This indicates that today’s young adults take increasingly divergent paths toward adulthood when it comes to family formation. These divergent pathways are associated with markedly different economic fortunes among millennials.

“We found that 97 percent of millennials who followed the success sequence are not poor and are in the middle income track by age 30,” says Wilcox. “Based on every indicator, from our perspective, the success sequence is still quite relevant and compelling.”

Fully 86 percent of young adults who married first have family incomes in the middle or top third. Compare that to only 53 percent of millennials who put childbearing before marriage. For young, single and childless adults, 73 percent have family incomes in the middle or upper third income distributions.

The pattern holds true for racial and ethnic minorities, as well as young adults in lower income families.

  • 76 percent of African American and 81 percent of Hispanic young adults who married first are in the middle or upper third of the income distribution. With them are 87 percent of whites.
  • 71 percent of millennials who grew up in the bottom third of the income distribution, but married and then had a baby, moved up to the middle or upper third of the distribution as young adults.

“Some have questioned if the success sequence is all about education and work, with marriage being an afterthought,” Wilcox says. “Are education and work the only pieces really driving the story?

“Based on our findings, the link between marriage and economic success among millennials is robust. Compared with the path of having a baby first, marrying before children more than doubles young adults’ odds of being in the middle or top income tiers. This holds true, even after adjusting for education, childhood family income, employment status, race/ethnicity, sex and respondents’ scores on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT) which measures intelligence and knowledge of a range of subjects.”

Findings from the study also show:

  • A stunning 97 percent of millennials who follow the success sequence are NOT poor when they reach their prime young adult years (ages 28-34).
  • 31 percent of millennial high school graduates (who didn’t follow the work and marriage steps by their mid-20s) are in poverty during their prime adult years.

According to Wilcox, data that tracks adults across the transition to adulthood indicates good news for following the success sequence. That path is the most likely one to guide people to realize the American Dream. Education, work and marriage are important – even for a generation that has taken increasingly varied routes into adulthood. Considering this, business and civic leaders should promote public policies and cultural changes that esteem this sequence and make it more attainable.

Based on this report, it appears that millennials are beginning to see the value in marriage. They’re also finding out how the timing of their decisions impacts their ability to achieve their long-term goals.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on June 18, 2017.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!