Archive for the ‘ school ’ Category

What to Say About the Sandy Hook Tragedy Before School Tomorrow

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

I tried hard to shield my children, ages 4 and 7, from what happened in Connecticut, taking the advice of so many mental health professionals who advise telling young kids as little as possible about the events. But as I’m sure lots of you experienced yourselves, it’s nearly impossible, even if you kept the TV off all weekend, as we have. For our family, the radio interrupted 24/7 holiday music with condolences to the families of Newtown; going online offered a glimpse of CNN’s home page; and even a trip to the bagel store, where three piles of newspapers sat by the door, revealed too much. So like many parents, we’re having some tough conversations and doing the best we can.

What I’m concerned about now is what may come up at school tomorrow. My 2nd-grader’s teacher has notified us that she’ll say nothing of the events, though if it comes up she’ll discuss it as briefly and simply as possible, which I appreciate. I feel like I need to say a little more to my daughter before she returns to school, though, and I was glad when I got an email from a friend who works with the New Jersey nonprofit Good Grief, which helps children and teens cope with loss. She forwarded these words of guidance from Good Grief’s associate executive director, Joe Primo; perhaps you’ll find them useful, too.

Having a conversation about the shooting this weekend is probably a smart and important thing to do before school on Monday.  Classmates will have their own interpretation of the events; many of those narratives will have been learned this weekend from the media and the adults in their lives. There is not a lot we control about these events, but we can play a big role in how our children hear and come to understand the events. We can best support our children by having an honest dialogue that helps build coping skills and taps into their inherent resiliency. Below is a script you might try.

Adult: So, Alex, have you heard about the sad thing that happened to a school in Connecticut?
Don’t assume Alex doesn’t already know. She may have picked it up already.
Adult: Somebody hurt a lot of children with a gun. It’s very sad. Children died.
WAIT to see how the child responds.
Adult: I think a lot of your friends and teachers will be talking about it on Monday. I would like us to talk about it too.
Allow the conversation to happen and be spontaneous. Here are some things you should know about reactions:
  • No child ever responds the same
  • Children may have an increased sense of fear for their safety
  • Children may be afraid to return to school or name “scary kids” in their school
  • Child process information in fragments. They may take it in and then quickly move onto something else.
Adult: I wonder how these things happen.
Wait to see if the child has ideas of her own.
Adult: Assure the child that their school (name administrators and teachers) works hard to keep them safe. You can encourage them to listen to their teachers about safety protocol. Assure them of your love and allow them to explore their reactions.
Often times, being together and offering each other love are the most meaningful things we can tell our children.
For more on the Sandy Hook tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com:
Image via Good Grief.
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The Tragedy in Sandy Hook

Friday, December 14th, 2012

It’s hard to find the right words—or really any words—to describe what happened today. For what happened today at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, was every parent’s worst nightmare, made real and flashed on the TV news. What I see is a school that’s virtually identical to my daughters’ idyllic little elementary school, and parents and kids who look like our friends. And words fail me as I think of my friends rushing toward the school, and a scenario where some walk out, teary-eyed and clutching their children close—and some don’t. What are the right words for that?

There will be much to talk about in the days and weeks to follow, as more information comes out about what occurred, and who was lost, and why this happened. As we begin to dissect our country’s deep failings: Our inability to pass gun laws that keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them; our lack of care for the mentally ill (for surely, a person who would plot and plan to attack children with an arsenal of assault weapons must be mentally ill); and our inability to keep even our youngest children safe from harm. And as we, hopefully, push for the changes we need to make to prevent another Columbine, another Virginia Tech, and now, another Sandy Hook.

Right now, these are the only words I can find: Our kids deserve a better world than this. And we need to work together to make it happen.

For information and resources on dealing with the tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com:

Image: fasphotographic /Shutterstock.com

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School Lunches That Make the Grade

Friday, October 26th, 2012

My elementary school didn’t have a cafeteria, but every Tuesday was pizza day. Drooling students lined up in the hallway clutching dollar bills to pay for a piping-hot pepperoni slice and a little carton of milk. I looked forward to it all week.

Luckily, pizza day was only once per week, and my other four lunches were comprised of healthy sliced fruits, veggies, and sandwiches on whole-grain bread (thanks, Mom). But these days, kids are eating in school more often—and that may mean that they’re gorging on fat-packed foods daily. We discussed the problem of unhealthy school lunches in this article from our September 2010 issue. These unhealthy meals have serious long-term effects—check out our recent story on the childhood obesity crisis. The National School Lunch Program dishes out 31 million lunches per day. This school year, the NSLP’s nutrition standards were updated in accordance with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Lunches have an age-based calorie cap, and schools are required to limit sodium and saturated fat and serve more fruits, veggies, and whole-grain items. But are they measuring up?

Last week, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine released its eighth School Lunch Report Card evaluating meals served by the National School Lunch Program. Standout schools received high grades for offering veggie-packed side dishes, vegetarian and dairy/egg-free entrée options, and nondairy beverages. (The valedictorian: Pinellas County Schools in Florida, which earned a perfect score.) Schools also garnered points for implementing nutrition education in the cafeteria. Failing grades were assigned to schools that dole out cholesterol-heavy dairy products and processed meats such as hotdogs and pepperoni. Low-scoring districts in Houston and Milwaukee were criticized for serving meals such as chicken-fried steak fingers and breaded catfish.

The good news: healthy lunch options are on the rise. The average grade is a B (84%), up 5% from 2008. Healthier lunch options can help decrease students’ lifetime risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and colorectal cancers.

Looking for healthy meals you can stash in your kid’s lunchbox? We’ve got tons of creative ideas to please even the pickiest eaters.

Read the full report here, and tell us how your kid’s school compares.

Image: School lunch via Shutterstock.

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5 Steps to Finding the Perfect Tutor

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

child with tutorEditor’s Note: This piece was written by Andrew Geant, co-founder and CEO of WyzAnt.com, a site which helps parents find tutors for their children quickly and easily. WyzAnt.com currently has 60,000 tutors covering all 50 states.

Your kids may be back in school, but  class size or struggles with basic concepts may mean they need extra one-on-one help. Finding the right tutor, one who you can trust and who your child can connect with, can be a time-consuming and expensive  process.  How then do you find the right tutors?  Here are the five things to consider when looking for a tutor.

1. Find a tutor that caters to your child’s specific learning style.

Each student has unique needs when it comes to their learning process, and tutors who are successful with one student may not be as successful with another. First, ask the school counselor to help determine whether your child is an auditory, kinesthetic, or visual learner.  Share this information with the tutor and discuss whether or not their teaching style and approach to lessons will be a good fit.

2. Request tutor credentials and client references.

Depending on the topic, it is important to understand your tutor’s mastery of the subject. Obtained degrees and studied coursework can help you understand the tutor’s capability, but objective anecdotes and recommendations from past clients can be even more valuable.

3. Think safety.

When working with a private tutor it is important to establish a safe, comfortable environment that promotes learning. Do not hesitate to perform a basic background check on a tutor you are considering. Some  parents also choose to meet candidates in a neutral location such as a public library or coffee shop before inviting them to the home.

4. Require feedback and open communication.

Establishing a productive relationship between a tutor and student is an important process that may take time. Consistent communication among the parents, student, and tutor will facilitate this process and benefit the student. By providing feedback after each lesson, parents and students will have a documented history of the topics covered during the course of tutoring sessions. Consistent communication is also important to avoid misunderstandings that can damage the relationship, such as questions about billing or policies related to canceled lessons.

5. Set goals to gauge the impact of tutoring.

No two students are alike.  A student’s initial understanding of a subject before lessons, in addition to her motivation to work hard and learn the subject, will impact the success of the tutoring relationship. Establishing healthy, realistic goals (classroom performance or general understanding and comprehension) before beginning lessons can generate motivation and help all parties appreciate the impact and value of the tutoring lessons.

 

Image: Cute schoolgirl writing a while via Shutterstock

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How “Walk To School Day” Turned Out

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

As I posted the other day, I was worried that the bad forecast would literally rain on my parade as I walked my children to school in honor of Walk To School Day. This was a big deal for me–my work schedule prohibits me from driving the girls to school, much less walking them, but I was able to work at home yesterday. Happily, the weather was fine, and not only did I walk with the girls, we even picked up two of their friends along the way. It took less time than I expected, there was no complaining, and all four kids seemed very proud of themselves when we arrived at school. More than 3,700 communities across the U.S. held events to boost participation, and next year I’m definitely going to lead one in our town.

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Will You Walk Your Child To School Tomorrow?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

October is International Walk to School Month, and tomorrow, October 3, is Walk to School Day. The aim is to build awareness for the need for walkable neighborhoods and to promote all of the benefits of walking to school. I’m sure you can guess what they are: Walking helps kids (and their parents) be more active, it fosters a sense of community, it’s better for the environment and your gasoline budget, and it cuts down on traffic.

A great site created by the National Center for Safe Routes to School (yep, there is such a thing) gives all kinds of fantastic information, including a directory of all of the Walk to School Day events taking place around the country. As of this writing, there are 3,794 events happening all over the U.S. You’ll also find safe-walking tips and ways to map your route to school.

Tomorrow’s forecast in my town isn’t looking promising, but I have every intention of walking my girls, ages 4 and 7, the 9/10 of a mile to their school in the morning. I’m so curious to see how they do–I can’t remember the last time either of them walked that far. Fingers crossed the rain holds off…

If you walk your child to school tomorrow, please let us know how it went!

 

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Pilot’s New Pens

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Your kids may be back in the classroom already, but our guess is that you still have some odds and ends to

pick up to round out their supply stash. When you head to the office supply store this week, be sure to check out Pilot’s new line of FriXion pens.

Erasable pens used to be synonymous with sticky ink and poor erasers, but FriXion pens are changing all of that. Kids will love them because they write like a smooth roller ball pen and the ink resembles that of a gel pen in both color and consistency.

These new and improved pens are especially great for grade-schoolers who are getting away from using just pencils and, like their name conveys, they erase through friction which means kids don’t have to press as hard to correct mistakes and marks. The rounded rubber ball at the bottom of the pen wears away ink like magic. Plus the line comes in an awesome array of colors that are perfect for school and doodling at home.

If you love the pens, you’ll probably also love the brand’s erasable highlighters! Be sure to check out the FriXion Light Erasable Highlighters and the FriXion Erasable Gel Pens out here.

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5 Essential Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Back to School colored pencilsEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Ready or not, it’s that time again. Your kids are trying on fall clothes, cleaning out backpacks from last year, and shopping for school supplies. Another exciting year of growth and development is on the horizon for your children. Here are five sure-fire ways to make this a year of growth and development for you as well.

Hold a weekly calendar meeting.

Each new year of school brings more complicated choreography to your kids’ schedules – and to your schedule as well. Every Sunday night, sit down with your kids and enter every commitment and event of their upcoming week into your personal calendar. There are 3 important reasons to do this: a) you should always know where your kids are; b) you have a head start on dinner conversation if you know what your kids have been up to all day; c) you may get a pleasant surprise – a meeting of yours is canceled in time for you to make the second half of a basketball game. But you’ll only know about the game if it’s on your calendar.

Volunteer at school.

Every school is underfunded and shorthanded. Your kids’ school can use your help and participating in an after-school activity can be a meaningful experience. Depending on your kids’ ages and their level of pride (or embarrassment) in seeing you at school, there are many roles to fill: homeroom parent, teacher’s aide, hall monitor, coach’s assistant, team parent, crossing guard, PTA, office volunteer, and field trip chaperone or driver, to name a few.  Spending a part of your day at school gives you an up-close look at interactions with teachers and friends, hallway dynamics, and locker lore. All this can lead to more good dinner conversation!

Drive a carpool.

Whether it’s driving back and forth to school or to and from after-school activities you learn a lot about your kids by driving the carpool. Mysteriously, the carpool driver becomes practically invisible to the passengers, especially when it’s more than just your own kids in the car. This allows you an invaluable “fly on the dashboard” opportunity to eavesdrop on your kids social interactions, catch up on grade school gossip, and hear about homework without even asking.

Help with homework.

Be involved with your kids’ homework every night. When they’re in grade school, sit with them for part of the time they’re doing work – not to catch every math mistake but to make sure they get the big picture. In middle school, just look over their completed work regularly for overall quality. Show you are happy to see them doing such a nice job. Your pride in their work will become their pride. By high school, it’s enough to ask each night if they’ve finished their homework and occasionally review a teacher’s comments on the graded work.  No matter the age, if your kids ask for help, do your best to guide them without doing their homework. Remember, you’ve already learned “times tables,” so now it’s their turn.

Manage extracurricular activities.

Beware of “potpourri parenting” – soccer Mondays, violin Tuesdays, karate Wednesdays, etc. Kids’ options for extracurricular activities are limitless, and you may be tempted to enroll your kids in everything, thinking you’re “enriching” them.  As long as your kids are enjoying these activities, and you’re not missing chances to spend more time with them, there’s nothing wrong with having many varied experiences. But if programming begins to replace parenting or if your kids are showing “enrichment fatigue,” reduce the amount of activities. Your time together as a family is almost always more enriching, especially since time with your young kids is fleeting. Don’t give it all away.

The school years won’t seem to pass by as quickly if you get involved in your kids’ school lives. So have a wonderful fall semester!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.  He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).


Image: “Back to school” and colored pencils via Shutterstock

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