Archive for the ‘ Big Kids ’ Category

9/11 Taught Me How to be a Good Friend

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

My own blurry iPhone photo from that night

From my Brooklyn apartment, I can see One World Trade Center. A couple weeks ago, the crescent moon hung in the night sky right beside it. Everyone walking down my street took a second to capture fuzzy pictures on their iPhones. That night, the brightly shining One World Trade Center seemed like it pierced through the atmosphere to touch all the people who lost their lives in that exact location 13 years ago.

I remember exactly where I was when I found out what happened. The guidance counselor brought out all the fifth graders into a common area to break the news to us. We all sat stunned as she told us about the towers. Students sitting cross-legged around me immediately started to cry for their parents.

“My dad works in that building.”

“My mom had a flight today.”

A calm, normal school day in Westport, Conn. suddenly turned into a frenzy of phone calls and tears.

I think this was the day I figured out what kind of friend I want to be.

My dad worked in Stamford, Conn., so I felt comfort in knowing his whereabouts. But I had several friends in complete fear for their fathers. I had neighbors coming up to me bawling, telling me as they caught their breaths they couldn’t get ahold of their dads

The only way I knew to help was by showing every ounce of support in my little body for my friends. I sat with them in the front office, holding their hands while they called their parents off the hook. Even when my dad came to pick me up early on his way home from work, I decided to stay with my friends.

At 10, I never faced such dire times. The most I had to comfort my friends through was the death of their beloved beta fish. But as I sat in the office, staring at the glowing aquarium in the corner, I knew this was something so much larger than telling them they could buy a new fish at the store tomorrow.

In those moments of uncertainty, I knew I wanted to be the person my friends could rely on for unwavering support—even if it meant not saying a word. When I did have something to say, I did my best to put some semblance of a smile on their faces with a silly aside. Today I find myself doing the same through break ups and layoffs.

Thankfully my friends’ fathers were safe and sound. We were too young to know the geography of Manhattan. The distance between the towers and Midtown was out of our realm of comprehension, but what I did know was I wanted to shine bright for my friends in dark times just like the Freedom Tower does every night.

Dealing With Grief
Dealing With Grief
Dealing With Grief


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What Do You Remember About YOUR First Day of School?

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Back to School First Day of SchoolYour child may have started school or gone back to school already, but here on the east coast (especially in New York City), school is just starting! My Facebook feed is bursting with adorable “First Day of School” photos from family and friends. Seeing all the photos took me back in time, Marty McFly style, to the days when all I had to worry about was what to eat for lunch and who to play with at recess.

Of all the “first day of school” memories, the one I remember the most is my first day of kindergarten at an elementary school in the suburbs of Long Island. I actually didn’t start kindergarten in September like all the other kids — instead, as a late transfer student from Queens, I started school in the middle of winter. What I remember most about that day was showing up to school in a winter coat, without a backpack or any school supplies. I remember the kindness of a curly, red-headed girl named Randi who helped me take off my jacket and hang it up on the wall. Then…I remember bursting into tears. Just sitting on the lap of my grandmotherly teacher (Mrs. Turnwall) as she comforted me while letting me sob big fat tears. Because I was shy. And I felt lost. And alone. And scared.

Eventually, I stopped crying and settled down to listen to Mrs. Turnwall read a story to the entire class. Thankfully, the class only lasted for half a day, so I didn’t have to be at school for very long. Looking back now, I think I felt very, very out of place because of a few reasons: 1) I was a new student; 2) Everyone already had time to get to know each other; 3) I didn’t look like anyone else (I was the only Asian student in class). I think that the shock of starting a new routine and the fear of being in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar faces was overwhelming. It was a lot for a 5-year-old to handle!

Starting a new school is definitely one of the biggest childhood changes — and I think it’s definitely important for parents and kids to visit the school beforehand and get a sense of the size and layout. But for transfer families who may not have time to visit the school, there’s still value in emphasizing the positive, fun school things a child will still be able to enjoy (story hour! coloring! snack time!). Some of the biggest worries a child may have will be making new friends and liking the new teacher — so it’s also important to teach kids (especially shy ones) to try and find other kids with similar interests (who can turn into potential playdate pals), and to take time to listen and bond with the teacher.

Every first day of elementary school after that first day of kindergarten must have been easier — because I don’t have a solid memory of any of them! Although I never became BFFs with the red-headed Randi, I will always remember the sweet gesture that she showed me, a new girl who felt lost but who never felt really alone again.

Tell us: Do you have any memories about your own first day of (elementary) school?

Read more back-to-school musings:

Preparing for the First Day of School
Preparing for the First Day of School
Preparing for the First Day of School

What will your child grow up to be? Take our quiz to find out!

Image: Back to School blackboard and school supplies via Shutterstock

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A Day For Play

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Obesity affects at least 18 percent of all children in the United States—triple the rate of a generation ago. While much of the focus has been on the poor dietary habits of our kids, the truth is that exercise (or lack thereof) is just as big a factor. Most kids don’t come close to the 60-minutes-a-day ideal for exercise, and schools aren’t helping much. As we reported, third graders average just 69 minutes per week of gym class, a fraction of the 150 recommended for that age group. Factor in the absence of recess in our testing-crazed academic environment, the increased time demands of homework, and children’s obsession (like ours) with all things electronic, and it’s little wonder they’re falling short—and getting bigger.

So as we embark on National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it’s nice to know that some organizations are taking an active approach to the problem. On Monday, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) held a youth tennis exhibition prior to that day’s action at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. The purpose was to highlight the organization’s youth tennis initiative, 10 and Under Tennis, which shortens the court and lessens the bounce (via softer, spongier balls) for kids starting with the game.

The USTA has installed more than 13,000 youth-sized courts around the country and now holds all officially sanctioned tournaments for kids under 10 on them. It’s an investment in the future of the game that helped boost youth participation by 12 percent last year—and, more important, has made a difficult, highly skilled game easier for kids to feel successful.

The demonstration featured former boxing champ, health expert, and mom Laila Ali (pictured above, with a group of budding players). Ali, who dabbled in tennis as a kid before following in the pugilistic footsteps of her legendary father, Muhammad Ali, has rekindled her love for the game and plans to build a youth-sized court in her driveway for her kids, who are 6 and 3.

The exhibition also kicked off more than 1,000 free “play tennis” events for kids and families being held throughout the country this month. You can find one in your area here. I highly recommend giving it a try—your child is far more likely to play if you do.

The USTA is also a presenting sponsor of Nickelodeon’s 11th annual Worldwide Day of Play, which takes place in San Diego, Detroit, and a third city to be named (it’s being chosen via an online contest). It will feature a host of sports and activities—from football to dancing to double dutch. Perhaps most significantly, the station will suspend programming from 12pm to 3pm (that’s right—no SpongeBob for three whole hours!) in order to encourage kids to go outside and get active. It’s a fun event and a great cause, so don’t just read about it. Grab a racquet, a basketball, or your sports gear of choice, and go do something active with your kids. Their healthy future depends on it.

We Need More Physical Education in Schools
We Need More Physical Education in Schools
We Need More Physical Education in Schools

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Parents Readers Help Researchers

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Last fall, we partnered with researchers at Brown University School of Medicine, Children’s National Medical Center, and New England Center for Pediatric Psychology to help find answers to pressing questions about how media use, family routines, and parenting style affect kids. We encouraged readers to answer a brief survey as part of The Learning Habit Study, and more than 46,000 parents in 4600 American cities participated in the research being published today in the American Journal of Psychology as well as in the book, The Learning Habit, by Dr. Robert Pressman, Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, and Rebecca Jackson.

One of the study’s biggest findings was that kids’ total screen time—especially more than two hours a day—was associated with lower grades, while increased family time—including family dinners, playing board games, and attending religious services—was linked to higher grades. The researchers think that spending time with our kids can help mitigate the negative effects of too much screen time.

The study also found that a parenting style known as empowerment parenting is the most effective way to build habits that benefit kids in school and life. Similar to what’s commonly known as authoritative or positive parenting, empowerment parenting helps children build good habits by establishing rules; empowers children by giving them choices, and encourages children by praising their efforts. In their book, the researchers write about how parents can create opportunities for their kids to develop these eight essential learning habits: media management; homework and reading; time management; goal-setting; effective communication; responsible decision-making; concentrated focus, and self-reliance.

The statistic from the study that I found most interesting: Two-thirds of 5- and 6-year-olds don’t make their own beds—and neither do the same percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds.  So if you don’t want to be making your kid’s bed until she leaves for college, get into the habit at a young age by letting her know that it’s her responsibility.

Make it easier by downloading our free chore charts.

Photo via Shutterstock

What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?

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When (and How) Did You Find Out Who Your Kid’s Teacher Is?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Seems that the answers vary wildly, if my informal digging is any indication. Many parents find out via mail, anywhere from 2-4 weeks before school starts. (One Parents mom is even provided with the class list.) Another colleague has a friend in California whose school posts the class list on the front door of the building the night before. Wow. But most surprising is the friend on Long Island who doesn‘t find out. The kids at this private elementary school all gather on the first morning and the teachers come and collect their students. That’s hardcore! Makes you wonder if there’s a correlation between how much time schools leave for parents to ponder the class placements and how much “feedback” some parents have offered over class placements in past years. In any case, it’s a big shift from my childhood in Connecticut, where our final report card of the school year contained the line “Your child will be in __________’s class next year.”

Where I live now, in northern New Jersey, we find out a handful of days before school. In my town this year, we’ll get the news on Friday after 12pm by checking a web portal, provided we’ve submitted all the requested info about our kids; school starts next Thursday. My younger daughter’s principal sent a letter yesterday outlining this, also mentioning that school will be closed on Friday. I took that to mean “So don’t bother calling us if you’re not happy with the class your child’s in.” And I can’t blame her! I can’t imagine how tricky–actually, how impossible–it is to make class placements that make everyone happy. (Just thinking about it takes me back to the many fully unpleasant hours spent working out my wedding seating chart.)

We all know that teachers’ and administrators’ decisions aren’t arbitrary, but I admit I hadn’t considered the many, many factors that go into determining which student goes into which class. A few schools spell them out online, and they include:

• The child’s intellectual, social, emotional, and behavioral developmental levels & needs

• The preferred learning style(s) of the student

• The child’s physical and social maturity

• The child’s interactions with other students

• The age of the child

• The “social dynamics” factors within the class

• Fair distribution of children with exceptionalities

• The best use of resource teachers & teacher assistants

• The male/female balance in each class

• The balance of leaders in each class (Interesting!)

• Student friendships

One particular school district in Wisconsin must get a lot of commentary on its placement system, because the administration has created an extensive FAQ document to address it. The questions range from the general (“Can I request a particular teacher for my child?”) to the specific (“I have noticed that a small group of my child’s friends have been together in classes for a few years in a row, but my child has been in different classes. Is favoritism going on here? Are other parents making requests, and my child is being placed anywhere because I am not making a request?”).

I’m really curious to hear how your town handles class placements–will you share in the comments? And here’s to a happy and successful school year for everyone!

What Parents Want Teachers to Know
What Parents Want Teachers to Know
What Parents Want Teachers to Know

Photo: Teacher in class showing students a nest via Shutterstock.

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