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Helping with Homework: Good or Bad?

homeworkSchool can be a pretty tough place for kids, especially when they are taught something for the first time that they do not understand. A common issue I have found among families is that parents rush to help their child with every bit of their homework, hoping to keep their grades up. But doing so only makes it harder for the student down the road, which is why it is important to only help your child when they really need it.

First and foremost, I highly recommend enrolling your student in a math curriculum outside of the school, such as Kumon or Math Wizard. It is important to do so early on because math teaches kids problem-solving and logic, skills that can be applied to almost every other school subject. America’s school system is becoming very competitive and it is important to help keep your child ahead of the crowd, and advancing in math is perhaps the best way to do so.

child-homework-700739_250Sometimes, students will struggle with topics the teacher introduces in class, which is to be expected. Most parents will rush to their side to help them do their homework, but it is better to let them try and figure it out themselves. Give your child a day or two to understand the topic, and if they still cannot, send them to the teacher before or after school. Introducing your student to the idea of talking to teachers is extremely helpful, because in high school and college they will need to talk to teachers in order to do well in classes.

However, while it is important to let your child grow and learn to solve their problems that does not mean that you should not help them. After giving them a few days to try and understand a topic, it then becomes the role of the parent to help their child understand and learn. And sometimes, parents are the best teachers because kids have the most respect for them.

 

About the Blogger:

Hello! I am Varun Sharma, a young and ambitious 16 year old! I am currently a student at Neuqua Valley High School. I have dreams to pursue a career in science, hopefully physics. I am currently involved with my school Robotics Team, theater shows, and trying to start a Table Tennis Team. Beyond that, I am sharing my experiences as an adolescent with families to try and help them help their children. Younger kids are more difficult to understand because they do not open up as easily as older teens do. My goal is to help parents understand the struggles of these kids, and to try and help them, for without help, these seemingly insignificant road blocks could build up and lead to future issues such as depression or anxiety. I have experienced my own fair share of struggles, ranging from acceptance for being an Indian and having brown skin, to searching for people to call friends, to learning to break out of my shell and experience the world. It pains me to see other kids struggling with similar issues, and so I have made it a goal of mine to help the parents of those children deal and work past those issues. Growing up is the greatest thing a young person can do, and I want to help make sure that my peers are laughing and smiling along the way.

3 Tips for the First Week of School

homework

The first week of school is always a tough one for kids. Academically, it’s fairly relaxed since teachers have yet to get into their curriculum. But from a social standpoint, it is perhaps the most important time of year. First impressions are always very important, even in an atmosphere such as school, where kids are expected to get along.

  • First and foremost, deciding on an outfit for the first day. That is the first thing people will notice when they see your child, so you need to make sure it is a good one. However, chances are that what you think looks good and what your child thinks look good will differ. Yes, they may be young and inexperienced, but so are the rest of the kids in school, and so your kid will be able to more accurately predict what people will like than you. This is why it is important to coboys-932364_640nsider what your child wants in their outfit, and try to reach a happy medium. Perhaps pairing their favorite shirt with a pair of jeans is a good way to start. The outfit need not be over the top, but simply something nice to look at that also puts out a positive message when people see it.
  • Once you get your child to the school, it is important that you do not embarrass them right away. No child wants everybody to see their mom or dad give them a goodbye kiss right outside the school. Of course, as parents, you will want to show affection because you will miss them, but try to keep it in the car before they get out, or at home before they walk to the bus stop. Your kids will thank you, and won’t throw a fit when they get home.
  • For the remainder of the week, you should work towards transitioning into your normal pattern for the school year. That might be you picking your child’s outfit, or perhaps letting them have independence and allowing them to wear what they wish. Establishing a daily morning routine is also pretty important, because it makes getting ready every day easier for your child. Once that routine is made, the rest of the school year should be fairly easy in terms of getting ready every day. Failing to make this happen in the first week just makes it that much harder every day, having to work out the timing of showering and eating every morning.

With that said, the first week of school is not just important to your kid. During this first week, it’s a combined effort between you and your child.

 

About the Blogger:

Hello! I am Varun Sharma, a young and ambitious 16 year old! I am currently a student at Neuqua Valley High School. I have dreams to pursue a career in science, hopefully physics. I am currently involved with my school Robotics Team, theater shows, and trying to start a Table Tennis Team. Beyond that, I am sharing my experiences as an adolescent with families to try and help them help their children. Younger kids are more difficult to understand because they do not open up as easily as older teens do. My goal is to help parents understand the struggles of these kids, and to try and help them, for without help, these seemingly insignificant road blocks could build up and lead to future issues such as depression or anxiety. I have experienced my own fair share of struggles, ranging from acceptance for being an Indian and having brown skin, to searching for people to call friends, to learning to break out of my shell and experience the world. It pains me to see other kids struggling with similar issues, and so I have made it a goal of mine to help the parents of those children deal and work past those issues. Growing up is the greatest thing a young person can do, and I want to help make sure that my peers are laughing and smiling along the way.

2 Powerful Ways Kids Can Improve Their Body Image

By Varun Sharma

As unfortunate as it may seem, children around the world are becoming further overweight and, in some cases, obese. For girls, there has been a growth in the fashion style known as “plus size.” But being overweight is an issue that applies to both boys and girls. This article will discuss some methods of helping your child accept their body from a gender neutral viewpoint.

Having a larger body type can quickly lower a child’s self-esteem and possibly lead to some form of depression.

I have found 2 solutions to help with this issue; both are somewhat difficult, but very rewarding:

  • girls-377661_250Find friends who look past your child’s body. Finding true friends is difficult enough, but it is even harder for a child when they need to find people who do not judge a book by its cover. Probably the easiest way to help your child find friends like this is to encourage them to go to meetings to help children overcome their body image. It is almost a guarantee that there is more than one child in every town who is unhappy with their body image. Finding them and having your son or daughter become friends with them is useful because it allows them to express their feelings and struggles to someone who understands what they are going through; sometimes having somebody to talk to like this is all a kid may need.

Another suggestion is to encourage your child to try and talk with students who are normally quiet in school. Most times, quiet students are actually very kind and fun, but struggle to make friends. They may serve to be excellent friends for your child to surround themselves with.

  • body image-revolution-743467_250Have your child work towards accepting his or her own body. A child needs more than just friends to accept them. For a child with a larger body type to be happy, they need to be accepting of themselves. While there is always the option of working out and trying to lose weight, you can always help your child learn to just accept their body and be comfortable in their own skin.

Over the last couple years, the world has grown more accepting of different types of people, especially those with a larger body, and accordingly, more clothes have been designed to fit them. Make sure that your child has the appropriate clothing that is both comfortable and stylish. There is no need for designer clothing; all one needs is the right color combination, and a few different patterns.

One of the best ways to help your child become happy with him or herself is to take some time to help them plan outfits and buy appropriately stylish clothing. Sit down and talk with your child about different ways to dress. This way each morning before they head to school, they can look in the mirror and see a fashionable and attractive person. This will boost their enthusiasm and confidence, which will also help them make friends, because people are attracted to confident individuals.

A child’s body can be both helpful and detrimental to their happiness. It is important to try and help them accept their body, whether you get them to start working out, or help them work with the body they have. All kids are entitled to happiness, and there are hundreds of ways for parents to help them achieve that happiness.

 

About the Blogger:

Hello! I am Varun Sharma, a young and ambitious 16 year old! I am currently a student at Neuqua Valley High School. I have dreams to pursue a career in science, hopefully physics. I am currently involved with my school Robotics Team, theater shows, and trying to start a Table Tennis Team. Beyond that, I am sharing my experiences as an adolescent with families to try and help them help their children. Younger kids are more difficult to understand because they do not open up as easily as older teens do. My goal is to help parents understand the struggles of these kids, and to try and help them, for without help, these seemingly insignificant road blocks could build up and lead to future issues such as depression or anxiety. I have experienced my own fair share of struggles, ranging from acceptance for being an Indian and having brown skin, to searching for people to call friends, to learning to break out of my shell and experience the world. It pains me to see other kids struggling with similar issues, and so I have made it a goal of mine to help the parents of those children deal and work past those issues. Growing up is the greatest thing a young person can do, and I want to help make sure that my peers are laughing and smiling along the way.

3 Reasons Why Project HELP is so Effective

effectiveHello Friends,

Over the last few months I have been amazed at the number of people who have reached out to me to thank Project HELP for what we do when I am the one who is truly grateful for the community’s support. Between the support at the DuPage Human Race and the amazing turnout at our first Project HELP Breakfast, I cannot thank all of you enough! We are truly blessed to have such wonderful community partners.

As I mentioned at our Breakfast Event, our team at Project HELP is committed to the children and parents in our community. When I read the facts regarding our children in DuPage County it makes me so heavy-hearted.  Voices for Illinois Children, in their Kids Count 2015 report from 2006-2014, identifies that Illinois has seen a 27% increase in child abuse and neglect.  DuPage County has seen an increase of 44%; almost double! The most startling fact, however, is that from 1999 to 2012 children living in poverty in our state has increased 39%.  DuPage County has seen a whopping 137% increase in children living in poverty!

At Project HELP, we see this reality for our families. Of the families we served last year, 97% were below poverty. Project HELP works tirelessly to prevent child abuse and neglect, and assists and empowers the families living in poverty. I believe Project HELP is essential in helping our most vulnerable families.

There are three reasons why I know Project HELP is so effective:

  1. We use a research-based model proven to reduce parental stress, maternal depression and anxiety.  It is proven to reduce psychological and physical aggression towards children. Parents demonstrate greater parental mastery and there is greater father engagement.  We utilize research-based assessments on families and provide developmental screenings on age-eligible children. We create quarterly measurable goals to ensure families increase parental resilience, address the social and emotional needs of their children, and gain an understanding of child and brain development. We assist them with concrete resources in times of need, as well as making social connection. Project HELP is driven as much by data as we are by our hearts. We are able to serve families with home visits once a week for a year using this model. This is making an impact: Last year we served 62 parents and 85 children with home visitation.  This year we have served 70 parents, 92 children and we still have over 3 months left in our year! We have a waiting list for service, which averages about 40 families.
  2. Our Parent Education Workshops, offered for free, in Spanish and English with child care and food. We offer the workshops, in various locations throughout DuPage County and Aurora, making them accessible to a wide range of parents as well as those on our waiting list. Last year we served 122 parents with our workshops!
  3. Our community partnerships!  We are involved and have leadership roles in six Early Childhood Collaborations, Naperville’s Collaborative Youth Team and the Willowbrook Corners Coalition. Together we are making a purposeful impact and systemic changes for those children that need their ‘village’ to protect and prepare them!

I thank you all for what you do for our community and for our precious children.

Boyz II Men

By Greg McGuire

The boys in my house believe farts are funny, and potty humor is hilarious. They have peed in the bushes near the playground. They take magazines or my phone with them to the bathroom. They dress like Spiderman and jump all over the house. They Hulk smash things that should not be smashed. Sometimes boys will be boys. As boys, they also get upset, they share their feelings and they cry if they get hurt.

“Boys will be boys.” “Be a man.” These are statements we hear all the time, but what do they actually mean? What should they mean?

Yes my boys act like “boys.” However when they act mean or hurt each other I’ve heard people say “oh well boys will be boys.” That is not a boy being a boy, that’s my son being a jerk. If they cry when they are upset they are not acting like girls, they are acting like 5 year olds.

There is a super cute video of a child getting his vaccines, and having his father there supporting him. The father and son seem great, but as the child cries he is repeatedly asked to say “I’m a man!” when he is crying. The problem is, he is not a man and showing emotion won’t make him less of a man.

Not crying and showing people how “strong” you are doesn’t make you a man. Settling your differences by seeing who is tougher doesn’t make you a man. In my house, my boys and I settle arguments like real men. Rock, Paper, Scissors – best of three.

People have been teaching boys that they need to be tough, macho and emotionless. In a world now filled with violence, domestic or otherwise, maybe we should teach our boys what it really means to be a man; teach them that respecting others’ opinions while not being afraid to share and support your own, makes you a man. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes makes you a man. Treating everyone like they should be treated and sticking up for those being mistreated makes you a man.

KID-388527_640_cropAlways, a brand of Proctor and Gamble, started the “Like A Girl” campaign empowering young girls and redefining what it means to do something “like a girl.” “Be A Man” could use some redefining as well. Just as the “Like A Girl” campaign is empowering young girls, we should also empower young boys to be tough – not beat you up tough – but tough enough to fail and try again. Tough enough to see obstacles and overcome them. Tough enough to stand up for what is right. To be brave. Brave enough to get that shot at the doctor even though it will hurt and make you cry. Brave enough to reach for the stars when you’re told you cannot fly. Brave enough to be who you are not who people want you to be. To have respect. Respect yourself and don’t let yourself be mistreated. Respect for your fellow man and especially fellow woman. Respect people’s differences and support one another.

I tell them there are no boy toys and girl toys, just toys. This usually comes up when one of my boys makes fun of the other for wanting a “girl” toy, so they aren’t perfect. We will watch The Avengers and then Sofia the First because there are no boy shows and girl shows, just shows. Then at times they start hitting each other over watching My Little Pony or Spiderman. “Rock, Paper, Scissors!” I say while separating the flaying fists. We’re still working on the “not proving who’s tougher” method of conflict resolution.

I try to teach my kids not to think they have to be macho men, but I make mistakes. When one of my boys starts crying my first instinct is to say “oh you’re fine.” Something I probably wouldn’t do with a girl. Every parent makes these mistakes, but I am trying to limit them. Whether you have a little girl or little boy, the goal is the same: to help make them into healthy, happy, kind, caring and responsible adults. Not macho men, not “ladylike,” but good people.

 

Greg is a 32 year old divorced father of twin boys. Currently residing in the Western suburbs, Greg graduated from Butler University in 2005 with a degree in Broadcasting and Journalism. His career has spanned from sportswriter to account manager at a global tech innovator.

What Does Diversity Mean to You?

By Lisa Fine

When I find the time to browse the internet or open a newspaper, I am increasingly reminded of the diversity of our world. In these modern times, information is so transparent. We have access to pictures and stories of people and places from far parts of the globe, and it only takes a moment or a click to connect. However, in our communities and day-to-day routines, we are often missing a component of diversity. My family’s first home was in Chicago, where our first two children were born. It wasn’t until we ran out of space, (tripping over each other at each turn and storing our bikes in the foyer), that we made the move to the suburbs.

We loved the city, and our favorite part was the diversity. We often tell our oldest how he used to pay his own fare on the bus, and march straight to the back to sit with whoever was there, usually someone that would likely raise an eyebrow. But, we knew that nothing would happen on the short ride, and he would likely get something positive out of the experience of meeting someone. So now, years later, when I rarely step onto a city bus, and the kids’ routines don’t require them to venture too far from their comfort zones, I wonder how they will appreciate diversity.

When I think about it, the word diversity is thrown around in a pretty generic way, but actually runs very deep. Each one of us is absolutely and completely unique. There is not one person in the world that is, was, or ever will be the same as any other. That is mind-blowing, when you think about. Most commonly we define diversity within the boundaries of race and culture, but it is so much more than that. There is intellectual diversity in the way you think. Have you ever described one child as being “book smart” and another as having “common sense”? We see diversity within the family unit, children raised by one parent, same-sex parents, or parents of different races, children with blended families and unique living situations. We see diversity within the schools, as children with disabilities are appropriately included in the classroom or children are given special tools or restrictions to help with allergies, attention, or anxiety. There is economic diversity; the list goes on and on.

Since diversity represents every piece of a person that makes that person unique, there are so many examples that you can point out to your kids. I often use school as an opportunity. There are teachers my kids don’t always gel with, or times that my kids pick a friend that I am not sure about. I use these opportunities to remind myself and them that people run pretty deep, and they will be better people in the long run if they are exposed to many different types of people. The world is a big place, and it gets smaller by the minute. I believe deeply that kids who are exposed to these differences will be best equipped to connect with people down the road. The benefits of that will be endless – in their jobs, in their personal lives, and in their view of the world.

Three Keys to Effective Parenting

By Vicki Coletta

chaos-485502_640As parents we are all looking for that “secret to parenting.”  You know, that thing that eliminates the repeating, reminding, cajoling, pleading, begging, arguing, bargaining, lecturing, yelling, and threatening that drive us all crazy and creates a chaotic family environment.

Over the years, I have read many books on parenting and attended a variety of classes and here’s what I found – if you throw all the classes and books into a sifter and separate out all the fluff, you are left with, what I like to call, the 3 keys to parenting:

  1. Give Clear Messages. You can be very clear about your expectations and still deliver them in a positive voice; they don’t have to be a command. You do need to be direct.  Don’t use phrases like “I wish you would” or “Would you please,” as these create wiggle room.  Be specific about your timeframe.  If you say “clean your room this weekend” don’t be surprised when it’s started Sunday night right before bedtime!
  2. Be Clear about Consequences. When you deliver your message about what you want, be sure to explain what will happen if that expectation is not met. Your consequence should be logical…directly related to the message.  If your kids aren’t sharing a video game you take the game away for a period of time, you don’t take dessert away.  The most important point here is to be sure you give a consequence YOU can live with – grounding your kids for life can have severe repercussions for everyone!
  3. Consistency. I believe this is the most important step, and it is probably the hardest. The more consistent you are, the quicker your kids will realize that you say what you mean and you mean what you say!  No parent is ever going to be 100% consistent, but the more consistency you show, the quicker your message will be learned.

When your words match your actions consistently, kids learn to trust your words and to recognize your rules behind them.  Remember, little kids have little problems; big kids have big problems.  The earlier you start implementing these steps, the better for everyone.  So put the keys in the ignition and sit back and enjoy the ride!

 

Vicki Coletta is on the board of directors for Project HELP and has been a parent mentor for 15 years. She and her husband have a 24-year-old daughter.

Five Ways to Help Prevent Child Abuse

By Pam Albrecht

question-mark-460864_640Did you know that the substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in DuPage are up 44 percent in the last 8 years? That is almost double the state-wide average! We have an exponential growth of vulnerable children in our community and it needs to stop.

Child abuse comes in a variety of forms and can affect children from all racial, ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic groups. However, the children who are more likely to be abused or neglected are likely living in poverty. From 1999-2012 children living in poverty in DuPage County has increased 137%, while the state-wide increase is 39%. You read that correctly – the increase in DuPage County is almost 4 times the state average!

When you are out with your children, look around at the other kids on the playground, at a park or in a store. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday. It’s frightening to think that one of the kids you see may be abused in some way.

You may ask “what can I do to stop it?” “I don’t abuse my children and I don’t know anyone who does.” Here are 5 things you can do to help prevent abuse before it starts:

  1. Be a good example.

Be kind to your family members. When a child misbehaves, make sure he/she understands that you dislike what they did, not who they are. If you are wrong, acknowledge it. Say “I love you” more; yell less.

  1. Be a friend to a parent who seems isolated.family-286147_640

Listen to them. If they can express their frustrations to someone, it may help to ease their tension. Ask them to take a walk or jog with you. Exercise helps relieve stress. Help them get involved with parent groups (Naperville Mom’s Network comes to mind) so they can reach out to other parents and strengthen their network.

  1. Reach out to friends, neighbors or family members with children.

Offer to babysit to give the parent a respite. Everyone needs a break now and then.

  1. Encourage the children you know.kids-286834_640

Be positive to the children around you. Make them feel needed, wanted and important. Cross words can be very hurtful and can last longer than you think.

In DuPage County, the number of children living in poverty and those who have been abused has increased exponentially over the last decade. But that trend doesn’t have to continue. We can work together to help turn the tide.

There are many organizations where you can volunteer in order to make a difference in a child’s life, with Project HELP being one of them. That is what the staff and volunteers at Project HELP are focused on each and every day. I am pleased to be able to work with these great men and women who are so dedicated and focused on empowering parents, nurturing families and strengthening communities!

As we begin National Child Abuse Prevention Month, let’s all make meaningful connections with children and families. Look to your passion and then make a difference somewhere!

 

Pam Albrecht is an outsourced social media and marketing manager with Albrecht & Associates. She provides marketing support to small business owners who don’t have the time, desire or knowledge to get their marketing tasks done themselves.

Being the Best You Can Be…For Your Children

Like most parents, I spend much of my weekend running to and from my kids’ activities. In my house, with three boys, I watch a lot of games – soccer, basketball, and hockey. But in other households, there are gymnastics meets, art classes, piano lessons, scouting events, theatre, and so many other choices.  We do all this running around because we want to see our kids involved, give them outlets for their energy, socialize, and expose them to new and interesting experiences. But, I think, there is also something else. I think we are all secretly hoping that our child excels in one of these things, and stands out as extraordinary. Am I right?

scream-547084_1280_cropI feel justified in thinking this way, because I’ve seen it on other parents’ faces and heard it in their voices, as I’ve observed from the sidelines. We watch games as if winning or losing has some real consequence and hold our breath when our children perform, as if witnessing a mistake will darken the future. I’ve seen parents yell, coach from their folding chair, and send hurtful messages to their kids. I was recently at a basketball game when another parent said to their child (whose team was losing), “get in the game or sit down.” The child was 10. Now, I know the parent didn’t intend to be mean, and don’t get me wrong, I’ve probably said similar things myself. But why do we act this way? Why do we care so much? I don’t ever recall feeling so stressed when I was the one actually playing the game, so why do we care so much as parents?

I really don’t have a good answer. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that we want to be successful parents, so we look for success in our kids in order to define this. But you would think that the experiences we have had in life, all of the wins and losses we’ve personally gone through, would help us provide a good perspective for our children. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

To help put things in perspective, let me offer a few statistics. In a study done by Michigan State on youth sports, 90% of football-439333_1280children polled said that they would prefer to be on a losing team if they could play rather than warm the bench on a winning team. 71% said that they wouldn’t care if no score was kept in their games, and 37% said that they wished no parents would watch them play. That last one is really telling. As parents, we have behaved so badly that 37% of kids would prefer we don’t even show up. Wow!

Try for a moment to put yourself in your child’s shoes. Think about the last time you set your mind on learning something new, whether it was a new job, hobby, or even a new recipe. This can be really hard. Now imagine someone constantly watching over your shoulder, nitpicking everything you do and criticizing you in front of others, instead of mentoring and offering constructive suggestions. It may not feel like the effort of learning something new is worth it.

Will my children become president, a CEO or a famous personality? I don’t know. What I do know is that I will do what I can to be the best role model for my children in what I say and do to help them grow up to be good, honest people. Maybe, focusing on that should be enough.