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November 12, 2021

Grab the Kids and Celebrate National Game Week

I just love all the fun stuff going on over at Our World, Your Kids, a terrific blog written by Michele Miller, editor and publisher of Western New York Family Magazine.

Michele's encouraging us all to dig out the Monopoly or Clue game and have a good old-fashioned family game night. She notes that, according to more than 4 out of 10 Americans (44%), their families would rather have a huddle around a board game than watch football on Turkey Day.

"My husband's family used to break out Yahtzee, Scrabble or Clue after Sunday family dinners, and I remember playing Operation as a kid," says Miller. "Monopoly was always a favorite, although our games always ran so long that we sometimes joked that it should have been called 'Marathon'!"

Visit her post on family game week and then head over to her post on today's teens and cell phones, texting, etc. (How will today's kids hold down a job when they won't be allowed to sit around texting their friends for hours on end?)

Good stuff here. Check it out!

November 11, 2021

More Kids Are Seeing Porn on the Web

2007 ... a good time was had by allIt's a great big world out there on the Web. And much of it offers a great educational opportunity for our kids. But then there's the not-so-kid-friendly side of the Internet, including porn sites.

Do you know what your kids are checking out on the Web? Do they have a computer in their bedroom, where it's harder to monitor what they're up to?

Apparently an alarming percentage of kids and teens are being exposed to porn on the internet, mostly through accidental viewing while surfing the Web, according to researchers at the University of New Hampshire.

They conducted a telephone survey of 1,500 Web users ages 10 to 17 (with the parents’ consent). Forty-two percent of the kids said they had seen online pornography in a recent 12-month span. Sixty-six percent of those said they had not been searching for those images. Most of the kids who reported unwanted exposures were ages 13 to 17. But a fair number of 10- and 11-year-olds also had unwanted exposures — 17 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls.

More than a third of 16- and 17-year-old boys surveyed said they had intentionally visited pornographic sites in the past year. For girls that age, the figure was 8 percent.

A generation ago, kids grabbed a peek at a Playboy magazine now and then. Today, the stuff they can potentially run across on the Web is mind-boggling — and could be pretty damaging.

Clearly, we don't want our kids to have unlimited, unmonitored access to the Web. They need us to keep a watchful eye. 

November 10, 2021

My Dirty Little Secret

Children washing their hands before lunch. Tak... In my childhood home, cleanliness was not next to godliness. It reigned supreme. There was a sense of peace, of being saved somehow, if the shower was wiped down, if the cutting boards were scrubbed, if the table was set by freshly washed hands. As a child, I could never understand why “Thou Shalt Wash Thy Hands After a Trip to the Bathroom” was not included in the Ten Commandments.

It certainly didn’t start with my parents. This “clean gene” was passed down through the generations like a family Bible. But for all of us, it has caused pain as well as comfort. My sweet, easy-going grandmother once declined to join a cooking group at her nursing home. The other residents enjoyed making their own creations in the large kitchen and then sharing their lasagna, salad or chocolate-chip cookies during lunch.

We finally asked Grandma, who had never met a stranger, why she wouldn’t attend the lunches. “Because they don’t wash their hands and then they put their hands in the food,” she said, shuddering at the thought. “I just can’t stand to think about all those fingers in the food!”

Continue reading "My Dirty Little Secret" »

November 07, 2021

Making The Holidays Meaningful

While the holidays may inspire thoughts of volunteering your family's time to help others, your ever-expanding to-do list may keep you from actually checking the newspaper for volunteer opportunities or picking up the phone. But don’t wait until next year. Right now, there are dozens of kid-friendly volunteer opportunities available — right near your home.

When I visited the Web site for VolunteerMatch, a national non-profit organization, I simply typed in my ZIP code, chose how far I was willing to travel, and found a whopping 192 volunteer opportunities — all within 10 miles of my front door. Volunteers in my home town can read stories to homeless children in a family housing shelter, raise funds for wildlife conservation, deliver hot meals to house-bound seniors, create encouraging cards for people with life-threatening illnesses (something even younger children can help with) and much more.

Interested? Just sign-up, via e-mail, on the spot. (Non-profit organizations who wish to list volunteer opportunities can simply go to the "post" section of the site to register.) VolunteerMatch offers a huge database of volunteer opportunities, with more than 36,000 listings from approximately 35,000 national, regional and local organizations.

As a result, the site has amassed a matchmaking record that would make even Cupid a little envious: The service, which is free to both volunteers and organizations, was first launched in 1998. To date, more than 2,300,000 matches have been made between volunteers and non-profit organizations nationwide.

The site is a piece of cake to use. And because organizations can post their needs at a moment’s notice, enthusiastic volunteers can be identified quickly — often the same day. No computer? No excuse. The nice folks at VolunteerMatch will be glad to help you find your perfect match. Call 415-241-6868. (Sorry, there’s no toll-free number available.)

According to VolunteerMatch president Deborah Dinkelacker, the organization started as a simple philanthropic idea to connect volunteers with charities. "Now the Web site is a viable tool for assisting anyone or anything — disaster victims, children in need, the hungry, endangered animals, the environment — that benefits from the services of volunteers," she says.

“Our goal is to make it easier for people to volunteer," Dinkelacker adds. Whether you and your family have an hour this afternoon or a full day every week to volunteer, “there's an organization that can benefit from your help.”

Check out these family-friendly volunteer opportunities:

°    Kids’ Planet — Click on “Defend It” on the home page followed by “Fundraise It” to help raise money to help protect the environment.

°    Kids Can Make a Difference — To help end poverty and hunger.

°    Meals on Wheels — To help bring hot meals to seniors. (Children are welcome to accompany their parents in making deliveries and spreading cheer.)

Sign up now, and your family will quickly learn, in a positive way, how to keep the season’s craziness in perspective. And your kids will have learned a great deal about the power — and the pleasure — of giving. There’s no better way to teach a child that the gift of his time, and his heart, is one that will be most welcome — in any season.

Tips For Volunteering Wisely:

The USA Freedom Corp Volunteer Network, along with parents who have successfully volunteered with their kids, suggest the following tips for a more successful volunteer experience for you and your family:

°    Think about the causes or issues that are important to you. Your family might already be giving money to an organization that is important to you, and that might be a good place to begin your volunteer experience.

°     Consider the skills your family has to offer. Some positions require volunteers who have previous familiarity with certain equipment, for example. Are your kids old enough to take on the challenges of the volunteer position you’re considering?

°     Combine your goals. Look for volunteer opportunities that will also help your family achieve your other goals. For example, if you want to stay fit, pick an active volunteer opportunity, such as cleaning a park. Or, for families with older kids, try volunteering at a food bank that teaches cooking skills.

°     Don't over-commit your schedule. Make sure the volunteer hours you want to give fit into your hectic life, so that you don't frustrate your family, exhaust yourself or shortchange the organization you're trying to help.

November 06, 2021

10 Things Every Teen Should Know

Vanessa Van Patten is a friend every teen should have. And, strangely enough, she's also a friend every parent of a teen should have. How in the world this talented writer balances both roles is beyond me, but she does it brilliantly over at her blog, Teens Today With Vanessa Van Petten.

Today's post, 10 Things Every Teen Should Know, is one I'm going to save for my 12-year-old son. And it's something I want to share with my readers. What a great checklist of stuff teens should know before they leave home!

It's so easy to get caught up in things like grades and SAT scores that it's easy to forget that a kid should be able to make a pot of spaghetti, use a checkbook and do a load of laundry (without turning his underwear pink) before heading off to college.

Van Petten's blog is loaded with good stuff — and it's addictive. Plan to spend some time there!

November 05, 2021

"Happy Days Are Here Again"

I've been trying to put my thoughts into words after last night's election of Barack Obama, and I'm having trouble finding words that do justice to all that has transpired in the past 24 hours.

But 86-year-old Betty Liske has said it all so well, and she has given me permission to share her words with you in this guest post, below.

I realize our country, our world and our planet are in a mess right now. And I'm no Pollyanna when it comes to looking at these things. We have a steep climb ahead of us. But to see this election through the eyes of someone who has seen so much, over more than eight decades in this country, really gives me hope. Thank you, Betty!

It is truly "Happy Days Are Here Again." This is the song they sang when Franklin Roosevelt won the presidential office in 1940.

In my first job after graduating from high school in Orlando, Fl., a town, at that time, of 40,000, I worked at the Democratic headquarters downtown. I addressed envelopes, stood on the sidewalk and offered pins, signs and other information to the passersby.

It was also an historic event, as it was Roosevelt's third term. However, at that election, no blacks could vote and they had a $3 poll tax. ( I still don't think this was legal.)

This was during the Great Depression. (They must be referring to the size, as there was nothing "great" about it.) People had a very tough time scrapping together the $3 poll tax. But my Mom and Dad always managed, as it was so important to them.

So we have come a long way, but the right way, and the eight years of sub-prime politics are at last off our backs. I think President Obama will shine like an evening star. It's so wonderful to have an intelligent, articulate, calm, caring and wonderful president.  

November 03, 2021

7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child

Yes, I'll admit it: I'm monolingual. Took Spanish in high school, but that was a looong time ago. And now that my son is taking Spanish in middle school, I'm not much help, I'm afraid.

That's why I was so intrigued by a new book, 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child, by Naomi Steiner, M.D. with Susan Hayes. Steiner is a developmental-behavior pediatrician who works with bilingual families at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and Hayes is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Parent & Child, Parenting, Woman's Day and other publications.

There are so many potential advantages for our kids if they know a second language:

°    It's a huge advantage in competing for and succeeding in jobs in our ever-shrinking world.

°    It provides a more complex understanding of other countries and cultures.

°    It makes travel to other countries easier and more enriching.

There is evidence that learning a second language early in life offers advantages for brain development, too:

°    More cognitive firepower is devoted to language.

°    The child is better able to deal with distractions.

°    Learning a second language makes it easier to learn a third language.

°    Knowing more than one language helps improve the memory and leads to more creative use of language.

Really, there's no downside to raising a bilingual child. But where do you start, especially if you speak only one language yourself?

This book answers every question I could think of — and then some. You'll learn about common myths about bilingualism, how to define your language goals for your child, how to decide which parent will speak which language to a child in a bilingual home, making the most of family and community resources, reading and writing in a second language and much more.

If you're even thinking about raising your child to speak more than one language, you'll want to check out this book. For more information, click here.


November 02, 2021

Safe Holiday Travel With Kids

If you're like many families, you'll be hitting the skies or the highways for the upcoming holidays. Need some tips to help make it a better trip? Check out my latest article in Memphis Parent, Safe Travels During the Holidays.

You'll find car-seat safety tips, help for painful ears on long plane rides, tips for avoiding jet lag and much more.

October 31, 2021

Get Your Halloween Safety Tips Here!

Happy Halloween! I hope you're looking forward to a fun day — and a spooky evening — with your kids.

While you're busy getting those costumes and bags (and bags!) of candy ready, make sure you're up to speed on Halloween safety tips, too.

It's easy. Just click here and scroll down the page a bit to hear my tips on the Rob & Joss show on Froggy 92.9 in Sonoma, California.

Happy Halloween!

October 30, 2021

Charles Meets Barack

Charles is a volunteer for Barack Obama in Boulder, Colorado. He won a raffle to meet Barack at the rally in Denver on Oct. 26.

This video made me smile and made me cry. Charles' faith in the young people he's met as an Obama volunteer, and his faith in the future of this country, inspired me. I hope it inspires you, too.


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