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Found 58 results

  1. Event

    Volunteer at Cradles to Crayons with NPN

    until
    Join NPN program manager, Tareema, and other NPN members at the Cradle to Crayons Giving Factory. We will help sort and organize donations in the Cradles to Crayons warehouse. Each adult may bring one child. If you are bringing a child, register for 1 adult and 1 child. Children must be at least 5 years old. Registration is a 2-step process. You must complete both steps to secure your spot. 1. RSVP with NPN. You will immediately receive an event confirmation email from NPN. 2. Complete the Cradles to Crayons registration link included in your NPN event confirmation email. Cradles to Crayons is located at 4141 W. George St., Chicago, IL 60641. There are 33 parking spaces in front of the building that are first come first serve. There is also street parking. Please do not drive past the concrete barriers that separate the shipping and receiving area of the building. All adults and children must wear a mask over their nose and mouth. (Volunteers must wear the mask provided by Cradle to Crayons for the duration of their shift) Spaces are limited. Please honor your RSVP. RSVP no later than January 12th, 2022! Postpone your RSVP only if the following apply: - Diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not yet been cleared as non-contagious by state or local public health authorities. - Exposed to a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days. - Experiencing symptoms of illness such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Questions? Contact Tareema at tareema@npnparents.org
  2. Event

    Volunteer at Cradles to Crayons with NPN

    until
    Join NPN program manager, Tareema, and other NPN members at the Cradle to Crayons Giving Factory. We will help sort and organize donations in the Cradles to Crayons warehouse. Each adult may bring one child. If you are bringing a child, register for 1 adult and 1 child. Children must be at least 5 years old. Registration is a 2-step process. You must complete both steps to secure your spot. 1. RSVP with NPN. You will immediately receive an event confirmation email from NPN. 2. Complete the Cradles to Crayons registration link included in your NPN event confirmation email. Cradles to Crayons is located at 4141 W. George St., Chicago, IL 60641. There are 33 parking spaces in front of the building that are first come first serve. There is also street parking. Please do not drive past the concrete barriers that separate the shipping and receiving area of the building. All adults and children must wear a mask over their nose and mouth. (Volunteers must wear the mask provided by Cradle to Crayons for the duration of their shift) Spaces are limited. Please honor your RSVP. RVSP no later than January 1st, 2022! Postpone your RSVP only if the following apply: - Diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not yet been cleared as non-contagious by state or local public health authorities. - Exposed to a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days. - Experiencing symptoms of illness such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Questions? Contact Tareema at tareema@npnparents.org
  3. Article

    Raising British kids in the States

    I often find myself pondering the cultural differences between Britain and the United States, and how to negotiate these with my kids. While I fully embrace my American citizenship, I also want my children to know and appreciate their heritage. While it may seem like there are many similarities, it’s the little things that require consideration. Language Most people are aware of the language differences. Early on in my parenting journey, I decided to stick with American-purchased books, avoiding spelling confusion. That was an easy decision. But as for pronunciation…I find it hard to ensure that a zee-bra is never a zeb-ra, to the amusement of my family and co-workers. [Related: Take the time to learn how to pronounce 'difficult' names] Toys For a while, I held out against Barbie (like my sister successfully did with her daughter), and sought out traditional, European toys that I remembered from childhood. But my little ones hankered after shiny objects with robotic American accents — and I’ve found myself drawn to the innovative, modern creations too. The verdict? If they provide some level of education or creative play, they’re considered for purchase. Mealtimes Mealtimes, however, are more problematic. Starting with a fork in the right hand was a no-brainer, but introducing a knife caused confusion. For me, the fork should (almost always) be in the left hand, so the knife naturally goes into the right hand. No thinking required. And where does the napkin sit? There is a level of complexity I did not anticipate, so for now, we’re learning together at our weekly “etiquette” lessons — a sight to behold! Food Food is also the subject of discussion in our house. Kid-friendly meals in England consisted of bangers and-mash, bubble and squeak, and Welsh rarebit, which all sound alien to kids born and raised in Chicago. While my eldest loves to try new foods (“these snails are delicious!”), my middle child is very suspicious of “yukky” food with unfamiliar names. By making her my sous chef I’m hoping she’ll embrace new recipes and flavors. Holidays For the most part, we layer British holidays on top of the American ones observed at school. Boxing Day (December 26th) is a bonus day. Likewise, my youngsters get to double dip with British Mother’s Day (observed in March), while St. George’s Day (the English St. Patrick), St. David’s Day (their cousins are Welsh), and Hogmanay (Scottish word for "New Year") all add another dimension to our yearly calendar. Bedtimes When it comes to bedtime, I struggle to align with some of my local counterparts. We start our routine at an “absurdly early” hour. Although like many, I veto electronic toys in the bedroom, opting for books and soft toys that provide comfort and encourage sleep. After the long nights with our first newborn, I am unashamed of my relentless quest for "grown-ups only" evenings. And while we sometimes break our early-to-bed rule for special occasions, we try to keep a schedule even during the summer months. Sharing my traditions, and showing respect for differing customs, is something I can offer to my children. This is as important to me as building new traditions that embrace our changing world. In tandem, I hope these approaches will allow them to become the empathetic and respectful citizens I aspire for them to be. Photo: King's Church International on Unsplash
  4. I can hardly believe it myself when I tell people that I have been a pediatric mental health therapist for 12 years now. I mean, that is over a decade of my life! I would say that I don’t know where the time went, but I do. A lot has happened since beginning my professional career. I moved to Chicago, got engaged, and landed my dream job. But what really makes time fly is having kids. Nothing in my life has made me realize just how fleeting life is more than raising children. One day they fit into the palm of your hand, and the next, they barely fit in your lap. There are a lot of expectations about what kind of parent I am and how I raise my kids. After all, I keep up to date on the latest research in child development and behavior. My passion is in supporting parents and teaching parents how to be connected and attuned to their children. So I talk A LOT with parents. I am often told by parents I work with, “I bet your kids are so well behaved,” or, “I bet you never yell.” (Yikes, the pressure!) Of course, I do have to practice what I preach, and while I try my best to be a playful, accepting, curious, and empathic mother…I am also a “good enough” mom. I am not perfect. Despite my training, my knowledge, my passion, and my love, I am here to tell you: if you only knew how I epically fail on a daily basis! Well, actually, maybe it would help. Maybe it would help you have some compassion for yourself, because I promise you there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and good enough is actually all you need (and this is backed by research!). [Related: This is how to travel with young kids during COVID] So in all my vulnerability, I will share with you my top 10 epic parenting fails during the COVID-19 pandemic: Becoming so frustrated and out of control with my own emotions when my 5-year-old refused to go to bed that I threatened to throw out her JoJo Siwa Bow. Feeling guilty about my (above) tantrum, giving in, and allowing my 5-year-old to stay up till 10pm watching Naked and Afraid. (This went on for a month.) Experiencing the full range of working-mom shame when my daughter named each family member’s hobby and declared, “Mommy’s hobby is work.” Begging my 5-year-old to “Just leave me alone for two minutes while I finish my Zoom call!” realizing that I actually did not mute my mic. Spacing out from exhaustion while the baby crawls on the lawn…and eats actual bunny poop. Logging in my kindergartner late to virtual school. Every. Single. Day. Witnessing her announce to her teacher, “Sorry I am always late. We like to sleep in.” Knowing pandemic guilt has turned me into a “Yes” mom, and I have a trillion stuffed animals to prove it. Thinking that brushing my kid’s teeth before dessert was OK. Hello, child’s first cavity. Being mindless while getting my children out of the car and putting my laptop on top of the car. Forgetting about my laptop. Finding my laptop smashed to bits on North Avenue. If a child therapist can’t get it right all the time, take some pressure off yourself to be perfect. After all, we are in the midst of a pandemic. We are all truly doing the best we can. And that is good enough.
  5. Article

    Talking to kids about racism

    Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash “Mommy, why are people protesting?” “Well, some people did some really bad things to a man named George Floyd and people want everyone to know that Black lives matter.” “But mom, what about the coronavirus?! People shouldn’t be that close together!” “You’re right, sweetie. This is so serious that all of these people are risking their lives because they’re tired of stuff like this happening.” I walk off to cry in a corner. To say that this year has been challenging would be an understatement. Racism is part of the Black experience in America. I can recount endless personal experiences but I wanted to delay the racism conversation with my 6-year-old as long as possible to preserve her childhood. But something about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor was different. The rose-colored lenses of the world suddenly cracked, and I was forced to confront it head on. [Related: Resources to help you talk about racism with your kids] I’ve purchased so many books to encourage her love of self — from the coils in her hair, to her beautiful brown skin. I’ve ensured she’s always in an inclusive and loving environment, and I’ve assumed my role as Mama Bear and will jump in to protect my little cub if necessary. Now, I have to tell her that the features I’ve spent so much time praising are the same features that may cause someone not to like her — or, even worse, harm her. I start the conversation with, “Some people won’t like you, simply because of the color of your skin.” She responds, “But my skin is beautiful! I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t like it!” She begins to cry as I take her into my arms. The conversation is uncomfortable but necessary. Here are some tips on how to speak with your children about racism. Educate yourself. Black History has been severely revised in America, so it is important to seek facts and understanding before beginning the discussion. Learn about the more subtle forms of racism. You may not have all the answers to their questions, but reassure your children that you will work together to be anti-racist and seek understanding. [Related: Can we build anti-racist communities?] Don’t make blanket statements. It may be hard for children — especially young children — to reconcile racist behaviors while having friends of other races. Be sure to soften the language and clarify that the conversation doesn’t apply to an entire race of people, but some people within that race. Normalize anti-racism. Buy diverse books and toys. Watch diverse movies. Make a point to go to restaurants and events outside of your neighborhood. Support Black businesses. Use inclusive, non-qualifying language, e.g., a movie vs a Black movie. Most importantly, call out racism everywhere: at work, in your family, and on social media. Changing the hearts and minds of people is a big step towards racial equality. The conversation with my daughter went well. She’s since followed up with questions and is beginning to understand bias. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unfair. It’s heartbreaking. Still, have the conversation.
  6. As centuries of racial injustice continue to be illuminated, parents likely have lots of questions about how to talk with their young children about race and racism, and how to raise an anti-racist child. To answer some of these questions, Dr. Angela Searcy, a child development expert from Erikson Institute, shared her insights. When do children begin to notice race? Dr. Searcy: Research confirms infants as young as 3 months prefer to look at faces similar to their own. By preschool, they begin to use information about race to make decisions about playmates. At what age should parents start talking to their children about race? Dr. Searcy: Start talking about race as soon as your baby begins to recognize faces. Babies that don’t have exposure to people from a variety of races have a hard time noticing facial features of people from races other than their own. Not talking about race directly and explicitly leaves your child unaware of how you feel about different races. It will also create uncertainty about what your child knows about race and any racial bias they may have unintentionally internalized about their own race or others. What are some helpful conversation prompts for tackling this topic? Dr. Searcy: Reading books that show a variety of races is a good way to start. Point out the different races in children’s books and ask your child questions. When it comes to topics of racial injustice, parents already know what words their child understands and what examples will resonate with them. So try something like: “This reminds me of your favorite superhero. How can we ensure people of all races have equal justice?” or, “Would your favorite character think that was fair?” [Related: How to become an anti-racist parent] What behaviors can I expect to see from my young child as they start noticing differences? Dr. Searcy: Noticing differences is an important part of learning. Children will start reacting to differences in infancy and talking about them as soon as they can speak. If they have a negative reaction, respond with positivity and words of acceptance like, “Our differences are what make us all special.” Then follow up to understand why they might be feeling that way. If you respond by telling them you are colorblind, it can be very confusing. It asks children to ignore salient parts of another person’s identity and sends a message that something is wrong with having color if it must be “unseen.” Imagine the message that sends to a child of color who must have parts of their identity ignored and unseen. What are some helpful resources or activities that I can use to teach my child about race? Dr. Searcy: A few of my favorite activities include: ● Use M&Ms to show children how different colors are still the same inside ● Make a knot with a string to demonstrate how it will take time and many people to untie the knot of racism ● Give your child books with characters with a variety of races and ethnicities and have them look in the mirror and compare characteristics As far as resources, I’ve listed many on my website. A couple of my favorites are: How can I have a Positive Racial Identity? I’m White! and Woke Kindergarten. Dr. Angela Searcy holds a M.S. degree in early childhood development, with a specialization in infant studies, from the Erikson Institute and a EdD in education. She is an author of the book Push Past It! A Positive Approach to Challenging Classroom Behaviors and nationally recognized speaker, and currently serves as an adjunct professor at Erikson teaching Culture.
  7. It’s been over a year since we retreated into our homes “for a couple of weeks”, to wait for the virus to pass. Weeks led to months, the new year rolled around… and we’re only now thinking of re-entering the world. So, as parents, how do we reintroduce play dates for our kids? Research First order of business is to take stock of the current conditions and guidance in your area. Be mindful that just because restrictions might have lifted, there may be reasons why others are reticent about getting together. Proceed with sensitivity and respect. Discuss Ask your child if they would like to meet up with friends. Try not to bring in your own anxieties but listen. They may well be excited to get out again, or they may be nervous. Let them know that what they’re feeling is ok, and that you’ll be there with them. Intros Start with a virtual intro, to (re)build familiarity with friends. Encourage sharing of masks over Zoom, so they can recognize buddies when they meet up in person. My daughter loves to show-off her new kitty look. [Related: Nurturing your child's mental health in the pandemic's aftermath] Practice Most children are practiced at wearing their masks now they’re back at school (at least part of the time), but they can be reluctant to keep them on. We’ve found jersey ones to be soft and tolerable, while disposable ones are apparently “stink.” A practice run can be helpful. Venue Pick an outdoor venue, so you can relax a little. Playgrounds are obviously fun, but fraught with challenges; all those touchable surfaces and potential crowds. Try picking somewhere a little less obvious and limit the stress. Props Expecting children to pick up where they left off in March 2020 is unrealistic. Making friends is an art that children learn as they grow. Understand that they’re out of practice and may need you to facilitate. Bringing along a game — a soccer ball or drone — can jump-start activities. Limit Having a time limit sets expectations, prevents boredom, and makes it easy to leave without awkwardness. Keep first play dates short and set your kids up for success. You can build up to longer later. Follow-up Have your child send a note or text a picture. I like the Photoshop Express app since I can use an image snapped while out, and the kids can have fun personalizing with stickers. This helps pave the way for an ongoing friendship. Review Ask your child if they enjoyed themselves. What did they like best? What was challenging? Then see what you can address. Perhaps another time of day would work better? Decide together what actionable things you can do to make the next occasion fun for all. Repeat Whether the play date was successful or not, don’t leave it too long before organizing another. If your little one is timid, or needs to enhance their play skills, then it’s important to get out there again. If necessary, find an activity that involves you too, and ease youngsters into the new social scene. It can be daunting for any of us to start meeting up again in-person. We’re following the numbers and reading the reports, feeling optimistic one minute and doubtful the next...then layer on some rusty social skills and think how it feels to be a child. By talking and doing some prep work, then following some simple steps, this can be a more successful experience for our kids, and even an enjoyable experience for us grown-ups, too.
  8. Article
    I remember the day my family welcomed Zoomy Zoom (pictured) into our home. We were filled with anxiety, excitement and love. Yes, you heard that right: our Yorkie Terrier’s name is Zoomy Zoom. We brought our pandemic puppy home on a drizzly March 29. Even though I had been researching hypoallergenic dogs for about a year, the first three months of having Zoomy in our lives were still an adjustment. From the vaccine schedule to the poop collecting to the food restrictions, our lives changed under quarantine. The best parts were of course the play and cuddle time with our “furbaby.” We have truly enjoyed our new family member’s rambunctiousness while playing inside and outside of the house. The not-so-fun part was the potty training. In the beginning, it felt like Zoomy and I were battling over who was more stubborn. There were a few moments where I wanted to put a diaper on his furry butt, but at last, I can finally say that we have reached a place of potty harmony. Despite the rare moments of annoyance, it’s been such a joy to have added a pet to our home. [Related: Help your kids capture memories of this strange year] Following are a few items on our checklist whose exploration ensured the smoothest transition possible. Before you commit to getting a pet, be sure to ask yourself these questions first: Do you want an accessory, or a family member? Once the quarantine is lifted, most of us will be less attentive to our new pets. Is that fair to them? It’s important to consider training your pet to be alone for a few hours a week in order to prepare them for more independence in the home when you return to “normal” life. Perhaps hire a dog walker so they can socialize with other pups. Researching boarding facilities for long travel they may not be allowed to experience is another possibility. [Related: To the moms running on fumes, this is how to refill the tank] Can you handle picking up poop and cleaning up urine? This will definitely feel like a repeat of that first year with your human babies. Until your dog is fully trained, be ready to clean...constantly. Can you handle a beloved object being chewed on if it’s left unattended? It happens, so be prepared: Breathe in, breathe out, and hide your valuables! Are you OK with possibly being the main caretaker? As much as my kids stated they wanted a dog to play with and take care of, Zoomy and I are the dynamic duo — indoors and out. Most days I don’t mind, but other days I demand a break from the additional mommy duty. Can you afford the responsibility? If your pet gets sick unexpectedly, pet insurance may not cover it. (Yes, you need pet insurance.) Are you ready to talk about death? Having had several pet-death traumas in my childhood, I thread this topic in with my children every so often so they know that it is a part of life. We do our best to cherish Zoomy while he is with us, rambunctiousness and all.
  9. Article
    I remember being pregnant with my daughter (kiddo #1), and having very ambitious plans about what kind of parent I was going to be. Make homemade baby food? Of course! How organic. Sign up for a variety of baby/toddler classes? Yes, swimming and music galore! And screen time? No way! I’m going to be a totally involved, dedicated parent focusing on real-life experiences. Fast-forward slightly to balancing work and life with a kiddo, and in comes the kid-friendly shockproof iPad case so we can start with Sesame Street and Chu Chu TV. At that point, we were still limiting the time to when I’m cooking dinner or taking a quick shower. [Related: I feel no guilt about my kids' screen time] Fast-forward a bit more to introduce kiddo #2, a global pandemic, a lifestyle shutdown, still working and balancing life, and trying not to lose my mind. (Thank you, iPad Screen Time Alert for reminding me how much my daughter’s use increased when that happened. Ugh.) Obviously we are all trying our best just to survive right now. Most kids are at home e-learning, and most parents are balancing working from home with parenting and schooling at the same time. Times are not easy. So what is the right call these days? The American Academy of Pediatrics — which, depending on the child’s age, generally recommends no or very limited screen time for kids — has recognized that kids’ media use will likely increase under these stressful circumstances. (See the AAP’s article on HealthyChildren.org’s COVID-19 link.) Among their recommendations are: Keep a routine Use screen time for positive, social connections Choose quality content Use media together Recommended screen times are definitely fluctuating now, too. Obviously if you have a middle-schooler who needs to virtually attend classes, their necessary daily screen time is likely more than a toddler’s. But the recommendations for keeping media use useful and also balanced can be broadly applied across different ages. Our family’s pandemic pendulum is more or less in a balanced state, and thankfully it seems to follow the AAP’s suggestions. Here’s what it took to get us there: Routine and schedule When the lockdown started and we were going bonkers trying to figure things out, screen time was whenever I felt stressed or didn’t know what else to do. But it felt panicked, disorganized, and lazy to consistently use it that way. So we wrote up a schedule and had very specific times on when screen time was allowed. It’s still very useful when I need to focus on cooking dinner. Positivity and socializing We have all been Zooming and FaceTiming more, and when my daughter started asking to call her friends, it was a great way for her to feel like she had some control over her own socialization. Bonus: Watching two 4-year-olds have an in-depth conversation about how much they like mac & cheese is pretty cute. [Related: For young kids, technology should be like ice cream: a sometimes food] Quality content This is really important to me. I’m pretty strict about being on YouTube. Kids can go down some weird wormholes watching videos of other kids eating gross food or strange adult hands playing with kids’ toys. We like Numberblocks and Cosmic Kids, videos of kids building with engineering-related materials. We also have total veg-out options, of course, like Disney+ movies on Friday nights and Saturday-morning cartoons. Togetherness Sometimes I sit with my daughter to chat with her about what she’s watching. Hearing her tell me about how multiplication works or how she is calming her yogi energy makes me feel reconnected with her, and allows her to process the information she’s absorbing and explain it in her own words. Not in AAP’s guide, but equally important: Forgive yourself As parents, we are often our own worst critics. There are times when I’ll need to jump on my computer when I’m wearing my Mom Hat and we are supposed to be having a no-iPad lunch. Guess what? Sometimes the schedule changes, and my daughter gets a bonus movie-with-PB&J time. Don’t feel guilty if it happens. Structuring your kids’ screen time within this framework can help you achieve a more successful balance in these crazy times. Using media as a limited tool — or an emergency helper! — is very normal. You know that you have some time to focus on your own tasks while your kids’ brains aren’t turning into mush. And a no-mush brain is always a win for a parent!
  10. During my daughter’s bedtime reading, we’re exploring all the extraordinary women in history. Though we love learning about women all over the world, it began to pique my interest to see what kind of gems Chicago has produced. Fortunately, I found and rediscovered many reasons to be proud to be a Chicagoan. Here are just a few notable Chicago women who have broke ground and a few ceilings. Throughout Chicago’s rich history, women have played pivotal roles in bringing forth real and vital change. As a youth advocate, I admire the arts and science–based program called After School Matters, an opportunity for urban youth to explore a wide range of careers and trades. The late Maggie Daley left a gift for youth to accumulate their own income while nurturing a creative interest. This program has positively affected the lives of so many teens under the age of 16 who seek legitimate ways to earn an income. Let’s not forget, she also has one of the coolest parks in the city named after her. She was the first Chicana woman to sign with a major American publisher, is a MacArthur Genius, and has taught at many universities. Who is it? Sandra Cisneros, that’s who. This Humboldt Park native is best known for her 1984 book, The House on Mango Street, which is taught in many schools around the world. Last year, my family and I were fortunate to see a play about the literary legend Gwendolyn Brooks. Her contributions to American literature gave voice to the African American perspective in a way that captured the attention of avid readers; she was rewarded for her work with a Pulitzer Prize. It’s no wonder that she has a Chicago Public School school named after her. The high school continues to produce just as many gems as she has left us in her writing. Speaking of culture, the theatre is a favorite past time for me and the circle of moms I know. Thanks to women like Jacqueline Russell, who founded Chicago Children’s Theatre in 2005, there’s another great venue for our children to attend year-round the West Loop. Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based firm managing $10 billion in investments, was co-founded by its president, Mellody Hobson Lucas. Hobson grew up on the South Side, then left to attend Princeton and returned to become one of this city’s most extraordinary success stories (much like another South Side native, Michelle Obama). Hobson is now the wife of Star Wars creator George Lucas and mother to their daughter. As we wait for our city to elect our first African American woman mayor in April, another chapter in Chicago history will unfold. Because this city has birthed so many legendary women, their legacies must be told by parents like you and me. Sharing these stories paves the way for more opportunities to influence those who have yet to know their purpose in this city of big shoulders. Related articles: Take the time to learn how to pronounce 'difficult' names What living in Chicago has taught me about the world Black history is American history
  11. Did you know that mistakes are integral to the learning process? It’s true. Failure actually helps students develop their ability to improve and hone fundamental skills. Those who don’t view failure as an opportunity can find themselves struggling later on. Of course, our achievement-obsessed culture doesn’t help matters. We don’t often hand out awards for most spectacular failures. Only when that failure is turned into a success do we typically offer praise. When my own children were young, I felt like a constant failure. Balancing work and home while keeping a family of five happy was no small feat. For a long time I carried that guilt. I was hard on myself, as many parents are. Eventually, I realized that my children were picking up on my reaction. I knew I needed to change how I approached failure, so they wouldn’t accumulate the same guilt. Following are some of the lessons I’ve learned, and share with parents in similar situations. [Related: Focus on mistakes to help your child learn] Model failing forward I encourage parents to approach their mistakes as an opportunity to model a healthy response to failure. Try to embody failing forward — learning from mistakes and embracing failure as a necessary part of progress. One way to do this is in your demeanor. Children notice how you react when you “mess up.” You can spend all the time in the world telling your child that it’s okay to make mistakes, but if you melt down when it happens for you, they’ll remember. By being gentle to yourself, you teach your child it’s okay for them to do the same. There should be no shame associated with an honest mistake. When discussing failure with your child, avoid language that assigns negative value, i.e. “I made a stupid mistake.” Instead, talk about what you learned and what you might have done differently. Emphasize how important it is to move forward despite this setback. If you’ve failed while learning a skill or performing a task, touch on how you’ll improve. Lead by example In this chaotic world, parenting can seem like a constant string of mistakes. Yet we adapt for the sake of our children. So why not let them in on this process? If our children see us being uncertain, failing, or even flailing, but still managing to grow and learn, they will learn they can, too. Our failures can be their guideposts. Improve confidence and chances at success Failure is valuable for boosting confidence and promoting resilience in young people both in and out of the classroom. Children and teens who can persevere in spite of repeated setbacks and without the validation of success are well-equipped for the realities of adult life. I saw it in my own children. When I adjusted my own attitude, when I allowed myself to fail forward and lead by example, my children were less afraid of their own failures. Instead of mistakes, they saw opportunities. Instead of giving up, they embraced their innate creativity. How will you embrace failure within your home?
  12. Want your kids to develop a strong sense of belonging and great self-esteem? Then teach them to show kindness. It can be easy to take action during Random Acts of Kindness Week (in February) or holiday drives, but weaving kindness into your children’s daily lives can take a bit more effort. However, the benefits to both them and society are worth it. [Related: These thoughtful gifts prove showing someone you care doesn't cost a thing] Kind manners Of course, the most obvious place to start is by encouraging manners. “Please,” “thank you” and other words of respect and gratitude are important to use from an early age. Try expanding this with “Are you ok?”, “What would you like?” and similar language to encourage empathy and other kind traits. Kindness books Modeling language and behavior is important, but sometimes you need examples outside of your everyday life, or to reinforce concepts. Starting a book list can provide resources to draw from. Parenting magazines, blogs, your school counselor, and the library can all be good sources. In our house we let everyone select a bedtime book, then at the weekend we incorporate parental choice. Kindness role models There are plenty of positive role models to share with youngsters. Youth literature is full of them, and shows featuring superheroes are a big hit. Turning to real life, there are many historical figures to learn about, while the good deeds of doctors and other community workers are easy for them to relate to. Look for reported kind acts to share with them. Kindness goals Setting weekly kindness goals can provide structure and ensure some consistency. Try adding these to the weekend dinner table conversation. A leisurely meal can become a “family meeting” if everyone is asked for input. Our goals have ranged from making hug cards for older church members to delivering confetti balloons for some new year cheer. Kindness conversations Family conversations can also be a time for more in-depth exploration. Pick a topic and involve everyone. National Geographic magazine, Time for Kids or one of the kindness/empathy conversation starter cards available on Etsy are all good places to start. The natural compassion of little ones always amazes me. [Related: A British expat mom on teaching kids manners] Kind deeds From bringing youngsters along on errands for friends to serving at food pantries, there are opportunities to do good deeds or volunteer at every age. By incorporating their skills – as performers, conversationalists, or organizers – they will likely enjoy the process and seek out other opportunities to give. Kindness coins We use kindness "coins" to reward examples of generous behavior, something our children take great pride in receiving. They’ve also passed them along to the crossing guard, teachers and their peers, in recognition of the acts of others. We like this idea of recognizing positive actions without resorting to bribery. Sometimes it can seem like there’s just too much to get done to add anything else to the mix. But the kindness of kids will warm your heart, while allowing them to become the considerate and humane beings they’re destined to be.
  13. Hygge: feeling warm, comfortable and safe. This Danish concept advocates enjoying the simple pleasures and treating yourself with care. During Chicago winters, we could all do with a little dose of hygge: the perfect antidote to Zoom overload. Here’s how. Clear out clutter To ensure the simplicity required for this concept, some decluttering is required. Make this an opportunity to donate items, then clear everything out of sight into some large, natural hampers. Bring in cozy Wool blankets, faux sheepskins, baskets of slippers. There is nothing better than snuggling with your family and embracing the best of togetherness. [Related: From slow to go! Balancing life post-pandemic] Add texture To complement the soft textiles, add some earthenware bowls for soup or glass jars filled with pinecones for a pleasing aesthetic. Bringing nature in promotes the tranquil vibe. Display those memories While we can’t see extended family members as much as we would like, displaying photos brings them closer. Or, dig out old mementos and arrange treasured items on shelves where they bring back happy memories. Read and listen Reading and listening to music are soothing pastimes for many of us. Select some poetry or a beautiful photo book, create a playlist, and chill out in a nook made from a bean bag chair or throw pillows. Embrace changing seasons Embracing the seasons is a part of hygge that we all have to accept in Chicago. Bundle up on sunny days, invest in a sled for the snowy ones, and makeover your bedroom hotel-style for the really ugly ones. Set a fire Whether you have a fireplace indoors, a fire pit outside, or just a visual on YouTube, fires are immensely relaxing. Rearrange the furniture around this focal point, replacing the TV with conversation. Enjoy a cuppa Make 2021 the year to up the ante on winter drinks. A hot chocolate bar is a fun, low-key activity for all the family. Alternately, cover a box with beautiful fabric and fill it with a range of teas for a home tasting. Bake a treat Though cookie exchanges are a no-no, take the opportunity to explore comfort foods from across the globe. Baking bread is another wonderful way to bring in the hygge, filling your home with an enticing aroma. [Related: Family-friendly slow-cooker meals for cold snaps] Bathe in light If candles are problematic with children and pets, there are plenty of realistic battery versions. And of course, strings of tiny fairy lights add a magical effect strung up a little haphazardly. Put away tech Central to the theme of hygge is simplification, and that applies to technology, too. Identify a place to put away these items at the end of the day, such as a sanitizing station or a charging drawer. Embrace neutral decor To fully embrace the required Danish décor, repaint a room in neutral colors of grays, greens and creams. For a low-commitment fix, try adding new pillows or replacing the bold with calming artwork. As we continue our winter living with COVID, it is so important that our homes become our sanctuaries — and not our cells. While traveling and experiencing a refreshing change of scene remains problematic, setting up our dwellings to provide respite is hugely beneficial to our wellbeing.
  14. Children are now using media at very young ages. Touchscreen phones or tablets make swiping, tapping, and clicking easy enough for even a 1-year-old to manipulate. Voice-activated speakers allow children to request their favorite songs with simple language commands, and an endless amount of content seems to be at their tiny little fingertips. Add streaming networks, YouTube, video chatting and child-directed apps to the mix, and it becomes clear that our young children are active and regular media users. [Related: Limit screen time for a happier, healthier kid] Even those families who restrict or limit exposure to media tend to regularly be pushing a smartphone in their child’s face to take all of those cute photos. It is nearly impossible for children to be completely removed from the media that surrounds us all. So why are we not supporting them to develop strong media literacy skills as early as possible? We define media literacy in early childhood as the emerging ability to access, engage, explore, comprehend, critically inquire, evaluate and create with developmentally appropriate media. Here's an analogy: When children are young, we talk to them about healthy eating. When they complain about eating vegetables, we explain their value in helping them grow healthy and strong. When they request ice cream for breakfast, we share that ice cream is a “sometimes food.” We talk about healthy eating as early as possible because we know this impacts their later eating habits. The same mindset is helpful when approaching media literacy: supporting strong media literacy skills early on will impact their media engagement habits. While there are many concepts included in media literacy education, there are also simple ways to begin incorporating media literacy into your everyday media encounters. Here are some examples: [Related: I feel no guilt about my kids' screen time] TV shows. When watching a show with your child, ask questions to see if they are understanding the storyline and message. Explain the ways media creators use cuts, zooms, flashbacks and music to tell a story. YouTube. Talk to your child about what happens when the video they selected is over. How is YouTube different from shows on our TV? Why does it suggest another video for you to watch? How did it decide what video to show you next? Explore (in kid-friendly terms) how the creators of YouTube want you to stay on the website. You can even bring up advertising here! Tablets and smartphones. Consider how your child uses these types of devices. Provide tools and opportunities for them to explore and create with these devices. Use the features that empower them to tell their own stories, like voice recording or photo editing apps. These actions and discussions may seem simple, but they are critical in early childhood. Also written by Jenna Herdzina, MS, Program Manager of the TEC Center. Erikson Institute’s Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center is a trusted source for digital-age educators and parents seeking information about the intersection of child development, early learning and children’s media for children up to age 8. For more activities and ideas for supporting media literacy skills, check out our Media Literacy Implementation Plan. To find out more about how to support media literacy in early childhood, explore our full Media Literacy in Early Childhood Report, which includes a framework, child development information and Tips for Caregivers.
  15. “No gifts, please!” We’ve all received those invites, but rarely do we feel empowered to act upon those instructions. Who wants to look like a thoughtless guest, and what kids will really understand? Like many others, we’re trying to balance the excesses of childhood with a sense of value, while at the same time building environmental and fiscal responsibility. While we have tended to be traditionalists on the party gifts front, I've come up with these ideas to help avoid the glut of birthday gifts for future parties. Build a library Parents living in the city always appreciate getting books. Aside from being mutually approved by grown-ups and kids alike, they critically take up little space. We’ve been invited to parties where the hosts have suggested bringing a favorite book to build a library and it’s been fun for everyone. Book exchange Making the book concept even more guest-friendly is a book exchange. No need to buy a new one, just recycle one you already have. Kids love the concept of recycling and reusing, so this green option will appeal to their imaginations. A post-party trip to the bookstore can help mitigate a lack of parcels while keeping on theme. Secret Santa To avoid getting an overload of gifts you don’t need, a secret Santa concept could be helpful. Invitees each bring one gift that will go to a random child at the party. To ensure the party princess/prince remains happy you can supplement their gift with a trip to the store for a wished-for item. Monetary donations We’ve also been to parties where the parents have requested donations to a family cause. Involving your child in the steps along the way gives them a sense of responsibility. Offer them a reward for completing such a worthy project: choosing a museum to visit or selecting a new movie to see. Donation drive For those who are uncomfortable with a monetary ask, consider implementing a donations drive. Would collecting old sneakers appeal to your child’s interest in running, or would a school supplies drive be more meaningful? Creating a certificate or awarding a medal can instill a sense of pride – which can be fashioned into a gift, too. Artwork/poetry Harness your kids' creativity by asking guests to bring a picture or a poem to the party rather than a present. Use these unique pieces, alongside party snaps, to create a custom book. Then watch their face when it arrives in the mail. Video clips If you’re feeling really creative, ask for video clips instead. Give guests a prompt: advice for turning five years old, something you like about the birthday girl/boy or a crazy birthday dance. These can be used to make a special movie to share at the party. Your child is guaranteed to feel like a star, especially when they get to watch this over and over. Potluck contributions And if you don’t want to ask people to bring any kind of gift, however untraditional, asking for a food contribution can be made fun. If it’s an ice cream party, ask for toppings. If it’s a brunch party, ask for breakfast items. Purchasing a kitchen item (such as a popcorn machine or s’mores maker) for the family to use later can help kids overcome the no-gifts barrier. Fiona Royer lives in Lincoln Park with her husband, Randall, and their three young children. Originally from the U.K. with a business and creative background, she now works in the Chicago philanthropic community. She believes that giving is the key to a fulfilling life.
  16. Remember the movie Mean Girls, where high school students created a burn book to spread rumors about each other? While I, too, enjoyed the movie and often joke with my friends that “on Wednesdays we wear pink,” the movie exposed some very harsh realities when it comes to bullying. Sadly, with the rise of social media, the issue has only progressed since the flick came out 15 years ago, and the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why provided an even clearer picture of the nationwide epidemic. Having two young daughters ages 6 and 3, I figured we’d have a few more years before we had to address the issue, but the numbers don’t lie: More than 160,000 kids stay home from school each day to avoid being bullied, and a startling 1 in 5 school-aged children report being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. I thought sending my daughter Hayley to elementary school would be sunshine and roses, but it only proved that mean girls do exist, and they’re everywhere: in my child’s class, in other classes, in the hallway, the lunch table and the playground. Hayley has a few “frenemies” who constantly give her a hard time about anything and everything, and she’s recounted stories to me about having her shoes pulled off while hanging from the monkey bars. Last year, a classmate even tricked her into throwing away her snack, telling her it was poison. In acknowledgment of October being National Bullying Prevention Month, let’s teach our children to be kind. I did, and I’m already seeing the payoff. Will my children always be perfectly behaved? No, but I am content knowing they won’t dish out or take any type of bullying behavior. Here are the 10 philosophies we live by: Encourage self-acceptance Research shows that children who bully others often do so because they are unhappy with themselves and want to deflect the attention. Talk to your child about what makes them different and unique, and encourage them to celebrate these differences. When my daughter was picked on because she was short, I wrote the book Being Small (Isn’t So Bad After All) to show her she is special. Books are a great way to promote self-acceptance. Build a healthy dose of self-confidence Praise your child for their intelligence, personality, appearance and abilities. Celebrate their wins with them, and let them know it is OK to come in second, or even fail. Be a shoulder to cry on when they do. Teach empathy Acknowledge to your child that not everyone is the same as them and that it is okay. Roleplay and ask them how they might feel in someone else’s shoes. When they can understand empathy, they will learn to genuinely care about others. Highlight the golden rule My grandma always said you catch more bees with honey. Reinforce to your child that we should treat others the way we want to be treated. Remind them that everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. Suggest they show small acts of kindness that can yield big results. Stress the importance of inclusion Has your child talked about another classmate who is withdrawn? These kids are likely the targets of bullies. Encourage your child to show they care by acknowledging and including them. It can be as simple as inviting them to sit together at lunch or play together at recess. Raise upstanders, not bystanders Even if your child isn’t bullying anyone, acting as an audience for the bully and saying nothing is just as bad. Often times, bystanders don’t know what to do. Speak to your child about the importance of using their voice to take action to tell the bully to stop or to report the behavior to an adult. Speak nicely about others, and yourself, too A child’s mind is like a sponge—they absorb everything. Make a conscious effort to only let your child hear you speak about others—as well as yourself—in a nice way. Model positive behavior Children take cues from their parents, so what you do is more important than what you say. Let your kids see you opening the door for strangers or giving up your bus seat for someone who is elderly. Simple, kind gestures like this help you role-model the behavior you want to see from your kids. Give back Whether it is organizing a toy drive for needy children or serving meals to those less fortunate, provide meaningful opportunities for your child to experience giving back to the community. Keep the conversation going. Schedule an informal “check-in” with your child to talk about their friendships at school. Take them out for ice cream, and show genuine interest in their day-to-day life at school.
  17. My family isn't counting the days, weeks or even the months anymore, but we are counting the memories. What began as a couple of weeks holed up at home could have morphed into a lost year. Instead, we chose to begin each day with the question, What memories are we creating today? Capturing those memories—both joyous and challenging—has become central to our daily lives. Here are some easy ways you can help your kids record feelings and milestones surrounding a most unusual year. [Related: How to celebrate kids' birthdays while social distancing] Memory book Inspired by a school assignment, our children began filling out and coloring in printables related to the new normal. We decided to supplement these with our own pages—including handprints and comic strips—with the ultimate goal of printing a hardcover book. Artwork Allowing youngsters to express their view of a pandemic world through art is helpful in gauging their understanding and how they’re feeling. My youngest daughter, an aspiring doctor, made a detailed image of a Covid-19 patient and a truly creative series of virus watercolors. Memory box To preserve three-dimensional pieces, creating a memory box makes for another interactive project. Adding rocks painted with messages of hope or magazines exploring issues of the day, such as Time for Kids or National Geographic, will be interesting for years to come. Time capsule Or how about creating a time capsule for the next generation to find? Including a newspaper seems like a no-brainer, but ask your kids what else might convey our lives today. A face mask? A popular toy? A recent book? Let their imaginations get to work. Newspaper reporters Children can also be encouraged to create their own newspapers. Explaining that we’re living through history really brings home the momentousness of the current situation. Task them with becoming reporters or bloggers and charge them with noting what is happening right now. [Related: These thoughtful gifts prove showing you care doesn't cost a thing] Video diary Budding movie producers can capture these memories in video format. Immediate family members can be interviewed in person, while Zoom or FaceTime can be used to connect with folks in other parts of the country or world for a broader perspective. How do their experiences differ? How are we all the same? Movie poster If this year were a movie, what would it be called? Who would be the main characters and who would be the stars? Summarizing 2020 in poster format is another creative way to encourage reflection and put the year into a visual format. Poetry and song Of course, memories can also be captured lyrically. There are many different types of poetry youngsters can try their hand at, with free verse or narrative well suited to individual expression. Alternately, given a few musical instruments, kids will quickly develop their own songs. While there is so much of this year we may choose to forget, for our children these are the days they’re witnessing significant history, and as such are worth remembering. Capturing some of these memories in a way that works for your family acts as a counterbalance to the aimless drifting of 2020. It can even bring some hope during an uncertain year.
  18. Article
    With the reemergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and other efforts to challenge racism in our society, there has been a push to support Black businesses. Families all over Chicago have poured in their money and support to local owners as a part of the national allyship for the Black Lives Matter movement. This support is not only coming from individuals, it’s also coming from multi-billion dollar companies like Netflix and Grubhub. It is much needed for Black businesses because of the economic downturn that is having devastating effects on almost every sector of our society. But I must say, most of the support feels somewhat disingenuous because it’s not addressing the need for deeper, long-lasting change. Since the Great Migration, Black families who came to Chicago from the Jim Crow South hoped to reach a financial status that would award them a life free from oppression. Unfortunately, most of these Southern transplants fell victim to systemic racism, domestic terrorism and predatory lenders. Today, as we know, mirrors the past. I imagine that some kids today have overheard an adult comment on racism in the U.S. as an issue related to the bootstrap theory. It is when one claims that the descendants of enslaved Black people are not working hard enough today. They say that the work ethic of most Black people does not match that of impoverished arrivals from other countries, which explains the racial inequality in the US. But what these adults never take into account is that generational wealth has often been stolen from Black people time and time again, without consequence, after the end of slavery. As a child, I had the fortune of growing up on both the South and North sides of Chicago. It was (and still is) normal for me to see Black entrepreneurs. It is also normal for me to see Black businesses close down. Sadly, there were far more storefronts, salons and restaurants owned by Black people (from all over the African diaspora) in the 80s to the early 2000s than there is now. Of course, it’s not just Black people who are suffering during this crisis, but they are being disproportionately affected by multiple crises at the same time. Long before our parents existed, there were plenty of independent Black communities that fulfilled the bootstrap theory and created prosperity for themselves. The residents in these communities were dentists, bankers, artists, tailors, carpenters, and so on, all living out their American dream, until, for too many of them, it became a nightmare. Entire towns or neighborhoods were destroyed due to white rage at Black success. In predominantly Black communities like Tulsa, OK, Wilmington, NC, Atlanta, GA, Elaine, AK, Colfax, Rosewood, FL, residents of African descent had their dreams stolen by angry white mobs who felt threatened by Black prosperity. In our own state capital, Springfield, there is a legacy of white violence targeting Black wealth. The erasure of these traumatic events from school history classes has been a deep betrayal of an honest history of this country. What would be your answer if your child were to ask you “How can one pull themselves up with their straps on their boots if the boot itself has been stolen?” What can we as a city do to reverse these crimes against some of our Black residents, who are the descendants of people that were brought here to build this nation to its financial greatness? If we are serious Chicagoans as we are as Americans about dismantling systemic racism, we as parents need to actively model for our children the meaning of Black Lives Matter. Perhaps we can start by supporting activists and taking our children to witness us invest in a Black bank who is countering policies that hinder prosperity within historically Black communities. Supporting the Black Lives Matter must become a verb and not just a hashtag. Resources 171 Ways to Donate in Support of Black Lives and Communities of Color Support the National Black Chamber of Commerce 180 Black-Owned Businesses to Support Black Farm & Grocery Businesses Successful Black Communities Destroyed by White Supremacists Keisha Mathew is currently providing counseling to youth and their families; a role she has had for over 17 years. She holds a master's in social work, with a concentration in community schools from the University of Chicago. When she and her partner are not fulfilling their multiple roles for their children during the pandemic, they are advocating for the children & families of Chicago. Follow her on Instagram at @wanderlust.writer.creator.
  19. We’re all feeling the pinch. Whether you’re job searching or just unsure what the future holds, saving a few bucks here and there is very welcome these days. I like to advocate for recognizing folks with gifts, but those gifts don’t have to break the bank. These strange times have prompted me to think creatively and find a few zero-cost options to consider. [Related: How to celebrate kids' birthdays while social distancing] Artwork The obvious zero-cost gift is one of the precious masterpieces that your little ones churn out. Let’s face it, that archival box has more than a couple of pieces you could part with. Digitizing and emailing pictures is super easy. But with just a little more effort, mounting them on some recycled cardstock (even a cereal or pizza box) produces something tangible. Photos Photos are another no-brainer, either of your kids or an image they took themselves. A photo doesn’t have to be another ubiquitous pretty shot, either. We’ve created Warhol-esque pop art, coloring black and white selfies with neon markers. Adding some sparkle with Photoshop Express provides enough magic to satisfy aspiring wizards and princesses. Videos Similarly, video can be used to recognize special occasions. With the Stop Motion app (free), we’ve pulled together still images and set them to music, allowing unicorns to frolic and magnetic letters to spell out messages of hope. Clips (also free) is another one we’ve been experimenting with. The fun backgrounds and effects (such as Star Wars scenery or a sketched appearance) really add a wow factor. Homegrown Maybe this is the year you actually watered those tomato plants regularly and were rewarded with a good yield – enough to share. Or perhaps you nurtured a beautiful flower garden and know a couple of stems would cheer up a friend. Tied with some ribbon, homegrown items always make touching gifts, now more so than ever. [Related: Reduce the glut of kids' birthday gifts with these fun party ideas] Actions Of course, gifts can simply take the form of a kind action. An offer of help is often better appreciated than more stuff. By giving your time you’re showing just how much your fellow citizens mean to you. The whole family can work together to tidy up a neighbor’s front yard or offer to run an errand. Decorations Alternately you might decide to add some fence décor to mark a birthday, using banners and decorations you already own. Likewise, making a sidewalk chalk drawing is another wonderful way to spread some cheer, and makes for a lovely surprise – no occasion necessary. Cards Don’t overlook a simple letter or notecard, either. We often neglect to put pen to paper, and yet it really shows thought and effort. Producing the card yourself adds an extra special touch and can be rewarding for the creator as well as the recipient. Try using pressed flowers or fashioning collages with old magazines. Poems We recently commissioned a poet to create a unique piece for an engagement celebration. Poetry has long been something bestowed by an author upon someone esteemed. While we’re not all practiced at prose, developing your own haiku (3 lines totaling 17 syllables) or nonet (one to Google) can make for interesting dinner conversation. With so much uncertainty and grief in the world, it's essential to show others you care. With a little ingenuity, you can create heartfelt and meaningful gifts that don’t cost anything monetary, just a little time and some thoughtfulness – and that’s what true gifting is all about.
  20. Video
    Join Damon Sumner in discussing how to have conversations about race with our children. With his trademark wit and humor, Sumner breaks down why the time is now for these conversations, how we can educate ourselves to be the informed parents our children need, and discuss practical ways to help raise our children to be young men and women who love all and desire justice for all.
  21. Article
    Since the pandemic began, it has been hard to deny that racism continues to hinder people of color’s well being. Asian Americans have faced harassment and even violence with the tacit approval of the president, since he referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and later the “Kung Flu.” Additionally, we’ve seen the harmful consequences of our modern lifestyle of convenience on communities of color. People of Latinx and African descent are disproportionately the drivers delivering our meals, stocking our food in the grocery stores, and boxing our online orders. For the first time in my generation, many of us are seeing how our luxury requires that these essential workers risk their health. Coronavirus cases for Black and Latinx essential workers are the highest in the nation compared to whites. [Related: Show some love to these Chicago Black-owned businesses] Like most Americans, I have seen and heard of countless incidents of police reacting to Black lives as if they are villains from a Marvel film. Let’s be honest, long before the pandemic, it has become something most Americans have glanced at, chose to be ambivalent about and have found ways to justify the excessive use of force. If you have a social media account, you know that the frequency of police brutality is shocking. Every day, residents are documenting footage that has changed the perspectives of millions of people who have never seen (innocent or accused) people treated this way. You, or someone you know, may have tried to find justifications for the brutality aimed at unarmed people of color: their flawed track record (George Floyd); they didn’t follow the police’s commands (Philando Castille); he went through an abandoned building (Ahmaud Arbury). But what can you say about Breonna Taylor who was sleeping in her home with her partner when she was shot by police? What have you told your children about all of the racial trauma and injustice happening to people of color in America? Do you explain to them that the root of racial injustice is white privilege? The Rodney King verdict showed me as a child that my skin was not valued in this country as much as white skin. Today, my brown skin children are learning the same harsh truth. Despite the progress of the Civil Rights movement of my mother’s generation to the “post-racial” Obama era of mine, the structures that hold white supremacy in place are as strong as ever. Despite the great efforts I make as a parent to position my child to obtain the American dream, they are still subjected to racial trauma simply because of their skin color. In order to eradicate this 401-year-old virus, we have to acknowledge that anti-Blackness in all of its forms--institutional, interpersonal, covert and overt--is the culprit. White Americans have to step up to take this undeserving burden off the backs of Black people. Non-Black parents of color must also do the work so they don’t become accomplices to anti-Blackness. So, where should you start? Below, you will find some remarkable resources to guide you in your work to dismantle anti-Blackness, for my children and for yours. Resources to build your antiracist practice For parents of all hues: Black Lives Matter Antiracism Project 10 Words and Phrases You Might Not Know Are Racist (Red Tricycle) Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America Recommended Resources for Supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement (Lecture in Progress) For Latinx families: Why Every Latino Has a Responsibility to the Black Lives Matter Movement (Repeating Islands blog) For Asian & South Asian families: Anti-Racism Resources (Asian Women for Health) VIDEO: We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd (Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj) For babies (it's never too early to build their antiracist vocabulary!): A Is for Activist board book
  22. Parenting during Covid-19 is a new experience for everyone, but what if you’re the parent of a gifted child? There’s often a misconception that teaching gifted kids is easier, but this isn’t necessarily true. When my own gifted children were young, I was faced with the constant misconception that, because they were gifted, they didn’t need extra support. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Gifted children require just as much time, energy, and understanding as anyone--only in their own, unique way. What makes gifted children different? Gifted children, like any children, are complex. The National Association for Gifted Children lists the following as common characteristics of gifted children: Insatiable curiosity with constant questioning Advanced levels of moral judgment and a strong sense of justice Independence in academic work High energy, spontaneity, and enthusiasm Passion about topics and perseverance in learning about those topics High standards for oneself and high levels of frustration when those standards aren’t met Emotional sensitivity, empathy, and awareness of being different How can I support my gifted child during Covid-19? Parents of gifted children encounter unique challenges when it comes to keeping their gifted children engaged, active and curious--challenges amplified by Covid-19. Here are a few ways you can support your gifted child during the pandemic: Provide space for creative projects. Because gifted children are so passionate, they will likely have strong interests. Find time each day, or at least each week, for them to pursue interests outside of the regular school curriculum. This can be as simple as setting aside 30 minutes for your child to practice guitar, build a model of the solar system, or create an at-home museum. Allow your child to choose the topic and don’t get too involved beyond offering support. Take a step back academically (when appropriate). It may seem counterintuitive, especially if your child is academically focused, but resist the urge to hover. Since many gifted children are independent learners, they likely have school work under control. You may need to occasionally assist with work habits, technology and organization, but hold off on asking teachers for extra assignments or quizzing your child after dinner each night. Allow the extra time in your child’s schedule to be used for creative pursuits that excite them. Also, avoid falling for the misconception that, once a child is labeled as gifted, they’ll never struggle or fail. It’s important to note that “giftedness” isn’t universal. For example, your child could be gifted in math, but struggle with reading comprehension. [Related: Easing your child's anxiety about the upcoming school year] Focus on effort and growth, rather than success and failure. One major roadblock for gifted kids is that they might give up easily. Since some academic concepts come naturally, they may hit a roadblock when faced with learning a difficult skill. Gifted children often don’t do well with failure! Researcher Carol Dweck found that most people either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets think their intelligence is set, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with practice and effort (even if they’ve failed in the past!). They have the perseverance to overcome struggles and look at mistakes as learning opportunities. Take some time to discuss failure with your child, and even cheer them on when their efforts don’t produce the “right” result. Help them reframe success around the effort they put into a task, rather than whether they arrive at the correct answer. Intentionally address social and emotional needs. All children are struggling with some level of social isolation and anxiety during the pandemic, but this can be exacerbated for gifted students who often have a natural awareness of other people’s emotions. During this time, it’s important to address these issues head-on. To combat social isolation, try to set up social activities for your child, whether it’s a Zoom session with grandparents or an interactive computer game. For gifted children who experience increased anxiety due to Covid-19, be sure to validate their fears and feelings rather than telling them everything will be okay. You might say, for example, “It’s normal to be scared. I’m scared, too.” Take care of yourself, too. Try to keep your own feelings in check through exercise, mindfulness and plenty of sleep. The more even-keeled you are, the more your child will pick up on it. These are uncertain times, but understanding your gifted child and working to support them at home goes a long way. We’re all in this together!
  23. With a new vocabulary that includes “shelter in place” and “social distancing,” get-togethers seem destined to remain a little different for a while. But that doesn’t mean we can’t mark the special occasions—we just need to re-imagine how we celebrate them. Virtual parties If you’re uncomfortable meeting up in person just yet—given that keeping kids apart is a challenge—virtual parties can solve the problem. We’re all now up-to-speed using Zoom, so with just a little imagination, you can create a party atmosphere. Asking everyone to dress up in a fairy or superhero costume and coordinating a themed dance-off takes very little effort. Movie premiere If you’d rather not coordinate schedules, have friends send a video message instead. We’ve used Apple TV to make an occasion out of watching home movies. Alternately, VidHug is an affordable service that will collate video clips for you. Then dress up, add some photo props, fashion a red carpet, and order some Oscar lookalike statues, and you’ve just brought the Academy Awards into your house. [Related: No-gift birthday party ideas] Character videos If you’re suffering from Zoom fatigue (a real phenomenon), or never know how the days will pan out, keeping things really simple takes the pressure off. Now Mickey Mouse, Ariel and many others will either FaceTime with you or send a pre-recorded greeting. This is infinitely cheaper than a traditional party—a real consideration during these financially challenging times. Giving drive Or maybe combine your desire to maintain your social distance with your inherent belief in being a good citizen. Have your child post a video encouraging friends to decorate their own "birthday boxes" that they can fill with items to donate. Then have everyone regroup (sharing photos or through a virtual meet-up) to unveil their creations and where they plan to send their donations. Cupcakes stroll-by A friend of mine organized a stroll-by-and-grab-a-cupcake celebration for her daughter’s birthday. This still keeps contact to a minimum yet offers the in-person connection we’re all craving. Our children were thrilled for the sugar fix, and it gave us all a focus for a stroll as well as providing some welcome fresh air. [Related: 4 unexpected spots for your kids' next birthday party] Backyard bash If you’re fortunate enough to have a backyard in the city, take advantage by hosting your social circle at your place. Adding a fun activity (such as decorating your own water bottle or snack bag) to each seat can help keep youngsters in place. Games like charades also prevent children from running around in a pack. Picnic in the park If you don’t have your own outdoor space, plan a get-together at a local park. Encourage guests to bring their own blankets and use those to delineate each grouping. Sharing food remains a no-no but sending a menu ahead of time that guests can pull together themselves works well, ensuring no child is tempted to sample off a plate elsewhere. Movie night Pin up a sheet outside and project a kid-friendly movie. Invite families to bring their own lawn chairs and congregate with their clan. Providing individual packs of popcorn adds to the ambiance while keeping away from communal bowls. After being cooped up for so long, there’s no need to deny ourselves any joy. As long as you follow sensible guidelines (being sure to keep up with current recommendations), you and your family do not need to miss out on celebrating those important occasions. Nurturing our souls with a little human interaction is now more important than ever.
  24. It may not be easy to talk to your kids about the realities of racism, but it's a critical part of making positive change in our city and our country, and helping your child develop into a thoughtful, aware and kind adult. Here are some resources to help parents facilitate these conversations. We'll keep adding more as we find them. If you have resources to add to this list, email laura@npnparents.org. And add your voice to the lively discussions happening right now on our forum about racism and current events. Great list of children's books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance from the org Embrace Race Round-up of podcasts, books, articles and toys compiled by infographic designers Pretty Good. This chart Pretty Good created about when to talk to your kids about race is...pretty good. An essay in The Atlantic by a Black woman who now understands why her parents were so strict Tips on having conversations about race, broken down by age, from CNN How not to raise a racist white kid. Enough said. Talking to your kids about riots and protests from Red Tricycle Children's book round-up featuring books about racism and white privilege, and books that simply have a non-white protagonist, divided by age, from the New York Times Huge list of articles, advice and other resources from the Center for Racial Justice in Education A blog devoted to raising race-conscious children Facebook group called Books for Littles: Raising Luminaries Kidlit that discusses kids books that "instill values of compassion, equality, and smashing the kyriarchy in the next generation of leaders" 10 diverse children's books from Mommy Nearest
  25. From casual conversation to heavy TV ads, the 2020 presidential election is unavoidable and your kids are likely drawing conclusions. Let’s explore how to make election season educational, and hopefully less stressful, for kids* of any age. [Related: A British expat mom on teaching kids manners] Chatterbox What do they already know? What have they heard from friends, at school, on TV and online? Kids may or may not realize that elections have the potential to change their lives. Assess their knowledge, fill in the blanks, clear up misconceptions and prepare them with coping tools. Give them the vocabulary Talk about what it means to live in a democracy—a place where the people choose (vote) how they want things to work by making official (election) decisions. We all have rights, and to keep these rights we have responsibilities. Our laws are the rules and our representatives legislate, meaning they make the rules official based on our input. Don’t judge a book by its cover Who are the candidates? What assumptions are made because of media, T-shirts and yard signs? Consider the campaigns your kids are exposed to and discuss how the messaging is or is not ok. Is a candidate’s behavior as important as their ideas? Is the color of their necktie or style of their hair important? What are the important characteristics of a President? [Related: Help kids choose kindness and respect] Respectful debate Ask your kids what issues they care about using questions free of your opinion to keep the conversation open. Respond with invitations: “Tell me more about why you think that,” or “Can you give me examples of what you mean?” Dissent is a tremendous learning opportunity. Teach them to voice their opinion with conviction and respect. Share your top interests while supporting their right to their priorities. Explore how opinions are sometimes supported by facts and other times by emotions. When we disagree with another person’s stance, can we get into their shoes to find a kernel of shared interest? Bring it home What rights and responsibilities do family members have at home? How were the house rules established? Do any of your kids’ rights infringe upon anyone else’s (e.g., is one child relegated to the back seat while another has exclusive access to the front?)? A democracy must balance the needs of all its members. When I grow up... Ask your child how they feel about voting. Is it important? How might they prepare for their first election? Talk about what happens when someone who doesn’t use their vote is disappointed and what they could do differently. Wherever you stand, we likely agree: We want our kids to be confident, kind, independent thinkers. Open the dialogue. Keep listening. Raise a responsible citizen. And vote. * This includes us, the adults. Also written by Kristina Betke of wishcraftworkshop.com.

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