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  1. Event

    College Admissions 101

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    Do you have a young child and you are thinking about their college career? Or do you have a high schooler and you need to figure out the college application process quickly? Either way, this is the session for you. If you wonder how to determine which colleges are a good fit for your child, where to start in applying for financial aid and scholarships, and how to approach standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, NPN can help. In College Admissions 101, presented by Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS College Search Guidance, you will learn: -How and where to begin your college search -What colleges look for in an applicant -The timeline for a smooth college application process This event is FREE and exclusive to NPN members only. Join now!
  2. On my way home from dropping my oldest daughter at college, I realized that for the first time in 18 years and 66 days, I would not know the intimate details of her life. I didn’t know what she was going to eat for dinner that night or whom she would eat with. I didn’t know what she was going to wear the next day, what kind of mood she would be in, where she was going to go and who she was going to meet. Had she made any new friends yet? Would she be able to fall asleep easily in her new dorm room? I wouldn’t know. Our society often portrays parents as deliriously happy and relieved when their children leave for college. I get that because parenting a teenager is intense: it’s exhausting, terrifying, frustrating, humbling and bewildering. But all summer before she left, I shared with friends that I while I was so excited for her, I was at the same time very sad that she was leaving. In return I would get bemused and sort of confused half-smiles in return, as if they were saying: You’ll see, it will be great. [Related: What if I put my parenting experience on my resume?] Parts of it are great. I have three other daughters, so one less person in the house has given me additional time and mental space. And there are parts of parenting a teenager that I don’t miss (like wondering what time she will be home on a weekend night). My daughter is thriving in college — she’s loving her new school, new friends, new freedom and life. She’s the happiest she’s ever been, and I’m so proud of how she’s adjusted and run headlong with open arms into this next phase. All of that brings me intense joy, relief, pride and peace. But there is loss and grief too. There’s a pain point that you have as a parent that only gets activated by your relationship to your child. You know the pain point I’m talking about: the one that doubles you over, knocks the wind out of you, bruises your soul. My parental pain point is sore and aching. I’m grieving that the 18 years and 66 days I had of knowing the intimate details of my daughter’s life are over. I always knew that this time was a finite gift and a privilege. In her young life (particularly from ages 3-5) I never thought this time would end. But it did. And I miss her. I really, really miss her. [Related: Preparing for your child's first overnight summer camp] When looking back over these 18 years and 66 days, I’ve thought that parenting is really a cruel trajectory. At the beginning of your relationship with your child, you cannot leave them unattended for a second: their life literally depends on you. Slowly your relationship becomes less and less intense so that eventually you’re just sending heart emojis to show you love them. It seems like a sick joke. But with every ending, there’s also a beginning. The last time that my daughter wasn’t part of my day-to-day life, I was 28. Who am I now at 47? What will I do with the extra mental space and time that is not filled by my daughter? I’ll admit that I’ve been watching a lot of episodes of Sex and the City, just like I did at age 28 (although seeing it through a very different lens now — wow), and maybe I’ve been doing that to connect with my younger self. I know that eventually I’ll answer the “What am I going to do?” question, but first I’m going to allow myself to grieve. Parenting is always a mix of intense emotions at the same time, so there’s comfort in knowing that at least that part hasn’t changed.
  3. As a busy parent, achieving “peace and ease” may often feel outside of your reach. But with the strategic implementation of routine, you may find that they are closer than you think. Here are three simple tips to get started. 1. Start with one small routine. A homework routine is a great cornerstone routine that you can build upon. The first step is to ensure that your kids’ homework spaces are quiet and clutter-free. Next, establish homework rules. I suggest that kids come home, eat a snack, and get straight to work. Thereafter, removing snacks, devices or other distractions can really help to narrow focus. Depending on a child’s age and amount of homework, set a timer for an appropriate amount of work time (30 minutes for elementary students, 50 for middle schoolers and high schoolers). When the timer goes off, permit them to take a 5-10 minute break before resuming the work. Don’t forget that they will need you to impose the structure at the start, but they may not need that forever. [Related: Transition from summer to school year with these tips] 2. Experiment and build upon your successes. Establishing routine is a process, so don’t be afraid to experiment. For example, if your kids need more down time when they get home from school, give them that break. If you find this leads to late-night homework meltdowns, revisit that assessment and tweak it. Once the homework routine is second-nature, redirect your attention to another time of day that feels particularly inefficient, frazzled, or frustrating. Outline what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and what kind of time restraints are to be imposed. Make sure you communicate clearly with job charts, checklists, and/or to-do lists to ensure that your entire family is on the same page. Utilize alarms and device reminders as necessary to keep everyone on track. The good news is that once one routine in place, it is much easier to build upon your existing routines. You may even find that after some initial pushback, your kids crave and maintain the structure independently. [Related: Helping your anxious child handle homework] 3. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough. Routines are more of an art than a science, and they are definitely a practice. Some days the routine will be seamless, and other days, it will be a mess. That is OK. Use that data as feedback to make decisions about how to formulate or adjust as necessary. Continue to come back to the routine and to implement it with as much consistency as possible, but if you must stray or tweak it, don’t fret. The whole idea is that the routine should work for you — not the other way around. Personally, I don’t love starting new routines, but once a new routine is in place, I don’t know how I lived without it. Put in a little extra work at the beginning of this school year to establish those good routines, and I promise that in the end, it will make your family’s life a whole lot easier.
  4. 2020 was truly a very difficult year with regards to the coronavirus pandemic. There is a lot we know now that we didn’t know at its start and still so much to learn. Scientists and medical researchers are working hard to develop therapeutic medications and vaccines to help protect us from the harms this virus can cause. Families everywhere have had to make sacrifices in their personal lives, work lives and the ways they enjoy sports and recreation, all the while trying to find new ways to stay healthy and active. While spectator sports are an exciting pastime in the fall and winter months, we have all heard over and over again about COVID infections and spread amongst professional athletes. These individuals have made personal decisions about participating in these sports as it is their job. Sports participation at the student level is clearly a different issue. The American Academy of Pediatrics values sports and physical fitness in their guidance of healthy living and good mental health during this pandemic. The safest sports last summer were noted to be golf, running, baseball and tennis — activities in which we’re able to maintain distance and minimize sharing equipment. Keep following the rules The underlying guidance across all activities is the ability to maintain social distancing, perform good hand hygiene, and wear a mask when you can’t maintain a 6-foot distance. For safety, masks may not be required in active elite level exercise, water sports, or where it poses a risk of getting caught on equipment, covering one’s eyes, or choking. Each athlete should have their own mask, access to hand sanitizer, and their own water bottles and towels. [Related: Free or cheap ways to entertain your kids on winter weekends] Recreational sports for young children can be challenging because mask-wearing may be difficult to enforce. Competitive or high school level sports for older children pose additional problems because the severity of coronavirus illness in children in their teen years may mimic that in adults. New information about the effects of COVID infection on the heart poses even more concern. Watch-outs: cardiac conditions The current recommendations by pediatricians and cardiologists include looking for signs of cardiac inflammation or myocarditis in athletes who had significant symptoms of COVID as part of clearing them to return to their sport. This can mean a minimum of a 2-3 week absence from their sport if they don’t have any cardiac concerns, or of course much longer if they have significant cardiac compromise. It is recommended to be in touch with your healthcare provider before making the decision to return to sports. What to avoid During sports practice or games, athletes need to avoid huddles, high fives, handshakes or fist bumps. They shouldn’t share any food or drinks with their teammates. Cheering each other on should be limited to when they are greater than 6-8 feet apart and they should always use a tissue when spitting or blowing their nose. [Related: Coat or no? Car seat safety during the cold winter months] Low-risk activities So the question remains, what can you and your children do to keep healthy and active and be as safe as possible? Here are some suggestions that allow social distancing, mask-wearing and minimal equipment sharing: Walking, hiking and running, fishing, golf, tennis, baseball, swimming and diving, dancing and yoga, and skating and cycling. Higher-risk activities The higher risk sports which involve more contact — soccer, football, basketball, gymnastics, cheerleading and hockey — should be undertaken only if you and your athletes, coaches and sports associations appreciate and follow the best guidance they can to minimize risk. There are no easy answers to the questions parents have about participation in sports. We know robust physical activity contributes to good mental and physical health. Knowing the risks may help you determine good options for your child. Of course, always consider discussing the health risks and benefits with your individual pediatrician. And while this may not be the ideal year for your athlete, we hope that there are good protective vaccines available in the near future which can help protect us all, and allow for a more active lifestyle again! Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, is a Chicago pediatrician with Northwestern Medical Group Pediatrics, as well as a mom and NPN board member. To ask Dr. Anita a question, email newsletter@npnparents.org with the subject line, “Ask a Doctor.”
  5. When our oldest son was just three years old, we found ourselves at the University of Chicago – our son groggy from anesthesia due to a necessary endoscopy and the doctor telling us, “The pathology and blood tests all confirm celiac disease.” I was relieved because we now had an answer as to why he wasn’t growing or developing. Once we removed the gluten from his diet, that all improved, but my head was also spinning because I had no idea how to deal with this diagnosis. No more birthday cakes, pizza, donut runs on Sunday mornings. Fast forward 10 years, and that all seems like a very distant memory. [Related: Help kids with food allergies enjoy the holidays] Celiac in the city with a teen Now that our oldest is 13, I no longer know where he is every moment and I’m not dictating his every meal. Luckily, we live in a city with a lot of gluten-free options. With celiac disease, one has to be very careful regarding cross-contamination. At home for example, I keep separate peanut butters, butters, and cream cheeses because we don’t all eat gluten free, and if you dip the knife in one of those and then gluten crumbs get into the product, he could get very ill. About 10 milligrams of gluten is what it takes to get sick, and that is about the size of a bread crumb. You’re probably wondering how we ever trust a restaurant or go out to eat. With age and experience has also come his level of risk tolerance for his body. For example, many restaurants don’t have a dedicated fryer for french fries, but he’s realized that this doesn’t seem to impact him, so he is OK to eat the fries, usually. This likely isn’t best practice per his doctors, but he also has to have some “food freedom” in life. Our favorite gluten-free friendly restaurants in Chicago As a family, we love to go out to eat. Below are some restaurants that my son loves – and that I trust: D’Agostino’s — He loves the pizza and the restaurant even went through a celiac certification process Jersey Mike’s – The company uses Udi’s sub rolls and will even clean off the deli slicers before making his sandwich Lettuce Entertain You – Takes celiac disease very seriously and have separate menus in most of their restaurants Wheat’s End – A dedicated gluten-free restaurant with amazing pancakes Zia’s Lakeview – Dedicated gluten-free menu and he loves their octopus appetizer Corridor on Southport – Amazing burgers that he orders without a bun and fantastic fries As my son gets older, it will be up to him to keep his body healthy. He fully understands how awful he feels if he ingests gluten, but I also know he will make mistakes either intentionally or not. Thankfully, there are many great options in Chicago, and he has a great group of friends and parents that all support him. To learn more about gluten threshold levels for teens and others, check out the National Celiac Association's helpful graphic here. Photo: gluten-free doughnut at Wheat's End Cafe

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