Many things can happen spontaneously during a family meal -

  • We share family stories
  • We support one another by offering help for concerns or struggles
  • We share family values and expectations
  • We problem solve

But many families feel they are just too busy to make time for mealtime.  So, if your life is hectic, how can you begin to change the pace of your life and find time to share a meal? 

Coloring – It's not just for kids!

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It seems like we pay a lot of attention to encouraging children to read, but what about writing?  Supporting children's writing begins early, even with children who are one year old.  Ideas to encourage those toddlers:
Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  - Pablo Picasso

I know what you're thinking!  Isn't Art Appreciation what freshman college students take?  Why should we be considering this for young children? 
Overwork and over scheduling take a toll on families and relationships as we find less time together, especially to just hang out.  Taking a break to spend some relaxed time together as a family can be a way to reconnect.  A family night in is doing something together at home that everyone in the family can enjoy.  It doesn't have to be a major event, since often simple things are the most fun and relaxing. 

Here are some ideas for your August family night in:

First, let's start with a little history about the program. In doing some research I found that the word LIFE, in Vial of Life, stands for Lifesaving Information for Emergenci

As the population in America ages, the number of people with dementia, including Alzheimer's, will continue to rise.  These increasing numbers will mean a burden to our health care system and to the family members called upon to provide care. 

In an article posted at, Dr. Khalsa of the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation discussed what he calls the "Four Pillars" of Alzheimer's Prevention:

Growing up, I struggled with math. Bringing math homework home became a dreaded task. My dad faithfully and dutifully helped me with my math assignments…..but, because it wasn't my strongest subject, and he excelled at it, our homework sessions often ended with both of us frustrated with the content and with each other.

Have you ever known someone who seemed to go through very difficult times and left you wondering "how can they handle so much?" Resiliency is the ability to recover from life's challenges and hardships without being overwhelmed and to bounce forward rather than back. Families and individuals face many expected and unexpected challenges throughout life. Learning to cope with those challenges can be difficult, but there are certain characteristics that resilient people possess.

Fall is here, which may make you think of activities such as football games, field trips, or wiener roasts.  Instead of planning another event out, mark your calendars for a night for "family night in," where you stay home and do an activity as a family.  Some ideas for the beautiful month of October:

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As the summer gears up, so do the temperatures, and it is vital that we not only take care of ourselves, but also be mindful of those more vulnerable to the intense heat of summer – children, older adults and those with chronic illnesses.

What is a "family night in?"  It's doing something together at home that everyone in the family can enjoy.  Maybe your family already has some 4th of July traditions that you do together as a family.  Or maybe one of the activities below can become a new tradition!    

Some ideas for July: 

November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and National Family Caregiving Month

Who will get Grandma's yellow pie plate?

Have you ever thought about where your personal belongings would go after you are gone? Have you started downsizing your house? Almost everyone has personal belongings such as photographs, jewelry, tools or simple everyday household items that hold meaning for them and for family members. You can make decisions now that will hopefully save family relationships later.

Family Night In is doing something at home as a family.  It has only one rule - everyone gets to participate and have fun.  So turn off the electronics and give one or more of these ideas a try!

As the end of summer draws near and schools supplies pop up in local stores, parents and kids alike start focusing on the new school year. While the new year brings a level of excitement and anticipation, parents wonder on how to make the new school year successful for their children.

All parents want their children to become successful, caring adults. Similarly, many parents want to be involved with the formal education of their children. Sometimes, however, they don't know where to start, when to find the time, or how to go about making positive connections with the school.

Recently a woman in one of my programs asked me about a diagnosis that her husband had received - Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).  According to the Alzheimer's Association website, MCI "causes cognitive changes that are serious enough to be noticed by the individuals experiencing them or to other people, but the changes are not severe enough to interfere with daily life or independent function." 

The gifts, the wrapping, the parties…oh my! Seemingly endless holiday demands can put additional stress on our time and resources. For most people, the holiday season is the busiest time of year with extra of everything – social demands, work projects, family obligations, and holiday to-do lists. I often find myself rushing through the season to get to the "next thing" and before I know it, New Year's has passed and its mid-January.

How times have changed - when I was a kid there were no requirements about car seats.  (Yes, I know how old that makes me sound - maybe I am writing this from my rocking chair!).  Hopefully, I can give some tips on how to make it easier to get children to not fight their car seats.

Make being in a car seat a habit from the very beginning.  Children will accept it as part of riding in a vehicle. 
Happy March Everyone!  This month the Family Life Team is going to focus our blogging efforts on brain health.  Brain health is one of my favorite topics to teach about or talk about. I like learning both about keeping our brains healthy as well as understanding more about Alzheimer's and the various types of dementia. This month our focus will be on brain health.

If you are on Facebook you can check us out there too!  We hope to keep everyone engaged this month!
For most children, biting is usually short-lived and does not become a habit. Nevertheless, it is usually a big deal for everyone - the child bitten, the adults present, and the parents. (If you have ever been bitten, you know that it HURTS!)  Continued biting is one of the reasons that children get asked to leave day care.  (That was a nice way of saying they got kicked out!)

Children bite for different reasons at different ages:
What is a family night in?  It's doing something together at home that everyone in the family can enjoy.  Busy families have to intentionally plan some relaxed time together. 

Family night in doesn't have to be a major event.  In fact, simple things are often the most fun and relaxing.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

Have a picnic on your living room floor.  Lay down a blanket and bring in the sandwiches.  Talk about your favorite game to play outside on a hot summer day.
Now I know that this title and the picture have already made some of you move on to something else.  But for those of you who are still with me.....

Don't want to pass along your arithmophobia (fear of math - it's a real thing!) to your children?  First of all, understand that math includes more than numbers.  It also includes patterns, space and shapes, and measuring, among other things.  Here are suggestions for activities for preschoolers for each of these areas:

The Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to shed light on the needs of young children (birth through age 8) and their families.  In support, the Family Files blog articles for April will focus on issues regarding young children. 

It's severe weather season here in the Midwest. All families need a plan for what to do in the case of an emergency or natural disaster.

Be Prepared

Preparation for any emergency or disaster is key. First, you need to look at what could affect your family home. Illinois is prone to many weather-induced disasters: tornadoes, floods, ice storms, lightning, etc. You also need to think about house fires and even the possibility of an earthquake.

I recently ran into a former colleague who told me that she had retired from the job at which she and I had worked together.  She "hated, absolutely hated" retirement so went back to work doing virtually the same thing, but at a different organization.  Although I can't say for sure, I wonder if her "absolute hatred" stemmed partly from a lack of planning.  Not that I am blaming her - many people plan for the financial aspects of retirement, and there are a multitude of resources to help with that.  There is MUCH less information on planning ahead for the non-financial aspects of retirement.
When parents possess six protective factors, the risk for abuse and neglect diminish.  These factors are:

"The name of the restaurant is on the tip of my tongue and it is just not coming to me." Does this sound familiar? Everyone experiences trouble now and again recalling information when needed. It is most often proper nouns like the name of a person or place. Usually the more anxious you are in trying to recall, the less successful you might be in the moment. Eventually you may remember the forgotten name or word when you are more relaxed and not pressuring yourself to remember.

Rituals are an important part of life.  Think of the pleasant rituals from your childhood.  They generally make us feel loved, warm, and safe. 

Set aside a night in February to start a monthly "family night in" ritual with your family.  What is a family night in?  It's doing something together at home that everyone in the family can enjoy.  It doesn't have to be an important event - simple things are often the most fun and relaxing and can strengthen relationships.

Suggested activities are available in this handout:

Minimizing the impact of change on your child

Change happens. Some changes are big, such as getting married or divorced, moving or birth of a new baby. Other changes may be smaller, but still can add up over time. Whether changes are life changing or minor inconveniences, they can cause stress.

Despite the title, I am not going to talk about the latest video game or Monster High doll!  According to authors Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock-Staeheli in their book Unplug the Christmas Machine, as early as the age of four or five kids can lose the ability to be delighted by the sights and sounds of the holidays.  Instead, they may gain a 2 month long obsession with brand-name toys.  Suddenly all they seem to care about is how many presents they will be getting and how many days are left until they get them.
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View infographic here.

Recently my four siblings, their spouses, and I got together for our annual sibs weekend. (I'd post a picture of us, but at least one of my sisters would, shall we say, object STRONGLY.)

I can always count on my siblings for a lot of laughter, gentle ribbing, and reminiscing and this led me to wonder about the importance of adult sibling relationships. After all, our siblings are the people with whom we will have the longest lasting relationships of our lives – usually longer than with parents, spouses, friends, children.

Obesity rates - we hear about them all the time and yes, Americans of all ages are fat.  (Sorry, but I want to make a point, and obesity always sounds so much nicer than fat.)

For children ages 2-19, 17% of children are considered to be obese (see, being nice again!).  The good news is that there have been recent declines in the rates of obesity in preschool-aged children, so let's keep up the trend. 

Physical activity is key to preventing obesity.  Guidelines for daily amounts of toddler activity: