Hallway with blue lockers, one locker is open. Text reads: bullying or peer conflict? R.I.P. as a tool for families

As children return to schools and classrooms this fall after a year of a variety of learning environments, many parents and caregivers may find themselves concerned about bullying. Recent research indicated, not surprisingly, that rates of school bullying dropped during the pandemic – likely as a result of many students participating in remote learning environments.

cars lined up on a road with text back to school proceed with mindfulness

As the new school year approaches, it’s completely normal for both parents and children experience a rush of emotions. Sadness that the carefree days of summer are ending. Anticipation of seeing friends and learning new things. Curiosity at what new opportunities the new year will bring. Excitement of new schedules, new routines, new friends. And perhaps, joy…. that the kids are finally out of the house!

Summertime for kids usually means fewer routines, later nights, and sleeping in more than during the school year. However, there are signs everywhere to show us that school is just around the corner. It is evident by the store ads, the school supplies that are spilling out into the middle aisles of our local stores, and by seeing August on our calendars. With the school year beginning soon, you'll want to make sure both you and your kids are starting to get back into your school time routines.

children outside of tent in backyard

As we are now officially in the summer season, it can be very easy to overschedule our children and ourselves. This is especially true this year as COVID restrictions begin to lift and more events are becoming available again. Enjoyable but exhausting family vacations, summer sports leagues, day and overnight camps, 4-H fairs, library and park recreation programs, and the list goes on and on.  It is very possible to overcommit family members to the point where they do not get to relax, recharge and really enjoy spending time with each other before another busy school year begins.

Two boys making funny faces

Do you remember your first childhood friend? Do you still have friends that you keep in touch with from school or work? Humans are social creatures and we enjoy and do better being around others. So, knowing how to make and keep friends is an important skill for young children to learn.

Most years, many strive to go home for the holidays. This year, many will spend their holidays in their own home. The home may be a place they live alone, a place with a significant other, a place with children, or a home filled with multi-generations.  Whatever home is for you, and however you are spending your time this year, things may be different.

Man, woman and child playing on phone

The holidays are fast approaching, and what is usually a fun time of preparation and anticipation for many is now clouded by uncertainty with COVID-19. With the surge in cases and the severity of the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, suggests celebrating Thanksgiving with members of your own household who consistently take measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 or with others virtually to lower the risk of spread.

SEL social emotional learning tips for parents

Life has not been easy for most parents who have school-aged children. It has been unpredictable for some parents, not knowing from day to day whether their child(ren) will be in a school building or learning remotely from home.

Just recently a friend of mine got word that her daycare had to close for two-weeks because of COVID, which meant both her child attending that daycare and her older school-aged child had to stay home from school and quarantine. Forced quickly into shifting gears, my friend arranged to work from home so she could look after her children.

Two young girls hugging and laughing

Impulse control involves knowing how and when to express emotions like excitement, frustration, joy, disappointment, and anger. It is a process that develops as children mature and is critical for their success in making and keeping friends, which in turn boosts their self-esteem and school success.

The Illinois Early Learning Project has a great tip sheet that includes tips on how to help young children to develop impulse control. For infants to older preschool children they suggest:

bench with paper bag that has inspirational saying on it

Things have not been easy for any of us during these past few months – or “unprecedented times.” We may feel like we’ve had many losses: loss of security, loss of contact with others, loss of freedom to come and go where we would like, maybe even loss of health and loved ones, among many more. Many of our blog posts over this time have focused on stress reduction, mindfulness, and finding balance in our lives. I would like to focus this week more on gratitude and looking at the positives that are also going on right now.

lemons on a blue background

Surely, you’ve heard the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” When I think about all the lemons, we’ve been handed this year, it can be difficult to see how to make the lemonade – especially for children. If you have a child in your life, stop for a moment and consider all the challenges they have had to face since March. The transition to remote learning, lack of interaction with peers, and cancellation of activities, events, and celebrations have created prime ground for our kids – and ourselves – to develop our resilience.

Reoccurring and distressing memories, flashbacks, nightmares, avoiding specific places or activities, feeling hopeless, memory loss, feeling detached from family or friends, always being on guard, trouble sleeping, and irritability are only a few of the extensive list of symptoms individuals with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) face on a daily basis.

Quality time during early childhood is vital to the growth and development of children. Quality time between parents and children develops stronger communication, promotes interactions, strengthens bonds within the family, helps children become mentally and emotionally healthier, builds self-esteem, and instills values and experiences in your children to help them become better people overall.

When adults are stressed or anxious about our day to day lives and activities, we can find ways to cope through multiple outlets. Exercise, meditation, diet changes, sleep patterns, and venting to those around us are only a few examples of options to relieve stress. Children, on the other hand, need help to alleviate their stress and anxiety. According to Dr. Amy Przeworski of Case Western Reserve University, anywhere from 10% - 20% of school-aged children show symptoms of anxiety.

father with child writing

I just love the Illinois Early Learning Project (IELP) website, which is a valuable source of evidence-based, reliable information on early childcare and education for parents, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois. It is funded by the Illinois State Board of Education and is housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the College of Education.

Spending time with our kiddos is something we have had an abundance as of late. While this time was unforeseen, parents are suddenly faced with wondering what new activities to do with their children. Let us face it—taking the same walking route gets boring after a while, playing with the chalk gets messy, and there is only so much on TV we can watch on repeat. So, what else is there to do? Coloring is an ageless past time for children and adults alike, but there seems to be no more room on the fridge for the daily masterpieces being created.

family sitting on bench

Since summer is almost here, I thought it would be a good idea to re-post this article about unplugging from our devices and enjoying our surroundings - especially our children! This is especially important lately with the shelter-at-home guidelines, which has created more screen time for many of us by working, homeschooling and socializing virtually.  

family walking in the woods on trail

Since mindfulness can also mean being intentional, we should have the conversation about whether we practice being mindful with our families. Most of us say that family is most important to us and that we put them first – but do we? A 2018 Nielsen report stated that American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media.

When we cannot see friends or family members, remember there are many ways for us to still connect. Human connections promote wellness, here are ways to reach out to family and friends who may be alone. Reframe your thinking. Instead of focusing on the negative, flip the script and think about the positive ways you can use this time. Start by reaching out to those who are important to you and deepen your relationships.

Woman sitting at a desk writing notes with computer in the background

In a time when more people are working from than usual, we felt it might be helpful to offer some tips for working from home. Of course some of these tips are best when working from home and not while some are trying to both teach their children and do their jobs from home. We understand if some of these tips are the ideal and possibly not your current situation. Hopefully some of them will be beneficial for you the reader:

Set a Schedule

It is safe to assume that many adults today remember being told at one time or another by their disciplining parents, “You are grounded and are not to leave the house.” This typically meant separation from friends, playing outside, and taking part in planned activities. Even if it’s been a while since the age of being grounded, the social distancing plan underway may bring back feelings of “having one’s wings clipped.”

Many families with young children are seeking resources about learning at home with young children as the COVID-19 situation evolves in our communities. This is a trying time for early childhood programs and families as they work together to keep young children safe, healthy, and learning.

Many families with young children are seeking resources about learning at home with young children as the COVID-19 situation evolves in our communities. This is a trying time for programs and families as they work together to keep young children safe, healthy, and learning.

parents and baby

Raising kids, eating right, spending smart, living well—that’s the theme of a national Living Well Campaign that is being promoted by the Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, both at the national level and here in Illinois. The goal of the Living Well Campaign is to provide people with the education and information they need in order to “live well.”  

hands on top of each other

With families so busy with work, school, extra-curricular activities, sports, church, civic groups, clubs, etc., they can find it difficult to spend quality time with each other. Because families can be so busy, they need to intentionally plan their time together.

pouting little girl

We talk a lot about stress during the holidays and try to find ways to reduce or make that stress more manageable. However, we usually talk about it in regards to us – the adults – and sometimes forget that holidays can be difficult for children as well.  Parties, shopping, and other activities may take families out of their usual daily routine and these routines provide security and stability for young children.

upset woman

In 2018, approximately 20.3 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD).

kids reading books

Since my son (only child) recently moved to college up north back in August, I have felt like maybe someone has died. Friends, family and acquaintances will ask how my son is liking school, and then they lower their voice, get real close and grab my arm, and ask in a serious tone “and how are YOU doing?” I totally understand that they mean well and worry about me being an empty nester, but I find it very funny.

Overwork and over scheduling can take a toll on families and relationships as we find less time together, especially just to 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. Try to do one at least once a month if you can.

school car line

As the school year approaches, parents and children experience a rush of emotions. Sadness that the carefree days of summer are ending. Anticipation of seeing friends and learning new things. Curiosity at what new opportunities the new year will bring. Excitement of new schedules, new routines, new friends. And perhaps, joy….that the kids are finally out of the house!

It can be an exciting and emotional time for children and their parents when a child officially begins his school career with kindergarten. However, is that child ready? And, how do parents prepare their child to be ready? The Illinois Early Learning Project has a great tip sheet on this topic that I would like to share:

What are the health requirements for a child to begin school in Illinois?

Many people celebrate Independence Day with family cookouts and fireworks. Fireworks are beautiful and often seen as entertainment, we need to remember that they are explosives and have a lot of potential for harm.

Sparklers are a popular firework choice for children. These fireworks can reach about 1,200 – 2,000 degrees and can cause severe burns. Just because they are legal does not make them safe for use.

It's close to the end of the school year for my household and we are already gearing up for all the summer activities. For most parents and children, there is a shift in routine. It becomes a challenge whether you are figuring out how to balance the hustle of taking your child to sports camps, band camps, additional educational classes, livestock shows, and/or games. There are benefits for the change in routine but, taking a break from school doesn't mean to forget about challenging your brain. Encouraging reading is a great way to keep your child on track with academics.

Preschool children grow and learn at an amazing pace. They can't wait to feel busy, successful, grown-up, and independent. They begin practicing self-help skills at age two during the "me do it myself" stage. Even though this is annoying to adults at times, it paves the way for their development of essential skills for school success.

What are Self-Help Skills?

Self-Help skills are those skills that help a child gain control over his/her body over time. They include:

Screen Time and Young Children

A big thank you to the Illinois Early Learning Project located at the University of Illinois for their partnership, support and permission to share this information on our blog!

"Screen time" refers to time spent using a device (e.g., television, game console, tablet, computer, smart phone). Increasingly, children are spending more time using a screen for learning and entertainment. Adults also are using screens both at work and home. Some children and adults find it difficult to "turn off" their devices.

Decision making While I was attending a dual credit meeting for my daughter, I was thinking about all the decisions that high school juniors and seniors are making. High school students are planning and thinking about their future; if they want to attend a trade school, work at a local business, start their own business, attend a junior college, or enter a four-year university. So, the classes they are required or choosing to take has an impact on their future.

Mark Twain said "Never put off til tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow." As I've been helping my son during his senior year of High School, I have really become aware of what a procrastinator he is – just like me! Most everyone procrastinates sometime. There are different ways to people procrastinate. Some people will delay a task in order to gather more information for completion of the task. In this case, it is not really considered procrastination because you are actively working toward completion of the task.

Originally printed in March of 2017, but thought it would be worthwhile to release again.

The complexity of the human brain is nothing short of amazing. The changes which occur in a baby's brain are significant from the time of conception to three years of age. As a caregiver of a baby, it is your goal to support healthy brain development. Here are a few suggestions to help:

female hand with engagement ring held by another hand

The day you plan, dream and somewhat dread has arrived…your child is getting married! It happened to me just last weekend. With every detail finally in place, my husband walked our daughter down the aisle to begin her new life as a Mrs.

First of all, how in the world did I get this old? It seems as if just yesterday I was changing her diaper and looking for her retainer in the trash can.

After being stuck inside from a bad winter, we often say things like, "I'm suffering from cabin fever", or after being inside all day we might say, "I need some fresh air." As usual, there is some truth to these familiar sayings that we have heard passed down from generation to generation. I hope that with it being summer, we do not find ourselves saying them.

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.

Family mealtimes are a key experience for a family whether they stop and think about it or not. With both parents and children having busy schedules, parents may worry what can they actually accomplish with a sit down meal? The answer is a lot actually.

There are many benefits to eating a sit-down meal together as a family. It offers parents a time to share good habits through modeling healthy nutrition choices as well as a time to teach children table manners.

"My baby has slept through the night since he was 2 weeks old." This is something that all tired parents have heard, longed for, and even envied, yet a peacefully sleeping child seems a far off dream.

Today's blog entry is taken from the award winning Extension series, Your Young Child.

When your child is between 1 and 3 years old, she will probably be interested in everything and everyone, especially if it's new or different.  She will want to be part of whatever you do.  She will try to imitate you.  She will also insist on trying to do many things by herself.  Sometimes she will strongly resist your help.  Here are some common ways that young children explore their world: