Tag: kids

How To Find More Time For Family

Balancing professional responsibilities with commitments at home is challenging for many working parents, the majority of whom admit to feeling stressed about juggling work and family life. A 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center found that 56 percent of working mothers and 50 percent of working fathers find it difficult to balance their personal and professional responsibilities. While the same survey found that only 23 percent of mothers feel they spend too little time with their children, those figures doubled for fathers. Finding more time for family can seem impossible, especially as children get older and get more involved in school and extracurricular activities. Kids growing up and getting more active in school and in their social lives tends to coincide with parents advancing in their careers and taking on more responsibilities at work. But no matter how hectic family schedules become, parents and kids can work together to find more time for one another.

• Commit to nightly family dinners.

Family dinners do more than just ensure kids are eating healthy meals each night. In its “The Importance of Family Dinners VIII” report, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that, compared to teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week, teens who ate dinner with their families five or more times per week were one a half times more likely to say their parents knew a great deal or a fair amount about what’s really going on in their lives. The report also found teens who say their parents know very little or nothing at all about their lives were one and a half times more likely to have used marijuana and one and a half times more likely to have used alcohol than teens who said their parents know a great deal or a fair amount about their lives. Nightly family dinners need not include elaborate meals, but parents who find time to have dinner with their children at least five nights per week may end up knowing their kids better and helping their sons and daughters avoid risky behaviors.

• Inquire with your employer about telecommuting.

Telecommuting can be very family-friendly, allowing parents to cut out potentially lengthy commutes and spend more time with their children as a result. George Washington University in Washington, D.C. cites encouraging a better work-life balance for its employees in support of its telecommuting policy. The university notes that employees who have a better balance between their personal and professional lives may benefit from reduced stress and stronger overall health, which benefits the university by reducing healthcare costs. Parents who want to find more time for their families should inquire about telecommuting. Even if it’s just one or two days a week, the benefits can be considerable for both employee and employer.

• Move closer to work.

Commuting consumes a considerable amount of time. In its 2015 ThankYou Premier Commuter Index, Citi found that the average commute in the United States is 45 minutes, and that those commutes cost workers nearly $2,600 per year. By moving closer to their offices, workers can instantly create more time for their families and potentially save themselves considerable amounts of money. Parents need not reinvent the wheel to find more time for their family, which can greatly benefit kids and parents alike.

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How to Make School Lunch Healthier

The benefits of a healthy diet are clear and well documented. In addition to providing the nutrients a growing body needs, consuming a balanced diet helps children maintain a healthy weight. Obesity continues to be a growing problem among school-aged children and can contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and many other adverse medical conditions.

Children attending school will eat at least one meal away from home each day. A healthy lunch provides sound nutrition to give students energy to do well in school and for the rest of the day. Children who do not eat well at lunch may have difficulty concentrating, while others may feel sluggish or tired.

As part of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the United States National School Lunch Program was revised to guarantee healthy, nutritionally sound choices, as established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for lunch. America’s school menus were altered to be healthier than ever, including more fruits and vegetables while limiting calories. Despite some controversy through the years, including some students saying the smaller portions and food choices aren’t always satisfying, states suffering from high child obesity rates have seen marked improvements.

Canada is one of the few leading industrialized countries that does not have a national nutrition strategy to implement healthy school lunches. It’s estimated that only 10 to 15 percent of Canadian children have access to school meals. These meals are not provided by a well-funded national program, but by a patchwork of individual volunteer efforts, some provincial government funding and corporate donations.

Whether students purchase lunch from school or bring lunch from home, there are ways to guarantee a more diverse offering and better nutrition. Here are some guidelines to follow.

* Offer nutrient-dense foods. Foods should contribute to the daily recommended amounts of protein, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Provide a selection of foods, such as lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, that will give children the nutrients they need. Nutrient-dense foods also help kids feel fuller, longer.

* Limit fat intake. Avoid foods that do not get their fat from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Saturated fats can lead to obesity and clogged arteries. The American Heart Association recommends kids get no more than 25 to 35 percent of their calories from fat. Fish, nuts and olives are healthy fat sources.

* Let kids choose some of their food. Allow kids to pick some of the healthy foods they will be eating. Giving kids a say in their diets will make them more likely to enjoy their lunches and cut back on snack foods. Eating meals regularly will keep energy levels up during school and make kids less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks to fill hunger gaps.

* Make small changes that add up. Switching from white bread to whole grain breads, and opting for low-fat dairy products instead of full-fat dairy products can make a world of difference. Kids may not notice a change in texture or flavor, and many of kids’ favorite foods, such as chicken nuggets, pizza and macaroni and cheese, can be made with healthier ingredients.

* Remember, beverages count, too. Giving children a healthy lunch and then packing a sugar-filled, high-calorie drink negates your efforts. Calories from beverages can quickly add up. Water is always the best option for a healthy drink. Low-fat milk and real fruit juice consumed in moderation also make healthy alternatives to sugary beverages.

Offering healthy school lunches is an important step to raising healthy kids. New guidelines and offerings make it easier for kids to get the nutrition they need for their growing bodies.

Recognize & Avoid Youth Sports Injuries

Children benefit in various ways from their involvement in youth sports. Being part of a team fosters feelings of belonging, inspires collaborative play and strategy and can be an excellent form of exercise. Still, despite the benefits, parents often worry about the injury risk their children face on the playing fields.

Those fears are justified. A Safe Kids Worldwide survey of emergency room visits found that a young athlete visits a hospital emergency room for a sports-related injury more than a million times a year, or about every 25 seconds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 2.6 million children 0 to 19 years old are treated in the emergency department each year for sports- and recreation-related injuries.

Some of the more common injuries young children face have to do with the skeletal and muscular systems of the body. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons stresses that children’s bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are still growing, making them more susceptible to injury. Fortunately, with some education, many youth-sport injuries can be prevented.

Sprains and strains

Sprains are injuries to ligaments, or the bands of tough, fibrous tissue that connect two or more bones at a joint. Strains impact a muscle or a tendon, which connects muscles to bones. Clinical research has linked acute strains and sprains to improper warm-up before sports, fatigue and previous injuries. Preparticipation conditioning and stretching can help reduce the risk of injury.

Periostitis

Periostitis is commonly known as “shin splints.” This is an overuse injury that occurs in athletes who are engaged in activities that involve rapid deceleration. Periostitis causes inflammation of the band of tissue that surrounds bones known as the periosteum, and typically affects people who repetitively jump, run or lift heavy weights.

To head off potential pain in the shins, young athletes can gradually build up their tolerance for physical activity. Supportive shoes or orthotic inserts may also help. Incorporating cross-training into a regimen also can work.

Repetitive use activities

Swimmers, tennis players, pitchers, and quarterbacks may experience something called a repetitive use injury. This is pain in an area of the body that is used over and over again. Inflammation of muscles and tendons may appear, but repetitive use injuries also may result in stress fractures, which the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases defines as hairline fractures in bones that are subjected to repeated stress.

Rest between exercises can help alleviate these types of injuries. Ice, compression, elevation and immobilization may be used if pain is persistent.

Growth plate injuries

Kids Health says growth plates are the areas of growing tissue near the ends of the long bones in the legs and arms in children and adolescents. A growth plate produces new bone tissue. If the growth plate is injured, it cannot do its job properly. That may contribute to deformed bones, shorter limbs or arthritis. Growth plate injuries most often result from falling or twisting.

While there’s no surefire way to prevent growth plate injuries, getting proper and immediate care after an injury can help prevent future problems. An orthopedic surgeon has the expertise to diagnose and treat these injuries.

Youth sports injuries are common but preventable. Warming up, being in good physical shape and not overtaxing a growing body can help kids avoid pain and impairment.

How to Spur Kids’ Interest in the Arts

Art can enrich the lives of people young and old, male and female. The arts can introduce adults and children to different cultures and traditions, while also helping them to develop more fully as human beings.

While some may feel the benefits of the arts cannot be measured, the nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts notes that kids who are involved in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement than kids who are not involved in the arts. And though mathematics and science may not be the first thing people associate with the arts, kids involved in the arts are four times more likely to participate in math and science fairs than kids who are not involved in the arts.

Parents can do a lot to make art a bigger part of their kids’ lives. The following are some simple ways parents can bring more art into their kids’ lives, courtesy of Americans for the Arts.

· Join in the fun. Parents can make art more fun for kids by playing music around the house and singing and dancing alongside their youngsters. In addition, read a book to or with your children and join in when they pursue other artistic endeavors, such as drawing or painting.

· Find local events. Many school districts have slashed their arts budgets in recent years, but parents can still find local arts events for kids in their communities. Peruse the local newspaper and other community-based periodicals for cultural events for kids. Support local theater groups by attending performances with your children and explaining to them that the performers live in the community just like they do.

· Pitch in with local arts organizations. Local arts organizations typically rely on donations and volunteers to support their programs. Parents who want to instill a love of the arts in their children can help local organizations’ fundraising efforts and even volunteer their time if the opportunity presents itself. If possible, take kids along when volunteering so they can get some firsthand experience with the arts.

· Encourage kids’ artistic pursuits. Some kids may decide to pursue artistic endeavors on their own, and parents can encourage such pursuits. Celebrate kids’ participation in arts-based activities in school and in the community, recognizing their hard work in the same way you would acknowledge their successes in the classroom and in sports.

The arts can benefit youngsters in various ways, but it’s often up to parents to instill a love of the arts in their children.


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How to Save on School Supplies

Back to school season can be as expensive for parents as it is exciting for students. Once the initial letdown of the end of summer vacation wears off, many kids are excited to return to school, where they can see their friends, study their favorite subjects and participate in extracurricular activities.

Parents of school-aged youngsters may share in that excitement while also knowing that back to school season can stretch their budgets. One of the ways to salvage those budgets is to save on school supplies. Fortunately, there are several ways parents can do just that.

· Be patient. Shopping early can save shoppers money in many instances, but parents may benefit by exercising patience when it comes to buying school supplies for their children. Teachers often give students lists of supplies they will need for each class, and parents who wait to receive such lists can avoid spending money on items their kids won’t need. Even if you wait it out, you may be able to get a head start, as some teachers may post supply lists on school websites, while others might email lists to parents before back to school season hits full swing.

· Take inventory. If you have more than one child, chances are you already have lots of school supplies around the house. Dust off kids’ backpacks and study areas from last school year to determine which supplies you need to buy and which you already have. Going forward, encourage kids to store their supplies in a predetermined area once the school year ends, as this will make next year’s inventory that much easier to examine and assess.

· Spend more now to save later. While inexpensive supplies can be hard to resist, such items likely won’t withstand the test of time, forcing you to spend time and money each year buying replacement supplies. Paying more now for certain items, including stronger backpacks and more highly rated calculators, may end up saving you money in the long run, even if the initial pill is somewhat tough to swallow.

· Use technology to your advantage. Department stores and businesses that sell school supplies, such as pharmacies and office stores, may or may not discount too many items once back to school season hits full swing. But savvy parents can still find deals by using technology to their advantage when shopping for school supplies. Download apps like RetailMeNot to your smartphone and enable its updates so your phone essentially notifies you of any discounts the moment you walk into a given store. If you don’t receive any updates, search for discounts via the app or the Internet as you shop. Chances are strong that there are deals to be had, even if you don’t learn of the deals until you arrive at the store.

School supplies can be expensive, but parents can employ several strategies to save on school supplies now and in the future.


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Creative Ways to Cut College Costs

The cost of college tuition continues to increase, and college graduates are feeling the burn of that trend when the time comes to begin repaying their student loans.

According to an analysis from higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Cappex, an online resource for students seeking college scholarships, members of the class of 2016 will graduate with an average student loan debt of just over $37,000. That projection, which was based on federal student loan data and variables including tuition inflation, would be an all-time high. Things are not much better in Canada, where the 2015 Graduating Student Survey by the Canadian University Survey Consortium estimated the average member of the class of 2015 graduated with $27,000 in debt.

Though many prospective college students are beginning to question if college degrees are worth taking on the kind of debt many students must take on to continue their educations after high school, statistics still indicate that college graduates have far greater lifetime earning potential than men and women who enter the professional arena with only high school diplomas.

So what can prospective college students do to avoid graduating without tens of thousands of dollars in debt? The answer might not be so difficult.

· Apply to tuition-free schools. Many students and parents might be surprised to learn that there are several tuition-free schools. Admittance to these schools is competitive, but students considering equally competitive, high-tuition alternatives might make strong candidates for admission to tuition-free schools.

· Apply to fixed-tuition schools. If tuition-free schools are not an option, students can save money by applying for admittance to fixed-tuition schools. Such schools guarantee that the tuition students pay in their freshman year will not increase during the ensuing three years. (Note: Tuition may increase if a student needs a fifth year of schooling.) That can lead to considerable savings, as many schools’ tuitions increase dramatically in just four years.

· Begin at a two-year college. Two-year colleges typically charge considerably lower tuitions than four-year colleges and universities. Students who want to save money may benefit by enrolling in a two-year college out of high school and getting all of their prerequisite courses out of the way at a more budget-friendly cost. When considering this option, make sure credits at the two-year college fully transfer to the four-year school students hope to enroll in after earning their associate’s degrees.

· Remain in-state for undergraduate degrees. In-state tuition at public universities remains a considerable bargain over out-of-state tuition or tuition at private universities. Students planning to do postgraduate work might benefit by enrolling in in-state public universities and saving their money to finance their postgraduate educations. Students who hope to attend a public university in a state that borders their home state may be eligible for a border waiver, which grants them in-state tuition even though they attended high school outside of the state.

Attending college has never been more expensive, but students and their parents can explore various options that can help reduce the cost of college tuition.


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Why Music Education Matters

Come the 2016-2017 school year, the music and arts budget in the Los Angeles Unified School District will reach its highest point in a dozen years. While that’s great news for students, it also illustrates the sad fact that arts and music programs have taken a considerable hit in recent decades, when arts education fell victim to budget cuts.

The benefits of music education extend far beyond getting kids to tap their toes. The National Association for Music Education lists the following benefits among the many reasons to support music education in schools.

· Music training helps develop language skills. Studies have shown that music training contributes to the physical development of the part of the left side of the brain associated with processing language. A 2005 study from researchers at Stanford University found that mastering a musical instrument may also improve reading skills, which can benefit students both inside and outside the classroom.

· Music training can improve hand-eye coordination. Studies have linked long-term music training to improved hand-eye coordination. That is likely connected to the motor skills children develop when playing musical instruments. Without those instruments, those motor skills may not develop as strongly.

· Music improves concentration. Even students who cannot play a musical instrument can still benefit academically from simply listening to music. In 2007, a research team from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention. Today’s students deal with numerous distractions, from smartphones to tablets to social media, but those who routinely listen to certain types of music might find it easier to block out those distractions and focus on their work.

· Music can help students’ emotional development. A 2003 study commissioned by Chorus America found musicians are more likely than the average person to be involved in charity work as volunteers and donors. The NAfME also notes that music students may be more likely to exhibit empathy toward other cultures.

· Music can improve self-esteem. In a study examining 117 fourth grade students attending public school in Montreal, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin found that children who received piano lessons weekly for three years had higher self-esteem than children who were not given piano lessons during the same period. Neither group had participated in formal music instruction before the study, and students in both groups reported similar levels of self-esteem prior to participating in the study.

Music education can enrich the lives of young students in a myriad of ways, potentially contributing to happier, more fulfilling lives.


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Help Kids Get Ready for Fall Sports Season

Summer is a season of relaxation, especially for school-aged children who are not yet old enough to work. Such youngsters no doubt enjoy the chance to spend summer days lounging poolside or at the beach, all without a care in the world or any homework to complete.

Though summer is synonymous with R&R, parents of young athletes who hope to compete in scholastic athletics when the school year begins in autumn may need to take steps to ensure their kids aren’t at risk of injury once the curtain comes up on fall sports season.

· Examine and replace equipment if necessary. The right equipment can protect kids from injury and help them realize their full athletic potential. But damaged or outdated equipment can increase kids’ risk of injury. Examine kids’ equipment long before fall sports season begins so you have time to bargain hunt should anything need to be replaced.

· Schedule a physical for your child. Many school districts mandate that athletes receive and pass physicals before they can compete. Speak with the athletic director at your child’s school to learn the guidelines that govern athletic physicals. The physical will need to be conducted by a predetermined date, but you may also need the physical to be conducted after a certain date for it to be considered valid. Speak with your child’s physician if any problems are found during the physical.

· Let kids heal. Kids’ schedules are busier than ever before, and many youngsters play several sports during the school year. Summer vacation may be the only extended period all year that youngsters’ bodies get to heal. While it’s important that kids stay physically active throughout the summer, make sure they don’t overdo it, as you should emphasize the importance of rest.

· Gradually get back in the swing of things. While rest gives kids’ bodies a chance to heal and develop, it’s important that young athletes stay in shape over the summer. As the fall sports season draws near, help kids gradually get back in the swing of things. Tryouts tend to be physically demanding, so kids who have not lifted a finger all summer may be at risk of injury or missing the cut. Let kids ease back into regular exercise to make sure they are not starting from scratch come their first tryout.

· Speak with coaches. Coaches can be great assets to parents who want to make sure their youngsters enjoy the summer without sacrificing their chances of making the team in the fall. Speak with kids’ coaches to determine if there is any area your son or daughter can work on over the summer to improve his or her chances of making the team. Make sure kids are the ones leading the charge to improve their games; otherwise, they may feel pressured into doing so and that can take away the fun of playing sports.

Scholastic athletes should take advantage of the opportunity to relax and recover that summer presents. But athletes who hope to compete in the fall can still work with their parents to ensure they’re ready once the school year and sports season begins.


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Make a Lunch Kids Will Devour

Children can be picky eaters, making it challenging for parents to find foods their kids will consume. Family dinners are challenging enough, but lunches kids will love can be even more difficult to come by.

Parents can prepare lunches kids are certain to devour by thinking outside of the traditional lunch box. Using some creativity and building off of kids’ favorite foods is the key.

Make it miniature

Mini versions of kids’ favorite foods can be entertaining and entice children to try things they normally wouldn’t. If it’s fun-sized, it can be swallowed in one bite. Think about mini sandwiches cut into fun shapes with a cookie cutter. Or use little condiment cups to hold chicken salad, soup or yogurt.

Offer variety

Give kids a bit of a buffet inside of their lunches. This way, if something isn’t tickling their taste buds, they still have other healthy options at the ready. This technique also ensures that kids will not get hungry after skipping meals. Lunch buffets do not have to be complicated. Include half of a sandwich, a piece of fruit or an applesauce cup, some trail mix, and a granola bar. Look for complex carbohydrates and protein so that little bellies will feel full.

Go with what works

If a child really enjoyed the previous night’s dinner, offer up a repeat for lunch the next day. Some schools have a microwave where hot foods can be reheated. If that’s not available, invest in a thermos or a durable, insulated container that can keep the foods at a comfortable temperature. Lunchtime at school occurs not too far into the day, and it’s feasible that food can still be warm if heated right before leaving the house.

Sneak in some nutrition

If kids are bound to eat the same thing over and over again, mix it up in subtle ways. Add a slice of tomato to a plain cheese sandwich and serve it on whole-wheat bread for added nutrition. Blend cauliflower into mac-and-cheese so it’s barely noticeable. Add flavor to lunch meats with a piece of bacon. Bake up nutritious cereal bars on your own that pack a nutritious punch and could have pureed fruit as the base.

Breakfast for lunch

Most kids go ga-ga over breakfast foods. Use that to your advantage, sending them in with egg-bacon-cheese bagel sandwiches, or some cereal to which they can add milk bought from the cafeteria. Thin pancakes can be rolled and stuffed with fruit in a crêpe style that makes for a tempting treat.

Rely on school lunch

School lunches shouldn’t be dismissed. When the pantry and refrigerator simply aren’t offering up the right inspiration, let children try something provided by their schools. They may like the menu, and that will save you time and effort in the morning. Plus, many school lunches are designed to be nutritionally balanced.

Picky eaters frequently make meal creation challenging. However, with some ingenuity, kids’ lunches can be enjoyed and savored.


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How to Get & Keep Your Finances in Order

In 2015, analysts with the Government Accountability Office found that the average American between the ages of 55 and 64 had accrued roughly $104,000 in retirement savings, a shockingly low figure that would make it very difficult for men and women nearing retirement to maintain their quality of life into their golden years. Things don’t look much better north of the border, where the 2015 Global Investor Pulse Survey from the asset management firm BlackRock found that the average Canadian in the same age group had amassed an average of just $125,000.

While many people fear retiring with small nest eggs, that fear has apparently not been enough to inspire men and women to commit to saving more money for their golden years. But retirement saving is essential, especially since life expectancies are rising. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, global life expectancies at birth are expected to rise to 76 years by the mid-21st century. That’s a far cry from the mid-20th century, when global life expectancy from birth was roughly 48 years.

Longer life expectancies mean men and women will have to find ways to make their money last throughout their retirement. The earlier adults figure out how to keep their finances in order, the more money they will have when the time comes to retire. The following are a handful of strategies men and women can employ to rein in their finances in the hopes of saving more for retirement.

· Review your finances at least once per month. Hectic schedules or fear of the financial unknown make it easy for adults to ignore their finances for long stretches of time. But adults should review their financial situation at least once per month, examining how they are spending their money and if there are any ways to cut costs and redirect dollars going out into their retirement accounts. Redirecting as little as $100 per month into a retirement account can add up to a substantial amount of money over time.

· Pay monthly bills immediately. Many adults receive monthly bills for utilities, rent/mortgage, phone, and television/Internet. If you have the money in your account, pay these bills the moment you receive them. Doing so is a great way to avoid overspending on other items, such as dining out or shopping trips, and then finding yourself scrambling to pay bills come their due dates. Once all the monthly bills have been paid and you have deposited money into your savings/retirement accounts, then you can spend any leftover money on nights out on the town or new clothes if you feel the need.

· Buy only what you can afford. It sounds simple, but many adults would have far more in their retirement accounts if they simply avoided buying items they cannot afford. According to a 2015 Harris Poll conducted on behalf of NerdWallet, the average credit card debt per indebted American household in 2015 was $15,762.07. Adults who want to get their finances in order and start saving more for retirement should put the plastic away and only make purchases with cash or debit cards that take money directly out of their bank accounts once the card is swiped.

· Downsize. Downsizing is another way to free up more money for retirement savings. Empty nesters can save money by downsizing to a smaller home or even an apartment. Drivers who no longer need room for the whole family can downsize from SUVs or minivans to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Adults also may be able to downsize their entertainment, switching from costly cable packages to basic plans or cutting the cord entirely and subscribing to more affordable streaming services.

Getting a grip on spending can help adults save more for retirement and ensure their golden years are not compromised by lack of funds.


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