Moms & Dads: Stories, tips, and advice on raising your kids from South Florida parents | Sun Sentinel blogs

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November 28, 2008

I'm glad Broward schools require service hours

Contributed by Cindy Kent, SunSentinel.com

Every holiday I count my blessings. I know how lucky I am. It's a cliché, I know. But I am truly appreciative. Not everyone is so fortunate. And many people count on the good will of others and their volunteerism within the community to get help.

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It's a great feeling to pass it forward. And it's something I am looking forward to my son doing as part of his requirements for high school graduation.

In Broward County, students who wish to earn a Standard Diploma must meet the graduation requirement of 40 service learning hours plus a written reflection.

My son, who will be entering high school next year, will begin to participate in the Broward County Public School's Service Learning and Volunteer Service Program.

He can simply accrue the required volunteer hours needed for graduation, or he can go the extra mile by working beyond the requirements.

There's a lot of need in our community - and a lot of opportunity. And if your child is about to enter the brave new world of public high school in Broward County, he or she just may end up alongside my son as they better the lives of others!

CLICK HERE for more about the volunteer program.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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November 26, 2008

Students at Broward, Palm schools write cards to U.S. troops

Students at Broward County schools sent holiday cards to U.S. troops in Afghanistan this week, with the help of U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton.ushouselogo.gif

Klein got kids from these schools in Broward to create cards and write notes to the military personnel: Norcrest Elementary School, Winston Park Elementary School, Park Springs Elementary School, Eagle Ridge Elementary, McNab Elementary, Country Hills Elementary School, Coral Springs Elementary School, Harbordale Elementary School, Coral Springs Middle School, Bayview Elementary School, Park Trails Elementary School.

And kids at these schools in Palm Beach County: Palm Beach County: Conniston Community Middle School, Palmetto Elementary, Palm Springs Middle School, N. Palm Beach Country Elementary, S. Olive Elementary, Howell L. Watkins Middle School, Palm Springs Elementary School, Lake Worth Middle School, Jupiter Elementary School, Royal Palm Beach High School, Boca Verde, Orchard View Elementary School, Boca Raton Middle School.

“This program helps the next generation of Americans understand the importance of military service and support for our veterans,” Klein said in a news release. “I am so proud of the thousands of students who took the time to make cards, write notes and share their personal thanks with the military men and women serving in Afghanistan this holiday season.”

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Holidays (49)

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Don't fear the fever

So fevers aren’t to be feared?

I love this kind of stuff -- debunking accepted wisdom. Here’s how “What to Expect: The Toddler Years,” puts it: “It appears that higher body temperatures help the immune system to fight infection and that some microorganisms are unable to thrive at these elevated temperatures.” Even temperatures as high as 106 do no permanent damage, the authors quote scientists as saying. Fevers, they say, are a way for the body to protect itself.
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Our 1-year-old has had fever spikes lately, and it’s startling to see those numbers rise above 100. But it’s reassuring to know body reacts on its own to a virus, even if we reach immediately for the Children’s Tylenol. “What to Expect,” for example, goes on to say that fever may lower iron levels, “while increasing the invaders’ need for that mineral – in effect, starving them.” Fascinating. There’s more, so read up.

This seems to be part of a trend. It’s like the rediscovery of the swaddle for babies. Or people realizing the benefits of breast milk over formula. It’s as if we’ve had a collective recognition of “oh, yeah, this stuff is there for a reason.”

This is not an argument to ignore a kid’s temperature (and there are exceptions, such as heat illness, to this). Clearly, there’s something going on the when the numbers rise. But what’s misplaced is the automatic alarm I grew up with about fevers. I always assumed that once a fever hits, then you’re really sick. Turns out the opposite might be true.

POSTED IN: Health (111), Matthew Strozier (59)

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Thanksgiving Day activities for kids

If you don't want to referee fights over the TV, the PSP2, the dolls while putting the finishing touches on that bird, direct the rugrats to entertain themselves (quietly) with the following:

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Have them create a wacky Thanksgiving tale in the style of Mad-Lib

Let them watch tiki huts catch fire and other cooking disasters.

Have them pick which TV marathon the family will watch (after the feast).

Let them figure out how much exercise will need to be done after eating the stuffing and pie with our calorie calculator (Note: If beer is chosen, the recommended exercise is of a mature nature.)

Have them vote on the Worst Holiday Album Covers.

And for an old-school treat: Have them write on index cards what they are most grateful for this year. The thank-ful notes can be read just before dessert.


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Can daily sex improve our marriages?

I love the Rev. Ed Young's acronym for KIDS: Keeping Intimacy at a Distance Successfully. edyoung.jpg

Young, pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, created the "Seven Days of Sex" program, in which he encourages his churchgoers to have sex every day for a week. He promises it will improve their relationships. There's a branch of Young's church in South Miami.

Young says kids are often used as an excuse for couples not to have sex. This is not news to anyone who is married, although few want to admit it. It takes a lot of work to maintain an intimate life in the face of jobs, house payments, a sour economy, whining kids and a million other commitments.

So I think Young, pictured here with his wife, is on to something with this "sexperiment," as he calls it. It will be interesting to see if it leads to a happier congregation or even more divorces.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Lois Solomon (211)

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November 25, 2008

Santa Claus in the digital world

Taking a (digital) page from kids these days, the man in red is accepting e-mailed Christmas lists.

Have your kid e-mail in his/her list and we'll publish it online, and possibly, in the paper.

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Oh, and tell us what's the craziest gift your kid lobbied for (a Rolex, a pony??)

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Parents of high schoolers can get answers at Nova

Navigating your high school students' academic path to college can be daunting.

Nova High School is offering a "parent university'' where you can find out about high school graduation requirements, choosing a college wisely, financial aid and scholarship opportunities, SAT and ACT information and expectations of AP and Honors.

It's open to parents in the Broward County public school system, on Dec. 13, which is a Saturday, from 8:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at Nova High School, 3600 College Ave. in Davie.

For more information call 754 323-1650.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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When parents get too friendly, bad things happen

When I was a teen-ager, one couple in town would throw big beer keg parties at their house. They had two sons. I think they reasoned that they knew their sons were going to be drinking alcohol, and this way they at least knew their kids were safe at home and under their beerkeg.jpg
supervision.

Cheers!

Parenting is hard; sometimes you think you have a novel approach to parenting that is quite genius. And later you look back on it and realize what a dope you were.

I don't know if they regret their irresponsible approach to underage drinking. Turns out they no longer have either son, because one died of leukemia when we were young, and the other is in prison on a life sentence for murdering his wife. So who am I to second guess the way they spent their limited quality time with their sons?

But it's always at the back of a parent's mind, wondering how friendly we should be with our kids. It's easier to be your kid's friend than their parent, that's for sure. And we want our kids to like us, don't we?

I was on MySpace the other day wondering if I should try to get my son's friends to add me to their friend lists. I wanted to be able to read their pages, and that content was only available to those they've agreed are their friends.

Then I read this story in our paper saying that my idea was terrible.

It's not the same as offering beer to my son's friends, but I had to reluctantly agree that it would be creepy for someone's mom to try to "friend'' them online. Ew.

There's something desperate about a parent stooping down to the social level of teens. But you sure would find out a lot.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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November 24, 2008

MySpace cadets: how safe are they?

I recently filed an article for SunSentinel.com about MySpace safety. Here's how it started:

Do you know who all your kids' friends are? Do your kids know?

Attorney General Bill McCollum is betting they don't, and that's just one of the challenges parents and children face when it comes to Internet safety.

"I go into a school and ask a class full of children whether they have MySpace pages," McCollum said. "They all have them, from sixth grade up. And I've never been to a school where there wasn't at least one student with more than 400 'friends.'"

Parents and children need to view friend lists on social networking sites with suspicion, McCollum said. "They call these people friends, but they don't know them."

Read the rest of the article here.

netsafe.bmpI'm a little bit worried about the amount of time our girls spend on MySpace, but mostly grateful that they both had the wisdom to set their pages to private so that they can only be viewed by their friends. The real issue, as far as I see it, is the fact that they have hundreds of MySpace friends.

McCollum's warning struck a chord with me as a parent, and I remember asking the girls if they personally knew everyone on their friend list. They insisted they did, but I have a confession: I didn't follow through. I didn't sit with them and go through their list, profile by profile, to make sure they knew everyone they were befriending. Should I? Would you?

Test your kids' MySpace knowledge

I did want to pass on something helpful I stumbled on: The Kim Komando radio show put up a decent MySpace dummy page showing potential safety issues raised by the posting of private information. If you click on that banner above, it'll open that site in a new window. You may be surprised at how easy it is for your kids to post information that makes them vulnerable.

There's something else on that site, too: a "Ten Commandments" for kids online. It has you and your kids promising communication and cooperation when it comes to Web surfing.

Novel concept.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda (59), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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November 21, 2008

The swim coach, child porn charges and some practical advice

I just wanted to put some thoughts up here from my perspective -- both as a sports coach myself and the father of a swimmer -- regarding the youth swim coach arrested on charges of possessing child pornography and saying he had had relationships with minors.

caragol.jpg1. There's a fine line between talking with your child and spooking him or her, but I suggest starting a conversation with your child about all kinds of adults and situations. Are there times when your child is alone with an adult? If so, does the door stay open or is there a window? (As a coach, I never do one-on-ones in private spaces with an athlete. There's either another coach or another child, or we sit in the bleachers.) [Previously on transPARENT: Talking to children about sexual abuse]

2. If your child plays sports, band or other activities, make sure you don't take them to practice too early or leave them too late. This is actually more courtesy and respect for the coach than anything else, but in almost every case, there really shouldn't be a situation where an adult is left alone for a long time with a child. (Note: In the swim coach case, there has been no claim announced that he was involved with any of his students.)

3. Whenever you sign your child up for an activity, ask what kind of background checks your league runs. And if they don't run any, at least punch your coach's name in the Broward Clerk of Courts or the Palm Beach County Clerk of Courts web site.

POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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Save the Date! Shop for a Broward magnet school Dec. 3

Contributed by Cindy Kent, SunSentinel.com

My son has attracted magnet schools in the area. Along with fellow students, he will be visiting one school and another will be visiting his.

It's obvious there are some great resources available to public school students. A lot of time, energy and passion goes into teaching our children. I truly respect education professionals. The magnet programs allow students to get a taste of interesting careers and jobs through science, medicine, environmental studies, arts, sports and so much more.

So we're taking a field trip of our own.

We'll be going to the Magnet Showcase, Wednesday, Dec. 3rd, at the Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. We’ll see over 40 Broward County public schools highlight their magnet programs. Demonstrations and interactive displays will educate parents and students about their specialized programs.

But it won't be just a free show for my son. I expect his participation and feedback. It's about him buying into the next step, the next level in his job as a student. It's his opportunity to experience this as a mini career fair. He has to take notes. Even though we are supposed to bring his report card and test scores, I am requiring him to bring a pad and pen. I’m going to ask lots of questions and collect material about the programs. But I also expect him to ask questions too and engage in conversation.

To view a video about choosing a magnet program, and get more information about the upcoming Dec. 3rd Magnet Showcase go to browardschoolsmagnetprograms.com or call 745-321-2380.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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November 20, 2008

Getting ready for Voluntary Pre-K, Aaaargh!

We just started researching pre-K for my three-year-old Ana Isabel.
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Talk about daunting. There's hundreds of programs out there. So we've started by asking for recommendations from friends. We plan to visit some sites. And then we turned to the Internet.

That's when I came across the State of Florida Department of Education Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Program Provider Kindergarten Readiness Rate Website.

A mouthful, for sure. But basically it rates VPK programs. It measures how well VPK providers prepare children for kindergarten using state standards.

You can check out one program, all providers in a city or the entire state for that matter.

I did a quick check of those that were recommended to us. It raised a question or two about one. But we'll still visit, ask those question and then make a decision.

Just for fun, I downloaded all the VPK providers in Broward and Palm Beach counties and then did a quick ranking.

The top score, or readiness rate, is 300, That means 100 percent of the students in that program were deemed ready for kindergarten. Those programs with low scores are required to provide an improvement plan to the state. And some programs, while listed, didn't have enough students for the state to measure.

Take a look. See how the program where you send your kid, or want to send or kid, did.

Broward County Palm Beach County

If nothing else, it's a starting point for questions for your VPK provider.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Luis Perez (32), Pre-K (25), Toddler (127)

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November 19, 2008

My kids will take cooking lessons this winter break

I used to send my kids to local camps over winter break so they could do something constructive while I was at work.cookingschool.jpg

But now that they are in the double digits, they groan at the idea of another organized activity. Fortunately I found something fun for them to do and they have actually agreed to it.

Publix has opened a cooking school in Boca Raton called Apron's. They are doing a Kids' Survivors Camp Dec. 29 and 30, in which kids can learn some basic recipes and cooking skills.

How could they say no to learning to make (and eat) pretzels, blondies, brownies, empanadas and churros?

Cost is $70. For more information, click here.

POSTED IN: Food (56), Lois Solomon (211)

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November 18, 2008

Cheap groceries: Part II

I blogged recently about whether we should join Costco. The response was surprisingly strong - maybe even a tad heated. The lengths people take to save money on groceries made me look like a slacker.

Anyway, we plunked down our $50 recently and entered the bounty that is Costco. The shopping experience was not among my favorites – those big carts are hard to negotiate – but we found some bulk items worth the effort. That said, here’s what I learned: there’s little room for error at this place. One of our sons insisted he would eat Honey Nut Cheerios, and persuaded us to buy a big box. He later took one bite and declared them too sweet.

Then I stumbled upon this item in New York magazine. The magazine took a family – mom and dad and two kids – and compared how their weekly grocery purchases would come out at three different grocers and a Costco. Anyway, Costco did very well. Take a look.

There’s an important caveat at the end, though. Make sure you read that. Because when it comes to Costco, the devil is in the quantity. Or, for us, in a huge box of Honey Nut Cheerios.

POSTED IN: Food (56), Matthew Strozier (59)

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Busy working moms in Boca set up website

I know I'm not alone when I say that working moms are some of the hardest workers in this country. And yet we're not lauded for all that work. We're not like firemen whose alternate label is "American Hero.'' Instead, there's some kind of unspoken distaste out there, still, for those of us who aren't at home cutting the crust off of our kids' peanut butter and homemade jam sandwiches.

A couple of working moms in Boca Raton set up a website for us. Ironically, it will require your time and effort to look at it. As if you have any left!

That's why it's taken me a couple of months to actually pull it up and share it with you. Sorry about that. I had lots of laundry to do, had to pick my son up from football, my daughter's school needed a speaker for Career Day, I had to work late on a story, my husband was hungry for lasagna, I was bidding on some Christmas presents online, my friend said I was neglecting her, we lost the 'Strawberry Shortcake' DVD we rented from the library so I had to ransack the house to find it, the political blog at work was desperately in need of another post, I had to help our new TV partners on a story, and I decided to take up jogging.

Here's the website: www.workingmomlifeline.com.

It's a fun website, with some tips on saving time, some advice, and some stuff designed to make you laugh. I got a chuckle out of the mom who was a pothead, whose daughter walked in on her cloud of cannibas. That probably wasn't one of the items on this website designed to draw a chuckle. Oh well.

This "worst slogan translation,'' however was designed to be funny:

The Dairy Association's huge success with the campaign "Got Milk?" prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention the Spanish translation read "Are You Lactating?"

Good stuff. Check it out.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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November 17, 2008

Grease v. High School Musical: A parent's view

Say this for the wholesome teens of Disney’s “High School Musical” franchise: there are worse things they could do.

HSM.bmp At first glance, there’s not much difference between the halls of East Side High and those of Rydell High, the school attended by the students of “Grease.” Each school has impossibly bubbly teens who break out into song with little warning. And somehow, everyone knows the words to every song, along with the accompanying dance moves.

But the similarities pretty much end there, especially if you’re a parent. I think if my mom and dad had really listened to the lyrics of the “Grease” soundtrack, they would have banned it from my house. Oh, sure, “Summer Nights” was harmless enough on the surface (although when Danny said “She was good, you know what I mean,” I didn’t). But did you ever listen to the lyrics of “Greased Lightning”? How on earth did we get away with playing that song and dancing to it in the presence of our parents?

Grease.jpg Ah, but in the late 1970s, Grease really was the word, wasn’t it? It had groove. It had feeling. It had… well, it had a little bit more than young children should see and hear, no? Because Grease really wasn’t a high school musical. It strikes me that Grease was produced in the 1970s for people in their 30s who were in high school during the 1950s. With a wink and a nod, it mocked truly clueless adults along with the unrealistic expectations of wholesome perfection. We all knew what Troy Donahue wanted to do. And when Rizzo was in trouble, we worried with her.

What was the message of Grease, anyway? Was it that you need to be a floozie (or just look like one) to get your man or to fit in? Or was it that you need not be ashamed of your sexuality?

And what is the message of High School Musical? Looks to me like the message is to be true to yourself and to your friends, and have a little fun in the process. They are a wholesome bunch, aren’t they? Even the villainess of the piece, Sharpay, ends up being so darned nice when all is sung and done.

The world of High School Musical is an innocent one, a world free of cynicism, a world that almost screams, “please, let kids be kids just a little while longer!”

Here’s the big difference: HSM is for people looking forward to high school. Grease is for people looking back on it.

Or maybe I’m just thinking too hard. As a stepparent to two teenage girls, I hope you'll forgive me forgive me for applauding HSM a little more than Grease. At least while my girls are still kids.

Go Wildcats!

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Rafael Olmeda (59), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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November 14, 2008

Middle class families break the bank for pre-K

Contributed by Akilah Johnson, SunSentinel.com

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Is there a Florida Prepaid for pre-K?

Parents can send their 4-year-olds to three hours of free pre-K per day during the school year, but they still have to shell out big bucks so their kids can spend the rest of the day learning their ABCs and 123s.

So they can probably relate to a new study by Pre-K Now, which found that early childhood education is breaking the piggy banks of middle-class families across the country. The study looks at states where, unlike Florida, families must meet income thresholds to qualify for free pre-K. Earn too much, and you have to pay.

And pay they do.

In those states, preschool costs eat up about about 30 percent of a family's budget, beating out food, rent, car payments and healthcare, the study says. The study defined middle class as a family of four living on $51,523 to $103,046 a year.

Monthly expenses for Maryland's middle-class families look like this: $1,324 for rent, $995 on food, $1,559 on early education. That's a bit on the high-end of the scale. The low-end would be Louisiana, where rent cost $758 (which is wishful thinking down here), while childcare is about $809.

Another startling fact listed in the study: In every state, for families earning $60,000 year, a year of childcare costs more than a year's tuition at Harvard or Yale.

Pre-K Now is a national non-profit organization funded in part by the Pew Charitable Trust. The report, which was released Wednesday, is available here.

POSTED IN: Pre-K (25)

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Magnet programs are attracted to my kid!

Contribution by Cindy Kent, SunSentinel.com

So my son brought his report card home yesterday.

It was really wonderful; great grades earned him a dinner out to the Melting Pot. After all, he's also earning some high school credits even though he's still in 8th grade. And we celebrate everything together, little achievements and big ones. decision-making.jpg

But now he's being wooed by area high schools for their magnet programs. It's kind of cool, but daunting too. We must consider the possibility that he might go to a high school that is farther away from home. And we value, as he does, his current friendships, staying in touch with the kids he's been going to school with since elementary school.

However, a good education is a priority too, and positioning himself to be at the doors of opportunity when they open is just as important. If he doesn't go to the high school we thought he'd be going to all along, then are we responsible for transportation? That will a definate concern.

Regardless of the school he goes to, isn't it all about what the kid himself makes of it, himself, in the end?

There is a lot to think about: Friends. Transportation. Exposure to educational opportunities. Learning environments. These considerations will give him, and us, practice on managing the options when it's time to pick a college.

Each issue is important. How would you rank them?

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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November 13, 2008

Would metal detectors make our children safer?

One of the earliest issues that came up on Wednesday when the Sun Sentinel began covering the shooting death of a student at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale was whether the school had metal detectors.
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As it turned out, the school uses hand held metal detectors on occasion, but it's not as if every student has to go through a metal detector to get onto the campus.

This raises a number of campus safety issues, some of which are explored by our colleague Kathy Bushouse in this article (Click Here).

One Dillard High parent said this morning that metal detectors may be an inconvenience, but they're also necessary to help guarantee safety.

"You need metal detectors," said Marion Stevens, whose son, David, is a junior at Dillard. "They have them everywhere.They have them in the courthouse."

Not to mention airports.

Is Stevens right? Are metal detectors worth the cost and inconvenience? Local columnist Mike Mayo thinks not. If the charges against Teah Wimberly (pictured left) are true, would a metal detector have stopped her from bringing a gun on campus to shoot Amanda Collette (right)?

Do you think your child's school needs a metal detector? What lengths should we go to in order to ensure safety in school?

And in case you missed it, this post by Lois Solomon (Click Here) talks about a counseling resource for teenagers. This came out about two hours before the shooting.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda (59), School Issues (135)

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November 12, 2008

Teen counseling: No office visit necessary

Teens who are more comfortable talking about their problems electronically might prefer this new counseling service offered by the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service in West Boca.
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Teen Talk offers professional therapy for troubled teens no matter where they live. They can communicate by e-mail (markc@rrjfs.org) or phone (561-852-3333 or 800-393-5397) with a licensed clinical social worker.

The site is cited in the November issue of YouthToday, a national newspaper for people who work with kids.

It's a great idea. How many teens make an appointment with their school counselor when they have a problem? Or ask their parents if they can talk privately with a therapist? This way, they can remain anonymous and unload on a professional who will make sure they get quality help in a style they're comfortable with.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Lois Solomon (211), Teen (158)

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November 11, 2008

‘Don’t hit your brother’

This has become a familiar line in the household. Our sons, ages 1 and 2-and-a-half, are taking to taking their frustrations out on each other. You’d think that it would be driven by the older one, but no, both engage in this age-old sibling tradition. I never expected to order my 1-year-old to “stop hitting.” I mean, he can’t even say the word! It seemed like that parental refrain would be saved for later years.

My question is whether, psychologically, they can understand at this age that it’s wrong. We can tell them not to do it, and that will have an effect. We remove treats, take away fun trips and put them on a time out. So maybe the association of hitting-leading-to-disappointment is what we hope for at this point. But I wonder: How can we get toddlers to understand that hitting is inherently bad? What worked for you?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Matthew Strozier (59)

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He's 13. Can I stop parenting now?

Some cultures convey adulthood on a boy when he turns 13. My son's 13 now. Looks like my job is done.

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You're 13! Here's
your new car!

You know, that's the age of the Bar Mitzvah. (We're not Jewish, but still!) And according to the great Internet, it's the age in some other countries when a boy is considered a man.

The Internet also tells me that 13 marks the age when a boy can mount an adult size Hippity Hop Ball and have a lot of fun.

And that's exactly what I'm torn with here. Is a 13-year-old a baby, or a little adult who should start making his own decisions in life?

I feel like I've already raised up my child in the way he should go. I've instilled all the character traits and values that will fit.

At this point, I think, I'm pouring into a vessel that is not only full, it is vomiting out everything I attempt to put in.

Should a teen be able to handle their own school responsibilities without a backpack-ransacking parent by now? Should a teen be allowed to skip church sometimes? What about sports and extra-curricular? Let the teen decide?

I'm thinking yes, within reason. If a 13-year-old doesn't have a good parenting foundation by now, it's really probably too late.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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November 10, 2008

Zack and Miri make parenting tougher

ZackMiri.jpgA recent study by the RAND research organization shows that teenagers who watch “sexy TV” are more likely to become sexually active and pregnant.

I know what you’re thinking. “Duh.” Ok, well, that’s what I’m thinking.

My wife and I are pretty lucky. Her daughters, 15 and 13, are still thrilled when an all-new episode of Hannah Montana airs on the Disney Channel. But we can’t kid ourselves. When it comes to trying to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere, we are outgunned, outnumbered and out of our minds if we think they’re not going to be bombarded with words and images of sex.

I mean, they’re into hip-hop. Hello!

A movie came out a couple of weeks ago called “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” Granted, the ads for the flick didn’t air on the Disney Channel. But they did air during the World Series. So now our girls know that if they should live platonically with a male roommate and find themselves low on cash... Aw come on, guys, we have to sit through these commercials during a baseball game?

But really, who has to go to the movies for this stuff, anyway? Whether it’s “Desperate Housewives” or “Two and a Half Men,” “Gossip Girl” or the revamped “Beverly Hills 90210,” our television sets just ooze sex.
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Was it that bad when I was growing up? I saw a guy in a leather jacket snap his fingers and have a half dozen girls flock to him thoughtlessly. Was that lust? Or parody? How about a constantly-on-the-make man living with two women? Love, exciting and new?

Somehow, as racy as things were in the late 1970s and early 1980s, those shows seem so tame in comparison to what we’re getting today. What happened, anyway? How did we get from Potsie looking at a girlie magazine and picturing "a sweater on that" to Rachel letting Ross know it's okay (only to learn it was a juice bottle), and from there to "OMFG" in an orgasmic ad campaign?

And you know what scares me? In 25 years, we’re going to be amazed at how tame “Sex and the City” and “Gossip Girl” were.

Solutions? I can only think of one: If my kids are getting their values from television, television isn’t the problem. I am.

Time for us parents to step up. We need to be filters, and I don't just mean blocking their eyes from the things we don't want them to see. We can manage that to a certain extent, but if you want to know how successful you'll be at keeping these things from your kids, ask yourself how successful your parents were keeping them from you.

What I'm thinking is that if we as parents can establish right from wrong, if we can let our kids know what's appropriate and what's inappropriate, what's safe and what will hurt them, then they'll process the images they get according to the values we instill in them.

Somehow, I think they’ll respect us for it.

Failing that, we can always try keeping our kids in a bubble. I doubt that'll work, though.

Sigh. Anyone know where I can find “Little House” reruns?

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda (59), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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November 7, 2008

Finding the right fit for left-handed children

I’m starting to appreciate what it means to be left-handed in a right-handed world. I first suspected my son was favoring his left hand when he began putting baby rattles in his mouth.

The doctors told me to forget about it until he was 3 years old. Many kids don’t have a dominant hand until that age. Three years went by, and guess what? My son still favored his left hand. Wait until he’s 4 years old, then you’ll know, my son’s doctor said.

Danny turned 4 last month and – surprise – he prefers to write, cut, kick and ride a scooter with his left. Fortunately, my son’s teacher is left-handed and is very cognizant of how she teaches my son.

But what should I be doing as a parent? Or, more importantly, what should I not be doing?

Both my husband and I are right-handed. Teaching our son to trace, write and cut are already a challenge. I can’t imagine how we’ll tackle teaching him to tie his shoelaces!

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67), General (185)

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November 4, 2008

Is my kid in danger by going to school today?

I got a letter yesterday from my fourth grader's school that I wasn't sure how to interpret.

The school is also a polling place. Palm Beach County schools are open today, Election Day. As explained in this Sun-Sentinel story, some parents are concerned about their kids' safety when the schools have to abandon some security procedures to allow voters in.

The administrators also seem to be concerned, as our school principal expressed in this letter.

"All classrooms will be following the District Code Yellow protocols, keeping all doors locked and allowing only essential hallway activity. There will be no recess and cafeteria lunches will be delivered to the classroom."

"Teachers are being directed to review previously covered material and to not assign homework as we anticipate high student absenteeism during Election Day."

So are they encouraging us to keep our kids home? Either close the schools on Election Day or keep them open, but don't give us these cryptic messages that imply that the day will be a waste and it may be better to play hookey.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54), Lois Solomon (211)

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Why do so many strangers want to see my daughter jump rope?

I was mildly disturbed to find that 268 people viewed my home video on YouTube of Lily jumping rope, if you can call it that. She was 5 years old in the video, and just learning. Meanwhile I was just learning how to upload a video to YouTube.

This week I put up a new one, because she performed this rope-jumping "talent'' in our church talent show Sunday.

That's when I noticed that strangers are watching my baby jump rope. You're saying to yourself right now, 'What did you expect? You put videos of your child on YouTube!''

Yeah, I know. But as videos go, it's LAME!

I really don't care that much if strangers watch her jumping rope. It's just kind of weird. Five websites linked her video (phew! they were rope jumping websites!) and three marked it as a "favorite.''

I don't know if there's parent etiquette for posting our kids' videos. She's way below the age to consent.

It seems pretty cool to me; friends, family and whoever else can watch. And I don't think this will keep her from getting a job 20 years from now, when she graduates with her PhD.

Check it out.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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About the authors
Gretchen Day-Bryant has a son in high school and a daughter in middle school. She’s lived to tell about the struggles of juggling little kids and work.
Joy Oglesby has a preschooler...
Cindy Kent Fort Lauderdale mother of three. Her kids span in ages from teenager to 20s.
Rafael Olmeda and his wife welcomed their first son in Feb. 2009, and he's helping raise two teenage stepdaughters.
Lois Solomonlives with her husband and three daughters.
Georgia East is the parent of a five-year-old girl, who came into the world weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Brittany Wallman is the mother of Creed, 15, and Lily, 7, and is married to a journalist, Bob Norman. She covers Broward County government, which is filled with almost as much drama as the Norman household. Almost.
Chris Tiedje is the Social Media Coordinator and the father of a 7-year-old girl, and two boys ages 4 and 3.
Kyara Lomer Camarena has a 2-year-old son, Copelan, and a brand new baby.


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