First, THANK YOU to everyone who has been reading our blog. Our statistics say we’ve been visited over 45,000 times! That’s fantastic. We’re very grateful that you decided to spend some of your valuable time with us.
But it’s the end of the semester for us, and all of my students are graduating or leaving for their summer job. So we’re going to take a little break this summer and hopefully come back strong in the fall.
If you’ve enjoyed our content, please let us know. And if you have any ideas or topics you think we should cover, feel free to reach out to me.
A new survey, conducted by The University of Rochester Medical Center, shows that kids who began vaping before the age of 14 are more likely to experience mental fog.
The University of Rochester (URMC) conducted two studies. One showed that both adults and adolescents who vaped had a higher chance of experiencing difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and less ability to make decisions compared to those who do not vape. The other study showed that children who began vaping before 14 were more likely to experience mental fog.
Brain fog or mental fog is not a medical condition but a term to describe a cluster of the symptoms such as confusion, disorganization and lack of concentration that affect one’s ability to think coherently.
The studies analyzed over 18,000 middle school and high school aged adolescents who responded to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. More than 886,000 U.S. adults responded to the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey which was conducted via phone. These two surveys asked questions regarding smoking and vaping habits, issues with memory, attention and mental fog.
In December 2020, the National Institute on Drug abuse found that while the surge of teen vaping did not increase between 2019 to 2020, the numbers remain high. They conducted a survey of more than 11,800 students from 112 U.S. schools in 2020 to determine what percentage of teens vape nicotine. According to the survey, 16.6 percent of 8th graders and 34.5 percent of 12th graders vape nicotine.
The percentages of 8th and 12th graders who vaped marijuana between 2019-2020 were lower at 8.1 percent of 8th graders and 22.1 percent of 12th graders.
The 16.6 percent of 8th graders are most likely to experience the negative effects of vaping described in the two studies because these students are usually between the ages of 13 to 14 years old.
“Prevention programs that start in middle or high school might actually be too late,” said Dongmei Li, Ph.D and an author of the survey conducted by URMC. He’s also an associate professor in Clinical and Translational Institute at URMC.
According to the study, middle and high school students are “more susceptible to nicotine-induced brain changes” because their age is a “critical period for brain development, especially for higher-order mental function.”
As a future English teacher, and an avid reader myself, I know just how vital it is to develop a love for reading in students at a young age. Ever since I was little, I was reading everything I saw – books, magazines, billboards, even the labels on canned goods in the pantry. This excitement I hold about reading has stemmed from when I was a young girl and my parents encouraged me to read every day.
Child development researchers note that parents play a crucial role in their child’s literacy and speech development, before, during, and after children start “formal” schooling. These skills can be developed anywhere from encouraging your baby’s “babbles” all the way to introducing new vocabulary words to your toddler.
By following even one of the tips below, you will be able to foster reading in your child to create a lifelong reader.
Read to Them!
Read every day, even if it is only for five minutes. Whether you realize it or not, your child learns more vocabulary and speech skills every time they are read to. So, make reading with your littles a habit. Read before bedtime, when you wake up in the morning, after dinner, whenever Plus, this moment with your child is one filled with love and memories neither one of you will forget.
Read to Yourself!
It is just as important to work on your own reading skills as it is to encourage your children’s skills. Now, I don’t mean that you need to read novel after novel each week. Reading anything (i.e. books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc.) counts as reading! Through this practice, not only will you become a stronger reader, but your child will see you enjoying reading. After all, “monkey see, monkey do,” right?
Books, books, and more books!
Reading is so much fun but reading the same things over and over again can become boring. While re-reading is vital to the development of literacy skills (comprehension, vocabulary, patterns, etc…), it may start to bore your child once the story is ingrained in their minds. Therefore, have as many types and quantities of reading materials that you can. If constantly buying new books is not in your family budget, take a trip to the local library.
It is also important to remember that as your children grow and their reading levels advance, so do their reading abilities. Keep a collection of reading material that spans a few different reading levels so that you child has many different options.
Keep Up with the Times
Growing up with very little technology, it is hard for us to imagine that electronics can be used to read. There are multiple educational apps (i.e. ABCmouse, YouTube Kids, PBS KIDS games, etc.) that have games and videos that promote learning and reading. This is a great way to promote and foster that learning and reading in children, especially on the go.
These are just a few suggestions and ideas on how to foster reading in your children. For more information, check out the following links!
Have you ever thought about where or how your kid’s have learned empathy? And what implications it might have later in life? Have you ever thought about explicitly teaching your kids empathy?
According to a study published by the peer-reviewed Journal of Moral Education, children who grew up receiving empathy were less likely to participate in acts of criminal or delinquent behavior. Empathy, or being able to show and understand how others are feeling, is a crucial part of social life.
The study focused on data from a survey conducted over a 4-year period from children ages 12 to 17. The study started out asking the children questions pertaining to parental support like whether or not they trusted their parents or talked to their parents. Then they asked questions pertaining to empathy by asking them to make statements like whether or not they empathized with their friends or tried to make others feel better. In the last session, years later when the kids had now grown to age to 16 and 17 years old, they discussed whether or not they participate in delinquent acts from graffiti to physical threats and robbery.
The study showed not only decreased likelihood of criminal activity but that the children who received empathy growing up had an enhanced ability to be empathetic. Growing up receiving empathy from your parents can be crucial to how you treat others in adulthood.
“Empathy in youth appears to have the power to mediate the negative association between perceived parental support and future juvenile delinquency,” said Glenn Walters, the author of the paper and a Kutztown University (Kutztown, Pennsylvania) associate professor of criminal justice.
Walters also said that while empathy can affect how your child behaves in the future, there are several other factors that can influence whether or not your child partakes in criminal behavior. These include factors such as self-esteem and social interests.
Empathy isn’t necessarily something you actively teach your children. Some believe it’s a trait you are born with. But children learn empathy from the environment around them. This includes their parents/guardians, friends, teachers, books, television and other types of media.
Walters said that the study found that children who received parental support and empathy had increased development of empathy in their early adolescent life.
Even if you haven’t been actively encouraging and teaching your children empathy from a young age, there are still ways to foster empathy in adolescence.
Here are some tips to implement, practice and encourage empathy with your children:
First tip is to make sure your child knows that they can express all their emotions, including negative ones, with you. It can be hard for even adults to express their negative emotions, but not expressing them can lead your child to feel like they need to hide them.
Respond with Empathy
Another tip is to respond to your child’s physical (and emotional) ailments with empathy. Instead of saying “You’re fine,” try responding in a way that shows that you care and emphasize with what they are feeling. An example of a response could be, “Are you okay?” or “That looked like it hurt.” By acknowledging their feelings, you are showing them empathy and allowing them to express their own feelings.
Lastly, try to prioritize in-person communication and conversations. Children who struggle with empathy can have trouble communicating over phones. By not considering others when responding through text, you can say one thing but mean something else.
Helping children learn about being active members of the community can be a rewarding experience. It can give a sense of civic responsibility that can extend past childhood into adulthood. Learning what it means to be part of a community and building a sense of active participation is important for children to experience. Knowing where to begin can be difficult, so here are several good ideas to start helping your child be an active community member and learn to give back not only to their neighborhood but to society in general.
I understand this can seem like a broad idea that is often given a great deal of surface attention, but it is usually more important to children than what you may think. Children want to help, and it is a way to take the concept of “saving the environment” into everyday action that can make a difference. For example, your child can find empty soda bottles laying around and their first thought can be putting them in the recycling bin. Your child can get into the habit of caring for their environment and making the world a better place one can at a time. Ask them to make a list of all the things they can do to make a difference, and help them integrate environmentally-friendly habits into their daily lives.
When you are younger, you are taught that sharing is caring. Taking the concept of sharing and broadening it to include the community is a natural next step. For example, you and your child can volunteer at a local soup kitchen, or you both can take a trip down to a food bank to donate non-perishable items. Doing activities like this with your children can show them that when they have something extra, like time or food, they can use what they have to make someone else’s life a bit better
I know the words “civic responsibility” may seem too abstract for children. You can help them understand what it means, by just starting small. Your child does not have to be the World’s Leading Responsible Citizen by tomorrow. You can begin to teach your child what it means to be a contributing member of society by starting in your own neighborhood. Do you have an older neighbor who cannot keep up with caring for their yard? Your child can offer to mow their lawn or to water their plants and flowers. Do you see someone struggling to bring their groceries in? Your child can go over and provide some assistance. Of course, this may seem like just being polite, but actually it is a first step in learning to look around for where there is need. No payment, no prizes — the reward is making things better for others. Learning this as a child helps build contributing members of society.
Civic responsibility does not have to be a complicated term. Having your child learn the value of helping others can be satisfying for them and beneficial to your community as a whole. Try to start small, and see if your child can grow from it each day.
Between the distractions caused by technology and the stress brought about by growing up, adolescents today are sleeping less. This has resulted in increased depression rates says a recent study by The University of Ottawa. They claim adolescents today are dealing with more frequent sleep disruption.
This sleep disruption is due to a variety of factors. Of course, the mental strain brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has increased the lack of sleep in adolescents. But other factors have also caused a lack of sleep among adolescents. These include increased screen time, online schooling and limited social interactions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In their study completed on adult and adolescent male and female mice, they found that when put under similar conditions, the adolescent male and female mice showed “significantly greater depressive behaviors” compared to the adult male and female mice, who showed no indicators of those same behaviors.
They also found that during sleep delays, the female adolescent mice presented higher stress hormone release as well as activation of stress-sensitive brain areas compared to the male adolescent mice.
It is already known that twice as many females than males are diagnosed with depression today. According to the Child Mind Institute, before puberty, adolescent females and males have the same percentage of the prevalence of potential mood disorders. After puberty, mid-adolescent females are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder, like depression, than males of the same age range.
This could be due to many factors, including genetics and emotional stimuli. They speculate that because girls tend to mature faster than boys, it could lead to quicker development of emotional recognition. This can be linked to increased levels of sensitivity, thus making girls more susceptible to depression.
Signs of lack of sleep and adolescent depression:
There are many signs and symptoms of adolescent depression, but sometimes, there can be very minimal or no signs at all for parents or guardians to identify.
Mood changes are a common sign of adolescent depression. These can be caused by a lack of sleep, as well as increased levels of sadness and irritability. Behavioral changes can include appetite, lack of academic performance and concentration, and lower energy levels.
Signs that your child is not getting enough sleep can include bad skin, frequent illness due to an exhausted immune system, poor memory, lower energy and lack of concentration.
What you can do:
While it can be difficult to ensure that your child is getting a healthy amount of sleep, due to the constant distractions in their daily lives, there are a few things you can do to promote healthy sleep among adolescents.
Caffeine and sugar are both directly linked to lowering sleep levels. By lowering these factors in your child’s life, you can make it more likely they get a more restful night of sleep. Exercising can also help burn calories and increase the production of melatonin (the hormone responsible for sleep).
You can directly monitor the amount of sleep your child is getting by setting up an app on their cell phone or smart watch that monitors their sleep schedules. My personal favorite is SleepWatch, which is free for Apple, and lets me use my Apple Watch to monitor my sleep at night.
The New York Times article, “The Best Sleep-Tracking App,” recommends SleepScore and Sleep Cycle. These apps are not 100% accurate but they can offer users an objective analysis on sleep cycles, which can help users understand patterns in their sleep.
“Hey mom, I think I want to get my hair done like this.”
*Insert a picture of blonde hair with rainbow-colored streaks plastered throughout. *
“Are you sure?”
*aggressive head-nod by me*
Okay… I’ll make you an appointment.”
When I was an awkward, annoying pre-teen, I was constantly experimenting with finding my true self. The struggle with that was my idea of my ‘true self’ changed every day. One day I wanted to wear ripped jeans and band t-shirts just to turn around and want floral crowns and boho dresses the next day. It was a never-ending cycle of constant shopping trips and hairstyles. Did I mention the hair styles?
I don’t think there was a color of the rainbow that at least part of my hair wasn’t at some point. Actual rainbow strips (I’m talking ROY-G-BIV from my roots to the ends)? Yep. Pink highlights all over? You bet. The entire underneath dyed blue, resulting in stained skin that needed to be covered for a school picture? Oh, absolutely!
Looking back, now that I choose hair colors that are considered ‘plain,’ I try to figure out why I did all of that in the first place. I know I probably looked ridiculous and so damaged my hair, but I didn’t care one bit. Why? Because I was happy with the body I was in. As a pre-teen, now more than ever, there are constant struggles with acceptance among peers and with oneself. Somehow, I managed to like –no–LOVE myself despite this need for acceptance. Which is why I felt free to experiment with who I truly wanted to become, and not pay too much attention to what others thought of me.
Teaching and helping your children to maintain a positive body image is crucial to navigating life as a young teen and into adulthood. There are multiple ways you, as a parent, can assist your child in finding strong body positivity. Here’s some I’m borrowing from Working Mother.
Watch for Negative Body Image Signs
In a world where life is so fast paced and driven, it may be difficult at times to pick up on the subtle negative body image cues your children push out. In fact, they may not even notice they are doing this. These cues can be anywhere from a different change in diet, refusing to leave the house without any makeup on at all, and/or only wearing certain types of clothing. (Keep in mind there are many more cues your children can give you.)
These changes can be normal but watch for them to become obsessive and need-driven.
If you notice these changes, bring them up – SUBTLY! Pre-teens spook easily (I know I did), so approach these conversations with ease and an open set of arms. By showing your kiddos now that you are willing to have an adult-like conversation about issues with them, they may feel more comfortable coming to you with issues like this down the road.
However, your child may not want to talk, and that is okay too! Just express to them that you will always have listening ears when they are ready.
Set a GOOD example
Sometimes, children begin to feel certain emotions and have thoughts based on the environment they are in. It will feel contradicting if you, as a parent, are never happy with the way your body looks (and outwardly express it) and then you go and tell your kiddos to love theirs.
Therefore, love yourself! Trust me, you need it. We all need some self-love. So, model that positive thinking. Reveal your self-praising habits for your kiddos. Let them see the self-love from one of the people they love so dearly. By doing this, you can start to foster positive thoughts in your children and yourself.
Limit Physical Praise
“Oh my gosh you look so cute!!… Don’t you look sharp today… That lipstick color is PERFECT on you!”
It’s force of habit to comment on physical appearances. It’s something we do as humans to make someone else feel good. However, this can have more negative impacts than you think. It can subconsciously train your children to seek out these compliments from anywhere (or anyone), leading to negative body image if they are not received. Don’t get me wrong, physical comments can be given, just don’t make them a habit. Remember, looks are only skin deep.
Instead, comment on their other features. Compliment your daughter on her intelligence – remember, beauty is brains. Tell your son you are proud of him for the way he treats others – kindness is key. Physical acceptance isn’t the only acceptance to seek. Teach your children to become good human beings – that is what truly matters.
Be Open to Changes
Your child may want to cut/dye their hair, change the way they dress, or ask you to help them lead a healthier lifestyle. Be open to these changes! Often times, these decisions are made because your child is striving for a better version of themselves. Accepting your child for who they are is the biggest display of love they can ever receive. And, who knows, these changes may be good for you as well!
Coming back to school can be a difficult thing to adjust to. You know what is harder? Coming back to a computer screen for classes. Online schooling has recently become the new normal for students across America. Either that or taking extra precautions for in-person classes, like wearing masks and carrying hand sanitizer at all times. It can cause a lot of stress and be extremely overwhelming. Luckily for you, I have a few tips and tricks that can help ease your child of the pain of online schooling.
Wake up early
This one may sound simplistic, but it is more helpful than you think. I am personally not a morning person, and the thought of getting up early on purpose everyday is not something I choose to do, but it has proven to be helpful in beginning to make a routine for the day. You can start by making your bed, brushing your teeth, and having breakfast. Think of one of those movie moments where the main character wakes up and the shots continue in a montage of happy morning moments. Sounds pretty nice right? The most important outcome of establishing this morning routine is that in a short period of time it becomes the norm, and your body adjusts.
When I am taking classes, I feel like the work begins to stack up, layer on layer…on layer. Did I mention that I think there are many layers? Sometimes it stacks so high it looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, ready to topple over. I try to do a million things at once and get stressed out when I cannot complete everything in one sitting. It was not until I dug myself too deep in the work – hole that two important words engrained themselves in my brain. Slow. Down. I know it can be frustrating when it feels like the workload is never – ending, but taking your time to complete tasks is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it is the best thing to do. Scratch that. I think it is the ONLY thing to do. Part of pacing yourself is setting up a schedule before you get bogged down. Working to complete a task in small interests over a period of time is so much better than waiting and letting things pile up. Time management is essential and the secret to getting things done without that last – minute stress. This is not always easy, and many students need help planning this type of work schedule, especially at first, but once they have learned how to pace themselves, it is a tool that will be helpful throughout school and beyond.
Find Time for a Break
Times right now are tough, and putting too much pressure on yourself can be tiresome. Take some time for yourself to do something fun. Whenever I have a break in the day, I make sure I go to the nearest coffee shop so I can drown myself the biggest cup of iced coffee I can find (and I might even go back for more). As something as simple as a coffee break can brighten my mood and relax me. Find something that makes you feel that way. Reward yourself. It can be something as simple as playing on your phone for a little while. Look at Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. You can pull Netflix up, watch an episode, work some more, and watch another episode. It does not matter what it is as long as it makes you feel more relaxed and level – headed when you get back to working on things. You can even schedule these break times into your work routine.
Unwind at the Day’s End
After working all day long, you need time to relax at night. This is the opportunity for you to really unwind and pat yourself on the back for achieving everything you set out to do. Watch a movie or eat a bowl of ice cream. Allow yourself to feel satisfied that you have accomplished a great deal during the day and look forward to a new start tomorrow. Get a good night’s sleep and begin the next day rested and relaxed.
While not completely guaranteed, these few simple tips will give your children a push in the right direction. You can even try them out yourself! Children typically learn by example, so if you have a positive attitude towards these steps, and even model them in your own hectic life, they most likely will too. The results could be a more productive, successful, and stress – free life for the whole family.
When schools abruptly closed in April 2020, and students got two extra months of summer, they never thought returning to school like normal wouldn’t be an option for this fall. Now that school has started this year for your children, let’s check in.
The CDC stressed opening schools quickly and safely this fall for students. However, schools were to make the best decision possible for their students and community when deciding the route for reopening. My sister’s school provided families with multiple different options: all in-person, all remote via the school, or all remote via an outside source. Regardless of your decision, we’d like to help your kids navigate this weird ‘new normal.’
Offer Reassurance and Help
Even if they don’t seem like it, your children actually listen to your advice. If they are stuck on a project and can’t think of ideas, help them! Throw out suggestions and ideas, and just maybe one will stick. Often I find myself texting my mom for ideas and suggestions for papers because I can’t think of anything. Also, keep tabs on their school district’s policies about COVID-19 and everyday maintenance. Sign up for district emails/newsletters, teacher policy updates, and more. The more you know to help your kids, the better.
Find the Good in Each Day
Celebrate little things! Every day after school, especially this year, your child is going to come home (or leave the computer screen) physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I know I walk away from my computer screen drained every day. It is highly important to find the good in every day. Did your child pass their history test? Make their favorite dinner! Did they attend every online class on time today? Give your child a hug and tell them you are proud. Trust me when I say they need to hear it more than you think.
Talk About Mental Health
Self-care is always important, but even more so right now. Be open with your kids about mental health and how to approach these feelings. The best thing a parent can do when their child expresses feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, or anything else, is to love them and get help when necessary. Helping your children keep a steady sleep and eating schedule and getting regular exercise can help to boost mood as well. And have discussions with others about the signs you need to look for so you know when to get professional mental health help.
Remind Your Kids that Feelings are Valid
Emotions are running at high speed this year for everyone. Remind your children that their frustration over the absence of extracurricular activities is okay. It’s okay to be upset and frustrated that school dances aren’t happening. It’s understandable to be angry that you can’t go watch your friends play soccer or football. They are allowed to have feelings and express them to you. When the “storm” has passed, it will be okay to go back to regular activities. But meltdowns may happen. Just be there.
Probably the best thing to do is just keep learning. Parenting is one of the world’s most difficult jobs. But as Dr. Lauber has always told us, it’s also the toughest job you’ll ever love. Check out our links below.
Have you ever sat down to watch TV with a bag of chips and suddenly half of the family-sized bag is gone before your show has even started? This has happened to me and it probably happens to teens and adults every day. The only difference is that children and teens are still growing, and their bodies require more nutrients to continue that growth.
So, you may be asking, why is overeating such a bad thing in teens considering they need to eat more than the average adult? Well, it all depends on what they are eating. Eating two rows of Oreos from a pack may sound amazing but it holds little-to-no nutritional value.
The bottom line is junk food is calorie dense but nutritionally poor. When you add increased calorie consumption to a developing body it can negatively affect how the body develops, causing obesity, diabetes, nutrition deficiencies, eating disorders, and even depression.
In your teenage years, the habits you develop carry over into adulthood, which is why it is so important to practice good eating habits not only in childhood but your teen years as well. Often teenagers get in the habit of eating junk food. When they go off to college or leave home, it becomes even easier to eat cheap and ready-made junk food daily. Without mom or dad to cook your homemade healthy meals, young adults tend to go for the simpler and more delicious option.
The best thing you can do is teach your kid what to eat and how. How much is too much? Junk food does not have to be cut out entirely. Instead it can be a treat. Tell them they can eat anything, just in moderation.
One great way to teach your child is to teach them to cook too. Maybe try making a healthy meal once a week with your child. That develops their healthy habits. And later in life, they won’t be completely lost when mom and dad are not around to cook for them.
Another method is to teach your child how to meal prep. Try meal prepping Sunday for the week to come. Cut fresh fruits and vegetables for lunches or cook chicken and prepare it in salads or rice. This is an easy way to have a healthy grab-and-go food for busy teens. No need to go through McDonalds drive though when you have pre-made healthy food options sitting in your fridge at home.
It’s not always about what your teen is eating. Sometimes it’s just about “how much”. Do your nutritional research and help your child develop life-long healthy habits so they can be a healthy adult outside of your home.