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The Family Center: enrichment programs for families and professionals

Raising a Reader

Ask the Expert by Stephanie Cork, Education Specialist

Q: How can I foster a love of reading in my child?

A: One of the more difficult questions I am asked by parents of late elementary through high school children is how can they make their child enjoy reading. Like anything else, a child will not enjoy reading if it is difficult and does not yield any sort of intrinsic satisfaction, therefore, much of the answer lies in the importance of starting early in order to make the reading process easier and more meaningful.

Read to your child. Reading to your child at an early age is crucial to the development of phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to focus on and manipulate phonemes (sounds) in spoken words, and is a precursor to learning how to read print.

Read more: Raising a Reader


Self-Defense for Mothers & Teen Daughters

Ask the Experts by Ian Kinder

Q. My daughter and I walk every night.  With the days getting shorter, we are walking at dusk, sometimes even later.  What can we do to stay safe?

A. Walk in well-lit, open areas that are well populated and active. Avoid dark areas that are confined and isolated. Carry charged cell phones and stay in areas where there is a good signal. 

It is always a good idea to be trained in self-defense and carry a personal protection device, such pepper spray or a TASER. Stabbing an attacker with a ballpoint pen can even at times be enough to distract the attacker and give you time to flee.

Don’t forget a women’s best friend -- dogs are great companions and wonderful protection. Walk defensively like you drive defensively -- not in fear, but aware and prepared. 

Read more: Self-Defense for Mothers & Teen Daughters



Ask the Experts by Angela Hill

Q. I would like to get my family more physically active. What are some of the benefits of yoga? Where can I find a class for my whole family?

A. Yoga brings harmony and balance to the circulatory, lymphatic, nervous, respiratory, muscular, spinal, endocrine, digestive and immune systems. This gives you the emotional and physical stability to respond to life’s challenges with courage and grace.  

It’s a fun way to increase self-esteem, self-control and self-confidence, as well as a great work out & time for family fun.

I have been practicing & teaching yoga for numerous years. The benefits of Yoga are creating fans everywhere. You can find classes in malls, parks and churches. There are many types of Yoga classes to choose from: hot yoga, meditation yoga, and even yoga in a chair.

Read more: FAMILYoga


Building Better Brains!

Ask the Experts by Laurie Wagner, Education Specialist

Q: Are children diagnosed with dyslexia destined to struggle with reading their entire lives?

A: Research confirms that effective reading instruction literally reorganizes the brains of struggling readers. Especially effective is the engagement of the visual, auditory, tactile (touch) and kinesthetic (muscle movement) learning pathways.

When struggling learners are taught to read using direct, explicit, systematic, multisensory phonics instruction, research using functional MRI (fMRI) brain imaging literally shows us that the impact on the brain is significant.

Read more: Building Better Brains!


Infant Massage: Learning the Language of Touch

Ask the Experts by Emily Robson, LLPC

Q. What is infant massage and what are the benefits?

A: Touch is the most powerful of all interactions between parent and child. It is a mirror of our inner feelings toward another person.

Babies can sense what their parent is feeling by the way they are touched. Everyone has a personal “touch” history, which consists of all the touch experiences that a person will have had during their lifetime. It doesn’t matter how old or young a person is, everyone has a touch history-including infants.

Parents are instrumental as providers of the main source of touch experience in their child’s touch history. When parents engage in regularly massaging their children, they are making a significant contribution to their child’s nurturing touch history.

Read more: Infant Massage: Learning the Language of Touch


The Heavy Heartedness of Grief

Ask the Experts by Marla Ruhana, LMSW

Q. There is immense sadness surrounding me now as my dearest friend has recently died. Is this sad feeling normal?

A. Grief has many different stages, sadness is one of them. I empathize with you in the midst of grief. There are several stages of grief, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote of the five stages of grief, the stages are denial, anger, depression bargaining, and acceptance. Shock is also part of grief as well as social isolation. Everyone experiences grief in their own way and for a variety of reasons. Your friend’s death might be triggering previous deaths you have experienced. Multiple life stressors you might be experiencing can also complicate grief. The bond you shared with the deceased, the current void you are experiencing can leave us with tremendous heart ache and pain.

Read more: The Heavy Heartedness of Grief


Coping with Loss During the Holidays

Ask the Experts by Rebecca L Palen, MPA, LMSW, OSW-C, GC-C

Q. I just lost my spouse to cancer this past summer. I am starting to feel even worse now that the holidays are approaching. Can I have some guidance of how to get through the next few weeks?

A. While there are other critical dates and times that affect grieving people, but for many the most difficult day for the bereaved is Christmas.

This particular holiday than any other means family is together, making the void of your loved one even more acutely aware. Listed below are some suggestions that others have found helpful in coping with the holiday season. Chose the ones that will help you:

Read more: Coping with Loss During the Holidays


Kindergarten Essentials READY, SET, GO!

Ask the Experts by Pam Cronovich, Christine Miller and Melissa Sharp

Helping Your Child Get Ready for Kindergarten GET READY

Q: Now that spring is almost here, what can parents do to help their child get ready for kindergarten?

A: Readiness for Kindergarten can be found in many forms. Early academic skills and concepts will give your child a strong base as he or she enters kindergarten. But there are equally important readiness skills that set the stage for your child’s learning.

Raising an eager learner is the goal, and it can be achieved through play and day-to- day activities.

Here are some readiness skills that kindergarten teachers look for:

Read more: Kindergarten Essentials READY, SET, GO!


Comfort Care: Understanding Palliative Care and Hospice Services

Ask the Experts by Kathleen Blazoff

My doctor recommended Palliative Care to my mother with Alzheimer’s dementia. What is Palliative Care?

Palliative Care or Palliative Medicine is specialized medical care for people with a chronic and /or serious illness. Palliative are focuses on providing patients with relief of symptoms, pain and stress of an illness with equal attention to emotional and spiritual well being.

Palliative care assists the patient and family in establishing goals of treatment and advance care planning. Palliative care can be consulted at any time during your mother’s illness.

Read more: Comfort Care: Understanding Palliative Care and Hospice Services


Tips for the Sandwich Generation

Ask the Experts by Sharon Maier and Heidi Uhlig

Q. My aging parents are in need of more help from me, plus I have two small children to take care of. I struggle to care for them both. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle caring for both my parents and my kids?

A. When caring for your aging parents, know that you are entering new territory and you will need new skills and knowledge to adapt. You can gain knowledge on resources through the web or through local organizations such as Services for Older Citizens. While everyone’s situation is different, experts can help you walk through the process. 

It is important to be willing to change how you do things and determine what is important. If you find that you are spending your valuable time shopping for two households, yours and your parents, consider taking advantage of local grocery store delivery for your parents, such as Door to Door Organics. A small thing like empowering your parents to get their groceries without your help increases their independence and will save you time. 

Read more: Tips for the Sandwich Generation


Talking to Kids About Alzheimer's

Ask the Experts by Barbara Roden

Q: I'm struggling trying to help my 14 year old son to understand why grandpa is being more forgetful over the past 6 months. The two of them have always had a close relationship. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's earlier this year. Might you be able to offer some suggestions as to how I might be able to help my son understand what is happening now and what to expect in the future?

A. It is important when having a discussion about his grandfather and explaining the situation is to be as clear, honest and calm as possible. 

One of the hardest parts about the disease especially in the early stages is that you cannot visually see that something is wrong. 

You can start your discussion with the common functionalities of the brain (language, memory, balance, vision, senses etc.) and how all these functions help us do things throughout the day. Then you can explain that dementia is a brain disease that causes some of these functions to fail. 

Read more: Talking to Kids About Alzheimer's


Snowboarding Safety

Ask the Experts by Glen Clark, M.D.

Q. My friends invited me to go snowboarding, but it’s been a few years since I’ve been on a board. Any advice before I hit the slopes?

A. Get in shape. Follow a regular fitness program to strengthen muscles and build endurance to help prevent injuries. It is important to warm up and stretch before you hop from the car to the chairlift. Focus on calves, hamstrings and quadriceps, as well as your shoulders. Many snowboarding injuries are from people trying to perform advanced or difficult feats beyond their skill set.

Q. I hate wearing a helmet. If I wipe out, will a helmet really protect me?

A. Yes. Wearing protective equipment, such as helmets, wrist guards and goggles, is a simple way to prevent serious injuries while snowboarding. Helmets are always crucial for preventing potentially life-threatening head injuries.

Read more: Snowboarding Safety


Sports Injury Prevention Tips

Ask the Experts by Kunal Kalra, MD

Q. What can I do to prevent injuries when my kids play sports?

A. The new school year brings the return of Fall sports and that can mean injuries ranging from sprained ankles to ACL injuries and concussions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, sports-related injuries are the leading cause of emergency room visits in 12-17-year-olds. Injuries from organized and unorganized sports also account for 775,000 emergency room visits annually. Common Fall sports related injuries can include sprains and strains, stress fractures, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, bruises, dislocations, pulled muscles and concussions.

The good news is a little preparation can go a long way in preventing some injuries. Here are some tips parents and athletes should consider before participating in any sports related activity.

Read more: Sports Injury Prevention Tips


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