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The Family Center: enrichment programs for families and professionals

Modeling Adulthood

Ask the Experts by Jeff Jay

Q. My husband and I have two children, 9 and 12. We're not sure how to talk to them about alcohol and other drugs, but we're afraid these things are soon going to be part of their world. What should we do?"

A. Kids notice everything. As they move into their teen years they notice more of everything and with a more discerning eye. They're constantly adapting themselves to the world around them and evaluating the actions of others. Young people want to grow up fast, so they pay special attention to adults.

If kids see that adult gatherings always include alcohol, it sends a message that will be received loud and clear. The message is: if I'm an adult interacting with other adults in a social setting, I should be drinking. Children are the only ones who aren't allowed to drink. If I'm going to be one of the grown-ups, I need to drink.

Read more: Modeling Adulthood


How Important Is It...Really?

Ask the Experts by Carolyn Van Dorn

Q: Why do I need my medical information written out?

A: We live in a world where everything is in the palm of our hands or loaded on a computer. Sometimes it is good to choose to do it the "old fashioned way," and jot it down.

It is extremely important for us to have our health information documented. In an immediate emergency situation, responders need to know what measures to take and if there are pre-existing medical issues. In most cases, they will not be in a position to search through files on your computer or phone.

Read more: How Important Is It...Really?


Assertiveness Skills for Children and Teens

Ask the Experts by Vita Venditti

Q. How can I get my child to stand up for himself? I’ve observed that he often allows his friends to have the upper hand. I am worried he may give into peer pressure when the issue is alcohol or drugs.

A. One of the reasons children succumb to peer pressure is because they do not have the power to stand up for themselves. As a parent, you can play a critical role in the development of assertiveness skills in your children.

Learning “refusal skills” can help prevent your child from giving into peer pressure. Practicing can help someone know what to do if they are ever in a real-life situation where they don’t want to do something.

Here are some refusal skills:

Read more: Assertiveness Skills for Children and Teens


Retirees: Who Are You? And What Are You Going To Do?

Ask the Experts by Mary Anne Lushe

Q. I'll be retiring this October and I don't even know how to think about the future, or what to do with the rest of my life. Where do I begin?

A. The desire to take a path less traveled, to do something we've always longed to do, or to go more deeply into our own being, comes up for many of us in mid-life and beyond.

When we prepare to retire or a spouse does, we will often be asked what you plan to do, with the assumption that some interest will take up your time. For some it is entirely clear how they will spend their retirement time; for others... not so much.

I'd like to suggest that whether you are a young person or an elder, the more important question is not, "What should I do with the time I've been given," but "Who shall I be going forward?" At every age we are more than what we do. Too often we haven't done the work of discovering who we are, recognizing the unique things we bring to the table of life and developing the legacy we eventually want to leave. Teens and older adults both want to mean something and not just do something.

Read more: Retirees: Who Are You? And What Are You Going To Do?


Teens: Who Are You? And What Are You Going To Do?

Ask the Experts by Mary Anne Lushe

Q. I'm going to be a junior next year. How can I get my parents to stop asking me, "What do you plan to study in college or do after you graduate?" 

A. How many of us have entertained ourselves with the quirky, charming and outrageous answers that very small children give when asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's not so entertaining for teens - faced with major decisions - when they are asked the same things. Parents and other adults ask them the big questions with a greater sense of urgency. Most family members genuinely want to:

  • be supportive as younger people hone their choices,
  • help motivate them when their attention lags and
  • enthuse with them as they gain clarity in their thinking.

However, those well intentioned questions can appear intrusive, controlling or just plain nosy to teens who aren't yet sure of their goals or who may have desires that conflict with their parent's wishes. Those struggles often cause considerable discord in families.

Read more: Teens: Who Are You? And What Are You Going To Do?


Pave a Summer Path for Success in School

Ask the Experts by Michael Richman

Q. How can families pave a summer path for success in school?

A. All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. According to the National Summer Learning Association, “Research spanning 100 years show us that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer and most students lose about two months of math skills over the summer months”.

While these studies have shown that students lose 2.6 months of math learning, literacy is most affected by the summer break.

Read more: Pave a Summer Path for Success in School


Senior Driving Safety

Ask the Experts by Sharon Maier

Q. My mom is 85 in great health except for a little memory loss. I just got home from driving with her to church and am glad to be out of the car. While we didn’t go on any major streets, my mom seemed frazzled and once on the main road back home she changed lanes and cut off a driver. What should I do?

A. The first thing to do is to begin having conversations about driving. Driving is an emotional topic because it represents independence. Since you saw her getting frazzled when driving use that as a lead-in to a conversation about her driving. Remember, you want to have conversations, not lectures.

Help your mom come up with solutions that work for her. If you are not the perfect person to have this conversation with your mom defer to a family member that might be better suited. A sensitive topic needs to be treated with respect. Each family has its own dynamics and often one or two people have more influence than everyone else. Be aware of this so that you can give your mom the help she needs.

Read more: Senior Driving Safety


How Early Music Education Impacts Young Children and Beyond

Ask the Experts by Melissa Sharp and Nancy Takis

Q. My three-year-old loves to sing and listen to music. Is she too young to enroll in a music class?

A. As Early Childhood educators prepare for a career in teaching, they learn the importance of incorporating music into the classroom. Music education is not only a graduation requirement for a degree in Early Childhood; it is also integrated into the State of Michigan Licensing Rules for Child Care Centers.

The value of music exposure during the early years sets the stage for success in the future for various reasons. 

Nancy Takis, early childhood music educator consultant explains how early music education impacts young children and beyond:

The importance of early music education should not be underestimated. It provides more than a simple break from the "serious" academics. Rather, music activates and engages areas of the brain untapped by mathematics, science, and other disciplines.

Read more: How Early Music Education Impacts Young Children and Beyond


Building Resilience in Children

Ask the Experts by Maureen McKinley Light, LMSW

Q: As a parent, I want to be able to help my children to be resilient, be able to recover quickly from setbacks they encounter in their daily lives. How can I help them develop this trait?

A: I recently spoke about resilience in childhood in the closing presentation of the Bullying Series for The Family Center. I chose to focus upon resilience as a desirable trait in general.

As I pointed out, there will be many parents who are concerned that their children have experienced some type of bullying by others, even if the circumstance does not fit the criteria for “bullying” as it has been identified by the schools in recent months. In fact, parents suffer when their children are observed to be hurt by others, and struggle to find appropriate ways of responding to this.

Read more: Building Resilience in Children


Dog bites are "Ruff"!

Ask the Experts by Ed Lazar 

Q: The weather is nice again and I worry about my children approaching dogs that our neighbors let wander in our community. What are some safe tips that I might be able to share with them?

A. Of course, we and our neighbors get outside more, especially to walk our dogs. Fido likes the nice weather too. To be kind to man and beast alike, we need to be a bit cautious while we are out and about.

It seems grim to note that as many as 1 million people each year require medical attention because of dog attacks. And, though not widely published, dog bites represent one of the major public health problems of children with over half of all children bitten by age 12.

Read more: Dog bites are "Ruff"!


Building Blocks for High Academic Achievement

Ask the Experts by Detroit Waldorf School

Q: If my child is not reading or writing by the time they are in preschool, will they be able to attain high academic achievement?

In our nationwide effort to reinforce the future success of our educated workforce and nation, we tend to teach our young students too much, too fast, and we, in turn, miss the opportunity to provide them with a strong foundation of knowledge that's rich with tools and techniques, not just facts and statistics.

Detroit Waldorf School begins teaching literacy and numeracy on the student's first day, using a layered environment that affords students time to reflect on their lessons. Before students are introduced to sound and word recognition, teachers focus on reinforcing the child's love for language by immersing them in a classroom filled with storytelling, poems and foreign languages.

Read more: Building Blocks for High Academic Achievement


Dyslexia Fixes: Let the Buyer Beware

Ask the Experts by Ann Laciura

Q: I’ve noticed some on-line advertisements claiming that dyslexia is a vision problem and can be treated with a special pair of glasses. Is there anything to this?

A: Generations ago, one theory about the nature of dyslexia was that it had something to do with vision. However, science has debunked that as hokum. Researchers at Yale and elsewhere have done functional brain scans, comparing a dyslexic brain with an ordinary brain. They have concluded that the dyslexic's brain is wired differently, causing difficulty in processing letters and sounds -- reading and spelling.

The science-based strategy of multisensory instruction with constant review and building on basics has proven over time to address these issues.

I should hasten to add that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. In fact, the very structure that causes language problems is the same structure that gives the dyslexic big picture, out of the box creativity. Hence, some of the greatest minds in history have been dyslexic. (Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford to name but a few.) For more information, go to

Read more: Dyslexia Fixes: Let the Buyer Beware


Eight Reasons to "Age at Home"

Ask the Experts by Mary Ellen Brayton

Q: My 82 year old father lives alone and is fiercely independent but he's finding it more difficult to handle everything at home. We are not sure if he should still be driving, cooking, and if he's actually taking his medications on a regular basis. It's a touchy topic with him, but we are starting to see a decline in his abilities.

A: "I don't need help" is a typical response when a family member suggests calling someone for assistance.

As tough as it may be to enlist the help of a "stranger" when it comes to caring for your parents, sometimes it's for the best. It will take the strain off of family and your parent may also benefit from professional care in the comforts of home.

Here are some advantages to home care:

Read more: Eight Reasons to "Age at Home"


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