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The Family Center: enrichment programs for families and professionals

The Middle Years - Empowering Your Child

Ask the Experts by Michael Dib, EdD

Q: How do I empower my child to deal with disappointments that relate to test and report card grades?

A: Many parents feel the need to protect their children from getting their feelings' hurt when it relates to test and report card grades.

If your child expresses concern to you about a low test score or report card grade, the first step is to encourage your child to speak directly to the teacher before or after school. If that is not possible, have your child e-mail the teacher and ask for a convenient time to meet and discuss academic progress.

A student who proactively seeks out a teacher to ask for clarification, has more validity with the teacher than a parent who contacts the teacher before her/his child has spoken to the teacher. If your child needs further clarification and is still frustrated after speaking with the teacher, make an appointment to meet with the teacher and make sure to involve your child in the conference with the teacher.

Read more: The Middle Years - Empowering Your Child


Kindergarten Essentials READY, SET, GO! Helping Your Child Get Ready for Kindergarten

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

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! Helping Your Child Get Ready for Kindergarten


Lunchtime Nutrition Tips

Ask the Experts by Dan Kellogg

Q:  Should I continue to follow the food pyramid nutritional guidelines when packing my daughter's lunch for school?

A: No. MyPlate, published by the  United States Department of Agriculture, has replaced the pyramid. Look for the MyPlate graphic of a fork, plate and glass divided into five food groups

MyPlate is displayed on food packaging and used for nutrition education. MyPlate is divided into four sections of grains, vegetables, fruits, and protein. A "glass" represents dairy, the fifth food group.

MyPlate recommends a half-plate serving of fruits and vegetables and a half-plate serving of whole grains and protein.

Read more: Lunchtime Nutrition Tips


Help for Victims of Bullying

Ask the Experts by Marlene Seltzer, M.D.

Q. Last fall, my 8-year-old daughter started at a new school. Everything was fine for the first few months, but lately she seems depressed and often complains of headaches. I've taken her to our doctor, but he can't find anything wrong. I'm afraid she may be being bullied by classmates. How can I speak to her to get her to open up about it?

A. You are smart in recognizing she may be the subject of bullies. Some parents shrug it off as their child "going through a phase."

Have a frank conversation with your daughter that if she is being bullied it is not her fault.  Bullying is an unacceptable aggressive behavior that makes the bully feel more powerful or stronger than their victim.

Read more: Help for Victims of Bullying


Skills for Strong Confident Women

Ask the Experts by Jennifer Mcmann-Buszka, MSNQ

I have two sons and a daughter. My daughter is older and the boys are only two and three years younger. I have witnessed the boys affectionately teasing her, but I can almost see her wither like a beautiful flower on a scorching day. How can I teach her to be strong and confident?

A. From a very early age, women are portrayed on television and in magazines as beautiful with blemish free skin, flawless sparkling white teeth, and of course, a perfectly shaped body. As girls mature and experience acne, braces and awkward bodies due to growth spurts, the contrast to television and magazines is glaring as they look in the mirror.

It's important to reassure your daughter that she not believe the women on television and in magazines always look like that. They have a full crew of people to help them look like that - just before they step in front of the cameras.

Read more: Skills for Strong Confident Women


Personal Safety and Self-Defense

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: Personal Safety and Self-Defense


Flu Shots in Kids

Ask the Experts by Prashant V. Mahajan, MD, MPH, MBA

Why is it important for children to be protected against the flu?

It is estimated that each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of flu complications. Severe complications are more common in children younger than two years of age.

Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are also at high risk of developing serious flu complications. Parents should check with their pediatrician so the vaccine or nasal-spray is given when it is available.

Read more: Flu Shots in Kids


Kindergarten Readiness - Social and Emotional Development

Ask the Experts by Lori Warner, PhD

Q: I'm worried that my child won't be ready for kindergarten; she has hardly been away from me in her whole life! What can I do to help her get ready?

A: Discuss her upcoming school with excitement and enthusiasm, but be honest that sometimes it can be challenging to start new adventures, and it's okay if she is a little nervous. 

Make sure she has a visit to the new school and learns about the routines she'll follow.  You can also do some "trial runs" of separating - get her used to spending time with a sitter or family member while you run a short errand.

Read more: Kindergarten Readiness - Social and Emotional Development


Reading Skills for Children

Ask the Experts by Melissa Sharp

I am a mother of twin preschoolers seeking knowledge on the early phases of reading and writing.

Preparing a child to read and write begins with the first book read in infancy.  From that point, children need experiences that foster oral language, content knowledge, literacy skills, and thinking.

What understandings and skills does my child need when learning to read?

Print conventions:  reading left to right and top to bottom, spaces between words, using upper and lower case letters, and punctuation. Alphabet and phonological awareness:  translating letters into sounds.

Oral language:  oral vocabulary and background knowledge, access to interesting books.

Read more: Reading Skills for Children


Get a Doctor's Opinion if You Suspect Learning Disabilities

Ask the Experts by Lori J. Warner, Ph.D.

Q: Our 21-month-old daughter does not respond to her name and when we tell her "no," she doesn't stop what she is doing. Is it OK to take a "wait and see" approach or should we be concerned?

A: Parents often worry about behaviors that are part of typical development, but some behaviors are "red flags," indicating the need for a closer look. Always share your concerns with your child's doctor.  For more information about what milestones to watch for as your child grows, visit or the American Academy of Pediatrics at

Read more: Get a Doctor's Opinion if You Suspect Learning Disabilities


Private Caregiver vs. Home Care Companies

Ask the Experts by Carolyn Van Dorn

Q: I am considering hiring a caregiver to help with our special needs child. What is the difference between hiring a private caregiver and using a home care company? 

A: When utilizing the services of a private caregiver, you may pay less per hour and not have to agree to a minimum number of hours per day or week. You will have to perform applicant searches, be responsible for paying payroll taxes, carry personal liability, worker's compensation and unemployment insurance.

Your homeowner's insurance company may require you to register the domestic worker that is on site. Private care givers do not typically have anyone to fill in for them if they are ill or need time off work. You also become the human resource manager, responsible for all aspects of job performance and problems.

Read more: Private Caregiver vs. Home Care Companies


Science reveals benefits of dyslexia

Ask the Experts by Ann Laciura

Q: Our fourth-grade son was just diagnosed with dyslexia, and we are about to start lessons with an Orton-Gillingham-trained instructor.  The problem is, because of his frustration in school, our son is convinced that he is stupid, nothing will change that, and tutoring is a waste of time. What can we do to give him hope?

A. Dyslexia does not mean a person is stupid. In fact, history shows, quite the opposite. Tell your son that he is in excellent company. Albert Einstein was no slouch, revolutionizing physics. Fellow innovators Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford were dyslexic. In the art world, Leonardo da Vinci and Walt Disney are giants.

Among today’s dyslexic public figures are journalist Anderson Cooper, business tycoon Richard Branson, and authors John Irving and Stephen Cannell. Dyslexic entertainers include Jay Leno, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Quentin Tarantino and Henry Winkler.

I might refer you to a wonderful book: The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read and How They Can Learn.

Read more: Science reveals benefits of dyslexia


Making the Holidays Less Materialistic

Ask the Experts by Eric Herman

It's not the gifts but what's bind them that's important - the spirit of giving. Help your kids learn the fun of giving with some parental tips to help curb materialism in your kids and reinforce the real reason for the season:

Q. During this time of year kids are bombarded with commercials to entice them to want a variety of toys and gadgets they may not need. What can parents do?

A. Of course, it can be challenging to eliminate all exposure to TV and radio marketing messages, but you can always turn off the TV or limit your kids' watching time.

Another important tip is to teach children that not everything they want can always be theirs and that a little "want" here and there isn't all bad. 

Q. What are some things that parents can do to help make the holiday more meaningful?

Read more: Making the Holidays Less Materialistic


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