Even though life never seems to slow down, now is the perfect time to renew your commitment to creating and serving meals at home that nourish your kids’ brains and help them flourish. Not only is time together around the table an opportunity to catch up and reconnect, numerous studies provide evidence of the positive, lifelong benefits of family meals. Regular family meals are linked to the kinds of outcomes that ensure a bright future for children: higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and less risky behaviors.
Family Meals Make a Difference
The benefits of eating together
(Family Features) Juggling jobs, kids and the demands of a busy, modern life often comes at the expense of family mealtime at home. Even though life never seems to slow down, now is the perfect time to renew your commitment to creating and serving meals at home that nourish your kids’ brains and help them flourish.
Not only is time together around the table an opportunity to catch up and reconnect, numerous studies provide evidence of the positive, lifelong benefits of family meals. Regular family meals are linked to the kinds of outcomes that ensure a bright future for children: higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and less risky behaviors.
For example, according to research published in the “Journal of Pediatrics,” kids and teens who share meals with their families three or more times per week are significantly less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to have eating disorders.
Other studies have shown that children who grow up sharing family meals are more likely to exhibit positive social behavior as adults, such as sharing, fairness and respect.
On the other hand, research also suggests that aside from missing out on the benefits, families that have fewer meals together can also experience adverse effects when it comes to certain risky behaviors. A study on the relationship between certain family characteristics and adolescent problem behaviors, published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health,” found that teens who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs or have used an illegal drug; 2.5 times more likely to have used tobacco and 1.5 times more likely to have used alcohol.
Meal Planning Tips
Make Family Meals Count
Role-modeling. Spending time with adults where they can observe positive behaviors in action teaches kids valuable life skills such as using table manners and taking turns talking without interrupting.
Family values. In a busy home where various activities and demands create divides in time and attention, family meals let everyone come together to honor the family unit. Demonstrating value for family and making this together time a priority helps teach youngsters lessons about the importance of work-life balance that they will carry into adulthood.
Time to relax. Not only is mealtime a time to nourish bodies, it’s a chance to force each member of the family to pause and put a temporary hold on the chaotic pace of life. Kids and grownups alike can benefit from a daily break to recharge not only physically, but mentally as well.
Fond memories. A family meal tradition has all the makings for fond childhood memories. An activity that plays an important role in the family’s schedule is sure to create a lasting impression for kids when they look back on their formative years.
Learn more about the positive impact regular meals at home together can have for your kids’ emotional, intellectual and physical well-being at nationalfamilymealsmonth.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (family at table)
(BPT) - Everything takes more time with young children in tow. When even a simple grocery store trip takes strategic planning, most parents forget about organizing a weekend getaway, especially if it's spontaneous.
The truth is, small kids can be amazing travel companions with a little forethought. Use these smart parent planning tips whenever you're feeling pangs of wanderlust. This weekend's last-minute travel adventure could turn into incredible memories that will last a lifetime.
Limit drive time to 3 hours or less
When it's just you and your partner, the journey is part of the excitement of traveling. For kids, time in the car is boring at best and agitating at worst. To avoid tantrums and too many "Are we there yet?" questions, limit travel time to three hours or less.
If you have young kids, try leaving early in the morning so they fall back asleep or plan to travel during nap periods. For older kids, pack plenty of activities, load up the mobile device with new apps and buy some inexpensive-yet-fun surprises they can open along the way.
Find a hotel with room to spread out
To ensure an enjoyable trip, you want the comforts and space of home when you're on vacation. Being stuck in one room with few amenities can be a travel nightmare, especially if you have kids who like to move or a baby who goes to bed at 7 p.m.
The Staybridge Suites brand is a great example of a family-friendly hotel that encourages its guests to make the space their own and have fun. The brand has spacious suites with up to two bedrooms and two baths and a full kitchen so the family can spread out. You can even bring your pet with you so your family is complete.
Want to meet other families or get out and roam? Enjoy the outdoor pool, explore the gazebos and grill up some dinner. The complimentary breakfast (with waffles!) is sure to please kids both young and old.
Avoid a heavy itinerary
The beauty of last-minute travel is, your family doesn't have to stick to a strict schedule. Kids want to spend the morning at the pool? Go for it. Then, sneak in a quick nap with your toddler before visiting the local museum in the afternoon. Because you're not stuck with an extensive itinerary, you can kick back and enjoy some quality bonding time together.
That's not to say you shouldn't explore the area; it's about finding a good stress-free balance. For weekend excursions, focus on one main activity you'd like to accomplish, such as visiting an amusement park or local monument. For longer trips, plan no more than one activity per day to avoid burnout.
Have the last-minute vacation blues because everything is booked? If tickets are sold out, ask to be put on a cancellation list. It's highly possible your family will be able to sneak in at the last last-minute, and you may even get a discount for filling the spot on short notice.
You don't have to avoid last-minute travel until your kids are grown. With these tips, spontaneous vacations might just be your new favorite activity.
To learn more about how you can enjoy a family vacation at Staybridge Suites hotels visit www.staybridgesuites.com/vacation.
(BPT) - We were all teenagers once. We let health warnings from parents and others wash over us like waves, noticed but forgotten almost as soon as they'd passed, because we figured we'd deal with them when we were older. Unfortunately, the mistakes of youth can lead to long-term or permanent hearing damage much sooner than the average teen realizes.
Typical behavior or signs of a problem
Does the following scenario seem familiar?
Sarah is making dinner when she hears her son, David, come home from high school. She calls, "Hi, honey. Hope you had a good day. Dinner will be ready in a half-hour, OK?"
"Huh? Yeah, hi," he says, and then heads upstairs.
Half an hour later, with the rest of the family seated at the dinner table, Sarah calls from the bottom of the staircase, "David! Dinner is on the table!"
After 10 more minutes, Sarah sends her husband, Brian, to summon their son. He climbs halfway up the stairs and shouts, "David! Your dinner is getting cold!"
David sticks his head out of his room. "What?"
"I said your dinner is getting cold."
"Well, why didn't anyone tell me it was ready?" David gripes. "I'm in the middle of Skyping with Jennifer."
"Tell her you'll call back," Brian replies.
David grumbles and withdraws into his room.
Brian returns to the table, where Sarah says, "So? What's the holdup?"
"He says no one told him when dinner was going to be ready."
Sarah heaves a sigh. "I told him when he came home. He never pays attention anymore. Teenagers!"
Like Brian and Sarah, most parents would assume their teen was just ignoring them. But the actual problem might be hearing loss, which is affecting more kids today than ever before.
One out of six teens has hearing loss
"According to a 2014 survey, approximately one in six teens showed hearing loss symptoms often or all of the time, and nearly nine in 10 engaged in activities that could place them at risk," says Donna Grant, Signia Active Kids & Teens Program Manager. Yet parents whose children always passed every school hearing assessment rarely consider the possibility they've begun losing their hearing. After all, what's likelier - a teen being distracted by texting or moodiness, or one who has lost an appreciable amount of hearing?
Dangerous behaviors put kids' hearing at risk
More teens than ever regularly participate in behavior known to cause serious, and often permanent, hearing damage. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the most common culprit. Risk factors include:
* Listening to music through headphones or earbuds well in excess of 85 decibels (dB) for longer than 8 hours (the threshold past which damage begins to occur).
* Not using hearing protection - even cheap, over-the-counter foam earplugs - when attending loud events like rock concerts or fireworks. It's important they know how to wear the hearing protection correctly
* Spending long hours at crowded parties surrounded by extremely loud music and shouted conversations.
* Exposure to potentially ototoxic (ear poisoning) substances like "vape" mist, nicotine, over-the-counter and illegal drugs and alcohol.
What parents need to understand - and help their kids grasp - is that once the delicate workings of the inner ear have been damaged they cannot be repaired. According to Dr. Grant, the fragile hair cells (stereocilia) of the inner ear are finite. Once some or all of them are lost, no currently-available treatment can regenerate them. "That means the teen blasting music through earbuds for hours at a time daily can expect to lose hearing now or in the near future ? and no matter how much they might come to regret their carelessness, there won't be any way to repair the damage done," Dr. Grant says.
So, don't brush off possible red flags of hearing damage off as typical teen problems. If you suspect hearing damage, schedule an appointment with your child's doctor to have their hearing evaluated. If the physician agrees there is cause for concern, they will likely refer you to a hearing care professional to have their hearing formally tested and for possible fitting of hearing aids.
Bullying is a problem that affects millions of students of all races and classes. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and this year on Oct. 3, students, schools and adults will wear blue shirts in solidarity so everyone hears the message about bullying prevention.
Take a Stand and Unite Against Bullying
(Family Features) Today's students are increasingly at risk of being bullied, and the effects of bullying can be devastating.
Bullying is a problem that affects millions of students of all races and classes. One in four kids is bullied and 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online. According to data from STOMP Out Bullying, the leading national anti-bullying and cyberbullying organization for kids and teens, bullies are more likely to skip school, drop out of school, smoke, drink alcohol, get into fights and be arrested at some point in their lives. Many kids who have experienced bullying show decreases in academic achievement and school participation. Some kids are so tormented that suicide has become an alternative for them and some bullying targets resort to violent retaliation.
On the first Monday of October, STOMP Out Bullying’s Blue Shirt Day World Day of Bullying Prevention raises awareness by giving kids a voice, making it the day that bullying prevention is heard around the world. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and this year on Oct. 3, students, schools and adults will wear blue shirts in solidarity so everyone hears the message about bullying prevention.
Education is another important element of the campaign, which strives to promote awareness, encourage communication and ultimately prevent bullying by sharing tips such as these:
Understand bullying behaviors. There are many different types of bullying. Bullying is defined as intentional, aggressive and repeated behavior that involves an imbalance of power or strength. It can take several forms, including physical (hitting, punching, beating); verbal (teasing, name calling, threats); emotional (intimidation, social exclusion, threats); and cyberbullying (online harassment, hate messages, threats, impersonation and other digital abuse).
Learn to recognize signs of bullying. Students who are victims of bullying may come home with torn or missing pieces of clothing, books or other belongings. They may have unexplained cuts, bruises and scratches. Bullying victims may appear sad, moody, teary or depressed and may seem anxious and suffer from low self-esteem. Bullying can manifest physical afflictions, too, such as headaches or stomachaches, trouble sleeping or frequent bad dreams and a loss of appetite.
Know what steps to take when bullying happens. If you suspect a child is being bullied at school, it is never a good idea to approach the bully’s parents. Rather, prepare documentation of what has been occurring, with as much detail as possible. Schedule a meeting with the principal and ask – don’t demand – for their help. Document the action steps agreed upon at this meeting and follow up to ensure changes are implemented and the bullying ceases. In some cases, if laws have been broken or there have been threats against a child, it may be appropriate to also involve local law enforcement.
Get involved in the anti-bullying movement. Purchase your Blue Shirt, plus find more tips and resources to help prevent bullying, at stompoutbullying.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
The real new year begins when you can smell the fresh pink erasers and hear the clatter of brand new pencils on still-smooth notebook covers. Even if you don’t have kids in school, the end of summer and the beginning of fall is a great time to reassess, realign, hit the restart button and make resolutions, such as loving mornings, empowering kids, appreciating others, making fun a priority, being a team, making snacks work hard, fueling up with real food – like burritos and taquitos – and cheering on mom wins, that will help carry your family smoothly through the school year.
New (School) Year, New You
Make family resolutions that stick
(Family Features) Forget Jan. 1. Parents know the real new year begins when you can smell the fresh pink erasers and hear the clatter of brand new pencils on still-smooth notebook covers.
Here are some tips from parents about resolutions they’ve made for the coming school year:
Learn to love mornings
“It was a disaster,” she said. “There was a lot of yelling, a lot of missing socks, a lot of arguments about eating a good breakfast – it was just not the way to start a productive, happy day.”
Luther decided to turn the first – and worst – hour of her day into one of the best by waking up earlier, exercising and turning on music.
Luther also changed the way she looked at breakfast.
“It doesn’t have to be from scratch,” she said, “but it does have to have protein – and be fast. We love frozen breakfast burritos, for example.”
Empower the kids
But kids are eager to help, she said. Just like adults, they feel empowered when they can do things for themselves.
Luther decided to empower her kids and simplify her life at the same time by creating “Get Ready Buckets,” which hold everything they need to get moving in the morning, from hairbrushes to socks.
That same message of empowerment can simplify and improve other stressful times of day. Do the kids walk in the door hungry and cranky and leave you feeling the same way? Stock the freezer with hearty snacks, such as El Monterey Taquitos, that kids can heat up on their own.
“Our teachers put so much time and effort into their jobs,” Merkley said, “and we’re so grateful for that.”
While she usually gives teachers a gift card at the end of the year, she doesn’t wait until then to send notes and emails with a simple, “Thank you.” She also makes sure to say thanks in person – and in front of her kids.
Make fun a priority
“When we laugh and make things and learn things together,” she said, “we’re making memories. I want my kids to remember their childhoods as more than just getting to school on time and cleaning their rooms.”
Be a team
As their motto, the Denneys chose, “Work hard and be nice.” It’s simple, succinct and sums up what they want for their family.
Fuel up with real food
“Sometimes I’ll buy the ingredients myself to cook from scratch and sometimes I’ll look for foods I recognize on the label,” she said. “When I pick up El Monterey Signature Burritos, I see ingredients like fresh-baked tortillas, real cheddar cheese – foods I would buy anyway for my family, so I feel great about that.”
Make snacks work hard
“Protein and real food – that’s what I’m going to look for in afternoon snacks,” she said. “Something that fills the kids up and gets them ready to get back out the door and play, or buckle down and do their homework.”
Cheer on #momwins
“Checking off every last thing on my spring cleaning checklist is a win, for sure,” she said, “but so is a good, smooth morning with my family. So is a sit-down dinner that didn’t stress me out. So is feeling good about what we’re eating. So is every little hug. Those are all #momwins, and I’m going to give myself a little pat on the back for every one.”
For more breakfast, snack and dinner ideas to help you keep your family resolutions, visit ElMonterey.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (family eating)
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