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  • Encouraging Girls to be Leaders

    Pic by Francisco Osorio

    There’s a reason we have so few women in leadership positions; they aren’t always encouraged and empowered to step up. Women make up more than half the population, but in the US, they make up only 18.5 percent of congress and 24.2 percent of state legislatures. Ever noticed how boys are encouraged to lead while little girls are often called ‘bossy’? Studies show that the gap in confidence starts around middle school. Here’s how to create a culture where little girls are free to lead.

    Ban Bossy

    The organization Ban Bossy is on a mission to change the way we describe leaders. While boys are often described as ‘charismatic’ or ‘confident’, girls get the ‘bossy’ label when they have a take-charge attitude. This organization is encouraging parents and educators to be more aware of the language they use when addressing girls so that we can create a culture that encourages young girls to lead.

    Even Beyoncé’ added her support with her video: “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss.”

    Watch it here.

    Build Confidence

    Remind your daughters and students every day that they are valued and capable. Resist doing things for them or taking over tasks that they are not doing well; this sends the wrong message. Instead, encourage them and help them to do things themselves.

    “That’s for boys’

    Ban this phrase from your vocabulary. If she wants to play with mechanical toys and cars, perhaps she will grow up to be an engineer. If she wants to play sports, that’s a great way to learn to be part of a team. In fact, playing a sport or belonging to a club is a great way to encourage leadership.

    Don’t always Let Her Win

    A good leader is able to overcome adversity; where others see problems, a good leader sees a challenge. As much as you want to shield your children from disappointment or failure, see these as teachable moments that will help them to deal with tough times. Encourage a ‘can do’ positive attitude and be a good example.

    Foster Independent Thinking and Decision-making

    Wherever possible, encourage your daughters to find their own solutions to problems and to make their own decisions. Of course you will be there to guide them, but try to let them make up their own minds; it shows that you have faith in their abilities.

    Love Her Just the Way She Is

    This may sound intuitive, but often we tend to validate only those traits that represent the people we want them to be. Recognizing each person’s unique gifts, talents and personality traits for what they are is essential in building self-confidence.

    Teach Her About Money

    Ensure the she has a good understanding of how to manage her finances effectively. It’s never too early or too late to teach the value of savings, investments and deferred gratitude.

    Pursue Passion

    Foster passion in all areas of her life and encourage her to follow her heart, to set goals and to create plans on how to achieve them.

     

  • Healthy Haunted Halloween Treats

    Every year, parents dread the sugar-fueled mania that is Halloween. If you want your kids to enjoy their ghoulish holiday without having to compromise their health or your sanity, then try these great spooky treats that are fun and healthy too.

    Crunchy Halloween Mummies

    Recipe and picture by Betty Crocker

    Cut slices of celery that will serve as coffins for the mummies. Now fill the hollow with cream cheese or vegetable spread to form the mummy’s body. Thinly slice ham and place over the spread in a crisscross fashion to represent the bandages. Pop in some cranberries for eyes and you have a spooky Halloween treat that’s healthy too.

    Witch and Wizard Broomsticks

    Recipe and picture by Catman

    These cute little treats are easy to make and are perfect for the Quidditch fan. Cut a strip off a cheese slice, then cut small incisions along the edge. Use a scissors here if you need to make a lot of them. Roll the cut cheese slice around the bottom of a snack stick and secure with a chive. You can also provide a dip of hummus for the brooms to ‘sweep’.

    Cheesy Eyeballs

    Recipe and picture by Cute Food for Kids

    These cheesy eyeballs are freakishly fun! Using a small paintbrush and red food dye, create the small veins on the eyeball. Thinly slice black olives to make the corneas and then fill the centers will ketchup to create spooky cheesy eyeballs.

    Octo-pepper

    Recipe and photo by Carrying Sunshine

    Turn a healthy snack into an attack from the deep. This wonderful pepper octopus can be created from a red, orange or green pepper. Slice the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Save half of the pepper and thinly slice the other half into tentacles. Place your dip (tzatziki or hummus) into a bowl, and place the half pepper in the middle. Arrange the tentacles around the head. Use the dip to attach two slices of olive onto the head as eyes.

    Goblin Mouths

    Use sugar snap peas to make these spooky treats. Slice a pea down the middle and add a slice of cherry tomato and some cheese strips to make goblin mouths.

    Pearfectly Wicked

    Recipe and picture from Tesco

    These frightful fruits are a healthy dessert for your trick or treater. Peel pairs and place in a pot on medium heat. Pour in enough apple juice to half cover them and place the lid on the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove pairs and leave to cool enough to handle. Continue to simmer the apple juice for 10-15 minutes until it becomes syrupy. Slice a little off the bottom of the pears so that they will stand. Use cranberries or raisins to make the eyes and sunflower seeds for the mouth. Pour the apple juice over the pears and serve when cool.

  • Tips for Teaching Gratitude to Your Children

    Pic by Lori Hurley

    You want your children to have everything they need and so it’s only natural that we do all we can to keep them happy. Unfortunately, the result of this generosity is all too often a sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction. Instilling gratitude in your children is a wonderful gift. Knowing and really feeling how lucky they are will make them happier and healthier.

    Why should kids be grateful?

    While you may prattle on about how children in Africa don’t have new toys or vegetables to eat, it’s completely understandable that this has no effect on your children. They don’t really understand how lucky they are because their only points of comparison are the other children and families in your neighborhood.

    Giving your children a real sense of gratitude means changing their outlooks and attitudes and studies show that it makes happier children. “When kids recognize that the things they own and the opportunities they have come from someone other than themselves, it helps them develop a healthy understanding of how interdependent we all are — and they may be more inclined to treat others with genuine respect,” says Andrea Reiser, happiness coach. Being appreciative also improves your kid’s manners and their relationships to other people.

    How to instill gratitude

    Count your blessings: Every day, encourage younger students to list a couple of things they are thankful for and why. Get older kids to keep a gratitude journal. Make this a part of your daily routine over dinner or on commutes so that you highlight gratitude as a daily necessity.

    Be a good example: Be gracious when accepting gifts and constantly talk about all the things you are grateful for. You should also make it a regular occurrence to remind your children that you are grateful for them so that they understand how wonderful it feels to be appreciated.

    Less is more: I know you want to give your kids everything, but resist the temptation. When you shower your kids with too much stuff, gifts lose their value and they never seem quite satisfied. Instead, resist the urge to spoil them and get them to pitch in for the things they really want.

    Learning to give: It really is better to give than to receive so encourage your kids to give generously to friends and family members and to people less fortunate than themselves. Getting them involved in volunteering, charity drives or holiday toy collections makes their good fortune far more tangible. When they are working with or helping people less fortunate, they have something new to compare their lives to that helps them to realize how fortunate they are.

    An ‘attitude of gratitude’ is a wonderful way to make your kids happier, healthier people who have great relationships with others because they are able to express appreciation and sincerity.

     

  • Ways to Better Parent-Teen Communication

    Pic by Audio Luci Store

    Do you sometimes find your teens difficult to reach? Teens are often reticent to talk about their day at school or about their lives in general. Your questions may be met with ‘I don’t know’ or monosyllabic answers that make conversation a chore. However, it is essential that you ask questions and remain interested to keep those lines of communication open. There are ways you can encourage sharing and help facilitate conversation.

    Listen more than you talk

    Your natural instinct is always to offer advice, to comment or to criticize in order to help your teens make the best choices. Their lack of desire to converse may be because they don’t want your advice right now. One of the best ways to encourage communication is simply to listen, without offering any kind of judgment or advice unless these are specifically solicited.

    Clear the path

    Another good way to encourage communication is by making time for the two of you. Offer to go shopping, watch a movie, have brunch, play a sport or participate in any activity that your teen loves without other family members. Just making time for the two of you will help your teen feel like you are really interested in them and that you are taking an interest in their lives.

    Timing is everything

    Bombarding your teen with questions after a long school day is probably not going to end well. Teens are tired when they get home and may need some time to recharge before they are ready to talk. If they seem uncommunicative, let them unwind a little at home before you fire away.

    Ask the right questions

    If general questions like: “How was your day?” render only superficial answers, try asking more specific questions.

    You can ask about specific friends and classmates and how they are doing. Ask about teachers, assignments or classes. Show that you really do listen by bringing up previous conversations for example: “I know you were worried about how Mr. Smith would react to your science fair idea. Did he like it?”

    If school topics are fraught with tension, talk about other subjects and things that are of interest to your child.

    Mutual respect

    Most teens have a tendency to be self-centered or perhaps they are just a little too touchy or emotional for you. But you must remember that their feelings are very real and valid. Whether you agree with their opinions or reactions, always be respectful. Dismissing their feelings will only serve to alienate them and make them feel like you can’t relate. As with all situations and people, teenagers will respond best to patience, kindness and love.

  • Should your Student Take a Gap Year?

    Picture by Jason Priem

    From Harvard to MIT, many of the most prestigious colleges are recommending a gap year. While most North American parents cringe at the mention of a gap year, it has been standard practice for most European and Australian scholars for years. The thinking here is that a gap year gives high-school students who are burnt out from ACTs, SATs and college applications a chance to recharge. It also gives those students who aren’t quite mature enough or aren’t sure of their career path a little more time to find their feet.

    Gap Years can be a Good Thing

    For most parents, the biggest concern is that a gap year will turn into gap years and their students won’t fulfill their college dreams. College admissions officers disagree. They claim that there are very few students who are a no-show after a gap year.

    They support gap years because they feel that students who are better prepared are more likely to complete their degrees. Most colleges allow newly accepted students to defer for a year while they complete public service or internships.

    This is in an effort to reduce the relatively high dropout rates (30% for first year students). According to the Collage Board, three out of five students don’t manage to complete their four-year degrees in the first five years of college. The thinking here is that students who have taken a gap year will be more prepared and better equipped to deal with their studies.

    Structure your Gap Year

    Travel, volunteering and internships are all possibilities for gap years, but encourage your students to take on these tasks by themselves and to plan their gap years carefully. You can also ask them to make a budget for the year; just because you’re paying for college doesn’t mean you have to fork out for a gap year too. Most students take on part-time jobs to fund their gap years.

    If you and your student have decided on a gap year, don’t let this be the reason for delaying the ACTs or SATs or for delaying college admissions. Students should stay on track and gain college admission which they can defer for a year. They have a far greater chance of going to college if they have already secured admission.

    If your student didn’t get into their college of choice, a gap year can offer them a second run at it. While gap year experience is no guarantee of college acceptance, it may help to bolster admissions that were not successful the previous year.

    If your student is considering a gap year, be sure that this doesn’t give them an excuse to drop the academic ball in their last year. Try to ensure that they secure a college admission before heading off and make sure that their year is planned and structured so they get the most out of their year off.

  • Should your Student Take a Gap Year?

    From Harvard to MIT, many of the most prestigious colleges are recommending a gap year. While most North American parents cringe at the mention of a gap year, it has been standard practice for most European and Australian scholars for years. The thinking here is that a gap year gives high-school students who are burnt out from ACTs, SATs and college applications a chance to recharge. It also gives those students who aren’t quite mature enough or aren’t sure of their career path a little more time to find their feet.

    Gap Years can be a Good Thing

    For most parents, the biggest concern is that a gap year will turn into gap years and their students won’t fulfill their college dreams. College admissions officers disagree. They claim that there are very few students who are a no-show after a gap year.

    They support gap years because they feel that students who are better prepared are more likely to complete their degrees. Most colleges allow newly accepted students to defer for a year while they complete public service or internships.

    This is in an effort to reduce the relatively high dropout rates (30% for first year students). According to the Collage Board, three out of five students don’t manage to complete their four-year degrees in the first five years of college. The thinking here is that students who have taken a gap year will be more prepared and better equipped to deal with their studies.

    Structure your Gap Year

    Travel, volunteering and internships are all possibilities for gap years, but encourage your students to take on these tasks by themselves and to plan their gap years carefully. You can also ask them to make a budget for the year; just because you’re paying for college doesn’t mean you have to fork out for a gap year too. Most students take on part-time jobs to fund their gap years.

    If you and your student have decided on a gap year, don’t let this be the reason for delaying the ACTs or SATs or for delaying college admissions. Students should stay on track and gain college admission which they can defer for a year. They have a far greater chance of going to college if they have already secured admission.

    If your student didn’t get into their college of choice, a gap year can offer them a second run at it. While gap year experience is no guarantee of college acceptance, it may help to bolster admissions that were not successful the previous year.

    If your student is considering a gap year, be sure that this doesn’t give them an excuse to drop the academic ball in their last year. Try to ensure that they secure a college admission before heading off and make sure that their year is planned and structured so they get the most out of their year off.

  • Brain foods that actually make you Smarter

    Pic by Bryan

    No matter what age you are, your brain can keep growing and developing; all it needs is some exercise and the right fuel. Just like your body, your brain needs the right nutrients in order to keep functioning properly. Your brain uses about 20% of your daily calorie intake. If those calories are high in complex carbohydrates and refined sugars, your brain won’t be functioning at its peak.

    If you want to be firing on all cylinders for school, work or exams, there are foods that help to boost brain health and give your grey matter the fuel it needs to succeed.

    Glucose

    One of the things your brain needs most is glucose. Without a constant supply, memory loss and an inability to concentrate effectively will leave you scrambling for answers. Healthy sources of glucose include grains, fruits and vegetables.

    Unhealthy sources of glucose can be found in candy, soda and products which contain a lot of refined sugar. Consuming too much sugar can negatively affect your ability to concentrate and may prevent you from effectively accessing your memory. These refined sugars also negatively affect your blood pressure. When this spikes and drops, you will be left feeling lethargic and too tired to think straight.

    Keep a constant supply of glucose flowing to the brain by eating regular meals. Avoid skipping meals (especially breakfast) and try to eat small, healthy meals every couple of hours. Always aim to get seven servings of fresh fruits and veggies a day.

    Iron

    Brains love iron and this can be found in leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach. You can also find a ready supply of iron in red meats and some grains. Brains are particularly fond of vitamins from the B-family. These can be found in whole grains, wheat germ, organic eggs, bran, whole wheat, oatmeal, brown rice and nuts.

    Omega-3

    Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids are really good for brain health. You can find these in oily fish like wild salmon. Walnuts are brilliant brain food as are edible seeds like flax, hemp and chia.

    Anti-oxidants

    The anti-oxidant properties of berries are legendary and can be found in acai and blueberries. Acai berries are also a great source of Omega-3.

    Magnesium

    Magnesium is also an important nutrient for healthy brains. You can find magnesium in Swiss chard, spinach, potato skins, quinoa, peas, yogurt, cheese, soy products, tofu, fish, nuts and lentils.

    Luteolin

    A plant compound called luteolin helps to reduce the effects of aging on the brain as well as brain inflammation. Luteolin can be found in carrots and is also instrumental in promoting good memory.

  • Pets can be Good For Kids

    Pic by Brad Holt

    If your kids are keen to have a pet, but all you can think about is how you will have to feed and care for their furry and feathered friends, there are some benefits that you may not be considering. Having a pet will invariably mean that you have more to keep an eye on and there are inevitable expenses, but there are also a wealth of benefits and learning opportunities that having a pet provides for your family.

    Learning about Responsibility

    This is the obvious one, but having a pet really does teach your children to consider the needs of others when making decisions. They also understand that while being responsible isn’t always fun, it is very rewarding.

    Children also learn to plan their day and follow a routine so that they are always home to feed and exercise their pets. This helps them with time management and learning to fulfill obligations and responsibilities.

    Health benefits

    Being introduced to pets from an early age can actually boost immune systems which mean that children have a lower chance of developing allergies and are less likely to have asthma. Interacting with pets is also good for your health which is why healthcare facilities encourage visitations from dogs. Interacting with a pet lowers blood pressure and releases serotonin which elevates mood.

    Having to walk a dog can encourage children to get moving and helps them to control their weight. It can also provide companionship and comfort and improve feelings of wellbeing.

    Give it a trial run

    Before owning a pet, ask a friend or family member if you can take care of their pet for a couple of days. This will help you to gauge your child’s readiness to accept the responsibility of a new pet.

    You can also encourage your child to volunteer at a local shelter or just offer to walk the neighbor’s dog a couple of days a week.

    Be cognizant also of the time it takes to care for pets. If your child is already struggling to juggle academics and after-school activities, then opt for a low-maintenance pet that doesn’t require a lot of love and attention.

    If you aren’t ready for the full responsibility of a dog, start with a hamster or a fish to get your students accustomed to the routine and responsibility. This will help you ascertain whether they are mature enough to handle a pet. Do not get a pet unless you are absolutely sure that it’s the right thing for you and your family.

  • Need to Improve your Grades? Get a Study Group!

    pic by Bahaius

    Remember that saying “two heads are better than one”? Just imagine how effective four or five heads can be! Study groups can really help you to improve your grades. Whether you are struggling at school of you need to up your game to get into college, study groups are really where the magic happens.

    Study groups don’t mean sitting around texting, playing Wii and eating pizza. When a group of determined students committed to improving their academics get together, you can be sure that grades are going to be getting a whole lot better.

    There are so many benefits!

    Dividing reading among your study group means you can work through large swathes of material, get really comprehensive notes and present the information in a variety of learning styles.

    When you present your share of the work, you are honing your presentation skills while really locking that information into your long-term memory. Teaching something really helps to reinforce your own knowledge and gives the group a chance to add to your understanding of the material.

    Getting the perspectives of the other study group participants can broaden your knowledge. Together you can also get through the extra readings which you may not have time for on your own.

    Start by picking the right team

    Perhaps the single most important factor in starting a successful study group is selecting the right students. When setting up a study group, avoid choosing members based on friendship alone. Instead, find students who are able to contribute significantly, who are committed to working hard and who will be reliable. Study groups work best when they consist of people who are more or less on the same academic level.

    Learning styles

    Everyone learns differently, so divide your work up evenly among the group. Then ask each person to make comprehensive notes on the readings which they can share so you have something to use for studying. During your study group, each person gets a chance to present and explain their portion of the readings. You can use videos, mind maps, illustrations and infographics to help the visual learners.

    When you have worked through the material, do some test exams together. Help each other with the questions you got wrong. Never erase an incorrect answer – instead take notes on where you went wrong so you don’t make the same mistakes again.

    When you share your studying with others, you are able to get through more work. You can help each other with those parts you don’t understand and share notes and other leaning materials. Encouraging each other and helping each other to work though problems will improve friendships too.

  • How Changing Attitudes Can Help your Child Succeed At Math

    Math tutor

    pic by Cybrarian77

    Studies show that a natural math ability is not required for a student to succeed. Sure, natural talent does help some children get ahead and is especially evident in the lower grades, but a study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim showed that the biggest predictor of success was practice and a positive attitude.

    “You become good at exactly what you practice,” said Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson, of NTNU’s Department of Psychology. “Our study shows little correlation between (being good at) the nine different mathematical skills,” Sigmundsson said. “For instance there is little correlation between being able to solve a normal addition in the form of ’23 + 67′ and addition in the form of a word problem.”

    Math is a subject that most students think that they can or can’t do. While they are happy to admit that other subjects require hard work to succeed, you often hear the “I’m not good at math,” refrain. Everybody can be good at math, but it does take perseverance, patience and hard work.

    Start with a positive inner dialogue

    Ask your child to change their inner and outer dialogue about math. Instead of thinking that they can’t do it or that they aren’t good at it, they should focus on the positive. “Well, I got pretty far on that one,” or “at least I got the beginning part right” are better ways to look at the situation. When sitting down to homework or to study for a test, a quick pep talk will do wonders.

    Offer rewards for short and long-term goals

    Offering big rewards for unattainable goals can actually be counter-productive as children feel that larger goals are just too difficult to achieve. Instead, set up a series of short-term goals that are manageable. For example; ask your child to improve their math grade by 5% and offer a reward that they can get excited about. Achieving short-term goals will boost their confidence and make them more inclined to believe that the long-term goals are also attainable.

    When children do achieve goals, praise them and be sure to mention that it was their hard work and perseverance that led to success.

    Avoid homework wars

    If you have to nag and cajole your children to do their math homework or if working with you creates tension, then it may be time to switch tactics. Ask your children to speak with the teacher at least once a week. Here they should take in problems that they are struggling with and ask for help. Showing examples of their work will help the teacher to see where they are going wrong.

    Consider getting an in-home math tutor. If your child is struggling with school math, sending them to a learning center where they will get more school math is probably not the answer. Instead, get a one-on-one tutor to set out an academic game plan for their math curriculum. This should include filling in gaps in their foundational mathematical knowledge and teaching study and organizational skills.

    Remember that when it comes to math, attitude is more important than ability. You can use Einstein as an example; when he was nine, his teacher told his father that, no matter what career he chose, he would not succeed!