National Grandparents Day: Celebrating the Grandparents Among Us

written by Dr. Luci Bearon (PhD, CFLE)
Associate Professor, NC State University
Adult Development/Aging Specialist, NC State Extension

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Did you know that there is such a thing as National Grandparents Day in the United States and that it has been celebrated for almost 40 years? If you never heard of it, you’re not alone. According to the American Grandparents Association (Grandparents.com), an estimated two out of three grandparents have never participated in National Grandparents Day.¹ The idea for a national Grandparents Day – with festivities and recognition similar to those of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – was envisioned, developed, and promoted in the 1970s by Mrs. Marian McQuade, a West Virginia grandmother and advocate for seniors. Mrs. McQuade believed that such an observance would bring families together to focus on and celebrate older adults, especially lonely elders in nursing homes, at risk of being forgotten by their families. In July of 1978, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution designating the Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day, and it was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.²

Although the annual celebration of National Grandparents Day has not become as visible as the special days honoring parents, many card shops and drugstores sell cards for children and adults to send to grandparents; gift shops identify and stock items specifically for grandparents; and community organizations serving children, families and seniors plan events that are often multigenerational. Surfing the Internet this week, I found that Hallmark, American Greetings, and a number of other companies sell e-cards and coloring sheets, and many restaurants, museums and ballparks encourage families to celebrate the holiday in their venue. Twitter has an active page for the hashtag #grandparentsday, which has received over 400 new Tweets in the past 48 hours. Also, the Huffington Post has invited readers to send in stories and photos of how their own grandparents enriched their lives, inspired them and what made them so special and to share one memory that never fades. In counterpoint, the newspaper asked grandparents to write in want they most like to do with their grandchild and what lesson they hope to impart to him or her.

Today in the U. S. there are an estimated 65-70 million grandparents, a very diverse group with ages ranging from 30-somethings to supercentenarians (110+). They play a variety of significant roles in the lives of their grandchildren. If we are (or were) lucky enough to have a grandparent we bond with in some way, our grandparents may serve as our teachers or advisors, nurturers/spoilers, cooks, moral guides, kin-keepers, historians, generous hosts and hostesses and gift givers, and often playmates, companions, or babysitters. From my experiences teaching about family life and aging, I have found that when I ask college undergraduates or graduate students to describe something they admire about one of their grandparents, most students are eager to share memories, and anecdotes – stories often delivered with humor and palpable emotion. Although the relationships children and adults have with their grandparents vary widely and are surely more complex and nuanced than the anecdotes reveal, grandparent-grandchild relationships experienced or remembered over the life course can affect a grandchild’s identity, values, a sense of security and stability, and place in historical time.

One group that is gaining some visibility and deserves special mention is grandparents raising their grandchildren. Recently the U. S. Census Bureau released their 2015 annual report for National Grandparents Day showing a continuing upward trend for children to live with their grandparents.³ Current data estimates show that 7.2 million grandparents co-reside with their grandchildren under 18 years of age. However, 2.7 million of these grandparents have assumed parental responsibility for their grandchildren’s basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter). Reasons grandparents “step in” to take on the parenting role 24/7 may be due to a teen pregnancy or an adult child’s substance use, physical or mental health problems, child abuse or neglect, death of the biological parent or military deployment, among other major disruptions in family life. The statistics inform us that many (over half a million) of these surrogate parents have an income below the poverty level. An even larger number of the responsible grandparents have a disability. Many of the 1.6 million grandparents taking on the role are in the labor force and 354,000 of these working grandparents are age 60 and over.

For these grandparents raising grandchildren, think about the challenges and complexities these families may face as they stretch their limited resources; balance work and family; acquire new accommodations, furniture and clothing; leave the work force earlier than planned to give the care needed; or defer retirement plans and dreams to make ends meet. Additionally, grandparents serving as parents often encounter a lack of public awareness of the needs of grandparents that often include dealing with complex legal issues, high levels of stress, limited community services and supports tailored to their needs, and in some cases declining health. Nevertheless these strong and committed grandparents often say that they accept these challenges to ensure safety and stability for their grandchildren and thus see their efforts as a labor of love.

References & Resources:

  1. http://www.grandparents.com/food-and-leisure/did-you-know/surprising-facts-about-grandparents
  2. For more information on Marian McQuade and National Grandparents Day, visit http://www.grandparents-day.com/. Also, extensive information is available in an out-of-print book written in 1982 by Garret Matthews entitled “Grandparents Day and Marian McQuade” published by the West Virginia Press Club in Richwood, West Virginia. For a copy of this text, contact your local library (you may be able to get an interlibrary loan) or search for a bookseller that handles used books.
  3. For data on grandparents raising grandchildren, visit U.S. Census: Facts for Features. Contact your state or local department on aging to learn about programs and services for grandparents raising grandchildren.

Tips for Celebrating Mother’s Day

Your life may be busier than ever right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some time to prepare a special surprise for your mother (or a mother-figure in your life). For most of us, Mother’s Day usually means searching for a gift and scribbling in a mass-produced card. This time, go above and beyond and do something a little different than last year. It may be a hassle. It may take some thought. So below are ideas to help the special women in your life feel appreciated this Mother’s Day.

Last year- Gave flowers.
This year- Leave a flower in each room of the house.

Last year- Gave gift card to favorite store.
This year- Take her to her favorite store and shop with her.

Last year- Bought perfume/gift.
This year- Create a photo album of memories.

Last year- Went out to dinner.
This year- Surprise her with a home-cooked dinner (and make sure to leave the kitchen spotless when you’re done).

Last year- Framed an old photo of the family.
This year- Reenact an old baby photo as adults and frame it.

Last year- Drove to a destination.
This year- Fill up her tank of gas before and drive her to her destination. You can also write a song and sing it to her (don’t worry if you can’t sing), it’s the thought that counts.

Last year- Cleaned a room of the house.
This year- Clean the whole house and leave a note in each room with a memory of you and your mother that you will always remember.

Last year- Watched a movie together.
This year- Watch a movie together, but mute it and create your own dialogue. Or, make it in to a family movie night with a special snack, meal, or activity.

Last year- Allowed mom to have her “alone time.”
This year- Schedule an appointment at a local spa. Don’t let high prices intimidate you if you can’t afford it. Get together with a few friends and see if you can negotiate a package deal for the group, or go for a basic treatment (such as a manicure or pedicure, which can cost as little as $25).

Last year- Gave gifts.
This year- Give time.

Written by: Nada Elhertani, Project Manager, Child and Family Learning Network

Live Large, Spend Small

You want to live the ‘good life’ but your budget is always screaming, “Hey! Stop! We can only afford mediocre living!” Well that’s okay. There are several ways to look and feel like you are living above your means while at the same time being smart with your finances, and it’s really just a matter of making minor adjustments in your day to day living. I’ve noticed that most of society today obsesses about two things- staying healthy in order to live a long active life and having enough money to last for our long active life. According to a survey by Bankrate, 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. So roughly, three-quarters of Americans are living with little to no emergency savings. It can be difficult to find a balance between living for today, doing things we enjoy while we are healthy enough to do them, planning for the future and making whatever assets we have last a lifetime. Below are a few strategies for getting some of the things that you want out of life- even if you believe you can’t afford them:

  • Cherish your long-term goals- “Bend your budget to your values, not your values to your budget.” If you and your partner’s goal have always been to buy a house, don’t give up on that goal. Change all your passwords on your laptop to something to remind you about your goal, such as “dreamhouse123” or “20kby2015.” Also, set up automatic transfers from checking to savings every month to gradually build up your fund. Getting in the habit of creating and meeting financial goals will strengthen your financial success.
  • Scale down your vacations- vacations are important because they renew and reinvigorate your spirit, help you think more clearly, and boost your outlook. But it’s difficult to enjoy a vacation when you’re worried about how much it’s costing. Yes, plan that fantastic getaway but just scale it down a bit- instead of a week at that exclusive resort, go for three or four days. Weekday prices can be as little as one-third of the price of weekend rates. Take advantage of package deals such as booking your airfare, hotel, and rent-a-car all at once. And don’t forget to use your frequent-flier miles whenever you can.
  • Lease not buy- Some people wants a car that describes who they are (or at least, who they’d like to be). If what you drive is a status symbol to you, consider this: instead of buying a brand-new car, consider leasing one that’s a year old. Leasing a car is a completely different ball game than buying one. By leasing a car, you’ll get the car that you want but at a significantly lower price.
  • Buy smarter- It’s very important to carefully consider every purchase that you make. Instead of buying on impulse, make a shopping list every time you hit the grocery store or mall. That way you will only buy what you need- those little extras add up!

Source

Moore, R. & Jetkey, H. (2013). Guide to Spending Smarter. Retrieved from: http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/releases/21959-most-teen-workers-spend-not-save

Dolan, T. (2011). 5 Keys to Spending Less and Living Well. Retrieved from http://www.frugal-mama.com/2011/01/5-keys-to-spending-less-and-living-well/

Written by: Nada Elhertani, Project Manager, Child and Family Learning Network

 

Safety Tips for a Spooktacular Halloween

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The night of Halloween is one of the best of the year for children, but for parents, trick-or-treat time can be a little troublesome. Parents know the drill—they want their children to have an enjoyable but not too spooky time trick-or-treating, all the while staying safe. But trick-or-treating can come with some risks, aside from the dental ones. According to the U.S. Census, there are about 41 million potential trick-or-treaters between the ages of 5 and 14 the night of Halloween. Parents should take precautions to make sure that their little vampires and princesses have a fantastic time.

Introducing your child to Halloween can be the start of a great tradition. But nothing can turn fun into fright faster than an accident. Follow these handy tips and your little Elsa, Batman, or Optimus Prime should be good to go!

  • Supervise your children- if your child thinks he/she is too will look “uncool” to have mom or dad tag along, you can always walk on the sidewalk of each house.
  • Teach kids to obey traffic signals and signs- as well as advising them to walk on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic (although kids should always stay on sidewalks when possible)
  • When choosing or making a costume, pick fire-resistant materials and bright colors.
  • Use reflective tape- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends fastening reflective tape to your children’s costume, especially if the costumes are dark-colored, so drivers will be able to see them.
  • Reconsider the mask. If your child wears one, make sure it doesn’t obstruct vision or breathing.
  • Before you let your child dig into that glorious mass of sugar he/she collected, carefully inspect all food and candy before letting your child eat it (when in doubt, throw it out).

Reference:

DiBenedetto, A. (2013). Trick or treat! Tips for Halloween safety. Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org.cro/news/2012/10/trick-or-treat-for-halloween-safety/index.htm

Harris, C. (2014). Halloween Safety Tips Every Parents Should Know. Retrieved from http://www.parents.com/holiday/halloween/safety/children-halloween-safety-checklist/

Written by: Nada Elhertani, Project Manager, Child and Family Learning Network

Better Balancing the Demands of Parenthood

Being a parent is challenging. But adding 40 hours a week to an already demanding schedule can seem almost impossible at times. When a full-time mom (or any parent, for that matter, but we’re just addressing moms for now…) clocks out of work, her day may seem like it’s just beginning. From toddlers melting down, to rides to baseball practice, to helping kids with homework, to housework and making dinner… she may wonder when there’s ever any “me” time?

A disclaimer. All moms (and dads too) struggle to find “me” time regardless of whether or not they fall in the SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mom) category. So, rather than getting into a proverbial war of how to operationalize “working,” the focus of this particular post will be moms who are balancing paid employment with parenthood.

More moms than ever are in the workforce. According to AmericanProgress.org, women now make up half of all workers in the United States, with nearly 4 in 10 homes having a mom who is also a working mother. Being both a mother and an employee may present women with a battle between the roles of nurturer and professional. So, is there a healthy way to balance the two?  Quite simply, yes. 

The first thing to realize is that you’re human. And that means you can’t do it all. You will need to let go of some things (because there are only 24 hours in a day!). And no, sleep shouldn’t be one of the things you let go of! Your day will be a lot less stressful if you cut yourself some slack and focus on the things that matter most. Examine your obligations (and those of your family members) and realistically prioritize.

Just like planning meetings and appointments at work, it’s important organize and plan at home. Set a daily schedule to help things at home run more smoothly. If you have a co-parent, be sure to coordinate who is doing what, when. And don’t forget the kids as you delegate! As developmentally appropriate, children should also have assigned responsibilities that they are expected to do around the house.

Remember, parenting is about quality, not necessarily quantity! Make the free time you have with your kids count. Sometimes that may mean just talking with them about their day on the ride home from soccer practice. Do things as a family, and cherish those moments. Also, explain to your children why you work. Helping them better understand what you do at work, and how your job contributes to your family’s overall well being, will foster family cohesion.

We all know that parenting (for any parent) is the hardest job in the world! But it can also be the most rewarding. The days are long, but the years are quick. Find a balance that works for you, your career, and your family.

Reference:

Dillaway, H. & Pare, E. (2008) Locating mothers: How cultural debates about stay-at-               home versus working mothers define women and home. Journal of Family Issues,

Litsa (2014). Working Full-Time and Raising a Child? Here’s how to pull it off though! One Chic Mom. Retrieved from http://www.onechicmom.com/read.asp?nid=1616&article=Working%20FullTime%20AND%20Raising%20a%20Child?%20Here%C2%92s%20How%20to%20Pull%20it%20Through

Written by: Nada Elhertani, Project Manager, Child and Family Learning Network

Developing Children’s Financial Habits and Behaviors

While educators and parents recognize that financial education can and should begin at an early age, it is often difficult to know how to approach the topic.  Here are a few suggestions for approaching financial education with young children.

  • Numbers and number concepts offer opportunities to talk about “more” versus “less.”
  • Time and the concepts of past, present, and future offer opportunities to talk about deferring/delaying spending (and saving!).
  • Social values and the concept of financial relationships within a society provide opportunities to talk about gifts, generosity, and public goods such as libraries, parks, and play grounds.

Parents and youth caregivers have a unique opportunity to help children build good financial habits and behaviors.  They are the primary influence on the child’s future financial well-being because they have many occasions to communicate information, set powerful examples, and involve them in hands-on activities.

For an in-depth discussion of developing children’s financial habits and behaviors, join us for a webinar on August 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm EDT. 

Access the webinar at https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/fsa

During the webinar, you’ll learn about recent  scholarship from Cooperative Extension professionals related to this topic, as well as hear about a FDIC-CFPB partnership aimed at raising awareness among parents about the important role they play in developing children’s financial habits and behaviors.  The webinar is hosted by the eXtension.org Financial Security for All Community of Practice, a member of the Child and Family Learning Network.

Reference:

Collins, J. M. (2013). Issue Brief: New Strategies for Financial Education for Preschool Aged Children and Families. Retrieved from http://fyi.uwex.edu/financialseries/files/2013/10/New-Strategies-for-Financial-Education.pdf

Written by: Elizabeth Kiss, Ph.D.

Small Steps to Health and Wealth

Health and finances: two things that keep people up at night. Do I have enough money saved? Am I ready for retirement? How do I control my blood pressure? These worry-filled questions leave you wanting answers but where do you turn for credible answers and information? Worry no more! Dr. Barbara O’Neill from Rutgers University will explain the Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ initiative during a webinar on July 29, 2014 10 am CT, and discuss 25 behavior changes that can improve an individual’s health and finances.

SSHW was developed because societal problems have been widely reported in recent years including an increasing incidence of diabetes, overweight, and obesity, low household savings, high household debt levels, and bankruptcy filings. The SSHW program includes 25 behavior change strategies that people can adopt to address these concerns. Each involves taking small positive steps that people can put into practice on a daily basis.

The webinar presentation is a joint collaboration between the Child and Family Learning
Network and the Military Families Learning Network. This 90 minute webinar will be filled with research-based, credible information that can jumpstart your finances and health. Invest the time to attend so you can make the greatest investment of all—YOU!!! To access the webinar, please visit https://learn.extension.org/events/1625

References:
Small Steps to Health and Wealth™, NRAES-182, Retrieved from http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/

Written by:
Katie Stamper, Project Manager, Child and Family Learning Network

Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock

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As temperatures across the country continue to escalate above average highs, it is more important than ever to understand the health effects for children. Infants and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of extreme heat and must rely on others to keep them safe. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s body temperature can increase three to five times as quickly as an adult’s.

On average, every 10 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle (http://www.safekids.org/heatstroke). These deaths are preventable, and everyone in the community, especially Head Start and child care providers, has a role to play in protecting our children.

Here are a few simple things you can do:

  • Make it part of your everyday routine to account for all children in your care. Set up backup systems to check and double-check that no child is left in the vehicle. Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle—even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running with the air conditioning on. Vehicles heat up quickly; if the outside temperature is in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down 2 inches.
  • Always make a habit of looking in the vehicle—front and back—before locking the door and walking away.
  • Get in touch with designated family members if a child who is regularly in your care does not arrive as expected.
  • Create reminders to ensure that no child is accidentally left behind in the vehicle. Place an item that is needed at your final destination in the back of the vehicle next to the child or place a stuffed animal in the driver’s view to indicate that a child is in the car seat.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately if you see a child alone in a hot vehicle. If he or she is in distress due to heat, get the child out as soon as possible and cool him or her down rapidly.

Source: Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Keeping Your Kids (and Your Wallet) Cool This Summer

If your July was anything like mine, it was H-O-T!  With record-breaking temperatures and near-daily heat advisories, finding inexpensive, indoor ways to entertain your kids during the summer months can prove challenging.  As a mom of two little ones (four and two), I’ve tried to find economical and fun ways to keep my kids busy on those days when it’s just too hot to go outside.

Foster Creativity

With most schools out on summer break, it’s important to regularly provide your children with time to draw, color, paint, and create.  Give a child a crayon and the possibilities are endless!  August is a good time to buy art supplies because many discount retailers are running back-to-school specials.  Take advantage of the sales by stocking your home with many simple craft supplies that cost as little as $.25 to $1.00 each!  The basics?  Crayons, markers, colored pencils, a watercolor paint set, finger paint (look for poster paint, which is usually a few dollars cheaper), safety scissors, glue sticks/school glue, construction paper, a coloring book, and drawing paper.  For under $10, you can create an art kit that will keep your kids so entertained they’ll forget they are inside!

To supplement your store-bought supplies, look for items around the house to reuse and repurpose.  Save empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, magazines, empty milk cartons, and soda bottles.  Find an old box to house your new art supplies, and let your kids’ first craft be to decorate it!  Collect old buttons, ribbons, and fabric.  Rinse and save your Popsicle sticks.  Got extra cotton balls in the bathroom?  Glue them to a piece of construction paper to make clouds (or better yet, let your kids make a winter snow scene on a hot summer day!).

Make TV-Time Special

Let’s be realistic… your kids will likely watch TV this summer (especially on those 100+ days when it’s too hot to even go swimming).  Limit TV-time and don’t let the television become your safety-net.  Whether you have digital cable or a digital antenna, you can find quality children’s programming on your local public broadcast stations both mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  We saved money for over a year and a half by nixing our pricey cable and using an antenna.  I’ve found that some of the most educational and entertaining children’s TV shows are free!

Also, try having a family movie day.  Together with your kids, choose a movie to watch as a family, and make it a big deal.  Rent a $1 movie from a local kiosk and pop popcorn or make special snacks.  Many local movie theaters also offer deals during the summer months, including earlier matinees, dollar movies, a discounted admission day (like “Movie Monday” where admission is half off), or even free children’s admission to scheduled showings.  Check with your local theater to learn more about the deals in your area.

Simple Summer Fun

Often, the most joyful memories can be created using little or no money at all.

  • Build a fort.  Grab some clean sheets, blankets, pillows, and kitchen chairs… and Presto!  You have a medieval castle, a cabin in the mountains, or a cave in the forest.
  • Become a chef.  Get out your cookie cutters and a couple of older pots and pans.  Using either store-bought or homemade play dough, let your kids host a pretend cooking show.  (Tip: Search for “homemade play dough recipes” in any online search engine.  Many use common ingredients like salt, flour, and water.)
  • Bounce away!  Kids bouncing off the walls?  Literally?  Channel that energy!  My kids love placing the couch cushions and pillows on the living room floor and jumping from one to another.  Or try creating a mock hopscotch board or an indoor obstacle course.
  • Backyard fun.  If your city doesn’t have drought/water restrictions, let your child run through the sprinkler the next time you’re watering your lawn in the evening.  Ten minutes, a garden hose, and a lawn sprinkler can turn any backyard into a children’s water playground!

Remember, you don’t have to spend big bucks to keep your kids cool and entertained this summer.  You can help your kids avoid cabin-fever without pricey splurges!

Written by: Nichole L. Huff, Ph.D, CFLE

This post originally appeared August 8, 2011 on America Saves http://www.americasaves.org/blog/249-keeping-kids-cool

 

 

 

Adolescent Brains Are Not Fully Developed

When I began teaching about brain development in the late 1990s, we emphasized the importance of young children’s earliest experiences. Based on numerous media reports and highly-publicized efforts (such as Georgia’s initiative to distribute classical music CDs to all babies born in the state), we believed that brain development was more or less complete by the time a child was 3 to 5 years old.

We were right about the importance of the early years, but quite wrong about the timeline for brain development. A large body of research on adolescent brain development clearly indicates that the brain is far from fully developed at age 3 or 5, or even at age 13 or 15.

Think about some of the common challenges of adolescence. Some of the keys to teenagers’ challenging behaviors, such as their lack of impulse control, their tendency to take needless risks, and their less-than-wise decision-making at times, are functions of a brain that is less than completely developed.

The prefrontal cortex, which controls a series of higher-order thinking abilities known as “executive function,” is not fully developed until as late as age 25 to 30. This means that teens still have some difficulty overcoming their immediate emotional responses and using appropriate self-control to make – and act on – wise decisions.

Understanding adolescent brain development and finding ways to help teens develop good decision-making skills are important ways that adults support healthy adolescent brain development. Better Brains for Babies, a Georgia-based collaborative group that educates adults about brain development, will be presenting an introduction to adolescent brain development via webinar on Thursday, July 10 from 2 – 3 pm Eastern. The introduction, entitled “The Ins and Outs of Adolescent Brain Development,” will focus on the development (and under-development) of various parts of the brain, the ways this brain development affects behavior, and ways to support adolescents during this time when their brains are still developing.

To attend the webinar, go to https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2013048&miuid=C38EB61AC1DDA72EC03BA5BC836AD210. Pre-registration is not required. Certificates of attendance will be emailed to participants who attend the entire session live, and who complete a request for certificate within 24 hours. A recording of the webinar will also be available a few days afterward for those who could not attend the webinar live.

If you have questions about the webinar, please send them to info@bbbgeorgia.org. To learn more about the Better Brains for Babies initiative in Georgia, go to www.bbbgeorgia.org.

 

Diane Bales

Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, The University of Georgia

Co-Leader, eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care

Co-Leader, Better Brains for Babies