It’s Time For A Change: Setting Goals for the Whole Family
With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy for family members to focus on their individual goals, like a big project at work or making the soccer team. If you’re looking to bring your loved ones closer together, try setting a family goal! Working together to achieve a goal will allow you to spend more time together and have something to look forward to completing. What’s more, parents can model behaviors that will allow their children to successfully achieve their own goals later in life.
Stumped on where to begin? Consider these family goals to get started:
- Plan a “Family Fun Day” every month. Set aside a day each month for your family to spend quality time together. Set a budget, brainstorm ideas, and decide on an activity as a family unit. As tempting as it may be to invite along friends, keep this activity family-only to make it more special.
- Participate in a community service project. Choose a cause your family is passionate about and research ways you can volunteer. Giving back to the community sets a great example for kids, provides help to those in need, and makes you feel good!
- Start a new family hobby. Spend time together as a family by doing something you all enjoy. Whether it’s doing a nightly crossword puzzle, baking sweet treats, or going on a bike ride, as long as your family is together and having fun, you’ve succeeded!
- Set up a family savings fund. If your family has big plans, like going on a vacation or purchasing the latest video game system, encourage everyone to contribute to the cause. Place a piggy bank in your kitchen and have family members add money to help reach the goal more quickly.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. The foundation for a healthy lifestyle starts at home. Create family goals to eat more fruits and veggies, increase your physical activity and get enough sleep. Rely on family members to hold each other accountable.
Hello September! It’s Time To Start the New School Year
It’s back-to-school season! Getting back into the swing of things after a fun-filled summer can be hard, but an organized approach to heading back to school can make the transition easier for both parents and children. Follow these five tips to make heading back to the classroom a piece of cake.
- Fill out forms as soon as you get them. The paperwork or online forms that comes along with a new school year can often seem endless. Whether it’s a health form, t-shirt order, permission slip or other document, sign it immediately and return it to school. This will prevent an avalanche of forms from accumulating and you’ll feel accomplished with each signature!
- Set ground rules. With the lazy days of summer over, it’s time for a rule re-boot in September. Consider how much screen time your children should have each day, homework expectations and an ideal bedtime. Include older children in the conversation to set the rules; they’ll be more likely to buy-in and follow them.
- Make a meal plan. The rush of after-school programs, fall sports and homework can make mealtimes hard when kids first head back to school. Plan your meals and purchase ingredients in advance so there is no guesswork when it comes to cooking. And meal plans aren’t just for dinner—you can also plan breakfasts and lunches too.
- Check in on your child’s mental health. After a carefree summer, children may struggle with their mental health when they go back to school. Communicate with them regularly and take note of signs that indicate they may be having a hard time, like acting out or not sleeping well. If problems persist, talk to your school’s counselor or pediatrician.
- Know your school’s COVID protocols. COVID-19 is very much still with us and will likely impact the school year. Read through your school’s plan for dealing with COVID cases. Know what symptoms require a child to stay home and plan for childcare should your child need to quarantine.
Organize Your Home for Back To School
The new school year is just around the corner! In addition to purchasing school supplies and new clothes, parents can also get their homes ready for the change in season. With a little organization, you can make the back-to-school routine easier for both you and your kids.
Sort through your child’s drawers and remove all clothes they’ve outgrown. This will make it easier for them to choose their own outfits. Lay out clothes for the next school day the night before or use a closet organizer to plan out clothes for the entire week. Store special clothing, like gym clothes or sports uniforms, in a designated area so your child will know where to find it each week.
If your children bring lunch to school, you know the tedium of packing lunch every day. Plan your meals in advance (for the week or month) to take the guesswork out of school lunches. Invest in lunch containers that will fit the food your child likes best—bento boxes for kids who like a little bit of everything or a thermos for those who prefer a hot lunch. Pre-pack fruits and vegetables for the week and store them in your fridge so you can grab and go when packing lunch.
Define a space in your home where kids can hang their backpacks each day. Aim for an area that is out of the way and easily accessible, especially for young children. Label hooks as needed and personalize the space so your children will be more likely to stash their bag in the right place and not on the kitchen floor.
The best environment to do homework varies from child to child. Some work better in a quiet setting, like their bedroom, while others can work effectively in a noisy kitchen or living room. Regardless of the location, make sure your homework area is equipped with a desk or hard surface on which to write, pens or pencils, and other materials that your child might need.
Give Yourself Permission To Relax
Summer is here, and it’s time to take advantage of the warm weather and let the summer sun brighten your days.
Feast on a summer dish. Enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables of the season, like juicy strawberries, sweet cherries and perfectly buttered corn on the cob. Make good use of your grill with classic barbeque foods and eat outside as much as possible. Don’t forget dessert—nothing says summer like a big ice cream cone.
Select the perfect summer tunes. Certain songs just take you back. Create a playlist of songs that remind you of summers past or select an already created playlist from a music service. Search for top “songs of the summer” or turn on some reggae to go straight to the islands!
Get wet. The hot summer days almost beg for the cool relief of water. You don’t have to go for a swim to get wet, though. Have a water balloon fight with your kids, wade through a creek or head out on your boat. Research shows being near water really does make you happy, so go out and find some this summer.
Soak up the sun. We all know the importance of protecting your skin from the sun’s UV rays, but spending time out in the sun can also be good for you. Your skin produces vitamin D, which keeps bones healthy, fights diseases and reduces depression, in response to sunlight. Get out for a walk, read a book outside or have a chat with your neighbors and you’ll reap the benefits of the sun.
Relive your childhood. In a time when your previously planned summer activities may not happen, take time to enjoy the summer as you did as a child. Catch fireflies, drink lemonade, play card games, run through the sprinkler and roast marshmallows. Be thankful for the little joys in life that continue throughout time.
Smart tips for securing your Smart Home!
Nearly 70 percent of homes in the U.S. have at least one smart device—a speaker, security system or thermostat, for example—and about 12 percent of homes have multiple devices. While smart home technology has many benefits, it’s important to remember that these devices are susceptible to security breaches. Cybercriminals can use information from your smart home devices to determine when you are away from home or access your personal information.
To avoid being hacked at home, take the following steps to secure your smart devices.
- Change all usernames and passwords. When you set up a new smart home device, change the username and password, as factory-created settings are easy for hackers to access. Use different passwords for each of your smart devices and keep track of them with an online password manager if needed.
- Use a secure router. Many people use wireless routers that are provided by their internet service provider; however, it may be wise to purchase a router with enhanced security. Your router should have built-in anti-virus software or a built-in VPN to prevent cyberattacks and should be rebooted regularly for enhanced security.
- Utilize two-factor authentication on your smart devices. The two-step authentication process on your smart devices requires you to verify your identification by email, text or PIN number before any changes are made. Multiple steps make it harder for criminals to access your personal data on your smart home technology.
- Update firmware regularly. Firmware updates are pushed out to smart devices over the internet directly from the manufacturer (like when you update your phone with the latest features). Often firmware updates to smart home devices include security fixes; be sure to perform these updates in a timely manner.
- Set up multiple networks. Many routers allow for a separate “guest” network, so create two networks in your home for increased security. Connect laptops, phones, and other devices that store personal information to your main network and connect smart home technology to your “guest” network.
Words Do Make A Difference In The Success of Your Child
With the signs of spring breathing new life into the creation around us, this is the perfect reminder to cherish the good that surrounds us with POSITIVE words and behaviors – and there is no better place to start than as a parent. Parenting is a balancing act that requires control – often tangling with the fine line of encouragement and exasperation. Positive words that you speak over your kids can help instill confidence and control in your WHOLE family in both the short term and long term.
Words spoken can become meaningless when they are not exhibited in an action. However, words alone do have great power – both positive and negative. We can all make a choice to speak in a positive way to everyone around us – especially to our children and all young ones that we encounter throughout the day. This behavior is one that they will begin to imitate – even though they may not recognize they are doing so. You never know how the words of encouragement that you speak today will affect your kids to carry with them for the years ahead.
Be intentional in the morning – and set aside specific words that you are going to speak to kids. Write them down if you have to, or simply use your favorite word of encouragement that brings a smile to YOUR child’s face – over and over again. The more you can follow up these words with actions of affirmation – the more power these words will have. Have fun and spread the kindness beyond your home – you’ll be amazed at the goodness that will follow!
Meet the Animals! Tips for Visiting A Zoo or Aquarium
Taking a trip to a zoo or aquarium is fun for people of all ages. Who doesn’t love watching monkeys swing from branches or seeing sea lions flip and dive in the water? If you’re planning a day with the animals, keep in mind these tips to make the most of your visit.
Check admission information. Before heading on your trip, confirm the operating hours of the zoo or aquarium. Given COVID restrictions, pay close attention to any visitor limits; you may be required to purchase tickets ahead of time. If you plan on visiting regularly, consider a yearly membership that will save you money in the long run.
Wear appropriate shoes. You can be sure that any visit to a zoo or aquarium is going to require a decent amount of walking. Wear sneakers or other comfortable walking shoes to keep your feet happy during your trip.
Pack snacks and water. All of the walking you’ll be doing during your visit is sure to leave you hungry and thirsty. Pack plenty of snacks with you to avoid any meltdowns, especially from young children, and don’t forget to bring your refillable water bottle.
Review safety rules with children. Let kids know that climbing over barriers, banging on the glass walls and feeding the animals is not allowed. Remind young children to stay close to you and have a plan for what to do if they get lost.
Check for daily shows and events. Visit the zoo or aquarium website in advance of your trip to find a list of events you may want to attend, like feedings, speakers or shows. Plan your route accordingly to take advantage of as many as possible.
If COVID is keeping you from visiting the zoo or aquarium in person, try a virtual visit. Strategically placed web cams give you a great view of the animals and staff videos give a unique glimpse behind-the-scenes. What’s more, you can visit zoos and aquariums from all over the country and even the world!
Tips for Maintaining Heart Health
The heart is arguably the body’s most essential organ when it comes to your health. Beating around 100,000 times a day, the heart pumps blood to the entire body, allowing other organs to do their jobs effectively. There are many aspects to keeping your heart healthy, and it’s important to incorporate all of them into your daily lifestyle.
Making good food choices can go a long way in maintaining heart health. Opt for foods that are low in sodium and saturated fat, but high in fiber. Fill your diet with green, leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and low-fat protein, all of which provide nutrients to keep your heart beating strong. Be aware of your portion sizes and pre-plan your menu to ensure you are eating heart-healthy foods.
Make Exercise a Habit
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week for adults. Find an exercise you enjoy doing—whether it be walking, tennis, dancing, biking or any of the countless other forms of cardiovascular exercise. Schedule time to exercise in your weekly plans; hold yourself accountable by writing it down or taking a class.
Smoking cigarettes can cause long-lasting damage to the heart. Smoking has been found to increase one’s heart rate and restrict major arteries, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the body. Smokers also have an increased chance of having a stroke. The advice here is simple: if you smoke, take steps to quit.
Learn to Manage Stress
Excessive stress can be detrimental to heart health if it isn’t managed properly. People who are over-stressed often make poor choices, like overeating, drinking too much alcohol or being inactive for long periods of time. These unhealthy choices put them at an increased risk for high blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack. If you are often stressed, find a stress reliever that works for you (yoga, connecting with a friend, etc.) and use it.
New Year’s Resolutions for a Safe Home
As you plan your resolutions for 2021, keep home safety top of mind! Often home safety to-dos get lost in the shuffle of everyday life and never end up completed. This January, create a detailed plan to tackle inspections and updates to ensure a safe home for your family. Get out your calendar; it is time to make a plan to keep your home safe in 2021.
- Change air filters. Air filters should typically be changed once every three months. If you have one pet, change the filter every two months, and if you have more than one pet or a family member with allergies, change your air filter every month. Since this is a regular task, make a note in your calendar now to remember to change the air filters on time.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested every month to ensure they are in good working condition. Unless your detectors have long-life batteries, replace the batteries once or twice a year, which is usually recommended around daylight savings time in the spring and fall.
- Clean your dryer vent. Dryer vent pipes should be cleaned at least once a year for both safety and efficiency purposes. Block off an afternoon to complete this project yourself or make a note to call a professional to clean the vent for you.
- Conduct an electrical audit. Once a year, do a thorough check of all electrical components in your house. Look for damaged wires, check outlets and ensure your breaker panel is free of debris.
- Review your homeowner’s insurance policy. When it comes time to renew your homeowner’s insurance policy, do not just write a check and forget about it. Take the time to read the document and make any changes necessary in your coverage.
- Prepare for emergencies. Update emergency contacts restock your first aid kit and make sure flashlights have working batteries. Do not forget to review and practice your fire escape plan with your family as well.