Expressing Thanks and Practicing Generosity

Each year, as the month of November nears, I begin thinking about the Thanksgiving traditions that have been so meaningful for my family over the years. The annual “turkey trot” walk / run happens each year at the high school I attended. Another amazing tradition – a local volunteer and her family generously provide a free Thanksgiving Day meal to anyone who attends, no questions asked.

Grandfather and grandmother are taking a selfie with their grandson and granddaughter while out on a walk on a brisk day.

You, too, may have family traditions that are special at this time of year. How can we use this time of year to teach the values of generosity and thankfulness to our family members?  

One way to teach others how to be thankful and generous is to model that behavior during our everyday routines. Children who see their parents volunteering at school, church, or for something in the community learn that good things can happen when people work together. According to The Child Mind Institute, it is normal for children to be self-involved, therefore, parents must intentionally teach how and what service and generosity look like.

Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to think of ways we can give thanks daily! Who are the people in your life that you love and appreciate? Who are the people that cheer you on, encourage you to do your best? The truth is, we can make generosity become a habit by showing gratitude to our own family members first.

Say thank you to your child for keeping the bed made or for helping to clear the table after a family meal. Show appreciation to an older sibling for reading a story to a younger sibling before bed time. In fact, parents may also choose to show gratitude to the school teacher, football coach, or other community members who make a difference in our lives.

It has often been said, we learn what we live, so let us show kindness and gratitude to others during this special time of year, and watch how it becomes a habit for you and your family.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Holiday Celebrations: A Choice for Every Family

Not every family will celebrate holidays in the same way. For a variety of reasons, families mark holidays in their own way, and those choices should always come without judgement by others. The Halloween holiday is one of those holidays that some families will celebrate, while others will not. Over the years, the way in which the holiday is celebrated has changed and I applaud the changes as it gives families choices about how to engage.

Boy wearing a cape and mask, dressed as a super hero, takes a superhero stance with an arm in the air.

Some children will dress in costume and travel throughout the neighborhood requesting or has been known, begging, for a piece of candy. In our quest for safety and health, some families have decided to attend trunk or treats in the full daylight to celebrate the holiday. The children can dress up and “beg” for candy, yet the celebration is organized and supervised so that parents can feel better about their child’s safety. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, thinking through costume safety, food allergies, and safety around the home are all important aspects to consider. The National Safety Council also provides helpful information to prepare parents to celebrate with safety.

Another change we may see at Halloween is the transition from candy to other forms of treats including stickers, pencils, and other swag that steer clear from the sugary treats of past Halloweens. As the first educator of their children, I recognize parents who make brave decisions about how to spend precious time with their families at the holidays. Finding ways to celebrate that include extended family and friends may be more meaningful than simply following tradition for traditions sake.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Don’t Bully, Be Friendly

Five students walk towards the stairs in front of their school building, all wearing backpacks. The two girls in the back are chatting with each other.

The first few weeks of school have come and gone, and you may have had conversations about the classmates your children have interacted with whether playing at recess, sharing the lunch table or perhaps in reading circles. As your children spend more time away from home, they will engage with children who may or may not have positive social skills. Last week we explored the issue of the school bully. The way in which some children respond to situations and exert their personal power over others in their quest to get their own way. The bully may use strategies that cause others to be fearful or even sad.

Learning to make friends is one of those life skills that all of us go through from time to time. Building relationships that last takes patience, understanding and a good amount of effort! As young people meet new friends, they are challenged to communicate positively and make a good first impression. Children interested in building relationships could consider the following friendship tips:

  • Be accepting – before trying to change your friends, try first accepting them for who they are
  • Listen to your friends
  • Ask your friends questions about themselves and don’t make the focus of the conversation just on you
  • Be honest with your friend
  • If you are working together on a project, be helpful and do your part
  • Greet new people first. Don’t wait for someone to greet you, take the initiative and greet others, making them feel welcome and accepted

As parents, in order to find out what is going on at school, may I suggest family conversations about how the school day progresses. Perhaps inquiring about the friendships that are blooming and how the children are feeling about classmates they interact with daily.  I am convinced that as a school community, we can promote a healthy culture of social behaviors where all children can thrive and develop to their fullest potential.

For more on managing stress and building relationships:

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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When is it Bullying?

Four children are walking toward a yellow school bus.

As the school year begins, I am reminded that children may experience classmates who use bullying tactics to get what they want or need in the school setting. These situations may cause your child to feel upset and you might not even know why. According to information shared on StopBullying.gov there are two types of children who might be more likely to bully – those who feel socially isolated from their peers and those individuals who have social power.

In addition, children who bully may show signs of aggression or become easily frustrated. Perhaps they have a low sense of self-worth; or have difficulty following rules. A child’ size may not be a characteristic that is readily noticeable in all bullies. In fact all children, both boys and girls, can bully. If you or your child has never been impacted by bullying, it might be because you have coping or refusal skills that you have used to defend yourself.

Bullying is when a child is a target, over time, of repeated negative actions. A bully is:

  • A child who is aggressive for rewards or attention
  • A child who lacks empathy and has difficulty feeling compassion for other children
  • A child who does not feel guilty
  • A child who likes to be in charge, to be the “boss”
  • A child whose parent(s) or other guardian, often models aggression
  • A child who thinks in unrealistic ways – “I should always get what I want!”
  • A bully fully believes that the victim provoked the attack and deserved to be bullied       
  • A bully likes to win in all situations

Who are bullies? Both boys and girls bully others! Many times, boys will admit to being a bully and will use physical force to bully. Girls use verbal threats and intimidation to bully others.

What type of children are likely to be victims? A child who is:

  • Isolated and alone during most of the school days
  • Anxious, insecure and has trouble making friends
  • Is small or weak and unable to defend him/herself
  • Cries easily, gives in when bullied, unable to stick up for themselves
  • May have suffered past abuse at home

What can we do when we suspect a child is bullying another child?

We must communicate a ZERO tolerance policy for bullying, it just will not be tolerated at school, home, after school or in our community. We must talk to children about appropriate behaviors. And we must teach our children appropriate coping skills so that they can defend themselves when attacked. Children will stop bullying when it stops working. As adults we must have heart to heart discussions with our children about behaviors they exhibit and see exhibited in their classrooms. We can make a difference, one child at a time.

Source: https://www.stopbullying.gov/

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Help Young Children Form Positive Financial Habits

parent and daughter putting coins into piggy bankGuest blogger and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Human Sciences Specialist in Family Finance, Sandra McKinnon shares some compelling information on youth and financial literacy.

Children form financial habits at an early age. Parents and care providers can influence what those habits will be. University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Karen Holden and colleagues found that habits children learn when they are young form the basis for their future behavior. A study from Cambridge University found that children form financial habits by age 7. We may teach our children that a dime is thin and worth 10 cents, but developing financial habits includes more than just recognizing coins. Parents and care providers can help children gain the knowledge and skills they need to develop positive financial habits.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests teaching preschoolers these basic concepts:
You need money to buy things.
You earn money by working.
You may have to wait before you can buy something you want.
There is a difference between things that you want and things that you need.
Other concepts to establish good financial habits include learning about numbers, time and institutions, such as stores, banks or credit unions, and employers. Children also can learn about budgeting, regular saving and shopping strategies; social values, such as gifts, generosity and sense of community; and public goods like the library.

Another way to engage with children is by reading money-related books with children, and providing hands-on learning opportunities. Check out the following titles at your local library:

Sheep in a Shop by Nancy Shaw
The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Just a Piggy Bank by Mercer Mayer
Just Saving My Money by Mercer Mayer
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

The goal is to help children become comfortable with basic tools of how and why financial choices are made. For example, we can encourage pretend play, like a grocery store. Or we can explore careers by playing dress-up or acting out stories. In addition, we can talk about whether spending money on entertainment, for example, is a need or a want.

ISU Extension and Outreach human sciences specialists in family finance offer Preschoolers and Pennies: Read, Talk, Learn and Play, a 2-hour training for child care providers. Providers practice a way of reading with children that gives children an opportunity to become storytellers of books with a money theme. This introduces and reinforces money-related words and concepts in a more meaningful way. Complementary activities throughout the day encourage preschoolers to practice money skills.

Visit the Extension Store for the Allowance Game. Playing this game starts a great discussion on choices and consequences.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Summer Fun with the Family!

Family On Bicycle Ride In Countryside Smiling At CameraAs the summer unfolds and the weather warms I am reminded that our physical health can be a concern! We need to remember to drink plenty of fluids when hot humid days arrive! We need to stop and take a break when we feel exhausted!

As a family, you may have activity plans that include running, hiking, canoeing and lots of physical activity. Keeping kids moving is pretty important these days because most of us, if we were to admit, just don’t get enough physical activity! According to the Center for Disease Control, “ Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can help:
• Control your weight
• Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
• Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes
• Reduce your risk of some cancers
• Strengthen your bones and muscles
• Improve your mental health and mood
• Improve your ability to do daily activities
• Increase your chances of living longer

As a parent you may wonder how you can influence your child’s participation in activities that will increase their physical mobility. The Center for Disease Control recommends the following:

• Set a positive example by leading an active lifestyle yourself.
• Make physical activity part of your family’s daily routine by taking family walks or playing active games together.
• Give your children equipment that encourages physical activity.
• Take young people to places where they can be active, such as public parks, community baseball fields or basketball courts.
• Be positive about the physical activities in which your child participates and encourage them to be interested in new activities.
• Make physical activity fun. Fun activities can be anything your child enjoys, either structured or non-structured. Activities can range from team sports or individual sports to recreational activities such as walking, running, skating, bicycling, swimming, playground activities or free-time play.
• Instead of watching television after dinner, encourage your child to find fun activities to do on their own or with friends and family, such as walking, playing chase or riding bikes.

Parents may be interested to know that as youth continue to stay active they reduce the incidence of childhood obesity and increase their health and stamina! Check out the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart Eat Smart website for delicious, healthy recipes and videos that will give you many ideas that your family will enjoy! Stay active and enjoy the summer!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Outdoor Winter Walking

Dad walking the dog whild child walks behind.

I’m not sure where you live, but in Iowa, it’s January and we are all preparing for a great snow fall! Children wait for the snow so that they can get outside and sled. Parents too, wait for the snow so that those same children will go outside. Being out of doors in the winter can be both educational and recreational. Our Science of Parenting colleague and Human Sciences Creative Project Specialist Kristin Taylor provides some tips for getting out and about during the winter months.

Walking is a great way to meet the 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity. But going for a walk in cold and snowy weather brings special challenges. Ensure a safe outdoor walk with these tips:

  • Be aware of the wind chill factor before starting your walk. When it’s windy, think about whether you want to walk into the wind when you are returning and warmed up from exercise or when you begin and are warm from your home.
  • Select a route with no snow or ice when possible.
  • Dress warmly in several layers of loosefitting, tightly woven clothing. Wear a waterproof coat, hat, gloves, a scarf, or knit mask to cover your face, and waterproof boots. Be careful you aren’t so bundled up that you can’t hear or see what is going on around you!
  • Use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher before going outdoors and reapply as needed. Protecting your skin from the sun is important in the winter even if the air and wind are brutally cold.
  • Share your planned route with family or friends in case of an emergency and carry a cell phone, if you have one.
  • Take a break when you begin to feel fatigue. Watch for signs of cold weather health problems such as hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Walk with a friend! It will help keep you motivated.
Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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It’s Never Too Late to Say Thank You

Mom reading a book to two children.
For many families, the last week or so may have been filled with gift giving and celebrations including good food and holiday cheer. When others spend so much time, preparing just the right holiday celebration, a hearty thank you is in order! So before the New Year rings, how about helping your children learn the skill of giving thanks to the people in your family and those friends who have made the last few days very special for all! Giving thanks has never gone out of style! In fact, good manners are reflected in the thanks that are expressed!

We often take for granted the people that mean the most to us. With out the preparation by mom and dad and extended family members, who work overtime to get the house ready, the presents purchased and wrapped, the groceries bought and delicious meals cooked, the holidays would lack that something special, they always seem to have!.
Giving thanks can take many forms. Writing a note, talking by phone, listening and sharing conversation with someone face to face! The effort we make in showing thanks will spread cheer and good will for many holidays to come!
If you are trying to teach children about writing thank you notes, here are a few helpful hints:

Greeting: Dear Aunt Karen,
Express thanks: Thank you for the new books and puzzles. I love reading.
Discuss use: I can share the puzzles when my friends come over to play.
Say it again: Thank you for remembering me with this gift.
Regards: Love, Susie

So get busy, get yourself some stationery, plain note cards or a selection of attractive postcards, and proper postage. Store all of these items somewhere easily accessible and preferably in plain sight, so you won’t forget! People like being appreciated, and if they feel you actually notice the nice things they do for you, they’re more likely to repeat their generosity.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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The Language of Money

Parents reading a book with their daughterAs we continue our conversation with Human Sciences Family Finance Specialist Mary Weinand, she reminds us how important financial literacy is and even recommends a few children’s books.

I believe financial literacy is like any other language and like any other language we need to hear it often to understand it. Young children learn best by observing and mimicking adults. Our children may not understand the concept of credit, money, or savings but they are very good observers and they learn from us. This process is called financial socialization and research by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau indicates that children form personal financial habits as early as preschool and these attitudes often carry into adulthood.

So how can we help our children learn appropriate financial behaviors?

Young children may not know anything about banks, credit cards, or money. But, they are very good observers. They have constant exposure to their parents and a desire to mimic their behavior, or the behaviors of the community around them. Research by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and others indicate that the personal traits, habits, and behaviors that lead to financial well-being in adulthood start to form as early as preschool.

Children as young as three begin to demonstrate self-regulations, persistence, and focus. They can use these qualities when using and managing limited resources like time, money, treats, or belongings. They have begun to develop basic values and attitudes around saving, consuming and early numeracy skills.

Parents are often the biggest and most positive influence of the financial socialization of their children. They can help their children by providing opportunities to learn and interact with money. Children learn important money lessons simply by watching parents earn, spend, save, share and borrow. Have children create shopping lists and help them to comparison shop and select grocery items. Include children in family financial decisions, planning, and saving for goals such as vacation and college education. And, model positive financial behaviors during everyday routines, such as comparing prices and products, and sticking to a shopping list. You don’t have to have a lot of money, in fact children often learn best when choices are limited and they can observe the difference between needs and wants.

Another method to introduce children to the topic of money is through books. It is often easier to be more objective when talking about book characters and their money decisions. After families talk about what the characters could do, adopting some of the same financial concepts into their own lives is easier too.

And, parents do not need to be money experts. Many of the building blocks for good financial decision making—like patience, planning, and problem-solving—do not require a lot of financial know-how. Some good book choices are; The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money, (Stan & Jan Berenstain), or A Bargain for Frances, (Russell Hoban). These books help express important financial topics such as problem solving, savings, earnings, and self-control.  A great resource for families and libraries is the Money as You Grow Book Club guide which provides several family activities and more reading suggestions.

To learn more about family finance information, contact any ISU Extension and Outreach county office to be connected with a human sciences specialist in family finance.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Keep it Fiscally Healthy this Holiday Season

 Guest blogger Mary Weinand, Human Sciences Specialist, shares some important helpful ideas for fiscal health this holiday season.

parent and daughter putting coins into piggy bank

Each year at Holiday season we are flooded with articles and advice on how to “stay healthy” with all the choices we have and the opportunities to overindulge. Well, the advice we hear to maintain our physical health is useful for our fiscal health as well. This is a great time of year to take the opportunity to share healthy financial choices with our children.

Provide Healthy Choices

Discuss things your child enjoys that are free, such as playing with a friend or going to the library. Teachers report year after year that it is not the toys their students remember but the time they spend with their families. The card games and puzzles, the snowball fights and family meals are important healthy financial choices. A good book on this topic is, “Alexander who used to be Rich Last Sunday” by Judith Viorst. You can talk to your child about all the ways Alexander used his money and more importantly …was he happy with his choices.

Portion control

Many health advisors remind us to manage our portions to minimize over indulgence. This Holiday season take the opportunity to think about ways we can talk to our children about spending plans. How much money do they have and how do they plan to spend it when buying gifts for the family. Remind your children about added expenses like taxes and work with them to think about ways to stretch their dollars. Show them how to comparison shop and emphasize the gift of time. Promising to rake leaves and shovel driveways would be greatly appreciated by many family members. A good book to read together is, “Sheep in a Shop”  by Nancy Shaw. Ask your child if it was hard for the sheep to decide and how did the sheep solve the problem of not enough money?

Set Realistic Goals

When setting health goals we want the goal to be realistic and manageable and the same applies to finances. Young children may be confused about delayed gratification and buying gifts for others. It can be difficult for children to give a gift they may want themselves. Talk to your child about things that take time, plant some seeds in a cup or in a garden, and wait for them to grow. Together, take care of the seeds to help them grow. Or, sit down as a family and create a “family fun” list for winter, spring, summer, and fall. Write down all the activities that your family likes to do together. Some activities are free, like going for a walk or playing a game, and some activities cost money. A fun book to read together about realistic goals is, “Curious George  Saves His Pennies”  by Margaret and H.A. Rey

For more ideas or book suggestions about money, refer to the “Money as You Grow Bookshelf” by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Additional family finance resources available here.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Celebrating Thanksgiving

Beautiful African American woman and her daughter cooking in the kitchen

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, Science of Parenting would like to offer you a few resources to assist you in creating a memorable holiday for your family. Many families celebrate Thanksgiving by preparing foods that are not only traditional but that are meaningful to members of the family. Recipes passed down through the generations and lovingly prepared by relatives who gather to celebrate with one another. May we suggest a review of our Iowa State University Spend Smart Eat Smart website for a whole host of recipes including videos to help you prepare for your meal.

When the house is full of family, friends and extra guests, children may feel overwhelmed. Keeping a schedule, familiar to the children, will help them manage the holiday expectations more smoothly. We do have a resource you might review, Managing Stress in Young Families.

Giving thanks for one another and for our gifts may be another family tradition . Showing appreciation to one another is one way we can model good thanksgiving habits! Calling someone by name, sending a greeting card of thanks, doing a favor for someone and simply doing what we say we will do are all ways of showing appreciation for one another.

This Thanksgiving, think of a way to give thanks on a daily basis! Who are the people in your life that you love and appreciate? Who are the people that cheer you on, encourage you to do your best, support and guide you through the rough patches? If you can begin to show appreciation to these folks, giving thanks will become a habit.

As a Science of Parenting Team, we thank you for interacting with us and wish you a wonderful holiday.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Developing Conflict Resolution Skills

One of the goalKneeling mother and son discussing conflicts many parents have for their children, is to watch them grow into independent young people. Independence, however, comes with its own set of challenges. Children, from a young age, want to do things “on their own”. Watching a crawler, learn to stand, or perhaps even take a step is exciting. Mastery of skills along with independence is achievable, and requires parents to practice some patience!   As young children are learning independence, there is the potential for conflict. Conflicts are a normal part of everyday living. Although we usually think of conflicts as very negative, conflict can also be positive because it can help us grow and develop skill.

The ability to resolve conflicts is learned. Parents, as the first educators of their children can foster an environment of learning and discovery that can include healthy resolution of conflict.  It is true, developing the skill to resolve conflicts comes with age. We have to think in terms of readiness. Two-year-old children may not readily understand how to resolve conflict, but over time, can learn problem-solving techniques. Helping youth to recognize opposing points of view is important; as is learning that actions have consequences.

When children learn that their behavior has direct impact upon others, they learn to manipulate situations in both good and bad ways. Helping children to identify solutions to conflict is important. Parents can model good conflict resolution skills at home, so that children too, learn the skill and can practice it at home, school and into their future.

Talking through conflicts when they occur is a good way to make sure that something positive can come from the situation. Letting children explain how they see the situation and then making sure that all parties listen to all sides is the first step in creating peace in the situation.

Additional information for parenting preschool and elementary children can be accessed here. 

Resources for guiding teens can be accessed here.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Practice Kindness Today

 

Smiling School Age Girl Holding Globe

We thank our guest blogger, Cheryl Clark, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach for reminding us about kindness and its impact on those around us!

Another day, another act of incivility, anger or violence. Ever-pervasive attitudes of self-centeredness and disregard for others seem to symbolize our times. But what if we could flip the script from callousness to kindness?

Did you know, Nov. 13 is World Kindness Day, according to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation? The internationally recognized nonprofit provides free online resources to educators and others to encourage acts of kindness across the globe.

“Simply be kind,” said Clark. “Remember the old adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. This can help us more fully appreciate the unique and diverse aspects of our world.”

The Center for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at the University of Missouri suggests that people seek first to understand. For example:

  • Read a book about a different person, culture, country or experience.
  • Listen to local, regional, international or a different genre of music.
  • Explore your heritage, family history and personal cultural worldview.
  • Visit a local cultural center.
  • Interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures by becoming a language partner.
  • Challenge yourself to learn 10 new words in another language.

For more ideas from the center, visit diversity.missouri.edu.

“Another critical component to kindness is how we speak to and about each other. Being respectful of self and others in our words and actions is living kindness,” Clark said.

Clark offers the following techniques to build an atmosphere of respect:

  • Listen to others actively and intentionally.
  • Speak from personal experience and use “I” statements.
  • Withhold judgment and ask genuine questions for understanding.
  • Check your biases and assumptions.
  • Seek to understand your own communication and conflict style.

“Finally, take good care of yourself. This may seem to be at odds with ‘making the world a better place.’ However, we must care for ourselves in order to have the stamina, energy and desire to live kindness. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, connect with friends or family, and engage in spiritual practices,” Clark said.

“If you find yourself overwhelmed with the negativity, seek professional help. A counselor can help you in a trusting, non-judgmental setting. Call Iowa Concern at 800-447-1985 for help,” Clark said.

ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge.

In addition, “All About Stress: Taking Charge (PM1660 A)” is available for free download from the Extension Store. The publication offers tips for coping with stress, managing stress and building resources to help.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development

colorful hands raised with white backgroundAs a nationally recognized youth development program, 4-H has a one hundred year history assisting youth to develop into competent, contributing members of society! Through participation in a variety of activities, educational opportunities and club meetings, youth are developing the ability to make good decisions, improve their communications skills and learn to lead!

Over the years, the “magic” that is 4-H has been summarized into “essential elements” or building blocks of healthy development.

The safety of all 4-H members is a priority. Every club leader receives training to ensure that the leader is capable of providing an appropriate 4-H program. Extension staff work alongside the club leader to provide guidance and suggestions for club development. The need for “belonging” is strong and with this in mind, the club setting meets the need for belonging.

Another essential element is the need to experience “mastery.” As we age, we all desire mastery, whether in our work life or family life. The way we experience mastery in 4-H is through our 4-H project work. The 4-H club experience will give youth the chance to develop a set of skills with many opportunities to master the learning environment!

Gaining a sense of “independence” is the goal we each strive for every day! Parents provide the love, boundaries and environment necessary for youth to gain independence. With the support of friends, family and the community, youth can learn to be self-directing, making choices based on their own skill and ability. 4-H project selection supports youth and their ability to choose the activities that meet their needs. While members of the 4-H club make decisions about subjects to study, they may also choose to complete group community service projects.

Community service allows 4-H members to learn to give back and to practice “generosity”! Many 4-H clubs participate in community service projects that provide youth the experience of helping others while learning valuable decision making, communication and service skills.

4-H continues to meet the needs of youth, why not explore how 4-H can benefit your family! Learn more about Iowa 4-H! Reach out to your County Extension Office.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Celebrate National 4-H Week

Each year, during the first full week of October, National 4-H Week is celebrated! As parents of young children, you may wonder why so many people have joined 4-H over the years. The answer is as varied as the learning experiences offered in 4-H! Some join to learn a new skill; others join because they know friends who have joined; others join 4-H because of the adult volunteers who organize the clubs. You see, 4-H is over 100 years old, making it one of the longest running, most recognizable youth organizations for boys and girls nationwide. Nationally six million kids are enrolled in 4-H, through-out the United States.

The learning opportunities in 4-H are centered around the essential elements necessary for positive youth development by providing youth with supervised independence, a sense of belonging with a positive group, a spirit of generosity toward others and a wide variety of opportunities to master life challenges. 4-H is safe and supervised, something all parents would agree is important today.

4-H involves “learn by doing” experiences that will encourage youth to experiment, innovate and think independently. 4-H clubs are involved in community service projects, livestock projects and leadership and citizenship projects all designed to assist members in developing skill and ability in a variety of areas.

In addition, quality youth development programs like 4-H evolve around the following five traits:

  • Connection – helping youth connect to peers, adults and their community
  • Character – helping youth show respect, loyalty, responsibility and integrity
  • Competence – helping youth to achieve mastery in social and academic areas
  • Caring – helping youth develop empathy for others
  • Confidence – helping others and an ability to make a difference.

Parents, if you are looking for a meaningful investment, why not give 4-H a look! Contact your local county Extension office. Find your county Extension office. Follow this link to get more information on 4-H! Learn more here!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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