Did you say STRESS?

We have been talking teens, and that means we may also need to talk about the “s” word…also known as STRESS! While stress can take many forms and it can be considered both positive and negative, all of us, at one time or another, have probably experienced stress! You know the feeling, your heart starts to beat a little faster, you may begin to sweat just a bit, you let your mind wander and before you know it, you may even be close to panic mode.

Over time, each of us has to find an appropriate set of coping techniques to use so that when we feel a little panicked, or stressed, we can indeed cope! None of us likes to feel out of control, so being able to manage our stress is a skill that is worth its weight in gold. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction.

Some folks have used exercise as an antidote! People who exercise regularly will tell you how much better they feel. They will also tell you that the energy they derive from exercise can be used to “think through” or manage the stress that comes their way. If you were to park your car as far away from the entrance to the buildings you go into, that would be one way to increase your exercise. If you were to take the steps, and not the elevator, that too would increase your opportunity to get a little exercise. Do you like to dance, or do Yoga, or to meditate? These are also examples of coping techniques and exercise strategies that can be helpful in overcoming stress.

Parenting can be stressful and at Science of Parenting, we take pride in providing resources and education that can assist anyone manage and cope with the stress they encounter. Begin your stress relief journey by visiting our parenting in challenging moments link https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/scienceofparenting/guidance/

We are committed to empowering people and growing lives!

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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Family Finances in the New Year

As the New Year approaches, are you writing down some goals or resolutions? Each year, I try to identify one or two new things I want to try, or do differently. I often use the beginning of the New Year to adjust my savings strategy so that I can also meet my goal of having some funds to be able to travel and visit my family when summer rolls around.

This is also the time of year that I have to pay the bills for the gifts that I purchased during the holiday season. Having a spending and savings plan is important.  Children learn so much from watching how other family members and friends use money. As adults we can model good spending habits, and educate our own children so that they will develop good consumer management skills. You may be curious about what resources are available to help you teach your child about how money works or how to be a good money manager as an adult. I would like to suggest you explore the following links:

Wishing you and your family a great and prosperous New Year!

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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Gift Giving at the Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, many of us find ourselves looking at the calendar and making checklists, of things that require our attention, like baking; cleaning; holiday school programs, and gift shopping.

If you are someone who has a list of people that you shop for at the holidays, then this time of year is a busy one for you. Depending on who you are shopping for, the gift buying experience can be stressful. You may wonder if you have saved enough money to buy all the items on your gift giving list. You may also be filled with stress trying to find all the requested gifts your children seem to have this time of year.

Research reported in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that for many, it’s better to provide an experience, than just a gift itself. In fact, the research suggested that these experiences may in fact strengthen relationships between people! During the holiday season, instead of giving gifts that may need to purchased, wrapped and delivered, maybe we can re-think our gift giving strategy. What if we were to give a skill or a helping hand to someone we care for?

Could we offer our TIME, to wrap someone’s holiday gifts? Could we offer to address Christmas cards? Could we offer to go to the grocery store or shopping mall and shop alongside someone who may need extra time or attention? Consider spending a day at the senior center and visiting and listening to the stories of the residents. These are the priceless gifts of attention that so many of us can give, and others will certainly appreciate.

Don’t forget, caregiving can be the special gift you give to your family this season. Focus on helping your family members eat healthy; get plenty of sleep and exercise during the holidays! The caregiving we show to one another today will be repeated for the good of all for years to come. Stay in touch with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach your Human Sciences Specialists for information on family finances; nutrition and wellness and caregiving. Happy Holidays!

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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Halloween Snacking

It is that time of year, you know, the time when families hunt for the perfect Halloween costume, or the best treat to distribute next week! Because many families have a desire to eat more healthy, they may be making better decisions about the “treats” they provide, as costume clad children knock on the door. Let me share a few ideas Science of Parenting contributor Rebecca Brotzman, RD, LDN made several years ago, that would certainly be helpful today too!

1. Do not make the focus entirely on candy. Distract your kids with other activities like making masks, decorating the house with cobwebs, bobbing for apples, going to corn mazes and/or haunted houses.

2. Check stores, online, and in newspapers for coupons. Most major stores will have specials in their circulars the week before Halloween as well. When you combine coupons and specials you can save even more.

3. Think creatively. You do not HAVE to give out candy, and the alternatives can be cheaper and healthier. For example: one bag of 144 spider rings costs about $5.00, or a package of 100 glow sticks costs about $9.00. Both are healthier alternatives, and who doesn’t love glow sticks or spider rings!?

4. Compare prices before you buy. Look at the unit count in the bag of candy before you buy it. Sometimes a 14 unit count bag costs the same as a 21 unit count bag. When the prices are the same, it is easy to see which bag has a better value (just check the unit count), but you can ALWAYS figure out the value of a purchase by figuring out the unit price (divide the price by the unit count).

5. Do not be afraid to run out of candy. Some people buy way too much and then end up with all that candy left over plus what their kids bring home!

6. Have some control over candy consumption. Do not be too strict (let your kids enjoy the holiday), but have some kind of plan in place to control their intake of candy.

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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Disaster Preparation and Safety

We are happy to have Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Family Finance Specialist and guest blogger Barb Wollan to share information related to safety and preparation during times of disaster.
September is Disaster Preparedness Month. Recent news about hurricane damage provides a sobering reminder of the importance of being prepared. Here in the Midwest, hurricanes are not part of our reality, but we are at risk for other types of disasters, many of which strike suddenly with little or no warning.

In a disaster, safety is first priority. We need to be prepared to quickly evacuate from a fire or seek shelter in a tornado, for example, and have a way to stay warm if a winter storm causes an extended power outage.

There is a second aspect of preparedness that also deserves our attention: we need to be prepared for recovery and preparing for recovery includes:
1. Having insurance coverage that meets our needs, and reviewing it every couple of years to make sure it is keeping up with changes in our situation;
2. Creating and updating a household inventory (typically via photos or video) to assist in filing insurance claims;
3. Keeping irreplaceable documents (birth certificates, military records, property titles, and more) in a safe deposit box;
4. Having copies of key documents and information stored away from our home – perhaps with a friend or family member in another community, or in secure cloud storage. This includes insurance policies (or at least policy numbers and contact information), financial account information, most recent tax return, along with key medical information (including vaccination records) and contact information for both professional and personal contacts. Pet vaccination records matter too.

The list above is NOT all-inclusive, but it’s a good starting point. Check out this “Your Disaster Checklist,” from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

https://pueblo.gpo.gov/CFPBPubs/CFPBPubs.php?PubID=13036

In addition, check out our resources related to managing stress.

All About Stress

Helping Children Manage Stress

 

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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Routines Promote Healthy Emotional Development

I catch a glimpse of the calendar and know that school will begin shortly, and that means many families will get back into a routine that will include hustle and bustle to get family members to school, day care, work, and sporting events.

For children, settling into a routine that includes school, homework, sports, playtime and family meals is very important. Children and youth do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent. When we eat and sleep with regular consistency, our bodies adjust and we feel good! Conversely, when we avoid sleep and eat the wrong foods, we pay the price in how we feel!

A study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics reports that family routines support children and their emotional development. And it is the social / emotional health that enables children to thrive in the classroom.

Routines that include singing, bedtime snacks, storytelling and connection with family caregivers are helpful for a good night’s rest. The nurturing we do to help children adjust to “back to school” is proving to be helpful in long term adjustment in both school and home settings.

Talking about the upcoming school routine can help alleviate any anxiety your child may have. Keep communication lines open with your child so that they can feel comfortable discussing with you the fears or questions they may have about the new school year. As a family, your routines are making a difference!

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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Meal Planning on Vacation

Summer time meal planning, especially while on vacation is important, if you want to keep costs down and nutritional value high! My family recently returned from a long-distance vacation, and our goal was to enjoy fresh foods all while enjoying the opportunity to be together as a family.

We each took turns helping to prepare the meals. We took turns with set up and clean up too. Meals don’t just happen on vacation, we learned early on, that we could save money, and reduce our food waste by communicating meal plans ahead of time!

We also learned that leaving meal time to chance, was dangerous because we usually consumed too many calories if we ate most of our meals away from home! We discovered how lazy we usually felt following consuming big meals that had large portion sizes. We knew our time was better spent organizing our meals ahead of time, so that we could enjoy the company of family members who traveled near and far to vacation together!

Children too, can help decide food menus! They know the type of foods they like, and will eat, if offered. Eating together offers an opportunity to practice social skills, including table manners and conversation, as well as basic food preparation skills.

Because we had a table full of aunts, uncles, and cousins at meal time, we tried to eliminate distractions by turning off the TV, and putting our mobile phones in a basket on the counter! The conversations were rich with stories of card games played; swimming basketball scores and plans for upcoming hikes to the nearby falls!

Children do better when they have a routine to their lives; and that includes mealtime, even while on vacation. Explore ways individual schedules can be adjusted to allow mealtime together. For more help with recipes, check out the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart Eat Smart website!

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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Enjoy Summer Garden Bounty

It is summer time and I am thinking about foods that we find plentiful in the garden. Sweet corn here in Iowa is something to treasure. Our gardens are also bountiful with tomatoes; lettuce; squash; beets; potatoes and so much more! Harvesting each of these delicacies and finding delicious ways to prepare them, may be more challenging for us! Do your children find the foods I just mentioned, appealing? If not, it may be because they are foods that have not been on the dinner plate lately!

Introducing new vegetables, especially when in season, is one way to help children learn to enjoy and consume these healthy foods. I want to encourage you to take a peek at our Spend Smart Eat Smart website! This site is full of delicious recipes your family will want to try! In addition to recipes, this website features videos and information to help you when you are shopping, including unit pricing!

We have even launched an APP – for Spend Smart Eat Smart, so that you can access the site from your smart phone, while you are grocery shopping for your family. Happy eating to you and your family this 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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Tips for Family Vacations from the Talk of Iowa

Listen to our very own Barb Dunn-Swanson share with Iowa Public Radio’s Charity Nebbe some Tips for Family Vacations.

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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Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is often measured in terms of how willing we are as individuals to decide between what we WANT today and what is best for us in the long run. Having the self-discipline to manage our resources; appropriate behavior; language and work ethic help to create a stable environment in which to live.  Parent’s too, who spend the time early in a child’s life to help them adjust their behavior so that they are well mannered in school; the neighborhood and at home, can take credit for creating a nurturing environment.

Natural consequences are all around us, youth and adult alike. If I work through lunch and the cafeteria is closed when I finally take a break to eat, I will have to have another plan for eating. If I choose to use “salty” language to my peers on the job, I may run the risk of being overlooked for leadership positions, because my language is a reflection of my lack of self-discipline in proper communication.

Everyday, we are challenged to work alongside others who may or may not have the same set of skills; our self-discipline is simply an expression of the character we have and our willingness to lead by example!

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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Screen Time and YOU

technology-momSTEM – or Science; Technology; Engineering and Math are classes that students will be introduced to as they become school ready. Many children have had plenty of access to technology through their use of a computer, gaming device or cell phone. These devices are preparing them to observe, think, navigate, and negotiate among other things.

A recent non-scientific poll hosted on our Science Of Parenting twitter account asked parents about how much screen time they support for their children ages 5 – 10 and 61% indicated 1 – 2 hours daily. 18% said less than an hour daily and 12% reported between 3 – 5 hours daily. It’s not hard to contemplate that much screen time when you consider schools use computers for some instruction and homework; along with television and gaming devices all popular with kids.

Adults too, are faced with decisions about their own screen time. And really, because technology has skyrocketed, screens are used in most all professions including medicine; education; agriculture and manufacturing, to name a few. When we asked adults about how many hours a day they were in front of a screen 76% estimated they were in front of a screen between 4 and 8 hours a day for work alone. In addition, 46% of respondents indicated they may spend an additional 1 – 2 hours daily in front of a screen viewing social media. And don’t forget the TV, adults reported viewing an average of 1 – 2 hours of television daily.

Managing screen time and finding a healthy balance for the entire family is necessary! If you should like to read more about screen time and health and wellness of your children, check out this Science of Parenting publication: Video Games and Other Media: Pros and Cons

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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Teen jobs: Failure is one step closer to success

86489804-campers280I remember my first summer job! It was waitressing and cleaning tables at a local steak house. It was a very humbling experience, as the first time I delivered a large tray of plated steaks to a table, I didn’t consider the balance of the tray and promptly, dropped all of them on the floor.

In my horror, I looked at the steaks on the floor, and looked back at the customers, who were staring too! I know they were conflicted! They wanted to make me feel better; I apologized profusely, knelt down and began collecting my mess and immediately returned to the kitchen with the order ticket, to have the steaks – PREPARED AGAIN!

I have heard it said repeatedly, every failure is one step closer to SUCCESS! And it is true. So, what did I learn about my job as a teenager. I learned that having a job comes with responsibility. I had to clock in on time, deliver the steak dinners with a smile on my face and confidence in my step. I learned that I could not quit because of one “glass of spilled milk”, that I needed to sweep up my mess, apologize and carry on!

I also learned quickly, that teenage employment is a time to determine the specific skills I have, the skills I want to sharpen, and define the things that I don’t care to do in the future. I have never worked in the restaurant industry since. My decision to work with people in another capacity, education, seems to fit my skill set better!

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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Classroom Strategies to Support Special Needs Children

iStock_000005759838Small[1]Downs_1 copyThe beginning of the new school year can be an anxious time for parents of a child with special needs. Parents may worry about whether their child will be accepted into a new classroom. They may also worry about their child’s classmates and the teacher that is assigned. The school year is a long time, so every child deserves an environment that is suitable for learning and growing.
All children have the need for belonging, and yet, for children with special needs, they can often be left out by their classmates or left behind in their classroom studies. Having a learning disability doesn’t mean a child cannot learn, it simply means, the approach a teacher takes must be intentional so that the child CAN learn.

A few strategies that can make a big difference in the classroom include:

  • limiting distractions – teachers who are organized ahead of time, who can limit the number of interruptions or distractions can help a child stay focused on the learning.
  • breakdown instructions – teachers who will keep instructions short and who will repeat the instructions help students who need that reinforcement.
  • devise opportunities for students success. It may not seem important, but when students with special needs experience success in the classroom, it creates excitement that will reinforce their desire to try again! It is the support of the teacher, acknowledging student success that can make all the difference.

So parents, as school draws near, advocate for your child and watch your student succeed!

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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How About a Pizza Garden?

girl gardeningDid you know that according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, the average American child spends 44 hours per week staring at some sort of electronic screen? Limiting screen time is a great idea, but having an alternate activity to take its place is essential. Consider getting kids up and outdoors, and into the garden.

Families can plant a variety of gardens including vegetable; container, butterfly; flower; or herb garden to name a few. School gardens are popular and children who have some experience at home, with planting seeds, or watering and weeding a garden can return to school with skills that will be an asset to their school garden.

Have you seen a “pizza garden”? Why not plan for a pizza garden that would include planting many of the yummy ingredients on a pizza, including peppers; spinach; basil, tomatoes, onions, and more! Check out this resource for a healthy pizza garden:

Pizza Garden

Check out the Spend Smart Eat Smart website for a variety of recipes that use fresh vegetables. Sometimes all we need is a new recipe and some bounty from the garden, to prove we can cook and eat healthy and enjoy the garden as a family.

Link to Spend Smart Eat Smart

 

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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Money and Goals

Do you remember taking an economics class in school? What did you think about that class? Some will remember becoming dizzy by the numbers, others may have thought it was boring, and others may have been astounded by the technical aspect of all the numbers! Having a basic understanding of economics helps to guide our use of money throughout life!

 

Families who talk openly about setting financial goals including saving and budgeting, set a good example for their children to follow. When prices increase families have to have a spending plan that will meet their income and pay the bills! For many families, these discussions are difficult because we want to protect kids from the worry of adult family financial pressure. Opening the doors of communication can help the children realize why requests for new toys, or game systems come with the word “NO” more frequently than we like.

 

Helping children to understand that money is earned through hard work and that putting extra money away through a savings plan is one way to work toward earning a new game or toy!   For many of us MONEY is an emotional issue, and those emotions affect spending decisions people make. As parents, our job is to help children explore their personal feelings and attitudes about money. When confronted with the difference between “needs” and “wants”, and knowledge about the most current balance in the checkbook, even children can make decisions about spending or saving!

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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