Catch Them Doing Good!

It is the start of a New Year, which can mean, as a family we are trying to find resolutions or goals for our family to work toward! Parents who stay busy keeping up with their children know that schedules, chores and activities can create chaos if we don’t plan for how we are going to manage all the responsibilities. Perhaps one goal for the year, is to catch our family members doing well!

Mom is helping daughter with math homework, and they are high-fiving for a successful answer.

When children come home from school and begin work on their homework without being told; when kids remember to feed the dog or take the dog for a walk; or when Mom and Dad take turns completing household responsibilities, we tell them we appreciate them. We speak words of affirmation to family members for helping to keep the home both clean and peaceful.

When we find time to express our appreciation for the kindness that siblings show to one another, we know it will build good will in the family. When children see their parents sharing household responsibilities, they learn that everyone can contribute something to family life.

Compliments can bring such pleasure, that both kids and adults will want them repeated and will work harder to make sure that they are following through on their responsibilities. I know at times, it can be easier to focus on what is not getting accomplished, or we can focus on what is missing, rather than on the positive.

In the New Year, make your resolution, to catch others DOING GOOD, and spread the cheer all year long.

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 Support the Family

A mother crouches to her young daughter and smiles while her daughter holds a teddy bear.

If your schedule in December was anything like mine, our routines were really mixed up. We spent more time celebrating with family and friends and our eating and sleeping schedules were more flexible than usual. 

When holidays are over, getting back to a regular schedule or routine can provide the structure and safety that most families appreciate. When children have an understanding of the routines, they can manage their feelings and behaviors, because they will know what to expect, or what is happening next.

When we throw the schedule out the window and don’t get enough rest, or forget to eat, sleep and exercise at regular intervals, that will impact our mood and behaviors! According to research reported in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, parents who follow daily routines may benefit from time management skills and a reduction in attention difficulties. The same study also suggests that children who know what to expect on a daily basis are more likely to feel a sense of family stability than those who experience randomness in schedule.

Children and families who have enjoyed a few days break from school and work must now settle back into the familiar routine again. Children and youth do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent. 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 is helpful for a good night’s rest. The nurturing we do to help children adjust to everyday routines is proving to be helpful for long term adjustment in both school and home settings. Take a moment to think about just one thing you could to do to help the adjustment back to routine in either your home or school setting.

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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Expressing Appreciation with Thank You Notes

Thank You

The holidays have passed, and now is the perfect time to get busy giving thanks to the many people who helped to make the holiday a special time for all of us. As adults, we know how good it feels to be appreciated. Teaching other family members how to express appreciation is truly a gift that will keep on giving as the years go by!

Giving thanks can take many forms: writing a note, talking by telephone, 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:

1. Greet the giver:Dear Aunt Karen,
2. Express gratitude:Thank you so very kindly for the new books and puzzles.
3. Discuss use:I will enjoy these when I have reading time, just before bedtime! I can also share the puzzles when my friends come to play.
4. Mention the past: It was so nice to see you at the holiday!
5. Say it again: Thanks again for remembering me with gifts!
6. Regards: Love, Susie

The fun part is putting together all the materials that can make the thank you cards special. Find some stationery, plain note cards or a selection of attractive postcards, along with colored pencils or pens, perhaps a few stickers and proper postage. Store all these items somewhere easily accessible and preferably in plain sight, so you won’t forget! People like being appreciated, and if they feel you 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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Goal Setting for Your Family in the New Year

Father and daughter laying on floor writing on a pad of paper

Are you someone who likes to set goals? Do you find the start of a new year the perfect time to make lists of opportunities and challenges your family can accomplish during the year? Many people like to make resolutions, so perhaps your family too can establish some resolutions, goals, or challenges that can be achieved. I recommend you start with self-care!

Self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. We can apply this same definition to the family, and together identify a set of habits that can improve the overall health of our family.

Self-care may be reflected in how we eat, sleep, and take care of ourselves. Do we get enough exercise? Do we drink enough water? How many hours of sleep are members of our family getting each night? The answers to these questions could become the beginning of our family resolutions for the year.

Keeping lines of communication open with one another is an important family consideration. Could you set aside time once a week, to gather all family members, and celebrate your weekly accomplishments? Give family members time to share things they learned about themselves during the week and offer members time to ask for help if needed for the week ahead. And even more important, share family schedules so that everyone knows the plans for the week.

Do family members share responsibility for the meals that are shared during the week? Many families keep busy schedules so talking about meal time during the family meeting will help meal time be more organized. Older siblings might even help prepare the meal, and often, when kids are involved in meal preparation, they are more likely to eat what is served. Check out the Spend Smart Eat Smart website for meal planning and recipes your family might enjoy.

Parents can model the benefits of goal setting by encouraging family participation in identifying goals and charting progress throughout the year!

Success is built one step at a time, and today is the best day to begin! Happy 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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Well-being During the Holidays

As I look at the calendar and think about the upcoming opportunities to celebrate with family and friends, I can feel a bit overwhelmed. The thought of keeping a clean house, purchasing food, and preparing for the many holiday meals that are shared reminds me that perhaps I can shake the overwhelm by practicing some self-care and goal setting.

Smart phone, coffee, pen and notepad with text " to do list", retro style

 Are you someone that makes lists of the things that you must accomplish? A to-do list is something that helps us stay on track. It is very easy to get distracted at work, home, and even at school. My sister refers to distractions as “shiny objects.” As a parent, she has learned to limit the “shiny object” distractions so that her boys can stay “on track.”

Prioritizing our to-do list or plan may be a needed step! How do you go about deciding what to accomplish first? Some say to do the easiest tasks first and cross them off your list. Others would advise to do the most difficult tasks when you are at your freshest. Some folks are best and brightest first thing in the morning. Others feel that the morning is a time for waking up and get their energy in the afternoon. Try to identify the time you work best and then get at it and use your energy to tackle your list. Also, break your list down into chunks: “Here is what I want to accomplish today” and “By the end of the week I will accomplish…”

Alongside the list, a few self-care rituals may assist you in handling the stress you may feel this time of year. Do you like to wake before your family to have a few moments to yourself? Do you like to find some time for exercise, maybe a quick walk after supper? Do you practice any deep breathing techniques? The self-care principals we practice can help us feel more centered and ready to tackle our lists of responsibilities.

Did you know at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, our Human Sciences specialists deliver an engaging well-being series called What About Me: My Well-being. This series focuses on more than simply nutrition and health. This series also highlights our social/emotional well-being; purpose; and financial well-being. We work alongside community organizations and work sites to deliver this free series.

Don’t let the time of year and all the tasks before you overwhelm you and steal your joy. Instead make your list, practice self-care, and remember, your friends at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have many resources to offer!

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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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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