How to Handle Your Spouse’s Depression

Dealing with a spouse’s illness is never easy. Administering patient, compassionate care—doing everything you can do while acknowledging your own limitations—can be draining, to say the least. This is all the more so when the illness in question is one that presents itself without any tangible, physical symptoms.

Mental illness is a prickly subject in general—still highly stigmatized despite being overwhelmingly common. Indeed, countless adults suffer with depression yet knowing how to help a depression patient remains elusive. When that depression patient is your spouse, however, it’s vital that you know how to respond with kindness, gentleness, and hope.

Understanding Depression

The first and best thing you can do to support your spouse is to understand what depression is—and what it isn’t.

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, one that can affect mood and behavior in a number of different ways. It is a real illness, diagnosable and treatable through medicine—and though it is not necessarily something that can be “cured,” it is something that can come in seasons, its symptoms ebbing and flowing.

Depression is not made up. It is not an illusion, and it’s not something that exists all in your spouse’s head. It is not necessarily tied to any external event, nor is it something that can be “fixed.”

The worst ways to respond to depression are with anger, judgment, or shame. You would not feel embarrassed or angry at your spouse if he or she was diagnosed with cancer or a broken foot; depression is no different.

Being a Team Player

As you seek to understand your spouse, and to offer compassion and support, remember that you’re both on the same team and you’re fighting the same enemy. The enemy is not your spouse. The enemy is the disease itself. The enemy is depression.

Invest some time in showing your support and your closeness to your spouse, then. Go on daily walks together. Make yourself available to drive your spouse to a doctor’s appointment. Let your spouse know that you are always available to talk, but don’t be pushy about it. Let your spouse open up to you when the timing is right.

Make Wellness the Goal

Of course, your spouse may not be open to talking, and in fact your spouse may not admit that he or she has a problem. That’s where things can get dicey, and where it may fall to you to encourage your spouse to get the necessary help.

For depression to get better, you’ll likely need a medical diagnosis and a treatment course. Gently encourage your spouse to seek a medical professional’s opinion about this. Don’t be aggressive or judgmental, but simply let your spouse know that you want him or her to feel better and to live a healthy and happy life.

Keep Everyone in the Loop

Another potentially prickly point: Telling your kids about the issue. Very young children may not be aware that mom or dad has a medical problem, and may not need to. Older kids will pick up on it, and it is important to speak with them candidly about it—giving them information that is age-appropriate.

What does this information entail, and where do you draw the line? That’s an individual decision to make, based on the needs of your youngsters. Talk it over with your spouse and do what you believe to be in the family’s best interests, remembering that open communication is always to be desired.

Show Patience

A final word of note: Depression treatments do not work overnight. They work over time, sometimes shakily and imperfectly. You and your spouse will need to invest in a long-term fight against the disease, which means remaining hopeful even when things do not get better right off the bat.

Patience, understanding, support—these are the keys. Hold them close as you help your spouse through this treacherous, yet never hopeless, condition.

 

The Principles of Parenting

Every parent wants to do the best that they can in the raising of their child with the resources that they have available.  Parenting is one of the most researched areas within the incredibly broad field of social science—and interestingly enough is also an area where the results of studies have remained primarily consistent over time.  While people may define parenting in different ways, there are consistent principles regarding the art of parenting.

  • What you do as a parent matters.  One of the keys to parenting is to be mindful in your actions.  This means that you take an intentional approach toward your interaction with your child, and not simply react to situations.  Ultimately, the more you work to deliberately be a good parent and engage in positive parenting, the more instinctual it becomes.  Moreover, realize that you are going to make mistakes—it’s natural and part of the process.  Therefore, don’t beat yourself up over it, but own up to it and move on.  When a child sees that their parents are willing to take accountability for actions, this behavior is more likely to be mimicked.
  • There can never be enough love.  When a child feels continually and consistently loved, they will develop a strong sense of security and confidence in who they are as a person.  This will help them as they develop and grow, and ultimately, make them less needy.  However, understand that showing “love” doesn’t mean that you have to bribe or buy off your child.  Love comes in the form of physical affection, responding to emotional needs, listening, and praise.  It doesn’t come in the form of material possessions.
  • Make an effort to be involved.  One of the strongest indicators on the quality of a child’s mental, emotional, and physical health is based on the level of involvement of parents in the child’s life.  When you spend quality time with your child, you are demonstrating that their interests and needs are important to you.  This quality time does not only come in the form of attending extracurricular activities, like a soccer practice or a ballet recital, with them, but also being involved in their schooling, knowing who their friends are, showing an interest in what they are curious about.
  • Realize that your parenting style can adapt and evolve over time.  Your child is going to develop—physically, emotionally, and mentally.  This means that what they require from you is going to change as well.  Realize that your parenting style does not have to be rigid and unchanging, in fact, it needs to be flexible and fluid in order to meet your child’s unique stage of development.  Moreover, understand too that your child is unique, and what is taught in the latest and greatest parenting book might not apply.
  • Rules and limits must be set and adhered to.  Every child needs structure in their life, and therefore, kids need to have their parents establish rules.  Taking the time to set boundaries, establish what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior, and have a defined structure helps your child better develop the ability to manage their own behavior. This is especially helpful when your child transitions from only interacting with you and other family members, and starts operating in the external world with his or her friends and teachers.
  • Foster a healthy sense of independence.  As a parent, it is important for you to understand that your child must be able to successfully operate on their own, away from you and your influence.  You must create a situation in your home where your child is able to be autonomous and independent.   While you may have established rules and limits, realize that these things should not breed an environment of conformity.  If this happens, it will be hard for your child to assert himself or develop independent leadership skills.  Resist the urge to be a micromanager in your child’s life—allow them a say in how they do things and give them the chance to make their own decisions.

There is no more important job in any society than that associated with raising healthy and happy children.  In closing, know that you are doing a good job as a parent and feel confident in the decisions you are making.

How to Talk to Your Spouse about End-of-Life Plans

By: Amanda C.
Edited by Ali Reza

Thinking about the end of your life and what will happen after you pass away is never a pleasant thought.  However, facing the fact that no one lives forever is something that every person must come to terms with.  Moreover, this is a conversation that must be had in the open with a spouse or loved one.

It is a reality that broaching this topic with a spouse is something that many people do put off.  However, realize that it is an important part of the process as it pertains to establishing advanced directives about medical care and end-of-life wishes.  Just as loving couples talk about their hopes and dreams, it is also important to discuss the items that are considered less than pleasant.  Realize that you might not need to actually face any of these issues for a very long time—but that it is better to prepare 20 years too early as opposed to one day too late.

Why It’s Important to Talk about These Wishes—and Record Them Legally

It’s one thing to talk about end-of-life wishes, but it is equally important, if not more so, to make sure these  are recorded from a legal standpoint.   If you do not have healthcare or medical directives logged in a legal capacity with an attorney, and cannot make decisions for yourself because you are incapacitated, someone else has to make these for you.  In this circumstance, those decisions may not coincide with your actual wishes.  At the same time, if you have passed away without a Will, Living Trust, or other estate planning documentation in place, it could be necessary for the courts to decide on the administration of your estate—and your preferences for burial, cremation, or other types of memorialization may be overlooked.

Preparing for “The Talk”

Next, it is necessary for you to prepare for having “the talk” about end-of-life wishes with your spouse or loved one.  Keep the following in mind:

  • Acknowledge that this is a process.  This is not something that is an item on a to-do list.
  • Realize that your spouse might disagree with you on points. This is okay.
  • Understand that you cannot plan for every scenario or circumstance.  Plan in a general sense.
  • Think about your own beliefs, values, and preferences in your life right now and how these apply to the future.  Write them down so you can organize your thoughts.
  • Identify the things that you do and don’t want—if you are incapacitated medically as well as what happens to you after you pass away.
  • Understand that it is never too soon to begin this process.

Talking with a Spouse

After you have decided what is important to you, then it is time to talk with a spouse. There are certain items that must be discussed and decided upon.

  • Who should make decisions for you or your spouse if faced with incapacitation?  This relates to healthcare matters as well as financial decisions. This may or may not be the same person for both of you.
  • What medical treatments or care are acceptable to you?  Is there anything you fear?
  • Do you opt for resuscitation if your heart stops or you aren’t breathing?
  • Do you opt for hospitalization? Or do you prefer to stay at home, or somewhere else, if you are terminally ill?
  • How will care be paid for?
  • What do you wish to happen to your remains after you die?  How do you wish to be memorialized?

Once you have identified answers to these questions, it is then necessary to record them legally.  An attorney can help you with this.  Then, once documents are drafted, ensure that children or other loved ones or caregivers know about them, so they can be accessed if needed.

 

Introducing Children to a New Baby

Growing your family to include more children can be an exciting time. It means a new sibling to play with, exciting memories to create, and more love to share. But it is also a time of change and other children may need time to adjust. Older children may know what to expect if they already have younger siblings, but for younger children it may be something new that they are unsure of. Helping your children to adjust can make transitions easier and build stronger relationships.

  • Prepare children ahead of time

Talk about the fact that they will have a new little brother or sister. You can read stories or watch videos to help them know what to expect. Make it an exciting time so that the birth is an event that they look forward to. Get them involved in picking out items for the new baby so they feel more important and are not overlooked.

  • Let them explore and ask questions

When the new baby arrives, your children will probably be filled with questions. Have someone bring them to the hospital to meet the baby. Help them to hold it in their lap or hold its hand. They will probably be curious, so let them look at its hands and feet, check out its hair, and give gentle kisses. Encourage them to ask questions and be as honest as you can with your answers. Before the baby is born you can take them to pick out a special gift to give the baby just from them once it arrives.

  • Let older children help out

Once the baby comes home, there will be a lot to do. Get the other children involved. Help them to feel important by asking them to bring things you or the baby may need, letting them help hold the bottle during feeding, or entertaining the baby with toys. Make sure they know what an important part of the family they are and that just because there is a new baby, that doesn’t make them any less special.

  • Praise good behavior

It is not unusual for children to feel jealous once the baby arrives. They may revert back to more baby-like behaviors as a way to get attention. Be understanding of their feelings and concerns. Praise good behavior and encourage them to make positive choices. Model appropriate ways of interacting with the new baby, such as being very gentle and not yelling. With a little time they will often adjust and go back to their normal selves.

  • Share your attention

Although a new baby requires a lot of attention, make sure to give each child individual attention as well. Spend time doing something that they enjoy while the baby is sleeping or is content. Give them one-on-one time to keep building your own special bond with them. You can also come up with activities that you can all do together, such as looking at books, playing with certain toys, or taking a walk.

Be patient and realize that it can take time for children to adjust to having a new sibling. Stay positive and continue trying to help them be more involved and find their place. Everyone will have to go through some changes and adjust to new schedules or routines, but trying to keep things as normal as possible can make transitions easier. Children will begin to see that even though they have another sibling, there are many things that have stayed the same. Continue encouraging questions as well as talking about the benefits of having a brother or sister. Though the baby may not be able to do much now, as it gets older, the child will have someone else to play with. Welcoming a new baby into the family can be an exciting time and with a little preparation and understanding, everyone can be involved and feel appreciated.

10 Tips for Raising Children of Character

By Amanda (Contributed Content)

What does it mean to raise children of character? Different parents might provide different answers, simply depending on their value systems, yet most of us would agree on some basics: People of character are honest and they are kind; they are people of their word and they are sensitive to the needs of others. They are thoughtful about their values and work hard to maintain and exemplify them.

Character matters, and it begins in childhood, which is precisely what makes parenting such a high calling. The parent’s job is as hard as any occupation, as hard as marriage or as meaningful friendship: The parent’s job is to train up adults-in-the-making, and to provide them with the foundation and touchstones they need for a life of honest, kind, and respectful living.

So what is a parent to do? How can children of character be developed and nurtured? A few tips follow.

Ensure that parenting is your focus. Raising your children cannot be an afterthought or a secondary concern; aside from putting effort into your marriage, putting effort into childrearing is the most significant undertaking you will ever make. Make sure you invest parenting with the appropriate level of gratitude, and that your decisions are not just based on what is easy right now, but what will cultivate long-lasting character down the road.
Be mindful of your time. Do you spend all your time watching TV—either with or apart from your children? Do your children lead lives totally separate from your own? Think about where the hours of your day go, and, if you can, fold in more meaningful time spent with your children—reading, playing outside, volunteering, or simply doing some work around the home. Fold them into your own life as best you can.
Lead by example. Your children will base their understanding of character, of responsible adult living, off what they see you do; make sure you are embodying the values you want your children to have.
Actively teach. You need to lead by example but you also need to directly teach your children, to clearly articulate the expectations for their behavior. If you want your children to refrain from interrupting other people, you should model that behavior yourself, but you should also directly tell them: “Don’t interrupt, please.”
Be authoritative. Your children need to respect your authority on issues of morality and character. This means being consistent and following through when you discipline them—not just making idle threats—but it also means explaining to them why you have the rules that you do, and not making rules for no reason.
Be aware of what your children are taking in. You will not be the only source of moral perspective in their life; they’ll also absorb things from TV, books, the Internet, and so on. You can’t necessarily monitor every single piece of media they digest, but do try to have a general awareness of what they’re into.
Listen to your kids. Don’t just talk at them, lecture at them, and reprimand them. Really take some time to connect with them, which means never tuning them out or ignoring them when they have something to talk to you about.
Use the vocabulary of character. Don’t settle for talking about what’s best or smartest for your children. Talk in the language of morality. Talk in the language of honor, of right and wrong.
Protect family time. Whether it’s mealtimes, a particular Saturday morning ritual, or a bedtime routine, be protective of the special times you all have together as a family.
Provide opportunities for showing character. Make sure your children have some chores and other responsibilities in which they can model the virtues you are trying to instill in them.

Character never happens by accident; it happens only through focused effort: Most often, through the focused effort of parents.

How to Care for a Parent Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease

By Amanda C. (Contributor) 

It’s never an easy thing to realize that a parent is getting older, and will not be around forever.  And being faced with the reality of Alzheimer’s disease in a parent is not only a heartbreaking occurrence, it’s also incredibly humbling.  In United States alone, currently there are over 15 million people responsible for caring for a loved one who is facing this devastating condition.  However, knowing what to expect can help you prepare for the challenges and allow your parent to live more fully and better with the disease.

The Toughest Fight Your Parent Will Face

Alzheimer’s disease is a terrifying condition, and it’s likely to be the toughest challenge that your parent will ever face.  It’s also true that caring for your loved one will probably be the hardest job that you will ever have.  In order to be effective in your role, it is necessary to learn the facts about Alzheimer’s.

Learn How to Manage

Alzheimer’s is a condition that changes the brain.  At first, you may witness mild to moderate changes in your parent.  They may have a problem recalling names or dates, and they may be forgetful of when they took medications or get lost easily in a familiar place, such as a grocery store.  Ultimately, you need to observe your parent and get to understand where their challenges may lie right now.  Yes, it’s true that Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease that comes on in stages, so your parent may experience many symptoms all at once or on a gradual basis.  The key is to making sure you are aware of what is happening to them and be there to assist them.

Alzheimer’s Facts

  1. It’s possible for your loved one to live for many more years.  Realize that the life expectancy for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s depends on the age when the diagnosis was made.  It’s possible for sufferers to live 10 or more years.  Therefore, also understand that becoming a caregiver for your parent is something that should be considered a long-term commitment.
  2. The demands of the disease will increase.  This is an inevitable fact. As time passes, your parent is going to require more help and assistance.  Statistics show that in the disease’s early stages a caregiver may spend approximately 15 hours per week on average caring for a parent.  As the disease progresses, it is entirely possible that this will become a full-time job.  If you are unable to be around continually, it’s important to look into outside caregiver or home healthcare options.
  3. Being a caregiver will affect your full-time job.  According to Alzheimer’s Association statistics, about two-thirds of all caregivers said that their new role impacted their professional career.  About half of all caregivers continued on with full- or part-time professional work.
  4. Being a caregiver will affect your family.  Alzheimer’s is an upsetting condition and it may be your hope to protect your children from what their grandparent is going through.  While this is an admirable goal, it’s oftentimes not an attainable one.  However, this doesn’t necessarily have to be considered a negative thing.  Get your children involved in your parent’s care.  Having ongoing interaction with their grandchildren could help boost your parent’s spirits and allow them to maintain a positive attitude.
  5. Prepare for the financial impact of the disease.  Caregiving expenses can range from $16K to $70K per year—this is dependent on a variety of factors.  It is important to have an honest look at your parent’s finances, their insurance or long-term care options, and figure out how you may realistically be able to help them from a financial standpoint.
  6. Don’t go it alone.  Taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s is a lot for one person to deal with—especially if you are part of the “sandwich” generation and raising children too.  Therefore, ask for support from a spouse, a sibling, other relatives, doctors, and local and national Alzheimer’s organizations.  Moreover, if someone reaches out asking if they can help—just say yes.
  7. Skill is needed.  Being a caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s is not necessarily a skill set that you can simply develop overnight.  Educate yourself on all facets of the disease, consult with professionals in the field, and don’t simply muddle through on your own.  With Alzheimer’s it is easy to believe you are doing the right thing…when in reality it’s the wrong thing.

In closing, it’s also remember to make sure that you take care of yourself as you begin in this new role.  It’s going to be challenging, it will be hard, but it’s a fact that if you do not watch out for your own health and well-being, you are more likely to suffer from a variety of conditions such as depression, anxiety, and other illnesses.  For more information on how to be a caregiver for Alzheimer’s look to organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association.

In Sickness and in Health: Helping a Spouse through Health Problems

Each and every year, countless couples face a serious illness.  No matter if a spouse has just received a diagnosis of cancer, heart failure, Alzheimer’s, or any other major condition, the reality is that it is a life changer for both of you.  However, studies also show that it is the needs of the healthy spouse that are typically looked over in this situation.  This is a troubling reality because it is this individual who needs to be strong and stable in order to support their ailing spouse.

What to Do if You Have Been Put into the Role of Caregiver

If you have been suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver, it’s true that you probably have many conflicting emotions.  You are most likely worried about what is going to happen to your spouse, and trying your hardest not to be scared or think negatively.  At the same time, it’s likely that you are also feeling overwhelmed by this new role and constantly questioning what to do in order to offer the best support.

  • Simply Be There.  When a spouse is sick or facing a life threatening illness, there are many thoughts going through that person’s head.  In order to fully support your loved one, make sure that you are around and visible.  Let them know that you are there to talk if they want to—and if they don’t, you are also there for quiet time.  Continue sharing the routines you have had throughout your relationship whether it’s spending time over morning coffee or watching a favorite TV show together.  After the diagnosis of an illness, these small bouts of normalcy and tradition are especially valued and cherished.
  • Inform Yourself. You will be able to perform better and support your spouse more thoroughly if you make sure you understand your spouse’s treatment needs and condition.  While it’s fine to start with the Internet, make sure you consult websites that provide level-headed, accurate, and correct medical information.  If you are unsure about something, consult with a doctor.
  • Go to Doctor’s Appointments Together.  Don’t confine yourself to a waiting room or keep quiet during a medical appointment.  Work with your spouse to devise a list of questions and participate in the process.  Talk about your concerns, worries, and areas where you require more information while in front of the doctor.  Making sure you are vocal during these appointments can help your spouse feel like they are not facing this illness alone.
  • Don’t be a Nag. A major medical diagnosis can be a terrifying thing, and it’s likely that you simply want the best for your partner.  However, wanting the best and being attentive can also easily feel bothersome to a person who is dealing with their own set of fears.  Instead of saying, “You need to take all of these pills,” tell your spouse, “The doctor says it’s best to do this.”  Place the treatment onus and schedule on the healthcare provider.  It will be easier for a sick spouse to deal with doctor’s rules as opposed to a spouse’s endless requests.
  • Be Open to Accepting Help.  There are going to be other people in your life who want to help.  This help might come in the form of a casserole, housekeeping assistance, monetary support, and more.  Allow these people to help you and realize that sometimes the worst of situations allows you to realize who your true friends are.  These helpful offers can take some of the strain off, and can also allow you and your spouse to spend more quality time together as you navigate this situation.

In closing, realize that you and your spouse are a team.  You made a commitment to each other to be there in sickness and in health.  Remember to keep a good attitude throughout this situation and realize that people who have positive mindsets are more likely to overcome.

Children and the Media: An Age-Specific Guide

Three Year Olds

Contributed Content

Today’s children use media more than any other generation before them.  While some critics believe this is not a positive development, the fact of the matter is that this is the type of world that we live in, and that media, in general, should not be viewed as a negative thing.  The use of media does have the opportunity to develop significant creative and analytical skills, and as such, can help your child in their future. While children typically go through the same stages in their personal development, it is important for a parent to know about these stages in order to determine how media could help them as they grow.

Media and Your Three Year Old

Your three year old will give you specific indicators about their interests.  Follow this guide in order to use media that is appropriate for their developmental stage.

  • Telling simple stories.  Ask specific questions about what is happening in a book, on a computer screen, or on your television.  As your child tells you, offer information that might help him improve his vocabulary and learn new words.  For instance, if your child says, “Car.” Say, “Yes, a big, red car.”
  • Enjoys hearing stories repeatedly.  Ask your child about TV shows, computer games, or movies, even if he has seen them a million times already.  Realize that while you may have memorized every scene in a popular Disney movie, the fact is your three year old may still be learning it.
  • Singing songs and carrying a tune.  Choose a TV program or computer game that utilizes songs and rhythms.  Engage your child with this media by getting up and singing and dancing, as opposed to just watching.   This can help develop coordination and will also inspire your child to move his body in new ways.
  • Showing an interest in things that are the same and things that are different. When you are watching TV, point out a character that does something physical that your child can do as well.  For instance, if a bunny is hopping on the screen, do the motion of “hopping” with them.
  • Helping them realize their place in personal media.  Take time to display your child photo albums or home videos that show them in their life.  Pull out baby books or videos of them learning how to crawl and explain what was happening on that day the picture was taken or the video was created.
  • Teaching about differences.  Media can also help teach a child about personal differences and inspire curiosity.  Choose a TV show, book, or computer game that exposes your three year old to people who have a different background than your family.  Explain what makes other cultures unique and special.

Media provides so many opportunities for you as a parent to open up new lines of questioning with your child about the who, what, where, when, and why of life.  Encourage their questions, and make sure you pose some queries of your own to get them thinking.  Finally, also remember to begin establishing “space” between your child and the media.  Make sure you help them understand that there are times for reading, TV watching, and game playing—but that there are also times when these things get put away for chores, school, and family time around the house.

How to Talk to Kids about Bullying

In today’s news, bullying is unfortunately a pervasive and prominent topic.  While parental advice in yesteryear about the subject might have been a simple, “Just ignore it,” or “Words can’t hurt you.”  It appears that bullying in our school systems has become incredibly brutal, with children now pushing physical limits and taking their harassment to social media platforms like Facebook.  Therefore, parents have to be aware of this issue, and stop pretending like it isn’t happening.  In fact, statistics show that three out of four parents admit that their child has witnessed a bullying situation while at school.

Empowering Children against Bullying

Bullying is a situation that does not only affect the bully and the victim—the witnesses to the incident are also involved.  No matter which party your child happens to be a part of, it is important for you as a parent to make sure you are aware of what is happening—your efforts can help change the culture that is being experienced at school for the better.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t make the mistake of telling your child to simply ignore it.  People oftentimes believe that a bully just wants a reaction and if you deny them this they will go away, but studies show otherwise.  If a bully feels they are being ignored, this can encourage them to feel a sense of power over their victim, and the situation will get worse.
  • Don’t suggest that a child stand up to a bully.  While you might feel empowered by helping them choose their words when confronting a bully or teaching self-defense, this in fact sends a powerful message to your child that they are in this alone and that it’s their problem.  Instead, discuss possible solutions, such as getting a school administrator involved, and involve your child in the process.  This will allow them to feel in control.
  • Don’t act shocked or express disbelief if your child comes to you with a bullying situation.  Never say the words, “That person would never do that.”  Furthermore, never ask your child for evidence.  He or she has to know that they can trust you and that you will take their side.  Be supportive so you can get to the bottom of the situation.
  • Don’t believe you have to handle this alone.  While your first reaction as a parent is to protect your child, it isn’t the best solution to call up the parent of the bully and give them a piece of your mind—this could provide additional fodder for a bully. Instead, talk with your child about what they believe is the best solution.  Work with them in order to develop a plan of action.

What TO Do

  • Talk to your child about their day and ask questions.  Be aware of problems as soon as they occur so you can detect changes in their personal situation as they happen.  Inquire who they sit with at lunch, who is in the process of trying out for a team or a club, how certain classes are going.  Doing this will help you not only show your child that you care, but also help you head off a bullying situation before it gains steam and impacts your child.
  • Set online boundaries with your child.  Encourage your child to protect themselves while online by never doing or saying anything that you wouldn’t do or say in person.  Moreover, make sure they know what is sharable and what is off-limits.  Make sure they realize that they shouldn’t share information with strangers and that certain topics are not appropriate for posting or talking about online.
  • Encourage your child to make their voice heard.  Make sure your child knows who they can talk to if they need help. Your child needs to be aware they have a support system around them that comes in the form of parents, teachers, counselors, and school coaches.
  • Explain why it’s important to keep online passwords private.  Tell your child that they should not share passwords with friends or anyone else as another person might think it funny to impersonate them online.  Even if a child says that a friend would never do that, remind them that it is just as easy for a friend to accidentally share a password with someone who doesn’t have your child’s best interest at heart.
  • Show patience.  Realize that your child might feel embarrassed and afraid about what is happening to them.  Don’t pressure them into talking to you before they are ready.  Just make sure they understand that you are there for them when they do want to start solving the problem.
  • Look for resources online.  There are some great resources for parents who want to learn more about how to stop a bullying situation and when offering children counsel.  Check out Green Giant’s “Raise a Giant” site and the National Bullying Prevention Center online.

How to Create a Family Budget

How to Organize Your Family Finances

While it might seem like a bit of a New Year’s Resolution, spring is actually the ideal time to evaluate and analyze your family’s household budget as expenses tend to increase the closer it gets to the end of the school year when vacations and extracurricular events begin to be planned.  Therefore, get out your calculator and let’s get to work!

Family Finances Matter
The majority of households in this country operate by way of a budget.  If the concept is new to you, it’s an important thing to do, especially when managing children, a professional life, and other demands.  Having a budget will help you keep your family’s finances on track.

Of course, it isn’t the easiest of processes, so if you are looking for some pointers, here is what some financial consultants say should be considered when plotting out your family’s budget.

How Your Home Factors into Your Budget

It’s true that your mortgage or rent is probably the largest expense on a monthly basis.  Experts advise that housing costs such as the mortgage or rent payment, homeowners insurance, and taxes should account for no more than 30 percent of your overall budget.  If you can get this number to 25 percent, you are even better off.

Categorizing Expenses

However, there are other costs that relate to housing expenses.  You have to think about utilities, cleaning products, the lawn service, household equipment and the like.  Experts say that if you want to outline your budget in this regard to do it as such and target the following breakdown:

  • Mortgage: 58 percent
  • Utilities: 21 percent
  • Household equipment: 9.2 percent
  • Services such as a housekeeper or lawn service: 6.8 percent
  • Supplies: 3.6 percent

Remember to take into account that utilities are expenses that do vary on a month-to-month basis.  For instance, in the summer your electric bill could be higher if you tend to run the air conditioning more and likewise, in the winter your gas bill may soar because of heating costs.

Understanding Transportation Costs

Transportation costs include your car payment, subway or bus fare, gas, car repairs, and anything else that helps you get around.  If you are in the market for a new car, it’s wise to be prudent and not spend more in a year’s payments than what you make in a month after taxes.  Therefore, if you make $6,000 per month, don’t spend more than $500 monthly on transportation expenses.  Ultimately, the targeted number for transportation in a family’s budget is 8 percent; however, the majority of Americans spend 17 percent of their income on this category.

You Have to Eat!

Food is another expense that can be very costly.  This category accounts for 12.9 percent of the average U.S. household’s budget and experts say that is healthy. General consensus notes that anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of a budget should be allocated on this expense.  Therefore, if you start crunching numbers and realize that you are over 20 percent—it’s time to put your food expense on a diet!

Planning for Unexpected Costs

This is the one area where so many people get tripped up—they don’t plan for emergencies.  Allowing a cushion in your budget for an unexpected car repair or a trip to the vet for your dog is imperative.  Even if it is only 5 percent that you can attribute to this category, it’s better than nothing.  You want to put your family in a place where you are not constantly worrying about a tragedy occurring and you certainly don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck.

It’s also important to understand that certain times of the year, like back-to-school time, are more expensive than others.  You must work to remember these expenses are coming up and that they still count even though it’s not an event that happens monthly.