Family Files Facts for All Ages Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Resolve to be Good to Your Brain Wed, 02 Jan 2019 14:08:00 +0000 This time of year, it's seems that we're all making resolutions. Working out more or eating better seem to be popular ones. As we think of our goals for the New Year, it's a common practice to look back on the year past and consider what we would have done better or would have changed.

As I take my own mental review, one blaring memory came to mind. As a Family Life Educator, I teach many programs each year on brain health – so many so that I could probably give our brain health program in my sleep. Even so, one program a few months back stands out to me. During the question and answer time, one gentleman politely raised his hand and kindly asked me, "What do you do to take care of your brain?"

Now, you would think as someone who regularly teaches about brain health that I would have my list ready as to all the ways I take care of my brain. Wrong. As I struggled to recall the brain health contributors I had just taught in class and mentally match them to my daily activities, I quickly relayed that taking my dogs on a daily walk is one way that I take care of my brain.

While his question rattled me on the spot, it did lead me to ask myself, "really, what do I do to take care of my brain?" Right then and there, I resolved that I would identify the ways I practice brain health in my daily life and, if needed, look for practical ways to incorporate more brain health contributors.

As you are likely contemplating your resolutions or goals for 2019, I'd like to encourage you to consider adding a brain health resolution to the list. Consider including one or more of the following brain health contributors:

  • Improving your sleep. Sleep affects both our mental and our physical health and it helps us think better, focus better, and solidify memories. Aim to get quality sleep by implementing a sleep schedule (going to bed/waking up the same time daily), relaxing before bedtime, and even limiting your use of electronics before bed.
  • Eating a heart healthy diet. Your brain needs lots of fuel and what you put in your body can have an impact on brain functions like concentration, focus, and even how your brain grows. Consider adopting a heart healthy diet full of lean meat, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Increasing your physical activity. Exercise improves brain function by protecting against nerve cell death, promoting new neurons in the area of the brain where memories are formed, and helping with better concentration and reaction time. Strive to engage in 30 minutes of physical activity at least 3 times a week and be sure to engage in activities that are of interest to you. Also, consider physical activities that engage both the brain and the body – like dancing – for maximum brain health impact.
  • Managing your stress. Research has demonstrated that exposure to chronic stress creates long-term changes in the structure and function of the brain. While we cannot eliminate stress from our lives, resolve to manage your stress to reduce the harmful effects that stress has on the brain. Create a stress action plan – a list of your "go-to" activities that help you combat stress and, when you're feeling stressed, take action!
  • Expanding your social/emotional network or support. Having social and emotional support contributes to brain health. Several recent studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of social activity have less cognitive decline than those who are not as socially engaged. Joining a social group or a club, starting a weekly lunch date with friends, or takin an Extension class are all good ways to increase your social involvement. Social and emotional engagement with others can contribute to the brain's vitality.
  • Completing a daily brain challenge. By participating in intellectually challenging activities, you can contribute to your own brain health. It is important to choose an activity that is of interest to you so that you will stick with it. Choosing a novel or new activity to you challenges your brain and helps you break a mental sweat. While traditional brain puzzles like word games and crossword puzzles are good choices, also be sure to consider non-traditional brain challenges like learning a new language, taking piano lessons, journaling, or even traveling. Whatever activity you choose, make sure that it challenges you so you get the most benefit.

So, what is my brain health resolution for 2019?

One way I resolve to be good to by brain every day is to challenge my brain to complete a daily brain game. While shopping this past holiday season, I found a brain games daily calendar in a store that features a different fun and challenging word, number, or conceptual puzzle every single day. When I looked at what I am currently doing for my own brain health, I realized that I am not currently completing a daily brain challenge. It seems like a good idea to step out of my comfort zone and I am really looking forward to completing a different puzzle every day.

Whatever resolution goal you choose this New Year, resolving to be good to your brain by adopting one of the brain health contributors is an excellent choice. Your brain will thank you!

Your Teen's Developing Brain Mon, 24 Dec 2018 08:11:00 +0000

As a parent of a teenager, how many times have you thought "what in the world were they thinking?!" Well, in your teen's defense, their brain is not completely developed until they are in their mid-20's. Parents need to realize that their teen's brain is still developing. A person is born with around 100 billion neurons or brain cells which are continuously making new connections with each other based on frequent experiences and eliminating connections with infrequent connections. Parents are important in shaping those experiences – and thus the development of their child's brain.

According to University of Minnesota Extension Teen Talk, to help a teen's brain develop in healthy ways, parents can:

  • Support their teen by providing guidance, giving reminders and suggestions.
  • Avoid labeling decisions or choices as "stupid." Try to understand decisions from your teen's perspective. Take advantage of opportunities to teach decision-making processes.
  • Talk with teens about potentially challenging situations, such as peer pressure to drink alcohol. Coach them in practicing how to deal with those situations.

Create teachable moments by helping teens break down the actions necessary to complete chores. Then they can think about organizing actions, setting priorities and making decisions. This all contributes to brain development. For more information on raising and surviving teenagers, check out the University of Minnesota Extension webpage

Tips on Handling Tantrums Fri, 21 Dec 2018 13:28:00 +0000 Image result for Toddlers Having Tantrums

Tips on Handling Tantrums

Can you think of a time where either you had a toddler or you witnessed a toddler in the store checkout line throwing a tantrum? Google's definition of tantrum is "an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child". As a parent it is difficult to handle this uncontrolled outburst. How a parent response helps defuse the situation and helps the child for the future.

Think about it. Does it help if the parent gives in to the child acting out over wanting a piece of candy? The parent might be surrender for many reasons such as, feeling exhausted, embarrassed, wanting to quickly get out of the store, or all of the above. Keep in mind that children are constantly learning. In the definition, it mentions frustration. Many young children are trying to learn to manage emotions. When they become challenged or have trouble figuring something that is when frustration can trigger anger. We will never be able to prevent tantrums all together but, there is many approaches that parents can take to address tantrums. This past week I had the opportunity to watch a parent with his toddler in action.

I hope many people watched and recognized what a marvelous job he did addressing the situation. The key was that he stayed calm. Even though there was a gym full of band parents and youth watching the situation, the parent stayed calm and used a very caring voice to speak to his child. You can see that he said a couple of word and identified where he was going to sit. The child's outburst lasted on a couple minutes as he sat there on the floor. The child was aware of where his father went to sit. You could still tell he was angry because his body posture and facial expression was noticeable. After, just a few minutes he was sitting right next to his father. As parents we have to be careful not to give attention to the outburst but, to mention later that the behavior will not get your attention.

Consider what you can do to help address or discourage tantrums:

  • Be consistent- Have a routine at home, shopping, and school.
  • Plan ahead- Make sure you child is feed before going to the store. Pack a small snack or toy to occupy their time.
  • Let your child make choices- If you are shopping for fruit ask if they want banana or strawberries.
  • Praise good behavior- Acknowledge the behavior you are expecting and wanting. This could be with an extra hug, and praise.
  • Avoid situations that can trigger tantrums- Steer clear of areas of temptations in stores. Be mindful of your child's age and what can tempt them.

You might say, what happens if your child is destructive or dangerous? Well, make sure that you don't make threats. Plan ahead a select timeout spot or location. Keep in mind that you don't want it to be an incentive so, make sure it is at a place that doesn't resemble a reward. Again, be consistent with your consequences. It is important that if you mention a discipline then stick with it. Don't ignore it because again, the child is learning. Make sure you end time outs and discipline at a reasonable time. Sometimes as parents we become angry and we need to make sure we can follow through with the discipline.

Again, you may never complete encounter a tantrum but, you can defuse it or discourage it quickly.


Fun at Home with Preschoolers: Let's Measure! Fri, 21 Dec 2018 10:55:00 +0000 Fun at Home with Preschoolers: Let's Measure!
This is used with permission from the Illinois Early Learning Project
Your preschool-age child hears you talk about miles, inches, pounds, liters, acres, and minutes. He sees you measuring things. He may wonder how tall he is or how long he can stand on one foot. Here are some home activities that can help your child learn basic measurement concepts.

Use the language of measurement.

  • Introduce your child to words such as weight, balance, size, full yards, area.
  • Ask her to compare: "Which board is widest?" "Whose boots are heavier? Yours or Dad's?"
  • Help her ask questions about measurement: "You could ask Grandpa what he measures at work." "Let's find out if your lunchbox holds more stuff than mine."

Show your child how to use measurement in family routines.

  • Let your child give pets a set amount of food or water each day.
  • He can use teaspoons and measuring cups when you cook together.
  • He can learn to check a rain gauge or thermometer and tell you the results.
  • She can help fill trash bags and recycle bins. You might help her weigh the trash or recycling each week and use a calendar to keep track of how much your family throws out or recycles.
  • He can have a daily schedule for giving garden plants a set amount of water.

Play games together that use measuring skills.

  • Join your child in games that involve being aware of distances, such as tag, beanbag toss, and hopscotch. "Pathway" games (for example, Candyland) also involve distances.
  • Let her use a timer during games to practice measuring time.

Offer other activities related to measurement.

  • Let your child play with nesting toys, interlocking blocks, geoboards, nesting toys, clay, wood scraps, interlocking blocks, stacking toys, and fabric squares.
  • Offer your child measuring tools (ruler, eye dropper, balance, clock) for study or play. Provide clear tubes and containers for sand and water play.
  • Help your child use nonstandard items (hands, thick string, shoes, floor tiles) to describe the size of things around him. "This table is 5 tiles long."
  • Invite your child to guess the weight of pets, family members, or toys, checking them on a scale. You might help her make a chart of her results.
  • Make a quilt with your child, or let him help you build a model, a birdhouse, or other small construction project.
Family Holidays…not always merry & bright Sun, 16 Dec 2018 08:00:00 +0000

Do you dread the holidays because… You are you an adult who is single and your family and friends wish you were happily coupled? Are you a parent of an adult child wishing you had grandbabies? Every time you are gathered with family do you still feel judged for the life choices you made? Time spent with families can be a big stressor during the holidays sometimes even more than the hurried schedules, gifts to buy and wrap, food to cook, and the money crunch that can come with this time of year.

Family relationships differ from family to family. However, every family does have their own unique relationship dynamics or situations that could cause some family members to dread the holidays. In order to make the best of your time together it may be wise to let go of past conflicts and the expectations unfulfilled and simply enjoy the time you do have together, no matter how short.

We may have family members going through something challenging in their life that they really do not feel like discussing over the holidays. For some, anticipating questions like: "Where are you going to college next year?" "Anyone special in your life?" or "When will there be babies?" can cause great anxiety leading up to and through the holiday season. You may feel that these are harmless questions to ask, yet to the person, they may be their worst fear.

For someone who may have been trying to have a baby for months or even years, that question is just another dagger in their heart. They too, may wish to be celebrating the season with a child(ren). There may be a medical reason that your family member has not had children or the timing may not be right for them. It is unlikely that they are purposefully withholding grandchildren.

A similar situation could be true for the single family member. By asking about a significant other, it may appear that you are devaluing the life they are living because they are not with someone. They may be perfectly happy on their own. Or, they may wish to be with someone special and seeing family members and friends paired up could already be difficult enough over the holidays. Asking inquiring questions about their love life could make them uncomfortable.

For some, the holidays can highlight a difficult year. The loss of a job or loved one, depression, or any variety of life events may have caused a challenging year. Don't treat them as if they're broken or fragile. Be sensitive and empathetic, but try to treat them like everyone else, so they do not feel singled out.

So whether your family resembles the Rockwells or the Griswolds, remember what is important over the holidays and enjoy the time that you have, with the people that you care about. Focus on all that you do have rather than what is missing. Respect the choices that loved ones have made in their life and celebrate where they are today. Be generous and compassionate with each person, even that family member that tends to rub you the wrong way at family gatherings. They could be experiencing their own challenges whether you know about them or not.

Gifts Kids Really Want Wed, 12 Dec 2018 14:50:00 +0000
Despite the title, I am not going to talk about the latest video game or Monster High doll! According to authors Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock-Staeheli in their book Unplug the Christmas Machine, as early as the age of four or five kids can lose the ability to be delighted by the sights and sounds of the holidays. Instead, they may gain a 2 month long obsession with brand-name toys. Suddenly all they seem to care about is how many presents they will be getting and how many days are left until they get them.

Since many families are concerned about shielding their children from the excesses of holiday commercialism, they can focus on the four things the authors argue that kids REALLY want:
  1. A relaxed and loving time with family. Kids prefer to be in their own homes in a relaxed atmosphere with their families. Many normal family routines are upset during the holiday season. It's important to slow down and spend quality time with your kids.
  2. Realistic expectations about gifts. Kids enjoy looking forward to gifts and then having their expectations met. The key is to manage their expectations. For instance, you might want to explain to your children that advertisers really want you to buy their products, even if you don't need them. '
  3. An evenly paced holiday season. Remember that the holidays are a season! You don't have to visit everyone and do everything in one day. You may want to spread out your family visits out to after New Year's Day.
  4. Reliable family traditions. We typically remember the things we did as a family during the holidays, not the gifts received. So this year, start or renew a holiday tradition, such as driving around to look at lights, baking cookies for a neighbor, or brightening your home with home-made decorations. Children will likely remember the traditions, not the gifts.
Happy Holidays everyone! A big thank you to my colleague, Janice McCoy, for the information for this article!
Originally released December 2016 by Extension Educator Cara Allen.
Winter Fitness Wed, 28 Nov 2018 13:40:00 +0000 Winter Fitness

Now that winter is upon us, it is quite comforting to sit down with a movie, hot chocolate, and your family for some quality time together. Although it is important to do some enjoyable and relaxing activities, it is important to try to incorporate some plans that include physical movement for overall fitness. Even though you may have to be creative in your planning as you schedule around the changing weather, keeping active can give you a boost of energy that will help your body.

  1. Take a sightseeing, nature walk, even in the snow. Just make sure that your family has bundled themselves up to protect themselves from the winter cold. Discussing nature and observing what you see along the way can be a great way to encourage family togetherness and communication. Playing "I SPY" can be a way to keep the fun into the discussions.
  2. Ride a snow sled; if you have not been sledding for a while, you might find yourself laughing by the experience. This is a great time to set concerns aside for just a bit and HAVE FUN with your family! Don't forget to engage in a snowball fight to keep your heart pumping and your legs moving!
  3. Build a snowman. The next time your child may ask if he/she can go outside to play, surprise him/her and join in by building a snowman or making snow angels.
  4. Plan meals that involve the whole family participating, such ask making pizza or tacos. Sometimes it may take some coaxing, but it is worth it to help the family get into habits of working together, especially for being praised for doing such a good job! This is a great opportunity to include discussions as to why it is important to have the food groups represented in the meals. Even the cleanup can be a positive way for families to finish tasks together.
  5. Schedule regular family dinners that include the family sitting together at the table. Often it is hard to have a healthy meal when operating in a fast pace world. You can help model the importance of eating right and having family togetherness.
  6. Schedule a game night. Turn off the television and bring out the board games or card games which can keep the adrenaline flowing, especially if you are playing a game like that includes family interactions and fun.