5 Things That Affect Academics

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My daughter swimming with club teammates during break at the home pool.

I received a letter from my daughter’s University — The Center for Student Wellness — with interesting information for parents of children of all ages.

They said in the letter that they’ve found on their campus five main issues that affect academics:

  1. Stress
  2. Anxiety
  3. Work
  4. Sleep
  5. Cold/flu/sore throat

imgresThe letter went on to explain that while sleep is fourth on the list, sleep affects everything else on the list. I’m not quite sure how they distinguish “stress” from “anxiety”  because they seem to go hand in hand. However, they state that lack of sleep can be mistaken for stress–which in turn can lead to anxiety. That can make your student more susceptible to getting sick–which also will affect academics. They suggest seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Then your child will be in a better mood. Plus, they will score higher on tests and keep a higher GPA!

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As the parent of swimmers, my kids were good sleepers. My daughter still swims and she has no problem falling asleep. Ever. 

My tip for getting enough sleep is simple: Swim! It even works for me. I feel so much better after a good night’s sleep and I’m likely to get more work done and have a positive attitude.

Here are the tips from the University of Utah on getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. Go to bed around the same time every night, and wake up around the same time each morning.
  2. Have a quiet, dark space to sleep in that is not too hot or cold.
  3. Be sure to remove distractions like televisions, iPods, computers, and tablets from bedrooms. Beds shouldn’t be used for activities like reading, watching movies, or listening to music.
  4. Begin powering down lights and electronics about an hour before bed.
  5. Avoid large meals, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol right before bed.
  6. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes a day.
  7. Engage in regular physical activity.

BINGO! There is it. Number seven. If you have a child in athletics — particularly swimming — your child will sleep. Maybe that’s why they say that swimmers have the highest GPAs of all sports? Even though they get up at the crack of dawn for practice–they’ve had a full night’s sleep.

My kids during break.

My kids during break.

 

How does sleep or lack of sleep affect your day?

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One Tip for Parents: Don’t Speak

 

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My daughter swimming on her own during vacation.

I read a great article, “The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak,” in the Washington Post by Nancy Star:

 

Your child doesn’t have to play in the Super Bowl for you to know the feeling. Their team was supposed to win and then they didn’t. What do you do? Being the mother of two girls who played soccer and ran track, I thought I knew the answer: Talk it through. Tell them you love them. Say it’s just a game. Remind them there’s always a next time. Isn’t that what good parenting is all about? Keeping channels of communication open even in tough moments?

Turns out the answer is no. I learned this when I had a “don’t speak” moment.

I understand this all too well. After my kids would have a disappointing swim, I’d try to reassure them. I wanted to take away their hurt and make them feel better. Most often after I’d say, “That wasn’t so bad,” or “You have another swim ahead,” I’d be met with negativity and a statement like “I sucked!”

I’d get a barrage of negativity that would take me by surprise. I never figured out that I wasn’t making it better for my kids, but was making them feel worse. They weren’t ready to talk about a bad swim with me and “hash and rehash,” as my daughter would say. I read in a David Benzel sports parenting book, “From Chump to Champ,” that we should wait for our kids to talk to us. We need to be there and listen. But, if we start the conversation first, even with the best intentions, they’ll probably pull away and stay quiet. They want to please us so much and may take any little thing we say personally, as though they’ve let us down. It’s best to be quiet and listen. They may surprise us and open up more than ever if we let them take the lead.

Here’s more from the Washington Post article with the mom watching her daughter’s varsity soccer team lose their final meet. She received advice from a dad, Peter, who had more experience with soccer parenting and she followed it.

“Their lead slipped to a tie toward the end of the second half. In the last minute of play there was a stumble, scrambling and a goal for the other team.

Parents supplied transportation for home games, so we waited while our daughters gave sullen high-fives to the winners and then huddled with their coach, listening as he shared his disappointment. When he was done they separated and, backpacks slung over shoulders, trudged across the field toward where we stood.

Watching their grim faces approach I wished a meteorologist were present to confirm my suspicion that 22 high school girls who’ve just lost a chance at a state title can change the atmosphere, collectively sucking the light out of the sky. Their fury was frightening.

But Peter had been through this before. “Don’t speak,” he said. As I started to turn my head he added, “Don’t look. Just walk. Go to your car. She’ll find you.”

I tried not to move my lips as I objected. “All I want to say is I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” he advised. “Don’t speak. Not until she talks to you.”

Because he had been through this before, I listened and walked to my car alone. I felt her before I saw her, walking silently beside me. Reassuring phrases immediately formed in my brain but, channeling Peter, I said nothing.

A moment later I noticed her teammates walking with their parents, mothers mostly, who offered words of consolation. “Are you okay?” and “You played well,” and “There’s always next time.” To me the words sounded gentle and kind.

The girls did not agree. “No,” they snapped, and “I sucked,” and “There won’t be a next time.”

By the time we reached the car, every daughter except mine was crying and the moms were, understandably, annoyed and lashing back. “Why are you yelling at me?” and “Being upset is no excuse for being rude.”

We were silent on the ride home, silent as I turned on to our street. It was when I pulled into the driveway that my daughter finally spoke. “That was such a bad game.”

I nodded.”

How do you handle your children’s athletic or academic disappointment?

 

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Cheering on a teammate at the PAC 12 Champs.

 

 

Words of advice: don’t judge other parents

robkatwaterIn the article on HuffPost today called “The Hypocrisy of Parenting,” Dr. Kurt Smith makes a point that until we are a parent ourselves, it’s very easy to judge our friends and strangers during small snapshots of their parenting life.

“There often seems to be something about not having children that makes everyone a parenting expert. Many of us quietly have thought to ourselves, “I can’t believe they…”

“Let him watch TV that late! or,
Sleep in their bed, or
Scream in a store, or
Wear THOSE clothes, or
Eat nothing but mac-n-cheese and Cheerios
This list could go on and on.”

I have several memories of being judged or having my kids judged by relatives and friends. I was judgmental before I had kids, too, so I get how easy it can be to think you know best if you’re removed by years from the toddler years — or never have been a parent.

What annoyed me was I knew there were times I made a decision to bend or compromise my rules because we were in public. It was a conscious and I felt necessary choice. Sometimes it’s easier to give in rather than create a scene in front of the sister-in-law or friend you’re trying to hang out with while juggling the demands of both a toddler and an infant. Maybe it’s not the best decision, but seriously aren’t we doing the best we can — at the moment? It isn’t helpful at that moment to be judged on your parenting.

My good friend who came and stayed with me couldn’t believe how uncooperative my two-year-old son was when I was trying to get him out of his comfy PJs into clothes. “I never!” I remember hearing her say under her breath. I believe that was followed with great parenting tips from her, who wasn’t pregnant yet with her first child. What she said was correct in theory, but practicing parenting is a whole other animal.

Flash forward a few years and she apologized to me in a restaurant where her firstborn wouldn’t sit still in his high chair. “I am so sorry!” she said. “When I was criticizing you, I had no idea!”

That is truly a good friend.

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My son at age two with his “Ahhh,” a quilt made by a dear friend.

 

I know other people in my life who were critical and not very kind with their opinions and judgments. Seemingly, they had forgotten when their children threw temper tantrums on the department store floor or when their kids didn’t come straight home from school and had to be hunted down. Those days were before I had kids and I was judgemental and amazed at the lack of parenting skills — until I had my own kids that is. Then I understood that it’s best not to judge.

I haven’t forgotten how hard those years can be on parents when kids act out. Usually, it’s when children are tired, hungry or sick or in a new environment. Please remember they are not little adults who know how to act perfectly in public and can control their emotions.

Here are three things Smith writes in HuffPost to help us out:

1. Respect.

When children enter your world you have to remember that friends that haven’t taken that step have no idea what you are feeling, whether it is frustration, joy, embarrassment, elation or just desperation not to scream. When they offer an opinion it is likely coming from a good spot. And, if your friend hopes to become a parent someday, or is having trouble in that regard, be kind. They may have preconceived ideas about what would work. You very likely did.

2. Include.

As a parent it can be difficult when your friends are trying to offer advice or ‘parent’ your child. Generally they do this because they are close to you and likely want to feel included and important in your life and your child’s. Whenever possible it is important to take the opportunity to make sure friends, especially the ones who haven’t decided to have children yet, know the important role they play in your family’s life.

3. Value.

Parents need to remember that your friend was likely your friend before your child was born. That doesn’t mean they take precedence, but try not to forget them. Your new role as a dad or mom means that they may feel theirs has changed or is no longer important. Make sure you occasionally find time to let them know what they mean to you and that your life is better because they are in it.

As silly and simple as it sounds, before we were parents, we weren’t. And although it isn’t listed in many places (if any), becoming a parent will make you almost instantly a hypocrite. When maintaining friendships across this new terrain, both parties would do well to remember that.

Have you experienced friends or relatives who were judgemental about your parenting techniques? In what instances have you judged others because of the behavior of their kids?

 

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Traveling with my young kids. 

 

Tips for Parents About the SAT, ACT and AP Tests

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Testing, Testing, One, Two Three….

The two big tests needed for college admissions are the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Testing Assessment (ACT.) How much time and effort your kids put into preparing for these tests is up to you and your kids. Some kids are great test takers while others are not. I have one of each in my family and our approach to test prep was based on their individual needs. In my opinion, too much emphasis can be placed on test scores. A perfect score doesn’t mean your child will get into the school of their dreams, and likewise, a low score doesn’t mean your child can’t get into college.

Here’s a simple checklist of what to do to prepare for the tests:

1. Take the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) the sophomore year. This is a good practice for the SAT. Plus, they’ll take the PSA again in their junior year in October to qualify for honors in the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.*

2. Check out sample questions on the SAT website (collegeboard.com) and the ACT website is actstudent.org.

There is a question of the day for the SAT, which if your child answers starting in their freshman or sophomore years, they’ll get plenty of test practice.

3. Plan when to take the tests during the junior year. Most people take tests a couple of times. If your kids are happy with scores the first time around, don’t take it again.

SAT tests are offered in August, October, November, December, March, May and June.

ACT tests are in September, October, December, February, April, June.

For example, if your child takes a SAT test in November, you may want to wait several months to retake the test, like in March, so your child has time to get their results and take some practice tests.

4. There no longer is a penalty for guessing. It used to be that if a student guessed on an answer and got it wrong, they’d lose .25 of a point. That’s no longer the case and it’s okay to fill in answers and guess. There’s a 20% chance of getting the answer correct.

*The National Merit Scholarship takes the top scorers in the PSAT their junior year and sends out commendation letters to about the top 3 percent. The very top kids move onto semifinals and finals, and the finalists, selected by their high schools, then submit applications and enter into competition to be named National Merit Scholars.

From the website National Merit Scholarship Corporation History and Facts:
National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) was established in 1955 — a time in which there was concern that the United States was lagging behind in the cold war scientific race, but the public was indifferent to rewarding intellectual accomplishment. In response, the National Merit Scholarship Program was founded to identify and honor scholastically talented American youth and to encourage them to develop their abilities to the fullest. Through this nationwide competition, National Merit Scholarships are awarded to program Finalists and Special Scholarships are awarded to other high-performing participants who meet a corporate sponsor’s eligibility criteria.

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After the tests are done–graduation.

AP TESTS

Should your child take AP Tests? There are only two choices to answer this question. Yes and no.

One reason to take AP tests includes saving money in college. Each AP test costs upwards of $80, but if students score a 3 or higher (AP Tests are scored 1 – 5), they may earn college credit and not have to take that class in college. Please check with each college to find out how they treat AP tests. If a quarter tuition costs $5,000, say for three classes, then your student will save more than $1,500 per class if they score a 3 or higher.
Another reason to take the test is if your child scores a 3 or higher on three or more AP tests, they’ll earn an AP Scholar award. That will look good on the college application.

More information about AP Scholars can be found on the college board website.
Why wouldn’t your student want to take an AP test? Two reasons. First, it may be too expensive, at $80 a test, and second, they may not be prepared. If they struggled with the AP Class, the last thing they may want to do is take the test and get a lousy score. It can be time-consuming to study for the AP Test, and if they didn’t cover the material in class during the school year, it can be very difficult to get a 3 or higher. There is no shame in getting a poor score and it won’t reflect badly on your child, but then neither would not taking the test. My best advice is to talk it over with their teacher and your child.

imgresWhat advice do you have for parents of kids taking the big tests?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for You and Your Kids to Stay Ahead of the Curve

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Yesterday, I noticed an article that has been taped to our refrigerator for years. It’s been there so long, I’ve forgotten to take notice of it. It’s called “Stay Ahead of the Curve” and it was from Investor Business Daily’s 10 Secrets to Success. It’s so old that’s it’s turning brown and I cannot find it on the internet. If I could, I would repost the entire article.

My husband wanted to pass on advice to our two kids while they were younger and in middle school and high school. He thought this article about being organized and getting ahead could help them with their school work and busy schedules. Although the article focuses on the workplace, it applies to school or home as well. I wouldn’t have noticed it yesterday if not for the fact that we got delivery of a new fridge and it was time for the old one with the article on it to go.

Following are excerpts from the article written by Cord Cooper with advice from productivity trainer Kenneth Ziegler, author of “Organizing for Success:”

ONE
Forget working late at night

It saps your energy and can cause you to be less productive the next day. You go to bed with your mind racing—recounting the day’s events and planning the next and are less likely to get a restful sleep, surveys show.

Your best bet: Arrive early and be on time. This not only boosts productivity, but can also help achieve work-life balance.

To maximize productivity during the day, limit the length and number of meetings if possible. Also set aside time when you can’t be interrupted.

TWO
Make the most of Monday morning

“Get off to a fast start Monday, and chances are the rest of the week will flow better,” Ziegler said. “Don’t schedule meetings or conferences first thing on Monday morning. They will kill everyone’s productivity.” Instead. set the following week’s agenda during a Friday staff meeting, ensuring everyone hits the ground running Monday.

THREE
At home, start the night before

“Select what you’re going to wear tomorrow and iron it ahead of time (if needed). If you have children, prepare and pack their lunches that night. Set the timer on the coffeepot and put items you are taking to work by the door.” And fill the gas tank on the way home from work, not the next morning, Ziegler advises.

FOUR
Don’t overplan

“Studies show that the average person can (realistically) plan up to 50% of his day. We tend to underestimate on average, by (at least) 20 percent of the time a task will take,” Ziegler said. We also don’t allow for interruptions and unforeseen events. We then waste time fiddling with our daily planners.

FIVE
Nail down specifics
If your boss or client needs a job done as soon as possible, define what that means and when. You probably have several tasks, and getting more information on each will help you plan effectively.

I found these helpful and I wished I would have glanced at the article more than once in the past decade. I’m not sure my kids paid much attention to it, but it was right in front of them every time they reached in the fridge for a snack. I just talked with my son on the phone and asked him if he remembered the article. I’m pleased to say he did and he said he always gets ready for work, the night before.

What do you have taped to your refrigerator and what tips do you have to stay ahead of the curve?

 

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The day we took our son to college.

 

Are millennials awful? Or, is it the normal “old vs. young” thing?

 

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My millennials and pupper.

While my husband and I were driving to the movies, I had the radio tuned to a top-40 countdown. We were at number two–ready to find out who was the top song of the week–when he turned off the radio and said he couldn’t stand today’s music.

I told him, “I guess you really are an old fart.”

He said he was thinking exactly the same thing. “I’ve become one of those old geezers who can’t listen to the younger generation’s music.” He said it sounded like noise to him and he didn’t get it.

That exchange struck me today when I was reading an article in Business Insider that talked about how helicopter parents may be better than what we get credit for and that the millennials are turning out okay.

According to Libby Kane in “Millennials are turning out better than anyone expected — and it may be thanks to their parents” her generation was set up for success better than previous generations and a lot is thanks to their parents. Many of the bias against them could be due to generational differences. She talked with researchers to find out if her theory was true.

“ ‘What we’ve learned in our Generation Nation deep-dive is that, while behavior and beliefs may be influenced by generations, they’re dictated by life stages,’ wrote the researchers, who decided to do this research to have cross-generational data points after years of studying millennials specifically. ’In other words, how Gen Z is today is just as Gen X would have been today had Gen Xers been born 35 years later.’

“I spoke to principal researcher Michael Wood about the report, and floated my theory by him. Are millennials really so entitled, and lazy, and difficult to deal with? (You know you’ve heard it.) Why is hating on millennials so popular?

“ ‘If you go back in time, Boomers were also referred to as the me generation,’ Wood told me. ‘We’ve always carried biases against people who are younger than we are.’

Millennials are those between the ages of 20 and 35. Both of my kids fall into that category, although on the younger end. The older millennials were set up for success by their “helicopter-caring” parents, and then their futures got hit by the economic crash a decade ago.

“One of Wood’s standout findings from the research was the incredible resilience of millennials. ‘They’re still very upbeat, they’re very hopeful, and they have a positive outlook on their generation and what they’re going to contribute to the greater good,’ he said. ‘I find that fascinating and reassuring, and it confirms what we’ve always believed.’

“In the report, millennials were more likely than other generations to agree with statements expressing a desire to make the world a better place, confirming a purpose in life, and projecting a confidence in the US, the government, and each other to work together to solve problems.

“Plus, here’s a sentence from the report to inspire some teeth-gnashing: ‘Playing against type, millennials are actually an employer’s dream.’ This is largely because millennials are willing to work hard for an employer who supports them, and they tend to blur the lines between life and work — they’re more willing than members of other generations to catch up on work during their personal time. ‘Millennials truly care about their work,’ wrote the researchers. ‘And they care about it beyond being a means to a paycheck.’ “

During college orientation with my daughter at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, I learned many of these facts about millennials in a talk called “Supporting Your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Affairs, and a psychologist. I wrote some parenting tips from her talk here.

I think it’s important to learn about generational tendencies to better understand our own kids and what they’re going through. Here are a few of the things I learned from Dr. Ellingson:

Millenials are those born from 1980 to 2000. They are a generation that doesn’t like to suffer. They like having nice things and they don’t mind working for it. But, that can interfere with their education. It’s best if they work on campus. A student that works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Also, delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 and 28.

HOPES
We all have hopes for our kids that include these things: Graduation. Career. Education. Responsible Adult. Financially Responsible. Time Management. Problem-solving.

FEARS
Our kids will go through fears during their years in college. For example, those who did well in high school with very little effort will find they won’t do as well in college and it can become an identity crisis.

They firmly believe not to stay in a major they do not like. A child dreams of being a doctor their entire life, but they may find they don’t like the smell of hospitals, or they can’t pass the Chemistry class–this can be another identity crisis. It’s important for them to take advantage of general ed requirements their first years of college to find what they do like. Internships are important, too.

INDEPENDENCE
First steps are towards you as a toddler. Every step after that is away from you. “How can I be on my own?” is another one of their fears.

Dr. Ellingson’s final statements stayed with me. “Most people who enter crises come out stronger and ahead on the other side.” And as for us parents of millennials?
You will change from “taking care of them, to caring for them.”

What are your opinions of millennials? Do you they think they are a different generation from us because of technology or traits such as laziness? Or are our differences between generations the normal living through life’s phases that we all go through?

 

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Back in the day.

 

10 Things Your Kids Need to Know Before They Leave the Nest

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My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

Here’s story I wrote three years ago, before my youngest child went off to college. If you have school age kids, please read this and give yourself years to get them ready to leave the nest. Doing less for our kids is more.

“He tried college a couple times. It just didn’t take,” a dad of one of my son’s friends told me last night at the grocery store.

Next, I got a call from a close friend, whose happy-go-lucky daughter checked herself into a campus hospital, because she felt so overwhelmed and out of control.

Another friend told me their son quit after one semester after too much partying and not enough studying. Yet another mom left on a rescue mission to help a child in need.

What the heck is going on with our kids and college? My own son struggled to find his way his freshman year.  

All of these parents, myself included, believed college was the best and only choice for their kids.imgres-1

Maybe college isn’t for everyone? Maybe we did too much for them? Maybe we didn’t let them fail often or enough?

I’ll talk more about why kids are struggling in college on another day. And if we have an epidemic on our hands.

But, first, I want to share basic things kids need to know before they leave for college. I was often surprised at questions my son would ask me during his first year at college. I’m going to make sure my second child checks off every item on my “top 10 things kids need to know before going to college” list.

  1. Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.
  2. Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic! imgres-5
  3. Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables, and cooking rice. 
  4. Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.imgres-6
  5. How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from Robert: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?”  Hmmm. Good question.
  6. Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.
  7. Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes — gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room — and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike — use a solid bar type. 
  8. Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships — and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!images-2
  9. Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.
  10. Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.

What other essential life skills would you add to the list?