Friday, July 22, 2016

Getting organized

Radio Commentary

Growing children may look and even act mature, but they will not yet have the planning skills you might wish for more often than not. They may need some help to keep their world organized.
Here are some tips to help your children build the skills they will need to keep their lives running smoothly:
Decide what is important. Your children may not need to have every aspect of their lives organized, so figure out together what activities or times cause the most stress and make sure routines are set for those.
Does the morning routine always cause stress? Plan this out carefully. Is soccer practice driving everyone crazy? Develop a plan for when the gym bags get packed.
Stick to the routine. Once you make plans, be sure to follow them as well as possible. This will help your children understand how routines can keep life running smoothly. Reinforce that connection. Say things like: “We got to practice with no problems today — your morning checklist really worked!”
Reinforce your child's successes. Acknowledge the times when children are able to stay organized, and help them problem-solve when the routine doesn't work.
Stay involved. Once your children get a handle on a routine, they will still need your support. Check in and ask how the routine is working. This will also make it easier for you to help brainstorm problems and solutions if obstacles arise. These are important life lessons.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

We must help make the killings stop

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

The shootings continue. The deaths continue. We hear that Americans are angry, divided, fed up. But we are all horrified by the outcome in blood. And almost everyone shares the same reaction: make the violence stop.

There are two changes we can make to help stem the killings. One involves attitude and the other involves action.

After the shootings at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., that community showed us how attitude matters. The victims’ families sought healing and reconciliation, and offered forgiveness. While others pursued bigotry, hate, and retribution, the families of Charleston chose a hopeful path. Columnist David Brooks said those families demonstrated a “depth of graciousness of spirit that is almost beyond fathoming.” 

We can all learn from their reaction and use it as a model for how to start turning the tide. Anger, shock, hatred, and belligerence following acts of horrific violence are all completely understandable, but they do not point to a helpful path forward. Uniting to make a difference together is the only way that provides hope.

And what would that path be? What are the actions we can take as a nation?

First we must acknowledge that no other modern, civilized country on earth has the gun deaths we do here in the U.S. It’s not even close. Only two countries on the planet enshrine the right to bear arms in their constitution: the U.S. and Yemen.

Capitol Journal columnist George Skelton laid out the problem recently by referring to the National Rifle Association’s mantra after every mass shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary School: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Skelton says that nonsense was given the lie in Dallas. 

“Twelve good guys — law enforcement men and women trained to shoot — were stopped by one bad guy. Five officers were killed and seven wounded. Two civilians also were injured before the bad guy was finally stopped by a bomb-carrying robot.”

“How many good guys with guns were there trying to subdue this bad guy? Maybe 100? More?” Skelton asked.

Then he added: “The bad guy himself, like so many killers, apparently also was a good guy, until he wasn’t anymore — until he decided to shoot white cops… (He) had no known criminal record … He was formerly a U.S. Army reservist stationed in Afghanistan. Clearly not all terrorism is wrought by radical Muslims, let alone immigrants.”

Skelton’s conclusion? “The better way to have stopped this ambushing assassin would have been to deny him his guns in the first place, especially any assault rifle.”

According to the most recent polls, the vast majority of Americans — including the rank and file members of the NRA — agree. Background checks. Bans on assault weapons. Keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists. These should not be controversial measures.

The alternative, of course, is to do nothing and to accept continued mass shootings as a fact of life. But most people agree we have been through this too many times as a nation. We have to change. We have to protect our children.

When terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, we created screenings and restricted carry-ons. Columnist Nicholas Kristof asked some years ago, why can’t we regulate guns as seriously as we do cars?

“The fundamental reason [people] are dying in massacres … is not that we have lunatics or criminals — all countries have them — but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns,” he wrote.

Kristof urged that we treat firearms as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. He pointed out that in school buildings nationwide, building codes govern stairways and windows. School buses have to pass safety standards, and those who drive them need to pass tests. We regulate school cafeteria food for safety.

“The only thing we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill,” he said.

“What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and … politicians who won’t stand up to the NRA?” he asked.

Kristof wrote that as a lifelong gun owner, he knows that guns are fun. But so are cars, and we accept that we have to wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out registration forms. Our driving backgrounds are checked when we seek a license, and we mandate air bags, child seats, and crash safety standards. We have limited licenses for young drivers and curbed the use of cell phones while driving. In doing so, we have reduced traffic fatality rates by nearly 90 percent since the 1950s.

Some argue that restrictions won’t make a difference because criminals or deranged people will always be able to get a gun. And they will. We won’t ever be able to eliminate gun deaths altogether, just like laws governing cars will never eliminate car accidents. But reducing gun deaths even by one-third would mean 10,000 lives saved each year.

Here’s another sobering statistic Kristof cites: “More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.” Read that one again.

Kristof said that many of us are alive today because of sensible auto safety laws.

“If we don’t treat guns in the same serious way, some of you and some of your children will die because of our failure,” he wrote.

Some argue that ownership of cars is not enshrined in the Constitution. But neither are assault weapons. When the Second Amendment was written, the “arms” one had the right to bear were muskets that had to be reloaded after each shot.

When guns become prevalent, we become numb to their use. When did police start using deadly force so often? Is it because the populace is so much better armed as well?

Now is the time to take a stand for the safety of our children and our families. We need to initiate serious policy changes. Clearly we need to deal with mental health, with racism and bigotry, with power and financial inequalities, and all the issues that factor into our current challenges. Gun safety measures must be part of that mix. There have already been too many deaths. If we do nothing, we are to blame for the next ones. As another famous quote dictates: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

Prediction skills

Radio Commentary

Reading skills are often enhanced through the use of prediction skills.
Good readers use prediction throughout their reading. They constantly anticipate what will happen next.
When reading with your child, find time to have the child write down what he or she thinks is going to take place.
Do this at the end of a chapter or in between the illustrations of a picture book.
Beginning readers need stories that are highly predictable. This predictability may take the form of rhyme, repetition, or patterned language.
Help children write down their prediction of the next word in a sequence.
They can then compare their choice with the one in the book. 
One good exercise is to make up short stories and have children write several endings.
You can then talk about which ending is “most predictable” or “most unbelievable” or “most inventive.” 
Experts agree: When helping your child become a strong reader, writing down predictions can be a valuable tool for improved reading skills.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

TV rules

Radio Commentary

In setting up rules about television viewing — especially over the summer — be sure to monitor what your children watch.
Encourage them to choose programs that make them think; that are free of violence and sex; and that feature characters whose values are similar to your own.
When watching TV with your children, ask questions like, “Why do you think that person did what he did?” Encourage your children to ask questions as well, and answer them honestly.
Limit overall television viewing time. During commercials, review what you just watched and ask children to predict what will happen next.
Turn off the television if you see things on it that you don’t like — but be sure to explain to your child why you are doing so. Say: “I don’t like what those people are doing because . . .”
Remember that when children are watching TV it takes them away from other activities like reading and sports. Plan games, trips to the library, and trips to parks and playgrounds to take the place of TV.
Once you’ve established a basic foundation for TV viewing, try to find new ways of using the television to teach and to have fun. Television can help teach your child geography and math, for example.
Have reference materials or a computer near the TV so additional information is available. Have your child look up new words in a dictionary, or look at an atlas to find places mentioned in a show. This way it’s fun and educational.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teen partying

Radio Commentary

Where there are teenagers, there will be parties, and summer vacations are often a likely time for these to occur. 
If your teenager is attending a party, here are some key points to consider:
Know where your teenager will be. Get the name, address, and phone number of the host. If the party's location changes, have your teen let you know the new location.
Contact the parents of the party-giver to verify the party location, offer your help, and make sure that an adult will be present. You’ll also want to confirm that alcohol and other drugs will not be allowed.
Transportation to and from the party should also be discussed.
Let your teen know that you or a specific person can be called on for a ride home, no questions asked.
Discussing possible scenarios ahead of time gives teens a good idea about how to respond in a variety of situations.
Another important point to consider is curfew. Let your teen know when to be home. Stay up or have your teen wake you when he or she gets back. You may find it’s a good time to ask how the evening went.
Sleeping over at the location of the party may also be appropriate, but talk to your teen and the host's parents ahead of time.
Communication is essential. Build a sense of trust with your teen and you're more likely to get honest information. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Beating the heat

Radio Commentary

In the excitement of a good pickup basketball game or even a leisurely game of tag, children might not notice the temperature rising.
But as the day progresses, their bodies react to the heat, and if children aren’t careful, they could come down with heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
The body’s natural control mechanisms normally adjust to the heat. But those systems could fail if exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods.
Here are some tips for beating the heat and staying cool:
Limit most exercise or at least the most strenuous exercise to the coolest part of the day — early morning or late afternoon.
Have children wear clothing that is loose, lightweight, and light-colored. Choose clothing that draws perspiration away from the skin to keep the body cooler — cotton T-shirts and shorts, for example.
Make sure children drink plenty of water – don’t wait until they say they’re thirsty to take a drink. The thirst mechanism kicks in only after a body is too depleted. If children are exercising heavily in hot weather, aim for two to four glasses every hour.
Stay away from liquids that contain caffeine or lots of sugar — these actually cause the body to lose more fluid. Also, remember that a drink that is too cold might cause stomach cramps.
Make sure children periodically take a break in a shady area to cool down.
These are all smart, effective practices for beating the heat.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fitness for children

Radio Commentary

Experts say that many American children may be on their way to an inactive adulthood, based on observations of how they spend their days.
That thought is a bit frightening, considering that physical inactivity is one of the primary risk factors for heart disease. 
Experts agree that coronary disease is a hereditary condition, but behaviors that begin in childhood can increase or decrease the risk of heart disease.
Here are some ways to help children get fit and stay fit, for a lifetime of healthy living:
  • First, provide a good example yourself. Children who have active parents are more likely to be active than children who do not. Plan family activities, or even after-dinner walks, several times a week. Make these activities fun for all involved.
  • Make sure children are active at home. Keep sports equipment on hand and encourage lifelong activities such as tennis, biking, or running. Children who enjoy these activities may well continue them into adulthood.
  • Unplug the TV. There’s a correlation between TV watching and low fitness rates, eating more junk food, obesity, and high cholesterol. 

Watching TV and playing computer games are passive activities usually involving no movement at all. We’ve all seen young people mesmerized by what is on the screen, often unaware that they are sitting still for so long. 
The inactivity may be more dangerous, in the long run, than any potentially objectionable material on the screen that might soon be forgotten.
So make fitness a family affair and it will have benefits that last a lifetime.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Empathy important

Radio Commentary

Understanding others begins with empathy. It is the act of putting yourself in another’s shoes.

Often teenagers can have difficulty in this area because their own problems seem to loom so large in their minds. The teenage years are the period when it is hardest to genuinely feel the emotional plight of others.

To help develop empathy, it is important to be a really good listener. When your children are speaking to you, regardless of the topic at hand, always listen to them with respect.

React to your teenager as you would to an adult friend. Make a real effort to listen as much as you talk.

When you have information to convey on an important topic, speak for half a minute or so, and then stop and let your child have a chance to react.

Accept the fact that most teens will complain sometimes. Let them air their grievances fully and completely. Try not to interrupt while they are expressing their feelings. 

Most importantly, take time to have relaxed conversations alone with each of your children on a regular basis. 

Frequent talks will help you spot difficulties before they become real problems. 

It’s important that all involved be encouraged to talk AND to listen.