+
upworthy
Education & Information

How parents can help kids who are  hesitant about returning to school

How parents can help kids who are  hesitant about returning to school
Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

It's hard to believe that summer is almost over and the back-to-school season is right around the corner. The school year is approaching fast and since many kids have been home pandemic schooling for the past year and a half the return of "normal" is likely to bring kids and parents alike some anxiety about what the return to school will look like.

We have all been living through an extended trauma and this past year has impacted us in ways that we may not even realize—and we may not come to realize the scale in which we have been altered for years to come. Just as we have been learning to cope and navigate the world during a global pandemic, so have our children. They've been expected to perform at pre-pandemic levels for quite some time; this doesn't negate their very real reality of pandemic life.

Kids have had to readjust socially, and in many children this has caused a loss of social skills and increase in social anxiety. With school quickly approaching and the push for schools to open back to full capacity, it's completely normal to have heightened anxiety around the traditional opening of schools. How we handle this anxiety and prepare our children for their own challenges can make all the difference between having a rocky start to an already stressful new school year.



Checking in with your child on their feelings about returning to school should be the first step. Find out what their comfort level is and what they expect school to look like when they return. Then do some research to find out if the school's Covid policy for this year will allow your child's expectations to be met or if you need to help your child reexamine their expectations with the reality of the school district's policy.

Every school district likely has its own rules. Some may be requiring masks and social distancing, while others may be going back to pre-pandemic schooling, taking their chances without masks, trusting that families will do what's best for them. It's hard to say which schools will follow the CDC guidelines and which ones won't, so it's important to be informed about what your child's school is doing and evaluate your family's comfort level.

Practice some conversation starters. Especially if your child is generally shy or has developed some social anxiety. Masks make it more difficult to read facial expressions, and the traditional way of showing you're friendly or happy with something someone said is obscured. Having some phrases to pull out in a pinch may help your child feel more at ease in the school setting. These things don't have to be anything in depth, but the discussion about the possibility of a compliment helping to break the ice can calm an anxious child who may not have been in the physical classroom for an extended period of time.

It can be helpful to look at the things your child can control if hesitancy to return to the classroom is high. In a school setting this can get a little tricky, but if the school does not require masks and your child is more comfortable wearing a mask, that is something they can absolutely control. They can wear a mask. They can carry hand sanitizer and travel disinfectant wipes. They can also look to create their trusted group of friends to keep in their safe bubble. These would be the friends that are adhering closely to the personal guidelines that your child is most comfortable with. This will allow them to continue to socialize in and out of school, which will help with feelings of social isolation, depression and anxiety.

At the end of the day, school is coming back in a traditional way whether we are ready or not, so ensuring your child is prepared as best they can be will help decrease the stress surrounding the return. Introducing coping skills that kids can do from their desks in the event that their anxiety peaks is one of the most helpful preparation tools you can provide. Tools like deep breathing, grounding techniques such as the 5-4-3-2-1 method, a small stress ball, or a piece of felt with a calming scent sprayed on it that they can pull out and smell are all easy and helpful. Practicing these things before the first day of school will help it become easier for children to do if and when they need to center themselves. They're also helpful outside of the classroom for anyone who may be experiencing anxiety or stress.

The return of school is stressful during normal times, but even more so now. As parents, we can do our best to not only prepare our children through conversations and introducing new skills, but we can give them more of a leg up by modeling the skills they can use when possible. Kids are more likely to do what they see, and if they see you using the skills you're teaching them, they're more likely to use them when you're not around.

Jacalyn Wetzel, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist as well as a mom herself.

Health

4 simple hacks to help you meet your healthy eating goals

Trying to eat healthier? Try these 4 totally doable tricks.

Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Most of us want to eat healthier but need some help to make it happen.

True

When it comes to choosing what to eat, we live in a uniquely challenging era. Never before have humans known more about nutrition and how to eat for optimal health, and yet we’ve never been more surrounded by distractions and temptations that derail us from making healthy choices.

Some people might be able to decide “I’m going to eat healthier!” and do so without any problem, but those folks are unicorns. Most of us know what we should do, but need a little help making it happen—like some simple hacks, tips and tricks for avoiding pitfalls on the road to healthier eating.

While recognizing that what works for one person may not work for another, here are some helpful habits and approaches that might help you move closer to your healthy eating goals.

man pulling chip out of a chip bagOur mouths loves chips. Our bodies not so much.Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Goal: Snack on less junk food

Tip: Focus your willpower on the grocery store, not your home

Willpower is a limited commodity for most of us, and it is no match for a bag of potato chips sitting on top of the fridge. It’s just a fact. Channeling your willpower at the grocery store can save you from having to fight that battle at home. If you don’t bring chips into your house in the first place, you’ll find it a lot easier to reach for something healthier.

The key to successful shopping trips is to always go to the store with a specific list and a full stomach—you’ll feel much less tempted to buy the junky snack foods if you’re already satiated. Also, finding healthier alternatives that will still satisfy your cravings for salty or crunchy, or fatty foods helps. Sugar snap peas have a surprisingly satisfying crunch, apples and nut butter hit that sweet-and-salty craving, etc.

slice of cakeYou can eat well without giving up sweets completely.Photo by Caitlyn de Wild on Unsplash

Goal: Eat less sugar

Tip: Instead of “deprive,” think “delay” or “decrease and delight”

Sugar is a tricky one. Some people find it easier to cut out added sugars altogether, but that can create an all-or-nothing mindset that all too often results in “all.” Eating more whole foods and less processed foods can help us cut out a lot of ancillary sugar, but we still live in a world with birthday cakes and dessert courses.

One approach to dessert temptation is to delay instead of deprive. Tell yourself you can have any sweet you want…tomorrow. This mental trick flips the “I’ll just indulge today and start eating healthier tomorrow” idea on its head. It’s a lot easier to resist something you know you can have tomorrow than to say no to something you think you’ll never get to have again.

Another approach when you really want to enjoy a dessert at that moment is to decrease the amount and really truly savor it. Eat each bite slowly, delighting in the full taste and satisfaction of it. As soon as that delight starts to diminish, even a little, stop eating. You’ve gotten what you wanted out of it. You don’t have to finish it. (After all, you can always have more tomorrow!)

colorful fresh food on a plateA naturally colorful meal is a healthy meal.Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Goal: Eat healthier meals

Tip: Focus on fresh foods and plan meals ahead of time

Meal planning is easier than ever before. The internet is filled with countless tools—everything from recipes to shopping lists to meal planning apps—and it’s as awesome as it is overwhelming.

Planning ahead takes the guesswork and decision fatigue out of cooking, preventing the inevitable “Let’s just order a pizza.” You can have a repeating 3-week or 4-week menu of your favorite meals so you never have to think about what you’re going to eat, or you can meal plan once a week to try new recipes and keep things fresh.

It might help to designate one day a week to “shop and chop”—getting and prepping the ingredients for the week’s meals so they’re ready to go in your fridge or freezer.

woman holding blueberries in her handsOrganic foods are better for the Earth and for us.Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

Goal: Eat more organic/humanely raised food

Tip: Utilize the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” lists to prioritize

Many people choose organic because they want to avoid pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals. Organic food is also better for the planet, and according to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that organic produce is higher in certain nutrients.

Most people don’t buy everything organic, but there are some foods that should take priority over others. Each year, researchers from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyze thousands of samples of dozens of fruits and vegetables. From this data, they create a list of the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” fruits and vegetables, indicating what produce has the most and least pesticide residue. These lists give people a good place to start focusing their transition to more organic foods.

To make organic eating even simpler, you can shop O Organics® at your local Albertsons or Safeway stores. The O Organics brand offers a wide range of affordable USDA-certified organic products in every aisle. If you’re focusing on fresh foods, O Organics produce is always grown without synthetic pesticides, is farmed to conserve biodiversity, and is always non-GMO. All animal-based O Organics products are certified humane as well. Even switching part of your grocery list to organic can make a positive impact on the planet and the people you feed.

Healthy eating habits don’t have to be all or nothing, and they don’t have to be complicated. A few simple mindset changes at home and habit changes at the grocery store can make a big difference.

Education

Mother of 7 stunned to learn the ‘Alphabet Song’ has been changed to get with the times

There's a good reason for the update. But it's jarring, to say the least.

Jessica Skube can't believe that they changed the 'Alphabet Song.'

The oldest published version of the melody to the “Alphabet Song” was in 1761. However, because it’s the same melody as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” it's hard to trace it to its original composer.

The “Alphabet Song” is so deeply entrenched in American culture that it almost seems sacrilegious to change a piece of music that’s one of the first most of us ever learned. But after all these years, some educators are altering the classic melody so that there is a variation when the letters L-M-N-O-P are sung.

This change shocked popular TikTokker Jessica Skube, who documents life raising 7 children with her 2.6 million followers. Nearly 10 million people have watched her video revealing the significant change, and it’s received over 56,000 comments since first being published in late 2020.

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Prudential Emerging Visionaries

Collins after being selected by Prudential Emerging Visionaries

True

A changemaker is anyone who takes creative action to solve an ongoing problem—be it in one’s own community or throughout the world.

And when it comes to creating positive change, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective can hold just as much power as years of experience. That’s why, every year, Prudential Emerging Visionaries celebrates young people for their innovative solutions to financial and societal challenges in their communities.

This national program awards 25 young leaders (ages 14-18) up to $15,000 to devote to their passion projects. Additionally, winners receive a trip to Prudential’s headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, where they receive coaching, skills development, and networking opportunities with mentors to help take their innovative solutions to the next level.

For 18-year-old Sydnie Collins, one of the 2023 winners, this meant being able to take her podcast, “Perfect Timing,” to the next level.

Since 2020, the Maryland-based teen has provided a safe platform that promotes youth positivity by giving young people the space to celebrate their achievements and combat mental health stigmas. The idea came during the height of Covid-19, when Collins recalled social media “becoming a dark space flooded with news,” which greatly affected her own anxiety and depression.

Knowing that she couldn’t be the only one feeling this way, “Perfect Timing” seemed like a valuable way to give back to her community. Over the course of 109 episodes, Collins has interviewed a wide range of guests—from other young influencers to celebrities, from innovators to nonprofit leaders—all to remind Gen Z that “their dreams are tangible.”

That mission statement has since evolved beyond creating inspiring content and has expanded to hosting events and speaking publicly at summits and workshops. One of Collins’ favorite moments so far has been raising $7,000 to take 200 underserved girls to see “The Little Mermaid” on its opening weekend, to “let them know they are enough” and that there’s an “older sister” in their corner.

Of course, as with most new projects, funding for “Perfect Timing” has come entirely out of Collins’ pocket. Thankfully, the funding she earned from being selected as a Prudential Emerging Visionary is going toward upgraded recording equipment, the support of expert producers, and skill-building classes to help her become a better host and public speaker. She’ll even be able to lease an office space that allows for a live audience.

Plus, after meeting with the 24 other Prudential Emerging Visionaries and her Prudential employee coach, who is helping her develop specific action steps to connect with her target audience, Collins has more confidence in a “grander path” for her work.

“I learned that my network could extend to multiple spaces beyond my realm of podcasting and journalism when industry leaders are willing to share their expertise, time, and financial support,” she told Upworthy. “It only takes one person to change, and two people to expand that change.”

Prudential Emerging Visionaries is currently seeking applicants for 2024. Winners may receive up to $15,000 in awards and an all-expenses-paid trip to Prudential’s headquarters with a parent or guardian, as well as ongoing coaching and skills development to grow their projects.

If you or someone you know between the ages of 14 -18 not only displays a bold vision for the future but is taking action to bring that vision to life, click here to learn more. Applications are due by Nov. 2, 2023.

Angelina Jordan blew everyone away with her version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody."

At Upworthy, we've shared a lot of memorable "America's Got Talent" auditions, from physics-defying dance performances to jaw-dropping magic acts to heart-wrenching singer-songwriter stories. Now we're adding Angelina Jordan's "AGT: The Champions" audition to the list because wow.

Jordan came to "AGT: The Champions" in 2020 as the winner of Norway's Got Talent, which she won in 2014 at the mere age of 7 with her impressive ability to seemingly channel Billie Holiday. For the 2020 audition, she sang Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," but a version that no one had ever heard before.

With just her Amy Winehouse-ish voice, a guitar and a piano, Jordan brought the fan-favorite Queen anthem down to a smooth, melancholy ballad that's simply riveting to listen to.

Keep ReadingShow less
popular

Single dad receives letter from late wife and immediately gets a DNA test

"She wrote a letter for me before she died, but I couldn’t bring myself to read it until now."

A devastated man sitting by the ocean.

Ten months after a man’s wife passed away, he finally got the courage to read a letter she left him, which contained a devastating admission. The 4-year-old son they had together may not be his.

“My ‘darling’ wife passed away 10 months ago,” the man wrote on Reddit’s Off My Chest forum. “She wrote a letter for me before she died, but I couldn’t bring myself to read it until now. She told me how sorry she was that she didn’t have the guts to tell me this to my face when she was alive.”

In the letter, the wife revealed that there was a “good chance” that the son he thought was his wasn’t his biological child. A few weeks before their wedding day, the wife got drunk at her bachelorette party and had a one-night stand with another man. Soon after that night, she became pregnant but was unsure who the father was.

Keep ReadingShow less

Sometimes a sibling bond transcends all else.

"Love" is one of the most powerful words in the English language, yet it's also one of the most broadly defined. We use the word "love" for so many things that are neither the same nor equal—our families, our friends, our romantic partners, our hobbies—even our favorite foods.

When we think of a "love story," we almost exclusively imagine a tale of romance, but that's not the only kind of love story there is. Sometimes the strongest, most meaningful loves of our lives aren't romantic at all.

David Shane creates videos in which he approaches couples in public and asks them to share three things they love about each other, resulting in some major #couplegoals moments. But one "couple" he approached had a surprising answer to that question, one that moved both them and the people watching the video afterward to tears.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

Man teaches disability awareness by using sign language to communicate with deaf pitbull

Christopher Hannah and Cole the Deaf Dog have inspired children and veterans for over 6 years.

Chris Hannah and Cole entertain a group of kids.

Six years ago, Cole was a deaf pitbull deemed “broken” and passed up by countless families at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter. But in April of 2017, he was adopted by Chris Hannah, a public school music teacher and they’ve been changing lives ever since.

Chris, with the help of his deaf nephew, taught the dog sign language, and they began doing presentations in schools, teaching kids that it’s okay to be different and helping them to be courageous and kind. They also help them reflect on their feelings of “brokenness” to learn self-acceptance and compassion. In their performances, Chris and Cole demonstrate that disabilities are a superpower by showing that a dog can learn sign language.

Keep ReadingShow less
With permission from Sarah Cooper.

Men and the feels.


Note: This an excerpt is from Sarah Cooper's book, How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men's Feelings.

In this fast-paced business world, female leaders need to make sure they're not perceived as pushy, aggressive, or competent.

One way to do that is to alter your leadership style to account for the fragile male ego.

Keep ReadingShow less