Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
Once summer rolls around and school lets out, kids find themselves indulging in several fun-filled activities, and school is quickly forgotten. Summer reading is an effective routine to help prevent kids from sliding down that slippery slope of learning loss. Reading for fun could develop into a lifelong habit that will not only help with gaining knowledge but will also aid in acquiring important life skills such as empathy, acceptance and gratitude. It is not very difficult to find the right book for even the most reluctant reader. The expert curators at SmartFeed have put together an extensive list of books encompassing different genres for kids of all ages.
Find below a few of the highly recommended book titles. The complete list of summer reading books can be found here (https://www.thesmartfeed.com/staff_picks/summer-reading).
Guess How Much I Love You (Ages 1+)
Little Nutbrown Hare sets about to show how much he loves Big Nutbrown Hare but he always seems to be one-upped by his parent’s unequivocal love for him in this true classic for the littlest readers.
Steam Train, Dream Train 1-2-3 (Ages 2-4)
Perfect read-aloud book for little kids with trains, counting numbers from 1 to 10 and cute animal antics.
My Heart Fills with Happiness (Ages 2-4)
A comforting book for little ones (and grown-ups) that tells about the little things in life, when shared together with loved ones, that bring us the most joy.
The Thank You Book (Ages 4-8)
Piggie is feeling grateful and is on a mission to thank everyone, but Gerald is worried that Piggie will forget to thank someone very important...find out who that is in this last book of the wildly popular Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.
We Found a Hat (Ages 4-8)
Two turtles are in a pickle when they stumble upon one hat that looks good on both of them. Young readers will enjoy the hilarious turn of events in the story, which ends with a wonderful resolution to the conflict.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker
The inspiring story of Hiawatha, a brave Mohawk warrior, and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, who are crucial in bringing about peace and unity among the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century.
Pax (Ages 8-12)
Set against the backdrop of a war and its terrible consequences of loss, suffering and separation, this story of an unconditional and loyal friendship between a boy and his fox is heartwarming and emotional.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (Ages 8-12)
City girl Sophie Brown is learning the ropes of life on a farm, which her father inherits from a great-uncle, where she ends up learning to care for and protect a flock of chickens with superpowers! Written in an epistolary format, this book will be a delight for middle-grade readers.
Roller Girl (Ages 9-12)
Themes of girl power, teamwork, perseverance and friendship feature heavily in this graphic novel that revolves around 12-year-old Astrid, who is gearing up to perform in her first-ever roller derby bout even as her best friend for life seems to be slowly drifting away from her. Will she able to save her friendship from imminent doom? Will she forego her dreams for roller derby?
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal, this book tells the story of Luna, a young girl who is raised by the Forest Witch after she is offered up as part of an annual sacrificial ritual to protect the people of her homeland. An enchanting story interwoven with fantasy, magic, friendship and love, tween and teen readers will be thrilled by this book.
The Sun Is Also a Star (Ages 14+)
Two strangers who are brought together by fate end up falling in love with each other. As cliché as this sounds, it’s the beautifully written coming-of-age story of how they come to realize they are meant for each other that will captivate the hearts of young adult readers.
Parents and teachers sometimes wonder if listening to audiobooks helps children develop reading skills. If you don’t have a book in front of you, are you really reading? In order to look at this question, we have to understand the complex processes that are involved in reading.
What happens when we read a book? How does the story come alive in our minds? What helps us understand the information the author is trying to convey?
Reading definitely involves decoding skills — making sense of the string of letters and shapes on the page. These skills are very important for children, but they are not the whole picture.
Understanding the story, thinking about the author’s message, using imagination to make a movie in your mind — these comprehension skills lie at the heart of what it means to be a reader. They’re what bring kids back to books again and again.
These broader comprehension skills come from recognizing the words used, understanding the story structure, and connecting the story to your experiences and knowledge. It’s important to recognize that reading is a thinking process, and that much goes on beyond decoding the individual words. The question then becomes: If these are the elements that impact comprehension, how do we support children developing and maintaining these thinking skills?
Audiobooks allow children to focus on the key skills of understanding words and the overall story, and this helps develop their deeper comprehension skills. This happens when children listen to audiobooks on their own, not just when they listen and read.
As a third-grader told me last week, “When you read you have so much in your head. When you listen, it’s easier.” One of her classmates added on, saying, “The audiobook reads the book really fluidly, so it’s easy to understand what they’re saying. They’re really expressing the story. They don’t just talk.”
In 2015-16, WestEd conducted a research study in Berkeley that examined the impact of audiobooks on literacy skills for second- and third-graders. Students listened to a selection of stories each week, without reading the books at the same time. They were just listening and enjoying the stories. Students were asked to listen three times a week at school (each time for 20 minutes) and twice a week at home (again for 20 minutes).
The results were clear and remarkable. Students who listened to audiobooks on a regular basis developed stronger reading skills — attaining 58 percent of their annual reading gain in just 10 weeks. In the study, the students who listened were three months ahead of the control group. How did they do this? Let’s look more closely at the component parts of reading development that the study measured.
Students who listened to audiobooks increased their reading comprehension skills three times more than their counterparts. Their vocabulary gains outpaced their control group counterparts by seven times. All of this made students want to read more. We see this in their increase in reading motivation by four times, relative to their control group.
As a teacher and librarian, this study confirms exactly what I’ve seen with my own eyes. When students listen to audiobooks, they are more engaged, they understand stories better and they WANT to read more. This is because audiobooks help them develop their vocabulary, give them access to more complex text and help them create a fuller mental picture of stories.
As a parent, I’ve used audiobooks on long car trips but I’ve also used them at home. When my daughters were younger, we would listen to an audiobook while I prepared dinner and they colored at the kitchen table. Other children I know enjoy building with Legos while they listen to an audiobook. Listening can also be relaxing at bedtime.
Listening to audiobooks provides essential support to the development of reading comprehension. But even better, it helps readers young and old discover the rich world of stories.
By Susan Solomon Yen
Our most memorable summer vacation as a family was a cross-country trip from Boston to California. We landed at LAX and visited all the Southern California landmarks — Hollywood, Universal Studios and Disneyland — before heading north to San Francisco where our oldest son had just moved. It was two weeks of family togetherness. Well, we certainly appeared to be together, but the truth is my husband and I were already living apart.
Even though his home was 30 miles from the children and me, he often visited on weekends. This was not the only time we traveled as a family during this tumultuous period. I think he was still conflicted and maybe a little guilty about leaving us. Perhaps these shared vacations were his way of saying he wasn’t ready to abandon us completely. If the children had any expectation that Mom and Dad were getting back together because we were on a vacation, they did not reveal it.
Shortly after returning home, we legalized our separation and within the year began divorce proceedings. Since then the vacations we have taken have been separate.
Traveling on Our Own
One of my proudest moments as a mother took place when I was still married. My husband, who was on a trip to Asia, had a stopover in Paris and asked me to bring the children and meet him there. Our three oldest boys were two, four and seven at the time. I was nervous about making this trip, but I had been to France before and spoke passable French.
The boys and I spent four days on our own. In one of those “what was I thinking” moments I even let the seven- and four-year-old walk to the patisserie for bread and chocolate by themselves. It was pre-9/11.
Several years later the children and I took another solo trip from Boston to California. The two youngest and I clocked 1,600 miles on a rental car traversing south to north again.
But I am a nervous traveler and I’m not very adventurous. I also had to work during that season when my kids were on school break, so for my children to truly enjoy summer vacations, I had to ask friends to include them in their own plans.
For two summers, my daughter went to New Hampshire with a large family who somehow managed to squeeze her into the car amidst luggage, toys and water gear. My youngest son, Jake, went to Michigan for six weeks with one of his best friends. In later years, he flew on his own from Boston to San Francisco to join his oldest brother in a celebration of their shared birthdays.
From Visitation to Vacation
While I missed my children, I did not worry about them while they were away. We communicated often and I trusted the families they were with. I wish I could say the same about the trips Jake took with his dad. By the time we divorced, most of my children were independent college students. Only Jake was still at home and still connected to his father. Unfortunately, our communication had just about completely broken down. When he took Jake on vacations, he did not tell me where they were going or when they would return. Needless to say, I was not comfortable with this and eventually the visitation agreement was changed.
San Mateo-based family and marriage therapist Sarah Proemsey encourages parents to respect each other and to keep those lines of communication open. “I think it is important for parents to continue to function as a team when it comes to parenting. That means making some decisions together because you are keeping in mind the needs of the child.”
Proemsey continues, “Having the stage set for healthy communication allows the child to be a part of this process, which will increase their feelings of safety.”
And I would add, confidence in the parent who is traveling with the child. “When divorce is in the picture, it is even more important for the parents to exemplify respect and cooperation for the good of the family. Having this healthy system in place is fundamental and makes it easier to do things like vacationing with trust,” says Proemsey.
Time and Travel
It took a while to choose which week to travel this summer. Jake has a summer job so probably won’t be going anywhere. He will once again celebrate his birthday with his brother, but they live in the same state now. I’m going to San Diego with my daughter. Their father? He’s in Paris again—with his new family.
By Tracey Sutherland, cPNP
Trauma Nurse Practitioner, Boston Children’s Hospital
Self-balancing scooters, commonly referred to as hoverboards, became wildly popular in 2015, when several manufacturers developed similar versions and marketed them in the United States and around the world. Right from the start of their popularity, safety issues were identified, leading to significant consumer concern and soon after, thousands of recalls. There have been several deaths directly linked to the use of hoverboards, whether related to injury while using the board or fire while recharging. Emergency Departments, pediatric as well as adult facilities, around the world began to see an acute elevation in hoverboard injury. Falls from the boards lead to concussions and more serious head injuries, fractures, internal abdominal injuries, hand injuries, and even death.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Committee (CPSC) launched a safety investigation and linked the hoverboard’s lithium-ion battery pack to the source of the fires. They developed a voluntary safety standard and urged suppliers to only import and sell those boards that were certified by the CPSC. This helped make the newer versions of the hoverboards much safer, however, safety issues remain and not all the boards have been certified to CPSC standard. Fatalities related to uncertified hoverboard fires have occurred as recently as 2 months ago in the U.S.
Due to the increase in hoverboard related traumatic injuries, the Department of Health in several countries has recommended a minimum age of use as well as restricted where the hoverboards can be used. Some cities in the U.S. have banned their use on public streets, restricted use to bike lanes or have implemented speed restrictions.
What does this all mean to the consumer? Can a hoverboard be used safely? If you’d still like to enjoy the use of a hoverboard, here are some tips to follow to keep you and your family safe:
Before being a parent, I would never have imagined how challenging it would be to dress my children. I don’t mean putting little legs into leg holes, Im talking about that ominous collection of special circumstances that eliminate so many kinds of clothing items from the possible pile. Between the school dress code, my personal dress code for my children, my youngest’s sensory needs, my budget, and what’s on the market, there are a lot of limits on what I can buy for my kids to wear to school. Sometimes I look in envy at kids in their uniforms, but then again I know my own kids would fight me on the uniform every single school day if it were part of our curriculum. Shopping is complicated with two kids, a tight budget, special needs, and a lot of rules, but I do it! I am sharing my wisdom with other parents who are at their wits end trying to find quality clothes their kids can and will wear for school.
My top tip is to shop off season in the next size up. Kids are going to keep growing. They will fit in even the biggest clothes you buy, eventually. If a favorite online retailer is having a clearance on parkas and winter boots this month, that’s the time to buy! Get those things you know will be perfect next winter or even the winter after that.
My next tip for parents of girls, especially rowdy girls like mine, shop for jeans and shorts in the boys section. I can’t be the only parent who squirms at the length of most shorts in the girls department. But boys shorts come to the knee, and boys jeans are tougher and more durable. The boys department also has more to chose from in the shirt department for parents who, like me, have strict rules about characters, logos, extra distracting bits of flair on the clothing, and impractical sleeves and necklines. With a solid polo shirt and a denim scooter, and no one will be the wiser that the shirt came from the boys section.
My most utilized tool is definitely thrift stores, consignment stores, consignment apps, and other parents with older kids! Kids grow so fast sometimes they don’t have time to ruin an outfit before it is too small, and most parents I know have a pile in the garage of outgrown stuff. Get a bunch of families together, bring the piles, and it’s a free for all with everyone going home with new stuff and getting rid of the old. What doesn’t get taken can be donated to children in need within the community.
There are a few new online options for the thrifter crowd. Poshmark, Thread Up, and Tradesy are all consignment apps. If your kid loves a specific type of shirt and it’s discontinued or hard to find, these apps allow users to search by name brand and size for items. The discounts are huge and some items are even brand new with tags still on, most are very gently worn. I recently bought a whole summer’s worth of shorts and tees for sixty bucks!
Some parents need to touch and feel things before buying, and some kids need to have a choice in the clothes they wear or they may refuse them. In those instances, brick and mortar thrift stores are the best option. The Bay Area has quite a few, and they are clean, organized, and have quality gently used items. Here are some favorites:
Thrift Town — Richmond
El Sobrante boasts the best thrift stores in the Bay, because Thrift Town stores are kept meticulously organized. The prices are unbeatable, a dollar or less for many things. One drawback with these stores is that the merch is as-is. It can be pulled, stained, or missing buttons, or smell bad. Always check first, there are no returns! Sign up for their VIP program for even more discounts.
3645 San Pablo Dam Rd., El Sobrante. 510-222-8696.
Kelly’s Corner — Laurel Heights
This store has lots of great reviews online. In addition to the used kid’s clothing, they also carry some baby gear and toys, and do awesome gift wrapping! They carry local artist’s products too.
3901 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. 510-531-6810
Bird and Bean — Berkeley
Bird and Bean is a little more upscale than other stores on this list, but they have a variety of price points, and lots of sample sale items from brand names that are usually too expensive for many families.This store has items that are more unique and stylized than the average kid’s clothing store. Elmwood is a cool neighborhood to stroll and this store also hosts a toddler music group.
3212 College Ave., Berkeley. 510-328-6485
Kids Are People Too —Castro Valley
This store is a gem, especially because the owner, Sharon, is great at her job. Meticulous about what consignment she accepts, shoppers can be sure they will not find items with rips, stains, or missing bits. Customer service at this spot is A++, and prices are right.
3326 Castro Valley Rd., Castro Valley. 510-247-1258
Monkei Miles —San Francisco
Monkei Miles is a refreshing burst of bargains in one of the most expensive cities in America. Here, guests will find brand names ranging in price from Old Navy to Mini Boden. This store is on trend yet affordable, and everything is EUC ( that means Excellent Used Condition!)
1523 Irving St., San Francisco. 415-650-3031
Bloom — San Rafael
This shop is not only a great place for shopping, they donate professional wardrobes to unemployed women so that they may interview and work with confidence. There isn’t much in the way of baby clothes or kids clothes, but there are on-trend and upscale brand items for teens, which is almost unheard of in the thrift world. Seriously, these are used items teens would actually be willing to wear! Everything is pressed and clean, the store is beautiful, and the customer service is great, plus parents might find treasures too.
1557 4th St., San Rafael., 415-453-1694, www.bloommarin.org
Haley Reen is an East Bay-based freelance writer.
Is a screen-free summer possible? Andy Crouch, author of The Tech-Wise Family, offers some tips for reducing the amount of time kids spend with their devices this summer:
Crouch, a senior strategist at the John Templeton Foundation, wrote about his philosophy on technology and kids in his new book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place.
By Rona Renner, RN
“My four-year-old daughter Molly is a bundle of energy, and I just can’t keep up with her. My older son is content playing by himself or reading a book, but Molly wants my attention all of the time. Will she always be this way, or can I train her to be more like her brother? It’s only when the TV is on that I get a break to hear myself think.”
Chances are Molly will always be a high-energy and interactive child, but as she gets older you should be able to direct her energy into creative or athletic outlets. Your son’s mellow temperament probably lulled you into thinking you could have a peaceful and quiet home life. At all stages of development, active and intense children need help directing their energy and often want someone around for company. Parents like you find they can get a break when the TV is on or if another child is around to play. Stay mindful of not using the TV more than the healthy limits you have set. Kids like Molly love attention and can be draining for parents who are lower in energy or stressed. Have a plan ahead of time to prevent frustration and yelling when your child’s energy gets too much for you. Setting up an art table can help, or having a child record a story or song. Try having a dance session with fun music while getting the table set for dinner. Creativity is required with spirited kids.
The Lens of Temperament
For all parents, understanding a child’s temperament is an important way to make sense of behavioral issues, social interactions and power struggles. Temperament traits can stretch or change over time, but acceptance of your child’s current temperament is a first step in figuring out strategies for more harmony at home.
“Temperament” is a person’s first and most natural way of responding. It’s the way we move in the world. It’s the “how” of behavior — for example, how adaptable, persistent or intense a person is. Some children are high energy right from birth (and sometimes in utero) and want to climb and run non-stop, while others are happy to just watch you while you cook. Children come into the world with a style all their own.
In the 1950s, parents (especially mothers) were blamed for all behavior problems. The pioneers in temperament research, Drs. Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas, were convinced that children had innate differences that played a key role in determining a child’s behavior. They knew competent and loving parents who had challenging children. Chess and Thomas defined these differences as nine temperament traits: sensitivity threshold, activity level, intensity of reaction, rhythmicity, adaptability, mood, approach/withdrawal, persistence and distractibility.
There are many factors that influence your child’s behavior — including parenting style, environment, genetic makeup, past events and siblings. Temperament is one part of the equation. There are no good or bad temperaments, but some children have temperaments that may be more challenging than others. So much depends on your own temperament, and how well you and your child fit with each other. For example:
Your high-energy daughter wants you to play ball with her when she wakes up, but you have lower energy and like to read the paper. Her high energy gets on your nerves, even though it’s normal for her.
Set a routine for how long you will read and help her decide what she’ll do till it’s time to play with you. Set a timer.
Your son is slow to warm, and when you go to a friend’s house he wants to sit on your lap. You’re outgoing, and it’s hard for you to tolerate his caution.
Give him time to get comfortable, and then he’ll be more likely to play with other children once he’s checked out the situation.
You are fast adapting, high intensity and yell easily. Your daughter is low intensity, sensitive and slow to adapt.
Lower your voice and calm down before you react to difficulties getting dressed in the morning. Take three deep breaths before responding, and then redirect her.
Strategies for addressing temperament can be as simple as providing fun activities and chores to keep high-energy kids busy, plenty of transition warnings to kids who adapt slowly, and making sure spirited kids get healthy food and the sleep they need. Parenting strategies also include making time for yourself, paying attention to your needs and getting help from the “village” around you.
Keep thinking about your child’s strengths and passions. Sometimes you won’t know if a behavior is because of inborn traits, environmental factors, developmental stages or past experiences. See it as a puzzle with many pieces, and when you put them together you get a picture of a child who is complex and beautiful.
Rona Renner, RN (“Nurse Rona”), is a nurse, a parent educator and a temperament specialist. The mother of four grown children and grandmother of two, she is the author of “Is That Me Yelling? A Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids to Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool.” Rona has been a radio show host for over 15 years and is currently a producer and host of “About Health” on KPFA radio 94.1FM. You can learn more about her at www.nurserona.com.
By Susan Solomon Yem
My oldest son was an adolescent when my mother died. Although he was quiet at the funeral, he was impossible in the car ride to the cemetery. No amount of correction either his father or I attempted, worked. We finally decided keeping our distance for the remainder of the day was the only option.
It did not occur to me until much later, that my son’s behavior was not naughty; it was his reaction to the loss of his grandmother. From that experience I realized that a child’s bad behavior might not be naughtiness; it may just be a response to a circumstance.
Mountain View based family coach, Susan Stone Belton (www.susanstonebelton.com), says, “Naughty behavior is a request for parents to pay attention. Kids usually misbehave when they are hungry, tired, frustrated or need attention.”
Susan explains that sometimes children just do not have the energy or the words to communicate. “Misbehaving earns our attention and the child gets what he needs.”
Chantal Dubuisson-Myllymaki, a Parent Education Instructor at Family Paths (www.familypaths.org) in Oakland, encourages parents to identify a child’s positive actions more than the negative. “If parents are spending the majority of their time focusing on the negative behaviors, they might be overlooking the efforts children are making to behave.”
She adds that it is a child’s job to fit into the family — to feel significant and loved. “If a child is made to feel unimportant, insignificant, and unloved they might fall into negative behavior to establish a role in the family.”
To help parents determine if their child is entering a negative cycle of behavior, Family Paths uses a tool called the Mistaken Goals of Misbehavior. “This helps parents and caregivers to notice how they feel when children mistakenly display negative ways of gaining attention and seeking power.”
Identifying their own emotions helps parents not only understand what their children are feeling, but find ways to deal with the behavior.
Limits and Rules
Susan’s book, Real Parents, Real Kids, Real Talk (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011) teaches parents how to build healthy, loving relationships with their children. One of her recommendations is that parents set limits and create rules; “kids like knowing what is okay and what is expected. I encourage parents to set a rule, determine the consequence and follow through.”
An immediate response to bad behavior teaches the child that Mom and Dad mean what they say. “The hope is that this kind of follow through will result in the child making better choices the next time,” says Susan. “Behavior management is all about teaching our kids to stop, think, and make the right choice.”
Chantal offers, “giving a child an acceptable alternative is productive. Let them know what to do, rather than what not to do,”
What Is He Really Saying?
When my youngest son was two, he had a monumental temper tantrum in the car because I would not buy him a toy at the mall. It took a lot of willpower on my part, but I kept quiet. Because I was not reacting to him, he ran through a litany of reasons why his was the saddest life, including, “You don’t love me. No one likes me. I hate myself.”
I was fascinated by this toddler’s attempt at manipulation. My lack of response finally dissipated his fervor and he settled down. He never attempted that type of tantrum again.
“Actions are usually indicators of something else in the child’s life that could be tilting his or her sense of balance and feelings of being grounded,” says Chantal.
“Often the child who is behaving the worst is the one who needs support, comfort, and understanding the most.”
It’s the Behavior, not the Child
It is important to not label a child naughty as Susan counsels; “Children might act in a naughty way, but the child is not naughty. When we label a child, that label can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Children are good. Their behavior might be bad.”Chantal advises, “pay compliments to your children often when they are well behaved. “
She also suggests that parents be positive role models. “Be courteous and gracious to your children and they will turn out to be like you.”
By Aaron Crowe
Actions can speak louder than words, as any parent who has seen their children mimic their bad behavior knows.
A swear word may slip out of a child’s mouth, for example, or they follow your lead and play on their phone for hours.
Poor money habits by parents can also teach kids the wrong lessons. If left unchecked, they can lead to poor money decisions later in life. Here are some bad money habits parents can turn around to teach their children about money:
Some impulse purchases can be fun. An ice cream treat after a tough week at school or a movie out as a way to break up the monotony of staying home too many nights can be worthwhile motivators for kids to do better in school or at least be a fun break.
But if you can’t afford them, or spend too much on an expensive impulse buy — such as the latest technological gadget that you’ve coveted for months — then it can show a lack of restraint in how you shop.
Even small impulse buys, if made often, can show your child that it’s OK to buy something without giving it much thought and that you always get what you want. But small purchases add up, and a better lesson would be to give up such purchases and put that money aside in a vacation fund for the whole family to enjoy the benefits of giving up short-term joys for long-term planning of a family vacation.
Every parent has probably had their child ask for a candy bar or something while waiting at the grocery checkout line. Telling them no can be difficult, but it beats raising a child who thinks they’re entitled to everything they see.
Not Letting Them Work for Their Money
Giving kids an allowance is a great idea — if they work for it. Like indulging impulse buys, handing your kids some cash each week without them doing anything in return for it can lead them to equate you with being a bank.
Money doesn’t just appear in your pocket magically. You work for it. And so should they, up to a degree.
Parents provide clothing, shelter, food and other necessities through age 18, and even then, some kids are funded less than others as children age. What teen wants their parents picking out their clothes for them at the store?
By earning money with chores or at a part-time job, kids can learn the value of a dollar and can find out firsthand how many hours of work it takes to afford that pricey pair of pants they want.
Not Setting Up a Bank Account for Them
If your kids don’t have a savings account or college savings account by age five, you’re doing them a disservice. Heck, if you don’t have a savings account or retirement account, you’re doing yourself a disservice and teaching them the poor habit of not saving for the future.
Birthday money and part of an allowance can be put into a child’s savings account. Regular trips to the bank to make those deposits can show them how banks work and why they should save.
As children become teenagers, parents can help teach them about managing money by helping them get an ATM debit card, checking account and possibly a credit card with a low limit.
You Don’t Follow a Budget or Have Good Money Habits
Just like the first tip on curbing impulse spending, parents’ money habits can filter down to their children.
If you and your spouse don’t have regular talks in front of your children, or at least within earshot of them, then you’re doing them a disservice by not talking about how you make money decisions together.
You don’t have to detail every expense in your budget, but your kids should have a general sense of what you’re budgeting for and why.
If you pay your bills late and constantly complain about how you can’t afford the gas bill each month, you’re setting a poor example for how to deal with basic bills. Show them how you budget for that bill each month and where cuts may have to be made to accommodate for it.
Even if you make some parenting errors regarding money habits, try not to get yourself too down about them. These errors are learning opportunities at any age, and even learning them when you have children gives you a chance to correct them and lets the next generation learn from your mistakes.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the Bay Area who specializes in personal finance writing. He writes for various websites and has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers throughout California. He also writes about his family’s personal finance journey at CashSmarter.com.
By Haley Reen
Getting your kids a visceral taste of the Gold Rush isn’t as difficult as you may think. Less than a three-hour drive from Oakland lies Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, the very spot where James Marshall knelt and picked up a hunk of gold, starting the whole stampede West to find more of it. The state parks website calls it “one of the most significant historic sites in the nation” — and it’s worth a day trip or even staying overnight.
German-born Swiss pioneer Johann Suter, later called John Sutter, started this sawmill on the South Fork of the American River. He arrived when California was a Mexican province and established a fort in present-day Sacramento (more on that later). He created the Coloma sawmill to process lumber to build a city near the fort. One day, Sutter’s employee James Marshall was looking at the tailrace where water emerged from the waterwheel and saw a glint of gold. He and Sutter pored over books to determine whether the chunk he picked up was truly gold, and they tried to keep the discovery quiet. Sam Brannan, however, the man who founded San Francisco’s first newspaper, enjoyed dispensing news — he was gleeful when shoppers at his store paid with real flakes of gold. He inquired the source and promptly spread the word. He is said to have literally run up and down the streets of San Francisco (perhaps even the street today named for him) shouting, “Gold! Gold on the American River!” Ironically, he was unable to publish the news in his California Star because all his employees bolted for the gold fields.
Today’s sawmill is an operational replica; you can see preserved timbers from the original at the Coloma site. At the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, check out the wonderful, small museum that shows how the gold discovery impacted Native American tribes in the area, and visit many restored buildings that help interpret the past. Often, the blacksmith foundry is running and you can watch the sparks fly and maybe get a ring made from a square nail. The old county jail ruins are interesting, as are the two Chinese stores that survived racist looting and destruction of Coloma’s Chinatown, and even an 1880 fire.
Pan for gold or jump into the river on a raft or kayak. Best of all may be wading into the cold river, imagining the men standing there for hours trying to find that tell-tale glint.
On the second Saturday of every month, there is a Living History program with costumed interpreters displaying old-time crafts and inviting your participation: want to learn how to dip candles or saw a log? Besides this monthly fun, October 12-15 is “Coloma Gold Rush Live.”
Stretch your legs by finding the statue of James Marshall, erected over his grave in 1889. From the mill site, follow the trail marked “Marshall Monument,” which provides a nice, steep hike of 1.5 miles to see the statue.
For more information, visit the official Marshall Gold Discovery website at http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=484. To sign up for the free fourth-grader state park pass (which covers everyone who can fit in the car with the student), visit https://www.everykidinapark.gov/
On your drive back to the Bay Area, spend an hour or two at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. Built in 1839 by Sutter, this waystation provided respite for wagon train emigrants exhausted from the push over the Sierra (including the survivors of the Donner Party disaster). The rebuilt adobe structure, abandoned when the Gold Rush began, sports walls 2.5 feet thick and 15 feet high. It’s now a state historic park. Sutter’s treatment of the Native Americans he pressed into service at the fort makes for an important teachable moment for older kids. Check the website for living history events that might make a longer stay profitable.
For kids deeply interested in history and eager to have an immersive experience, the Sutter’s Fort Trappers Camp gives them a week of “living” at an 1840s fur-trapping camp, in either Red Bluff or Colusa. If a week is too long, the 24-hour Environmental Living Program may be more attractive; it’s for elementary-age students and includes an overnight stay at the fort. Circling back to Coloma, students can participate in the “California Gold Rush Adventure” offered through Coloma Outdoor Discovery School — in fact, many Bay Area schools bus fourth-graders up for this program. You can choose a one-, two-, three- or four-day experience of learning Gold Rush history, culture, music and ecology, including meals and overnight accommodation.
To learn about the fort, visit https://www.suttersfort.org/
For more on the week-long camp, visit https://www.suttersfort.org/explore-and-learn/trapper-s-camp.
For the overnight at the fort, visit https://www.suttersfort.org/explore-and-learn/environmental-living-program-elp.
For the Gold Rush adventure at Coloma, visit https://cods.org/program/gold-rush.html.