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The Secret Life of Bullies: Why They Do It—and How to Stop Them

POSTED ON October 6th, 2015  - POSTED IN Bullying

Orig Post www.empoweringparents.com | Re-Post Sports World 10/6/2015

bully 300 wideWhy do some kids turn to bullying? The answer is simple: it solves their social problems. After all, it’s easier to bully somebody than to work things out, manage your emotions, and learn to solve problems. Bullying is the proverbial “easy way out,” and sadly, some kids take it.

Look at men who beat or intimidate their wives and scream at their kids. They’ve never learned to be effective spouses or parents. Instead, they’re really bullies. And the other people in those families live in fear—fear that they’re going to be yelled at, called names, or hit. Nothing has to be worked out, because the bully always gets his way. The chain of command has been established by force, and the whole mindset becomes, “If you’d only do what I say, there’d be peace around here.” So the bully’s attitude is, “Give me my way or face my aggression.”

Aggression can either take the forms of violence or emotional abuse. I’ve seen many families that operate this way. I’m not just talking about the adults in the family, either—there are countless children who throw tantrums for the same reason: they’re saying, “Give me my way or face my behavior.” And if you as a parent don’t start dealing with those tantrums early, your child may develop larger behavior problems as they grow older.

Ask yourself this question: How many passive bullies do you know? They usually control others through verbal abuse and insults and by making people feel small. They’re very negative, critical people. The threat is always in the background that they’re going to break something or call somebody names or hit someone if they are disagreed with. Realize that the behavior doesn’t start when someone is in their teens—it usually begins when a child is five or six.

Portrait of a Bully

Bullying itself can come from a variety of sources. One source, as I mentioned, is bullying at home—maybe there are older siblings, extended family members or parents who use aggression or intimidation to get their way. I also think part of the development of bullying can stem from some type of undiagnosed or diagnosed learning disability which inhibits the child’s ability to learn both social and problem-solving skills.

Make no mistake, kids use bullying primarily to replace the social skills they’re supposed to develop in grade school, middle school and high school. As children go through their developmental stages, they should be finding ways of working problems out and getting along with other people. This includes learning how to read social situations, make friends, and understand their social environment.

Bullies use aggression, and some use violence and verbal abuse, to supplant those skills. So in effect, they don’t have to learn problem solving, because they just threaten the other kids. They don’t have to learn how to work things out because they just push their classmates or call them names. They don’t have to learn how to get along with other people—they just control them. The way they’re solving problems is through brute force and intimidation. So by the time that child reaches ten, bullying is pretty ingrained—it has become their natural response to any situation where they feel socially awkward, insecure, frightened, bored or embarrassed.

Here is what an aggressive bully often looks like: He doesn’t know how to get along with other kids, so he’s usually not trying to play with them. When you look out on the playground at recess, he’s probably alone. He’s not playing soccer or kickball with the other children; he’s roaming around the perimeter of all the interactions that take place at school on a daily basis. And whenever he’s confronted with a problem or feels insecure, he takes that out on somebody else. He does this by putting somebody else down verbally or physically. A child who bullies might also throw or break things in order to feel better and more powerful about himself. When the bully feels powerless and afraid, he’s much more likely to be aggressive, because that makes him feel powerful and in control. That’s a very seductive kind of thing for kids; it’s very hard for them to let go of that power.

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Confidence-Building Exercises for Teens

POSTED ON September 22nd, 2015  - POSTED IN Helping Teens

Origi Post 7mindsets.com | Re-Post Sports World 9/22/2015

Teens 300 wide

Depression is ten times more prevalent today than it was in 1960, and the average onset age is now 14.5 years old vs. 29.6 years of age just 50 years ago. For any parent or teacher, this is a terrifying trend. As a culture, we’re vastly more depressed, and it’s starting much, much younger.

Over the past decade, I’ve learned quite a bit about youth depression in our youth, and the most notable factor behind it is disengagement. Our children, for one reason or another, are checking out, and their feelings of powerlessness are driving increased negativity and depression.

Because students lack confidence in their own abilities, as well as in the people and support structures around them, seemingly small challenges can lock them up and start the downward spiral. Many psychologists and educators believe that Resilience, the ability to deal with overcoming adversity, is the antidote to the depression epidemic that’s facing our nation today.

In our work, we often measure the impact of our programs through their ability to impact student Resilience. Using a tool called The Resiliency Scales for Children and Adolescents, we measure three areas:

  1. Sense of mastery, which tracks optimism, self-efficacy, and adaptability (essentially one’s confidence in their own abilities).
  2. Sense of relatedness, which measures trust, support, comfort and tolerance (one’s confidence in the people and support structures around them).
  3. Emotional reactivity, the measurement of sensitivity, recovery and impairment – this area looks at a person’s ability to make effective decisions under stress and to bounce back and recover from mistakes.

As we look to build our children’s confidence levels, it’s helpful to be prepared with strategies that are certain to increase their self-confidence, bolster their belief in those around them, and support their ability to make good decisions and recover from adversity.

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Suicide Prevention Day Matters

POSTED ON September 9th, 2015  - POSTED IN Suicide Awareness

Orig Post postcrescent.com | Re-Post So-Mark 9/8/15

Suisice Prevention 300 wide

Sept. 10 is Suicide Prevention Day. For many people, suicide remains an abstract problem that plagues other people in other places. But, for Fox Cities high school students and parents who have lost children to suicide, it is a very real epidemic that affects us all.

Many suicide statistics are conflicting and outdated. The 2013 Centers for Disease Control Fatal Injury Report provides the most recent national statistics available. Two years ago, 41,149 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in America, accounting for one death by suicide every 12.8 minutes. Men are four times more likely to die by suicide, while women make more attempts. The most common method for suicide is guns, at 51 percent.

The highest-risk age group is age 45 to 85. That does not mean our local teens are not at risk.

National averages tell us that 1 in 5 teens has thought of suicide, 1 in 6 has made a plan, and 1 in 11 has attempted to take his or her own life. For every 25 teens who attempt, one dies, creating 6,000 teen suicides each year.

For parents, though, there is hope. We can fight teen suicides.

Fox Cities parents who have lost teens and young adults to suicide urge us not to give up. I asked what they wanted others to know. Parents I interviewed said that raising awareness about the warning signs of suicide and prevention education is critical to saving young lives. None of the parents thought suicide would happen in their family and all of them shared regrets of not doing more to help their son or daughter before it was too late.

Through their collective tragedies, we can learn five valuable lessons that may save other young lives.

Know the signs: Educate yourself about the warning signs of suicide. Think through what you could do if you encounter someone who is exhibiting suicidal behavior. Being prepared will prevent hesitating when it matters most.

Be aware: You will never regret being more connected to your son or daughter or other teens in your life. Listen to what they say. Read between the lines. Get to know their friends and develop relationships with others in their life. Ask probing questions and stay involved. Resist the temptation to “give them their space.” Snoop first and apologize later. Be on the lookout for significant changes in words, drawings, dress and behavior.

Be a friend: Don’t minimize your relationship with a person who exhibits suicidal characteristics or signs of depression. You may be the closest friend they have. Don’t look the other way. Be available and show interest. Share your concerns openly and honestly. Let them know you care. Use encouraging words and combat loneliness and feelings of worthlessness by pursuing them. Your friendship may make the difference between life and death.

Take action: Don’t be afraid to get involved. Secrets are dangerous. It is better to overreact than carry regret for a lifetime. If you sense someone is in immediate danger, call 911. If you recognize the warning signs of suicide or learn something personal that makes you think someone may try to harm himself or herself, get help. Tell a teacher, parent, law enforcement officer or other trusted adult. An anonymous welfare tip is better than no tip and may save a life.

Get help: If you have suicidal thoughts or feelings yourself, get help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others who can help. You are not alone. Tell a friend, call a helpline or contact a mental health professional. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There are people available who understand what you are going through and you can recover.


Suicide signs that warrant an immediate call to 911:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill himself or herself
  • Talking, drawing or writing about wanting to hurt or kill himself or herself
  • Actively seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
  • Discussing a detailed plan to end his or her life
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Text messages or social media posts that threaten suicide

Contact a mental health professional or suicide help line if you hear about or see someone exhibiting one or more of these suicidal behaviors:

  • Feelings of extreme hopelessness
  • Feeling trapped with no way out
  • Exhibiting rage, uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Experiencing anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Giving away personal belongings
  • Dramatic mood changes


For more information about suicide prevention, please call or visit these respected suicide prevention resources:

Outagamie County crisis: 800-719-4418
Winnebago County Crisis: 920-233-7707
Text “HOPELINE” to 741741

The truth about underage drinking in the summer

POSTED ON August 24th, 2015  - POSTED IN Alcohol Awareness

Original Post nextstepcommunitysolutions.com | Re-Post Sports World 8/24/15

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Summer is a time for teens to experience freedom from school and spend time with friends and family. However, extra free time and lenient rules can also increase underage drinking.

A new survey by Caron Treatment Centers reveals 61 percent identified summer as the season teens are most likely to engage in underage drinking.

The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, summer vacation for most students, has been called “The 100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers. Nine of the 10 deadliest days for youth on U.S. highways fall between May and August. One reason is that teens are drinking at younger ages.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 5.8 percent of teens ages 16 and 17, and 15.1 percent of 18 to 20 year olds reported driving under the influence of alcohol in 2010.

In Texas, the average age of first use of alcohol is 13.5, compared to the state average of 16.

Our three youth substance abuse prevention coalitions work to make changes at the environmental level so it makes it harder for those to drink underage, but we still need help from parents.

The Caron survey also found that:

  • Only two-fifths have parents with a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking
  • 41 percent believed it’s best for teenagers to learn to ‘drink responsibly’ in high school rather than waiting until they’re of legal age
  • 29 percent agreed it was fine for high-school students to drink as long as they don’t drive

These statistics show that there a lack of education to parents about the severe dangers of underage drinking.

Research indicates that brain development is still in progress during adolescence, with significant changes continuing into the mid-20s. Immature brain regions place teenagers at elevated risk to the effects of alcohol.

The crucial prefrontal area undergoes the most change during adolescence. Researchers found that adolescent drinking could cause severe changes in this area, which plays an important role in forming adult personality and behavior. Damage from alcohol at this time can be long-term and irreversible.

The hippocampus, involved in learning and memory, suffers the worst alcohol related brain damage in teens. Long-term, heavy drinking causes teens to have a 10 percent smaller hippocampi.

In addition, short-term or moderate drinking impairs learning and memory far more in youths than adults. Frequent drinkers may never be able to catch up in adulthood since alcohol inhibits systems crucial for storing new information.

Another reason to delay the first use of alcohol is that the earlier children drink, the greater the chance of becoming alcohol dependent.

Children who begin drinking at age 13 have a 45 percent chance of becoming alcohol-dependent. A person who starts drinking at the legal age of 21 has only a 7 percent chance of becoming addicted.

Brain development and increased risk of addiction are only two of the negative consequences of underage drinking. Others include death, poor academic performance, increases risk for physical and sexual assault and impaired judgement.

Everyone has a role in preventing underage drinking and it’s imperative that we help inform those around us about the dangers of underage drinking.

Seven Ways to Prepare for Middle and High School Transitions

POSTED ON August 10th, 2015  - POSTED IN Uncategorized

Orig Post chalkbeat.org | Re-Post Sports World 8/10/15

kids studying 360 wide

Q: What can I do to help my children make the transition to middle school and high school?
Whether it’s sixth grade or ninth, graduating to a new school level usually means bigger school buildings, larger student bodies, more choices and more freedom. Along with excitement, students can feel anxiety, frustration and isolation. We spoke with several veteran middle and high school educators who gave us the following advice for how parents can help their children make a smooth transition.

1. Logistics are the hardest part
Let’s start with middle school, where students’ first hurdles are logistical — needing to remember a locker combination, learning the building layout and getting to class on time.
“It’s all those little things that at their stage of development become everything to them,” said Sandra Bickel, principal of Webber Middle School in the Poudre School District.
One safeguard is early exposure. Jessica Fiedler, principal of Westlake Middle Schools in Adams 12, urged parents to make sure their kids visit their future middle school as fifth-graders and attend any orientation or kick-off activities prior to the start of school. This and a variety of other suggestions are contained in the district’s 11-page “Middle School Transition Guide“.

2. Let them handle challenges on their own
Both Fiedler and Bickel emphasized the importance of giving children the space to handle challenges on their own. That could mean letting them fiddle with their combination lock without stepping in to help. Or, if they come home with a complaint about an assignment or class, pushing them to problem solve for themselves.
Instead of stepping in with a solution, Fiedler said, parents might ask, “Have you spoken with your teacher?”
Bickel said homework is another area where parents should show support but not take over. She said parents can help by focusing their praise not on talent or natural ability, but the hard work their child is doing.
“Praise the effort,” she said. “Parents can let their kids struggle through some of that and not enable [them].”

3. Don’t end your involvement; change it
Parent involvement is still important as children grow older — the form just needs to change, middle school educators said. Classroom volunteering is usually not appropriate after middle school, they said, but parents can show interest by having dinner with their children, asking about their day and monitoring their phone use and social media presence.
“If parents just wash their hands of it and give them free reign…it can be very damaging to kids,” said Bickel. Sixth-graders “want to be treated more like young adults…but they’re not.”
Jen Holm, a counselor at Webber, noted that extracurricular activities, whether at school or in the community, are also very important to students’ success. She said while parents should let their children pick activities themselves, she suggested parents say, “You need to be involved in something every quarter of the year.”

4. In high school, establish routines
When it comes to the high school transition, “the absolute number one thing that’s different is the amount of freedom,” said Pam Smiley, principal of Horizon High School in Adams 12.
Students have to adjust to not being part of “teams” as they might have been in middle school, having a broader spectrum of peers and a wider range of movement within the school building. In addition, she said, “The rigor amps up a little bit. The amount of work amps up a little bit.”
For some students, the demands of high school can bring about feelings of loneliness and isolation, she said.
She said parents can help their new high-schoolers by setting up after-school routines at home to ensure homework gets done at and students stay organized.

5. Monitor progress
Smiley also recommends that parents monitor their students’ grades and attendance if the school offers some type of online parent portal showing students’ progress. One system used at some Colorado schools is called Infinite Campus.
If parents see poor grades or attendance, it may be a sign that the student is wasting study time, battling disorganization or struggling in some other way. Smiley also suggested that parents push their students to monitor their own progress on Infinite Campus or whatever system their school uses.

6. Keep track of friends
At both middle and high school, educators recommend that parents keep track of their child’s friends. Smiley said parents should be wary if their ninth-grader starts hanging out with 11th– or 12th graders, whether in a romantic relationship or a platonic friendship.
“It’s usually never a good thing,” she said, noting that older students sometimes take advantage of the younger ones.

7. Red flags to watch for
At the middle school level, Bickel and Fiedler said red flags that may indicate the transition isn’t going well include students complaining of headaches, stomach aches, sleeplessness or simply not wanting to go to school.
“That’s definitely a time when parents need to say, ‘What’s going on?’” said Fiedler.
Smiley recommended parents not only watch for any out-of-character behavior, but also any mismatches between how students say things are going and what their grades or other indicators suggest.

Resources To Help Your Child Have A Great School Year

POSTED ON July 29th, 2015  - POSTED IN Uncategorized

Orig Post U.S. Dept of Education | Re-Post Sports World 7/29/15


Here’s a month-by-month guide filled with the advice, tools, and online resources you’ll need to help your children have a school year packed with fun and learning.

40 ways to help your kids learn more!

What’s inside:
More Resources
Printable Guide (PDF, 3.5MB)
Talking with your child’s teacher / Homework helpers Easy ways to get involved at school / Fun family activities

The start of school is the most exciting time of the year for students!

They want to meet their teachers, catch up with their friends, and begin exploring a whole new world of knowledge. As exciting as these first weeks of school are, your children can’t do this on their own. They need your help to get ready—now and every day. You need to read aloud to young children to reinforce the importance of literacy. You have to be ready to help them when they’re stuck on homework. You should make sure they have a nutritious lunch every day. You need to build relationships with their teachers so you’re all working together to provide your children the best learning experience possible. Helping your children with school is one of your most important jobs as a parent. That’s why the U.S. Department of Education, National PTA, and Parenting have teamed up to bring you Countdown to School Success. This booklet takes you step-by-step through the typical school-year calendar, explaining how you can help your children at home, support them in the classroom, and assist their teachers as they address each of your children’s unique abilities. We hope your whole family enjoys following this road map to the exciting year ahead.

Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education

Betsy Landers
National PTA President

Ana Connery
Parenting Editorial Director

Reach out to your kids’teachers Attend meet-theteacher night, orientation, or other welcome events, but don’t stop there. Make a point of introducing yourself and learning about class activities and expectations for the year. Find out how each teacher prefers to communicate.

Many use e-mail as the main form of contact, but phone calls and conferences (make an appointment first) are usually welcome, too. For more advice on building a parent-teacher relationship that will last the entire year, as well as links to all the websites featured in this guide, go to parenting.com/success.

Get in the groove Establish healthy at-home routines for school days, such as consistent waking times and getting-ready patterns. Decide on a regular homework time, and create a comfortable, quiet work space. Set bedtimes that allow elementary-age kids to get 10 to 12 hours of sleep; teens should get 8½ to 9½ hours.

Time things right Stay on top of everyone’s school, activity, and work schedules with a free online calendar or a smartphone app.

Pack smart Make sure your child’s backpack never weighs more than 10 to 20 percent of his body weight; heavy packs can strain developing muscles and joints. Encourage your child to use both straps, and tighten them so the pack hangs close to the body, about two inches above your child’s waist.

Commit to volunteering With help from parents like you, your school can offer many more programs and services for your kids. Join your school’s PTA and ask about volunteer opportunities in the school community and your children’s classrooms. National PTA’s “Three for Me” campaign encourages parents to pledge to volunteer at least three hours during the school year. Go to three4me.com for more information.

Fuel up Children who eat a healthy breakfast each day have more energy available for learning. Try simple, protein-loaded options like homemade scrambled-egg-and-cheese breakfast burritos, waffles smeared with nut butter, or yogurt-and-fruit smoothies.

Become a class parent You’ll develop a closer relationship with the teacher and will get an inside look into what goes on in the classroom, usually without having to commit a ton of time. Class parents organize other parent volunteers for parties and events, may help the teacher create a newsletter, or might document the school year in photos. Ask the teacher what his or her specific needs will likely be this year.

Connect with your kids’ teachers Many schools schedule parent-teacher conferences in October and November. Attending this meeting should be a priority for all parents and guardians. This is your chance to see how things are going with your children and to partner with their teachers on improving performance. Ask: “What could we be doing at home to practice what they’re learning?” National PTA has created gradeby-grade Parent Guides that can be a resource for what to discuss at conferences. Find out more at pta.org/parentsguide.

Seek extra help Does it seem your child is going to have trouble keeping up? Ask the teacher about school-provided tutoring programs and resources to help reinforce his or her learning outside of class. Many also offer extra help during office hours before or after school.

Review that report card Pay careful attention to all progress reports, but particularly the first one—it will be coming soon if your child hasn’t received it yet. You want to get help for any problem areas before your child falls too far behind. Ask your child’s teacher how grades are determined and for suggestions on how your student can improve. Review grades and the teacher’s comments with your child—always starting with something she’s doing well, then pointing out areas that need attention, and ending with something positive again.

Encourage creativity Urge your children to enter the National PTA Reflections arts contest. They can submit works of art in six categories: visual arts (such as painting, drawing, or collage), literature, musical composition, photography, film production, and dance choreography. This year’s theme is “Diversity Means…” Contact your local PTA for additional details or go to pta.org.

Make over your meals November is National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Month, so think carefully about what your kids are eating at home and in school. Ask your school lunch director for nutritional information if it isn’t available. Work with your PTA and school district to improve the menu if necessary. For more healthy eating and lunch-packing tips, go to pta.org/goodchoices and choosemyplate.gov/kids.

Be a good citizen Your child will be learning about the importance of voting and how elections work, and she’ll be thrilled to go with you when you cast your ballot on November 8. Go to free.ed.gov to learn more about how government works.

Give thanks This month’s Thanksgiving holiday is the perfect time to talk with your children about all the freedoms the United States has to offer its citizens. Help your children explore what life was like here during the first Thanksgiving at the Library of Congress website: loc.gov/families.

Get ready for flu season Amp up the reminders about washing hands frequently—particularly when kids get home from school, sports, and other activities. Pay attention to school websites and newsletters for alerts about flu or other illness outbreaks. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (cdc.gov) for up-to-date information and the latest prevention advice. And be sure your family gets flu shots.

Help end bullying Take the time to talk with your children about any bullying behavior they may have seen going on at school. Before you begin the conversation, go to pta.org/bullying and stopbullying.gov to learn what you can do as a parent to instill an attitude of acceptance in your children and get help with bullying behavior if your family needs it.

Remember the teacher A simple holiday token is nice if you can swing it. Teachers particularly appreciate cards from their students, and gift cards for their favorite book, crafts, or office-supply stores. Teachers often replenish classroom supplies out of their own pay, so gift cards help cut the cost.

Practice cyber safety If your children will be spending more time online during the winter break, or if they get a new laptop or smartphone as a gift, be sure to review family rules and online behavior.

Make a winter-weather plan Have an advance plan for snow days or sick days. Can another family member or neighbor care for your kids while you work? Make sure you have a safety kit in case of power outages; have your children help assemble it so they get a lesson in emergency preparation, too. Get more tips at ready.gov.

Be a meteorologist Winter months are a great time to introduce budding minds to the science behind weather patterns and how to predict them. You’ll find plenty of weather resources for kids in the “ Earth Sciences” section of free.ed.gov.

Dream big Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 16 by encouraging your kids to complete the sentence “I have a dream that…,” and then e-mail, tweet, or post on Facebook their own hopes for the future.

Connect with other families National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week is February 12 to 18. Help out at events such as family reading night, parenting workshops, or educational family activities. National PTA offers grants to help fund especially deserving school programs. Help your school apply for next year at pta.org/familytoschool.

Celebrate African American History Month Your school, local museums, and libraries will have special events. You and your children can also go to africanamerican historymonth.gov for online exhibits and activities.

Honor Presidents’ Day Search online for activities you can do with your kids, such as matching presidential portraits with their names or doing word searches about them. Older students will enjoy learning about the four presidents carved into Mount Rushmore at nps.gov/moru.

Schedule a midyear checkin with the teacher Discuss your children’s progress and how homework is going. And always reach out to teachers when important changes are happening in your family’s life, such as the death of a relative, a move to a new home, or anything that might affect your children’s behavior or performance at school—so the school staff can offer support as well.

Get ready for test day Many schools will begin standardized testing this month or next. Make a note of the schedule on your family calendar so you can be sure your children get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast on test days.

Read some more National Read Across America Day is March 2. Take time at home to read aloud on this day with your kids, and have them take turns reading to you. Encourage older children to read on their own and to their younger siblings. Anything that interests them—from comic books to the classics—counts! And if you haven’t taken the pledge to have your kids read at least 20 minutes a day, go to parenting.com/pledge and make the promise now!

Get art smart Exposure to art and music can help your children excel in math, problem solving, and reading, and help them develop teamwork skills and self-esteem. Check out the resources on free.ed.gov, and then do your part at home. Replenish your arts-andcrafts supplies. Let your kids experiment with inexpensive music-makers like a harmonica, a recorder, or an old guitar. Check out child-friendly music CDs and art books from your library. Urge older siblings to join their school’s choir, band, or drama program.

Plant a school garden Kids learn firsthand about weather, plant life cycles, and nutrition when they help grow their own garden. Get started at schoolgardenwizard.org.

Get schooled in math April is Math Awareness Month. Ask your children’s teachers for suggestions on math games and online activities. Another resource: Check out the website of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: nctm.org/resources/families.aspx.

Go a little greener Commemorate Earth Day on April 22 by planning an activity for your entire family, such as joining a local park’s litter-cleanup team or planting a tree on your block. Check out your school-district website to see what they have on tap for students and their families.

Share your career Lots of parents and kids will participate in Take Your Child to Work Day on April 26, but why not teach your child’s entire class about your job? Offer to visit and talk about your career, and encourage other parents in the class to do the same.

Thank your school staff These overlooked helpers are often the ones who keep things working smoothly for your children, so take time to recognize school office staff during the week of April 22 to 28, which is Administrative Professionals Week. Join with other parents to give a gift card or flowers, or have your kids make a card of their own.

Get a move on It’s National Physical Fitness & Sports Month, and your child may soon be taking the annual President’s Challenge physical fitness test as part of gym class. Prep your child for it—as well as your school’s field day, a favorite spring event with kids everywhere—with some family recreation activities. Take walks after dinner, go on a weekend bike ride, or have chin-up contests on the monkey bars at a nearby playground. For more fitness ideas, check out letsmove.gov, fitness.gov, and presidentschallenge.org.

Keep kids safe The weather has warmed up and school’s almost out for the summer, which means kids will be spending more time outdoors on their own. Give them a refresher course in safety whether they’re bike riding, swimming, or playing indoors on game systems. For more tips, go to pta.org and click on “Topics: Child Safety.”

Give props to your children’s teachers As the school year winds down, encourage your children to write thank-you notes to their current teachers. Prompt younger kids with suggestions like “Something new I learned this year was…”or “My favorite part of this school year was….” Work with your PTA to bring in coffee, baked goods, or lunch items during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 7 to 11.

Challenge your children to a readathon See who can read the most books this summer, with each one slightly more challenging than the last. Make it happen by setting a designated family reading time, when the whole gang curls up with a good book, parents included.

Minimize summer brain drain Look for fun ways to keep your children’s academic skills sharp during the warm weather ahead. Consider signing them up for camps, and visit nature centers, museums, and libraries as a family.