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Preserve our National Parks

Take time this summer to hike, learn, share, and give back in the nation’s nearly 400 national parks. The National Park Service offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups as part of the Volunteers-In-Parks program.

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Promote Healthy Adolescent Development

Adolescence is a critical time for setting the course for lifelong health. It’s a period of rapid change and development and a time when rapid learning can occur. Expanding social connections and engaging in relationships beyond the family is normal during adolescence as teens seek greater independence and more autonomy. For this reason, parents, professionals, and other adults who interact with teens have a unique opportunity to support their healthy development – socially, emotionally, and cognitively. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health’s national call to action, Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG), challenges individuals and communities to make the health and healthy development of adolescents a high priority.

What You Can Do:

  1. Learn what to expect. There are many important developmental milestones adolescents navigate on the path to adulthood. Learning about adolescent development, including brain development, can help adults understand how and why young people behave the way they do. It also enables us to help teens make better decisions. Learn about typical adolescent development and take this short, free online course to test your knowledge.
  2. Encourage physical activity. Adolescents who exercise with their family are more likely to keep exercising on their own. Plus, it’s a great time to catch up on what’s going on in their lives. Take the first step and plan a family hike.
  3. Help teens stay engaged in school. Education is a key factor in the healthy development of adolescents. Take steps to ensure the schools in your community are supportive of every student, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual identity or sexual orientation. Find out more about the strengths and needs of schools in your community with this school climate survey.
  4. Encourage teens to pursue their interests. Being involved in activities is good for health and happiness. Help teens identify opportunities to cultivate their talents and interests by joining clubs, playing on sports teams, singing in the choir, learning a skill, volunteering, or working at a part-time job.
  5. Create opportunities for teens to learn and grow.  During the teen years, the brain is primed to take on more decision making and healthy risk taking. Positive experiences that allow teens to make decisions in a safe and supportive environment promote learning and build resilience. Check out these TAG in Action strategies to see how community partners are promoting healthy adolescent development in new and innovative ways.
  6. Eat meals together. Make time to eat meals with your family regularly. And, consider inviting friends of your teens to join you, as this family You may be surprised at the power of the dinner table!
  7. Talk and listen. Make time during the day to hear about your teen’s activities; be sure that he or she knows you are actively interested and listening carefully. Talk with your teen, not at him or her. You may think teens aren’t listening, but research shows they are. OAH has tips for how you can maintain a healthy relationship with your adolescent and help him or her manage relationships with other people.
  8. Volunteer together. Volunteering in adolescence is associated with increases in overall satisfaction, happiness, self-confidence and esteem, and with improved health and well-being. Find opportunities to volunteer in the community together.
  9. Keep watch. Even though adolescents are increasingly independent and will pull away from their parents, they still need someone watching out for them. Keep an eye out for changes in behavior that could signal substance abuse or mental health problems.
  10. Enjoy them! Although there may be some challenges as adolescents mature into adulthood, there are lots of positives as well. Teenagers can be energetic, fun-loving, high-spirited, and passionate. Take note of their individual strengths. Find ways to spend time together doing something they enjoy and you may be surprised at the benefits it can have for your relationship!

Noisy Homes Can Slow a Toddler’s Vocabulary

Background noise can hamper a toddler’s ability to learn new words, a new study suggests.

“Modern homes are filled with noisy distractions such as TV, radio and people talking that could affect how children learn words at early ages,” said study leader Brianna McMillan.

“Our study suggests that adults should be aware of the amount of background speech in the environment when they’re interacting with young children,” said McMillan, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Researchers from the university assessed the ability of 106 children, aged 22 to 30 months, to learn new words. They found they were more successful when their surroundings were quiet than when there was background noise.

But providing the children with additional language cues helped them overcome the detrimental effects of a noisy environment, according to the study. The findings appear July 21 in the journal Child Development.

“Learning words is an important skill that provides a foundation for children’s ability to achieve academically,” McMillan said in a journal news release.

Because of urban settings and crowding, homes in lower-income areas tend to have higher-than-normal noise levels, according to background notes with the study.

“Hearing new words in fluent speech without a lot of background noise before trying to learn what objects the new words corresponded to may help very young children master new vocabulary,” said study co-author Jenny Saffran, a professor of psychology.

“But when the environment is noisy, drawing young children’s attention to the sounds of the new word may help them compensate,” she added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about speech and language development.

SOURCE: Child Development, news release, July 21, 2016