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Dogs May Help Decrease Stress in Youth

A study in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology showed that children who played with trained dogs after undergoing a stressful task had greater gains in Positive Affect scale scores from baseline compared with those who received tactile stimulation and those in the sit and wait group. Researchers also found significantly lower State/Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children scores among those in the dog intervention group compared with those in the sit and wait group.

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Focus on Creating Joy by Helping Others During the Holiday Season

This month, focus on creating joy by helping others during the holiday season. Bring kindness to your group, school, or neighborhood with these ideas.

Interactive Chronic Absence Data Map

An interactive map from The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution allows anyone – from parents/guardians to policymakers – to explore the scale of the chronic absence problem documented in the 2015-16 school year data at multiple levels. Hover, zoom in and out, and click around to investigate differences in chronic absence across states, between districts and between schools in a district. Select student characteristics to see rates of chronic absence among different kinds of students. Clicking school characteristics allows you to see rates of chronic absence by grade span and location. Get started exploring your data on the map!

Walk to School Day is One Week Away

The countdown is on – Walk to School Day is only a week away! When kids walk to school, they improve their health, gain independence and confidence, and arrive at school ready to learn. On October 10, thousands of communities will join in with fun and safe Walk to School Day events that get families, teachers, city staff, and community members walking together, while educating children and families about the benefits of walking.

Check out the Safe Routes to School’s guide to planning your Walk to School Day event in four easy steps, and be sure to register your event on walkbiketoschool.org to make sure your efforts are counted as part of the national movement for walking and biking to school.

Apply Now for Free and Reduced School Meals

Did you know your student may qualify for special meal benefits offered at school? These benefits include meals offered at reduced prices or at no charge to those who qualify. To find out if your family qualifies, fill out a meal benefits application at myschoolapps.com.

Time Saving Tip!

With school soon to be back in session, mornings can get busy, so keep breakfast simple with a smoothie, muffin or egg sandwich.

Recipes to try:

How to Find Smart Snacks this Summer

We are thrilled to share a new resource from our partners at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation – the Healthier Generation Store with Amazon Business.  This tool is the first verified online store dedicated to selling products that meet the USDA Smart Snacks in School Standards.

With the Healthier Generation Store, you can make sure your school or district is meeting the Smart Snacks Standards, even outside of the cafeteria. From school stores and vending machines to fundraisers and classroom celebrations, the Healthier Generation Store can even be used for events thrown by student groups or the PTO/PTA.

If you’d like to get started in time for summer, it’s simple! With a free Amazon Business account, you can enjoy business-level pricing, tax-exempt purchasing, and free standard shipping on eligible orders of $25 or more.  Learn more at HealthierGeneration.org/Amazon today.

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!

The Positive Effect of Family Dinners

There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of family dinners, but what exactly are those benefits?

Many studies have linked family dinners with a wide-range of benefits, including lower rates of obesity, better academic performance, and even increased resilience against bullying.  Dinnertime is also a perfect opportunity to catch up with your kids and talk over the day, and get closer to each other as you strengthen your relationship.  Unwinding over a meal after a busy day at work and at school is a perfect time to allow kids to talk about what’s on their minds.

When you consider how many positive outcomes are associated with something as ordinary as having dinner with your kids, it becomes clear that this seemingly simple activity is one of the most important things families can do together.

Here are just some of the many ways regular family dinners can have a positive effect on your child’s development and behavior:

1. Better health and nutrition
Research has shown that when kids regularly eat dinner with their families, they will be more likely to have healthy eating habits and less likely to be obese.

Kids whose parents eat dinner with them regularly have these traits:

  • Are less likely to be overweight
  • Tend to eat more healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits and drink less soda
  • Are more likely to continue to eat a healthier diet when they grow up and make their own choices

2. Strong mental, social, and emotional skills
Studies have shown that kids who regularly eat dinner with parents experience psychological and emotional benefits such as:

  • Higher self-esteem and resilience
  • More positive family interactions
  • Lower rates of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Better body image and reduced risk of developing an eating disorder
  • Better social and emotional health (One study found that kids who have regular family routines such as eating dinner, reading, or playing together are more likely to have empathy, understand emotions, and form positive relationships with others, among other social and emotional health factors.)

3. Better performance in school and better behavior
Kids who eat with their parents regularly have been shown to perform better academically. Specifically, kids who regularly ate family dinners had the following traits:

  • Higher grades
  • Reduced risk for delinquency
  • Ability to have complex conversations
  • Stronger vocabulary skills and higher reading scores

While nothing we do as parents can guarantee that our kids will turn out to be happy, healthy, kind, and well-adjusted individuals, it’s clear that making family dinners a regular part of our daily schedules is a great way to boost kids’ chances of being healthier physically, mentally, and even emotionally.

You’re Invited…

On December 15, 2016, join your student for a special holiday meal in their school’s cafeteria.  Please visit your student’s school’s website for exact lunch times.  Each adult meal is $3.75.