children

Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Preventable Deaths

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

For years, they’ve shuffled across Illinois’ front pages, a parade of tragedy.

There was Christopher Valdez, 4, of Chicago’s southwest side, whose mother’s boyfriend allegedly beat him to death in 2011. Earlier, Christopher’s mother had been convicted of abusing him, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the courts had nonetheless allowed him to remain in her home.

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Illinois Issues - Code Switch Illinois
12:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Editor's Note: Cutting Support for Kids Will Lead to Larger Costs Later

Maureen Foertsch McKinney
Credit mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Odds are, if a child doesn’t experience good parenting, schooling in early development programs and care for mental illness or other health care needs, he or she will face arrest for a violent crime.

A tragedy for the child and the victim or victims. But the long-range consequences of the child’s situation touch the rest of society. Those costs are tangible and will grow exponentially. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat March 1, 2014

Preventable Deaths: Children Die Even When Their Tragic Situations Have Been Reported to DCFS

In 2011, Christopher Valdez, 4, was beaten to death, allegedly by his mother’s boyfriend. Earlier, Christopher’s mother had been convicted of abusing him, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the courts had allowed him to remain in the home.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

For years, they’ve shuffled across Illinois’ front pages, a parade of tragedy.

There was Christopher Valdez, 4, of Chicago’s southwest side, whose mother’s boyfriend allegedly beat him to death in 2011. Earlier, Christopher’s mother had been convicted of abusing him, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the courts had nonetheless allowed him to remain in her home.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat March 1, 2014

Hungry in Illinois: One in Five Children in Illinois Doesn't Have Enough to Eat

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

When historians look back on this time, they might well refer to it as the “Age of Food.”

Food appreciation is a hobby. Chefs are rock-star famous. Grocery stores carry exotic items once only available in restaurants. Blogs are devoted to every kind of cuisine. “Food porn” glamorizes images of food. In fact, so many people call themselves “foodies,” some chefs and critics are shunning the word.

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Let's Talk Kids
1:00 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

A Firm Foundation

Each morning my little dog and I venture out in our neighborhood for a brisk walk.  She employs her excellent nose to read messages from other dogs, and I try to notice things a little higher up.

Yesterday for the first time I noticed each home’s foundation.  These foundations are primarily concrete of a non-descript color, so as not to take anything away from the lovely paint and siding colors and architectural details of the homes. 

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Let's Talk Kids
1:00 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Regrets for the Wrong Turns

"We've done it all wrong!" moaned the mother. "We've mishandled bedtime, and now we've taught our son the wrong way to go to sleep. Will he ever learn the right way now?"

How old is their son? Four whole weeks.

You don't get too far into the parenting game without questioning your choices. Second-guessing ourselves is a steady occupation for most parents.

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Let's Talk Kids
11:03 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Emergent Empathy

There’s one resource every parent needs:  a close friend or family member to stand beside them in the trenches. 

Dr. Victor Bernstein from the University of Chicago teaches that “Relationships take the edge off chaos.”  When we find ourselves in the midst of trauma, chaos or disorganization, a relationship with someone we trust has the power to soothe and settle us.

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Let's Talk Kids
12:00 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Better than You Think

Parents despair over their children’s disappointing behavior, but here’s some good news:  Odds are, your children are probably turning out better than you think at every point along the way.

The trouble with grownups is that we’ve seen the results of bad decisions and anticipate the consequences of every mistake our children make.

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Let's Talk Kids
12:00 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Normal and Novel

It’s one of those enigmas of child-rearing: In order to flourish, children need a complex mix of events that are both normal and novel.

Normal events include reliable routines which structure a child’s day.  Going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday may sound a bit boring.  And yet, this predictable pattern helps children develop healthy sleep habits.

Likewise, a consistent daytime schedule builds a child’s feeling of competence as he anticipates what comes next throughout the day.  This regularity breeds trust and reduces stress for kids.

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Let's Talk Kids
12:00 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Childless or Childfree?

Recent reports about women choosing not to bear children has brought the “Childfree Choice” into the spotlight. Time Magazine reports that in 1976, only one in ten American women in her forties was childless, compared to the current statistic of one in five.

Some say our world is in such a mess they cannot in good conscience bring a child into it.  Others describe their own sad upbringing and fear making the same mistakes their parents did.  Still others say they could never be as good at parenting as their parents were.

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Let's Talk Kids
1:00 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

It Takes Two to Tangle

There were never two parents raising the same child anywhere who ever agreed entirely about how to do it.  When adults care about the same child, a certain amount of “gatekeeping” is bound to happen, in which each adult thinks he or she knows best about how to parent. 

Here’s an example:  Adam says, “Eve, you should make that boy behave.”  Eve says, “Adam, he’s doing the best he can. Quit riding him all the time.”  Years down the road, Cain slays Abel, and the finger-pointing commences.  “I told you we were doing it wrong!”

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Let's Talk Kids
1:00 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Parking Lot Pathos

It was a recent blistering hot afternoon.  A weary mother marched across the discount store parking lot with her three little boys.  She firmly grasped the hands of two of the stair-step tykes while the third trailed solemnly behind.

The two boys whose hands she held howled in complaint as she spoke to them seriously under her breath.  Noticeably, no bags of purchases accompanied this small group.  The purpose of the trip had obviously been aborted while the beleaguered mother dealt with the misbehavior of her sons.

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Let's Talk Kids
11:00 am
Thu September 12, 2013

A Challenge to Friendship

Amazingly, a wide variety of parenting styles produce healthy adults.  But the divergence of those styles may make for disagreement with other parents.

A young mother recently described a play date with her college roommate who has a baby about the same age as hers.  Amber had long anticipated getting their babies together to play, fantasizing about introducing these little girls to a life-long friendship. 

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Let's Talk Kids
9:25 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Far From the Tree

Recently I wrote about children seeming to absorb by osmosis the characteristics of their families during the years of growing up.  But a new book explores the other possibility: Children sometimes turn out very differently from their parents.  In his book Far from the Tree, psychiatrist Andrew Solomon shares stories of hundreds of families whose children have very different lives from their parents.

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Southwind Park
11:49 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Playgrounds for Everyone

Southwind Park accessible tree house.

Southwind Park in Springfield is on the NPR accessible playground list, Playgrounds for Everyone.  Do you know of other accessible parks in the area?

Let's Talk Kids
1:21 pm
Mon September 2, 2013

Sunrise, Sunset

Among my favorite memories is a lovely evening in late May of 1984.  Just home from the hospital, I sat outside with my newborn son, listening while his two older sisters and dad played in the yard.  Other happy memories stand out around this little boy, including his third birthday where he sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” wearing a football helmet and one of his sister’s ballet tutus. 

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Let's Talk Kids
1:47 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Blind Trust

A recent summer storm provided an object lesson for a family I know.  Making their way along an interstate highway on a weekend outing, the family drove into a violent storm moving erratically across the state.

Within minutes, hailstones pelted the car along with heavy rains.  Visibility was seriously compromised.  The parents prayed for safety and watched for an exit where they could get off the road to wait out the storm. 

Meanwhile, the four-year-old in the back seat was alarmed by the noise of the pounding rain and hail.  She asked her parents if they were safe.

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Let's Talk Kids
9:00 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Raising an Heir

Every parent worries about making mistakes in raising children.  Imagine the pressure you would feel if you were raising the future King.  This is high-stakes parenting, indeed.

And yet William and Kate have started down this path with little Prince George, and they are doing it under a microscope through which they are being viewed by the whole world.

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Let's Talk Kids
11:00 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Starting Preschool

Preschool provides a safe venue for kids to learn some hard lessons about the world.  Is your preschooler ready?

Lesson# 1:  What do you mean you’re not going to stay?  For kids who’ve been home with parents, preschool may represent their first major separation.  You can prepare your child with visits to friends, playdates in other homes and seeing the classroom before the first day of school.

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Let's Talk Kids
11:00 am
Thu August 1, 2013

Making the Most of Summer

As summer winds down, parents see the start of another school year lurking around the corner. Summer freedom has been a blast, but academic expectations lie just ahead.  Here are a few suggestions to rev up your kids’ learning power.

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Let's Talk Kids
11:00 am
Thu July 25, 2013

Unexpected Gifts

A family of five I know has had a heck of a year.  They’ve lost a grandfather, suffered the loss of a job, and now struggle with the serious illness of their mother. 

This family’s three children have missed out on the carefree days of youth in the last year.  Instead, they’ve attended a funeral and mourned the loss of one who played a significant role in their lives.

They’ve listened in as their parents strategized about how to make do with less in the face of a lost salary.

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Let's Talk Kids
11:00 am
Thu July 18, 2013

A Matter of Life and Death

“Don’t sweat this deadline,” commented the longsuffering contractor.  “It’s not a matter of life and death.”

Reflecting on his words, I was thinking about how we use that phrase—“a matter of life and death”—to denote the singularly most essential issues in our lives.  Our very language respects the importance of the experiences of life and death, but this honor dims in the reality of our expectations sometimes.

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Let's Talk Kids
5:00 pm
Thu July 4, 2013

I Pledge Allegiance

Recently I attended a fifth grade “graduation” ceremony.  Stuffed like sardines into the hot multi-purpose room typical of public schools, proud parents and grandparents grinned and waved as their kids walked across the stage.

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Let's Talk Kids
11:00 am
Thu June 20, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

The plane had touched down, but the young mother was still flying high.

She was traveling through three airports with her one and four-year-old children to visit relatives several states away.

 

Hauling a diaper bag, car seat, and other paraphernalia needed for two little ones, this mother had her hands full.  She had thoughtfully prepared snacks, activities and everything else she could think of to make their trip go smoothly.

 

So an unexpected encounter with a fellow traveler was especially gratifying to her.

 

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Let's Talk Kids
3:00 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Dads Matter

It was surprise to me when I heard a gifted young man comment that he will never be successful because he’s just “not smart enough.”

Startled by his observation, I asked him what he meant.  By the end of his explanation, I learned his father had raised him frequently observing that he really wasn’t “smart enough.”

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Let's Talk Kids
12:00 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Being the Baby

Two-year-old Gabby strode confidently into the play group.  When I asked where her big sister was, she replied soberly, “At ‘chool.”  Gabby was more than glad to have a “’chool” of her own to attend that day.

As a “little sister” myself, I understood her angst.  Its the work of the baby in every family to watch from the sidelines as older siblings leave home and do exotic-sounding things like go to preschool.

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Let's Talk Kids
12:00 am
Thu May 23, 2013

Connectedness

From our first breath, we seek connection. Newborns blink against the bright lights, then scan their surroundings until they catch sight of their parents' faces. Their eyes light up as they fix their gaze on a loving countenance, investing themselves in this growing bond.

They use their hearing in the same way, listening through the noisy din to recognize the sounds of familiar voices they have come to know already. 

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