Children, Families and Finances



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North Dakotans Learn about Mental Health, Alcohol Abuse, Farm Stress

North Dakota has the lowest number of overdose deaths per person but the highest number of bars per person.

These were among the statistics participants heard at the third annual Behavioral Health for Your Family and Community workshop that the North Dakota State University Extension Service hosted.

During the three-hour workshop, mental health professionals from Prairie St. John’s in Fargo discussed mental health in the state’s aging population, the prevalence of alcohol use and abuse in the state, and the stress that farmers, ranchers and their families are experiencing as the result of last year’s drought and low commodity prices. The presenters provided warning signs of these issues and helpful resources.

To hear the recorded workshop, go to or search mental health IVN, NDSU. Instructions are included if you want to receive a certificate after listening to the workshop.


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Touch Important to Babies

Research during the past several years tells us that babies cannot be spoiled by being held.

Infants are armed only with sounds to get our attention, so crying when they want to eat, or need a pat on the back, a clean diaper or some good company makes perfect sense. When we answer their calls quickly and attend to their needs lovingly, babies learn to trust their caregivers and their world. When infants need care, we handle them, we touch them, we hold them close.

Brain research continues to uncover more reasons we need to pay attention to the important role touch plays in child development, plus all of the other benefits of touch to babies, children and even grown-ups.

For additional information on parenting young babies and children, check out our website at For information on research about holding infants and the impact on genes, visit

Source: Kim Bushaw, NDSU Family Science Specialist, 701-231-7450,

Photo by Pixaby

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Work on Environmental Wellness as a Family

Wellness is an important topic for everyone in the family.

The areas of wellness most commonly referred to are emotional, intellectual, physical, work, social, financial and spiritual. To have wellness in all of these areas, many people feel that environmental wellness is necessary, too.

One of the ways we can work on family wellness is to consider our own environments. Environmental wellness encompasses not only the health of the whole planet, but also your own living space.

To get started on your home environment, do a quick assessment of your living space. Is it healthy for all of the people who live there? Do you store food properly and clean your dishes after each meal? Can you think of these chores in a different way? The time you take to team up and clean up after a meal is time to spend talking to other family members about their day.

Of course, you have many ways you also can improve the Earth’s wellness: reduce waste, recycle, reuse, renew old items. Save natural resources by turning off unnecessary lights, repairing drippy plumbing, opening and closing blinds to conserve heat and cooling, and turning off the water while brushing your teeth. These tiny steps add up to a healthier environment for everyone.

For more information on wellness, contact your local office of the NDSU Extension Service and ask about “Overdone, Practicing Wellness in Busy Families” classes. 

Source: , NDSU Family Science Specialist, 701-231-7450.

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Teach an Attitude of Gratitude


Here are some ideas on how to model gratitude from Zero to Three, an online resource for people who love and care for children ages zero to 3:

  • Show appreciation to your children. Appreciation can be an even more powerful motivator than praise.
  • Show appreciation for others. Never underestimate the power of your words and actions. You set a great example when you model kindness, generosity and gratefulness in your own everyday interactions.
  • Use the word “grateful.” Children need to learn what this new word means.
  • Share “roses and thorns.” Even young children can talk about what went well (roses) and what was hard about each day (thorns). It gives them, and you, too, a chance to vent a frustration and focus on what is good in life.
  • Emphasize presence over presents. You can make giving the gift of time and activities, such as a birthday picnic and trip to a local park, a habit, as opposed to giving “stuff.”
  • Talk openly about donations and other “good deeds.” You don’t have to have a lot of money to make a difference. If you have money in your budget to donate to a favorite cause, share this giving with your children.

People who are genuinely grateful most of the time tend to have a more positive outlook on life. This should be reason enough to help our children learn more about gratitude.

For more information and a list of recommended children’s books on being thankful, check out the Zero to Three website.

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Homework Help

Here are some tips to help your child do his or her homework:

Casually time how long your child actually takes to do the work. The rule of thumb for early grades is to multiply about 10 minutes per day times your child’s grade, on average. If your first-grader is working more than 10 minutes a night, every day, or your fifth-grader is spending more than 50 minutes each night on homework, you likely need to talk to the teacher.

Get to know your child’s teachers. Attend school conferences and read everything your child brings home, including the handbook. Learn what the teacher expects and is looking for in your child’s work. Ask questions and learn how to check on your child’s work.

Design a homework-friendly space in your home. This area needs good lighting, school supplies, and limited traffic and noise.

Schedule a regular time for homework. Right after school? After a snack? During free time? Observe what works best for your family and stick to the plan as closely as possible so it becomes a healthy homework habit.

Write your own lists, read your own books, do your own banking. If your children see that you, too, are working and thinking at the table, they will be more likely to stick with their homework. Adults can help best by asking good-quality questions, reading directions and helping students realize that they will be able to do the work with thought and practice. However, don’t do their homework for them. Children need to do their own homework.

Help your child with time and project management skills. A quick review of the backpack will help determine if this is a short or long homework night. Start with the hard homework and end with the fun or easier homework, when energy levels are depleted. 

For more tips on school kids (kindergarten through sixth grade) check out our Parenting Post newsletters. 

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The F.A.C.T.S. Help Reduce Stress posted a five-minute video about resilience. Dr. Andy McLean shares numerous helpful tips, including the F.A.C.T.S. to remember when we find ourselves feeling stressed:

Foster hope - Challenge your negative thoughts, surround yourself with positive people and reach out to trusted individuals. Put your problems in perspective.

Act with purpose - Make a list of realistic things you can accomplish. Advocate for yourself and reach out for resources.

Connect with others - Social connections are most important during trying times. Maintain relationships, and give and receive help.

Take care of yourself - Taking care of yourself emotionally and physically allows you to help yourself and others. 

Search for meaning - Find opportunity in the difficult times. Consider change when change is needed.

Take a break and find the link to McLean’s video, and many other helpful behavioral health resources on the NDSU Extension webpage

Source: , NDSU Family Science Specialist, 701-231-7450.


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Instill a Love of Reading This Summer

If you are at that point in your short North Dakota summer where you look at your family and your calendar and wonder if you are having fun yet, now may be the time to shake things up and show them (and yourself) you still know how to plan some excitement and learn something new at the same time!

  • Step one - Search on Google for all of the sites you would like to explore in a so-many-mile radius of your current location. Together, read everything you can about these places and decide on one that appeals to everyone, is affordable, and is good for the body and the brain.
  • Step two - As a family, write lists of what to pack using words or pictures, depending on the age of your children.
  • Step three - Put away all digital devices and bring along the old-fashioned car games.
  • Step four - Enjoy the adventure. Be sure to bring books, maps and other reading materials that relate to your trip in addition to whatever your kids enjoy reading in the car.
  • Step five - End your adventure by sharing a book your whole family will enjoy. If you do not have such a book, write one together using your adventure as its basis.
  • Step six - Feel good about your vacation from digital devices and about your family’s shared time with reading and relaxing.

You have helped instill a love of reading in your children. Consider that the best souvenir you can hope to bring home all summer. 

Kim Bushaw, NDSU Family Science Specialist, 701-231-7450

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Keeping Kids Safe Outdoors

Adults have to help children learn to negotiate traffic wherever they live. Busy farmyards easily can be as dangerous as a city street when children are present.

Talk to your children about having a “safe spot” to wait when vehicles and equipment are starting and moving. That way, the driver can see and count all of the children in one place.

Also encourage drivers to walk all the way around the vehicle before getting in to start the engine. Toys and pets behind a vehicle may tempt children to run behind the car to rescue whatever they see back there.

Enforce the rule to “hold hands with a grown-up” each time you are near traffic. Prevention can be a lifesaver.

Adult supervision is always key! Check out the website today for tips on keeping kids safe outdoors. By being aware of your children’s current ages and stages of development, along with having good safety practices, you can spend a long, warm, safe summer outdoors.

Kim Bushaw, NDSU Extension Service, Family Science Specialist, 701-231-7450,


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Make Waiting, Transitions Easier for Young Children

Waiting is an important skill to learn, and it can be peaceful if we prepare young children for the inevitable “waiting times.”

Parents can be ready with word games, kid songs, finger plays, or a favorite book, toy or snack tucked away for just the right moment to buy precious time.

We all have seen grown-ups with their smartphones out the minute they are asked to wait, so why would children be expected to be more patient?

Transitions are necessary breaks in what is happening that allow young children to move to the next part of the day. Think playtime to lunch, dinnertime to bath and even minor moves that children enjoy once they are fully engaged in the next activity.

Smooth transitions involve planning. First, determine if you can avoid some transitions in your child’s day. If not, keep a good routine so children know what to expect from day to day, at least around eating and sleeping schedules.

Tell the child what is going to happen next, even before she or he learns to talk. Everyone is happier when he/she knows what to expect. Use games and sing made-up silly songs to help young children move to the next activity. Allow a little extra time for those children who need it.

Why do we all enjoy the occasional “pajama day”? Maybe it is because we likely have fewer transitions those days! 

Source:, NDSU Extension Service Family Science Specialist, 701-231-7450.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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Are You Having "The Talk" About Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs?

Calendars already are filling up with exciting events for high school-age students. Prom and graduation top the list for many as “rites of passage.”

This season of celebrations also is the time parents are thinking about how they will talk to their high school students about alcohol and other drugs.

NDSU Extension recommends starting early when raising kids to resist these substances. Two resources to look at now, no matter the age of your child – birth to young adult - are Parents LEAD (Listen, Educate, Ask, Discuss) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)


Here are five tips from SAMHSA to discourage underage drinking:

  • Show you disapprove of underage drinking.
  • Show you care about your child’s happiness and well-being.
  • Show you are a good source of information about alcohol.
  • Show you are paying attention and you will notice if your child drinks.
  • Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking. 

Source: Kim Bushaw, NDSU family science specialist, 701-231-7450,

Photo by Pixabay

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