Back-to-School Stress: 5 Tips to Help Kids and Parents Beat Anxiety

The back-to-school season can be a time of mixed emotions for both parents and kids. Yes, there’s the excitement of new experiences and reconnecting with friends for kids and the benefits of getting back into a more predictable schedule for parents, but there’s also the anxiety that comes from the morning rush, homework hassles, last-minute school projects and other issues that can cause stress to rise, especially in these last few weeks before school starts once more. To keep things calm, here are a few steps you can take now to make heading back to school less stressful and more enjoyable:

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  • Start shifting sleep schedules at least a week before school begins. For most kids, sleeping schedules shift dramatically once school is out, with later bedtimes that don’t work well with early morning activities. At least a week before schools tarts, have your kids go to sleep and get up a little earlier each day to avoid sleeping problems and fatigue during the first weeks of school.
  • Get organized ahead of time. Going back to school is a lot easier when your kids know they have all the supplies they need well in advance. Few things cause more stress and frayed nerves than running out at the last possible moment to buy necessary supplies, so make sure to stock up a week in advance.
  • Prepare for a productive homework routine. Having a quiet area dedicated to schoolwork can help your child focus and concentrate. This is a good habit to start while your child is still young, but even teens can benefit by having a space that’s only for their study needs.
  • Set expectations early. Talk with your child about morning routines, bedtimes and homework habits before the year begins and avoid lecturing. Instead, keep it upbeat and let them have some input as well.
  • Plan some things to look forward to. For most kids, summer is a time of family vacations, hanging out with friends and, above all, freedom. Once fall arrives and schools tarts, things can start to look pretty bleak. Planning a few fall activities to look forward to (like attending local football games or festivals or even a back-to-school cookout or picnic with your child’s friends) can help ease the sting of getting back to work while providing your child with something exciting to look forward to.

There’s no doubt going back to school can be stressful – more so for some kids than others. If your child is habitually anxious, take some time to talk with them and show them your support and understanding. Sometimes knowing mom or dad is in their corner is all it takes to get over those initial feelings of anxiety and start the year with a more positive – and happier – attitude.

6 Steps for Enjoying a Healthy, Safe Summer

When it comes to perfect summer weather, few places can compete with Central Oregon and Bend specifically. With almost 300 days of sunshine each year and average summer temperatures rarely exceeding the mid-80s, Bend and the surrounding Central Oregon region provide the perfect venues for exploring the outdoors. Still, just because the weather may be ideal, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to protect yourself from overexposure to those glorious rays of summer sunshine. Here’s how to stay safe while you’re out and about this season:

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  • Use plenty of sunscreen. Guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology say the average person needs about a shot’s glass-worth of sunscreen (about an ounce) to adequately cover the body, but if you’re larger than average, you’ll need to use more. And remember: It’s always better to err on the side of caution.
  • Stick with creams and lotions. Some research suggests spray-on sunscreens can create a cloud of chemicals that can be inhaled. Using traditional creams and lotions is a better option, and today, there are plenty available that won’t leave you feeling sticky or greasy.
  • Know when to apply sunscreen. Ideally, you should apply sunscreen about 15 to 20 minutes before heading outside to give it time to penetrate and begin working. Apply it every few hours or more often if you’re sweating a lot or if you go swimming.
  • Wear protective clothing. Even with sunscreen, it’s a good idea to wear a hat with a broad brim to protect your head, and even a light-colored long-sleeve shirt can provide you with extra protection from the heat as well as any UV rays that make it through your protective layer of sunscreen.
  • Stay hydrated. Your body loses a lot of fluid through the skin on warm days, whether or not the humidity is high – fluids that are required for optimal health and function of all your organs and systems. Keep a water bottle handy and be sure to drink water throughout the day to keep your body replenished and avoid heat-related issues like heat stroke.
  • Avoid midday sun exposure. The sun’s rays are at their greatest intensity between about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., so if you can, try to limit your exposure during those times, or if you must be out, try to stay in the shade and make sure to apply sunscreen regularly.

Let’s face it: When it comes to beautiful summer weather, those of us in Central Oregon are especially lucky. Take advantage of that luck by following a few common-sense health and safety guidelines before heading out to enjoy all our area has to offer.

Planning a Camping Adventure? Follow These 5 Tips to Avoid Unpleasant Surprises

Summer is ripe with opportunities to enjoy more time outdoors, and few places offer more beautiful places to enjoy nature than Oregon. In fact, the state boasts over 250 parks that host more than 42 million visitors each year. If you plan to go camping in Oregon or elsewhere this summer, here are a few steps you can take now to help ensure your camping experience is safer and more enjoyable:

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  • Don’t forget the first aid kit. Make sure it’s well stocked before leaving, and include things like bandages, tweezers, painkillers, antacids, anti-itch medications, blister remedies, and snake or insect sting kits. Modify the contents of your kit to suit your camping destination and your activities, and make sure the kit is waterproof, especially if you plan to canoe or kayak for part of your journey. Also make sure your tetanus shot is up to date before leaving.
  • Practice food safety. Keep chilled foods in coolers and separate raw and cooked foods with several layers of foil or plastic wrap. Carry hand sanitizer and wet wipes for times when potable water isn’t available.
  • Know the safe way to build – and tend – a fire. Sitting by a campfire in the evening and cooking your food over an open flame are two of the pleasures of camping. Unfortunately, a fire that isn’t built or tended properly can quickly get out of control, and every year, hundreds of thousands of acres of forests are destroyed from wildfires gone out of control. Do your part by being aware of weather conditions – don’t have a fire if it’s been very dry or if it’s windy – and when you do have a fire, use designated fire pits when possible and never, ever leave a fire unattended for any length of time. Douse fires well with water, even if you don’t spot any embers. The U.S. Forest Service offers more tips here
  • Use care when encountering wildlife. Give wild animals a wide berth whenever possible, and if you’ve brought your pets along, be sure they’re well protected. Pets should also be vaccinated ahead of time to prevent them from picking up a disease that can be passed from one animal to another through droppings and other contact.
  • Let others know about your plans. Whether you’re going camping for one night or one month, providing a trusted friend or family member with your itinerary serves as a safety net in case something goes wrong and you can’t alert authorities on your own. For longer trips, schedule “check-in” times and make a plan for alerting authorities if you stray from those times.

As with most things in life, a little careful planning can go a long way toward preventing injuries and other issues that can spoil a fun camping vacation. For more camping safety tips, visit the U.S. Forestry Service camping tips webpage.

Grill Safe This Summer: 6 Tips to Review Before That First Barbecue

About 80 percent of homes in the U.S. have a grill or a smoker, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, and most people use those grills throughout the entire summer, not just on holidays or for family get-togethers. Not surprisingly, the top three most popular foods for barbecue cooking are burgers, hot dogs and chicken, and one of the top reasons grillers say they like to cook outdoors is for that delicious, smoky flavor.

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Of course, all that flame-cooked goodness relies on having a fire, and that means you need to be extra careful while you’re cooking on a barbecue grill to prevent those flames from causing fires to your home or outbuildings. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, residential grilling accidents cause nearly a dozen deaths, 100 injuries and about $37 million in property losses every year, with the majority of those accidents occurring between May and August.

If you count yourself among the millions who like to get outdoors and barbecue, here are a few safety tips to consider to reduce the risk of fires and grill-related injuries:

  • Most grill fires are caused by gas grills, including propane and natural gas, and many occur because of operator error. If you buy a new grill, be sure to read the manual carefully and follow all instructions when operating the grill, even if you owned a similar one in the past.
  • Before firing up a gas grill, check the fuel lines for any signs of cracking or brittleness and replace them as needed.
  • Keep kids and pets far away from the grill while it’s hot, including after you’ve finished using the grill to cook.
  • Be sure the grill is cleaned well after use to prevent grease fires the next time it’s used.
  • Keep a bucket of sand on hand in case of a fire. Sand smothers grease fires.
  • Because the majority of grill-related fires start on patios, balconies, porches and terraces, locate your grill far from your home and other structures when cooking.
  • Avoid using grills – especially charcoal or wood-fired grills – on windy days when hot sparks are most likely to be carried away by the wind.

Homeowner’s insurance typically covers damage to your home or other insured buildings, damage to your personal property and injuries to your guests, but policy limits can vary considerably. If you plan to cook out this summer, be on the safe side and contact your agent to determine if you could benefit from a little extra coverage before you fire up that grill.

Airbnb Hosts, Guests Need Proper Liability Coverage to Protect Assets and Avoid Lawsuits

Airbnb use has soared in recent years as more and more people search for low-cost alternatives to traditional hotel rooms that don’t involve the communal living arrangements of a hostel setting. And as a result, many more people have begun using the service to rent out spare rooms and even entire homes and apartments. For many renters and hosts, the Airbnb experience has been nothing but positive. But for others, the experience has been a frustrating and even costly experience.shutterstock_374623843

One of the risks facing people who use Airbnb is that the homes they’re renting are not licensed hotels, which leaves both the renter and the host open to the potential for lawsuits if an injury occurs on the property or if the property is damaged during the stay. Many homeowners who rent out their homes or spare rooms mistakenly believe their homeowner’s or renter’s liability insurance coverage will cover the cost of any damages, including injuries that may occur during the stay. But they’re wrong. Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies are not designed to cover the commercial use of a private residence; rather, their intent is to provide liability protection for reasonable damages that can occur during normal activities, like having a non-paying guest or another temporary visitor like a repair person or contractor on the premises.

Likewise, those who wind up causing damage during their stay will find their own insurance policies provide no coverage, which leaves them at risk of being sued to recover damages. Airbnb recommends all renters who use the service look into obtaining traveler’s insurance, which may provide some coverage under certain circumstances. But even traveler’s insurance was not initially designed for the Airbnb craze, and before investing in traveler’s insurance, it’s important to speak with your insurance agent to determine if a policy will protect your from damages.

As for Airbnb hosts, some special host insurance products have been developed to provide liability protection for hosts and their homes, but coverage options are still relatively limited. Before advertising your home or apartment for rent on Airbnb or any other service or site, you need to speak with your agent about your insurance options to ensure your assets and property are properly and fully protected. Some Airbnb review sites also recommend asking any potential guest for a copy of their own homeowner’s insurance policy, so your insurance company can pursue reimbursement under that coverage.

Airbnb may seem like a good idea to either make some extra money or to save some money. But without proper insurance protection, you may find out the venture winds up costing you a lot more than you ever expected.

Encourage an Interest in Reading: Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Birthday on March 2nd

Did you know about one in four kids in America can’t read at their grade level? It’s true: And according to social change website DoSomething.org, about two-thirds of kids who can’t read proficiently by the time they complete fourth grade will wind up in jail or on welfare, plus they’re much more likely to drop out of school before earning their high school diplomas. About 85 percent of juvenile offenders who wind up going to court are functionally illiterate, which means their reading skills are not sufficient to complete daily tasks that require basic reading.shutterstock_114642340

March 2nd is Read Across America Day, an effort by the National Education Association to promote literacy and a love of reading among school-age kids. This year, plenty of schools and libraries across the country are taking part with a wide array of fun activities designed to spur kids’ interest in reading.

Why March 2nd? Because it’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday, of course. Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Geisel) earned his well-deserved reputation as a world-renowned author and illustrator of dozens of kids books that use rhyming and imagination to help kids enjoy reading and become interested in reading at an early age. While some Read Across America events prominently feature Dr. Seuss and his works, there are plenty of ways to help your child get more out of reading even if he or she doesn’t care for Dr. Seuss. PBS and RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) offer these tips to motivate your child to want to read more:

  • Make reading with your child – even an older child – a daily activity. Don’t restrict reading times to bedtime; choose a time that suits your schedule and your child’s. For older kids, try reading an article from a newspaper or magazine together and having a discussion afterward.
  • Pick topics of interest to your child. Even adults don’t like reading about subjects that don’t interest them. Motivate kids by tapping in to their interests and choosing books and other materials that support those interests.
  • Don’t restrict yourself to books. Newspapers, magazines, comic books and graphic novels are all great ways to “mix it up” and find formats your child finds fun to read.
  • Let your child “catch” you reading and talk about what you’re reading. Your child develops a lot of habits based on what he or she observes at home, so be sure to read regularly and often.

Kids all grown up? You can still encourage reading and literacy by volunteering to read. Call your local library or school and ask about ways you can volunteer to enrich the life of a child as well as your own.

Post-holiday Slump? From Fitness to Nutrition, Get Your Body Back on a Healthy Track

The holidays may be fun, but they can also be notoriously unhealthy: From overeating and filling up on holiday cookies and junk food, to shorting yourself on sleep, to overtaxing yourself and stressing out over far too many commitments and activities, it’s easy to slip into unhealthy habits that can be hard to shake once the holiday season is past. For most people, getting good nutrition and and following fitness routines are the first habits to be kicked to the curb when holiday commitments come calling. And getting back into that healthy frame of mind can be tough, especially in the gloomiest months of the year.

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If you’re among the many Americans who’ve found their healthy lifestyles sabotaged by the stress and strain of the holiday season – or if you’re just looking for some tips to help you lead a healthier life – here are a few ideas to get your started:

  • When it comes to fitness, start slowly. It’s easy to get discouraged by expecting too much right from the start. Instead, try incorporating small amounts of fitness activities into your daily schedule, like parking far off in a store parking lot to add a few extra steps to your daily routine. The American Heart Association says all you need is about 30 minutes of moderate activity five days out of the week to significantly improve your heart health – and you can break those 30 minutes into 10- or 15-minute “chunks” to make it easier to stick with your fitness routine.
  • Make simple changes to your nutrition. Instead of vowing to cut out everything that’s unhealthy all at once, try adding a piece of fruit each day or incorporating whole grains or yogurt into one meal. And be mindful of portion sizes, which have been implicated as a primary cause of extra pounds.
  • Get plenty of rest. When it comes to being healthy, most people focus on fitness and nutrition and forget about sleep. But getting enough sleep is critical to maintaining good health, and studies show Americans get far too little shut-eye; in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls the nation’s sleep shortage a public health problem. The National Institutes of health offers a complete guide to healthy sleep, including tips on how to set a sleep schedule and improve your sleep so you feel rested and enjoy better health to boot.

And if you want to get a head start on next year’s healthy holiday season, you can start right now by memorizing the catchy 12 Ways to Health holiday song, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It may not be quite as memorable as the traditional 12 Days of Christmas carol, but there’s no denying it’s unique!

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