Understanding Financial Aid Award Letters

If you have a college-bound senior, you might be dealing with one of the more confusing parts of helping your child decide which college admission to accept—figuring out what the financial aid award letter means and how those offers from different colleges compare. The SLM Corporation, known as Sallie Mae, the federal banking partner that runs the student loan program, has a useful page to help you decode what a financial aid award letter means.

The page provides answers to questions such as:

  • What’s in a financial aid award letter?
  • What do COA, EFC, and other parts of the letter mean?
  • How to you compare financial aid packages?
  • How do loans, grants, and scholarships compare in an financial aid award letter?
  • Do I have to accept all of the financial aid offered in the letter?

The site also offers a short video with four tips on how to read an award letter. Make sure that you an d your child have the information you need to make a college decision that is right for them and for your family’s financial situation. Check out Sallie Mae’s page and other information on the site.

Photo © 2016 by airpix under Creative Commons license.

Talking to Kids About Violence

As the nation deals with yet another school shooting, many parents may be struggling about how to talk about violence with their children. Parents can no longer just keep the TV news off and assume their kids won’t see or hear much about an event, as the latest shooting had students sharing videos and pictures from inside the school on social media. Many schools now have active shooter drills that they practice, just like fire drills and tornado drills. It has become impossible to shield our children from these acts of violence, and thus important that we talk with them about those events.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has an article, along with a shareable PDF and infographic, on how to talk to children about violence. The key points:

  • Reassure children that they are safe.
  • Make time to talk.
  • Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
  • Review safety procedures.
  • Observe children’s emotional state.
  • Limit television viewing of these events.
  • Maintain a normal routine.

When talking with your child, NASP suggests emphasizing these points:

  • Schools are safe places.
  • We all play a role in school safety.
  • There is a difference between reporting, tattling, or gossiping.
  • Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and the probability that it will affect you or your school.
  • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand.
  • Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others.
  • Stay away from guns and other weapons.
  • Violence is never a solution to personal problems.

Read the full article for additional information on all of these points. Share the PDF with your PTA members. Use the infographic on your PTA’s social media.

Characteristics of Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships

With the #MeToo movement all over social media and Valentine’s Day coming up, it is a good opportunity to have a discussion with your teen about relationships. February is also National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Today’s guest post comes from youth.gov and covers the characteristics healthy and unhealthy relationships. It is part of their Dating Violence Prevention pages.

Respect for both oneself and others is a key characteristic of healthy relationships. In contrast, in unhealthy relationships, one partner tries to exert control and power over the other physically, sexually, and/or emotionally.

Healthy Relationships

Healthy relationships share certain characteristics that teens should be taught to expect. They include:

  • Mutual Respect: Respect means that each person values who the other is and understands the other person’s boundaries.
  • Trust: Partners should place trust in each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
  • Honesty: Honesty builds trust and strengthens the relationship.
  • Compromise: In a dating relationship, each partner does not always get his or her way. Each should acknowledge different points of view and be willing to give and take.
  • Individuality: Neither partner should have to compromise who he/she is, and his/her identity should not be based on a partner’s. Each should continue seeing his or her friends and doing the things he/she loves. Each should be supportive of his/her partner wanting to pursue new hobbies or make new friends.
  • Good Communication: Each partner should speak honestly and openly to avoid miscommunication. If one person needs to sort out his or her feelings first, the other partner should respect those wishes and wait until he or she is ready to talk.
  • Anger Control: We all get angry, but how we express it can affect our relationships with others. Anger can be handled in healthy ways such as taking a deep breath, counting to ten, or talking it out.
  • Fighting Fair: Everyone argues at some point, but those who are fair, stick to the subject, and avoid insults are more likely to come up with a possible solution. Partners should take a short break away from each other if the discussion gets too heated.
  • Problem Solving: Dating partners can learn to solve problems and identify new solutions by breaking a problem into small parts or by talking through the situation.
  • Understanding: Each partner should take time to understand what the other might be feeling.
  • Self-confidence: When dating partners have confidence in themselves, it can help their relationships with others. It shows that they are calm and comfortable enough to allow others to express their opinions without forcing their own opinions on them.
  • Being a Role Model: By embodying what respect means, partners can inspire each other, friends, and family to also behave in a respectful way.
  • Healthy Sexual Relationship: Dating partners engage in a sexual relationship that both are comfortable with, and neither partner feels pressured or forced to engage in sexual activity that is outside his or her comfort zone or without consent.

Unhealthy Relationships

Unhealthy relationships are marked by characteristics such as disrespect and control. It is important for youth to be able to recognize signs of unhealthy relationships before they escalate. Some characteristics of unhealthy relationships include:

  • Control: One dating partner makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. He or she is unreasonably jealous, and/or tries to isolate the other partner from his or her friends and family.
  • Hostility: One dating partner picks a fight with or antagonizes the other dating partner. This may lead to one dating partner changing his or her behavior in order to avoid upsetting the other.
  • Dishonesty: One dating partner lies to or keeps information from the other. One dating partner steals from the other.
  • Disrespect: One dating partner makes fun of the opinions and interests of the other partner or destroys something that belongs to the partner.
  • Dependence: One dating partner feels that he or she “cannot live without” the other. He or she may threaten to do something drastic if the relationship ends.
  • Intimidation: One dating partner tries to control aspects of the other’s life by making the other partner fearful or timid. One dating partner may attempt to keep his or her partner from friends and family or threaten violence or a break-up.
  • Physical Violence: One partner uses force to get his or her way (such as hitting, slapping, grabbing, or shoving).
  • Sexual Violence: One dating partner pressures or forces the other into sexual activity against his or her will or without consent.

It is important to educate youth about the value of respect and the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships before they start to date. Youth may not be equipped with the necessary skills to develop and maintain healthy relationships, and may not know how to break up in an appropriate way when necessary. Maintaining open lines of communication may help them form healthy relationships and recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships, thus preventing the violence before it starts.

How to Make Family Dinners Happen More Often

You’ve probably seen news stories sharing the benefits of family dinners. Maybe you’ve even made a New Year’s resolution to eat more dinners together. Perhaps you’d like to eat more family dinners, but don’t feel like you have the time to make it happen.

The Family Dinner Project was created to help families take advantage of what research has shown and what parents have long known: sharing a meal as a family helps everyone’s health, mind, and spirit. Children whose families regularly eat together have higher grade-point averages, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, and depression.

The Family Dinner Project provides lots of resources to help you get started, including:

  • Recipes that fit in your busy schedule
  • Ways to add some fun to dinner preparation and at the table
  • Conversation starters and questions to get your family talking
  • Links to other resources for food, fun, and conversation
  • A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section to help you make it happen

Researchers have found that families that eat dinner together five nights per week get the greatest benefits, but even adding one more meal per week together can help. Your family dinner doesn’t have to be dinner either—if a Saturday lunch together after a busy morning out or a Sunday brunch works for your family, it can still work as a “family dinner.”

Head to The Family Dinner Project to start planning how you can get your family together around the table more often.