Making Forever Memories at 4-H Summer Camp

Making Forever Memories at 4-H Summer Camp

Hanging with friends at 4-H Camp. Melanie Taylor as a 4-H Teen Counselor (right). Photo source: Melanie Taylor

Spring is upon us and 4-H Summer Camp preparations are in full swing. As a 4-H Agent preparing for our week of county 4-H camp, my days are busy with phone calls and emails from parents, teen counselor trainings, adult volunteer screenings, paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. Although this is a very busy time for me as a 4-H Agent, it also allows me to reflect on why I chose this career path and why there is a sense of nostalgia as I prepare for 4-H camp.

I attended 4-H camp in Virginia, where I grew up, every year from age 9-18. I was a camper who grew into a counselor-in-training and then a counselor. Those weeks of 4-H camp were filled with hot days and warm nights, but it was worth it all for the memories I will have for a lifetime. I can still smell the cafeteria food and hear the sounds in the gymnasium as kids played basketball and pounded at their leathercraft projects. I can feel the chills I would get as the entire camp sang around the campfire circle and patiently waited for the canoe to land on the lake’s edge; the camp staff would carry a flame as they entered the campfire circle and ceremoniously light the fire. Most importantly, I am still connected with my 4-H camp friends through social media and/or as close friends and we continue to share our old, blurry camp pictures from the 1990’s each year on Facebook.

Morning flag raising ceremony at Camp Timpoochee. Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District

So, as I work hard to prepare camp for my county campers and teen counselors, I want to create similar memories for them. In ten, twenty, and thirty years from now, I want them to think back on the fun moments they experienced in the Florida 4-H camping program. I also want them to form friendships and make camp connections for a lifetime, whether it is learning to kayak, fish, make arts and crafts, cook over a campfire, sing camp songs, etc.

With all of this said, I hope you as parents will consider giving your child(ren) these special moments. The days will be long, but fun, and their nights will be filled with campfires and hanging out with friends. When they arrive home on Friday, they will be exhausted, but so excited to share all of the camp songs with you (prepare yourself for lots of loud, enthusiastic singing). They will have new friends they want you to meet and they will tell you camp stories they will always cherish.

In Northwest Florida, there are two 4-H Camps, Camp Cherry Lake in Madison and Camp Timpoochee in Niceville. Each county in these camping districts has one county week of camp each summer. Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office now to find out the details and register your child for a week of fun and memories.

 

 

Northwest Florida 4-H Camp Dates 2019. Photo source: UF/IFAS Extension

Building Financial Capacity in Children and Youth

Building Financial Capacity in Children and Youth

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, (CFPB) has defined financial capacity as a the combination of attitude, knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy needed to make and exercise money management decisions that best fit the circumstances of one’s life, within an enabling environment that includes, but is not limited to, access to appropriate financial services. 

Many of the attitudes, knowledge and skills needed to build financial capacity can be learned.  People learn behavior through a variety of contexts.  Children, in particular, learn through practices modeled by a parent or caregiver. In fact, research shows that parents and caregivers have the most influence on their children’s financial capability.

If you are like most parents, you probably recognize this—and you are interested in setting your kids on a good path toward financial well-being. However, many parents also say they do not always have time, tools, or personal confidence to start talking about money thinking their children will learn about it in school, later on, when they are old enough to understand.

This is most unfortunate. According to the Council for Economic Education 2018 Survey of the States, only 17 States require high school students to take a course in personal finance.  So, if a parent isn’t teaching their children basic money/financial skills who is?  Economical and financial literacy is a foundational element to achieving financial health and financial well-being.  It is never too early (or too late) to start building this.

Talking to children about money, even in EARLY CHILDHOOD, helps children build the skills they need later in life.  Early childhood education experts like to call this scaffolding.  You are setting the framework…the support…the platform, encouraging financial capability milestones from early childhood into young adulthood. Children can learn the behaviors, knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics that support financial health and well-being.

Books can help start these critical early conversation. The CFPB has made it EASY!  Parents can be their child’s first financial capability teacher!  The University of Wisconsin-Extension Family Living Programs and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Financial Security have selected books for the CFPB Money as you Grow Book Club.  This program uses easy to read and understand children’s books to discuss money concepts. These books include many favorites:

  • A Bargain for Frances, by Russell Hoban
  • A Chair for My Mother, by Vera Williams
  • Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, by Judith Viorst
  • Count on Pablo, by Barbara deRubertis
  • Cuenta con Pablo, by Barbara deRubertis
  • Curious George Saves His Pennies, by Margaret and H.AS. Rey
  • Just Shopping With Mom, by Mercer Mayer
  • Lemonade in Winter, by Emily Jenkins
  • My Rows and Piles of Coins, by Tololwa M. Mollel
  • Ox-Cart Man, by Donald Hall
  • Sheep in a Shop, by Nancy Shaw
  • The Berenstain Bears & Mama’s New Job, by Stan & Jan Berenstain
  • The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • The Purse, by Kathy Caple
  • The Rag Coat, by Lauren Mills
  • Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts
  • Tia Isa Wants a Car, by Meg Medina
  • Tia Isa Quiere un Carro, by Meg Medina

Fortunately, many of the building blocks for good financial decision making – like self-regulation, patience, planning, and problem-solving – do not require a lot of financial know-how.

Reading books with children is a creative way to learn about the many sides of money management. Pick up a few of the titles at your local library and influence your children’s financial capability.  Building good habits leads to a life of good financial health and well-being.

Example of key ideas from reading books:

 

PLANNING How Children Show It
Making Decisions Can look at a few choices and select on what will bring the best results.
Setting Goals Can follow a multi–step plan.
Prioritizing Can prioritize choices when they want two or more things at once.
Solving problems

 

Can describe problems and come up with a few idea to make things better.
MONEY
Earning Can identify the different jobs people in the family and in the community do to earn money and keep it safe.
Spending Make spending choices with their own money – real or play.
Saving Keeps money in a safe place and keeps track of amount saved for future spending.
Sharing and borrowing Can explain the difference between lending and giving something away.
ME
Self-control Can talk about times when they were able to wait and how they were able to do it.
Follow-through Can identify who they can turn to for help reaching a goal, or what tools or tricks might help them stick with a plan.
Staying true to yourself Name one special thing they like about themselves and their loved ones.
Flexibility Can talk about a time when their plans did not turn out how they wanted and what they did instead.

 

Resource:  https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/money-as-you-grow/

Handling the Holiday Blues

Handling the Holiday Blues

As the holiday season quickly approaches, many people are filled with extra holiday cheer and enthusiasm.  Some are jolly, but still overwhelmed with all of the activities, decorating, and shopping that needs to be completed.  Then, there are those that find the holiday season as a reminder of things such as, the death of a loved one, family feuds, divorce, and the list goes on. If you are feeling this way here are a few tips to make getting through the season a little bit easier.

1. Feel your emotions – Many people want to suppress their sadness or anxiety, but this only makes it worse. We are all allowed to grieve, cry and feel mad at times.  If you feel this way, let yourself feel your feelings.  You will feel better once you have accepted and worked through the emotions. You also do not have to force yourself to feel happy just because it is the holiday season.

2. Reach out to others – Instead of secluding yourself spend time with others, whether it is at church, a community group or with family and friends. Spending time with others and socializing is good for the spirit.  In addition, there are tons of volunteer opportunities during the holidays.  Try something new and volunteer your time to a worthy cause.  You will feel great about helping others and contributing to the cause. Research such as this one conducted by UnitedHealth Group commissioned a national survey of 3,351 adults and found that the majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience. The research showed:

  • 96% reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
  • 94% of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood
  • 80% of them feel like they have control over their health
  • 78% of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 76% of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier
  • About a quarter of them reported that their volunteer work has helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them active and taking their minds off of their own problems
  • Volunteering also improved their mood and self-esteem

3. Be realistic – Realize that times and traditions change as families grow and age. Do not focus on everything having to be the same every year.  Be willing to accept changes, such as adult children may not be able to attend the family gathering, so utilize technology and talk through video conferencing, share pictures on email and/or Facebook.  Find a way to make it work.

4. Set aside differences for everyone’s sake. Aim to accept family and friends the way they are, even if they do not meet your expectations. Leave grievances at the door for the day and enjoy your family and friends. Share those grievances and talk at a more appropriate and private time. Also, remember they could be feeling the stress of the holiday too. So, be patient if someone is grouchy or sad as you celebrate.  You may both be feeling the same way.

5. Learn to say no – Be realistic in the number of activities you and your family can participate. Do not feel guilty because you cannot attend every party and event you are invited too.  Graciously decline an invite and share that your schedule is booked, but thank them for thinking of you. A host does not expect that everyone will attend their parties.

6. Take a breather as needed – If you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, anger or sadness take a few minutes to be alone. Take 15 minutes to spend in the quiet to reduce the stress and clear your mind. For example: listen to soothing music, do a few mindful breathing exercises to slow yourself down or read a book to temporarily escape the stress.

7.Seek professional help as needed – there are times when the emotions are just too overwhelming to sort through on our own. If you continue to feel sad, anxious, angry, etc. there is absolutely no shame in seeking the help of a doctor or mental health professional. It will only help you work through your feelings with a non-bias person. Helping yourself feel better will improve your quality of life and those around you.

Do not let the idea of the holidays turn you into a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge.  Learn to take care of yourself first. Learn your limitations and accept them.  Do not let others’ expectations overwhelm you.  Just remember when you start feeling extreme levels of emotions and/or stress take a few deep breathes and remind yourself to relax and feel the moment.  Be mindful of your surroundings and remind yourself of your many blessings, even when going through difficult times.  Make it your personal goal to feel your feelings and enjoy what you can about the holiday season, whether it is the twinkling lights, time with friends and family, the food or any of the many special holiday traditions.

Aim to find JOY during this holiday season.

Sources:

Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. www.mayoclinic.org,

Signs and Symptoms of Depression http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY10000.pdf

Depression and Older Adults  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY95200.pdf

4-H Sewing Camp

4-H Sewing Camp

Have you ever read the book Something from Nothing, by Phoebe Gilman?  It is a wonderful story, with a sewing theme, of sewing/creating something beautiful over and over again.   My fervent hope is that the 4-H sewing camp participants feel the same way about all of their creations generated during sewing camp!

Recently, the Tallahassee Chapter of the American Sewing Guild (ASG, part of a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the art and love of sewing) generously volunteered their time, talent, and supplies to enrich the experience of every 4-H sewing camp participant.

The ASG philosophy, coupled with the 4-H history of helping youth “learn by doing” is a good fit. Both organizations focus on teaching new topics and life skills development through experiences thus enhancing self-confidence through skill building.

In today’s world, sewing is seemingly no longer a necessity.  Sewing can even be expensive!   But, can we put a price on self-confidence or creativity, sustainability or even a life skill?

4-H Sewing Campers Photo source: Heidi Copeland

Think of all the things learned while sewing.  Sewing helps teach:

  • Finger dexterity and the development of fine motor skills.
  • The value of patience.
  • Systematic following of directions – both verbal and written.
  • Creativity!
  • Vocabulary as well as techniques.
  • Pride in accomplishment for a job well done!

Moreover, sewing truly integrates science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).  And it is FUN!  Campers:

  • Learned first-hand about fibers (science).
  • Experienced technology using various sewing machines and equipment – some even computer driven.
  • Became adept at trouble shooting their own machine repair (engineering).
  • Artistically bedazzled their creations.
  • Utilized practical applications of many mathematical concepts to measure and sew as well as critical thinking and problem solving.

The 4-H Club pledge says, “I pledge … My Head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service and My Health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world”.  ALL of the campers contributed to a community service project sewing a pillowcase destined for the Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend Read a Child to Sleep campaign.  This fostered the idea that empathy, sharing, nurturing relationships and giving is important too.

Sewing certainly did not stop when camp ended.  A budding entrepreneur posted on Facebook she is taking orders for her creations while another camper is helping a local theatre group fashion costumes to obtain her community service hours fulfilling a high school graduation requirement.

There is no better feeling than the pride of accomplishment. Sewing campers learned by doing and while they were at it learned a skills they will carry throughout life.

To find out more about the American Sewing Guild: https://www.asg.org/

To find out more about Leon County 4-H programs: http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/4h

If you are interested in learning more about 4-H, go to florida4h.org.

National Grandparents Day 2017:  September 10

National Grandparents Day 2017: September 10

For nearly 40 years, National Grandparents Day has been celebrated as an opportunity to express gratitude for all that grandparents do for families and communities.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau Profile, America Facts for Features, in 1970, Marian McQuade initiated a campaign to establish a day to honor grandparents.  In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a federal proclamation, declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day.

Across the U.S., not only are grandparents appreciated for sharing their time, wisdom, and values, but they are currently stepping up to raise over 7.2 million children under the age of 18 whose biological parents are unable to do so, thus keeping the children out of the foster care system.  In Florida, 11% of children live in homes where householders are grandparents or other relatives.

Locally, in Leon County, there are more than 2,000 grandparent-headed families, where:

  • 13.1% of the grandparents are 60 years and older
  • 39.8% of these families live below the poverty level
  • Nearly 50% of these families have had the children for 5 or more years

The reasons as to why so many grandparents are raising grandchildren are many and varied.  Nationally, substance abuse causes more than one third of this type of placement.  Nevertheless, because of a grandparent’s selfless devotion and generosity to the needs of others, grandparents are, in fact, owed a great deal of thanks for their altruism.

As one grandmother exclaimed, “For my 50th birthday, I got a 2 year-old.  My story isn’t unique.”  In fact, grandparent roles in children’s lives are so significant that the Grandparents as Parents (GaP) Program of the Tallahassee Senior Foundation, funded by the Leon County Commission, grants, and donations, has a program and support group just for them!  According to Karen Boebinger, GaP Program Coordinator, “The GaP program provides moral support and resource assistance to these grandfamilies who are trying to navigate through their new lifestyle.”

AARP® has streamlined the gathering of relevant information pertinent to this nationwide dilemma.  The AARP® resource, Grand Families Fact Sheet, includes state-specific data and programs available, as well as information about public benefits, educational assistance, legal relationship options, and state laws.  This fact sheet also contains many other resource tools such as the National Council on Aging’s questionnaire that helps grandparent caregivers and/or the children they are raising determine if they qualify for certain programs that pay for food, an increase in income, and/or home and healthcare costs.  Once the questionnaire is completed, the website generates a list of eligible programs and contact information.  (www.aarp.org/quicklink)

Take a moment today and every day to give thanks and appreciation for the thousands of grandparents in our community and around the country for the service they do for children.  One thing is for certain:  grandparents are more valuable to their grandchildren and communities than ever.  Grandparents are indispensable and important people.

Want more information about supporting GaP or do you need support yourself?  Contact Karen Boebinger, GaP Program Coordinator, at 850-891-4027 or karen.boebinger@talgov.com.

 

Mother’s Day:  Time to Reflect and Celebrate

Mother’s Day: Time to Reflect and Celebrate

Family rituals and traditions, like family vacations, make lasting memories.

This will be my sixth Mother’s Day, so I am not an experienced mother by any stretch of the imagination. As a Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, I am fortunate to have plenty of coursework and some practical experience in working with children– but real life is different. Here are a few of the things I have learned – from coursework and just a little bit of experience:

Every stage of childhood brings a new joy and a new challenge. Understanding child development can help parents know what to expect and how to handle challenges. Extension is a great resource for child development. We have fact sheets on all ages and stages of development. You can find them in our Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) publications. Search them here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_child_development

Finding effective discipline techniques and sticking to them also is a challenge. Children need consistency. I have found that focusing on good behavior and having clear, consistent rules makes life much more peaceful. Now that my child is in school, we use a simple chart with just two or three items and use colored dots, similar to what my daughter is used to in school. This keeps it consistent and focused on the positive behaviors I want to see. My daughter is excited to earn privileges and the reward of good behavior dots or stickers. Our UF/IFAS Extension site has some great ideas for discipline too. Find them here: discipline resources.

Children need routines. I think adults do, too. Having a routine and sticking to it helps children know what to expect. Those family rituals and traditions are just as important for building family stability and a sense of belonging. They make for great family memories! Don’t forget to make time for bedtime stories, making cookies, or for family celebrations, like Mother’s Day.

I am not an expert at parenting. I have made mistakes, some big, some little. When I do need expert advice, I go back to what I have learned from my work in Extension. Extension has all the research-based information you can trust on parenting and a variety of other topics. Check it out: edis.ifas.ufl.edu.