Submitted by Joyce Wilson, TeacherSpark.org
Planning a family vacation can feel daunting during "normal" times, so planning a safe family vacation during a pandemic may seem like an overwheming task for some working parents. The thing is, school breaks can seem overwhelming too if you're feeling stir-crazy, so here are some ideas that can help you plan with prudence and increase your odds of haveing a great time.
How Can You Travel Safely?
While COVID-19 cases waned early in the summer in the United States, they’re now back up now across the country. If you want to vacation safely, you’ll want to consider a few extra things when planning a trip.
One piece of good news is that it’s still possible to stay at a hotel, and hotels are vastly less risky if you’re vaccinated. Risks may vary by location, so be sure to check with hotels ahead of time to make sure they are taking reasonable precautions to protect you from the coronavirus; you may want to ask about their cleaning procedures and mask policies for their staff members.
Another thing to consider is your the vaccination status of fellow travelers. If you're traveling with a group, keep in mind that young children are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. The good news is that if they do get COVID-19, they are less likely to get sick than adults. The bad news is that when they do catch COVID-19, they're pretty good at infecting unvaccinated adults.
RV traveling can be fun for the whole family, while reducing interactions with non-family members. Between April and June of 2020, surveys say RV rentals went up tenfold as people searched for a way to vacation without exposing themselves to too much risk. If you’ve never driven an RV, it's easy to find safety tips online.
Vacationing at Home
Given that risks associated with travel are increased right now no matter how you go about it, one way to reduce risks is to vacation from home. Most people are pleasantly surprised when they take the time to deliberately explore things they take for granted most days.
A movie night at home with the family isn't a new idea, but there are lots of ways to turn a movie at home into a lifetime memory. Consider printing tickets and creating a snack counter. You could even include a budgeting lesson by pricing the snacks, giving each child a snack allowance, and then forcing them to make some tough choices. Or maybe they'll work together to purchase a variety of items to share.
Another idea would be to plan a camping trip in your own backyard. If you’re not used to camping, there are guides you can follow.
If you’re short on ideas for fun things you can do with your kids at home, the Internet offers plenty more ideas and some people have raved about "staycations" that have included putt-putt golf, star gazing, a trip to a local bead store, getting take-out from an unusual restaurant, taking bike rides, picnicing, hiking, painting, ... well you get the idea :) And many activities that you might assume can only be done by traveling, can also be done virtually, such as going on a live African safari.
How Can You Stay Comfortable With Your Kids At Home All Day?
While staying cooped up with your kids might seem inherently stressful, there are ways to make it work. Involving your kids in housework can keep the whole family busy while also making it easier to keep the house neat. If you can’t imagine how you can get your kids to join you on chores, slowly introduce them to cleaning in ways that won’t discourage them, and think about rewarding them with a treat after the project has been successfully completed.
The bottom line is that while the pandemic may prevent you from going on traditional trips to crowded places, it doesn’t mean you can’t vacation at all. With a little creativity, you can stay safe and still have a great time with your family.
Editors note: Our family staycationed one year after my husband had been laid off and we were living off a single income for the first time. We'd taken many nice trips in the past and had started a practice of ranking our vactions each time we returned home from one. Our kids, 12 and 7 at the time, rated the staycation as the second best trip they'd ever taken; they only ranked our trip to Hawaii as higher. I, on the other hand, was feeling sorry for myself and muttered, "The way things are going we'll probably spend a week playing board games in the basement for next year's vacation." Our seven year old son instantly replied, "That would be a blast!" In that moment I learned that our kids valued time with us having fun and they didn't care where it happened.
Submitted by Amanda Henderson with Safe Children
Some people think that parenting instincts come naturally, but the truth is that being a first-time parent means learning new things every day and often figuring them out on the fly. Raising a child is an adventure, with constant ups and downs, and new parents generally need all the help they can get; especially when they're juggling careers at the same time.
Naturally, you’ll have a million questions for your friends and relatives who have already had children. But you can also find answers using the handy device in your pocket: your smartphone. Downloading some of these helpful and informative apps will probably help you feel more confident in your parenting skills, more efficient and ___
Most working parents thought they were busy before they welcomed a baby into their lives, but that new little bundle of joy often causes parents to operate a who new leve; one that require efficiency and help. The Angi app can be a lifesaver because it connects you with qualified professionals who can undertake virtually any home project, includin those that will make your abode a safer space for your growing family. For example, if you have a pool, you can use Angi to secure it with a safety-latched fence. Angi fencing reviews offer testimonials from customers for local fence contractors, labor and material cost estimates, and even current promotions for nearby companies. If you need someone to install baby gates, cabinet latches, or even move existing outlets so your baby can’t reach them, Angi is a great resource for finding whatever home help you need.
The Glow Baby app helps you navigate and remember every stage of your baby’s development. You can log their big milestones, your breastfeeding schedule, their sleeping and/or eating habits, and even diaper changes. While you may not need to track all of these things, anything you do want to track is easy using Glow Baby, and the app even makes it easy for you to show info to your doctor by printing out PDF files that contain all the data you’ve stored. So if you’ve noticed any concerning patterns or your baby is feeling under the weather, all your useful data points can help your pediatrician figure out why. Plus, you’ll get access to a digital library of parenting advice and a virtual community where you can chat with other new parents.
The Wonder Weeks
Sometimes, your baby will seem much crankier than usual with no real explanation. There might not be anything wrong; in fact, your baby could just be experiencing a developmental leap, often known as a “Wonder Week.” According to The Tot, there will be times when you feel like your baby is changing by the day, and during the first six months, you’ll notice rapid development!
The Wonder Weeks app makes sure that you’re never caught off guard by a leap. The app lets you track your baby’s milestones, and it puts them in the context of “wonder weeks,” alerting you when they’re about to experience a leap so you can be prepared before it happens.
Cozi Family Organizer
Now that your baby has arrived, keeping the house clean probably seems like an impossible feat. It might feel like every time you’re about to vacuum the living room or wipe down the kitchen counters, the baby starts crying, and you need to drop everything else you’re doing.
This is where the Cozi Family Organizer app comes in. You can write up to-do lists in the app and share them with your partner. You can also input your grocery lists, your individual schedules, and log upcoming weekly events to help you stay on top of it all. If everything in the house is out of place and you need to get organized, Cozi Family Organizer is the app for you.
Sleep Baby Sleep
Every parent has rocked their crying baby late at night, desperately wondering how they can get their newborn to fall asleep. According to Parents, babies don’t need complete silence to sleep; they often find white noise comforting. With the Sleep Baby Sleep app, you can soothe your baby with a variety of white noise tracks to help them drift off to dreamland. New parents need as much sleep as they can get, and the Sleep Baby Sleep app is a lifesaver!
As a first-time parent, your smartphone is probably going to be by your side most of the time given that it can be used to track your baby’s data, stores essential ebooks, and act as a mobile Netflix theater, MP3 player, and camera to capture precious moments. If your smartphone isn’t super reliable, it may be time for an upgrade, and prepaid wireless plans can ensure that your data usage is covered when you’re stuck without Wi-Fi and it can prevent you from getting stuck with overage charges. When raising your first child, your smartphone will be your trusty sidekick.
There’s no denying that parenting is tough and working is tough, but the right tools can make it easier and doable. A loving partner, supportive friends and relatives, and help from a few useful apps will go a long way toward helping you stay organized and prepared for everything that comes your way.
The role of "supportive spouse" is one many claim. Fewer stand out as shining examples. Doug Emhoff, husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris, appears to be a stand out.
One stand-out trait we often see in supportive spouses is self-confidence. And Mr. Emoff appears to possess it in spades.
The Second Gentleman is not the first Vice President's spouse to be an attorney. That was Marilyn Quayle. He's not the first Vice President's spouse to pursue his career, albeit a scaled back one, while his spouse holds office; others have already paved that path. But he is the first man in the United States to be married to the Vice President.
Emhoff recently said, "I understand I am the first gentleman to hold this role, and I certainly do not want to be the last. So I do want to set an example for those in the future who can look back at the way I've approached it, and hopefully that will help them as well." In terms of providing new and unique role models for our children, and ourselves, the Harris-Emhoff team has delivered.
Regardless of your political opinons, feelings and dealings, many are likely to agree that the first Second Gentleman is likely to set a valuable example that others will consider in the future.
Submitted by Lacie Martin
Working parents who want to earn money on the side may want to consider these five ways to make bank.
Establish a Firm Foundation
Whatever direction you choose, starting out properly ensures you don’t get into any trouble with your new venture, and prepares you for future growth. Begin by verifying that your location and vocation don’t require any special permits. Some areas limit where businesses can be established, and some industries require certifications.
Along those same lines, you should also consider forming a limited liability company for your business. In addition to protecting your personal income from your store’s income and liability, starting an LLC can also result in tax advantages and less paperwork. The rules and regulations covering LLCs vary from state to state, although this part is simplified by partnering with a formation service.
And while it might feel like something only a bigger company would require, take the time to draw up a business plan. It’ll help you frame your goals with logical steps, and if you need any seed money, it’ll help to impress lenders.
Working and parenting is a challenge and a little extra cash sometimes enables you to purchase a little peace of mind. Why not look to the Internet for a bank account boost?
Submitted by Amanda Henderson with Safe Children
If your children constantly beg for cookies or sugary fruit juices, it can be hard to figure out how to get them on a path to a healthier lifestyle. It all begins with you. The example you set about nutrition and exercise can help them grow into healthy adults, and the great news is that keeping your kids healthy doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are three ways that you can help your kids make healthy choices while sticking to a budget.
It doesn’t take a lot of work to establish healthy habits, and practice always helps them stick. By being a role model for your children and keeping communication open about everything from how much something costs to why it’s good for you, you can lay the foundation for establishing healthy habits that last a lifetime.
Many parents are expressing concern about their kids' educations during the pandemic. They fear their kids are falling behind and not learning as much as they need to. They fear they'll never "catch up". Is this fear reasonable? Or is Is it possible that the pandemic is providing unique opportunities for kids to learn lessons that are more important than those they learn in the classroom?
On a recent episode of the 1A radio show, "The Pandemic is the Worst. What Can We Do to Keep Coping?", Shankar Vedantam, commented (at 25:45 min), "Many parents and many educators make the mistake of assuming that education is mostly about what you learn in school ... There has been a lot of research that shows that ... softer skills are in many ways a better predictor of how people will do over the long term than their cognitive learning, than the stuff that they actually learn in classrooms." Shankar goes on to explain how the pandemic is providing great opportunities for parents to help their kids develop some very valuable soft skills.
Rather than worrying about what our kids aren't learning right now, maybe we should focus on the unique educational opportunities that are all around us. Thanks to Shankar Vedantam for reminding us that the learning never ends when we recognize the lessons. He also provides examples of some of the unique lessons that exist because of the pandemic.
Submitted by Lacie Martin
When you become a parent, financial planning is about more than incidentals. Raising a family requires a specific set of tools and resources to help you establish a solid financial ground that will enable you and your children to reap rewards in the future. Here are some ideas to help you get started on financial planning as a parent and obtain peace of mind.
Consider Going Back to School
Is a lack of education limiting your income and therefore your lifestyle? If you have been pondering a return to school to increase your overall financial well being and your marketability in the job market, an MBA from a reputable business school is a great option for many. An MBA is a great tool to not only help you get ahead in the corporate job market, but it also will provide you with skills that will help you be a better leader. This training often has positive effects realized outside of the office too. It can even help you become a better parent.
Choose the Right Home Loan
For new parents who are looking to buy a home for the first time, the process can be overwhelming. From choosing the right neighborhood for your family to negotiating a price with the seller, you’ll have a lot on your plate. You'll probably need to take out a home loan—with various options on the market, where do you begin?
The best way to determine which type of home loan is right for you is by doing your research. Keep in mind that you’ll need to look at your financial situation before choosing which loan to take out. For example, if you’re unable to put down 20 percent, then an FHA loan will be ideal. For this type of loan, you don’t need a perfect credit history to qualify.
Look Into Life Insurance
If something should happen to you, will your family be OK? Life insurance is a financial backup plan for your children in case you are no longer able to provide for them. Dual income households may opt for insurance that covers the income of both partners. Single income families might focus on replacing the primary earner’s income through insurance coverage, as well as the costs associated with the services that would need to be purchase if a stay-at-home parent were to pass.
Common insurance options for families include whole life insurance and term life insurance. Whole life insurance can be complicated; it offers different types of coverage for various scenarios. Options include variable, universal, and variable universal coverage. Coverage is lifelong and has an investment component. You don’t pay taxes on the funds as they grow, because the tax is deferred. Plus, death benefits are guaranteed.
Term life insurance guarantees a financial payout to your beneficiaries if anything happens to you. Coverage is often more straightforward with term versus whole life insurance, and prices are typically lower. However, term life insurance is for a set period of time instead of your entire life. Terms typically vary between 5 and 30 years. For families, term life insurance can be an excellent investment because you can set the term to coincide with your children’s ages.
With either type of life insurance, you should seek a comprehensive quote that considers your unique circumstances and lifestyle needs.
Invest in an Emergency Fund
What happens if your car needs a costly repair, you encounter an unexpected medical expense or you need to travel unexpectedly to help a friend or family member? Saving money is a crucial part of raising a family, and you may face higher expenses once you welcome a baby into your life. But most Americans with children have more cash in their savings than their single and childless counterparts, according to CNBC.
Having enough funds in the bank to cover three to 12 months of living expenses is ideal, according to Chime, and this point has been driven home as the entire world has been dealing with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider potential emergency scenarios such as health problems, vehicle accidents, and home repairs, and plan accordingly.
Plan for Your Child’s Future
The best time to start thinking about the cost of your child's education is the minute they're born - or sooner. Saving takes time, and the longer you wait, the harder it becomes. With the rising cost of education today, some parents can expect to foot the bill for as much as $250,000 for their children’s college tuition in the next 20 years. Saving for college can prevent your child from accruing educational loan debt. It can also prevent them from missing out on higher education if they don’t qualify for financial aid because of your income level.
For younger children, daycare and preschool costs are another consideration. Fortunately, tax benefits like child tax, child and dependent care, adoption tax, and earned income credits can help defer costs each year.
Ultimately, you should also consider who will care for your children if you are unable to. Writing a legal will covers this aspect of planning for your child’s future, including who will act as their legal guardian if something should happen to yo.
Don’t Forget About Retirement
Planning for retirement is as vital as covering your kids’ well-being via healthcare and insurance. According to the IRS, there are multiple retirement programs with tax benefits for you and your employer. Again, time is your friend, so start planning for your retirement today.
Common retirement options include:
Photo credit: Pixabay
Submitted by Rob Mapley
Just about everyone has a COVID story. My wife, Heidi, and I are no different.
As working parents with two kids, a daughter in college and a son in high school, we never expected to find either one of us, let alone both of us, looking for a new job in the midst of a pandemic. But here we are. Both of us have been laid off, so we're looking for work. Our attitudes? Bring it on!
One of our children has been schooling from home for a while, and the other just arrived home from college and will be staying through the New Year's holiday. So we're organizing for success ... which just happens to be Heidi's specialty. Here's our plan of attack which other working parents may find useful as we all strive to juggle supporting our online students with working from home (or in our case looking for work from home).
These tried and true techniques have always worked in the past, and most people we know would agree that 2020 has been a very different year. We believe that we may need to wash our hands of the 'tried' and social distance ourselves away from some of the 'true' and mask up some modern approaches as we navigate new careers during this time.
Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the US Supreme Court yesterday. Much of the news coverage has highlighted the fact that she is the mother of seven children who have not yet graduated from high school. Her youngest is a special needs child. Her spouse has his own demanding career.
New parents wondering what's possible in terms of balancing family and work, may want to keep an eye on Associate Justice Barrett. She appears to be helping to set a new precedent.
Submitted by Couch-Based Biz
If you’re a parent working from home, you might be wondering how to best support your children with remote learning. Figuring out how to structure your days can be complicated, and you may be worried that in order to properly manage your time and get everything done, you’ll have to splurge on expensive services or equipment. Couch-Based Biz understands what you’re going through, and we’ve got some tips on how to handle your workload, help your children with their schoolwork, and do it all without stretching your budget.
Start With Home Safety
While you’re working, you may not be able to keep an eye on your children at all times. Therefore, it’s important to create a safe environment for them in your home. You can make your home safer without spending a dime! Safewise recommends putting away any toys lying around so that no one trips, storing any sharp kitchen objects in secure places, and explaining to your child that they should not answer the door unless you’re in the room.
Plan Ahead for the Week
Use the weekend to prepare for the week ahead. Meal prepping is a great way to save time and money - when you already have meals ready in the fridge, you won’t end up spending on takeout during the week. Delish recommends buying ingredients in bulk and utilizing a slow cooker to make family-size meal portions.
On Sunday, help your children with any homework they haven’t completed. And if your children have assignments they’ve been struggling with, connect with their teacher to see if they can help. It’s best to take care of this before Monday morning!
You’ll have to put in extra effort to stay productive while working from home while your children learn remotely. Work-from-Home Depot recommends establishing a morning routine for your family and blocking off time for yourself in the evening to get some extra work done. It’s also important to set workday boundaries with your kids - let them know when you’ll be busy in your home office and when you’ll be available to lend a hand.
Virtual tools to help you stay on task can be very helpful, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on pricey software. You can often download free time tracking apps, project management platforms, and even website blockers.
Your child needs a reliable laptop for writing papers, doing research, and tuning in for their virtual lessons. A laptop can be an expensive device, but you can easily find discounts if you shop online. Better yet, wait for seasonal savings on Black Friday or Cyber Monday to get a great deal on a new laptop if you need one.
Invest in Technology
Your child’s teacher may choose to “gamify” learning to help students stay engaged. Perhaps your younger children will participate in an online coding camp, or your teenager will need a virtual reality headset for interactive lessons.
If you need to purchase special devices for these lessons, stick to online shopping, or wait for a sale. Furthermore, you may need to upgrade your Internet connection to something more robust. Talk to your provider to negotiate for a great deal!
Go for Easy
To help keep stress levels at a minimum, look for affordable ways to make life easier when you can. Turn to online grocery delivery to eliminate shopping, dress for comfort (particularly if you’re caring for an infant amidst all of this!), or even hire a reasonably-priced cleaning service. Every little bit can go a long way toward helping you limit stress and anxiety.
The switch to remote work and virtual education has challenged many families. But it’s not too late to get back on track and make this arrangement work for you. These tips will help you perform well at your own job, make sure your child benefits from online learning, and save money while you get it all done.