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Teaching children tolerance in an age of intolerance

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Why is the message of tolerance and inclusion an important message for children to hear today?

by Kevin Christofora

One of my favorite metaphors is that of the American ‘melting pot’: this idea that our country is made up of a whole host of ethnicities, religions, and viewpoints that all come together to create something beautiful and new. America is a place of diversity and therefore, a place for tolerance. Some people treat “tolerance” as a modern buzzword, but it’s a core value of America, and always has been.

As a little league coach and the author of The Hometown All Stars, I do my best to be a positive influence in the lives of players, readers, and parents, and aid in difficult conversations. Parents of my players will use me for leverage by saying to their little ones, “Remember, Coach said…” In my books as well as my coaching, I truly hope to share meaningful lessons of compassion and empathy.

That’s why I believe it’s our responsibility to teach children the importance of tolerance and inclusion, and to start doing so early. Studies show that children as young as six months old can recognize race, and that at as young as three years children can even express bias based on race. While a lot of this may just boil down to the way our brains try to simplify things and make them easier to understand, it does mean that it’s essential to teach young ones to embrace difference early. Truly, they’re never too young to learn about tolerance, inclusion, and how our differences are things to celebrate rather than fear.

The first way we teach children is by example. Notice the way you speak at home, especially about people of different backgrounds or philosophies. Your kids will pick up on what you say— and what you leave unsaid. Even implied negativity can influence the way young ones view the world, and the other people in it.

You can also talk to your kids about tolerance and inclusion by paying attention to opportunities that are already there. Did someone in your child’s class get teased about their religion or ethnicity? When your kids bring up stories like this, it’s because they want to talk about them. They already know, intuitively, that something is wrong and they’re looking to you to help them understand it. When you talk about the given issue or story with them, focus on empathy and getting them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Finally, celebrate the people in your family’s life who are different from you: your neighbors, family friends, teachers, and community leaders. These people reflect the American melting pot: they likely are of different races, ethnicities, religions, and ideologies, but they aren’t so different from you and your family. Your kids will learn tolerance and inclusion just by living it; it will be normal for them, and they will grow into accepting and empathetic adults.

Talk to your kids about tolerance and inclusion early, and it will always be part of their lives. Teach them to be empathetic, accepting, and to celebrate the differences of others. Then, their actions will always be in line with the foundational value of the American melting pot, and will make the world a better place.

Kevin Christofora

Christofora, a father and little league coach, hopes his books will inspire children to play outside more often. A devotee of America’s pastime, he aims to teach young people about baseball and the habits of a healthy lifestyle in the form of a fun and educational bedtime story.
He has appeared on ABC News, ESPN Radio, 660 News Radio, Santa Fe – KVSF 101.5, and WDST-FM Woodstock, and has had articles featured in About Families OnlineKidzEdgeMom Blog Society, and several other publications.

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Eat & DrinkLifestyleParenting

Cooking With Kids: How To Keep Them Safe And Happy In The Kitchen

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Photo via Pixabay by Mccartyv

While it may seem like the last place you want to let a child loose, the kitchen is actually a great place to teach some lifelong lessons and bond with your little one. Baking and cooking can introduce concepts related to science and math and can teach responsibility; it can also boost self-esteem and confidence, two things many children don’t have enough of.

Of course, there are many safety precautions you’ll need to take. Being safe at the stove and around utensils is the priority, and teaching your child what to do in case of a fire–and how to prevent it from happening in the first place–is extremely important. It may seem like a lot of planning for something that may never happen, but knowing that your child has the right skills and knowledge to get through anything the kitchen may throw at them will give you peace of mind and keep everyone safe and happy.

Here are some of the best things to go over with your child before they begin testing out their chef skills.

Practice fire safety

Talk to your kids about the best fire safety practices. They likely know a little bit about the dangers of fire from school, where they go through drills to keep them safe in the event of an emergency. Think of your time in the kitchen together as a similar form of preparedness and go over the best ways to prevent accidents, such as:

  • Never leaving towels or potholders near the stove
  • Knowing where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it
  • Double-checking to ensure all appliances are turned off when finished
  • Unplugging cords in a safe way
  • Never over-filling pots or pans

It’s also a good idea to make sure all smoke detectors are equipped with fresh batteries and that you have a carbon monoxide detector if your stove is gas-powered. For more tips on how to stay safe from fire hazards, click here.

Find kid-friendly recipes

Many recipes require quite a bit of chopping and measuring, so make sure you find some kid-friendly ones to try with your littles. Look for recipes that don’t have many ingredients and don’t require much cutting; when possible, chop up items before you begin cooking and put them in plastic bags for ease of use.

Set up the rules

It’s important for kids of all ages to learn the rules of the kitchen, which will keep everyone safe. This means washing hands before and after handling food, never tasting anything until it’s fully cooked, and using the right tools for the job. Have an assortment of different utensils–plastic, if possible–and make sure all items stay clean and dry.

Make it fun!

Cooking and baking are great ways to bond with your children and teach them about responsibility, but it should also just be plain old fun. Think of some ideas for seasonal recipes and spend some time learning how to wash, chop, and prepare the ingredients together.

Remember to stay patient as your children are learning the right ways to work in the kitchen; things may get a little messy, but for young ones, that’s half the fun. Talk to them about how to clean up after the work is done and keep the area neat and organized in order to start good habits early.

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FamilyHealthLifestyleParenting

Kids that can’t keep still build better brains

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Research shows physical activity fuels kids brains

A new study found that kids who get extra physical activity tend to pay more attention in school and perform better in subjects like reading and math. It’s important that parents find fun physical activities that kids will want to put down the controller and get off the couch to participate in, especially during the colder months when kids are developing cabin fever from staying indoors all day.

Kilian Saekel, CEO of A-Champs, an interactive gaming system that encourages kids to move and play, offers the following ideas on physical activities that kids can do in the comfort of their living room to fuel their brains:

  • Throw a dance party– Kids love dancing and they tend not to think of it as a physical activity, but it does raise your heart rate a significant amount if you throw yourself into it! Crank up some music and let kids create their own dance routines, have dance-off contests, or put on classics like the Macarena and the Electric Slide for choreographed fun.
  • Living room obstacle course– Set up an obstacle course in your living room with stations such as crawling under a sheet or through a tunnel, hopscotch using hula hoops, carrying a ping pong ball on a spoon from one side of the room to the other and rolling up towels to use as a balance beam. You can also have kids use their imagination to create their own stations.
  • Creative twist on reading– Read a book aloud together with your child and when they want to pass the reading duties along to another person they have to do an exercise move such as a jumping jack, sit up or push up.
  • Set the stage– Have kids make up a play or reenact an existing story that involves them acting out different motions such as swimming across an ocean, climbing up a tree or running a marathon. Parents can also shout out different actions that the children have to incorporate into their stories.
  • Put on a video– Introduce kids to new forms of exercise by putting on instructional videos for yoga poses or Zumba and Tae Bo moves. Introduce at least one new pose or move every week and have kids do reps of each one every day.
  • Stick to what kids love – Kids love technology and there are various apps and games that aim to get kids off the couch and participating in physical activities. NFL Play 60 and ROXs are both great options to expose kids to tech without sitting in front of a television.

 

 

 

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EducationParentingUncategorized

How Social Learning is Critical for Academic Success

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The character Sheldon Cooper from the CBS TV show “The Big Bang Theory” is a familiar example from popular culture of an individual who has achieved impressive academic success but experiences difficulty and conflict in his relationships and work life due to his social limitations. While this show provides comedic entertainment for its audience, it also demonstrates a very real struggle for many children: social development and success.

 Social development is an ongoing, lifelong process, but the social learning that occurs in childhood is essential for building and maintaining fulfilling relationships, receiving social acceptance, and ultimately achieving a successful career as adults.

What is social learning?

When we think about social learning, we typically focus on social skills, or the specific behaviors that are expected given a situation (e.g., staying on topic when making a comment during a conversation). However, underlying these skills is “social thinking,” specifically the cognitive processes of figuring out the thoughts, feelings, motives and beliefs of those around us and adjusting our behavior accordingly to ensure that everyone in the social setting is comfortable. Via social thinking we are able to assign meaning to the words and actions of others and read the contextual cues of the social environment, which are critical for social, emotional and academic success, as well as professional fulfillment in the long-term.

How social learning influences academics

Simply being in a classroom is a social situation with expected behaviors that are conducive to learning. The behavior of a student with social-thinking difficulties can interfere with the academic learning of self and peers. For example, interrupting others and lack of volume regulation can both disrupt the attention, processing, and understanding that are required for learning. Social learning also has a direct bearing on the ability to work in a group and engage in cooperative learning.

Social learning can also influence specific academic areas such as reading comprehension and writing. Successful comprehension of the curriculum, particularly as students advance in school, requires social inferencing, understanding figurative language, and engaging in perspective taking. The task of writing requires social thinking in order to take another’s perspective while formulating a persuasive argument or describing a character’s emotions, beliefs, and intentions during narration.

Social difficulties that may affect students with learning differences

Because many types of learning disorders can yield social learning difficulties, students with learning differences may require social thinking intervention to help them with:

●      Perspective taking
●      Relating to peers
●      Making and maintaining friendships
●      Conversation (e.g., initiating and maintaining topics, using comments and questions to expand the           conversation, and avoiding the interruption of others)
●      Working with peers in groups
●      Reading contextual cues of situations to guide expected behavior
●      Understanding the words, actions, and nonverbal cues of others
●      Social wondering
●      Emotional regulation

Fostering social learning alongside academics

Students with social learning difficulties that require additional social thinking intervention can benefit from knowledgeable educators who can address social challenges as they occur in the classroom, on the playground, and at the lunch tables. For instance, a student may need his teacher to help him notice and interpret the contextual cues of the classroom situation (i.e., test papers on desks, students working independently, and silence in the classroom) in order to identify and execute the expected behavior, which is to sit down quietly and begin taking the test.

While public schools are not required to teach social skills, there are other solutions such as external social-skills classes, occupational therapy and private schools that serve students with learning differences. Academic achievement alone will not lead to success in life without healthy social skill development.  Adequate social learning during childhood can yield great professional and personal success.

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FamilyLifestyleParentingTech

Osmo adds STEAM to kids’ coding with new music creator system

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Coding Jam is the latest gameplay system that teaches kids to code while they play

The other day my son commanded Google Home to play a custom playlist he had created on a Pandora. Two things occurred to me about this. First, wow. The digitally connected future vision of the The Jetsons was coming true; and then, my more mundane thought was, “That music is awful. My 10-year-old child could write better arrangements,” and thanks to Osmo, he can.

Like many other kids who love video games, my son craves leveling up and learning how to improve his skills, and Osmo has harnessed this excitement in a new technology experience, Coding Jam, that allows kids to create music through basic coding. Using colored building blocks and a system that interacts with an iPad or iPhone, kids can arrange and play musical notes in strings and sequences to write their own tunes.

The coding system, designed for kids 5-12, was created by former Google techs as the next generation of award-winning Osmo STEAM-fueled hand-on gameplay that helps children learn valuable coding skills that they can build upon to understand more complex coding, i.e., become the next genius engineers to save the world, or at least they can have fun and create some cool music.

The system works by helping kids learn music fundamentals such as chord progressions, leading into patterns and sequences. As they get to know coding’s creative side, they develop an ear for rhythm, melody and harmony. And more good news for parents: new research finds that high-school students who studied music appreciation scored 61 points better on their verbal SATs and 42 points better on their math SATs.

Once their arrangements are composed, kids can safely share their jammer mixes with family and friends. As they build the system with more blocks, they can create literally millions of combinations and programming options.

Here’s a short glimpse at what the experience is like: https://youtu.be/E9eAMARTnAk.

Osmo system are available at Amazon, Target, ToysRUs and online at the Osmo store.

 

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EducationFamilyLifestyleParenting

Five Back-to-School Body Language Tips to Fight off Bullies

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Expert gives tips for children on posture to express confidence and strength

Going back to school should be an exciting time in every child’s or teen’s life. They get to see their friends after the summer break and make new ones. However, a lot of students are faced with severe anxiety and stress when a new school year comes around. Whether it’s facing the school bully, not having the confidence to raise their hand and participate in class or even just trying to make friends, a student’s body language can become a tool to turn the social and scholastic experience of school into a positive one. Body language and image expert, Yana German, shares tips for students on how to pass the school year with flying colors.

German’s personal story inspired her to help other children who are bullied. After relocating to the US during her teenage years due to anti- semitism in her native Belarus, German became an easy target for bullies at school. “ My parents couldn’t afford much, so most of my clothing came from refugee charities,” explains German. “Kids would make fun of me because I wasn’t dressed well and would throw food at me during lunch,” continues German. The bullying got to the point where German had to drop out of school for a year in order to get her confidence back and continue her education. Today, German is a mother to two daughters and shares her body language tips to ward off bullies.

One of the most important tips is to keep an open posture. “Parents should always encourage their kids to stand up straight with their head and chin up,” says Yana. “Having great posture will instantly boost your confidence. Pulling your shoulders back and opening your chest is one quick fix that works wonders. Not only does it make you taller it boosts your inner confidence,” explains German.

When a student is talking to another child he/she should always look them in the eye. “Nothing gives away your fear more than not looking at the person you are speaking to.” says German. “Looking someone in the eye and maintaining that contact for as long as you can is a great non-verbal way of expressing your confidence,” adds German.

When someone is bullied it’s really hard, if not impossible to respond with empathy. “Shy and vulnerable kids are usually easy targets for bullies. That’s why it’s really important to smile,” suggests German. “Smiling serves as your barrier towards any negativity, and bullies rarely target children who seem to be happy, calm and radiate good energy,” adds German. When a student rarely smiles, it can be a warning sign of low self-esteem.

When we are feeling self-conscious, we naturally tend to become “smaller.” We want to shrink away into the room so that nobody notices us. This means  we may hunch over, hide in a corner and cross our arms and legs until we almost disappear. German says the best way to gain confidence is to physically take up more space than usual. “If you are standing, take a wider stance than usual, put your arms on your hips. If you are sitting with a desk in front of you, use your arms on the desk to take up space.”German says. “This will make you feel more powerful and instantly give you more confidence.”

Relax your arms and open up your shoulders. “When a child or teen crosses his/her arms, it sends out a defensive signal that they want to be left alone,” explains German.  “He can put his hands in his pockets if he feels awkward holding his arms by his side. What’s important is that he keeps his torso open.  When the child’s arms at their side and they face the other child heart to heart it shows others he’d like to make new friends.”

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EducationParenting

Combating learning loss over school breaks

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Preventing academic backsliding takes effort

Kids are back to school, and parents, kids, teachers and just about everyone agrees, summer is too short. But educators all agree that one aspect of summer makes it too long, and that is learning loss. This is defined as the amount of education that children forget over their summer break.
After approximately two months, researchers point out that kids can lose up to 30% of their educational gains during the year. Parents have many options to combat learning loss, including working with teachers to come up with a summer study program, whereby children dedicate a portion of their day to learning activities, specifically reading, writing, and arithmetic. The problem is that many parents work and don’t have time to teach their children at home, and this is too much of an ask for most nannies and babysitters. Experts day there are other options other than summer school; parents just have to know where to look.
Facilities like Groza Learning Center make combating learning loss a little easier for parents because they offer a variety of programs that can be designed around an individual child and the child and parents’ learning objectives. Programs like those at Groza Learning Center not only keep kids engaged over the summer, they can help associate summer fun with learning, to help children develop a positive attitude about schooling.
The number of hours a child needs to be involved in educational activities over the summer varies child to child, but generally at least a couple hours per day can help children retain more of their learning, and most experts agree structured programs also contribute to good discipline and good habits that a child can carry on beyond schooling.
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AutomobilesFamilyLifestyleParenting

Auto maker address deadly mistake of kids left in cars

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More children get left in cars during back-to-school season

GMC has announced a new vehicle feature to help prevent caregivers from accidentally leaving children in cars, which can be a fatal mistake in hot weather. GMC’s “Rear Seat Reminder” is an industry-first technology intended to help remind the driver to look in the rear seat before exiting the vehicle under certain circumstances.

GMC’s protective feature will be standard in the new 2018 GMC Terrain.  The technology does not actually detect objects or people in the rear seat but monitors rear door usage for up to 10 minutes before or during a trip, and when the driver turns off the vehicle.  An alarm sounds five chimes and displays a warning on the driver information center screen, prompting a second look in the back seat. A GMC staff engineer and mother of two, Tricia Morrow, led the development of the technology.

It is as tragic statistic that about half of the heatstroke deaths of children under age 14 occur because caregivers mistakenly leave children in cars. Since 1998, more than 660 children across the United States have died from heatstroke when unattended in a vehicle. During September’s back-to-school season and Baby Safety Month, Safe Kids Worldwide warns that changes in caregivers’ routines can lead to children being forgotten in cars.

Young children are particularly at risk as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s.  When a child’s internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.

Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization of 400 coalitions across the U.S. and funded by General Motors, developed a system called ACT to help remind caregivers not to leave children in cars.  The acronym focuses on avoiding heatstroke by never leaving a child in a car, creating reminders that a child is riding in the car, and taking action by calling 911 if a child is left alone in a car.

Safe Kids warns that children get left behind by loving, caring parents simply because they become distracted, and that these accidences are more common with new parents who are sleep-deprived or when a parent’s routine is disrupted.

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Education

How to Teach Children Financial Literacy

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Fiscal responsibility is not  taught in schools but essential for children to learn

Nearly one quarter of US states receive a failing grade when it comes to teaching kids personal finance in schools. Twelve states don’t attempt to teach it at all. This could be one of the reasons that only 35% of credit card users don’t carry a balance and pay off their bill every month, and that only 1 in 3 Americans is saving for retirement. We don’t expect kids to learn how to read, write or drive without instruction, but another essential life skill, money management is ignored for the most part.

As children come of age to receive allowance or earn money, parents should take the initiative to supplement their kids lacking personal finance education at school with lessons at home. Use these tips to determine how and where to start.

  1. Check Out Your Schools – Visit your school to see what (if anything) is being taught about personal finance or if personal finance is required to graduate high school. Once you have this information, you can determine your next moves to ensure your kids know how to manage money when the time comes. With a majority of U.S. high school students failing to learn about money, there’s a good chance your children won’t either.

 

  1. Leave Books To The Adults – There are thousands of books available on finance and managing money, but don’t waste your cash buying these for your kids. Kids learn best by doing, so sitting down with a book that explains percentage rates, credit, loans or budgeting won’t leave a long lasting impression. They would learn more from watching movies like “Moneyball” or “The Big Short”.

 

  1. Use Teachable Moments – Each we are faced with numerous financial decisions that you could use as a “teachable moment” for your children. The next time you are grocery shopping, show your child how to compare prices and brands. If you’re paying bills, let your child sit with you and see how you manage money.

 

  1. Look Differently at Chores & Allowance – While a majority of parents agree that kids should be doing chores and receiving an allowance, some parents feel money shouldn’t be the reason kids help around the house. It’s those parents who should look at chores and allowance differently. Think of it as a child’s first job and a parents first chance to teach them everything they need to know (work ethic, direct deposit, budgeting, opening bank account, taxes, etc) before they head off to get a real job someday.

 

  1. Learn As Family – Many parents don’t like to talk to their children about money because they believe they aren’t knowledgable enough. If you are one of these parents, jump in and learn with your children. You’re never too old to learn, erase bad habits or set good examples. Plus doing it with your children could be fun!

 

  1. Practice What You Preach – If you already practice good personal finance habits, congratulations! If not, this is a great time to start. In either case, practice what you preach to your children since the greatest influence on your child is you.

 

  1. Understand, No One Is Perfect! – Let’s face it, if everyone was great at managing money there would be little National Debt, no bankruptcy and everyone would have a savings account. So except these facts and do something to get better at it. I believe we are so afraid of what our children will think about our bad financial status that we forget how the current situation could be a great lesson. Don’t let your pride get in the way of teaching your children how NOT to make the same mistakes.

 

  1. Don’t Quit! – This might be the hardest thing of all. Being good at money management is a never-ending process. However your kids are going to be faced with hundreds of thousands of financial decisions in their lifetime, so you never get to the point where you can stop teaching, supporting or guiding. Quitting now only puts them on a path to be living back with you when they are older, full of student loans and moving from job to job.

 

Gregg Murset is CEO of BusyKid is the first online chore chart where children can earn, save, share, spend and invest real money wisely. Formerly known as My Job Chart, BusyKid is easy to use, revolutionary and allows kids to receive a real allowance from their parents each Friday. No more points or trying to convert imaginary money.

 

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ParentingTravel

Single Parent Solo Travel Done Right

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Tips For Planning Ahead And Staying Safe

Single parents tend to be so busy taking care of their children, home, and work responsibilities that self care ends up at the bottom of the to-do list. Taking a vacation on your own is a great way to recharge, but there are some planning and safety tips that come in handy to ensure the trip goes well.

Traveling on your own takes planning, but can provide a much-needed reset

Parenting is stressful and doing the job alone can be especially difficult. For those working through addiction recovery, the stress at home can be overwhelming and may trigger a relapse if things build up too much. A solo vacation provides a great chance to reset; you will return feeling more capable of handling the chaos of everyday life.

Traveling as a single parent does take planning. You have to ensure that the kids will be taken care of while you are away, but you also have to take steps to ensure your own personal safety. Leave a detailed copy of your itinerary at home so that your kids know where you are and a caretaker has something to reference if things go wrong.

Back up documentation and let loved ones know your progress

Buzzfeed suggests uploading pictures or scans of all of your important documentation to a site like DropBox so you can access them on the go. Do this with items like your hotel and car reservations, ticket numbers, identification, and passport, and keep hard copies of key phone numbers and your itinerary with you at all times.

Plan regular check-ins with family or someone close to you. You may want to text, Skype, email, or call someone around the same time every day during your trip so they know you are doing well. Invest time in researching your destination thoroughly ahead of your trip so that you can focus on fun, safe places to be and won’t get stuck in a sketchy situation.

Exude confidence and trust your gut

Travel expert Rick Steve recommends that solo travelers be street smart when they are alone in an unfamiliar city. Walk with confidence and be prepared with maps, guidebooks, and cash wherever you go. If you end up confused or lost, head into a restaurant or store to ask for directions, or look for a family or woman who might help.

Be confident in saying no and trust your instincts, as you do not have to be polite to others if it risks your personal safety. Also, avoid identifying yourself as a solo traveler. For example, if you order room service, talk as if someone else is there with you. If you are in a cab or walking by yourself, make a fake phone call to make it sound as if someone is expecting you.

Don’t shy away from taking precautions

Smarter Travel notes that you should always carry identification, preferably more than one ID stashed in more than one place, and cushion your budget for unexpected needs. If you are out at night and the walk back to your room in the dark feels unsafe, spring for a taxi. Spend more for a secure hotel in a lively area rather than save a few bucks somewhere more remote that leaves you feeling isolated or unsafe.

Traveling solo as a single parent can reduce stress levels and help you recharge. For those in addiction recovery, solo travel is a chance for self-discovery and healing; a chance to get a break from triggers at home like contentious ex-partners or financial stress. Stay safe by being prepared and aware, and always exude confidence and trust your instincts. You don’t want to travel in a state of fear, but do prepare so you make it home safely feeling energized and refreshed.

 

[Image via Pixabay]

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