Live Healthy Live Well  is a team of Ohio State University Extension Educators and Specialist in Family and Consumer Sciences concerned with health and wellness.  Our goal is to help individuals improve their health through science-based information.  These educational messages are designed to encourage individuals to make informed choices about healthy eating, active living, overall improved wellness.

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Meal Prep for Busy Schedules

May 2, 2024 by taylor.4411

Healthy meal prep containers with chicken, rice, and vegetables.

Healthy meal prep containers with chicken, rice and vegetables

Do busy schedules have you struggling to find dinner ideas? Is there not enough time in the day to cook a family dinner? Learn how to become more efficient in the kitchen with meal prepping ideas to set your day up for success.

There are many different reasons why someone might choose to practice meal preparation. If you are asking yourself, “Why should I take the time to meal prep?” check out some of the benefits that go along with meal prep.

Benefits of Meal Prep

  • Save money
  • Save time
  • Can help with weight control, as you decide the ingredients and portions served
  • Can contribute to a more nutritionally balanced diet
  • Can reduce stress as you avoid last minute decisions about what to eat, or rushed preparation

Planning your Meal Prep

Since you are the one prepping the food, you can choose what ingredients you are using. If you are wanting to eat healthier meals, choose health-conscious ingredients. Some ideas for what to look for while you are shopping is:

  • Use low-fat cheese and low-fat, low-sodium soups.
  • With sharply flavored cheese, such as cheddar and parmesan, you can usually reduce the amount in a recipe without sacrificing flavor.
  • Try a non-stick cooking spray or a small amount of cooking oil for sautéing instead of a solid fat.
  • If you’re using ground beef, look for a low-fat variety or try using ground turkey as a lower fat alternative.
  • Check out frozen vegetable side dishes. Avoid ones with added cream, butter, salt, or cheese sauces. You can steam these vegetables quickly in the microwave.
  • Add fiber and plant-based protein like beans to vegetable soups and chili to improve the nutritional value.

Meal Prep Techniques

There is no right way to practice meal prep. One way is making a large batch of something and saving the leftovers to eat over multiple days. Another way to meal prep by making breakfast for each day of the week. I have really enjoyed overnight oats as an option. There are some techniques and recipes that have you make your meal in the small rectangle glass bowls and when they cool you pop the lid on to store. Find a few recipes you like and test them out. I find it easiest to prep meals on a Sunday, but make sure you choose a day that works best for your family. Check out these Simple Meal Planner Recipes.

Storage

The storage of your prepped foods is where food safety comes to play. The key to keeping your family healthy and happy is to follow these guidelines to ensure a safe and quality product.  

  • Label all prepped items with a date so that you can track when to use them by.
  • Rotate stored items so that the oldest foods/meals are kept up front.
  • Cooked meals tend to freeze well in airtight containers.
  • Foods with high moisture content, such as salad greens, tomatoes, or watermelon, are not recommended as they tend to become mushy when frozen and thawed.
  • Blanching vegetables for a few minutes before freezing can help.

The recommended storage times with refrigeration at 40°F or lower cooked foods are:

  • 1-2 days; poultry or ground beef
  • 3-4 days: Cooked whole meats, fish, and poultry; soups and stews
  • 5 days: Cooked beans; hummus
  • 1 week: Hard boiled eggs; chopped vegetables if stored in air-tight container
  • 2 weeks: Soft cheese, opened
  • 5-6 weeks: Hard cheese, opened

The recommended storage times with freezing at 0°F or lower cooked foods are:

  • 2-3 months: Soups and stews; cooked beans
  • 3-6 months: Cooked or ground meat and poultry
  • 6-8 months: Berries and chopped fruit (banana, apples, pears, plums, mango) stored in a freezer bag
  • 8-12 months: Vegetables, if blanched first for about 3-5 minutes (depending on the vegetable)

With busy summers beginning, starting to practice meal prep can have multiple benefits for you. Have a stress-free summer by utilizing some of these do ahead tips and techniques.

Written by: Megan Taylor, Family and Consumer Sciences/4-H Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Union County

Reviewed by: Jennifer Little, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator. Ohio State University Extension, Hancock County

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, August 16). Planning Meals and Snacks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/meals.html

Food Safety and Inspection Service. Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart | Food Safety and Inspection Service. (n.d.). https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation...

Meal Prep Guide. The Nutrition Source. (2020, October 2). https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/meal-prep/

Simple meal planner recipes. Extension. (2020, September 22). https://extension.unh.edu/resource/simple-meal-planner-recipes

Know 2 Protect Children Against Online Exploitation

April 30, 2024 by LittleJ

 

Child viewing computer screen in a dark room.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, but this spring also marks the launching of Know2Protect, an initiative of the Department of Homeland Security to help educate the public and prevent online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). According to a national youth survey, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 22.5% of young adults (18-28 years old) in the U.S. report having experienced some sort of online solicitation or technology-facilitated sexual abuse as a youth (<18 yrs of age).

Online CSEA, which includes a range of criminal acts against children for the sexual gratification or personal/financial gain of the perpetrators, has increased dramatically in recent years, including reports of over 88 million online images and videos of child sexual abuse, which is a 75% increase during the past 5 years. These reports do not include the additional child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) produced and shared on the non-public platforms within the dark web, which is estimated to include an enormous number of additional materials. With increased access to and use of technology among children and teens, the spaces for perpetrators to commit these crimes have only grown, and the issue of online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse is now classified as a global epidemic, affecting the most vulnerable in countries across the world. 

The purpose of Know2Protect is to “educate and empower children, teens, parents, trusted adults, and policymakers to prevent and combat online sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA); explain how to report online enticement and victimization; and offer response and support resources for victims and survivors of online child sexual exploitation” through an educational campaign. This project aims to:

  • Create public awareness of online CSEA
  • Teach strategies to prevent others from becoming victims of CSEA
  • Increase reporting of suspected online CSEA, and
  • Support survivors of online CSEA

One initiative of the Know2Protect campaign, Project iGuardianTM, provides in-person educational presentations by a team including trained Homeland Security special agents utilizing their expertise on the subject and their informed law enforcement perspective, as well as a teacher and student with knowledge of online CSEA.  Such presentations have led to actual reports and resulted in successful investigations and prosecutions- lessening future threats to other vulnerable young people. Target audiences for iGuardianTM presentations include schools, community organizations, employers and local non-profit groups that desire to protect their communities and others from online CSEA.  Readers may request a local presentation by emailing Project iGuardianTM at  iguardian.hq@hsi.dhs.gov

The Department of Justice offers specific tips to help keep children safe online:

  1. Talk to children about online risks.
  2. Know the apps/online platforms they use and whom they communicate with.
  3. Utilize parental controls and privacy settings.
  4. Report alarming posts or communications to local law enforcement. If the child may be in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. 

Also, if an act of online sexual abuse or exploitation has been committed, report the issue to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cyber Tipline at https://report.cybertip.org/

To learn more about what internet-based companies/services, government agencies and the private sector can do to decrease the risk of online forms of child abuse, the Broadband Commission has created a report “Child Online Safety: Minimizing the Risk of Violence, Abuse and Exploitation Online.”

Written by: Jennifer Little, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hancock County

Reviewed by: Megan Taylor, Family and Consumer Sciences/4-H Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Union County

References

 

Use the Good Dishes

April 25, 2024 by shumaker68

Last week my Mother-in-Law turned 80.  Also, (as seems to be tradition in our families) their 59th wedding anniversary was the next day. I think that is something to be celebrated with more than a card.  I asked if I could make them dinner.  Of course, this started a whole conversation about how it would be too much trouble and we could just go out to a restaurant. 

Image of a single place setting of fancy china and flatware.

That was the point.  They are worth the trouble.  They are worth getting out the good dishes. 

We all get busy with our day-to-day and some days it’s just all too much. Most days our everyday dishes are just fine.  Some days a paper plate (or maybe even a paper towel) is the thing so there are no dishes.  But some days, we all deserve to use the good dishes.  On a Tuesday. For no reason. What are you waiting for?

Consider the concept of “we are what we eat.”  Expand that to “where we eat.”  If you are eating standing up over the sink or at a tray table at the television, that’s not the most pleasant environment.  When we take the time to create an environment that is attractive and relaxing it can make the eating experience more enjoyable and the food taste better.  Lay out a tablecloth or placemat.  Use the good dishes or pick up some pretty or colorful dishes that just make you happy.  Drink out of a real glass.  Listen to some music.  The simplest meal can feel like fine dining if you let it. 

For our dinner, I broke out the china dishes from my grandmother that my dad had sent back home when he was stationed in Korea in the late 1960’s and my parents wedding flatware.  Both have rarely been used.  We had flowers on the table and balloons when they walked in the door. The meal was simple, Caesar salad, chicken Marsala with pasta, and roasted green beans… and of course birthday cake! 

I’m sure I’m not the only one with Grandma’s dishes.  You may even have more than one set of “good dishes”.  Let’s do more with them than collect dust. 

Written by: Kate Shumaker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Holmes County

Reviewed by: Laura Halladay, Family and Consumer Sciences Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension

Sources:

Creating Positive Eating Environments. Nutrition & Food Service Edge (2021). Association of Nutrition and Food Service Professionals. https://www.anfponline.org/docs/default-source/legacy-docs/docs/ce-artic...

Cultivating a Pleasant Eating Environment (2021). Behavioral Nutrition. https://behavioralnutrition.org/cultivating-pleasant-eating-environment/

 

April Showers Brings May Flowers

April 23, 2024 by llhalladay

Hello Spring seasonal greeting banner. 3d paper cut spring flowers tulips and narcissus on white spotted background and greeting text.

The other day, a friend said, “I think spring flowers are the prettiest,” and I would have to agree. I believe the appeal of spring flowers is deeper than just the visual appeal of the flowers themselves but also the joy we experience being reminded of beauty and life after winter. It is not your imagination; spring brings us joy. The dawn of spring brings longer days, increased exposure to sunlight, and warmer weather that gets us outside and moving. All these factors contribute to an increase in our body’s production of serotonin. The hormone and neurotransmitter serotonin help regulate our mood by reducing the feeling of sadness and influence our learning, memory, and happiness. Serotonin is a natural mood booster released by exercise, exposure to sun or bright light, and the natural environment.

Flowers have a positive impact on your mood, especially the act of giving or receiving flowers. Research by Dr. Jeannette Haviland-Jones and team shows that in three different studies, receiving flowers stimulates positive emotions, improves mood, and contributes to positive social behaviors.

I am not much of a gardener, but one thing I enjoy every spring is the variety of daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips that bloom each year. I love to cut some of these and bring them to bring joy into the house; this year, we placed them on the mantel and changed the arrangement each week; it not only brightened the space but also gave us an amazing fragrance that even on these rainy April days reminded me that spring has arrived.

Hand holding bouquet of flowers on background of blue wood.

Consider incorporating spring bulbs in your garden for next year or planting a variety of bulbs in a container to enjoy a beautiful spring display. Don’t wait for a special occasion to gift fresh flowers; growing a garden, harvesting flowers, and gifting fresh flowers are scientifically proven ways to feel fulfilled and to share joy and positivity with others.

Written by: Laura Halladay, Family and Consumer Sciences Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewed by: Kate Shumaker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Holmes County

References:

Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Serotonin: What is it, Function & Levels. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22572-serotonin

Haviland-Jones, J., Rosario, H. H., Wilson, P., & McGuire, T. R. (2005). An Environmental Approach to Positive Emotion: Flowers. Evolutionary Psychology, 3, 104–132.

Pokorny, K. (2023, July 3). Pot up some bulbs and dream of Spring. https://extension.oregonstate.edu/news/pot-some-bulbs-dream-spring-0

Photo Credit:
Hand Holding Bouquet © [powerstock] / Adobe Stock
Hello Spring © [ludmila_m] / Adobe Stock

 

Be Happy – Plan a Debt Free, Stress-Free Vacation 

April 18, 2024 by lisabarlage

suitcase full of sand with beach umbrellaDid you know that just planning a vacation can actually make you happier. By planning your vacation ahead of time you: 

  • Give yourself excitement about the upcoming trip. You can anticipate the fun and memories you will have with family or friends. 
  • Prevent the stress of vacation expenses, by allowing time to save ahead and spreading out the cost. 
  • Plan work or family time so that you can more easily take the time off – almost half of Americans don’t take the all the leave time that they are offered. Don’t be one of those! You need to take days off so you can recharge your batteries.  

When you start your vacation planning, make sure that setting a budget is one of the first things you do. Set a maximum budget and keep in mind your family budget. While thinking about where you will go, have family/friend meetings so that everyone has input. Keep in mind the things that each of you enjoy – history buff, beach or nature lover, or sports or shopping enthusiast. Is there an area you can visit that has things for everyone? 

As you plan for your vacation, especially your budget, here are some of the things to have on your list: 

  • Travel – both to and from your location, and how you will get around when you are there. 
  • Accommodations – hotel, resort, stay with family, or vacation rental. 
  • Food and drinks – All inclusive, packed food on the go (driving), dining–in and dining-out (condo), eat out all the time (international hotel) etc. 
  • Entertainment – tickets, shows, games, or tours. 
  • Equipment or apparel – do you need special equipment (ski trip), a new suitcase, or travel charger for electronic devices? Pre-trip expenses can be a big portion of your total trip costs 
  • Gifts and souvenirs – do you need to set a budget for each person? Sometimes this area can get out of control. 
  • Pet or house sitter – do you need to pay someone to take care of pets you can’t take with you? 

As you are working on your trip budget, figure out how much you need to save per week/month to have enough for your adventure. An example – your trip should cost $3000 – you have already saved $1250, you are counting on $200 (that you don’t need to save) you would typically spend for food anyway (groceries and a few meals out), so you need to save $1550 over the next 4 months. Can you save $387 per month? Could you work an overtime shift to make a little extra money or have a garage sale to raise some? Keep in mind that some of your expenses might have to be paid ahead of your trip – tour or plane tickets or lodging deposits.  

If you would like to use an online travel budget worksheet – try this one from doughroller.net. America Saves also great planning sources that you may want to check out as well. If you want to hear some of the vacation saving tips that our team has to share, check out our recent webinar posted here.  

We can’t wait to hear about your amazing, and hopefully debt free vacations. 

Writers: OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Science Educators, Melissa Rupp, Tammy Jones, and Lisa Barlage. 

Reviewer: Ryan Kline, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ross County. 

 

Simple Wellness Tips

April 15, 2024 by bethstefura

In the office of a local school is a poster that reads Simple Wellness Habits. Reading through these tips I love the simplicity and the powerful message of each suggestion. It is a great reminder in our busy lives to take a few moments daily to engage in these suggestions and focus on our health and wellness. I encourage you to choose a few of these tips daily to develop habits to improve your journey into wellness. These simple wellness tips include:

  • Move for 2-5 minutes every hour.
  • Stretch for a minute every hour.
  • Go outside at lunch or after work.
  • Plan your evening the day before.
  • Send someone a nice message.
  • Eat dinner before 7:00 pm.
  • Make sure one meal each day has no added sugar.
  • Restrict screen time after 9:00 pm.
  • Do a 15-minute workout every day.
  • Start or maintain a gratitude journal.
  • Blast cold water at the end of a hot shower.
  • Sip water often.

Remember, you do not have to do everything on this list, and you do not have to do it all at once! There may be times when you are more focused on your physical wellness and times when you are working on your mental, emotional or social wellness. You also may have your own simple tips not on this list that you incorporate daily into your routine that keep you energized and healthy.

If you are at increased risk for or are managing a certain condition, paying attention to your numbers (blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.) may be your primary focus when it comes to healthy habits. In this regard, the American Heart Association offers 8 lifestyle tips to promote heart health, and the Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 tips for a healthy brain and body.

If you need some help establishing a new healthy habit, the American Heart Association has great resources on making habits stick!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, Ohio State University Extension Educator, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Ohio State University Extension Educator, Franklin County

References:

American Heart Association. Life’s Essential 8. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/lifes-essential-8

American Heart Association. Making Habits Stick. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/habits

 

Gardening with Children: Growing more than Vegetables

April 11, 2024 by jmlobb

A child planting seeds in a garden bed

When my son was two years old, we planted our first vegetable garden together. We had so much fun planting, caring for, playing in, and exploring our garden that we have planted more vegetables together every year since. Our garden has not been entirely successful in regard to the vegetable harvest, but that’s okay! Research shows that when kids are involved in growing fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to try a greater variety and eat more of them, and the benefits of gardening don’t end there. Even without a successful vegetable harvest, the activity of gardening can help kids engage their curiosity, explore their senses, learn delayed gratification, gain self-confidence, and develop a sense of responsibility. For young children, playing in a garden can help with their physical and mental development. For all children – and adults, too – gardening is a physical and mental activity with benefits for our overall health and wellbeing.

Gardening with children, especially little ones, can be messy. It’s quite common for kids to want to dig and play in the dirt! If possible, designate a “dig zone” where children can play without disturbing the seeds or plants. Reduce your stress and get ahead of any possible mess by:

  • Wearing shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty
  • Preparing an outdoor handwashing station with soap, a bucket of water and a towel
  • Having a towel and change of clothes handy

These tips, and more, came from the children’s book How to Say Hello to a Worm: A first guide to outside by Kari Percival. In the supplemental information included in this book for parents and caregivers, Percival acknowledges that although gardening with young children can be messy, the benefits of gardening outweigh the challenges.

For more information on gardening, including how to grow and harvest vegetables with your family year round, check out the Growing Franklin blog or contact your local Extension office.

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County

Sources:

Butcher, K. & Pletcher, J. (2017). Gardening with young children helps their development. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/gardening_with_young_children_helps_their_...

Moore, M. & Ellis, E. (2022). Kids in the Garden: A Nutritious and Fun Experience. Kids Eat Right. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/kids-in-the-g...

University of California Master Gardeners of Butte County (2021). Children in the Garden. The Real Dirt Blog. https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=46188

 

Loneliness – the Next Epidemic

April 9, 2024 by lisabarlage

Gray haired man on park bench by pond.

I recently attended a webinar ”The Epidemic of Loneliness” presented by Alex Elswick, PhD, from University of Kentucky Extension. Dr Elswick quoted the 2023 report in which The U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory about how loneliness and isolation can have detrimental effects on health. It seems that perhaps society have become too good at ‘social distancing’. Even in a time when connectivity often means how good is our Wi-Fi or internet, we aren’t connecting with each other.

“It’s hard to put a price tag, if you will, on the amount of human suffering that people are experiencing right now,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told All Things Considered.

“In the last few decades, we’ve just lived through a dramatic pace of change. We move more, we change jobs more often, we are living with technology that has profoundly changed how we interact with each other and how we talk to each other.” “And you can feel lonely even if you have a lot of people around you, because loneliness is about the quality of your connections.” There is a difference between solitude and lonely. Solitude is being alone by choice and not feeling lonely. Everyone needs social connections to thrive and survive.

In the same advisory it says that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, about half of adults in the U.S. reported experiencing  “measurable levels of loneliness”. Some physical consequences of poor connection can include a 50% increased risk of developing dementia among older adults; 32% more at risk for a stroke; and 29% increased risk of heart disease. There is an increased distrust of others, noted in the advisory as well.

Enough about the problem, here are some potential solutions. As always, good self-care is important; exercise, healthy eating, sleep (7-9 hours per day), doing all the things that reduce stress. According to a National Institute on Aging publication, “People who engage in meaningful, productive activities they enjoy with others feel a sense of purpose and tend to live longer.”

Protect and maintain current relationships, be purposeful in communicating with those important folks in life. Spend time with them in-person or virtually. For example, a regular lunch appointment with a long-time friend. My mother would have friends over for coffee, so even being home bound she saw friends every day. Engaging in an old hobby or starting a new one can increase social interactions with others. Take a class or join a group. Learning helps make new connections in the brain and socially. A pet can protect health and be a way to connect with others too.

Planning to make public spaces more inviting for social connections as a society will make connections easier. Try adding some chairs to your porch or patio or using the public areas at your housing development. Reconnect with someone today.

Written by: Ken Stewart, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Monroe County.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Sources:

The Epidemic of Loneliness, Elswick, Alex -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7O1zApCGYik

Health and Human Services Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation (hhs.gov)

Total Eclipse and Fresh Start!

April 4, 2024 by Caitlin Smith

Spring is here, a time of revival and renewal, and many of us are gearing up for the total solar eclipse on April 8th! This is a very exciting time, as the eclipse will be visible across Ohio. Amongst our excitement, we mustn’t forget to consider safety for those who are viewing the solar eclipse.

Solar eclipse above trees.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “Viewing any part of the bright Sun through a camera lens, binoculars, or a telescope without a special-purpose solar filter secured over the front of the optics will instantly cause severe eye injury.” This means we need to take the steps necessary to protect our eyes during the partial phases of the solar eclipse–these phases occur prior to and following totality. Please note: sunglasses are NOT safe for viewing the Sun. Per NASA, “eclipse glasses” are thousands of times darker and should comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.

Check locally for community agencies distributing approved eclipse glasses. Examples of these agencies include local health departments, libraries, visitor’s centers, and museums. The American Astronomical Society has also composed a list of reliable suppliers of eclipse glasses.

Upon receiving a pair of eclipse glasses, you should inspect the glasses for any tears, scratches, or damage. If the glasses appear damaged, you should discard them.

Viewing the solar eclipse is an outdoor activity, and precautions should be taken to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the sun’s UV rays. Sun protection includes:

  • Applying sunscreen:
    • SPF of at least 30 (Blocks ~97% of UVB rays)
    • Broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB ray protection)
    • Water-resistant
    • Reapply every 2 hours or after swimming/sweating
    • Use a mineral-based sunscreen for little ones 6 months and older
  • Avoiding the sun during peak hours (10:00 am-2:00 pm)
  • Wearing sun protective (UPF) clothing (dark and medium-colored clothing)
  • Wearing a wide-brim hat (least 3 inches of brim)

Safely enjoy this spectacular outdoor spring activity with your loved ones!

Written by: Caitlin Mathews-Smith, Family and Consumer Sciences, Guernsey County, Ohio State University Extension, mathews-smith.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jessica Lowe, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pickaway County, Ohio State University Extension, lowe.495@osu.edu

Sources:

American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2024). Sun Protection. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection

American Astronomical Society. (2024). About the ISO 12312-2 standard for solar viewers. Solar Eclipse Across America. https://eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/iso12312-2

American Astronomical Society. (2024). Suppliers of Safe Solar Viewers & Filters. Solar Eclipse Across America. https://eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/viewers-filters

SMD Content Editors (Ed.). (2024, February). Safety – NASA Science. https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/future-eclipses/eclipse-2024/safety/

 

Traveling Without Your Kids: Tips to Make it Easier for Everyone!

March 28, 2024 by erinrugg

Whether you’re a working parent who has to take a business trip or just going on a vacation without your children, being away from them can be tough! Thankfully, there are things you can do to prepare for yourself and your children to help make it easier on everyone.

Last week, I had an opportunity to attend a retreat with my Family & Consumer Science colleagues that involved being away from my two children for two nights. As they get a little older, (5 and 3 years old) it is a little easier for me to leave them with dad for a few nights, but can be more difficult for them. When they were babies they didn’t quite understand if I was gone for a night or two, but now that they are getting older they are more aware of time and like to have our familiar routine that involves both mom and dad. Thanks to help from my husband and other family members, my kids did just fine without me (though I was missing them like crazy!)

Here are some things I did to prepare us all for this trip that you can try too:

  • Tell them the plan: Kids thrive on predictability in their routine, it helps them feel more secure. Start by telling them how their routine may look different while you’re gone. Visually show them on a calendar that you’ll be leaving on this day and returning on this day. Explain what the night time routine might look like. For us, I said, “Daddy will be putting you to bed for two nights.”
  • Special item: Pick a stuffed animal they already have, a t-shirt, photo, or something that reminds them of you and tell them when you’re gone, they can squeeze that item when they’re missing you.
  • Make a paper chain countdown: My kids loved this while I was gone! Make a paper chain by cutting strips of paper and taping or stapling them together for the amount of days you’ll be gone. Write a note on each strip of paper that they can read (or a caregiver can read to them) while you are away.
  • Make time to check-in: If your trip allows, make time to check in with your kids through pictures, phone calls, facetime, etc. For younger children, this could make them more upset as they may now be more aware that you’re gone. Use your best judgement on how your children will respond and if they would benefit from a video check in.
  • Reconnect when you get home: Make special time to reconnect when you return from traveling. Try to make 1 on 1 time with your kids if possible! Even if it is just ten minutes a day, there are numerous benefits to spending quality 1 on 1 time with your child.

Being away from our children can be a challenge for both parents and kids even when it’s something we want to do! As a parent, I am still learning every day about work-life balance and how to achieve my goals in my career while not missing time with my kids. Preparing ourselves can be just as important as preparing our kids for when we travel. The more prepared we all are, the easier it will be for everyone when the next trip comes up!

Written By: Erin Ruggiero, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Medina County, ruggiero.46@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

References:

Peaceful Parent Institute: https://www.peacefulparent.com/quality-one-on-one-time-with-your-child-f...

https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/11-tips-to-prepare-your-kids-for-when...