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Encourage Children   |   Parent/Non-Parent Relationships   |   Child Development   |   Education
Get Youth Involved   |   Activities   |   Reaching Out   |   Useful Links for Parents

Ways to Put a Child First


Small encouragements can make a big difference in the life of a child. Here are some examples of everyday things you can do to put a child first. We hope they will inspire you to put down the laundry and go to the park or take the phone off the hook and read their favorite story. A little time goes a long way.




Nurture their dreams.  It builds self-confidence.

snowKids have big ambitions. And even though sometimes they may seem a bit lofty, there’s no harm in supporting them. Saying no to a child’s dreams can cause resentment. It’s best to support their goals rather than to laugh at them and discourage the behavior. For instance, if a child says they want to go to the moon or be the President, buy them a book or take them to a museum to learn more. Often, children grow out of their childhood dreams and develop new ones. But in the mean time, they will feel your love and support.

Here are a few ways to support a child’s big dreams:

  • Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up. They will begin exploring occupations.
  • Observe sports or activities a child likes, then look into lessons and clubs.
  • Take them to the library or museum to find out more about the things that interest them.
  • Give them a book, or read them a story to show them you support their interests.

Praise a child when they make a kind gesture.  They'll grow up to be kind.

child and adultEncourage your child to make a difference in the world and always help him recognize the positive effect the gesture had on the recipient. The goal is for kids to become less dependent on adult guidance by incorporating moral principles in their lives and making them their own.

One of the easiest ways to help kids learn new behaviors is to reinforce them when they happen. This is why you should purposely catch your child when they act morally and acknowledge good behavior by describing what she did right and why you appreciate it.

How to encourage kindness:

  • Be kind yourself. Say please and thank when speaking to a child.
  • Point out when another child does something nice for someone.
  • Teach a child to be kind to animals.
  • Open the door for others. A child will model your behavior.

Remove doubt from a child's mind.  They will achieve so much more.

Remember to tell a child often that you love them. Tell them when they do a good job and use positive reinforcement every chance you get.  Let a child overhear the nice things you say about them to others. This will help them believe in themselves and cause them to practice these positive traits.child on swing

Ways to help a child to succeed:

  • Build confidence in a child’s abilities. If they ask you to “do something for them,” reply that you’d love to see them do it instead.
  • Encourage independence. Most often kids will rise to the occasion.
  • When a child makes a mistake, let them know we all make mistakes – it helps us grow.
  • Urge children to work on skills they are pretty good at, so they gain confidence and refine their talent.

Feed a child's imagination.  It allows their mind to grow.

A child’s mind is a magical place - one of innocence and unlimited possibilities. Giving a child room to explore will foster their emotional, physical and creative development. Children find pleasure in stretching their imaginations. Give them the opportunity to draw and write or tell stories. And don’t forget that a child’s artwork doesn’t need to look like an adult’s. Unique styles should be valued. The sky does not always need to be blue. Give them the freedom to be a kid. They won’t be one forever.

How to set their imagination free:

  • Celebrate a child’s creativity by displaying their art.
  • When a child is bored, give them fun suggestions like flying a kite or building a snowman.
  • Urge children to use trial and error to see what happens when they use their imaginations.
  • Create a special art center that allows kids to creatively express themselves.

Spend time with a child.  It makes them feel important. merry go round

There are many things you can give a child. But what they will remember and appreciate most is your time.

Learn to listen. It is easy to tune out the talk of our children. But one of the greatest things we can do for our children is to take them seriously and truly listen to them. Ask a child about their day. It’s important to know what’s going on at school. If possible, try to sit down to dinner together and take time to catch up. It’s not the quantity, but the quality that matters.

Make a child feel like a V.I.P:

  • Limit television and computer games. Instead choose something productive you can continue working on together like a puzzle or a scrapbook that they can be proud of.
  • Plan family outings or vacations such as hiking or swimming.
  • Discourage homework immediately after school. Instead give them a break and go for a walk outside.
  • Create family traditions that will make a child feel special. Pick apples together in the fall or put them in charge of choosing the Christmas tree.

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Parent/Non-Parent Relationships

When should non-parents intervene?

Not too long ago, back in the middle of the 20th century, it wasn’t uncommon for a kid to act out, be caught by a neighbor, disciplined by that neighbor, and then sent home to mom and dad where they got a second round of discipline. The adage “it takes a village to raise a child” was alive and well.

small child image Now, it seems the society has done a 180 and has moved from being involved in the goings-on in their neighborhood to closing the door, shutting the blinds and turning their heads. People are afraid to “butt in” to the lives of others. Even though they may have strong feelings about a situation, it’s better to “mind your own business.”

While there are certainly some instances in which you shouldn’t interfere with someone else’s child (i.e. if a kid is screaming at his mom in the park, it wouldn’t be advised to approach the kid and yell at him for being disrespectful), there are many instances where stepping in or reaching out is not only a good idea, but may be life saving.

Below are some instances in which a non-parent should intervene:

  • If you see a child that is being physically harmed in an excessive manner.
  • If you see or are told by the child that they are being sexually harmed.
  • If a child is being exposed to illegal substances.
  • If a child is lacking necessary health care.
  • If a child is not going to school when they should be.
  • If you notice a young child (under the age of 12) is lacking necessary care of supervision.

What do I do if someone else disciplines my child?

There are varying circumstances that may change the answer to this question. If, as mentioned above, your child is screaming at you in a public place and a stranger comes up and tells your child he is being disrespectful it may be best to thank that person for their concern, but tell them politely that you will handle the situation. Often, someone else disciplining your child can make you feel like they think you aren’t a good parent. Be sure to step back from the situation and ask yourself if they intervened because they were concerned about their child being hurt (emotionally or physically) due to your child’s behavior. If so, it may help alleviate your hurt feelings. The best way to avoid a stranger from disciplining your child is to be aware of your child and his behavior.

In instances when you are not present (if you drop your child off to day care or have a babysitter that regularly watches your child), it’s helpful to establish ground rules for appropriate times and ways to discipline your child. This will help eliminate misunderstandings and will also help your child to understand that rules you set are in place whether or not you are present to enforce them (and similarly, that if your rules are broken, the punishment is the same regardless of the person administering it).

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Child Development

image babyAll parents want to give their children the brightest future they can. This may mean seeing the signs of a developmental disorder and getting your child the help they deserve. Some developmental disorders include: dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADHD, and autism.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that makes it very difficult for a child to read. These children have normal intelligence levels, however they read at several levels below what is expected.

A child with dyslexia may have the following problems:

  • Reads slowly.
  • Has trouble learning the order of letters.
  • Has trouble with reading and listening comprehension.
  • Has trouble with spelling.
  • Experiences difficulty with handwriting.
  • Has trouble recalling words that the child has known.
  • Has trouble with math computations.

Some strategies parents can use with their children:

  • Have a quiet reading area.
  • Have your child listen to books on tape.
  • Use large print books with larger spaces between lines.
  • Parents should also talk to their child’s teacher about not counting spelling on tests in certain subjects, allowing other forms for book reports, using logic in place of rote memory, and using multi-sensory teaching methods.

Dyscalculia is a learning disorder where a child struggles in mathematical tasks and activities. There can be several early sign of a child with dyscalculia including having trouble with sorting colors by shape or size, contrasting concepts such as tall and short, learning how to count, or assigning numbers to amounts.

A child with dyscalculia may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Has trouble understanding the concept of place value and quantity.
  • Experiences difficulty with word problems.
  • Cannot sequence information or events.
  • Has problems with making change and handling money.
  • Struggles with the concept of time.
  • Finds recognizing patterns to be challenging.
  • Has difficulty translating language to math processes.

Some strategies parents can use with their children:

  • Allow the use of fingers or scratch paper.
  • Draw math concepts and word problems.
  • Use different colored pencils for problems.
  • Work with manipulatives.
  • Use music to help teach math facts and steps.

Dysgraphia is a disorder that comes from a child’s difficulty to express thoughts in graphing or writing. Generally children with this disorder have trouble with language and auditory processing.

A child with dysgraphia may have the following problems:

  • Has illegible print and cursive writing.
  • Is inconsistent in writing styles.
  • Does not finish written words or omits them.
  • Copies words slowly.
  • Positions wrist, paper, or body in strange ways.
  • Complains of a sore hand or unusual grip.
  • Experiences difficulty writing and thinking at the same time.

Some strategies parents can use with their children are:

  • Provide pencil grips for your child.
  • Give them access to a word processor.
  • Avoid making comments about sloppy work.
  • Provide them with a tape recorder for .
  • Ask your child’s teacher for alternatives to written assignments and written exams (request oral exams).

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can start to show symptoms in children as early as preschool age (around age four). It often makes it difficult for children to pay attention or control their behavior. There are approximately two million children diagnosed with ADHD in the United States. People with ADHD may also suffer from Tourette syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

A child with ADHD may have the following problems:

  • Cannot pay close attention to details.
  • Has messy handwriting.
  • Fails to follow through on instructions, schoolwork, and chores.
  • Avoids activities that require a lot of mental work.
  • Is forgetful in everyday activities.
  • Has trouble quietly participating in leisurely activities.
  • Has difficulty remaining still.
  • Interrupts or blurts out answers before a question is finished.

Some strategies parents can use for their children:

  • Have your child get up and move from place to place while doing homework.
  • Vary the tone of your voice.
  • Given them tasks that involve movement.
  • Make sure your child takes frequent breaks.
  • Have your child keep their hands busy while listening by giving them a stress ball.

babyOne of the most common developmental disorders in the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is classic autism. Statistically, one out of 150 children are autistic, most of whom are males. Male children are four times more likely to be autistic than female children. Autism is a social interaction disorder where a child will often struggle with verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as repetitive activities that are unusual or severely limited. Autism can range from being mild to disabling in terms of its severity. Signs of autism can become apparent as early as infancy. A baby with autism will intently focus on an object for an extended period of time and will be unresponsive to the people around them. Children can also appear to develop normally then begins to withdrawal from social interactions and become indifferent to the people around them.

A child with autism may have the following problems:

  • Failure to respond to their name.
  • Avoids eye contact with other people.
  • Experiences difficulty interpreting tone of voice or facial expressions.
  • Lacks empathy.
  • Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, head-banging, biting themselves, or twirling.
  • Delayed speech development, however make sure your child gets their hearing tested so as to not mistake it for autism.
  • Refers to self by name instead of “me” or “I”.
  • Speaks in sing-song voice.
  • Doesn’t know how to play interactively with other children.
  • Has a reduced sensitivity to pain but has exceptional sensitivity to other sensory stimulation such as sound or touch.
  • May be prone to other co-existing conditions such as fragile X syndrome, tourettes, seizures and epilepsy, attention deficit disorder, and other learning disabilities.

Children who appear to have some but not all of the symptoms of autism may be diagnosed with other ASD’s. Some of these disorders include Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and Rett syndrome.

If you think your child may be suffering from one of these disorders, contact your child’s doctor immediately.

For more information on autism or other learning disabilities, check out these websites:
Learning Disabilities
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Autism Society of America

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Providing your child with a solid education is one of the most valuable gifts you can give and it’s important to remember the education process doesn’t start at age five. Kids are aware of your actions and are learning from your example not long after they’re born.

Check out these links to the U.S. Department of Education for great tips on preparing you and your child for the exciting educational journey ahead:

Preparing your kid for the 21st century
Helping your child with homework, to succeed and more
Options for parents, from tutoring to school choice
Tool Kit for Hispanic Families
Useful tips—monitoring homework, reading with your child and more
Information on schools—standards and ratings to make informed decisions
Federal Student Aid—help your child plan for college

The Delaware Department of Education also has a lot of important information for parents and guardians who may be beginning to think about school decisions or who have kids currently enrolled in a school district within the first state.

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Get Youth Involved

flying a kiteAdults understand that in order for their opinion to be heard and accounted for they need to get involved. Being an active member of a community is a great way to share ideas and develop new initiatives.

Kids may not know how important getting involved is and it’s your job to help them. There are a myriad of different ways kids can get involved in a ton of significant topics: politics, the environment, sports, religion, fundraisers or volunteer efforts.

You can begin showing youth their opinions are respected by involving them in family decisions. They may not have the best answer, but soliciting their thoughts and opinions will reinforce the importance of saying how we feel and knowing our opinions are valuable.

Keep an open dialogue with the children in your life and gain an understanding of their likes and dislikes. Then it will be easier for you to suggest ways in which they can get involved. Below are links to some well-known national organizations that may have a local chapter near you!

Boys and Girls Club
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Boy Scouts
Girl Scouts
Key Club
Habitat For Humanity

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Involving kids in an active lifestyle is an important part of the growing process. There are many things that parents or other grown-ups can do with children. Click on one of the following links to find out about fun things to do in Delaware.

Tourism Events and Festivals
Arts & Cultural Events

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Reaching Out

Whether you are a neighbor, a teacher or maybe a coach, all adults that come into contact with kids and teens have the ability to play an important role in their lives through positive behavior and the sharing of valuable insight.   Moreover, adults share responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of the youth with whom they interact.  Too often, adults hesitate to become involved in the life of a troubled child or youth due to fear of admonishment.  However, the Children’s Department encourages adults to reach out to the families and caregivers of those children and youth they may witness having some sort of distress. 

Reaching out to a family or child in need of help can be complicated and adults fear “crossing the line.”  It is not always easy to step in when a child indicates a need.  Appropriate steps must be taken and each scenario will vary from child to child.  To learn how to reach out and help a family or child in need, an adult can contact school authorities, community center leaders, or state officials.  Always remember that confidentiality is critical in these matters.  When looking to reach out, these services will prove helpful:

24-Hour Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline: 1-800-292-9582

24-Hour Child Mental Health Crisis Services – for emergency help with a child's emotional problem call:

  • In Northern New Castle County (North of canal): 1-302-633-5128
  • In Southern New Castle County (South of canal): 1-800-969-HELP
  • In Kent and Sussex Counties: 1-302-424-HELP (1-302-424-4357)

Delaware Helpline: 1-800-464-4357

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