Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | October 13, 2011

Being a Good Parent

I’m a firm believer in NOT sheltering my kids from the world they live in. Even when they were much younger I put on the evening news, I read out articles of interest in The New York Times. I wanted them to know about the outside world. I wanted them to realize that life wasn’t the perfect little suburban bubble they live in. The world is not all perfectly manicured soccer fields and big houses stocked with lots of good food. I wanted them to know about other countries as well as right here in this country where people are struggling, where there are homeless, where children go hungry. I did not turn off the TV or change the channel when a segment came on that might not have been suitable for kids.

Today, my kids turn on the news on their own. They often read the newspaper. They take an active interest in the world around them. They are involved in charitable organizations. They care. They think outside themselves and I’d like to think I may have had something to do with that.

Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | October 7, 2011

Prepare Your High School Student For College

Hundreds of thousands of high school graduates enter college each year. While some of these children are well prepared for life after mom and/or dad, many aren’t. Preparing our children for college is one of the most important things we can do to guide them on their way to becoming an adult. Follow these top ten tips to ensure that your children are able to cope with life on campus.

Students at college

Students at college

1 Get Involved: getting involved early on in your child’s education is of utmost importance. By involving yourself in your child’s school life, you will teach your child that you value their education and that they should as well.

2 Extracurricular Activities: admissions boards and academic counselors look at extracurricular activities listed on college applications. Encourage your child to participate in activities outside of the classroom.

3 SAT/ACT: sit down with your child and help them study for the standardized tests. By assisting your child in their preparation for the tests, you can better gauge in which subjects they may need extra help.

4 College Tours: none of us want to see our children move across the country but try not to discourage your child’s interest in various colleges. Instead, accompany your child on college tours. Doing so will give them an idea of campus life and answer any questions you may have about their prospective school.

5 Talk About Education: have discussions with your child to find out what they expect out of a college education. Be sure to emphasize the value of that education in their lives and the amount of work it will take to graduate successfully.

6 Budgeting: one of the most difficult things for college freshman is figuring out a budget. Most 18 year olds have not had the responsibility of paying their own bills and buying their own groceries. Help your child figure out a budget for school and help them stick to it.

7 Step Back: applying for college is a stressful process, often for the whole family. Do your best not to smother your child. Allow them a bit of independence and choice now so they are not overwhelmed by their independence when they leave home.

8 Take a Break: families are looking at colleges earlier and earlier. Months of discussion and planning can take a toll on even the best family. Remember to take a break, go out and unwind. Come back to the planning when you are more relaxed.

9 Teach Basic Life Skills: you would not believe the number of incoming college freshman who don’t know how to work a washing machine or a hot plate. Teach your children how to wash their own clothes and cook simple meals.

10 Allow Failure: no parent wants to see his or her child be unsuccessful. As part of your child’s newfound independence, they will need to fend for themselves and make their own decisions. Allow your child to make their own decisions, even if you don’t agree, and let them deal with the consequences, good or bad.

This guest post was written by Jenny Masterson

Jenny Masterson also contributes content to thebestcolleges.org, an informational site featuring college rankings as well as lists of specialty college programs such as online criminal justice masters degrees.

Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | September 7, 2011

Last Days of Summer

I took my boys away this past weekend; the last weekend of the summer before school starts up again. I was surprised that all three of them wanted to go. These days its all about their friends and girls and parties. I thought maybe they were throwing their old man a bone but hey, they wanted to go and I certainly wasn’t asking any questions. We piled into the car and drove up to the Berkshires, a place we had been to many times before throughout their childhood. Once we got up there they were eager to go to this one place we’d been to many years ago. It’s an out of the way spot along a river that runs through a gauntlet of huge boulders and empties into this collecting pool of water. Only the locals know about it. High above hanging off a limb on one of the trees is a rope swing. As kids they used to love to climb up the embankment and swing like Tarzan over the water and let go, falling a good two stories into the cold mountain water. I remember they even convinced me to do it. Very scary.

I wasn’t exactly sure how to get there but after a few wrong turns we managed to find our special spot. We walked down to the water. There was the rushing river, the boulders, the collecting pool of water, it was all there the way we remembered it. But the tree that held the swing was down. There it was lying face down along the embankment. The rope swing that had provided us and so many others with hours of fun was lying in the mud. We looked at it. There was nothing to say.

After a while we decided to jump in the water anyway. We swam to the far side and climbed up the embankment. We covered our bodies with the thick clay-like mud that was there and waited for it to dry in the sun, then jumped back into the cold water and let it wash the mud off us. As we collected our clothes and towels I turned around and took one more look at that tree, then my three teenagers and I climbed back into the car and drove off.

Ofer Aronskind is the author of adventure books for boys, he writes books that boys will want to read.

Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | September 2, 2011

What to do When the Power Goes Out

One good thing about no electricity and no running water and a hurricane outside your window….you’re forced to stay inside and you’re forced to entertain yourselves. No TV, no computers or ichat or video games…nothing. My boys and I picked up an old dusty board game called Monopoly and actually played. And guess what…it was fun. Buying, selling, trading, exchanging money…occasionally exchanging some colorful language. But hey, we’re engaging each other, we’re interacting. After Monopoly (wow, I forgot just how long it takes) we shifted over to Scrabble (my personal favorite). At least there I can show off my linguistic talents and rich vocabulary…Yeah, right. I got beat there as well. I mean come on, what can you do when you keep pulling bad letters.

While the storm kept whipping about outside we moved on to Othello, Risk and eventually poker. We had fun. I wish the power would go off a little more often … even if its just for a couple of hours one night a month.

Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | August 26, 2011

My Summer Memories

I was working around the house today…my old house…the one I used to live in when my kids were babies. Now that house is a rental and I was preparing it for the next tenant. I went from room to room changing light bulbs, checking the locks, opening windows, etc….But what I was really doing was reliving the past. Its not like I wanted to…its involuntary…no control over it. For good or for bad the memories washed over me like I was stepping into a movie…my own home movie that played over a decade ago. I went into my old bedroom where my three little boys and I used to hang out in my bed under the covers watching TV. Across from it was the bathroom where all four of us somehow managed to fit into the shower together to wash up. The thought of that happening today cracks me up. I walked into my boys’ old bedroom where all three of them used to sleep. My twins in a bunk bed and my older guy in a blue car-shaped bed in the corner by the window. That boy now drives…a real car.

I went out back by the pool where I taught the younger two to swim when they were just two and a half years old. It was the same summer I potty-trained them. They used to swim naked, get out of the water to pee in the ivy then jump back into the pool. I’d throw them into the water and watch them panic, then begin to doggy paddle back to the edge of the pool. By the end of that summer that were diving underwater and swimming beautifully. I walked out to the basketball court in the driveway where we used to shoot hoops. I pushed the giant swing in the front yard that hangs from the giant oak tree. I remember tossing the rope up to the overhanging limb a million times until it finally caught. I remember the look of sheer terror on my boys’ faces as I swung them so high. They’d scream, beg for me to stop, then race back for another turn right away. That house held a lot of memories for us. It was a good house…our home…it was the place where my boys — my now teenage boys — were just little kids. Its the place where they will forever be frozen in time as my babies.

Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | August 23, 2011

Kids Grow Up Too Fast

I knew the day would come…I heard it from parents of older kids….I just didn’t know how unready I’d be. My older one driving, the younger ones staying out late, all of them going to bed long past my bedtime. I didn’t realize how difficult it is to fall asleep when your three boys are still out at parties, in the city, out someplace, hopping from house to house, God knows where. It’s summer, it’s their vacation, I don’t want to spoil their good time with an arbitrary curfew that ties in to my sleeping habits. But these days I just can’t keep my eyes open past eleven. I get up around six most days so by 11, 11:30 I’m starting to dose off on my Archie Bunker chair. My kids on the other hand, are waking up around noon, one o’clock. At 11 at night when I’m falling asleep, they’re just getting started…they’re just going out.

Now just try falling asleep when you know you’re kids are out there driving, being driven, partying and all the accouterments that go with it. No wonder I’m not sleeping well these days.

Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | August 22, 2011

Turning Your Teen into a Safe Driver

National statistics for teen drivers show that car crashes are the leading cause of death among drivers aged 16 to 19, and teen drivers are four times more likely than their older counterparts to crash. Teens are more likely to underestimate dangerous situations, more likely to speed, less likely to wear a seat belt, and have a higher rate of drinking and driving accidents. So what can parents do to ensure their teen’s driving success?

It may seem like your words are going in one ear and out the other, but your child is really listening to you when you are sincerely speaking to them. Talk to your child about safe driving habits. And don’t underestimate the power of imitation. If you don’t drive in a safe manner, your teen will think that it’s okay to do the same.

All states have some form of graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws. New drivers are given conditional licenses that allow them to gain experience under low risk conditions. Each state differs, but there are three general stages: a learner’s permit where the driver is accompanied by a licensed adult at all times, an intermediate license provides certain restrictions such as passenger limits and night driving restrictions, and then a full license. It is very important to know what the GDL laws are in your state and share them with their teen driver, and make it known you will also enforce these laws.

Driver education courses are not mandatory for teenagers in all states, but it is a highly recommended step to keeping teen drivers safe behind the wheel. Experience is important, and driver education courses are designed to provide experience in a safe environment. Other avenues would be looking to community programs that give participants first-hand accounts of the realities of unsafe driving.

Even the best drivers in the world will have an accident in an unsafe car. Make an effort to have a clean, well-maintained vehicle available to your teenager. If you have a clunker that is beyond saving, there are many organizations that will take old cars for cash. If your child turns out to be a grease monkey, make sure a professional set of eyes inspects their handiwork.

This guest post was written by Robert

Bio: Robert writes all about cars, and is well versed in all aspects. Furthermore, he also helps people when they want to get cash for a car.

Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | August 16, 2011

I Need a Hobby

With three teenage boys and two high-maintenance dogs you’d think I’d have plenty of material to blog about. And I do…usually. The problem is that my boys have been away all summer and the dogs have, uncustomarily, been on their best behavior. Work has been on the quiet side over the summer and that all adds up to very little to blog about. I take my dogs out for a daily walk/run (mostly walk these days), I read the paper over an iced coffee, run some errands and by ten-thirty am I’m already looking for something to do. The problem is that I wake up at six. I just can’t sleep in anymore. By noon I feel like I already lived a whole day. By two I’m ready for a nap. By ten pm I’m ready for bed.

See without the boys home I have no lunches to make, no after-school activities to shuttle between, no homework to supervise and no one to yell at to clean up their room. It’s a problem. I may need to look into getting a hobby. Either that or wait out the couple of weeks till everyone’s home again.

Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | August 14, 2011

Writing With My Son

My boys and I enjoy “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with Larry David on HBO. We watch it religiously and quote our favorite lines. The other day my oldest son and I went out for lunch. while we sat there we wondered how does Larry do it. How does he sit there with a blank pad of paper, dream up an idea, outline it and turn it into a half hour of comedic genius on TV. I challenged my son to see if we could do something like that. He took up the challenge, looked around the outdoor restaurant we were eating at and started with….”what if…”

Sure enough, a few dozen “what if’s” later we had a great idea for an episode with a main idea and a couple of subplots to it. We raced home, outlined it out scene by scene then spent the afternoon flushing it out and writing it. We think its funny. With the cast of “Curb” breating life into it it can be hysterical. We’re now looking to send it in.

If nothing else, what fun we had together writing it.

Posted by: Ofer Aronskind | August 9, 2011

An Afternoon Babysitting

I watched my sister’s kids today. I hadn’t babysat in a very long time. It wasn’t bad. They were not only well-behaved, they were actually fun to hang out with. We went to lunch, ran some errands, then came back home to watch TV, hang with my dogs and swim. Not a bad afternoon. It was kind of fun being around little kids again. My way-too-cool teenage boys are too busy for me and when they are willing to grace me with their presence its a marathon rag-on-your-dad session. These little guys actually thought I was funny and cool. They seemed to enjoy their time with me and I think they even liked my corny jokes.

And here’s the best part, at lunch I was able to order them those super inexpensive kiddie meals that come with a fries, drink and dessert. YEAH!!!! With the steaks and seafood my boys order it was nice to be able to get out of lunch for under $20. Whoever said little kids were difficult…. not me.

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