A message from executive director – Becky Westerfelt
In Central Ohio, we are fortunate to have the leadership of The Columbus Foundation when it comes to research and resources to address the critical needs of our community. Over the past several months, I have worked with representatives of the Columbus Foundation and other youth serving organizations to find meaningful strategies to help homeless youth and improve early childhood education.
Today, the Columbus Foundation announced a Critical Need Alert. The goal is to raise $1.5 million for “Our Kids” in 45 days to benefit the work of Huck House and five other organizations.
How will Huckleberry House use resources generated by The Columbus Foundation over the next six weeks?
Many youth in our community are unstably housed; they are couch surfing, moving among family members until they are 18, or generally don’t know where they will sleep night to night. Huckleberry House will expand options for those youth. We will invest in our work to identify young people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness to link them with housing provided by Huckleberry House and other community agencies. Some youth who are successful in independent living could easily fall behind without support. We will help those young people reduce the risk of future homelessness with a few months of rent and light case support.
The spirit of “Our Kids” demands that we invest in all the children in our community. Thank you for your continued support of our important work.
For our focus on healthy living, we asked a Huck House friend to think about what he would tell his 18-year old self about living healthfully. Bill Mechling is a retired attorney and business executive. His commitment to good health is an example from which we all can learn.
There are many lessons a person learns as they proceed through life. As I sit here today at age 61, I can tell you the most important and impactful lesson I have learned is the important role that good nutrition and exercise play in maximizing your enjoyment of your life.
When I was eighteen, I participated in various sports and led a physically active life. I paid little attention, however, to my nutrition. My generation grew up with the advent of fast food, “super sizing” food portions and filing everything we ate with artificial sweeteners and preservatives. These factors became more important to the American diet than the nutrition content of food-to the point where nutrition was not even given a second thought. Besides, when I was eighteen I looked good and felt great-so why worry and why change anything?
It may sound cliché, but life truly does sneak up on you rather quickly. Those teen years rapidly turn into your twenties-then your thirties and beyond- as you are focusing on getting an education, beginning a career and starting a family. And while all of this is happening, biology deals you a cruel blow. Your body begins to change. Gone are the days when you can eat or drink anything without feeling -or seeing-the consequences. Read more
Healthy Living at Huck-House: 7 Minute Workout Wednesday
Those messages are out there on every platform. But how do you start in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming?
One morning I was in the office with a young person talking about the things we liked about ourselves and things we hoped to change. We began brainstorming what changes we could realistically make in our lives and exercise became our focus. We decided a SHORT (less than 10 minute) workout session once a week was a manageable change. We made it an event and invited all interested Transitional Living Program (TLP) clients. As incentive for participation, I agreed to bring a healthy snack for after the workout. That was the beginning of 7 Minute Workout Wednesday.
This exercise group provides an opportunity for young people to get to know each other in a casual, informal way. Children are welcome, and it is a fun way for them to socialize with each other and with other adults. It has been amazing to see the youth take an active role in this group. They decide the content of the exercise each week and often lead a warm-up and cool-down. Participants are great at encouraging each other along the way. At our last group, the young people expressed an interest in an additional workout during the week or doing two back-to-back 7 minute workouts. Young people requesting more exercise is one of the biggest wins in my book!
The “healthy” snack. As you might imagine, the young people were skeptical of my healthy snack incentive. All I asked was that they keep an open-mind and provide honest feedback, which they have done very constructively. Snacks have included banana, peanut butter, and chocolate muffins; fruit and yogurt parfaits; and veggies and humus. So far, they have been a success and participants are seeing that “healthy” can take many forms and be delicious.
I am very excited to grow this group! Getting young people interested in their health and healthy habits has become a passion of mine. Exercise and how we fuel our body are important because of the diverse physical health, mental health, and social benefits. In a nation of increasingly sedentary lifestyles, making time to get out and move while being conscious of what we put in our body is vital to our heart health and immune function. Aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease depression and anxiety and as little as ten minutes of aerobic exercise per day can improve sleep. Monitoring sugar and cholesterol consumption can prevent devastating chronic conditions. And last, but certainly not least, the social interactions facilitated by this group provide an opportunity to build and strengthen the TLP community.
I have been inspired by the young peoples’ dedication to this group and I look forward to continuing the journey of healthy living at Huck House.
Community Support Assistant, Transitional Living Program
On July 24, House Bill 1511 passed the Financial Services Committee. It is co-sponsored by Representatives Steve Stivers of Ohio and Dave Loebsack of Iowa. H.R. 1511 would broaden the definition of homelessness, making it easier for organizations like Huckleberry House to serve homeless youth.
“Last year, I was proud to announce the reintroduction of my bill that will more accurately count homeless youth in our communities – including many of those served by the Huckleberry House – an incredible organization who helps youth in Central Ohio who are facing homelessness, abuse, neglect, poverty, and many other issues,” Stivers said this week. “I am excited that this bill has taken one step closer to becoming law by passing the House Financial Services Committee. I will continue working to get this bill signed into law so we can better identify the scope of the youth homelessness, and ultimately dedicate more resources to addressing the issue.”
Image by Pixabay
By Jenny Wise
Do you ever wonder how to keep your kids occupied on rainy days when outdoor activities are impossible? If so, then this post is for you. We’re going to show how the Internet, used wisely, can turn shut-in days into wide-open opportunities for education and enrichment.
Have a Science Quest
Hands-on learning is a great way to help students master new concepts. For example, let’s imagine that your kids are interested in knowing more about volcanoes. You might start out by having them watch a video about volcanoes, follow it up with a quick question-and-answer session, then top the activity off with an experiment in which they make their own lava. In addition to being really cool, this activity engages the student on visual, auditory, and tactile levels, helping them to not only remember but to comprehend the facts they’ve learned. You can continue your hands-on learning with some of these real-world math activities from HomeAdvisor.
Have a “Go” at Learning a New Game
Games that teach strategic thinking are ideal for spurring mental development. In Western societies, the classic example is chess; and for many good reasons. But did you know that the East has a pastime that develops many of the same skills? It’s simply called “Go” and has existed for at least 2500 years, according to The Economist. You’ll find plenty of information online, from basic tutorials to tournaments. This is a fun and innovative way for your kids to build critical-thinking skills while learning more about our multicultural world.
Sample the Riches of Music
Listening to your favorite tunes is one thing. Playing them yourself is quite another. Learning an instrument offers a world of intellectual and social benefits, according to Inc. Here are some tips for making the experience both enjoyable and educational:
- Music teachers advise parents to consider their child’s personality and physical traits when picking an instrument. For example, kids who love being the center of attention may prefer the flute, since the flutist usually stands in front of the band. On the other hand, large hands are helpful when learning the piano.
- When choosing an instrument, quality is extremely important. If you buy an instrument, you’ll have to decide whether or not to go new or used. Either way, the instrument needs to be easy to play, durable, repairable, and have a warranty. Consult an instructor in your area or just ask a seasoned musician to recommend a trustworthy vendor.
Get Up and Get Moving
Not all online-based activities are sedentary; go on YouTube and see for yourself the many exercise videos available. Joining in on the workout yourself is a great way to not only get fit but to model healthy behaviors for your kids.
Explore the World of Art
The Internet offers a wealth of drawing, painting, and even sculpting lessons for learners of all ages. Many are free, though some are fee-based. Art materials are available at very reasonable costs online or at brick-and-mortar retailers. Some online options even provide instructor feedback and certificates of completion.
The Opportunities Are Endless
In this post, we’ve only scratched the surface of our topic. The Web offers limitless learning resources for both your kids and yourself. Here are some examples of the topics you can explore:
- Social sciences
- Spirituality studies
And the list goes on and on.
You might want to plan activities ahead of time and download the materials, just in case the weather makes your online connection finicky.
The next time the elements keeps your kids inside, use the Internet to open up a whole new world of learning and discovery. The opportunities are right there at your fingertips. You may actually find yourself wishing that foul-weather days came more often.
Photo via Pexels
By Daniel Sherwin
Through a combination of TV, films, advertising, and the internet, teenagers these days are exposed to even more images of what a perfect body looks like than past generations. Social media, in particular, has been extremely damaging, providing a constant feed of “aspirational” images that can give teens a skewed view of their own bodies. As a parent, what can you do to help your teenager navigate this world and develop a healthy body image?
Focus on Health, Not Weight
In an age where 17.4 percent of American children are obese and 2.4 percent are morbidly obese, many parents are naturally worried about their kids gaining weight. Obesity comes with a variety of health issues, and it is normal for parents to want their children to grow up healthy.
However, there are a few factors to consider. To begin with, the measure which is most commonly used to measure obesity, the BMI, can be unreliable, particularly in children. Make sure you get the opinion of a medical professional before making any drastic changes in their diet. Secondly, being too strict with their diet now could lead to backlash later as your teen starts getting access to junk foods.
Teach them about health from a young age, and avoid words like “fat” and “skinny.” Encourage exercise as a family and promote a balanced diet — which includes the occasional treat — within your household. Place the emphasis on how food and exercise can make them feel, not how it can make them look.
Value Their Other Qualities
You think your child is beautiful, and you tell them every day. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this, and your kid will probably understand that their parents don’t have a very objective opinion. However, as your kids grow older, make sure you are praising their skills, interests, and personality.
According to the Guardian, this is particularly important for girls. It turns out that repeatedly telling young girls that they are pretty is a very easy way to teach them that the most important thing about them is their appearance.
Be a Good Example
Your children will tend to emulate the behaviors they see in their parents. This means that if they see you talking negatively about your own or other people’s bodies, they are more likely to grow up being critical of their appearance.
It’s not just about body talk. You should set a good example by eating how you wish your child was eating, as kids pick up the food habits they see at home. This also goes for the ways in which you try to lose weight. According to the New York Times, children can develop unhealthy ideas about dieting by seeing their parents follow strict or fad diets. With over half of teenage girls and one-third of boys engaging in unhealthy weight control behaviors, it is definitely worth watching whether you are setting a bad example by looking for shortcuts.
Learn To Spot An Eating Disorder
Even if you do everything right, your teenager can still develop an unhealthy body image due to factors out of your control, such as bullying at school. Make sure you know the signs to watch out for so you can get them the help they need. These include obvious things like skipping meals, controlling portions, and obsessing over calories, but there are other more subtle cues. Watch out for them leaving the table early, as this could be a sign of purging, and avoiding social situations that involve food.
Being a teenager is hard for most people. You grow increasingly self-conscious, and the pressure to fit in with your peers is overwhelming. The best thing you can do is teach them to value things about themselves other than their appearance and combine this with a good education about healthy lifestyles. The rest may be out of your hands, but you can keep a close eye on their relationship to food and exercise so you can address any unhealthy behaviors.
I am a single dad raising two children. At DadSolo.com, my goal is to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.
The following letter was submitted to the Columbus Dispatch earlier this week. While policy has been reversed, the message is still relevant and significant.
For the past 15 years, I have been the Executive Director of Huckleberry House. Huckleberry House provides services including shelter and transitional living housing to homeless and runaway youth. During my time here I have learned this about children in shelters: no matter how great your shelter is, and Huck House is a great shelter, children want and need their families.
In every other aspect of our country’s policies and values, we affirm that families are the best way to care for children. We do this because we know that children need the love, guidance and support of committed adults if they are to thrive as adults. We also know that when a family can’t care for their children, the best second option is a foster family. Yes, it is true that families aren’t always perfect, but they are the best option for raising children.
We must remain vigilant in upholding a commitment to families.
If we think there will be no lingering affects to these children, we are lying to ourselves. Even a cursory review of research and training for foster and adoption programs reveals that we know a great deal about what happens to children in both the short and long run. We know that the grief is deep and profound, we know that separation can affect the cognitive and social development of children, and we know that childhood trauma leads to chronic health issues. If you want to read about this for yourself, you can go to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services webpage.
So, please score your political points without harming these children. Caring for and raising children is a privilege. We used to know that.
Executive Director, Huckleberry House