All posts by FabioVP

Preparing Your Child to Stay Home Alone

Staying home alone is a milestone in a child’s development that rewards their growing sense of responsibility and helps them build confidence. These are some signs a parent can look for to determine if your child is ready to take care of themselves for short time periods, along with steps for getting your child and house ready.

 

Deciding If Your Child Is Ready To Stay Home Alone

 

  1. Know your local laws. Kids develop at their own individual pace so legal restrictions are just part of the picture. Many experts suggest that ages 10 to 12 is a typical threshold period for starting self-care. Your local police department or Child Protective Services agency can advise you on the laws for your jurisdiction.

  2. Determine if your child is willing. Ensure your child wants to stay on their own. Otherwise, the experience can backfire and create more fears and anxieties.

  3. Examine your child’s track record. Look for evidence of taking responsibility and demonstrating sound judgment. Does your child get himself ready for school? Is his homework consistently done on time with minimal supervision?

Steps To Take With Your Child

 

  1. Test it out first. Build up to leaving a child alone for longer stretches. Start out with quick visits to a neighbor or trips to a local store. Discuss any issues that arise. Praise them for managing on their own and looking after the house.

  2. Rehearse difficult scenarios. Train your child on how to answer the phone and door when no adult is present. Get together and role play about how to call 911 and respond to other emergencies.

  3. Discuss all the rules. People of all ages are more likely to obey rules when they participate in making them and buy into the reasoning behind them. Many kids also need occasional reminders about anything that occurs infrequently.

  4. Schedule check ins. Create the feeling of supervision. Ask a neighbor to check in while you’re out. Require your child to call you when they arrive home or if they plan on going out.

  5. Develop a guest policy. Ban all guests if you think that’s safest. Otherwise you may want to specify which individuals are allowed over and limit the number at any one time.

  6. Plan activities. Boredom can lead to trouble. Give your kids something to do, so, for example, they’ll play a board game instead of making prank phone calls.

Steps To Take With Your House

 

  1. Post emergency numbers. Stick a list of important contacts on the refrigerator door and by each phone. Include the police and fire departments, your family doctor and your own numbers.

  2. Limit internet access. Some parents prefer to shut down internet access completely. In any case, talk with your kids about staying safe online and remaining alert to their surroundings.

  3. Provide safe snacks and meals. Put the stove off limits to younger kids. Leave them with food that’s ready to eat or can just be heated in the microwave.

  4. Remove hazards. Double check that matches and prescription drugs are out of reach. Get rid of any toxic products that you’re unlikely to use.

  5. Secure all windows and doors. Check that everything is locked, including the garage. Give a spare key to a neighbor in case your child loses their own. Teach kids to go to a neighbor’s house and call the police if they see a broken window or other signs of a possible break-in.

Work schedules and other obligations make child care challenging for many families. If your kids are ready to stay home alone, taking care of themselves can be a great solution that encourages a healthy sense of independence. Otherwise, provide adult supervision until your family is prepared for this big step.

Effective Communication in Marriage

Do you want a marriage that’s filled with passion, excitement and mutual respect? The key to experiencing the type of marriage you’ve always dreamed about is effective communication.
 
At the foundation of every intimate relationship is communication. The greater the depth of communication, the stronger the bond is between you and your spouse.
 
Marriages survive and thrive when each person shares their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. You develop trust in your relationship by sharing your heart and allowing yourself to become vulnerable. You make that trust grow when you resolve to become a person that makes your spouse feel safe to open up and be vulnerable as well.
 
Your marriage relationship can often cause complicated emotions within the both of you. If you commit to seeing the other person’s point of view and creating an atmosphere of safety and open communication, however, you can experience a close marriage relationship even when life presents its biggest challenges.
 
These tips can help you communicate effectively with your spouse:
 
  1. Above all, love each other. Decide that being loving is more important than being right. If you’re willing to concede in a disagreement, you can diffuse many angry situations without them escalating into a major confrontation.
  • Notice the warning signs of an escalating discussion. If you’re starting to raise your voice or say hurtful things to your partner, take a walk and cool off. Instead of thinking about all the reasons the other person is wrong, examine the part you might have played in things getting to this level.

  • When you return, apologize for your part in the disagreement. Usually, both parties shoulder some part of the blame in an argument. Then, calmly express your feelings.

  • Be careful to speak in terms of how things have affected you, instead of pointing fingers at the other person. Think of the discussion as one you would have with a teammate that is trying to solve the problem, and not as an enemy that must be defeated at all costs. 
 
  1. Many people think that compromise is an ugly word. However, learning to compromise is a valuable key to peace in your home and in your marriage relationship. Decide that you’ll seek a win-win solution in every situation. When you face a disagreement, think about how both of you can get what you want and need.
  • If you both give in a little, you show each other that you’re committed to the relationship above all else. You show your love for your partner in a tangible way when you sacrifice a little of what you want for the good of both of you. 
 
  1. Listen Effectively. Many disagreements are caused by a failure to listen attentively and empathetically to your partner. If you learn to listen effectively, your arguments will be shorter and your marriage will be a sweet fellowship of two people who love each other.
  • When the other person is speaking, resist the temptation to interrupt. Instead of thinking about what you’re going to say to counter your partner’s statements, pay close attention. When your spouse is finished, repeat in your own words what was said. Say, “What I hear you saying is… Is that what you’re saying?”

  • This gives your spouse a chance to correct your understanding if you’ve misunderstood what was said. It also shows your partner that you care about solving the problem instead of simply winning the argument. You’ll experience greater emotional intimacy and a quicker resolution that both of you can be happy with.
 

Strive to embrace difficult conversations as an opportunity to deepen your relationship and show your spouse how much you care. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes, seek a solution that makes both of you happy, and let go of the need to be right. If you do, you’ll experience a vibrant, exciting marriage relationship that survives the tough times and lasts a lifetime.

Back to Basics: How to Establish Good Credit

Our society relies heavily on credit to make major purchases. Credit can even be used for smaller purchases. Even phone companies check your credit when you want to start phone service. Plus, prospective employers sometimes check your credit as well. It’s never too soon to begin building your credit.
 
It can take several month or even a few years to establish a good credit score. It’s smart to establish an excellent credit history before you need it. Learn about credit and how you can use it effectively to build a high credit score.
 
What’s Important for a Great Credit Score?
 
There are three primary components of a credit score:
 
  1. Your payment history. Do you pay your bills on time? Then you’re perfect. Late payments and collection actions seriously damage your credit.

  2. The length of your credit history. If you’ve only had credit for a couple of months, your score will be lower than if you’ve been using credit for several years, assuming everything else is equal. That’s why it’s important to get started today.

  3. Your utilization ratio. If your credit card limit is $2,000 and your balance is $1,000, your utilization ratio is 50%. Always keep your utilization below 35%. Any higher than this will result in a lower credit score.
 
By keeping these factors in mind, you’ll can figure out how to build a great credit score. Acquire credit, make your payments on time, and keep your credit card balances low. It’s also helpful to have a good mix of credit.
 
How You Can Build Your Credit
 
Build your credit successfully from scratch with these strategies:

  1. Open a bank account if you don’t already have one. This will help you with your local bank. When you’re a reliable customer, it will help in the future. Remember that your local bank has a credit card program. They also provide other types of lending.
  • While a bank account won’t affect your credit score, it can help you to acquire credit with your bank.
  1. Ask your bank for a secured loan. Ask for a loan against your savings account balance. You can easily borrow 90% of your current balance. Banks love to make these loans because they can’t lose money. If you default, they’ll take the money out of your account themselves.
  • Take the money you’ve borrowed and use this same money to pay off the loan. Make a few payments and then pay off the full amount.
  1. Acquire two credit cards. This can be very easy if you’re a college student. Fill out a few credit card applications and see what happens. If you can’t acquire a conventional credit card, look into secured credit cards. After using a secured card responsibly for several months, you should be able to get a conventional card.
  • Avoid getting two of the same type of card. Mix it up. Get a Visa or MasterCard and an American Express or store card.

  • Use the cards regularly, but only for small purchases. Be sure to pay your bill on time and avoid carrying a balance. Each month, pay off what you’ve charged.
 
  1. Pay all of your bills on time. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is related to your payment history. Late payments can be recorded with the credit bureaus and damage your budding credit score. This includes your utilities and even possibly your rent. Sit down once a week and pay your bills so you can keep a handle on them.
 
Building a good credit score requires time and a few simple steps. It’s important to be responsible and pay all of your bills on time. Avoid making unnecessary purchases. The best time to begin building credit is before you need it. A well-established credit history can make your financial life easier.

Color Your Home Office To Create The Mood You Need

Take a walk in the woods or stroll through an art museum and you will instantly be aware of the color that surrounds you. What you may not be aware of is your mind and body responding to the color on a sub-conscious level.
Chromotherapy, or color therapy, is used in many parts of the world as a means for reaching a person’s psyche for better health and well-being. This type of therapy is not without debate, but when you consider the importance color plays in nature, you can see where we might want to discuss the matter further.
Surrounding ourselves with a variety of colors, in what we wear and in our home, is believed by many to have a very real impact on our state of mind. It is not considered a coincidence that a woman wearing red feels more power and vigor, while a woman dressed in blue exudes peace and tranquility.
Your home office is the perfect place to experiment with the effect color can have on stress, mood, and energy. Let’s take a look at the kind of struggles you face in your home office and how color might be able to switch things around a bit.
 
No Energy
If you are sitting in your home office hour after hour, staring out the window because you simply can’t get a spark going to get anything done, your energy level needs a boost.
Red and orange are definitely colors that will set your mood on fire. Lethargy, tiredness, and just plain sluggishness won’t last long when surrounded by these passionate colors. Use these powerful colors as accents so they don’t overwhelm you and make you nervous instead of energized.
 
Anxiety
When your mind is racing, your heart is pounding, and you find yourself pacing instead of working, anxiety is in over-drive. This is often a result of stress and possibly fear.
Calming, quiet blues and greens are the colors for you. These colors create what you might think of as a cool hand on your forehead. You can include a very soft pink to help balance your energies. Blue, green, and soft pink; are you thinking of a calm ocean sunset? That’s the idea.
 
No Focus
Sometimes we get so involved in multi-tasking that our focus suffers. This situation causes stress, but relieving the stress is secondary to regaining focus. We want to fix the problem first; and the problem is lack of focus.
Clean, crisp, fresh white helps restore clarity of thought. Include the color violet to renew wisdom and strength to help guide you through your work and keep you on task.
 
Negativity
If your every thought seems to turn negative for no reason, and you can’t talk yourself out of this downward spiral, perhaps a dose of color to lift your mood would help. Depending on where the sadness is coming from, colors could affect your mood in different ways.
Yellow is a cheerful color and can create a more positive feeling. Orange is another color that invigorates the psyche, helping to perk up the mood. Pink can be used in this instance as a way to balance negative energies with positive energies so one doesn’t dominate.
Stress is caused by many factors, both internal and external. Losing focus, having negative thoughts, feeling tired and lethargic, and feeling anxious to the point of serious distraction, are things we may have to face as we try to accomplish our work. Dealing with these issues in a proactive manner is the first step to creating a real solution. Consider using color as one tool to help alleviate these moods. It’s easy to do and well worth a try.

De-Stressing Begins With De-Cluttering

How many times have you walked into your home office only to cringe, turn around, and walk out? If you spend more time thinking up reasons to avoid your office than actually working in it, you may be suffering from ‘mess related stress.’
The fact is, clutter is more than a time and space waster; clutter causes stress. Let’s take a look at the typical home office hot-spots and learn a few tricks for clearing the clutter to create more calm.
 
Desk
Whether you have a huge antique roll top desk, a modern massive executive desk, or a tiny computer cart, your desk is going to be the repository for a lot of stuff.
Much like a closet, the bigger the desk, the bigger the mess. Purchasing a larger desk will not solve the clutter problem. However, organizing the space you have available on your desk will definitely help.
Start de-cluttering your desk by making a clean sweep of the top, cubbies, and drawers. All that should remain is the hardware, such as the computer, printer, etc. Once you can see your desk’s surfaces, the mess that should jump out at you first is the tangle of cords. Even though electrical and computer cords don’t exactly infringe on your workspace, the visual impact most certainly will stress your brain. Clear this mess by corralling those cords in simple cardboard or foam tubes and get them out of sight.
Now that you have a clear surface and neatly tucked away cords, set up a few containers for those items that you always need. You’ll probably want small bins or cups to hold pens, pencils, and notepads. However, your needs may include paper-clips, staplers, tape, rulers, and calculators. The idea is to only have on your desk what you need to work, and to have those items stored in handy containers.
You will want a nice big clear area on your desk to actually work on the project you have at the moment. Therefore, rather than pile your desk high with an entire week’s worth of work, choose another area close by to hold the papers, books, journals, or other bulky items you’ll need later.
That brings us to the most common home office clutter monster – papers. This includes projects, notes, mail, and all that paperwork we just can’t seem to get rid of. There are, however, ways to tame even this monster.
 
Papers
As mentioned, you want to remove the pile of papers from your immediate work area, most likely your desk. In order to have a good work space available on your desk, the paper has to go somewhere else. But, there’s more to de-cluttering than just moving papers around.
We all have paper to handle every day. We take notes, we get mail, we save receipts – the list is endless, just like the paper. If you tend to toss every piece of paper into the In-Box in your office, perhaps it’s time to stop treating all paperwork equally.
To set up a system for paperwork that doesn’t just become another pile, you will need to divide your office’s In-Box into categories. For example, set up three boxes and title them “Immediate,” “Tomorrow,” and “File.”  Anything you have to handle before you move onto another task goes into the “Immediate” box. Something that is not as time-sensitive, but needs to be checked again tomorrow, obviously goes into the “Tomorrow” box, and things that don’t need any further consideration can simply go into the “File” box to be stored when you have time. Of course, you will really have a fourth box – the trash can – to complete your paperwork system.
If you use this method, remember to keep the papers moving daily, and clean out the filed papers on a routine basis, which brings us to the next area where clutter often reigns – the file.
 
File
Even the best file cabinet or closet fills up when left unattended. You may think “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to this clutter, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Knowing you have mountains of clutter lurking behind closed doors is enough to cause ‘mess stress.’  You don’t have to see it every minute of every day to feel that stress gnawing at you.
Start clearing the stored stuff out of your files, shelves, and closets by first finding out what you actually need to keep. There are good lists available on many websites, including the IRS. Use these guidelines to begin purging documents that are no longer needed for tax or estate purposes.
Now you can begin digging into those items that are no longer relevant. You may find old manuals for equipment you don’t have, or receipts for items way past the point of return. Many of these items have simply been forgotten. You may even find boxes and packing materials for items you have no intention of ever shipping anywhere. It’s time to discard those “some day we may need these” items.
Discarding old paycheck stubs, receipts, and empty boxes is pretty painless. But, the next step can be a bit more difficult. This is the area you dread most – the emotional things.
 
Projects
These are the crafts you started, magazines you saved, and other items you kept because you loved something about them. Maybe it’s a book or magazine with decorating ideas or recipes you wanted to try. It may be a story you saved to read later. Perhaps there are pictures to be framed or cards to be stamped. The point is, there are projects lost in a pile and it’s a difficult thing to deal with.
The easiest method for clearing the stuff you are emotionally attached to is to get rid of the extras. For example, take pictures or scan those craft ideas and recipes and download them to files on your computer, then toss the magazines. Go through all your projects and purge items you no longer need or want. Any school or daycare would be happy to take your extra ribbon, fabric paint, glitter, card stock, stamps, and whatnot.
If after clearing out the extras you are still faced with piles of projects, consider making a small investment in some inexpensive shelving to neatly house your crafting projects. This simple storage solution can go a long way to de-cluttering, and de-stressing.
Now that you have your desk cleaned off, your paperwork moving smoothly from start to finish, your filed items purged, and your projects reduced and neatly arranged, it’s time to sit down and get some work done. What a relief to finally be rid of that creeping clutter. Enjoy your ‘mess-less stress-less’ home office!