It’s no secret that kids would much rather goof around rather than help clean the house, but there are several great reasons why children should be involved in domestic chores. What better time to put a plan into action than spring cleaning?
According to FamilyEducation.com, a popular parenting site that’s been around since 1996, teaching a child to successfully handle chores helps to instill a sense of responsibility and belonging while also facilitating life skills. In the article, “The Importance of Chores,” which is an excerpt from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child, byEricka Lutz, children who take on chores learn to prioritize, organize, and manage their time, while also mastering every day essentials, such as changing a light bulb or washing a load of whites. “Think about the benefits of family responsibilities as more than just learning survival skills,” the author writes. “It's the participation that matters. Participating in family responsibilities helps a child develop essential social skills.”
Delegating and Downtime
Finding the right chores for the right child requires a little bit of planning. For example, a vacuum might be too heavy for a toddler to handle, but dusting the baseboards could be perfect. Start by making a list of the things you’d like to accomplish room by room (or use a handy checklist available at sites such as OrganizedHome.com and FamilyEducation.com.), and then assign the tasks.
About.com Single Parents author Jennifer Wolf also reminds us that cleaning together can be fun, especially if you turn up the tunes and make light of the to-do list. In her article, “Spring Cleaning Chores for the Whole Family,” Wolf also outlines cleaning tasks by room, and separates them into general and kid-friendly chores. For example, kitchen and dining room chores for kids include shaking rugs, dusting frames, and wiping down cabinets and appliances. And while the parent cleans out the refrigerator, the child can organize the artwork displayed on the front.
As you clean as a family, give feedback, such as helpful direction and praise, and be sure to intersperse the work with snacks, breaks, or downtime. If you reward your children with an allowance, then let them know their spring cleaning work could equate to a bonus.
When it comes to chores, and specifically spring cleaning, you may hear grunts of discontent, or a few, “Ahh, come on, Mom!” comments or, “No way, Dad!” retorts. But at the end of the day, assigning chores to children does double duty: It helps them learn responsibility, and helps you create one sparkling clean house.
We want to hear your tips and stories about spring cleaning with kids. Please share your stories with us here. And here’s to a clean and healthy home!
Raising a family as a single parent is no easy task—but you’re in good company
Within the United States, there is an estimated 10.2 million single mothers, representing about 12 percent of the overall population. These figures are based on 2011 data available from the U.S. Census Bureau (see table FG10). Additionally, there are approximately 1.7 single fathers, representing about 2.1 percent of the population.
This information about single parents tells us that more than 14 percent of children in the United States are learning, growing, discovering, and coming into adulthood at the guidance of one parent at home. These children need the same care, education, and emotional support as children of two-parent households. But compared to their two-parent counterparts, single parents have a host of challenges, from emotional support to financial responsibility, to dealing with a society that sometimes sends negative messages.
For example, Slate.com, a popular lifestyle e-zine, recently published an article by Pamela Gwyn Kripke called “It’s Better to Be Raised by a Single Mom,” which was written in response to an article by a social scientist named W. Bradford Wilcox that claimed children of single mothers were doomed to turn out as teenage mothers or jailbirds. Kripke took deep issue with the assertions in the Wilcox’s piece, and explains why raising two girls solo can offer benefits, such as independence, assertion, and what the author calls “grit.”
“Growing up in a household of girls, they’ve learned about independence, about teamwork, about climbing on ladders and fixing (okay, attempting to fix) leaky shower faucets. …Female strength is worth nurturing, and it just happens organically in an all-girl house.”
The biggest obstacle as a single parent is the attempt, and often pressure, to do it all. But for every assertion that there is a son or daughter being led astray because he or she was raised by a single parent, there’s a world-famous rebuttal: President Barack Obama, Michael Phelps (Olympic Gold Medal athlete), Alicia Keys (musician, actress), Tom Cruise (actor), Jay-Z (musician)—and these are just some of the many success stories nurtured by the loving arms of single parents.
Single parents have many avenues for support, including housing assistance, scholarships, and even parent education. Supportkids Services is also on the list—with the mission to help custodial parents achieve effective child support collection. By advocating for custodial parents—those dedicated, hardworking single mothers and single fathers—lives get even better for both current and future generations.
What are your thoughts on single parenting? Have you been involved in any discussions or experiences you’d like to share with other readers? We welcome your thoughts and ideas here.
Families like yours can enjoy a few important tax breaks—Here’s what you need to know
The first part of every new year has an aura of hope and freshness—a sense of better things to come. Each year, when you file your tax return, you could have the opportunity to save money through tax credits. To begin, it’s important to understand exactly what a tax credit is. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines it on its Website (www.irs.gov/Individuals/Parents) exactly like this:
“A dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed. Some credits are refundable – taxes could be reduced to the point that a taxpayer would receive a refund rather than owing any taxes.”
This means that you get credit for certain variables that are specific to being a parent. In order to take advantage of these tax credits, it’s vital that you understand what they are and how they can apply to you. Here is a list of the major tax credits for parents:
· Earned Income Tax Credit: This tax benefit is for low-income to moderate-income working families. In essence, it reduces the amount of taxes you’ll owe and even refunds any difference. This tax break is tied solely to income, and you have to provide documentation to the IRS of your wages. This credit is also known as EITC. (Learn more about specifics of this credit, including the dollar amount you could earn, at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Website, www.ncsl.org.)
· Child Care Credit: If your child is younger than 17 years old and is in daycare—either an agency or licensed home care provider—you can apply for credit on your tax return. The government determines the amount of the credit based on your income and the dollar amount you paid for the child care. This means the amount refunded is different for everyone, but it can be up to $1,000 per child. (There are additional variables that influence this credit, including whether or not you claim the child as a dependent and his or her citizenship status. Learn more www.irs.gov/uac/Ten-Facts-about-the-Child-Tax-Credit.)
· Education Credits: There are several tax breaks for parents who have children in college, such as The American Opportunity Credit, The Hope Credit, The Lifetime Learning Credit, and more. Visit the IRS site for details.
Additional Tax Savings
Families can also benefit from tax credits that are given for monetary charity donations or donations of gently-used items (clothing, home appliances, etc., given to organizations that repurpose or resell the items). If you participate in these donations, be sure to ask for a receipt, and then use it when filling out your tax refund.
Finally, families can benefit from tax breaks associated with finding a new job. This includes driving expenses (up to $.55 per mile). Kiplinger (www.Kiplinger), a personal finance source, has plenty of reader-friendly information about these and other tax benefit possibilities on its site (select the “tax breaks” page).
Supportkids is committed to helping custodial parents and their families by providing helpful, simple tips that can save money and resources. What are your plans for tax saving strategies? Please share your thoughts and insight.
As a kickoff to 2013, and in recognition of January as Financial Wellness month, Supportkids has five financial tips for single parents designed to provide insight, advice, and steps for saving money. With the start of each new year, we all make promises to do better with certain aspects of life. This year, we encourage single parents to enact a finance-focused action plan, which will help you keep your important New Year’s resolution.
TIP #1: Identify Pain Points
Are there certain times of the month when you’re stretched extra thin? Do the majority of your bills hit in the same week, causing you stress or worry? Identify your pain points so you can accurately and efficiently address them. Write down your bills and the corresponding deadlines, and see where you can reallocate funds or jungle payment deadlines. Finding the source of the stress is the first step to financial well being.
TIP #2: Think, “What if…”
It’s not being a pessimist to worry about what could happen—it’s smart. Think about what financial needs your family would have in the wake of an unforeseen event or accident, or if something were to happen to you. Set up a “what if” fund for emergencies, purchase a life insurance policy, and make sure you have health insurance. Planning will allow your family to be in a better financial position. (To compare many of the major health insurance companies and their rates, check out Healthcare.com.)
TIP #3: Don’t Give Yourself Too Much Credit
Credit cards are useful for two reasons: 1) You don’t have the cash on hand and 2) because many of them reward users with bonuses, cash back with purchases, or discounts at certain stores or on goods and services. In reality, using a credit card when you’re short on cash only works to your advantage if you’re confident you can pay the balance off by the end of the month and avoid interest charges. (To get a better picture of interest rated on all types of credit cards, check out Bankrate.com.)
TIP #4: Talk to a Financial Planner (or Someone Who Understands Finances)
Engaging a professional to help you form a financial plan improves your likelihood of sticking to it. Financial planners are well versed in the different types of investment vehicles (short term, long term, conservative, risky) and their corresponding benefits and rewards. Seek out their expertise to help you get on track.
TIP #5: Create a Feasible, Practical Budget
Put your monthly expenses into a spreadsheet and do the math. See what you can realistically afford to save, and then just do it. Open a savings account, money market account, or some other money-holding vehicle, and dedicate yourself to your own cause: saving for the future.
When it comes to financial planning, the most important tip anyone can follow is to be dedicated and patient. Supportkids is focused on providing single parents the resources they need to feel empowered financially. We help collect the child support owed to families—and we work diligently to ensure success.
Do you have money-saving tips for custodial parents? If so, share your comments here and we’ll address them in a future post.