Rebekah Yahoves


How To Raise Optimistic Teenagers

Teaching teens to be hopeful starts at home. (Getty Images)

Raising a teenager can be a swooshing roller coaster of sugar-sweet joys and quiet disappointments.

In the midst of the adventure, you may find yourself playing the pivotal role of a cheerleader. Suddenly, it has become your job to rejoice in your child’s triumphs and help them overcome self-doubt. Optimistic kids keep their dreams on the horizon and stay motivated to be at their best no matter what they face.

“Kids are willing to take more chances when they are optimistic,” says Lisa Rutigliano, a teacher of Advanced Placement Psychology and Child Development at Valley Stream Central High School. “It opens so many more doors because they see everything as an opportunity.”

An optimistic outlook can make kids happier, more successful, and more resistant to stress.

How can you raise an optimistic teen? Let’s take a look.


“It is important to give kids attainable goals that are moderately challenging,” says Rutigliano. “These build a sense of confidence. So many teens have a lot of negativity in their lives, and that is what they come to expect from themselves and their future. Attainable goals give them a sense of optimism on a small scale that they can carry throughout their lives.”

Your teen may be able to do their homework without being told, or cook a meal by themselves. Praising them for little successes shows them that you have confidence in their maturity as they become independent young adults.


Kids are perceptive, and they will be able to see right through any false hope you give them.

If your child is an aspiring track star, don’t tell her she can easily beat the competition. Rather, notice the times she was able to outperform herself, and encourage her improvement.


Kids who are getting negative messages through the media all day will be more likely to believe them. Make your own soundtrack with upbeat songs that encourage and inspire. Play it while the family is doing the dishes or cleaning the house on the weekends.

Positive parents raise optimistic kids. Model finding the hope and overlooking the negative in every situation, and your kids will develop the skill.

The Lazy Parent’s Guide To Getting Kids To Eat Right

Feeding time is among the most stressful times of day. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

Maybe your kitchen is more like an a la carte cafeteria than an organic bistro. Maybe working, soccer cab-driving, and backpack stuffing leave you with little time for recipe testing.

If you want your family to eat right but are more like Friends’ Rachel Green than celebrity cook Rachael Ray, we’ve got you covered. Some basic additions to your daily routine will get your little one’s vitamin-filled and loving it in no time.


Parents may have more success serving fruits and veggies between meals than during them. Try cutting up colorful peppers, blueberries, or carrots and leaving them on the table as quick snacks while kids are playing.

“Children need to eat every three-to-four hours,” says Courtney Calo, clinical dietitian at the Northwell Health Stern Family Center For Rehabilitation in Manhasset. “It is helpful to have healthy snacks on hand for on-the-go. Healthy ideas include apples, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, edamame, or whole wheat crackers.”

Some parents find that snacks like trail mix, whole grain cereal, or air-popped popcorn are great at bedtime, because kids can fill their bellies without an unhealthy sugar rush.


“Making food fun from the beginning can help encourage kids to try new foods,” says Calo. “For example, broccoli florets can be called ‘baby trees,’ and foods can be presented in different shapes. Focus on incorporating bright colors.”

Maybe you are thinking about serving rice with grilled chicken and cauliflower. Making the plate more colorful with some fresh green beans or fruit juice will make tiny tots more excited about a balanced meal.


A glass of milk is a one-stop shop for vitamin C, calcium, and thiamine. Calcium builds strong teeth and bones, keeps nerves and muscles working, and plays a role in heart health.

According to Calo, “Calcium needs are 1000 milligrams per day for kids ages 4 to 8. Other sources include yogurt, cheese, and dark leafy greens.”


The end of winter is a great time to improve your child’s diet because the days are getting longer and kids may be getting more active. 

Eating right can stabilize kids’ energy, improve their moods, and pump up their cognitive functioning. And they may even start to like it!

How To Teach Your Kids To Be More Benevolent

Each year, the Casesa family from Franklin Square visits Target to purchase carts of crayons, craft items, and decks of cards. All five members then convene at the dining room table to assemble the stockings they plan to donate to children’s hospitals.

Lisa Casesa says that kids who receive oodles of holiday gifts have trouble imagining what it is like to look forward to a few mini-goodies. Many believe that youngsters who donate their time to those less fortunate have better self-esteem, more compassion, and greater gratitude than their peers. 

“A lot of children don’t understand how a stocking filled with toys could be the only thing kids get for the season,” she says.

How can you teach your little ones to love giving back this holiday season? Here are some ideas.


Nothing teaches children the realities of poverty like having to figure out financial problems for themselves. 

Long Island Cares hosts Hunger 101 events during the holidays every year. Children are given play money and told to make priorities for spending on their basic needs. 

“Opportunities like this provide teachable moments,” says CEO Paule Patcher. “They sensitize children to the needs of those less fortunate than themselves.”


Whether you’re filling shoeboxes with gifts or visiting a soup kitchen, let your kids sparkle up their service by making memories while they work. 

Turn up your favorite holiday tunes while kids bake cookies for their elderly neighbors, and let them each bring a friend while you deliver the cookies. The natural joy of the season will enhance the satisfaction they get from giving. And your juniors will want to continue the tradition each year.


There is no shortage of service opportunities on Long Island. 

Kids can donate clothes, adopt a family, or rake leaves for their neighbors. What those they serve may be most eager for is a new friend or someone to listen to their story. Your tots will remember that family they had dinner with, or the folks at a nursing home who told them about their school days, much more than a drop-off. 

And they might even learn a few lessons along the way!

How To Help Your Middle Schooler Find Their Passion

Middle school is when students ideally find their passions. (Getty Images)

The middle school years — when childlike energy meets grown-up dreams — may be the perfect time for students to find their passion.

“For a long time, I thought my job was to share my passion with my students,” says Shane Cappuccio, middle and upper school English teacher at Portledge School in Locust Valley. “Now I know that I just need to show them what it looks like to be passionate, and give them space to find their own.”

Here’s how to help your preteen find their love.


Your middle schooler may need to explore before learning what their interests are. 

If they are truly passionate about something, they will work at it. This provides the intrinsic motivation that they will carry into adulthood. 

“Kids need to find what they like being frustrated by,” Cappuccio says. 


Middle school has a reputation for being a time of gracelessness. Yet nervousness and anxiety can become excitement when kids know they can be successful.

As parents, it is our job to encourage any signs of accomplishment in our middle schoolers. If your child is suppressing a smile at the thought of an upcoming concert, tell them how proud you are. Remember that your child’s concern is an indication of how much they care. 


Excess social media has been linked to obesity, attention problems, and poor sleep. It could crush your child’s creativity. But eliminating it altogether is a struggle.

Before letting your child tunnel into their cyberworld, require them to read a chapter of their favorite book, or spend time practicing their musical instrument.

Adults know how to reward themselves often when they are doing a great job. Middle school is a great time to develop this habit in children. Use screen time to help kids relax after they have made a real effort.


A professional coach will focus on a player’s natural strengths and find gentle ways to improve weaknesses. Many middle schoolers desperately need this kind of guidance.

Parents should praise children honestly when they notice real improvements and talents. Deep down, we all know that we have gifts worth nurturing. One adult who believes in a young person can inspire them for a lifetime.

Editor’s note: Rebekah Yahoves is an orchestra teacher at the Portledge School

7 Things Teachers Wish Students Knew Before Going Back to School

Back-to-school season is here. (Getty Images)

Whether you’re snapping your little one’s pencil case shut or hoisting junior’s college gear into the trunk, that time of year has come again. 

While buying brand-new school supplies may be exhilarating, preparing your young learner for a new classroom can be a challenge. 

Here are seven things Long Island teachers hope students know before returning to school in September.

  1. “Go into the year with a positive attitude and a smile on your face, and you’ll be guaranteed to have a great start to the school year.” – Susan Mannix,  Fifth Grade, Washington Street School, Franklin Square.

Maintaining a positive attitude can actually help students solve problems and improve their ability to learn. It is an important component of stress management. The most successful students in the long term are those who can look on the bright side, even when they face setbacks or failures. A positive attitude can also boost their immune system and sense of well-being. 

  1. “Knowing where to find support, how to access resources, and how to manage time successfully are some of the most important aspects of successful adjustment to college life.” – Audrey Cohen, Molloy College, Rockville Centre.

Prioritizing one’s workload, getting enough rest, and applying awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses are essential for a productive college experience. Students will need to be proactive about advocating for themselves, find out about tutoring services that are available, and make appointments in advance to enhance their schoolwork rather than using these appointments to avoid failure.

  1. “Students need to know the importance of kindness, respect, and acceptance.” – Luann Fabietti, Pre-K, private special educational school, Syosset.

Teach your child to use kind words and respect the personal space of others, and set an example of this at home. This kind of behavior will be rewarded by reciprocal respect from teachers and peers.

  1. “College students should expect their schedules to be challenging for the first year or so.” – Diane Herbert, Hofstra University, Hempstead.

Even strong students entering their freshman year should expect a big adjustment. “Some classes meet for 50 or 90 minutes,” says Herbert, “and there are also bigger chunks of time in between classes. It is very important to learn how to make good use of this time. Often, good old-fashioned calendaring can go a long way toward helping students prepare for assignments that are not for another six weeks.”

  1. “Outdoor play and socialization is so important in the summer.” – Danielle Reynolds, Learning Specialist, Portledge School, Locust Valley.

Kids are used to being entertained often, but it’s important to remember that our kids desperately require unstructured time playing with other children. Little ones will learn to make up their own games, create rules, and problem solve. Your child will learn to plan and negotiate in a fun, stimulating environment with a little outdoor free time. And while you shouldn’t forget the sunblock, exposure to the sun’s vitamin D can improve your child’s mood, sleep, and immune system.

  1. “You are the company you keep! Choose your friends wisely.” – Renee Gannon, Physical Education, Bethpage High School

It is important for kids to choose friends who have similar values. For example, disciplined friends can help students to increase their determination. They can influence their decisions about their use of time or money. Students whose friends are trustworthy and respectful will have an easier path through life. Even into adulthood, it is those with a circle of dependable friends who are healthier and live longer.

7. “You get out what you put in. Students don’t get grades from professors. They earn them.” – Sarah Eltabib, Adelphi University, Garden City.

Many students learn the hard way that a college grade cannot be earned simply by getting the teacher to like them. And parents cannot advocate for them if they are unhappy. Applying serious close reading and note-taking skills in college will take young adults far in life. Remember that their syllabus is a contract with the professor. If your junior pupil notices something confusing, the prof will appreciate an email to clarify any miscommunications before it is too late.