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Expert answers

Q. I have a child that loves to sing. When should my child start voice lessons? Is singing learned?

A. These are the most frequently asked questions I receive as the artistic director of the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas. First, yes, singing is learned! As parents we should be singing, bouncing, swaying and humming with our children starting the day they are born. Voice lesson aren’t really appropriate until the 8th or 9th grade. Until then, singing in a choir is invaluable! To quote Anthony Tommasini of the New Yorker, “… the chorus (is a place where) children learn that music can be a joyous, collective endeavor, with all the voices dependent on one another. If you have this experience early enough, it tends to take hold for life.” 

— Children's Chorus of Greater Dallas


Q. My fiancé has 2 children, ages 8 and 11 (boys); I have one 13 year old girl. I am divorced and he is widowed. What’s the best scenario for blending our families?

A. While blending a family can be a beautiful experience, it can also bring its own set of challenges. It is important to remember that the process of blending families is exactly that - BLENDING two families. This means that each family already has established customs, communication styles and ways of interacting. Communication between you and your spouse will be critical and the message you send down to the children should come from a united front. Understanding what’s important to everyone and being open to compromise are also key. As the family blends together, new traditions and expectations for one another are set. Family therapy can serve as a critical tool to give members a safe and neutral ground to discuss issues and feel heard.

— Susan Justitz, Ph.D


Q. My third grader has been to day camp the past few summers but wants to go to her first sleep-away camp this year. How do I know if she’s ready to make the transition?

A. You’re not alone. Sleep-away camp is a big step, but it’s also an incredible opportunity for growth in character, confidence and community. Camp helps kids develop important social skills in a safe and encouraging atmosphere. At summer camp, kids unplug from technology and fully immerse in fun, new activities that expand their interests. Camp professionals are experts at guiding children through challenges with support and patience. Sending a child to sleep-away camp is a decision that looks different for every family. Trust your instincts. Do your research, and discover what’s right for your child.

— Collin Sparks | Executive Director | Kanakuk Kamps


Q. My elderly parents have a limited income, and talk about losing weight. How can I assist them with decisions on food that will give them the nutrients they need?

A. The “golden years” are really not the time for diets and weight loss. It’s best to “eat better while eating less.” No fad diets, which typically eliminate important nutrients from food. Make sure they are not experiencing weight loss which can lead to loss of important lean body mass. Keep in mind that chewing protein rich foods can be difficult for older adults. Stock them up with budget friendly foods like canned beans, crackers (add their own peanut butter.) Eggs - mix in some shredded cheese or extra whites for scrambled eggs. Cook oatmeal with reduced fat milk rather than water, and use dry milk powder to increase protein in cream soups and mashed potatoes.

— Mary Ellen, RDN