Summer News from the Family Resiliency Center
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Family Resiliency Center


A Note from the Director


Dear FRC Community,

I hope you are staying safe and healthy as we transition into the heart of the summer, my first in central Illinois. I am awestruck by how quickly the crops are growing. When I first saw them emerge, I thought they would not have enough time to reach their full height in time for harvest. Each week, I am impressed by the quick pace of their growth. Similarly, when reflecting on the past ten months since I joined the University of Illinois “family,” I am amazed at the progress of the Family Resiliency Center’s (FRC) strategic planning process. Together with our Extension partners, we collected insights from over 120 stakeholders through surveys, interviews, and focus groups. With steering committee wisdom, we are developing an actionable and adaptive plan (anticipated fall 2021 launch).

If you have thoughts or suggestions you would like to share, I am hosting in-person office hours on July 15 from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm in Doris Christopher Hall (904 W. Nevada Street, Room 1016). Given state and university policy has changed related to COVID-19, meeting in person is possible now.  Please come by to say “hello” and have a conversation. If you prefer to join remotely, please email (, and I will send you a teleconference link. I am eager to make new connections and am so excited about the future of FRC. 

Be Well,

Jacinda Dariotis

Director, Family Resiliency Center 

Father and son studying blueprints in front of laptop, working on a project together.

Tips to Strengthen Executive Function (EF) Skills

Your Summer Executive Function Boot Camp 
Jeanne L. Kramer, Program Coordinator, The Autism Program

Executive functioning (EF) skills are the things the brain does to plan, organize, and execute a task. Rather than focusing on academics, consider structuring your child's summer to target EF skills.   

This resource sheet contains tips, ideas, and strategies you can implement today to create a summer of calm and engage your child's EF skills.  

For the resource sheet "Your Summer Executive Function Boot Camp," please click here

Thank you to Jeanne L. Kramer, Project Coordinator of The Autism Program (TAP), for authoring this brief. For more information on TAP, including summer hours, click here

a group of children running outside in the sunshine

Family Resiliency Center Publishes Joint Report Best Practices for Early Childhood Education, Nutrition, and Physical Activity


The Family Resiliency Center partnered with Illinois Public Health Institute's (IPHI) Illinois State Physical Activity and Nutrition (ISPAN) program to launch a new publication:  Supporting Healthy Eating & Physical Activity Best Practices in ECE: Focus Group Report.

The joint report features findings from focus groups across Illinois conducted by FRC and IPHI in 2020. Focus group discussions helped to better understand the needs, implementation practices, and barriers encountered by Illinois early childcare providers around nutrition, physical activity, and breastfeeding. 

The child care environment plays a critical role in supporting the health and nutrition of young children. Unfortunately, a host of barriers and challenges can sometimes impede childcare providers' ability to implement best practices in nutrition and physical activity. 

Providers who have implemented best practices have noticed several positive outcomes, including children spending more time outdoors, children being less picky with trying new foods, and parents being more engaged and making healthier choices.

This work was supported in part by the Christopher Family Foundation’s Food and Family Program: Collaborating and Convening to Inform Practice (CCIP).

ISPAN is made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, administered by the Illinois Public Health Institute.

Click here for the report. 


Kevin Thomas FRC HDFS 494 STRONG Kids alum
 Photo provided by Kevin Thomas.

Where Are They Now: FRC Alumni Making an Impact

This month we are catching up with former HDFS 494 student and undergraduate research assistant Dr. Kevin Thomas. Kevin graduated from U of I in 2012 and continued assisting with research at FRC through 2013. Kevin is a physician completing his final year of residency at the University of Missouri Hospital in June 2021.  Outside of medicine, Kevin is passionate about weightlifting, nutrition, and music.  
We look at where Kevin is in his professional journey and the biggest takeaways from his time spent at FRC. 
Tell us more about your field of medicine and your work:   
The field of medicine that I have specialized in is Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R), also known as Physiatry.  I recently signed a contract for an attending physician job after residency. For this, I will be doing PM&R Consults at skilled nursing facilities in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  I will handle various aspects of patient care, including pain management, optimizing medications for neurocognition, ordering specific therapies to maximize functional goals, prescribing orthotics, and more.
What was your favorite thing about working with HDFS 494?
My favorite thing about 494 was simply the wonderful people that I got to work with.  I especially enjoyed working with Brenda and Dr. Fiese, and I always appreciated how supportive they were. I was in the Food & Family section of 494. 
Are you using anything you learned in HDFS 494 in your work now?
I definitely still utilize some of the professional skills that we were taught back then.  For example, I remember learning more about constructing a CV, and I still use that same general framework for my current CV. I also created my LinkedIn profile at that time.  Some of my learning from back then has also engrained the habit of turning off the TV when I am having dinner with my family!
Any fun facts you'd like to share from your time spent at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign? 
I was a member of the group Chai-Town A Cappella during undergrad!
What is your favorite quote?
"Greatness is consistency.
Meditating once is common. Meditating daily is rare.
Exercising today is simple. Training every week is simply remarkable.
Writing one essay rarely matters. Write every day, and you're practically a hero.
Unheroic days can make for heroic decades."
-James Clear
We thank Kevin for sharing his insights with us. Stay tuned as we interview past HDFS 494 students to see what lessons they learned at FRC and how those lessons impact the world. 
For more on the HDFS 494 Undergraduate Research Course, click here
Woman and child reading a tablet in a white tent with festive party lights draped around them

Building Blocks of Resilience: Family Traditions and Celebrations

The Ordinary Magic of Family Celebrations and Traditions

Within a family, traditions and celebrations help infuse meaning, cohesion, and solidarity into family life. These activities can help connect us to our past, our community, and perhaps most importantly, to each other.

A special thank you to Dr. Allen Barton for authoring this research-based brief. This brief was funded in part by the Christopher Family Foundation

Click here to learn more and access the entire series of briefs, including the Spanish versions, Building Blocks of Resilience.  

Have an idea for a future Building Block you'd like to see? Email your suggestion or idea to FRC Communications Specialist Kimberly Keniley-Ashbrook at 


Mealtime Minutes: Control the Chaos


It's easy to have your attention diverted away from a meal. Things like answering the phone, leaving the table to retrieve something, or watching television serve as a deterrence to successful mealtime. 

This Mealtime Minute explores how families can develop strategies to avoid distractions and start enjoying meals together. 

For more information, including the Mealtime Minutes video series, click here

Avocado Salsa

FRC Featured Recipe: A Crowd-Pleasing Salsa for Summer

Avocado Salsa
Stephanie Sloane, Research Specialist, Family Resiliency Center


  • 1 can corn (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 tomatoes (diced)
  • 2 avocados (diced) 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup oil (olive or canola) depending on preference 
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (or more to taste) 
  • 1 package of Good Season Italian Dressing 

Add corn, beans, tomatoes, and avocados together in a bowl. 

Mix oil, vinegar, and seasoning packet together in a separate cup or bowl. Then pour over the corn mixture and toss. 

Additional add-ins: mango, jalapenos, bell peppers, cilantro.  

*The Good Season Italian Dressing packets are in the salad dressing aisle at most grocery stores. 

Story: This is one of my favorite snacks (or meals!) to make in the summer. It's so simple and fresh and tastes even better the second day. Eat it with tortilla chips, pita chips, pita bread, pile it on your burger (meat or plant-based), or just dive in with a spoon! There really is no wrong way to enjoy this salsa! -Stephanie 


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