Love is in the Air

Hector Guerra, president Evans Food Group

The pop song recorded by John Paul Young in the 1970s wasn’t playing softly in the background at MEF’s 16th annual parenting conference on a sunny Saturday morning, but more than 50 parents in attendance definitely got the message: loving your children and creating a loving home environment will lead to a happy state.

“Children will flourish with your love,” exclaimed Hector Guerra, president of Evans Food Group, who opened the conference with a keynote address stressing the importance of love as the family mission. He grew up in a family of nine children and today with his wife Daniela has three of his own.

Set routines like family dinners, listen carefully, find out how they are feeling, say ‘I love you’ without a reason. Your children need the best of who you are.
— Hector Guerra

“Real love means giving our children what they need most – time, resources, comfort, help, understanding, patience, and forgiveness,” Guerra emphasized. “The home is the ideal place to set a positive example. Children will learn values and virtues which will endure throughout their lives.”

Guerra shared a story about a family friend whose mother believed in her son’s dream to become an astronaut. She actively encouraged him to pursue it. Years later, the son’s first call after returning from space was to his mom. The story underscored the astounding power of a mother’s love.

He encouraged mothers and fathers alike to make it a priority to spend time and truly connect with their children. “Set routines like family dinners, listen carefully, find out how they are feeling, say ‘I love you’ without a reason. Your children need the best of who you are.”

True Love: To Give Until It Hurts

Pete Colarelli

Pete Colarelli, a father of 10 and manager of government relations for CITGO Petroleum Corporation in Lemont, Illinois, echoed Guerra’s advice in a second talk that addressed how to speak to your children about love and relationships.

“You must first have an authentic relationship with your child before you can talk about love and relationships,” Colarelli stated.

A devout Catholic, Colarelli used a quote from Blessed Mother Teresa to make the point: true love means to give until it hurts.

“Love is sacrifice,” he said. “Sacrifice yourself to be there for your children. Talk to them about the important things in life – faith, values, and current events. Pray with them. Your children will then mimic the example you set in their relationships with others.”

Securing Family Finances Matters Too

It’s no secret that money issues can often cause stress on the home front and disrupt or even destroy family relationships.  To help parents understand how to build a stable financial future, a team of six experts from Discover Financial Services and Pilgrim Christakis presented tips on achieving “credit worthiness”. 

Discover Financial Services and Pilgrim Christakis

Sulejman Dizdarevic, Senior Counsel at Discover, began by offering a personal testimony about his family’s experience. Dizdarevic was a war refuge from Bosnia who immigrated to the United States when he was 21. His family had lost everything. They didn’t need money to love one another, he said, but not having any obviously created issues. “Having access to money takes care of basic human needs and makes for a more enjoyable life.”

“Today’s economy runs on credit,” observed Matt Stromquist, a partner at Pilgrim Christakis, “so credit worthiness is extremely important.” He encouraged parents to be proactive in understanding their situation now rather than waiting until later when they need more credit.

Four panel members then explained how to properly read, correct, and improve credit reports, annually available free of charge from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

“Renting an apartment, securing a mortgage, getting a new job, buying insurance, making purchases, opening a new revolving credit card – all depend on having a good credit score,” stressed David Curcio, Senior Counsel at Discover.

“Credit scores typically range between 350 and 850, with 640 points generally considered the dividing line between prime and sub-prime borrowing ability,” offered Stromquist.

“The best way to improve your credit score is to consistently pay your bills on time and to minimize credit card debt,” said Jessica Scheppmann, Senior Counsel at Discover. “It’s also important to immediately correct any discrepancies in your credit reports by writing the reporting agency and following up by phone,” added John Crees from Pilgrim Christakis.

Jeff Wood, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at Discover, concluded the panel presentation with practical advice on family finances: budget your monthly income and expenses, assess where you are at and plan accordingly, don’t hesitate to call creditors if you need to adjust payments, and know your rights as a consumer.

MEF sincerely thanks all six presenters for “sharing the love” with Metro and Midtown parents on April 9.