Posts Tagged ‘ parenting ’

Make New Year’s Absolutions (Instead of Resolutions)

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

New Year confetti and balloonsEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

New Year’s resolutions are a nice concept but risky business – if we don’t live up to those bold promises we feel like failures. For parents, this can be particularly tough, as we often make resolutions not only for ourselves but for our families, and this magnifies the chances of falling short and feeling guilty (We should have tried harder, done more).

For this New Year, I propose that parents avoid resolutions entirely and, instead, grant themselves absolutions. Absolutions are acts of forgiveness, amnesty from shortcomings real or imagined. The following New Year’s Absolutions are conditional upon your making one simple resolution – that you will always try to be the best parent you can. If you fulfill this resolution, you may hereby grant yourself absolution from any guilt associated with these inevitable situations in the coming year:

  1. Missing an occasional soccer game, dance rehearsal, karate match, or piano recital (no matter how hard you try to be at every one).
  2. Missing a PTA meeting or two, or failing to volunteer for the big school fund-raiser (how could they not have checked your calendar before scheduling?).
  3. Coming up short of a culinary masterpiece for dinner some nights (or maybe most nights!).
  4. Feeding your kids Pop-Tarts for breakfast in the car on the way to school on those rare chaotic mornings. (Rare?!)
  5. Allowing unavoidable work to occasionally interfere with family time.
  6. Letting some weekends slip away without accomplishing any of the planned family activities.
  7. Sneaking off to a far corner of the house to scream when your kids have pushed you to the limit.
  8. Caving in to your kids’ requests for more TV or video game time than you prefer, so you can have a little peace and quiet.
  9. Letting your mind wander to the dishes in the sink or the lawn that needs mowing when your kids are telling you the most important thing about their day.
  10. Catching yourself saying the same dreadful things to your kids that your parents said to you: “Because I said so” or “You’ll understand when you grow up.”
  11. Falling asleep before your kids during their bedtime story.
  12. Letting your kids out of the car in the school drop-off line before their hair is brushed (and is that the same shirt they wore yesterday?).
  13. Receiving a call from your child’s teacher telling you that your kid taped a classmate’s legs to the chair during arts and crafts.
  14. Doing more of your kids’ homework than you know you should, just to get it done and get them to bed.
  15. Believing that other parents are always doing a better job at everything than you are.

So this New Year, lose the guilt. Give yourself a break and be realistic about parenting; you’re doing a great job, most of the time. And, even when you wish you could do better, be wiser, and show more patience, that consciousness about your parenting proves your love and commitment to your kids. It is this love and commitment that will become your legacy as parents, for this New Year and beyond. Happy and healthy 2013 to all!

Dr. Harley A. RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Multicolored balloons and confetti via Shutterstock

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Putting Two Kids Through Private School on One Salary

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Editor’s Note: Parents.com has partnered with LearnVest.com to bring you a monthly series of posts about money-related topics related to moms. These guest posts will be shorter, edited versions of longer features from LearnVest.com. The following essay reveals how one mom made the tough decision to whittle her budget in order to send her kids to private school.

When my husband and I were house hunting in 2006, admittedly the last thing on our minds was the quality of our neighborhood school, because we never intended to be living there when our daughter started kindergarten.

Now, six years later, we’re paying five digits a year for our two kids to go to private schools, even though it’s putting a major strain on our finances. We’re a single-earning family, and that sole earner (me) happens to be self-employed in journalism, a field that took a major hit during the recession.

We’re not alone. In 2009-2010, there were more than 5 million American schoolchildren attending private school, according to the Council for American Private Education, which was equal to about 10% of the total number of children enrolled in school in the U.S. Plus, according to CNN, the average annual tuition bill is $22,000 for private schools, across all grades K-12.

Looking back on our own situation, sometimes I wonder how we managed to get here…

We Started Off With a Plan

Our daughter wasn’t even 2 years old in 2006 when my husband and I both quit our jobs. I left my position as a corporate marketing manager to be a stay-at-home mom, and my husband stopped teaching to enroll full-time in graduate school—where he was going to get his doctorate in music education to become a professor—in Urbana, Illinois, a full 700 miles away from where we were currently living in Rochester, N.Y.

I had major concerns about going into this situation with both of us not working. But my husband was awarded a prestigious academic fellowship that came with a $19,000 stipend, we had the option to get student loans and we had some savings as well.

After a lot of talking, and a lot of compromise, we decided we could make it work on a limited income for the time being, but it was going to be very lean.

Our first shock was the high cost of real estate in our new city. In a small college town like Urbana, sellers have you over a barrel when the housing stock is limited and you have no option but to settle there, so we ended up buying a half-built tract house in an “affordable housing” development that also offered a hefty tax incentive. After all, the plan was to move wherever my husband got a job at a university after he graduated in three years…

Where It All Went Wrong

My husband surmised that a typical doctoral program in his field took about three years to complete–two years of coursework and one year writing a dissertation. Then he would hit the academic job market, looking for (and hopefully getting) a position as a professor.

At least, those were our plans. We didn’t anticipate how having a family would impact my husband’s studies. Because we are so far from our support system, he often had to step in and take over for me when I needed to leave the kids at home for some reason, or if I was sick (in the last four years I’ve had three major surgeries). All of that took time away from working on his degree and he fell behind.

A multitude of obstacles (including those mentioned above) have prevented my husband from finishing his schooling. On top of that, his academic advisor left the university, stalling his dissertation until he found a new one. He is slated to graduate in 2013, but the bottom line is, we never expected to still be living in Urbana six years after moving here.

Read the rest of this story and the important lessons learned on LearnVest.com.

Plus: Don’t forget to also sign up for the Baby on Board Bootcamp newsletter, a free newsletter that helps moms budget and manage family finances better over a course of 10 days.

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Disabled Parents Often Lose Custody Of Children, Report Finds
A new study estimates that there is an 80% child removal rate for the 6.1 million parents with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities in the U.S. (via Huffington Post)

Fetal Alcohol Exposure Affects Brain Structure in Children
Children exposed to alcohol during fetal development exhibit changes in brain structure and metabolism that are visible using various imaging techniques, according to a new study. (via ScienceDaily)

Bounce House-Related Injuries on the Rise in U.S
The number of U.S. children hurt while using inflatable bouncers, such as bounce houses and moonwalks, is 15 times higher than in 1995, according to a new study. (via Reuters)

School Districts Brace for Cuts as Fiscal Crisis Looms
The automatic budget cuts and tax increases that will kick in next year could spawn another round of belt-tightening at public schools already battered by the recession and its aftermath. (via New York Times)

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10 Special Traditions Beyond Thanksgiving

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Mother and daughter in pile of leavesEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

At Thanksgiving time, we are reminded again of how important traditions are in a family’s life and legacy. But many parents express anxiety about how to find the “right” traditions for their family. Should traditions just “evolve,” or should parents consciously establish them? The right answer is do both – allow some traditions to evolve by embracing the activities your kids naturally gravitate toward, and consciously experiment with other traditions to see which ones work within your family dynamic.

There are two secrets to establish lasting family traditions: repetition and anticipation. When you find something that brings out smiles, repeat it on a regular and predictable enough basis that it becomes an ingrained part of the family repertoire. For those traditions that need planning ahead, begin talking about the event days before it occurs to build excitement. Anticipation can be as much fun as the tradition itself.

Traditions come in two sizes: big (national and federal holidays, birthdays, anniversaries,); and small (those unique to your family). Both are important in a family’s legacy, so personalize them with these 10 ideas for creating special traditions:

1- Make the big holidays your own. Serve meals at the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving morning. Play backyard football before Christmas dinner to work up an appetite. Bring flowers to the local military cemetery on Memorial Day or July 4th.

2- Turn birthdays into unique celebrations. Hang balloons in the kitchen the night before so the kids arrive to a party room on their big morning. Eat pancakes for breakfast in mom and dad’s bed. Sing “Happy Birthday” in the most off-key way possible.

3- Double (or quadruple!) the number of birthdays. Serve a cupcake on quarter birthdays and half a cake on half-birthdays. Avoid gifts on these fractional celebrations, and instead focus on laughter, singing, and fun. Add a balloon or two. Celebrate your pets’ birthdays, too!

4- Have monthly Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Give mom a night off from household chores on the first Tuesday of every month, and make a special dinner for her. Do the same for dad on the second Thursday of every month. Pick which day of the month works best for you, but your family will have 22 more “celebrations” each year.

5- Share quirky inside secrets. Make a funny noise in the elevator when it’s just your family taking a ride, or give a whoop every day when the clock strikes your address number (if you live at 920 Elm Lane, cheer at 9:20 every morning and night). Invent a secret family hand shake.

6- Have the same meals for special occasions. Serve Chinese food for every anniversary, Indian food for good report cards, or hot dogs on the opening day of baseball season every year.

7- Get dressed up for a candlelight dinner. Once a month, have everyone wear their best party clothes and eat a fancy meal at home by candlelight. Put on soft music, bring out the good dishes, and use restaurant table manners.

8- Celebrate the first sign of seasons. Have a family leaf fight every fall when the leaves begin to pile up in the yard, go sledding after the first snowfall, eat fruit salad in the garden to celebrate the appearance of the first spring flower, and have a family water fight on the first summer day that reaches 90º.

9- Have family-only activities. Plan a family comedy night or a talent show, make holiday cards from scratch, or write personalized lyrics to an old song and then sing the new composition together.

10- Give back to the community together. Identify a favorite charity and participate in its fundraising each year – walk, run, bike, volunteer, and/or donate.

Try lots of different ideas. There’s no such thing as “failure” – if an idea doesn’t work, you’ve still spent wonderful moments with your kids. Plus, you’ve created unforgettable memories and, perhaps, given them something to tease you about for years to come (“Remember when dad thought it would be fun to have all of us join the “polar bear club” and jump into the lake in December?”)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Mother and daughter in autumn yellow park via Shutterstock.

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Giuliana and Bill Rancic Advocate For Cord Blood Banking

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Bill and GiulianaReality star and E! News host Giuliana Rancic has been open about her struggle with infertility and breast cancer over the past year. So when she and her husband Bill announced that they were expecting through a gestational surrogate back in April, her fans were ecstatic. These days, the happy couple seems to be loving every minute spent with two-month-old Edward Duke. “No matter what, the baby is always priority one,” Bill says.

Now, Giuliana and Bill are teaming up with the Cord Blood Registry to educate parents on the values of cord blood banking—the process of collecting and storing umbilical cord blood after a baby is delivered. These cord blood stem cells can treat many diseases, including leukemia, certain cancers, and blood, immune and metabolic disorders. So saving the cord blood could potentially end up saving the life of the child or someone else in the family. “For us, we thought ‘What if Edward has a health issue and those stem cells can save his life?’” Giuliana says. “So we decided it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

The Rancics first worked with the Cord Blood Registry when Giuliana’s sister gave birth, and Giuliana was put in charge of the kit. “I was so nervous about it,” she admits. “I thought I would actually be involved with the packaging of it and getting everything together, but really, they send you the kit and you bring it and all the doctors know what to do with it. It was really my responsibility to just ship it in a timely manner. It was so easy!”

After that experience, she knew she wanted to do the same with her own children when the time came. “It was just on my list,” she explains. “I bought the stroller, the crib, I bought everything I could in order to assure my son’s safety and this was just one of those things on the list.” Bill agrees: “For us, it is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” he says. “We just wanted to make sure that we could provide the best life possible for our kid.”

The first step for expectant parents interested in cord blood banking is to do a little research to make sure this is right for them. “You have one shot at getting those stem cells before the umbilical cord is discarded,” Giuliana says. “We recommend for people to do their research. Just because it’s right for us doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, but you spend so much time online researching strollers and cribs and toys. Why not research this as well and see if this is something you want to do?” Some day, you may be very glad that you gave up just a few minutes of your time to set some cord blood aside.

Photo courtesy of the Cord Blood Registry.

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What Barbie and Ken Taught Us About Stereotypes

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Barbie and KenEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

As a pediatrician, I may have been ahead of my time in advocating gender-neutral play for kids. Beginning nearly 25 years ago when our oldest was born and continuing with his sister and brother, we gave our boys ample opportunity to play with dolls and our daughter saw more than her share of toy trucks. Despite our advanced thinking, by the time they were 2, 4, and 6 years old, the kids seemed to have already absorbed society’s subliminal stereotyping, gravitating to the predictable playthings for their gender. Our kids really loved playing together, so most of their play was gender generic: backyard soccer, Beanie Babies, Candy Land, card games, and climbing towers.  We gradually reconciled ourselves to the fact that some of their play would never cross gender lines.

As they got a little older, our daughter found girlfriends who loved Barbie dolls as much as she did (there were some non-stop Ken and Barbie days from breakfast to dinner)  and the boys played ball — all the time, with each other and with other boys in the neighborhood. (Our oldest son’s first question, when we brought his baby brother home from the hospital, was: “When will he be old enough to play baseball?”). Occasionally, when Ken and Barbie were tired or when her friends had to go home, our daughter would join the boys in the backyard for ball. But the reverse never happened, for two reasons: the boys never tired of ball and Barbies were for girls.

That brings us to the fateful day when our now 4, 6, and 8 year old kids taught us an important lesson about the ability of kids’ imaginations to transcend all the TV, movie, children’s books, and playground stereotypes they were exposed to every day. It was a rainy Saturday and Emily’s closest Barbie buddies were all unavailable.  This was a potential 7.0 crisis on the kid Richter scale.

Downstairs, in the basement, our boys had a 5 foot basketball hoop set up for rainy days. To compensate for age and size difference, our 8 year old played on his knees.  Meanwhile upstairs, our daughter was able to sustain a Barbie soap opera (there was always drama with Ken and Barbie) on her own for about half an hour, but then she exhausted her imagination and needed a friend to contribute to the plot and dialog.  But on this day, there were no friends and no outdoor options.

This was clearly a parenting moment, and my wife leaped into action. She called the boys upstairs and told them they had to be their sister’s Barbie buddies, at which point we both upgraded to DEFCON 3 and waited for the explosion. No explosion. Just a loud groan from the 8 year old and an echo groan from the 4 year old, followed by the negotiations. Will she play basketball with us after? How long do we have to do it? Do we have to talk like Barbie? When’s lunch? Each question asked by the 8 year old was echoed by the 4 year old. At that point, mom made it very clear: Your sister puts up with a lot of boy stuff in this house. Please go upstairs, now. Play Barbie and pretend to like it. Big groan, echo groan, synchronous stair stomping.

(more…)

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Money As You Grow: A White House Website to Teach Kids About Money

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Do you know about Money As You Grow, the new financial literacy site for kids? If you don’t, head over to MoneyAsYouGrow.org, which was developed by the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability and launched by the White House in May.

The site offers “20 things kids need to know to live financially smart lives,” which are 20 money milestones kids should learn; there are four milestones divided in five age groups (3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-18, and 18+) with age-appropriate activities. For example, one money milestone for preschoolers is to learn the “difference between things you want and things you need.”  To help with this money lesson, a suggested activity is to go shopping with kids and point out basic essentials such as food and clothing compared to optional wish-list items.

Parents can visit each section “to start a dialogue about money and teach kids important lessons about saving, making choices, and avoiding debt.”  There are also posters with milestones and activities that can help parents track their kids’ knowledge of money and finances.

Read more about Money As You Grow at Mint.com — Beth Kobliner, a personal finance commentator, journalist, and member of the Financial Capability council, shares her involvement in creating the site.

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5 Essential Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Back to School colored pencilsEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Ready or not, it’s that time again. Your kids are trying on fall clothes, cleaning out backpacks from last year, and shopping for school supplies. Another exciting year of growth and development is on the horizon for your children. Here are five sure-fire ways to make this a year of growth and development for you as well.

Hold a weekly calendar meeting.

Each new year of school brings more complicated choreography to your kids’ schedules – and to your schedule as well. Every Sunday night, sit down with your kids and enter every commitment and event of their upcoming week into your personal calendar. There are 3 important reasons to do this: a) you should always know where your kids are; b) you have a head start on dinner conversation if you know what your kids have been up to all day; c) you may get a pleasant surprise – a meeting of yours is canceled in time for you to make the second half of a basketball game. But you’ll only know about the game if it’s on your calendar.

Volunteer at school.

Every school is underfunded and shorthanded. Your kids’ school can use your help and participating in an after-school activity can be a meaningful experience. Depending on your kids’ ages and their level of pride (or embarrassment) in seeing you at school, there are many roles to fill: homeroom parent, teacher’s aide, hall monitor, coach’s assistant, team parent, crossing guard, PTA, office volunteer, and field trip chaperone or driver, to name a few.  Spending a part of your day at school gives you an up-close look at interactions with teachers and friends, hallway dynamics, and locker lore. All this can lead to more good dinner conversation!

Drive a carpool.

Whether it’s driving back and forth to school or to and from after-school activities you learn a lot about your kids by driving the carpool. Mysteriously, the carpool driver becomes practically invisible to the passengers, especially when it’s more than just your own kids in the car. This allows you an invaluable “fly on the dashboard” opportunity to eavesdrop on your kids social interactions, catch up on grade school gossip, and hear about homework without even asking.

Help with homework.

Be involved with your kids’ homework every night. When they’re in grade school, sit with them for part of the time they’re doing work – not to catch every math mistake but to make sure they get the big picture. In middle school, just look over their completed work regularly for overall quality. Show you are happy to see them doing such a nice job. Your pride in their work will become their pride. By high school, it’s enough to ask each night if they’ve finished their homework and occasionally review a teacher’s comments on the graded work.  No matter the age, if your kids ask for help, do your best to guide them without doing their homework. Remember, you’ve already learned “times tables,” so now it’s their turn.

Manage extracurricular activities.

Beware of “potpourri parenting” – soccer Mondays, violin Tuesdays, karate Wednesdays, etc. Kids’ options for extracurricular activities are limitless, and you may be tempted to enroll your kids in everything, thinking you’re “enriching” them.  As long as your kids are enjoying these activities, and you’re not missing chances to spend more time with them, there’s nothing wrong with having many varied experiences. But if programming begins to replace parenting or if your kids are showing “enrichment fatigue,” reduce the amount of activities. Your time together as a family is almost always more enriching, especially since time with your young kids is fleeting. Don’t give it all away.

The school years won’t seem to pass by as quickly if you get involved in your kids’ school lives. So have a wonderful fall semester!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.  He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).


Image: “Back to school” and colored pencils via Shutterstock

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