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Is Family Dinner a Priority in Your Family?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

This week is the Jewish holiday of Passover, and tonight we have the second seder, or Passover dinner. What I enjoy about Passover is the opportunity to have back-to-back dinners with family and friends, some of whom we might not see often. It’s an excuse to skip after-school and after-work activities and come together. The seder, with all of its prayers and traditions, slows down the night and allows us to enjoy each other’s company. For me, simply sitting down at a kitchen table and eating a meal is something that I don’t normally do.

The good news is that more families are regularly having dinners together. According to the Importance of Family Dinner IV, a 2007 report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, a surprising 59 percent of families report eating dinner together at least five times a week, which is a 12 percent increase from 1998. Even President Obama and Lean In’s Sheryl Sandberg make sure they are at the dinner table almost every night. There are some great benefits from eating together as a family. Research shows that children who eat with their families regularly are more motivated, receive better grades in school, and get along better with others. Family dinner is also a way to strengthen communication and bond with your kids. Kids who eat with family members are more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to become overweight. Moms benefit from family dinners, too! Researchers at Brigham Young University studied working moms at IBM in 2008 and found that sitting down for a family dinner relieved their tension and stress.

If you’re looking to get more use out of your kitchen table, there are plenty of online resources to get you started. On Dinner a Love Story, blogger Jenny Rosenstrach shares how she schedules family dinners around after-school activities and reveals her favorite recipes for busy parents. Our site also has plenty of easy, family-friendly recipes. If you’re worried about silence at the dinner table, check out the Family Dinner Project for their fun conversation topics, games, and activities. Have a great time with your family!

Try one of these one-pot suppers this week and browse kids’ place mats.

Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better

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Stop the Homework Handholding

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

When I was younger, I dreaded doing my homework to the point where, in third grade, I just stopped doing it, cold turkey. After a few days without receiving any assignments, my teacher alerted my mom who was, needless to say, unimpressed. Every day after school, I would have to sit at the kitchen table with my mom until I got everything done. Even after that incident, I never could quite shake my distaste for doing schoolwork after hours. Then, when I began babysitting, my favorite thing to do became helping kids with their assignments, even if they didn’t need my assistance. I was especially helpful to my brothers, showing them what I had done in years past and catching their mistakes mid-math problem.

Some parents and caregivers think that getting involved in children’s homework helps them learn and become better students. It turns out that line of thinking may not be not true. In a new parental involvement study, two sociology professors dug through three decades of research and found that, overall, more-involved parents make very little difference in students’ academic achievements, regardless of race, class, or educational background. In fact, sometimes the increased participation can hurt students. This is the case with homework, especially by the time your child is in middle school. According to Keith Robinson, one of the researchers in the study, parents often don’t make suitable tutors for older kids. Adults may have forgotten the material or they may not have learned it (or learned it well!) to begin with. With the introduction of the common core in school, things are simply taught differently now. I remember looking at a sixth-grader’s math assignment last summer and thinking that it might as well have been in a different language. After all, there is a reason your child goes to school: to learn from teachers, who are the best people to teach her about what she learns. It’s also not helpful for parents to communicate regularly with teachers, according to the study. The bottom line is that teachers have to be trusted to do their job.

Not understanding the material is a good reason to get less involved with your child’s homework, but it’s certainly not the only one. It’s hard for a child to feel confident about his homework if a parent is always breathing down his back. Moreover, there is going to be a day when a parent isn’t going to be able to help a child with an assignment. If that day doesn’t come until he enters college, it’s not going to be a good day. It’s in your child’s best interest for you to prepare him to be independent at a younger age. I understand the urge to help him with his work – especially because I used to have that urge often with the kids I babysat – but the best way to help is to lean back and let her try the assignment on her own first. You can still lend a little helping hand when he’s studying for an upcoming spelling test, but it’s time to cut back on helping if you find yourself doing it too much every night. If you are worried about your son or daughter’s progress in school, there are ways to help without constantly pitching in during homework time. For example, a tutor can work with both the student and the teacher to get the student up to speed on schoolwork. Luckily for Mom or Dad, you’ve reached an age where you don’t have to worry about homework anymore. Enjoy it!

Print out a homework schedule so your child can keep track of his assignments or browse backpacks.

What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School

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5 Ways Planning a Wedding Is Like Having a Baby

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

I am getting married in October, and almost every time someone asks me what I am doing at any point outside of work hours, I respond, “Working on wedding planning.” After several months of adopting a strict work/wedding schedule, I realized there were some similarities between my world at Parents and the wedding planning world. It turns out that planning a wedding is a whole lot like having a baby. For example, I have 40 weeks to plan my wedding, which is equivalent to a full-term pregnancy. As I type this, my craving for a giant piece of chocolate cake is going through the roof. And the similarities don’t end there. Here are 5 major ways I think planning my wedding is like having a baby.

1. I’m in constant communication with my mom. My mom and I have always been close. When I moved 1,000 miles away, it was a huge adjustment for both of us. The distance between us has become even more real now that I am (or, I should say, we are) planning this wedding. We call, text, email, mail, and even share Google documents. I used to say that I couldn’t imagine how much I would rely on my mom for guidance when I had a baby, but I think that wedding planning has given me a nice preview. Thank goodness for technology!

2. Strangers hand out unsolicited advice regularly. It is surprising how frequently complete strangers give me unwanted tips on how to plan my wedding. I enjoy when friends or coworkers check in on my wedding progress from time to time, but I have no interest in hearing Jane Doe’s thoughts on flower arrangements while I’m trying to read on the bus. I’ve learned about the dangers of not having a videographer and the importance of losing weight before the wedding. Now I know how pregnant women must feel on a day-to-day basis when their peaceful commute or errands run is interrupted with baby advice. Plus, a bump is even more noticeable than a ring.

3. I’m always worried I’m doing something wrong. Sometimes, the internet is not your friend. I learned this yet again the other night. In the back of my head, I knew it was okay that I hadn’t booked a band yet because having a wedding in Nashville means that there are more music options than I’ll ever need. But a wedding website insisted that I should have already booked the entertainment. I allegedly risked having no music at my wedding. Against my better judgment, I drafted a middle-of-the-night email to the venue asking them for recommendations ASAP. I feel like a first-time mom-to-be who calls the doctor constantly with problems that aren’t really problems.

4. Blending religions is hard. Today, it is not uncommon to have an interfaith marriage. However, that doesn’t mean that planning one is easy. I am Jewish and my fiancé is Catholic. Everyone has a different opinion on how a Jewish-Catholic wedding should happen, and there is no way to make everyone happy. And, if people have an opinion about our Jewish-Catholic wedding, they are definitely going to have a stronger opinion about raising any future Jewish-Catholic babies. Self, you’ve been warned.

5. In the end, it’s all worth it. I may be on an emotional roller coaster for the greater part of this year, similar to the ups and downs of pregnancy, but after all this is done, I will have gained something new and wonderful — a husband, a partner for the rest of my life, just as moms will have gained a newborn baby (or babies). All this for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health — an amazing feeling.

Save all of your pregnancy memories with our pregnancy milestone tracker or stock up on maternity dresses for the spring.

How to Eat Healthy During Pregnancy:Decoding Pregnancy Cravings
How to Eat Healthy During Pregnancy:Decoding Pregnancy Cravings
How to Eat Healthy During Pregnancy:Decoding Pregnancy Cravings

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People Magazine Declares: No More Paparazzi Pictures of Celeb Kids

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

paparazzi taking picturesAnyone who has watched Keeping Up With The Kardashians or TMZ knows that the paparazzi can be relentless when trying to get photos of famous people, even when the celebs are just going about their daily business. This guerilla-style method of photography allows us to get our fix of candid shots in our celebrity magazines and tabloids. However, celebrities and, most importantly, their kids suffer from constantly being stalked in the process. Luckily for our favorite famous kids, there could be an end to this madness in the future. One major magazine is changing its policy: New People magazine editorial director Jess Cagle has decided to put an end to unsanctioned celebrity pictures in the popular publication, stating that “[People has] no interest in running kids’ photos taken under duress.”

This isn’t the first time that the paparazzi’s treatment of celebrity children has come into question. Last summer, Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry testified about paparazzi stalking their kids in the hopes that California lawmakers would pass stricter laws. “We are moms here who are just trying to protect our children. It’s not about me. Take my picture. I get it. But these little innocent children, they didn’t ask to be celebrities,” Berry testified.

Though there was solid celebrity backing behind this initiative, not everyone is in favor of reforming paparazzi laws to benefit celebrity children. People is the only major magazine thus far that has changed its tune on candid kids shots. US Weekly publically defended its usage of paparazzi pictures. “No one told [celebrity parents] they had to have children. No one told them they had to live in Los Angeles. No one told them they had to live in New York … These are choices that they made,” said Ian Drew, entertainment director, in response to efforts to reform paparazzi laws.

I admit that I am a hypocrite when it comes to the debate about paparazzi versus celebrity kids. On one hand, I can’t imagine even one random person taking pictures of my family or me as we go to the grocery store or the gym. Truth be told, it’s crazy that we allow strangers to go around and snap shots of innocent kids trying to get to school, and I understand why any celebrity parent would be pushing for reform. However, I have to admit that I read the tabloids every so often and I enjoy the pictures of celebrity kids (and, yes, we do occasionally use these shots here on Parents.com). Even worse, I read Suri’s Burn Book, a blog that takes celebrity kid pictures and then makes fun of them. I think I choose to believe that celebrities and their families are a different breed and can tolerate crazy paparazzi and bullying.

In reality, celebrity kids are just like our kids, give or take a few million dollars. We shouldn’t allow people to harass them and take pictures of them when they are simply trying to do their day-to-day activities. I am glad that People magazine is taking a stand against paparazzi photography of children, and I hope the publication follows through. I just might be its next subscriber.

Take our quiz to find out what parenting style you have, shop trendy baby clothes for your little one, or, if you still can’t get enough celeb news, see which celebrities are pregnant.

Rosie Pope Solves Your Parenting Dilemmas
Rosie Pope Solves Your Parenting Dilemmas
Rosie Pope Solves Your Parenting Dilemmas

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Should We Let Our Kids Quit?

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Mia from the Princess Diaries and I have a surprising amount in common. We grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, we went to schools with uniforms, we have high-maintenance hair, and we’re tremendously uncoordinated. I mean really, painfully uncoordinated.

I thought Mia was lucky to only have to tackle gym class. I, on the other hand, was forced to put my lack of skills to the test after school as well, in the form of softball.

I dreaded going on the field every day. I dreaded the missed catches and the embarrassing swings. Therefore, when I read Noah Berlatsky’s Atlantic article “Teaching Kids to Quit,” about letting kids drop after-school activities they didn’t want to do anymore, my initial reaction was, “Yes! Tell parents it’s okay for their children to ditch their unwanted sport/hobby/club.”

According to Berlatsky, parents tend to discourage kids from giving up on things just because they are bored or they don’t like it anymore. This is because our society values and encourages perseverance. However, Berlatsky writes, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to learn about perseverance without forcing them to continue doing something they aren’t enjoying. Everyone’s childhood is hard in some way already, and there is no need to purposely add more difficulty into the mix. I agree that we should make our kids’ lives easier instead of harder. I like the idea of giving children more choices in life and allowing them more freedom. Kids who are feeling overwhelmed by activities – Boy/Girl Scouts and music lessons and dance and lacrosse – should be able to make some choices about what they really want to do, especially as they get older. It breaks my heart to see overly tired kids on their way to school in the morning, and I do think kids need some free time.

However, parents who do let your kids quit when they get bored may not be doing them any favors. Some kids might need more of a push than others to have a well-rounded schedule. If I had been left to my own devices, I would have probably spent way too much time doing a whole lot of nothing, and childhood is prime time to be doing a variety of things during and outside of school. In fact, as an adult, I regret that I didn’t do more as a kid when I had the flexibility in my schedule. As much as I dragged my feet getting to softball practice, I made friends, got some much needed physical activity, and, yes, learned plenty about perseverance throughout the years. Playing a sport was actually a requirement at my school, and, while I wanted to argue my way out of it the same way I avoided taking a mandatory public speaking class, my parents encouraged me to stick it out by taking things one day at a time and focusing on the positives. Even though I didn’t enjoy actually playing softball, I had to admit I liked getting to travel around the Bay Area and having post-game celebratory snacks with friends. I hope that Berlatsky’s article inspires some parents to relax about their children’s extracurricular activities, and that parents of kids who need some encouragement continue to help them pursue activities outside of the classroom.

Find out your parenting style, get advice on how to teach your child to love a sport, and browse sports equipment in our shop.

What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School

Image: Cute young baseball player via Shutterstock

 

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