The Conversation All Parents of Young Athletes Need to Have

For those of you who don’t know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. For those of you who want to stop reading now—it is a tough subject—I remind you that it’s because of this sensitivity that we need to talk about it. According to the CDC, one in four girls and one in six boys will have experienced some form of sexual abuse by age 18. We can all agree that even one person is too many.

Participation in sports can be an invaluable experience for kids. Not only does it keep them active and physically fit, youth sports is where many learn teamwork, sportsmanship, determination, and perseverance. As a kid playing basketball and tennis, I learned how to work with my peers towards a common goal—and have fun while doing it. Yet, sports can also be a high-risk environment for physical and sexual abuse. We’ve seen this in national news stories like the Sayreville High School Football team, but, unfortunately, this is a risk for kids of all ages. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent these harmful situations so that children reap only the benefits of organized sports.

USA Swimming is one organization that has been working to actively increase awareness to reduce the risk of abuse in the sport through the Safe Sport Program. By following a five-point program, USA Swimming aims to create a safe and healthy environment for kids.

One of the most important things parents can do is to talk to your kids. Teach your children about their bodies and about appropriate boundaries. Darkness to Light, an organization committed to stopping child sexual abuse, offers some great tips about how to speak to your kids about this difficult subject. Teach your child what parts of his body no one should touch. You don’t want to scare your child, but you also want to keep him safe. Talk to the instructors. Make sure you feel comfortable with them. The relationship between coaches and participants is one based on trust. The more dialogue we can get going, the closer we will be to ending abuse and focusing on what really matters: kids having fun.

Ruthie Fierberg is an editorial assistant at Parents. Though she does not have children of her own, she’s practically been raising kids since her first babysitting job at age 11. She is our resident theater aficionado and can be found constantly running around New York City to find the best new show, the most awesome dance party, or the hottest Bikram yoga studio. Follow her on Twitter @RuthiesATrain.

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The Longest Minutes of Your Life: When Your Child Gets Lost

Once you’ve had a child disappear from your sight in a store, an amusement park, or even your own neighborhood, it’s unlikely you’ll ever forget it. I know I won’t. The time that I was separated from my 2 ½ year old in a Kohl’s felt like the longest 10 minutes of my life.

If you haven’t been that panicked parent yet, consider yourself lucky. Either way, I hope you’ll read this important article by Michelle Crouch in our April issue of Parents, “What to Do If Your Child Gets Lost.” As Crouch reports, almost 1,000 children a day get lost for 60 minutes or more, and those are just the reported cases. (Heavens.) The good news about children who become lost is most of them are found quickly. It is a very, very small percentage of children who are abducted by a stranger or acquaintance: 115 each year.

Still, there are some basic safety rules children can learn from a young age, like their Mommy’s full name (so you can be paged), and if possible, your cellphone number. Another is if your child does become lost—and it’s my favorite piece of advice in the story—is to ask the first “mommy” she sees with a child for help. Why? “Women with kids are statistically less likely to be predators and more likely to stay with your child until she finds you,” writes Crouch. I also appreciated learning that most safety experts say it is okay to call out your child’s name—the most natural thing a parent would feel compelled to do—since the risk of abduction is so small, and that attracting attention can actually be a deterrent to any would-be predators.

Another suggestion for children who like to bolt is to consider safety harnesses or leashes. Now, I wish I had had the courage as a first-time parent with my son, my most active child, to use a restraining leash in public places, in spite of harsh judgment. (Cam and Mitch on “Modern Family” wish they got one for Lily right away, too!) “They’re a great way to keep children safe because they actually give them more freedom,” says Parents advisor Jenn Berman, Psy.D., author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids. “They have more room to stretch and explore, their hands are free, and if you have multiple children it makes it easier to corral them.”

One more great piece of advice is to get help, immediately—don’t wait. When I lost my son, a store employee mobilized the others to guard the entrances, both front and rear (“Oh no, back doors?” I realized in my helpless state). It was my friend I’d been shopping with who found my son, clear on the other side of the store and visibly nervous. I remember my tearful relief—and that another “mommy,” a stranger I never got a chance to thank properly, had joined me, without my asking, to find him. I hope this story spares a few fellow parents from lost-child panic, and helps them and their kids know what to do in this very common, all-too-human situation.

Gail O’Connor is a mom of three and a senior editor at Parents. You can follow her on Twitter @gailwrites.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock



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A Must Read For Moms (Actually, For Everyone)

It didn’t take me long to start laughing as I turned the pages of Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer, by Una LaMarche. The giggles started on page 4, when I saw the chart she created of her suspected family tree—unconfirmed by genetic testing—that resulted in the unfortunate (and unseparated) eyebrows of the title, as seen on the cover (Una looks to be about 7 at the time): Apparently her great grandparents included Frida Kahlo, Martin Scorsese, Leonid Brezhnev, and a female sasquatch (she drew likenesses of them all to prove her point). Well . . .

If you’re not LOL-ing yet, you will be when you buy this book. We at Parents loved it so much that we decided to excerpt a flowchart that had nothing whatsoever to do with parenthood (below).

Actually, most of this title isn’t about parenting, though LaMarche is indeed a mom. But that’s okay, because she finds humor everywhere—much of it by looking in the mirror. She chronicles all the places she can never go anymore (and why), her childhood fear of gym class, and the most shocking revelations from her Barbies’ tell-all memoirs (hamsters allowed to defecate in Dream House). She talks about the categories of fights she has with her husband (whose life is worse; who is more tired), and details seven things no one tells you about post-baby sex (Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet is just taunting you now; sex toys become literal). One of my favorite sections was a chart chronicling how you’re screwing up your baby no matter what—whether you breast or formula feed; use disposable diapers or cloth ones; go back to work or stay home with your kid; and so forth. The point: No matter what you do, there are some who will say you’re doing it wrong. By contrast, there’s no way to goof by picking up this book (unless you’re offended by a bit of profanity): It’s infectiously funny, and so digestible that even taking a two-minute break from caregiving to read a page or two will brighten your day. Rather, it is a guide on whether you should eat food that’s fallen on the floor. Spoiler alert: The path always leads to “Yes,” unless you’re eating it for health reasons (in which case you can toss it).

Sex After Baby: How Long Should I Wait to Have Sex?
Sex After Baby: How Long Should I Wait to Have Sex?
Sex After Baby: How Long Should I Wait to Have Sex?

David Sparrow is a senior editor at Parents magazine and a dad of two (one of each).

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How a Japanese Self-Help Book Got My Daughter to Clean Her Room

Have you heard of this book? The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo, has been at or near the top of the New York Times bestseller list for 21 weeks.

I love to declutter, but it’s not an simple process in a small New York City apartment, especially with a 9 year-old daughter who cherishes every piece of string she’s ever cut and every scrap of paper she has put a pencil to. Luckily (for my sanity), my husband is more like me than like her, but I am generally the one who leads the toy and paper-purging sessions at home. (True confession: I have been known to pop and toss balloons after Rosa has gone to bed and hide a stack of drawings for a few weeks to see if she misses them before dumping them in the recycling bin. She never misses them.)

At times Rosa has shown some cleaning initiative. After reading about it in a book she once went on a feng shui kick that lasted a few weeks. But generally the only way I have gotten her to willingly toss papers is to offer a minute of screentime for every scrap she recycles. Don’t even get me started on stuffed animals. I don’t think there is any reward great enough to encourage her to let go of one of those furry beasts…unless it’s another stuffed animal.

So a book like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is catnip for me, but “life-changing” and “magic” are two very strong words. Really?

Kondo’s system is deceptively simple: first declutter and then organize what you have kept. This book is not about storage solutions. (“Storage experts are hoarders.”) Instead, it’s about being very choosy about your belongings. As Kondo says, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

Indeed, Kondo seems much more excited about the decluttering aspect of her philosophy. She walks readers through the order in which to declutter: first clothes, then books, papers, miscellaneous items like electronics, kitchen gear, make-up, and tchotchkes. The final category is sentimental items.

I couldn’t wait to dive in, and started as instructed with my clothes. Unlike other guides which advise getting rid of anything that you haven’t worn in the past year, Kondo wants you to keep only what you love. I followed her advice, putting every piece of clothing from my closet and drawers onto the bed. Then I picked up each piece and asked myself, “Does this spark joy?” If the answer was yes it went into the keep pile, if no it went into the giveaway pile.

I discovered a couple of important things during this process. First, I owned a ridiculous amount of clothes, shoes, and bags. Second, I only loved about a third of them. After this exercise I donated four big trash bags of clothes, and as Kondo promised, it sort of changed my life! I have a small closet, and it is so much better organized now. My clothes hang nicely, and the beauty of liking everything in your closet is that it’s much easier to choose an outfit in the morning. And, interestingly, by surrounding myself only with clothes that make me happy I have lost any desire to go shopping. I already love my clothes, and I don’t want to cram more into my well-organized closet.

Asking a sweater whether it brings you joy did seem a little bizarre to me. Apparently a friend of a friend threw away her winter boots because they didn’t bring her joy…in January…well before the end of a snowy winter here in NYC. So perhaps we need to be a little flexible with our definition of joy. Having warm, dry feet in February brings me joy even if my snow boots do not. But, quibbles aside, this book speaks to me.

Kondo advises, and I am in agreement, that you can’t force others to declutter. I decided before I started that I would declutter without giving Rosa or my husband even the smallest encouragement to do the same. Rosa watched me, though, and as I set aside bags to donate, I talked about how great I felt making more space for the things I really love.

A couple of weeks after my closet clean-out I called downstairs to Rosa. She yelled back up that she was busy…cleaning out her toy chest. She asked for a trash bag to put old toys in she wanted to donate. My jaw dropped, and my husband did a double-take. I brought down a trash bag, playing it cool, and saw to my utter delight that Rosa had earmarked about a third of her old, broken, unloved toys to get rid of.

Rosa’s room is still over-stuffed, but not nearly as much as before. She has even taken to folding the clothes she sets out to wear to school the next day.

So whether Marie Kondo inspired my daughter to declutter, or I did, there is indeed some life-changing magic happening in my small apartment.

Jenna Helwig is the food editor at Parents and the author of Real Baby Food and Smoothie-licious. Her idea of an awesome Saturday afternoon is cleaning out the pantry and medicine cabinet. But she will always, always have too many cookbooks. Follow her on Twitter.

Home Organization: Getting Rid of Toys
Home Organization: Getting Rid of Toys
Home Organization: Getting Rid of Toys

Book cover image via

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DVR Alert: This Docu-Series on Fetal Surgery Is Riveting!

Like many expecting couples, Shelly and Bobby were excited for their 18-week fetal ultrasound. The Massachusettes couple asked their ultrasound tech to write their baby’s gender on a piece of paper so they could open it—and celebrate the news—later on, together. Instead, they got news of a very different sort: A message that their doctor needed to speak to them, and the devastating finding that their unborn baby girl appeared to have the most severe form of spina bifida possible.

Shelly is just one of the moms-to-be whose story is told in an absolutely riveting new three-part documentary series, Twice Born: Stories From the Special Delivery Unit, which premieres on PBS on Tuesday, March 31st, at 8:00pm ET. The series follows doctors and staff at the fetal surgery center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the families who come to them hoping for miracles.

Thirty years ago, as the series points out, we wouldn’t even be talking about any of this. Doctors who proposed the idea of operating on a fetus were considered crazy. But today, hundreds of prospective patients like Shelly come to CHOP’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment each year to be evaluated to see if they—or more specifically, their fetuses—are viable candidates for fetal surgery. Roughly 150 to 200 are accepted as patients. It’s a life-changing opportunity, and a decision with tremendously high stakes, but the drama, of course, starts well before that point.

I had the opportunity to watch part one of the series before it airs, and I can attest to the fact that it’s must-see TV for any parent or parent to be. There is joy and sadness as Shelly and Bobby and Lesly, another mom-to-be featured in episode one, share their stories and learn whether or not CHOP will be able to help their unborn babies. (Lesly’s daughter developed a tumor in utero that could prevent her from being able to breathe once she’s delivered and the umbilical cord is cut.) There’s the behind-the-scenes insight from the CHOP medical experts, including a touching, unexpected revelation about one of the surgeons’ own experiences as a parent.

And then there’s stunning (and, as the photo above illustrates, graphic) footage of actual fetal surgeries taking place. It’s just mind-boggling to see these doctors at work on the tiniest, most vulnerable of patients and to acknowledge how advanced—and amazing—modern medicine has become. (In related news, now there are even micropacemakers being developed for fetal use!)

I watched the first episode for my job (and you can watch the trailer here), but I’ll tune in to the next two out of genuine interest and fascination. This is reality TV that’s absolutely worth watching.


Erika Janes is the Digital Director of and the mom of two boys. Follow her on twitter: @ErikaJanes1

Image: Courtesy of PBS and John Rotan


Labor & Delivery: Unplanned C-Section
Labor & Delivery: Unplanned C-Section
Labor & Delivery: Unplanned C-Section

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