Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Baby Wearing

I've talked about teens the last couple of posts, so today I'm posting about baby wearing. This is an article I did a few years ago. Some of you may have even given me quotes for this article. Read it and see if you agree.

 Leave your comments in the comment section. I am offering this book to the first person to leave a truly helpful and informative comment. You must have a U.S. mailing address not AK or HI.

Baby Wearing

     You want your baby near you, but you have wash dishes and tidy the house. He's not ready for a nap, although you are.  And really, you're happier when you have your baby close. The solution? Baby wearing. While this has been done in other countries since the beginning of time, it's newer to the United States.
      Parents have found that wearing their babies in slings and other carries has many advantages. Babies who are carried cry less. A team of pediatricians did a study in Montreal and found that carried babies cry 43% less. 
     If your infant is fussy, try carrying her more often throughout the day, not just in response to her cries. "My daughter rarely fusses when worn. It's like she forgets to fuss because she's right by me where all the action is," says Tara Krey.
     Baby wearing allows close contact with your child. Extra bonding takes place when baby is body to body with mom or dad. "When baby wearing I am able to nourish, comfort, and spend quality time with my daughter, all while completing whatever I need to get done throughout my day," says Krey. Pam Arndorfer agrees. "I love having the option of 'holding' my baby or child even when I'm busy. I love the comfort and security that they have from being worn."
      Babies who are worn learn from being engaged in activities. Rather than being put in a crib or playpen while mom does her daily tasks, these babies are right there watching from their front row seat. The sling also frees mom's hands to accomplish more.
      "I 'wore' all four of my children in a maya wrap ring sling," says veteran mom Jenee O'Carroll. "The most unusual thing I did while wearing my baby was bowl with my baby sleeping happily in the sling. I have done quite a bit of hiking, lawn mowing and gardening with a baby on my front, back or side."
     Tara Krey also has a list of what she's accomplished while wearing baby. "I have gone to the fireworks, gone out to eat, attended a Breastfeeding Walk, finished the dishes, done laundry, made the beds, vacuumed, etc, all while my baby was right along with me watching what I was doing."
     Sarah Anderson, mother of a toddler, has found her sling to be a lifesaver when she needed both hands free. "At the family reunion this summer my husband and I were the only ones with a toddler who could go through the line together because my son was in the ring sling. It's also very handy for rummage sales when you don't want to carry a heavy toddler around."
     There are many great wearable baby carriers available. It's important to find one that works well for you and to wear it properly so that it's comfortable for both you and baby.  When choosing a carrier you'll need to keep in mind:
The size of the person wearing the carrier.
The age and weight of the baby.
The planned activity.
            Soft structured carriers, such as Snugli or Baby Bjorn are one of the more popular choices. They easily fasten to the wearer's body with clips or buckles. These carriers are usually padded but the baby's weight is exclusively on the wearers shoulders and the baby's groin. This may become uncomfortable as the baby gains weight.
            One-shouldered sling style carriers are also popular and versatile. They can be used for newborns as well as older babies depending on how you position the child. Since all of the babies weight is on one shoulder, it's not good to use these for long periods of time as it can push your spine out of balance or cause injuries.
            A baby wrap, consisting of a piece of woven or stretchy material may be the most versatile carrier. The wrap may be from 4 to 15 feet long and can be used to carry babies in many different positions--front, back or hip. It takes practice to learn how to tie the wrap, but once you've found your favorite way, the freedom is rewarding.

            Some baby carriers, such as Mei-teis, consist of a piece of cloth that goes over the baby's back and ties over the parent's shoulders and around the waist.
            Which carrier you use should be determined by which one most comfortable allows you to have your baby close and still have your hands free to accomplish other things.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Why Mealtime with Your Teen Matters

This is an article I had in a parenting magazine a while back. I quoted some of you in this article :)  

What is the evening meal like at your house? Is there a mad rush to be done and off to different activities? Does everyone microwave his or her own food at different times and eat separately? Do you sit down together to eat and share daily events?

     When your children were little, you probably made sure that everyone ate together. You realized that this was important for your youngsters. You knew your little ones would eat more nutritiously, learn table manners, take turns talking, improve their vocabulary by listening to others and keep in touch with other family members.
     As your children grew older, soccer practice, piano lessons, cheerleading practice, marching band, sports competitions, and part time jobs were added to the schedule. You may find there are activities every night of the week that interfere with being together at dinnertime.

     Family mealtime may not seem so important now that your children are teens. After all, they know how to talk, and they've learned their manners and all the other things that were so important when they were young. However, it is still important to have that family connection.
Hindrances to Family Meals
     Teens have activities to do and friends to hang out with. Many teens have part time jobs that take them away from home during the late afternoon and evening hours.
     "As our children have gotten older and all of our schedules have gotten busier, finding time to sit down together for a family dinner occurs less often. Someone is usually at a sports practice, voice lesson or working overtime. We usually have dinner with everyone together only 2-4 times a week On other days, it's usually still a sit-down meal, but there are less of us there to enjoy it," says Teresa Cleary, mother of two teens still at home.

     This is pretty typical for the family with teens. Some days family members may be missing. Or, it may be that everyone eats at a separate time, fixing or heating up his or her own food.
     While parents list conflicting schedules as the biggest hindrance to eating together, some teens avoid the family meal out of a desire for autonomy, a dislike of the foods served or to avoid conflicts within the family. These are situations that need to be fixed before a successful mealtime can take place.
   The Importance of Family Meals for Teens
     Eating together has a lot of important benefits according to several recent studies. Teens who eat with their families have better mental health overall. They are less likely use alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs, have sex, get into trouble at school, and are at lower risk for suicide.
     Part of the reason may be that families who are more connected in the first place are those most likely to make family meals a priority. They are the parents who value together time and who know where their children are at if they aren't at home. But the family meal still remains a primary factor in influencing children. The more times a family is able to eat together during the week, the greater the feeling of being cared for and being part of a unit. A teen who regularly talks with his parents is more likely to seek them out when confronted with problems or facing conflicting values.

     "Routine and tradition help children feel secure," says Catherine Yoder, mother of children ages 17, 14, 14, 12 and 6. "It is a time to share news, teach manners and spend time together. Mealtimes are our most regular time together."
     The Project EAT (Eating Among Teens) team at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health has done extensive research into the benefits of family meals. They have found that besides the feelings of connectedness which family meals promote, they also promote positive dietary intake. Research showed teens that ate frequently with the family had higher fruit, vegetable and calcium intake than their peers who prepared their own meals or ate alone. There was also significantly less soda consumed. These teens had less unhealthy weight gain and fewer eating disorders.
 Accomplishing the Family Meal
    "I used to think life was busy when my children were little…I was wrong," says Teresa Clearly. "As they grow up, they have their own commitments that have to fit into the family schedule of events. There are always choices about what has to go and what gets to stay. The decisions are never easy and compromise is the order of the day."
     Many families are frustrated when hectic lifestyles prevent family meals. Eating together every night is probably an unrealistic goal. Striving for it and missing leads to feelings of failure or guilt. A more realistic goal would be to spend at least 30 minutes together at a meal 4 to 5 times a week.  This amount of time still provides the benefits of family connectedness, improved nutrition and keeping up to date on each others lives. It's also 4 or 5 times when you know where everyone in your family is at.
     If it's hard to make time for this, stop and look at schedules. Are family members trying to do too much? Are there some activities that can be dropped to allow more free time? If your teen is on the go every evening, his stress level may be higher than you realize. Taking time out to be together can provide a buffer for his busy life.

     " It was difficult to work around the schedules at times, but the weekends
seemed the easiest days to be together," says Leesa Chick, mother of two grown children. "Sunday was a sacred day so we either went out as a family or I cooked and we ate together. When the girls started dating, their boyfriends would come and seemed to enjoy it too. Several of the boyfriends did not eat with their families so were particularly happy to join in. It helped that the girls enjoyed the time as did their friends."
     Simply sitting at a table together doesn't mean that the food is nutritious or the time together is positive. Those things have to be worked at. Let everyone help plan the weekly menu. Challenge them to find ways to get in enough servings of vegetables. Set guidelines for mealtime conversation such as a "no knock" policy where no one can say anything critical about anyone else. Avoid dealing with individual problems.
     "Communicating with one another is what we did most at our
meals," says Leesa Chick. "You find out more about your children when you are sitting down eating than at any other time. Their guard seems to be down and if they feel like they can talk without judgment then they will."
     Teresa Cleary agrees, "We go over everyone's day and let everyone know about upcoming events. The most important part is the conversation and connection time."
     You might need to eat early before your teen leaves for his part time job. Perhaps you will eat later after the soccer game. Maybe breakfast is the best time for your family to be together. The important thing is being together, communicating, sharing values and being an important part of each other's lives

Strategies for Family Mealtime:
·        Make family meals a priority.
·        Involve teens in buying and preparing the food.
·        Keep meals simple and nutritious--work fruits, vegetables, grains and calcium into the meals.
·        Have a positive, fun atmosphere.
·        Avoid conflicts.

Topics for family discussion:
·        The best part of everyone's day.
·        Plans for summer vacation.
·        How to celebrate birthdays this year.
·        A movie everyone has seen.
·        Current events.
·        Values- "How do you feel about…"

Do  you have a mealtime strategy that works? Share it in the comment section. Do you have mealtime challenges? Share those too!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Choose Your Battles

This is an article I wrote a Christian parenting magazine. Maybe the ideas will help a parent decide what things are worth enforcing.

     Parenting battles are part of life, and those battles change as children get older. An important part of parenting is choosing your battles carefully. There are many things you want your teen to do or not do, but trying to enforce all of them is overwhelming both to you and your child. Stand firm on those things that involve your teen's health or safety, are part of your values system and that will help your child become a productive citizen.
Young Teens
     The same types of rules are important at each stage of your child's life, but the younger the teen, the more necessary it is that rules are spelled out clearly and the consequences in place.
     Children of this age are starting to assert their independence from their parents, while imitating their friends' actions and styles. It's easy to get into battles over clothing and hair, social media or schoolwork. Although it may be hard to give in on these issues, choose to enforce rules that are about values, safety and learning to be responsible. Young teens need freedom within strictly set boundaries.
     Respect is a must. This includes respect for parents, teachers and other authorities. It also includes respect for peers, siblings and property or possessions.
     Young teens may feel they need to start dating, but interactions with the opposite sex at this age are best limited to group and school activities. Pairing off with little supervision isn't something they are ready for.
     Young teens still need to be supervised. Friends shouldn't be invited over when there's no adult home, nor should they go to a friend's house where there is no supervision. Wandering the mall unsupervised also is not a good idea.
     Limited screen time—computers, iPads and other media—allows your child time to interact with family, complete chores and school work and get enough sleep. Have your child's passwords so you can monitor his activity, and keep computers and iPads in an area of the house that is monitored. Collect cell phones before homework time or at bedtime.
Middle Teens
     At this age teens have the means to be more independent. They may have a part-time job and a driver's license. More of their time is spent away from home in places where parents don't control the environment. A balance of offering guidance and allowing them enough freedom to make their own mistakes and gains is important.
     Avoid battles about clothing and hair styles but insist on modesty, cleanliness and decency. Hair that's longer than you'd like on your son or that has a streak of pink on your daughter isn't nearly as important as that it's clean and combed--as long as it doesn't represent an attitude problem or rebellion.
At this age, drivers are still inexperienced and having rules about passengers in the car and how late your teen can drive will help him have a better chance of being accident or ticket free.
Rules for dating and hanging out with friends need to be in place. The rules may vary by situation and responsibility—you can be out later because you're at a school event, or you've been home on time every night so you can stay out an hour later than usual. Make sure you know where your teen is in the evening hours. Even "good kids" can get into trouble when not held accountable. Completing chores and homework need to be a prerequisite for driving and dating.
Older Teens
     Your older teen may suddenly decide he's adult and can do what he wants. But if he lives under your roof, he needs to be willing to follow the rules that will keep him safe and on the road to successfully living on his own.
     Your older teen should be actively involved in making plans for his future. While you can guide him and help him find out where to get applications and when they are due, completing and submitting them are his responsibility.
     If your teen seems more interested in hanging out with friends than filling out scholarship forms or applications, you may have to sit down and make a list of things that must be done and when.
     At this age hopefully your teen will be abstaining from drugs, alcohol and wrong relationships not only because of your rules, but because it's part of his own personal values. If you see warning signs that things are going on that shouldn't be, don't be afraid to confront him. Help your teen understand both the pitfalls of wrong choices.
     There are many parenting battles that will be fought over the years as your child journeys from infancy to adulthood. Trying to fight every battle will leave you exhausted. Focus on the things that are most important as you guide your child through life.