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Are We There Yet?

Archive for March 2010

Financially Savvy Kids

Whenever we sit down for breakfast on Sundays, the first thing my kids pick up from the newspaper are the ads. They’re always on the lookout for inserts with full-color images of toys, videogames and all the usual stuff that seem to draw children’s attention. “Can you get me that?” asks my son, pointing to something huge in the Toys ‘R Us catalog. “I want this dolly for Christmas,” demands my daughter, even though she knows that it’s barely springtime and the winter holidays are many months away.

Lately, I’ve been trying to impart to my kids that there’s no such thing as free. And if something is free, then maybe there’s a catch. All these things they want usually come at a price, I tell them. “We don’t have the money,” I sometimes say. “If we want to buy more things, I have to work more, and that means I have to be writing at my computer instead of spending time with you.” I try to emphasize to my kids that time together as a family is a lot more meaningful that having money or stuff, but perhaps they are still too young to make that distinction.

In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Jeff D. Opdyke offered parents some advice on how to help their kids become more financially savvy. The article, “The 15 Money Rules Kids Should Learn,” is adapted from his latest book, “Piggybanking: Preparing Your Financial Life for Your Kids, and Your Kids for a Financial Life.”

Opdyke shared an instance when his son and a friend noticed a fancy sports call on the freeway. His son’s friend said, “Wow, that’s guy’s rich.” Opdyke’s son, however, replied: “It’s not how much money you spend that makes you rich. You don’t know; that guy might have spent all his money just to buy that car and he has nothing else. So he might not be rich at all.”

Here are a few of the rules Opdyke outlined in the article:

  • Spending money happens only after you earn it.
  • When kids start asking parents to drive to the toystore to buy some plastic whatnot, it’s time to consider an allowance.
  • Good grades are expected and help around the house is simply the price of family life.
  • Children should have the right to screw up financially so that they can learn from their mistakes.

One of his final pieces of advice in the story is this: “At some point, you have to tell the kids that the Bank of Mom & Dad is officially closed.” Which leads me to wonder… Have any of you parents ever just cut your kids off and stopped paying for their expenses? How old were they when you did this? What lessons did you and your child learn?

 

Free parenting seminar

How do we learn to be parents? Unlike most professions, which often require tests, training and years of study, parenting is the kind of job that most of us learn by doing. There are no internships or opportunities for “student parenting.” Although we might get advice from friends and relatives, we don’t have a 24-hour hotline to call for troubleshooting. Most of us also rarely get the opportunity to take a class on how to become better parents.

To help moms and dads meet the challenges of raising a family, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is offering a free parenting seminar next month.

“So many issues face families in our time,” Dr. Ron Hardy, a Spokane obstetrician and one of the event organizers, said in a press release. “This seminar will present practical tools to help parents build positive connections with their children.”

The seminar will feature local therapists, physicians and a local Chartered Life underwriter and financial consultant. These experts will focus on six topics: principles of discipline; nurturing children; talking to your teen; family finances; behavioral health; and blended families.

Although faith-based, the church’s parenting seminar is open to everyone, regardless of belief or background, organizers said. The event is designed to offer parents practical advice on how to nurture children so they can grow up to become responsible adults.

 

The seminar will take place on Saturday, April 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Spokane North Stake Center, 401 W. Regina Ave. For more information, check out www.parentingseminar.org

Parents: Whom do you turn to for parenting advice?

Baby Slings

When my children were babies, my husband and I “wore” them wherever we went. Babywearing — also known as carrying one’s child in a sling — enables infants and toddlers to experience their surroundings. For parents, babywearing promotes bonding. It’s also practical for busy moms since slings leave their arms and hands free to do chores and take care of other children. Babywearing gave me the freedom to move while also staying close to my child.

“Babywearing means changing your mindset of what babies are really like,” wrote Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician and advocate of “attachment parenting.”  “New parents often envision babies as lying quietly in a crib, gazing passively at dangling mobiles and picked up and carried only to be fed and played with and then put down. You may think that ‘up’ periods are just dutiful intervals to quiet you baby long enough to put him down again. Babywearing reverses this view. Carry your baby in a sling many hours a day, and then put her down for sleep times and tend to your personal needs.”

At our house, we used four different slings — two that were adjustable and two others made by New Native, Inc. Lesley Doyle, a mom in Los Angeles, has 10 different baby carriers, according to a recent LA Times story, “Baby Carriers: One size does not fit all.” Some moms make their own slings but others also purchase well-known brands including Ergo, Maya Wrap, Moby and Peanut Shell.

Slings and other baby carriers have grown in popularity in recent years, but some experts caution against them. Earlier this month, the Consumer Product Safety Commmission issued a warning that baby slings may be harmful to babies younger than four months of age.

The CPSC is investigating 14 deaths in the last 20 years that have been associated with slings. Twelve of the fatalities involved babies younger than four months. Most of the infants were born prematurely or had breathing issues such as a cold.

When using a sling, the CPSC recommends that parents make sure the infant’s face is not covered and remains visible at all times to the sling’s wearer.

I’m still a huge proponent of slings, especially the non-adjustable kind (without the rings) because they fit me better and there wasn’t a lot of excess fabric.

Do you or did you use a baby sling? What are the benefits and disadvantages? What advice do you have for moms learning to use one — especially with newborns?

Airplane travel with babies and little ones

My son was 9 months old the first time we took him on an airplane flight. He was teething at that time so the plane trip from Spokane to Seattle to Los Angeles and finally to Manzanillo, Mexico, along with all the layovers proved to be a little exasperating. Our son cried a lot during those flights. And to make matters worse, he puked a couple of times during the flight from Seattle to L.A.

We were lucky, however. Our fellow airline passengers were very patient with us. For the most part, they looked on with sympathy and several people offered words of comfort while telling their own stories of traveling with kids.

Apparently, people on airplanes aren’t always so kind. A recent CNN story, “Fly and Cry: Babies divide air travelers,” noted how many airplane passengers are actually irritated by infants and small children.

“Babies should be banned from planes, movie theatres, restaurants, and any other public place for that matter,” one poster wrote on CNN.com. “The rest of the world doesn’t think your kid is as cute as you do.”

 

Obviously, parents need to be responsible for their children’s behavior, but sometimes, it’s impossible to predict how our children might react to the plane ride.

“The other people on the plane do not have to be subjected to your child crying. It is absolutely not something that they should be expected to endure. They can’t leave,” Dr. Susan Bartell, a psychologist and parenting expert, told CNN.

Experts interviewed by CNN offered the following advice:

- Give a baby something to suck on during take-off and landing because infants and small children often experience a change in cabin pressure.

- Don’t sedate your baby with over-the-counter medications.

- Don’t forget to bring a change of clothes, baby wipes, diapers and everything your child might need to stay happy.

- If your infant starts crying during the plane ride, comfort him or her.

- Older kids need more reinforcements. Some parents like to bring a portable DVD for their children to watch television. Others try to be pro-active by bringing toys along as well as snacks and other treats.

- Talk to kids about your expectations.

- Watch that your child doesn’t kick the seat in front of her or him.

What else should parents do when traveling with babies and little kids on the airplane?

Airplane travel with infants and kids

My son was 9 months old the first time we took him on an airplane flight. He was teething at that time so the plane trip from Spokane to Seattle to Los Angeles and finally to Manzanillo, Mexico, along with all the layovers proved to be a little exasperating. Our son cried a lot during those flights. And to make matters worse, he puked a couple of times during the flight from Seattle to L.A.

We were lucky, however. Our fellow airline passengers were very patient with us. For the most part, they looked on with sympathy and several people offered words of comfort while telling their own stories of traveling with kids.

Apparently, people on airplanes aren’t always so kind. A recent CNN story, “Fly and Cry: Babies divide air travelers,” noted how many airplane passengers are actually irritated by infants and small children.

“Babies should be banned from planes, movie theatres, restaurants, and any other public place for that matter,” one poster wrote on CNN.com. “The rest of the world doesn’t think your kid is as cute as you do.”

 

Obviously, parents need to be responsible for their children’s behavior, but sometimes, it’s impossible to predict how our children might react to the plane ride.

“The other people on the plane do not have to be subjected to your child crying. It is absolutely not something that they should be expected to endure. They can’t leave,” Dr. Susan Bartell, a psychologist and parenting expert, told CNN.

Experts interviewed by CNN offered the following advice:

- Give a baby something to suck on during take-off and landing because infants and small children often experience a change in cabin pressure.

- Don’t sedate your baby with over-the-counter medications.

- Don’t forget to bring a change of clothes, baby wipes, diapers and everything your child might need to stay happy.

- If your infant starts crying during the plane ride, comfort him or her.

- Older kids need more reinforcements. Some parents like to bring a portable DVD for their children to watch television. Others try to be pro-active by bringing toys along as well as snacks and other treats.

- Talk to kids about your expectations.

- Watch that your child doesn’t kick the seat in front of her or him.

What else should parents do when traveling with babies and little kids on the airplane?

Inside your teen’s brain

Science can actually explain why once well-behaved children morph into moody teens who don’t always make good choices. Blame it on their brains.

According to a recent story on National Public Radio, teen brains simply aren’t fully developed. Their brains’ frontal lobes are not completely connected, which explains why they don’t always think things through or consider the consequences of their actions.

A frontal lobe that’s not fully developed also explains why some teens seem to focus solely on themselves, according to the story. “You think of them as these surly, rude, selfish people,” Frances Jensen, a pediatric neurologist at Boston’s Children’s Hospital told NPR. “Well, actually, that’s the developmental stage they’re at. They aren’t yet at that place where they’re thinking about — or capable, necessarily, of thinking about the effects of their behavior on other people. That requires insight.”

The brain chemistry of teens also contributes to their heightened sensitivity and responsiveness to their environments, which then makes them more susceptible to addictions, according to NPR.

Last month, United Press International reported on a University of Pittsburgh study that discovered how adolescent rats behaved more irrationally and compulsively compared to adult rats. The teen rats kept returning to a hole for a reward, even though the reward no longer existed, according to UPI.

The findings suggest that teen’s sensitivity to feels and their surroundings could be linked to the risky behaviors often associated with adolescence.

“A scenario could range from the relatively mundane, such as hungry teenagers being more likely than adults to buy fast-food immediately after seeing an advertisement, to despair and relationship problems eliciting thoughts of suicide,” researcher Bita Moghaddam said.

In light of all these special circumstances during adolescence, what can parents and other adults do do to help teens?

To pump or not to pump?

Shortly after returning to work from maternity leave, my boss asked me to travel to Olympia for an assignment. It was just a day trip but I still was faced with a dilemma. At that time, I had to pump milk for my baby about two times during the workday (it usually took only 15 minutes  each time — I also never took coffee breaks and I ate lunch at my desk so the pumping never took time away from work). I was lucky to work for a company that had a designated room for breastfeeding moms, but I couldn’ stick to my routine during my business trip. The courthouse where I was supposed to be covering a story didn’t have a similar room for breastfeeding moms.

I was torn. On one hand, I wanted to tell my boss that I couldn’t go on the trip and that she needed to find someone else. At the same time, I didn’t want to seem incapacitated and incapable of doing my job.

I ended up going to Olympia for the day with my breast pump. Fortunately, a colleague was able to find a room in a nearby building for me to use. I had to “pump and dump” instead of bringing milk home for my child because the airlines weren’t too keen on carry-on liquids. Despite that, it was a still a huge relief for health reasons.

I’m sharing this personal bit of information because of a post on the Washington Post’s Juggle, a blog for parents who juggle careers while raising children. In “The Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding,” reporter Ruth Mantell discussed why she decided not to pump milk at work.

“I’m well aware that breast milk is considered the optimal food for babies. That’s why I happily nursed for the past six months, ” she wrote. “But working moms may face stiff penalties for breastfeeding, a price that I’m not sure my family can afford. My job’s irregular schedule makes it impractical to pump milk at work. And given that my husband and I have financial goals, such as saving for retirement and a healthy portion of our daughter’s education costs, I don’t want to quit or downshift my career to accommodate a regular pumping or breastfeeding schedule.”

Mantell also interviewed Phyllis Rippeyoung, a sociology professor at Acadia University who’s also doing research on the economic consequences imposed on women who choose to nurse their babies. Rippeyoung noted that women who breastfeed for more than six months experienced steep declines in income “mainly due to their increased likelihood of reducing their work hours or quitting.”

 

Moms: Were you able to continue breastfeeding when you returned to work? Did your decision to continue nursing your child affect your finances?

The rights of parents

Allison Stevens, a columnist based in Washington D.C., recently discussed why some new mothers become less politically active after having children. It’s due to sheer exhaustion, explained Stevens, who has two young children.

“Not long ago I worked as a reporter for daily publications. I used to hammer out up to three stories a day,” Stevens wrote in her online column, “Momagenda.” “Now it seems like I have lost all ability to write anything on the fly, other than an e-mail to my husband begging him to come home from work and help me get mac ‘n cheese on the table before the 2-year-old melts down.”

Stevens pointed out the obvious but often unspoken: Women who eat on the run, rarely get enough sleep and juggle careers with motherhood don’t have much free time to lobby for laws on behalf of children and families.

Her column, “Exhaustion is Political Parent’s Enemy No. 1,” struck a chord with me, especially her description of not even having time to keep up with current events. As a former newspaper journalist, something is amiss in my life if I can’t take time to pick up the paper and educate myself on local news and developments. But since I’ve been spending more time as a teacher and rushing the whole family out the door by 7:20 a.m. in order to drop off the kids and make it to my school internship, the newspapers have started piling up on my front porch. Last week, it was Friday by the time I read news that happened the weekend before.

There are watchdog groups out there that stay informed and continue standing up for the rights of families and children, Stevens pointed out. We also have strong and passionate advocates in government, politics and the community.

“But mothers can’t job this out, however tired we may feel,” she stressed.

Which is why she decided to launch Momagenda, a column about motherhood and politics. It’s one more thing on top of her long list of responsibilities, but she has made it her mission to educate other parents about legislation, court cases, political campaigns and other issues and events that affect families.

And for that, I’m grateful.

How about you? Are you able to keep up with current events? Despite the demands of your career and household, are you still engaged in politics and the community? Is it a priority for your family?

Superheroes

As the oldest of three girls, I grew up in a household where we played with dolls, furry stuffed animals and a small kitchen set complete with dishes and pots and pans.

So as a new mom, I didn’t have a clue about boys.

When my oldest started pretending to beat up “bad guys” and making loud noises that sounded like gunfire, I didn’t know what to do. It was just make-believe, after all, but at the same time, I didn’t want to encourage my son to become violent and aggressive.

After talking to a few educators and also other parents, I quicky learned that it was perfectly normal and OK for boys to engage in superhero play. In fact, it’s good for them.

This recent Psychology Today blogpost from Dr. Christine L. Carter, author of “Raising Happiness: In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents,” offered a practical and hopeful persepctive.

Carter, who is also the “happiness expert” at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, noted how encouraging our children to be superheroes can actually help stop bullying at school.

“Bystanders stand by and watch while other kids are bullied,” she wrote in her bloy. “Heroes don’t let bullying happen: they intervene, get help. They are out to save the world, one kid at a time.”

Carter insists that it is important for parents to foster our children’s heroic imaginations, which encourages them to develop emotional intelligence. “(H)eroes have a strong awareness of things that aren’t right. They pick up on the cues that suggest someone might be in trouble—or headed that way. With those skills, kids can learn to avert danger before it occurs.”

Her other advice:

  • Teach kids they have the power to resolve conflict.
  • Show empathy and be a role model to your own kids.
  • Expect them to act like heroes.

How do you teach your own kids to act like superheroes in the real world?

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This blog is intended to provide a forum for parents to share knowledge and resources. It's a place for parents young and old to combine their experiences raising families into a collective whole to help others.

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