Written on December 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Glennon Doyle Melton
All I want for Christmas is for my kids to be happy, but too often I forget that the kind of happiness I can buy them at the mall doesn’t last. That kind is superficial and fleeting, and we shouldn’t teach our kids to rely on it. Because if our kids learn that joy comes from things they can write on a list, things they don’t already have, any sort of things, they will become the kind of adults who believe that joy is elusive—outside of themselves, something that only materially blessed people have—which we know is simply not true. Joy is within the grasp of each and every one of us. Joy is looking around at what we already have and counting it all as miraculous. The only lasting joy is gratitude.
This year, I’m going to spend some energy teaching my kids about lasting joy. A good holiday season is not about making lists of stuff we wish we had. It’s about making lists of what we already have and love. We just started a Holiday Gratitude Journal with our kids. Every night we sit together and write down three things each of us is grateful for. That’s my kind of list! I share more about how our family learned to make room for gratitude in the December issue of Family Circle.
Written on December 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm , by Christina Tynan-Wood
If you are among the 141 million people who shopped online on Cyber Monday or participated in the brawl that was Black Friday, and if you put any technology in your cart, I encourage you to take a minute to think about how much human brilliance went into creating a world where a $200 tablet is possible. And when shopping for your kids, I suggest you think about the role you can play in nurturing that sort of brilliance.
You might know that much of the amazing innovation we have seen in our lives started with a famous statement by John F. Kennedy that began the commitment to go to the moon. But it is a statement made by Bill Gates much more recently (in his 2008 testimony before the House Committee on Science and Technology) that worries me. He is one of the people who contributed to creating a world where you can wrap that sweet tech gear and put it under the tree for your kids. And he’s concerned about the future. “The United States’ preeminence in science and technology,” he says, “has long been the source of our global economic leadership…But that position is at risk.” Why? Because there is a “severe shortfall of scientists and engineers with the expertise to develop the next generation of breakthroughs.”
Take a minute to stop and think about the innovation that went into that smartphone or tablet. Twenty years ago a machine that could process that much information or display that quality of graphics was the stuff of science fiction. According to the Computer History Museum’s time line of computer history, Apple introduced the Lisa in 1983. This was the first personal computer with a graphical user interface…and it wasn’t much of one. The Lisa’s sloth and price ($10,000) led to its failure.
The Internet you intend to connect to with the $200 tablet you tossed into your cart for the kids? In 1983 it was in such a state of infancy that there was nothing to connect to. Then called ARPANET, it was a way for universities and the military to collaborate, and would not be renamed the Internet until 1995. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (which is what essentially made the Internet usable for the rest of us) in 1989, but no one really noticed until 1990.
Do the math: Technology transformed the world in my 17-year-old son’s lifetime.
My point? If you are raising kids, help them understand that people accomplished all this in a very short time, and not because someone taught them exactly what to do in school. For the most part, those people were once children who liked to play with toys that let them build stuff. Steve Wozniak, for example, liked to build things as a kid. So his father took the time to explain electronics to him. Woz sites that as a major reason for the path he took toward building the first personal computer and thereby changing the world.
I’m all for buying the tablet, smartphone or computer and putting it under the tree. But would you teach your kids to read and not teach them to write? Why not also take a minute to help your kids envision themselves as creators of the future of technology, the people who will develop the next generation of breakthroughs? It might not take that much effort.
Written on December 5, 2013 at 10:00 am , by jtaylor
By now you’ve probably heard about the “knockout game,” in which a young person targets an unsuspecting victim and punches them as hard as possible. However, out of respect for the victims worldwide—one of whom died—you won’t see any images of those assaults here. And in an attempt to deter copycats, you won’t be able to click through to any links to videos of those attacks here either.
I’m of the opinion that repeated viewing of these antics can minimize the horror because we watch them and then turn off the TV or move on to the next news story. What’s missed are the aftereffects: the perpetual trauma experienced while innocently walking down a street with the purpose of getting home or to work or school after having been blindsided by a vicious blow to the head. It’s unfathomable.
Anyone who excuses such horrifying behavior as a childish prank is grossly mistaken. There is a huge difference between pranks that embarrass and surprise folks and the knockout game—meant to intentionally cause bodily harm for the sake of a laugh or screen shot.
Violence is not a game. The recent sickening posts involving ruthless, immature hooligans who target innocent men, women and children for assault and videotaping are criminal acts and should be dealt with accordingly. Media outlets should stop the distributing videos of the attacks. I am certain the victims are further traumatized by the repeated airing.
There’s work for parents to do as well. Unsupervised teens who hang out in groups are more likely to be involved in questionable activity. If their destructiveness is born out of boredom, let’s increase volunteer opportunities in environments that promote self-esteem and compassion for others. Parents should also be held to a higher standard for the untoward behavior of their children. Something has to change.
What do you think? Post a comment below and let me know.
Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written on December 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by Family Circle
Recipes get passed down through the generations and so do healthy eating habits. Our guest blogger Melissa Halas-Liang, RD, founder of the wellness group SuperKids Nutrition, explains how diet can create a better destiny for your kids—and your whole family.
As parents we strive to raise our children to be the healthy adults of tomorrow. When they’re young, we teach them to apply sunblock, brush their teeth and look both ways when they cross the street. However, the relationship between our children’s current health and the risk for disease (type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease) is easy for even the most diligent of parents to miss.
I recently spoke with a well-educated mother who said the fight against childhood obesity doesn’t apply to her family. To this I replied that objectivity is a challenge, because parents often compare their kids to the heaviest child in class, distorting the degree of relative risk.
Don’t let yourself fall into this trap! As it turned out, this mother was intrigued by our conversation and checked her children’s body mass indexes (BMI), as I suggested. She emailed later to inform me her daughter in fact was considered overweight for her age and her son obese. Many parents are just not aware.
Here a few things to know about three diseases we should all be aware of.
Cancer: Did you know that one in three cancers are preventable through lifestyle, aka good nutrition and fitness? Recent research in the field of epigenetics reveals that children’s diet and fitness level will influence genetic behavior later in life. Many of the foods children eat today are cancer-promoting, not cancer-preventing. The American Institute for Cancer Research offers kid-friendly, fun, tasty recipes and other family resources for cancer prevention.
Heart Disease: Perception of body weight is too often skewed. In a recent study, only 10% of adults believed their children ages 6 to 19 were overweight when in reality 33% were overweight or obese. Even the youngest Americans have precursors to heart disease: 61% of overweight children 5 to 10 years of age had at least one major risk factor for heart disease, and 26% had two or more!
Diabetes: “Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents already appears to be a sizable and growing problem among U.S. children and adolescents,” per the Centers for Disease Control. Children with a family history of type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance and a BMI at or above 95th percentile are at increased risk. Kids’ eating habits now impact their habits later, which can increase their risk at age 20, 30 or 40.
Prevention of all three diseases is possible, and it must start today! So, how do we slow down our children’s risk for developing these chronic diseases? Here are 5 simple steps to get you started.
1) Check your child’s BMI. Weight is a sensitive topic that is too often ignored. Ask your pediatrician to discuss healthy eating with your child. Before the appointment, visit the CDC website to check your child’s body mass index.
2) Evaluate your family’s diet. Scan your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. If you see fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, beans, nuts, spices and herbs, then you’re golden. If the items are mostly overly processed, with 10-plus ingredients, then start subtracting. Add more whole foods to your shopping cart on your next trip to the supermarket.
3) Cook with your kids. Find a healthy recipe and set aside some time to cook together. Show your children how to make veggies taste good! Include raw and crunchy or lightly steamed/sautéed veggies in your meals. The veggies can be shredded, chopped, minced, bite-size or finger-size. Try out a variety of textures and temperatures.
4) Cut the sweets in half. Special treats can add up quickly, especially when consumed in addition to highly processed snack foods like chips.
5) Empower your children. Children will eat more healthy and colorful foods when given a choice. Offer your children two types of fruits or vegetables and let them choose the one they prefer. Track your colorful healthy foods together and see who gets the most color with the Super Crew Color Tracker.
How do you instill healthy eating habits in your children? Post a comment below and tell us!
Melissa Halas-Liang, a mom, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, is founder of SuperKidsNutrition.com, which provides nutrition and health content, curriculum and workshops to parents and educators nationwide. She is author of the Super Crew books Super Baby Abigail’s Lunch Time Adventure and Havoc at the Hillside Market.
Written on December 4, 2013 at 9:30 am , by Family Circle
We all know that bullying hurts. But sometimes the fear of being bullied can be just as painful.
Four-year-old Noah Fisher burst into tears when his mother, Lindsey, told him to put on his glasses. Noah was afraid that everyone was going to laugh at him because he had to wear them. So with the help of her friends, Lindsey used Facebook to show Noah that glasses were pretty cool.
She started the page “Glasses for Noah,“ and to her surprise around 40,000 people from all around the country expressed their support for him. They posted various pictures of themselves in glasses, and even some famous faces made an appearance. Noah’s favorite was The Hulk. According to his parents, Noah is getting more comfortable in his glasses every day.
We think Noah looks pretty cute and happy in his glasses. Don’t you?
Written on December 3, 2013 at 9:00 am , by Family Circle
(Note: Sweepstakes begins at 12:01am EST on December 9, 2013 and ends at 11:59pm EST on January 31, 2014)
Here’s a motivational boost to work out at home. We’re giving away a year’s subscription to Netflix and an Apple TV box to one lucky reader so she can stream her favorite shows while working out or stretching at home. To enter, post a comment below and tell us what show, video or movie you’d like to watch while exercising. For entry details, click here.
Looking for new ways to get fit? Read our story “Best Workout Routines to Try“ for expert suggestions and tips.
Written on December 3, 2013 at 8:45 am , by Family Circle
(Note: Sweepstakes begins at 12:01am EDT on December 10, 2013, and ends at 11:59pm EDT January 31, 2014.)
Three lucky readers will each win a Basis B1 fitness tracker, retailed for $199—a device that tracks your heart rate, number of steps logged, hours slept and more!
To enter, post a comment below and tell us what your go-to breakfast is in the morning. For official rules, click here.
Written on November 30, 2013 at 12:00 am , by Family Circle
Pets need exercise too! Tagg, an activity and location tracker that attaches to a collar, lets owners monitor the movement of their cats and dogs to keep them in shape. One lucky reader will win a Tagg Pet Tracker with 12 months of service! To enter, post a comment below and tell us how you work out with your pet. For official rules, click here.
Get your pet moving! Check out our great pet workouts here.
Written on November 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm , by jfill
Actions speak louder than words. When a group of fifth-graders from Williams Intermediate School in Massachusetts decided to stand up for a bullied friend, they didn’t just talk the talk. The group, calling themselves Band of Brothers, dressed the part too.
Bullied 6-year-old Danny Keefe is the water boy for the Bridgewater Badgers D5 peewee football team. And he takes his job very seriously, wearing a suit and tie to every game. Danny’s style and severe speech impediment made him a target for bullies. Danny, however, didn’t let the comments get to him. But the comments didn’t sit well with the Badgers’ quarterback, Tommy Cooney.
With the help of his teammates, Tommy organized Danny Appreciation Day, when 40 students wore their best suit and tie to celebrate their favorite water boy.
This video proves that the Band of Brothers are wise beyond their years.
Written on November 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Lisa Kelsey
As a tail-end baby boomer who grew up during the ’70s in California, I technically don’t fit into the “GenMe” classification, as psychologist and author Polly Young-Eisendrath calls it. But as I read her book The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance, it became painfully obvious that I had not entirely escaped the self-esteem trap (California is always ahead of the curve, perhaps).
I grew up being told that I was talented and “special” and would be able to do anything I wanted—by my mother and by teachers. Fortunately, this was somewhat mitigated by my Catholic-school upbringing, as well as by my European-born parents’ “old-fashioned” parenting style in regards to respecting elders, making myself useful, etc. As I matured, I was able to see myself with more perspective. Still, even as an adult I have suffered from a vague sense of dissatisfaction—that I never lived up to my potential—which the author describes as one of the symptoms of the self-esteem trap. Anyhow, I am not a lost cause—I can still improve!
More important, this book provides insight into how to raise my kids to have real—and realistic—experienced-based self-confidence (i.e., confidence and pride based on achievements, not from being told they are special or talented, even though they may be). And to have compassion for others based on the realization that we all share a common humanity, we are all “ordinary.” This doesn’t diminish my kids’ talents—it just places them in perspective and relieves them from the pressure to be exceptional in every way. True happiness will come only if they realize they are human and acknowledge their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Charity and compassion should not merely be given lip service, however. It’s fine to raise children with progressive values and tell them to “treat others as you would like to be treated,” but kids need to practice those things—not just talk about them. They need to experience it directly, in their own lives. They need to put the needs of others—people who are right around them, in their own homes and communities—before their own. They won’t get that experience from clicking on a KONY 2012 link and watching a YouTube video.
Written on November 22, 2013 at 3:34 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Jm Randolph
My husband was out of town for nearly half of 2012. I refer to that time as my Metamorphosis, only instead of waking up as a cockroach, I woke up the sole adult in a house with five stepkids. At Thanksgiving we took our first family holiday road trip: 700 miles to my mother’s house in Indianapolis, where my husband would meet us from Chicago.
I’ve driven across the country alone more than once. For five years as a touring stagehand, I lived in hotel rooms and out of suitcases; I know how to pack and move…myself, that is. Family road trips are a different beast, and my husband was gone.
My husband makes things happen; he’s like Atz Kilcher, MacGyver and Chuck Norris all rolled into one. I’m Lucille Ball, Oscar Madison and Peg Bundy, without the comedy.
As a stepparent, I constantly second-guess my abilities. My first week on the job, I let a 6-year-old go on an apple-picking trip on a 39-degree day without even realizing she wasn’t wearing a long-sleeve shirt, let alone a coat, until she came home with a note from her teacher.
So I prepped for this trip like a mother.
I laid out the minivan by feel: first-aid kit, water, tissues, hand sanitizer, trash bags, chocolate, flashlight, multi-tool and the next six CDs to go in the changer were all within arm’s reach. Each kid’s station was similarly stocked. We had enough food to last us a week in case we got stranded in a blizzard.
Bringing along Jack and Casey, our puggles, was not part of the plan.
Jack spontaneously developed kennel cough the night before his vaccination appointment. He couldn’t be vaccinated while sick, which completely changed the timing for boarding. All of a sudden I had to find a place to board the dogs in Indiana. They were road-tripping with us.
I let this news slip to one kid. Word spread, and this conversation happened five times:
Kid: The dogs are coming over 700 miles in the car with us?
Kid: Our dogs? The badly behaved ones that bark and eat everything in sight and throw up?
Kid: Are you crazy?
I definitely didn’t tell my mother. She found out from someone’s Facebook status and called me right away for reassurance that they had a place to stay. My mother’s hospitality is legendary and she easily accommodates all of us on a moment’s notice, but the puggles were not invited. They could be counted on to terrorize her cats and elderly toy poodle; if left in the garage unattended they would create a Slip ’N Slide with her Turtle Wax and eat the tread off her tires.
By 5:15 a.m. the day of departure, all eight of us were packed into the minivan. By 5:16, the dogs began crying and did not stop for the next four hours. They jockeyed for position, attempting to both be on the same lap at the same time. When that didn’t work out, they were content to displace the owner of said lap, Kid No. 4. Before this trip, she was the puggles’ biggest fan. Now she was ready to leave them at the next rest stop. I looked back and saw Nos. 4 and 5 mushed up together while Jack and Casey stretched out comfortably across two-thirds of the seat eating the last of someone’s sandwich. I’m pretty sure Casey was asking for more mayo.
We made decent time, considering, but it wasn’t enough. I was panicking when I called my sister.
Me: The boarding place closes in 15 minutes and I’m still an hour outside of town and Mom’s going to—
Beth: Come to my house. Don’t tell Mom!
Some things never change.
Even though two kids had to stay with Beth to watch our dogs (who never settled down all night and also tried to kill my sister’s dog), it worked out. We got Jack and Casey boarded the next day, and Beth and I demonstrated gratitude in action for my kids: the lesson that siblings are always there for each other and they’ll go to any lengths to keep secrets from parents.
JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.
Written on November 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm , by Jonna Gallo
A few weeks ago, I spent a memorable morning at the Mott Haven Academy Charter School in the South Bronx. Created in partnership with the New York Foundling, a well-respected social service agency, Haven Academy has a unique mission: to provide a comprehensive array of school-based services (medical care, dental checkups, counseling, you name it) to children in the child welfare system. The hope is that the school—the first of its kind in the nation—will become a nationwide model geared toward helping kids in foster care thrive despite their difficult family circumstances. I was unfamiliar with the school but fell instantly in love with its passionate principal and the cheerful, competent teachers I met in its immaculate halls and classrooms.
What brought me there specifically was a celebration of Food Day, a national movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food (think fewer sugary drinks, super-salty packaged foods and fatty meats, more fruits, vegetables and whole grains).
Two celebrity chefs, Food Network star Sunny Anderson and cookbook author Katie Lee, came to cook with nearly two dozen eager fourth-graders. (My oldest is in fourth grade, so these kids particularly touched my heart.) Katie offered up how-to’s for a flavorful bean-rich taco wrap, while Sunny shared a fantastic fruit concoction that I have made twice since. (Pineapple and coconut? Um, YES please.) Check out the recipes below and give them a try, preferably with a kid you love.
Meantime, with Thanksgiving right around the corner and plenty of reasons to be grateful, I just want to say that I’m honored to have met so many kind, concerned people at New York Foundling and Haven Academy working together to provide a brighter future for struggling kids. What a blessing.
Katie Lee’s Taco Wraps (serves 6)
You will need:
‧ 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
‧ 1 tsp olive oil
‧ 1 tbsp taco seasoning
‧ 6 whole wheat tortillas
‧ 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
‧ 1 cup baby spinach leaves or lettuce
1. In a small bowl, mash beans with olive oil and taco seasoning.
2. Spread a few tablespoons of beans on the center of each tortilla.
3. Top with cheese, spinach and a couple tablespoons of salsa.
4. Starting at the bottom, roll the sides of the tortilla over the filling. Fold edges in.
5. Wrap in a piece of wax paper and cut in half.
Sunny Anderson’s Cucumber and Orange Salad with Creamy Pineapple Dressing (serves 4 to 6)
You will need:
For the dressing
‧ ½ cup canned crushed pineapple, undrained
‧ ¼ cup sour cream
‧ 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
‧ 2 tsp sugar
‧ Kosher salt
For the salad
‧ 2 oranges
‧ 2 English cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise twice to quarter, then sliced ½ inch thick
‧ ½ cup finely chopped red onion
‧ 2 tbsp sweetened coconut flakes for garnish (optional)
1. Make the dressing. In a large bowl, combine pineapple, sour cream, apple cider vinegar and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves and is not gritty. Taste and season with a tiny pinch of salt. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (optional).
2. Prepare the oranges. Slice off the top and bottom of each orange to create a flat surface on both ends. With orange resting on one cut end, use a knife to cut between the flesh and the pith (white covering beneath peel), angling the knife to expose the flesh from top to bottom. Hold orange in one hand over a large bowl and carefully remove segments by sliding the knife between the flesh and the membrane that separates each segment. Repeat with second orange.
3. Toss the salad with dressing. Add cucumber, red onion and dressing to bowl with oranges. Gently toss, then serve chilled or at room temperature with a sprinkle of coconut (optional).
P.S. Don’t miss Sunny Anderson’s homemade Tomato Soup in the February 2014 issue of Family Circle, on sale January 7th!