Written on April 7, 2014 at 10:00 am , by Lynya Floyd
On my special day, I asked Facebook friends for something out of the ordinary. When you’re careful what you wish for, amazing things come true.
You know that moment when you’re in the midst of doing something…and then suddenly, vividly recall why years ago you stopped doing that thing? (Think: generously inviting a clingy neighbor to a girls’ night out.) Well, I had one of those moments last November.
I was staring at myself in the mirror of a studio at New York Sports Club. The instructor queued up a hip-hop song I’d never heard before and started counting down 3-2-1 until a group of us would knock out a 46-move combo. Ah, cardio dance classes. I’ve always been horrible at them, much preferring the two-step of the treadmill. I fumbled my way through the shoulder pops and sideways slides, sneaking cheating glances at the rest of the class. Why was I putting myself through the wringer at 11 a.m. on a Saturday? Because of my Facebook friend request.
A few years ago, I started asking my friends to skip posting on my wall the simple (but appreciated) “Have a great birthday!” Instead, I made specific requests for my big day. One year, it was to share a favorite time together. (“Dinner at Emeril’s flagship restaurant in New Orleans,” wrote a former coworker.) Another, it was to share the best piece of advice they’d ever received. (“If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain,” a friend declared. I love that.) Last year, though, I was craving adventure. And something that would deepen my relationships with my friends, coworkers and relatives. People may complain about how technology distances us from those we love, but I’m pretty adamant that it can actually bring us together.
So I posted:
“Dear Friends: I’m marking tomorrow as my Bucket List Birthday. As I celebrate another year, I humbly ask you all a favor. If you leave birthday
wishes on my page, please note one epic adventure that we haven’t been on that you hope we will have one day soon. It can be anything: Running a marathon together. Crafting an award-winning story. Anything. And I promise I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make it come true. Love you all!”
Flash-forward to me at 11 a.m. one Saturday in a hip-hop dance class with my friend Jeffrey. And—surprisingly enough—the Saturday after that as well.
You see, when Jeffrey left a message on my wall about the class, he was just hoping we’d spend time doing something he loved. But after failing pretty miserably at the first class, I realized that while my body was willing, my brain was weak. My muscles had gotten a good workout; it was my mind that was lagging behind. I’d had the dance equivalent of talking on your cell phone while pedaling on an exercise bike. Next class, I brought my Dancing with the Stars A-game and recalled three times as many combinations. When I high-fived Jeffrey at the end, you would’ve thought I’d scored a touchdown at the Super Bowl.
Admittedly, some of the escapades on my bucket list may take a lifetime to achieve—so I’m glad I gave myself that long. One friend asked to co-author a book together, another wants to kayak in Maui, and a third hopes to host a reunion concert by our favorite band from the ’80s (Guns N’ Roses) with a red-carpet guest list including, well, our friends from junior high.
The very first reply to my birthday request was about a recipe—no surprise, considering the number of culinary successes I’ve posted. Apparently I had uploaded pictures of some homemade Oreos to my feed no fewer than four times in the past year, and my friend was tired of the mouthwatering tease. Okay, okay, whipping up Oreos isn’t exactly an adventure, but it did lead to quality time together when I dropped off a tin full of the cookies.
A few of the requests helped me hone serious negotiating skills. One friend wanted us to run the San Francisco Marathon. Ever since my first marathon, which was hilly and slow, I’ve had two requirements for the course of my next one: flat and fast, two things the City by the Bay’s course most certainly is not. As thrilling as the idea of booking it through Golden Gate Park and past Fisherman’s Wharf sounded, the idea of all those hills had me mentally pulling the covers over my head. The elevation chart for the race looked like a 26.2-mile EKG chart—pun intended. I countered with the Chicago Marathon, she came back with Philly, and for now, we’ve agreed to run the More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Women’s Half-Marathon in New York.
Other friendly posts required an arsenal of planning tools, from vision boards to travel guides. I’m not sure when CBS is taking applications for The Amazing Race, but I know who my partner will be and we’ve got to start working on our audition video. I’ve also been asked to plan an epic night of cocktail-bar-hopping in Manhattan. I don’t know if that means the entrance has to be hidden behind a phone booth (yes, that does exist here) or the drinks need to arrive on fire, or something in between. But either way, I’m sure it’ll be a night to remember. Every time an encounter gets crossed off my list, I write about it on Facebook. As with any to-do list, it feels like a pat on the back when you check off items. But I’ve also noticed that each “task” has me challenging myself in a new way, learning more about myself and encouraging my loved ones to dream big. A friend once told me, “You have to take the journey to know where the journey will take you.” I couldn’t have asked for better road maps than last year’s birthday wishes.
Written on December 31, 2013 at 1:21 pm , by Lynya Floyd
It doesn’t feel like winter until the temperature dips below freezing and I whip up a big batch of chili that makes my house smell heavenly—but is still healthy. Instead of ground beef, I use ground turkey which cuts, among other things, the fat and calories. And because I like to know it’s organic and antibiotic-free meat, that usually means a trip to Whole Foods.
It’s not cheap, but there are some health splurges I’m willing to make and this happens to be one of them. My chili recipe is heavy on cholesterol-fighting kidney beans and I needed two cans, so, on this particular day, I decided to save some time and pick them up at the same supermarket. What Whole Food had to offer cost a few cents more than what I usually get (hmmm), was in a small box (interesting, no can) and had a label stating that this was not a genetically modified food (wow!). No GMOs?
Australia, Italy, the United Kingdom and 61 other countries require labeling of genetically engineered foods. But while the overwhelming majority of Americans say they’d like labeling (and our Family Circle Facebook poll even showed 99% of you want labeling), the numbers don’t work out that way in voting booths. This winter, Washington state’s Initiative 522 (which would have required genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such) failed to be passed with 54.8% of voters saying no thanks to GMO labeling. Perhaps concerns about additional costs and unclear legislation turned the tide in a different direction?
It may surprise you to know that we’re probably already consuming a fair amount of modified foods. “Most soybeans, corn, canola and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It: How to Decode Food Labels and Make the Healthiest Choice Every Time. That means everything from your breakfast cereal to your taco shell to your soda could contain GMOs.
Experts continue to debate over whether you should or shouldn’t be concerned about GMOs. They also go toe-to-toe over whether you should or shouldn’t care enough to see them labeled. There are certainly pros and cons, with a great rundown here. If you choose to go the non-GMO route, there are options out there to make it easier. Whole Foods, for example, has pledged that by 2018, all products in their U.S. and Canadian stores will be labeled to indicate whether they contain GMOs. And already, a great number of them do—like those red kidney beans that I did end up buying.
Increasingly, it seems that we live in a world where you need to vote with your dollars. It happens with what we listen to: Opposed to that racy song they’re playing on the radio? Don’t let your kid download it for $1.29. It happens with what we watch: Upset about all the violence in flicks these days? Make sure the next $100 you drop on family movie night goes to a comedy. And it appears that it’s happening with what we eat.
Are you concerned about GMOs? What percentage more in price, if required, would you be willing to pay for non-GMO foods? Post a comment below and share your thoughts.
Written on October 10, 2013 at 2:30 pm , by Lynya Floyd
Would you be able to tell cayenne pepper from chili powder in a grocery store—with your eyes closed? Could you sense if traffic were moving or at a standstill by just listening to the flow? While these scenarios may give you pause, they’re the everyday reality of the 285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired or blind. And while complicated, many would tell you these situations are more manageable than you fear. “I don’t hear any better than you,” a legally blind mom of two once told me. “You just don’t use your senses. When you can see a bus coming, you don’t have to listen for it.”
Today marks World Sight Day, which brings awareness to visual impairment and blindness across the globe. But rather than ask you to close your eyes and imagine what life might be like for the blind for a moment, I’d like to tell you what life was like for me for an hour.
A while back, I went to “Dialog in the Dark,” an exhibit that has been traveling the globe and stopped at New York City’s South Street Seaport two years ago. At the start, you’re given the appropriate mobility cane for your height. Then you enter a room that’s pitch-black—and remain in complete darkness for the remainder of the exhibit.
A legally blind guide takes you from one pitch-black room to another, each of which simulates the sounds, vibrations and temperatures (but not sights) of iconic locations in New York: a bustling train that you have to get on and off. A grocery store where you open a fridge to locate a container of milk. A city park where you feel for a bench to sit down on. All in complete darkness.
Some people panic and have to leave the exhibit. Others embrace the experience while they try to discern lemons from oranges in a supermarket setting or listen carefully for conductor announcements to make sure they get off at the right train “stop.” Regardless, you’ll never interact with a legally blind person the same way again.
On this World Sight Day, I want to encourage you to go get your vision checked—especially if it’s that appointment you’ve been meaning to get around to but haven’t in forever. Eye diseases (like macular degeneration and glaucoma) are silent but cause significant damage and vision loss if untreated. And 80% of visual impairment is readily treatable and/or preventable. But, most important, I’d like to influence how you react the next time you encounter a legally blind person with some advice I got directly from legally blind people.
Offer but Don’t Be Offended. “Don’t hesitate to ask a blind person if they need help crossing the street, for example,” one of the “Dialog in the Dark” guides told me. “But don’t be offended if they decline.” It may sound simple, but I’ve seen people get rubbed the wrong way when a blind person declines their help. There’s no need. Know you were available for a good deed and keep going.
Follow Their Lead. I was recently traveling from Philadelphia to New York by train when a woman with a Seeing Eye dog sat near me. The couple standing in front of her sparked up a conversation, asking multiple questions about the dog and their routine. I have no doubt that they meant well, but it was a bit invasive and her brief answers should’ve been a cue to cut the conversation short. When the train stopped, I offered to help the woman find her way to taxi stop. As we walked, she confided in me how awkward it is when strangers recognize her dog on the street and call it by its name. Imagine if a stranger you couldn’t see came up to you while you were walking somewhere with your child and started interacting with your little one by name. There’s nothing wrong with being just as friendly with a blind person as you’d be with a sighted person. Just field their reactions the same way.
Act Normal. “A lot of sighted people treat the visually impaired as if they’re mentally impaired,” that mom of two I mentioned before shared with me. Think about it: Have you ever spoken louder or slower when communicating with a blind person? “People have the misconception that just because you’re visually impaired, there must be something else wrong. Just because I don’t have sight, doesn’t mean I don’t have vision.”
What will you do to mark World Sight Day? Book your next eye appointment? Donate to a local charity? Post a comment and let me know.
Written on October 3, 2013 at 9:30 am , by Lynya Floyd
Maybe you’ve got so much on today’s to-do list that looking into health care just slipped to tomorrow’s goals. Or perhaps you don’t think the changes put into motion by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) apply to you. Either way, we’re here to tell you that the process is easier than you think and definitely worth your time. Last week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stopped by Family Circle’s office to chat with us about the October 1 debut of the ACA’s health insurance marketplace at healthcare.gov. “Don’t believe this isn’t for you,” she says. “Go check it out.” Here, four surprising reasons moms should give the site a click.
1. You’re covered by your spouse’s insurance.
This summer, United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) made headlines by announcing that it would no longer provide coverage for employees’ working spouses who could get insurance from their own employers. If that could happen to you, why not take a look at the options you’d have on the health exchange? “This isn’t about people losing coverage, it’s about people having affordable options,” says Sebelius, who reminds us of another benefit to not having insurance tied to your employer. “Regardless of what your job looks like in the future, you’ll continue to have this coverage.”
2. You have a child with a pre-existing condition.
“What I find all the time is these parents are terrified that something will happen to their own insurance coverage so that somehow they’ll run out of care when their kid needs it,” says Sebelius. “But also they’re terrified that once their child ages out of the protection of a family policy, their choices will be limited.” Now those kids can’t be turned down because of their condition.
3. You’re part of the sandwich generation.
If you’re looking out for a parent who gets Medicare, this a good time to review their health care plan. “Nobody has to do anything if they’re on Medicare,” says Sebelius regarding the new exchange. “But they may have some better choices in the market than they ever thought they’d have.” Make sure your parent is getting the best deal by seeing what’s out there—or simply make sure they’re maximizing their Medicare benefits, many of which have gotten stronger with the ACA.
4. You’re on your own for insurance right now.
Working for a small business—or owning one—means you may already be searching solo for health insurance. “This is your new opportunity because you currently don’t have a lot of protections that people would have if they worked for a large employer,” says Sebelius. “Price is one. You don’t typically have anyone contributing to your policy. So you’ll get—depending on your income—some help to pay a premium. But more importantly, there are a whole set of benefits that come with these new policies, such as maternity coverage and screening for depression.”
If you’re one of the 18.6 million uninsured women in America, you have until March 31, 2014, to enroll in a plan. Go to healthcare.gov right now to see options and pricing.
Have questions about the Affordable Care Act? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may choose yours to answer in an upcoming blog post.
Written on May 20, 2013 at 8:45 am , by Lynya Floyd
The other day, a mom friend told me about something unnerving she saw at a teen pool party last summer. “There was an overweight girl there and I watched her wolf down two slices of pizza and a handful of chicken nuggets in about five minutes flat,” she recalled. “I don’t think she even realized how much she was eating and she didn’t stop long enough to find out.”
Moms make countless smart decisions every day to keep their families healthy. Maybe you avoid tossing a tempting bag of potato chips into your shopping cart so your kid will snack on something more nutritious instead. Or perhaps you make sure that half of everyone’s dinner plate is filled with fruits and vegetables. But what about the health choices your kids—like that girl at the pool party—make when you’re not around?
“That girl has a mother who is very conscious of her daughter’s weight, serves healthy food at home and even sends her kid to exercise classes,” my friend said. “But as soon as the daughter is out of her mom’s vision, this is what she does.” And with nearly one in three children in the U.S. being overweight or obese, that teen’s mom isn’t the only one trying to make a difference.
This month, we got expert advice from moms and weight loss experts on how to talk to your child when they’re carrying around extra pounds. Check out “Weighty Matters” for advice on helping your kid make good decisions so you can improve their health when you are (and aren’t) in the room.
Written on May 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm , by Lynya Floyd
Chances are your handbag is better equipped to deal with a broken nail than a heart attack, according to a new survey. But actress Vanessa Williams says a simple addition could—and should—change all that. She’s teamed up with Bayer HealthCare and WomenHeart to launch Handbags & Hearts, a national campaign to encourage women to stash aspirin in their purse in case of a sudden heart attack. We caught up with Williams, a mom of four, while she was taking a break from her Tony-nominated Broadway show The Trip To Bountiful. Here, she shares five ways we can all make heart health a priority.
1. Know Your Family History
“Both my grandmothers died of heart issues,” reveals Williams. “My mom’s mother died at 64, but my dad’s mother died at 28 of a heart attack. We’ve been hyperaware of heart issues my entire life.” Williams values the importance of family and makes sure to stay close even if she’s all the way across the country. “My children always know that I’m present and available,” says the actress, author and singer whose youngest, Sasha, is 13 years old. “That’s the wonderful thing about FaceTime and texting. If there’s a question, they can see my face, hear my voice, read my words. I’m always available.”
2. Squeeze In A Good Workout
Heart attacks take the lives of 250,000 women each year. “You’ve got to make time for exercise,” says Williams who says showing up for a class at a gym helps keep her accountable. “Or try getting up an hour early for your workout. Or if you want to watch TV, jump on a treadmill while you’re doing it.” Mixing things up also makes her passionate about moving. Right now she’s is all about cardio-kickboxing, a heavy-bag class, yoga and dance.
3. Say Goodbye to Stress
“You can alleviate stress by staying fit, meditating and relaxing, but it’s also a mindset,” says Williams who co-wrote You Have No Idea with her mother, Helen Williams. “If you want to get stressed out, you will. When you feel like you’re losing control of your balance, you have to remember to breathe.” One of her favorite ways to unwind: music.
4. Don’t Buy The Bad Stuff
It’s the easiest way to avoid telling your kids to not eat that candy or that they’ve had too much soda. “If you don’t have it in the house, the temptation is gone,” says Williams. “It takes extra effort to indulge if it’s not as close as the kitchen.” One thing in particular she hopes moms will pass on buying more often: processed foods. “They’re the easiest to prepare, but not the best,” she says. “Instead have the right basics in your refrigerator so you don’t have to reach for processed foods.”
5. Stock Your Pocketbook
“You can lessen the risk of major damage from a heart attack if you take aspirin immediately,” says Williams. But that aspirin has to be readily available and what better place than your purse? Check out the Handbags & Hearts site where you’ll also learn signs of a heart attack that are unique to women and mouse clicks can turn into up to $200,000 in donations for WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women With Heart Disease Heart Disease.
Written on April 23, 2013 at 8:30 am , by Lynya Floyd
Last week, Family Circle interviewed actress Holly Robinson Peete about issues that were on our mind. This week, we interviewed her to get answers to what’s on your mind. That’s right, all these insightful questions came to us via our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Read about how a gluten-free diet affected RJ (Holly’s 15-year-old son with autism), ways to get employers to hire adults with autism and more.
Q. There has been such a surge in the number of autism diagnoses lately and many of us are looking for answers. @REALMOMMA2155 is curious if you think genetically modified organisms (GMOs) contribute to the diagnosis.
A. I’m not a doctor or scientist. I’m just a mom. But I do think there’s a genetic predisposition and there are environmental triggers. I feel like that combination, in my child’s case, is what resulted in autism. I also feel strongly that we’re not looking at environmental triggers. We’re not looking at each kid as a separate, genetic being. We line them up and say: ‘All kids should do this, eat that, get this.’ It’s important that we look harder.
Q. Speaking of what kids eat, Janeen Marie wanted to know if you tried putting RJ on a gluten free diet.
A. Yes. One of the best tips I got from another mom was to hurry and get him tested for allergies and food sensitivities. He tested off the charts for gluten and wheat. It was more difficult for him to connect when he was eating pizza and birthday cake. He functioned much higher when he was not on any gluten products. But that’s just my kid. Every parent should know what their kid is sensitive to food-wise.
Q. What about sleep? Kim Luallen was curious if your son is a non-sleeper and if you had any suggestions.
My son does have trouble falling asleep and like any teenager he needs his sleep. We use melatonin. I never recommend anything, but that’s worked for us. We use it in very low doses and we find it gives him that little window to fall asleep. I know they’re still doing studies, but for our kid it has been a miracle.
Q. Donna Willis Coghlan wrote in asking about education: “How can we get schools to focus on the strengths of these kids? Many have unique skills that could be enhanced to give them an occupation someday, but instead they’re continually forced to be like ‘typical’ kids,” she says.
A. It’s very difficult when schools fall into the cookie cutter mode. There are so many gifts that kids with autism have that need to be nurtured. Most times, that’s something you have to do on your own or enlist after school help for. Also, get connected with other parents who are experiencing what you’re going through. I know it’s easier said than done, but I know families that have moved to other neighborhoods or cities that are a little more autism- and special needs-friendly than where they were. It’s all about being an advocate, staying online and looking in your community for help.
Q. Kathleen Stuart wanted to know about outlooks for adult life: “If your child is fairly high functioning – but needs assistance – there isn’t much out there in the way of adult programs or job assistance,” she says.
Yes, there isn’t much out there. The unemployment rate for adults on the autism spectrum is hovering around 90%. It’s high and that’s another message we have to get out. These people can not only be great employees but they can be your best employees. They’re loyal, have a sense of purpose, want to be somewhere every day, love routine.
I always find out very specifically about corporations who hire special needs adults. At my agency there are several. I always say I’ll be a great patron if you hire these adults because they need this and you need them. We’re getting a database for the HollyRod Foundation site of companies that work hard to employ adults with autism. We also have a tremendous amount of excitement about the fact that we’re going to be opening a compassionate care center in another year and will have a restaurant run by adults with autism there.
Q. On top of your foundation work, you’ve also co-authored the children’s book My Brother Charlie with RJ’s twin sister, Ryan. @Patti_pmbelo tweeted us wanting to know if you plan on writing another children’s book on autism.
A. Yes. Ryan and I are writing a follow-up to My Brother Charlie about autism and adolescence. We’re writing about the struggles people don’t talk enough about, the difficulties children have when they cross over into adolescence, the surge of hormones, puberty. It’s a different set of challenges when they’re on the autism spectrum. In some ways it’s like getting the diagnosis again. You have to come up with a new game plan. We’re hoping for a April 2014 publishing date.
Written on April 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm , by Lynya Floyd
When I met Holly Robinson Peete a few years ago, I couldn’t help but be in awe of her passion. It wasn’t just for being an actress or a phenomenal mom (that’s four kids and two big dogs in the pic!), but for her autism advocacy. Her 15-year-old son RJ has autism, which she has spoken about openly in interviews and even co-wrote a book on the subject. She also co-founded the HollyRod Foundation, which helps families living with Autism and Parkinson’s disease. As my favorite hashtag in her Twitter bio says: “#ServiceIsTheRentWePay4Living.” Here’s what she told Family Circle about how having a child with autism impacts a marriage (she’s the wife of NFL Quarterback Rodney Peete), why the teenage years are so trying and the reason we all need to befriend a teen with autism today.
Q. So often we see stories in the news about autism that are focused on very young children and even the pre-natal habits of moms. As the mother of a 15-year-old son with autism, what do you think has been missing from the discussion of older kids?
A. That autism is in many cases a lifelong disorder and when children find themselves at the intersection of puberty and autism it can be an unforgiving combination. Many teens with autism struggle so often with new challenges like OCD, depression, regression, seizures, social ostracization and other issues. Being a typical teenager isn’t easy. When you have autism, it can be extra difficult. We need more public awareness about these hurdles as well as compassion towards these young people.
RJ is 15 (and he has a twin sister Ryan who does not have autism) and his biggest issue is his difficulty making friends. The teen years are rough with peer pressure and it can be crippling for someone with social skills deficits. If you have the opportunity to befriend a teen with autism, please do it. They need you.
Q. When we met a few years ago, I remember you spoke about the challenges of getting your husband Rodney to connect with RJ at first. Can you offer advice for our readers who may be experiencing the same thing with their husbands right now?
A. First, I would say to get my husband Rodney’s book Not My Boy. He is a man who stayed deep in denial about his son’s autism for years. He had to learn to tweak his expectations for his son, discover a new normal that flew in the face of every dream he had for his boy. I made him write this book because I wanted other dads to not feel so alone.
I thank God for Rodney every day. We came dangerously close to going our separate ways. I just couldn’t fight for my son and my marriage at the same time. I needed him on my team.
Q. Can you talk about how having a child who is autistic impacts a marriage? You’ve said that this is something the media doesn’t discuss enough so let’s try to change that.
A. There is sadness, blame, guilt, resentment, fear, mistrust, financial and emotion stress – just a slew of hurdles parents of children with autism have to clear. It is hard and when one person gets too far off the same page, it can feel overwhelmingly insurmountable. The key is constant communication and a whole lot of empathy and patience for your spouse and what he or she is experiencing. Also make room for me-time and date nights or you will lose yourself in the struggle.
Q. Autism Speaks recently sent me a press release listing things we didn’t know about autism just one year ago. They said that after age 4, many nonverbal children with autism develop the ability to use spoken language. As a board member for the organization, why do you feel it is important for people to know this?
A. That’s great to know but my personal concern is for those children who never become verbal. You cannot imagine the heartbreak a parent endures to never hear the words “Hi, Mommy” or “I Love You.”
At HollyRod, we have a “Give the Gift of Voice” program where we donate tablets with communication apps to non-verbal children to help them communicate. It’s simply awesome. We have a new partner FUHU (they make the popular Nabi tablet) who is helping us get more tablets in the hands of these kids. They are also helping us develop a new HollyRod app and donating a million dollars to us to help us with our capital campaign for our Autism Compassionate Care Center where we will treat whole families affected by autism. The numbers are rising and they need help desperately.
Q. What’s the most important parenting lesson you’ve learned from raising a son with autism?
A. My son has taught me patience, acceptance, compassion, advocacy and pure love. As he says: “I may have autism, but autism doesn’t have me.”
Want to hear more from Holly? You had questions for her that you posted on our Facebook page and we answered them. Check back next week to read what she had to say!
Written on October 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm , by Lynya Floyd
Along with prom dress shopping and handling first heartbreaks, a lot of duties get relegated to Mom—including The Sex Talk, which we explore in “How to Have the Sex Talk with Your Teen” in our November issue. But the burden shouldn’t be solely on mothers, says Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health and professor and director of the Doctoral Program at the Silver School of Social Work. We asked him to explain why fathers are so critical to the conversation, how to get them involved and what Mom and Dad must discuss first:
Q. Why is it so important to involve Dad in The Sex Talk?
A. When most people think about fathers, they think of them as economic support or associate them with being disciplinarians. But the truth is fathers do a lot more than that.
Even in families where Mom is doing a good job, when a father adopts a strategy of talking to their kid about sex, it makes a difference. Dad contributes something independent and unique.
Q. What’s unique that Dad adds?
A. One important point is that Dads have their own unique paternal influence. It matters when your father says he does or doesn’t want you to do something. Also there’s more opportunity for parents to supervise and support their child.
Q. Is there something about giving your child a male perspective that’s key here?
A. Anecdotally, I’d say young people benefit from that. An adolescent girl hearing from her father about dating or hearing a male view of a healthy relationship can have value. As an adolescent boy, it’s great having a role model, seeing how another man navigated situations, hearing what it was like when your Dad was a teen.
Q. What about the value in having two people who have opened the door for you to talk to them about this—as opposed to just one.
A. We know that when teens have clear messages from their parents they’re more likely to adopt their parents’ perspective or at least consider it. So when you have both parents talking about it, there’s more opportunity for the teen to hear and understand their parents’ view. It doubles the opportunity.
Q. What should Mom say to Dad to get him involved?
Tell him: “Regardless of what I do, you can make your own impact in our teen’s life.” It’s really important that Dads understand that they play an independent and unique role. It’s also important that Mom and Dad be clear on what the message is going to be about appropriate behavior.
Q. That’s a great point. What if Mom and Dad have different views on birth control, sex or appropriate relationships?
A. What’s important is to have a common goal. Most parents agree they want their teen to do well in school, stay healthy, have a positive future and good opportunities. If Mom and Dad can keep that common goal in focus, maybe they can deal with more sensitive issues better. When it comes down to speaking about my teen not getting an STI, my teen finishing school, my teen’s future not being compromised, parents become highly motivated to act.
Q. What else should Mom and Dad keep in mind as they have The Sex Talk with their teen?
A. Parents tend to focus on all the negatives that could happen if their teen is sexually active: unplanned pregnancies, STIs and HIV. Teens focus on the potential good things that might happen: feeling closer to their boyfriend or girlfriend, feeling more mature, being more popular. Even though all the adult reasons are important, they’re not the things that will be most influential in a teen’s decision-making about sex. If you want to be effective in talking to your teen, focus on what they’re focusing on.
Lyna Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine.
Written on October 2, 2012 at 10:44 am , by Lynya Floyd
In our November “Sex Talk” feature, we offered up dozens of ways to get that important dialogue going with your kid. Looking for more conversation starters? Try these five things every teen should know about sex.
1. You’re not the only virgin. Less than half of all high school students have ever engaged in intercourse.
2. It won’t make him/her fall in love with you. Sex and love don’t necessarily go hand in hand. If you’re looking for something to bring you two closer together, consider how you’d feel if it actually pulled you apart.
3. You can get pregnant the first time. Birth control prevents the sperm and egg from meeting up—not how often you have sex.
4. Two condoms are not better than one. Doubling up condoms increases friction and decreases effectiveness. The only 100% effective form of birth control is abstinence.
5. You can tell if someone has an STI. Not always. And remember, not all sexually transmitted infections have cures and many can impact your fertility or overall health.
What do you wish every teen knew about getting intimate? Post a comment below and tell us!
Read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.
Lyna Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine.
Written on October 2, 2012 at 7:45 am , by Lynya Floyd
Last year I was a guest on “Doctor Radio,” New York University’s SiriusXM show, when a concerned mother called in. She told us that after her teenage daughter admitted to being sexually active, she immediately took her to the ob/gyn to get birth control. But mom later found out her husband disagreed with that course of action and now there was trouble at home. “Did I do the right thing?” she asked us.
Before you answer that question, I’d like you to take a mental step back and look at the events that led up to it:
- A daughter talking to her mom about something teens spend so much time trying to hide.
- A husband and wife talking about their relationship expectations of their daughter.
- And then, mom coming to experts for more information.
The central theme here: Communication.
How many kids do you know that talk to their parents about having sex? (It turns out 50% of teens feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex in general—I’m sure that number spikes when it comes to them having sex.)
When was the last time you spoke with your partner about relationship expectations you have for your child? Nearly ¼ (23%) of parents have talked only “a little” or “not at all” with their partner about this.
And have you ever reached out to an expert for help navigating those discussions like the mom who called in did? That family was pretty impressive, I thought, despite the turmoil at home.
When we talk to teens about sex, how often we talk about it and what we say were questions that lingered in my head after that call came in to the radio show. And they were questions Planned Parenthood wanted to explore as well when we joined forces with them to survey thousands of parents and their teens across the country about “The Sex Talk.” (Those stats I rattled off above came from our survey.) And here’s another one: one in six teens say their parents have never spoken with them about anything related to sex.
If there’s one thing I hope comes from this story, it’s a dramatic increase in communication and conversations around The Sex Talk. Studies show that teens who talk to their parents about sex-related topics have sex at a later age and use protection more often. So this month, we at Family Circle have partnered with with Planned Parenthood, the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU and parenting bloggers from across the country to bring you resources that’ll help you start the conversation with your child, make it less awkward and ensure that your points are getting across. And if there’s a question we haven’t answered, post a comment or email us at email@example.com and ask it.
So now back to that caller. What do you think: Did mom do the right thing? Post a comment and let us know.
And read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.
Lyna Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine.
Written on July 31, 2012 at 11:15 am , by Lynya Floyd
If your kid can’t buy a chocolate bar between classes, will he opt for trail mix instead? Here’s the new debate over access to snacks.
You can control what your kids eat when they’re at home, but how about when they’re at school? (And we’re not just talking about lunchbox swaps). Some experts believe removing indulgent “competitive foods” from schools—like the treats sold in vending machines, at stores and on a la carte lines—help kids make healthier eating choices. And it’s a possibility the USDA is considering as they prepare to announce new national guidelines restricting those types of items this year.
Regulators might be hoping for the kind of change seen in California, where state laws have banned the sale of sweetened beverages and limited snack foods since 2009. California teens eat 158 fewer calories a day than kids in states without these rules, according to a study in the Archives of Adolescent and Pediatric Medicine. However, some experts say access doesn’t mean excess. A recent analysis of data on 20,000 middle school students in New Jersey showed that having junk food in schools didn’t lead to weight gain.
We asked Jessica Donze Black, R.D., director of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project to give us more information about what’s coming down the pipeline and why it’s important for moms to get involved.
Q. Why is the USDA regulating “competitive foods” in schools?
A. Congress directed the USDA to update the standards as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010. The USDA needs to do this because in addition to the meals they eat in school, 40% of kids eat snack foods at school.
Q. Will restricting foods lead kids to eat healthier or will they just look elsewhere for indulgent snacks?
A. I think evidence shows this can work. Some of it has to do with the approach: involving kids in the practice. Letting them sample things and taste test foods. Kids will eat from the options that are available, so why not make them all healthy choices?
Q. What should parents be aware of when the recommended regulations come out?
A. We want standards to reflect the best nutrition science of day: reasonable calorie and fat caps. Reducing sodium over time. Limiting added sugars. Promoting the foods we know kids need more of such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. The most important thing parents can do is be informed. What you’re looking for is big picture. Ask yourself: “Will these changes improve the school foods available to my kid?”
Q. Why should parents write in to the USDA with their comments and questions once the new regulations are announced?
A. Because the USDA reads every comment submitted. If you have an opinion—and that’s a great thing!—they’ll read and catalog it and when they finalize the rule they’ll take it into account.
You can tell the USDA how you feel about the proposed changes (once they’re made public) by going to regulations.gov to post your comments and questions. Or post a comment here and let us know what you think!
Lyna Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine, and Winnie Yu is a freelance health writer.