Written on October 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm , by Family Circle
Just one day to go! Halloween is officially less than 24 hours away. If the ticking clock makes you shiver because your house is still not Halloweenafied, don’t fret! We have the templates to help you create candy wrappers to go, a festive table banner and bewitching bottles to dress up your home in no time. Some of our favorite so-scary-it’s-easy projects follow below. You can get step-by-step directions on how to make each at Familycircle.com. Have fun creating tonight! And have a happy Halloween!
Written on October 30, 2013 at 11:30 am , by Christina Tynan-Wood
I have worked from home—primarily—since my 14-year-old was a baby. The fact that I’ve always been available, even if I needed a babysitter and a closed office door, has been an important part of my relationship with my kids. I’ve been able to attend school events. My work didn’t suffer when a child was home sick. And these days, I’m there to make sure my teenagers aren’t getting into trouble after school. I am very attached to my flexible job. It allows me to be good at both parenting and work. In fact, I believe strongly that more people should have access to flexible work if they want it. This would go a long way toward fixing everything from video game addiction (my kids would spend much more time in front of a screen if I wasn’t there) to education (flexible parents have more time to volunteer). It does not surprise me at all that, for many women, work flexibility is more important than the size of their paycheck. A recent study done by Flexjobs.com found that 89% of respondents consider work flexibility the most important factor in choosing their next job, with competitive pay being the second most important at only 50%.
“Independent and flexible is absolutely the future of work,” says Benjamin Dyett, cofounder of Grindspaces.com, a members-only collaborative work space and professional community that serves this type of worker. “By 2020 there will be 64.9 million flexible workers.”
Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs.com, a site that helps people find work-at-home jobs, part-time work and other forms of flexible employment, is passionate about making this a reality for parents long before 2020. Her job board already helps connect people looking for flexible work with companies that offer it. But she felt there was a need for everyone—employer, employee and interested organizations—to have a say. So she spearheaded 1 Million for Work Flexibility, a national initiative to create a collective voice in support of work flexibility.
“My company is absolutely a passion project,” Fell says of Flexjobs.com. “And through it, I found myself in the position of evangelizing for workplace flexibility. This initiative is the natural extension of that role.” Fell hopes it will unite business leaders, nonprofits and for-profit companies to join her in these efforts.
If you are part of the 89% looking for more work flexibility, sign up to make your voice heard, be in the loop on news and trends on this topic, and learn.
Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.
Written on October 29, 2013 at 2:30 pm , by Jonna Gallo
With vampires and zombies in the midst of a major Pop Culture Moment, my money is on lots of teenagers dressing up as one or the other this Halloween. Many might be tempted to amp up a costume that seems only so-so with special-effects contact lenses, but should do so ONLY with adult oversight. (Pardon the pun.) Parents, please be aware that ALL contacts, even so-called novelty or theatrical types, are still considered medical devices by the FDA. They need to be prescribed and fitted by a licensed professional—yes, even if they’re just for “show” and not corrective. And it’s crucial that lenses be stored correctly between uses and never, ever shared. (Doing so could result in a serious infection, or worse.) For more info and a detailed Safety Checklist, go to allaboutvision.com.
Written on October 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm , by Rosalind Wiseman
As more fathers and coaches attend my presentations, many of them are sharing how difficult it is for them to reflect on their own adolescence. As you will read below, if they were humiliated or bullied when they were young, it’s often overwhelming as an adult to suddenly realize how deeply those experiences affected them.
A father who came to one of my presentations allowed me to share the following letter he sent me about just such an awakening. I’ve edited it down and removed some of the more personal and heartbreaking parts, but hope you’ll still be as moved as I was when I read it. This is what courage truly looks like and a show of how hopeful people can be—despite destructive experiences—to make the world a better place.
“I am a father of two sons and a daughter. During your talk, you said, ‘Locker rooms are tough situations…Those moments are seared into people’s memories.’ You caught me with my guard down that evening because, before I could stop myself, I was remembering locker room horrors of when I was on the football team as a freshman in high school. That was 39 years ago. While you were talking, I became self-conscious and embarrassed because tears were welling up in my eyes.
“I attended a Catholic school that was so small they combined the varsity and B-squad in the same practices. Since we practiced together, we used the locker room at the same time. The verbal, psychological and physical abuse showered on us in the locker room was a routine part of our school day.
“This was only one layer of the trauma. The team had two coaches—men who were also our teachers. One taught us science and the other taught us English. I had grown to respect and trust them, but when they put on their coaching hats I didn’t recognize them. After the second or third practice, I made the mistake of going to my English teacher for support and comfort. It turned out to be a most painful and humiliating experience: His tough-guy rebuff left me feeling hurt and deeply betrayed. I think that was the point in my life when I vowed to NEVER ask for help again—especially from men. (It’s a vow that I was to keep for the next 36 years.) That was also the day that I stopped trusting or respecting either one of those men.
“All this happened in a private school setting. A big selling point to the parents was that their children were getting an education superior to anything that the public schools could offer: how to live a good, moral life and treat everyone with dignity. Our parents paid and entrusted these two coaches to be upstanding leaders and Christian role models to us. And yet these same two men fed us to the wolves. Looking back, I realize that even an explicitly religious environment is not influential enough to supersede the ‘man code.’
“Every single day of the season I wanted to quit, but the fear of public shame and humiliation always stopped me. I remember the massive feeling of relief after we played our last game and turned in our jerseys and equipment.
“For me to admit to him that I was scared, shamed and intimidated into joining the team—and then staying on the team—was taboo. To have a wimp for a son was intolerable. My father was a man of high standing in our community and county. The last thing he was going to do was use his influence to ask the coaches to protect his oldest son from a little horseplay in the locker room.
“I would have rather chopped off one of my hands than to let my mother know what was going on. She was a member of the Catholic School Board and she would have raised holy hell. If that happened, my life would have been over. I probably would have had to attend a school in a different county or state where no one knew me. I am not exaggerating.
“Over the years I was to find out that the intense social pressure to prove that I am a man NEVER lets up. In college I joined a social fraternity and went through a semester of hazing to be accepted into the brotherhood. I joined the U.S. Marine Corps and proved I was a man by surviving their boot camp and being promoted to sergeant in an infantry company.
“The man code of constantly proving oneself kept right on going when I joined the business world. So many times it is portrayed as healthy competition that keeps our economy vibrant and strong. I don’t agree. I say it is destructive and dysfunctional. It fosters distrust, enormous stress and superficial relationships, and leaves men feeling exhausted and intensely lonely.
“By the time I was in my 40s I’d had enough and began tentatively searching out other men who might feel the same. I eventually found them, but there were many years when it felt like I was searching for a needle in a haystack. My persistence has paid off because I am now actually starting to trust some of the men in my life and consider them to be true friends. This is something brand-new to me.
“I think that the man code is deeply embedded in our culture and has been for centuries—if not millennia. But I believe that if enough men become aware of how destructive it is, we can create a systems shift. I think it’s crucial that men model this empowering way of life to other men and boys. Words are important, but actions are even more powerful.”
Has your husband been struggling with the “man code” since he was a boy? Forward this blog to him and see what he has to say. Post a comment and tell me what happened.
Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Do you have a parenting question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written on October 27, 2013 at 10:00 am , by Family Circle
Don’t just stop at bewitching costumes this Halloween. Go all out with this season’s spookiest home decor. We’re talking gothic centerpieces for your dinning table, spooky accents for around the house, ghostly pumpkin faces for the front steps—it’s all part of getting into the fun spirit of Halloween. Plus, making crafts with the family can be a good time for bonding. Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite creative displays. You can make them yourself by following the steps in this story, “Bewitching Halloween Decoration.”
Written on October 26, 2013 at 11:30 am , by Family Circle
Pumpkin lovers rejoice! Today is National Pumpkin Day! And here at Family Circle, we’re celebrating the “it” flavor of fall with our favorite pumpkin recipes. There’s something for all pumpkin craving taste buds with our festive pies, cakes and other sweet treats. A favorite: our Ice Cream Pumpkin Pie (pictured below). Get the recipes to these pumpkin delights and more, here.
Written on October 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm , by Family Circle
With Halloween just around the corner, we have the perfect treat for you—because what’s a little trick without the treat (pun intended). These adorable mini pumpkin cakes are a great addition to a Halloween party menu. The pretzel pumpkin stem and frosting make for a tasty, sweet and salty combination. And they’re easy to make; it only takes five steps. See for yourself in the video above. For step-by-step instructions, click here. Happy Halloween baking!
Written on October 23, 2013 at 11:00 am , by Christina Tynan-Wood
Talking to teenagers about stuff like using the Internet responsibly and bullying (or sex, drugs and rock and roll for that matter) can be tricky. I have one boy (17) who clams up when I raise difficult topics. And a girl (14) who tells me—in no uncertain terms—to back off. Both responses are difficult to deal with. Sometimes I just forge ahead and blurt out the information I need to convey despite this wall of resistance. But I prefer to be clever about engaging my teens in conversation. My favorite way is by using a TV show or movie to get things started. When the players being discussed are fictional characters rather than my own teens, it’s much easier to have a calm discussion. So when the folks at Netflix offered me a list of their favorite movies for opening a conversation with kids about bullying for National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, I was intrigued.
Netflix recommended some titles that address bullying head-on to provide some characters around which to hang a conversation, and talk about actions and choices that lead to positive outcomes. The critically acclaimed Bully is a hard-to-watch but powerful documentary about bullying in U.S. schools. In The War, Kevin Costner comes back from Vietnam and helps his son (Elijah Wood) stand up to a group of bullies. Billy Elliot is about a boy in a coal mining family who decides to take up ballet (a classic bullying scenario). Fat Boy Chronicles is the story of a boy who moves to a new school and is bullied. And Cyberbully—my daughter’s pick for opening a dialogue on this topic—concerns a girl who is bullied online. Even movies about cartoonish heroism can give kids role models with the courage to stand up for what’s right. Netflix suggests The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, Justice League Unlimited, Hercules, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Ben 10: Alien Force.
Watching any of these movies with your kids is a start. But this isn’t a conversation you can have once and tick off your to-do list. Bullying—and in particular cyberbullying—is a moving target. The social media sites where bullying can play out change all the time, the tools within those sites for blocking and reporting bullying change pretty often, and bullying itself can shift almost daily. “We call it an ecosystem,” Common Sense Media’s parenting editor Caroline Knorr told me recently. “In it, the bully is not always the same person. One day the bully might be a bystander while someone else takes a bully role. And maybe the original target of the bullying reverses roles with the bully.”
The goal here is to give kids the skills they need to negotiate this complex social environment, both online and off, on their own. And that means they need to understand both the technical tools and the social ones. “It’s important for parents to understand that none of this is simple,” says Knorr. “In fact, it is very complex. Because of this, we advocate that parents not only help kids understand how to use the technical tools but also help kids believe they are stewards of the Internet.” Their actions matter not only to those people in their own immediate circle but also to the social ecosystem of the entire online world.
Once you open this conversation, there are so many things to cover: how to block or report a bully from a social network, empathy, courage, heroism, patience, thinking before you act and much more. “Bullies try to intimidate and isolate their victims,” says Knorr. “So the strongest thing you can do if you see someone being bullied is to befriend that person.” But that—like many things when it comes to standing up for right over wrong—is a choice that requires courage, empathy and an understanding that your own actions matter as much, if not more, than the bully’s. So this conversation, as many of the movies listed here illustrate, is not just about bullies. It’s about what it means to be a good human being. You’re unlikely to get that one solved in one afternoon of movie watching. But a movie is still a good place to start.
Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.
Written on October 23, 2013 at 10:59 am , by Family Circle
Written on October 22, 2013 at 11:36 am , by Family Circle
Written by Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood.
How many times have you heard someone say, “She’s such a flirt” or “He’s going to be a real ladies’ man” about a baby? Or tease a young child by saying, “Is he your boyfriend?” Apart from being age-inappropriate, comments like these give children ideas about dating and sexuality from a very young age. So it’s no surprise that by the time they reach their teens, young people have a lot of messages to sort out about romantic relationships.
We have to be careful not to push teens into dating, especially younger teens who are still in middle school. Studies show that the earlier teens start dating and having relationships, the sooner sexual activity takes place. Younger teens really should be completely focused on school, activities and family. As they get older and relationships become developmentally appropriate, it remains important that we stay close to our teens and provide guidance while allowing them to develop some independence.
As parents, we all want our teens to have good early relationships, so we should discuss what constitutes a healthy relationship before they begin dating. We can help them to expect good communication, respect, trust, fairness, honesty and equality. It’s also important to teach them not to be aggressive or push anyone into doing anything before they’re ready—if someone feels uncomfortable or resistant, just stop.
Once your teen does start dating, talk with him or her regularly about what’s going on. Listen and give your teen a chance to discuss his/her experiences, then give helpful advice. Parents should definitely get to know their son or daughter’s boyfriend/girlfriend, and the boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents too. Dating anyone more than two years older is risky—there are so many developmental differences that it’s almost impossible to have a healthy relationship with that large an age gap. And be sure to set ground rules: no friends over when adults aren’t home, check in when they go out to let you know where they’ll be and who they’re with, etc. You can find some tips for effectively monitoring and supervising your teen in this video.
Be very clear about your expectations and values when it comes to dating and sex. Planned Parenthood created this helpful tool for parents to start having these conversations. In fact, teens name their parents as the biggest influence in their decisions about sex, so we can help them understand why it’s important to wait to have sex until they’re ready. We have to be willing to talk and listen, and ask direct questions like, “What’s going on physically with you two?” Hopefully our teens will tell us when they are considering sexual activity.
We need to be as loving as possible when we learn that our teens are having sex. You may initially be disappointed or upset, but try to contain your anxiety and deal with your own feelings separately from your interactions with your son or daughter. The most important thing for parents to do is to listen. Stay calm and try to keep the lines of communication open, so your teen knows he or she can continue to come to you. If you do get upset or say something you later regret, you can always go back and say, “Listen, I was feeling startled that I just heard you and your boyfriend/girlfriend are having sex. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you. I just want you to be healthy and safe.” Conversations about sexuality and relationships are an ongoing dialogue. Once we know our teens are sexually active, parents can make a difference. We can help our teens think about their relationships and encourage them to always use birth control and practice safer sex.
Through frequent conversations with your teen, you can help to launch his or her love life well (and maybe put some of your own fears to rest too). You may find that these are some of the most meaningful and rewarding conversations you ever have.
For more information about talking with your teen, visit plannedparenthood.org/parents.
Written on October 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm , by Paula Chin
It’s an absolutely heartbreaking story—yet another youth, in this case 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick of Winter Haven, Florida, commits suicide after being relentlessly bullied online for months by her classmates.
But this time there’s a new twist to the lurid headlines: The local sheriff arrested two girls, ages 14 and 12, charging them with felony aggravated stalking after a message appeared in the Facebook feed of the older girl that read, “Yes Ik I bullied RECECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF” [translation: “I don’t give a (expletive)”]. The girl’s parents said someone had hacked into her FB account, but the sheriff isn’t buying it. In fact, he says he’d put them in jail if he could for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
You may think he’s gone way too far. Or you may feel he’s right on the mark. Either way, the sheriff has turned the spotlight and focused it on parents and their culpability when it comes to cyberbullying. When you stop and think about it, this has been the elephant in the room, the unspoken, taboo topic amid all the tragic teen suicides in the news: To what degree are parents to blame when their children become taunters, tormentors, emotional abusers and worse?
Normally in this space we chat about things moms should discuss with their children. Perhaps this is a topic we should start talking about with each other.
Written on October 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm , by jtaylor
Imagine you’re a fireman being rushed to the scene of a blaze. Your fire truck pulls up to a building engulfed in smoke and flames when you come to a shocking realization: It’s your own house that’s on fire. A sinking feeling forms in the pit of your stomach. Meanwhile, a fear of the unknown mixes with knowledge, desperation and the need to just do your job.
Well, last week, I felt like that fireman.
My daughter called me three days in a row from college with escalating panic and tears. She voiced anxiety that I had never heard before. Her emotional climb wasn’t due to the usual school angst: feeling overworked, over-partied and just plain overwhelmed. She had increasing feelings of gloom and doom that had emerged from out of the blue.
Usually, I can quell any emotional situation that arises with my family. Hey, I am a professional. But it became increasingly apparent that she wasn’t experiencing anything that a prescription of my calming words could handle.
I racked my brain—and hers—searching for a cause of her anxiety and hence a solution. “I just don’t know what to do,” she told me. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Her words hit my heart and my gut. I urged her to go to the student health center, which she did. But she ended up only talking about a hurt finger. Perhaps the fear of being labeled as “crazy” or opening up to a stranger was just too much.
When I realized that her visit to the student health center was just that—a visit—and she was still increasingly symptomatic, I began to panic. I imagined the worst: that she had suffered an unresolved horrible trauma, was potentially suicidal or truly losing her mind. As the mother of four daughters, during their teenage years even I thought that a possibility.
Summoning my doctor’s hat, I told her to go to the emergency room and added a precautionary order. “If you don’t go, I will send EMS to your dorm room,” I told her. “I can do that, you know.” Reluctantly, she went. It turns out that she was experiencing panic attacks, a common form of anxiety as a reaction to stress. Her blood work was normal and she actually felt relief after going to the ER. Luckily, she had a very compassionate and competent doctor who—with my daughter’s permission—called me. Together, we developed a plan to manage her anxiety.
Being on the other side of the table as a concerned but helpless parent increased my empathy for what the families of my patients go through. Eventually, every mom will arrive at a point where she doesn’t have all the answers for her kids. But that doesn’t make you powerless to aid them. You can still be their hero by helping them find the help they need.
Have you ever felt helpless to assist your child? Post a comment and share what happened.
Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at email@example.com.