We Need to Talk About the Baby Blues, by Stacy Hersher

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I have a confession to make: the first couple of weeks after my baby was born, I was unhappy. Sure, I had moments of pure joy, and I never wavered in my love for my daughter. But I was exhausted, in pain, and had no control of my emotions. I had the “baby blues” — and it was scary.

Between feeding my daughter, sleeping, and eating, I felt like I was reduced to a milk-producing machine. I wasn’t going outside, I couldn’t exercise, and it felt like there was no time to do anything but sleep, feed, and eat in order for us both to survive. Was this my life now? Had motherhood completely replaced everything else that I was? In low moments, I thought about how much easier life was before. I wondered if this parenting thing would ever get easier, and the weight of my new life was heavy.

The emotional roller coaster wasn’t just negative. I also felt an overwhelming love for my baby, my husband, my family, and my friends. I cried any time I thought or talked about the sacrifices my parents had made for me, or how wonderful a dad my husband already was, or how thankful I was for the friends who came by to cook, clean, or hold my baby.

Good and bad, the reality is I was crying upwards of 10 times a day. As someone who prides myself on being pretty level-headed, I wasn’t sure how to navigate these emotions and felt pretty lost and alone. I was hyperaware of my emotions but unable to explain them. And as much as my husband tried to help, there wasn’t much he could do. My heightened emotions were just a wave I needed to ride. Thankfully, because of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law Jessie, I wasn’t totally surprised that this was happening.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below)…

http://www.popsugar.com/moms/What-Baby-Blues-43143736?utm_source=com_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=com_newsletter_v3_02152017&em_recid=180811001&utm_content=placement_7_desc

“Do what it takes for as long as it takes to restore a broken life”: Supporting Hagar International, by Deirdre Dobson-Le

A Declaration in Support of Children

Artists, authors and publishers of children’s books in the USA and around the globe are uniting in a pledge to depict the real lives of children and to encourage empathy and understanding, rather than fear and hatred. A worthy cause and an interesting movement.

faceofhope Illustration by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Children’s literature may be the most influential literary genre of all. Picture books, chapter books, middle-grade and young-adult novels all serve the most noble of purposes: to satisfy the need for information, to entertain curious imaginations, to encourage critical thinking skills, to move and inspire. Within their pages, seeds of wisdom and possibility are sown.

Therefore we, the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators*, do publicly affirm our commitment to using our talents and varied forms of artistic expression to help eliminate the fear that takes root in the human heart amid lack of familiarity and understanding of others; the type of fear that feeds stereotypes, bitterness, racism and hatred; the type of fear that so often leads to tragic violence and senseless death.

Our country is deeply divided. The recent election is a clear indication of the bigotry that is entrenched in this nation, of…

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Four Daily Habits that Build Connection with our Kids, by Rebecca Eanes

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Looking back on my childhood, the summer vacations to the amusement parks and over-the-top Christmas celebrations do stand out in my mind, but the grandiose doesn’t take up the biggest places in my heart. It was small things – fishing at the lake on a hot summer’s day, playing Scrabble at the table, gathering over mashed potatoes and baked chicken – that made me feel connected. It was the ordinary regular occurrences that made us feel like family.

Now I’m raising two children of my own. When I feel like I need to throw a Pinterest-worthy birthday party or guilt arises because I haven’t yet taken them to Disneyland, I remind myself that it’s the everyday habits I keep that they will hold most dear. It’s during the moments when I put aside busyness to be present and attuned to the people in front of me – to laugh, to listen, to love – that the messages that matter reach their hearts. You are valued. You are loved. You belong here.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to connect deeply with our children. In just a few minutes at a time, several times throughout the day, we can bring our focus onto them and fill their cups with positive attention and affirmation. Here are four daily habits you can begin now to build connection:

1. Start the Day with a Morning Blessing

Mornings can be a real hassle. Trying to get everyone up and out the door on time is often a stressful time for families. Our adult minds are focused on the dozens of things we must accomplish in the next 12 hours, and our children are often tired, grumpy, or preoccupied with their own thoughts on the day ahead. Taking two or three minutes of the morning to focus on our child’s face and say something positive can really have a big impact. “Good morning, my love! Seeing your sweet face makes me happy” is a thoughtful way to greet a child into their day. I think“Triple A to start the day.” That stands for attention, affection, and affirmation. Aim to give them your full attention for at least a couple of minutes, offer a hug or rub on the head, and say something positive about them. Making this a daily habit starts each day off on the right foot.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

https://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/four-daily-habits-build-connection

20 Adorable And Easy DIY Valentine’s Day Projects For Kids, by Vanessa Beaty

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you have kids – or grandkids – and are looking for projects to keep them busy and help spread the love, I’ve found a great collection of adorable crafts that you can make together. All of these are so easy that even toddlers can help with them, and they are all so cute your kids will love them.

I love Valentine’s Day. From the candy and flowers to the wide array of crafts, there’s just so many ways that you can show someone how much they mean to you. I also love DIY, which is why this collection of Valentine’s Day projects is perfect. Whether you want to make cards for teachers or grandparents or you and your little ones love baking together, I promise there’s something in this collection that will thrill you and your kids.

From marshmallow pops to homemade heart ornaments that you can display all year long, these projects are as lovely as they are simple to complete. Looking to dress up your little one for the holiday? There’s a great homemade heart barrette, or you could do her nails with these gorgeous Valentine’s nail art designs.

Whatever you and your littles are planning for the day, you don’t want to miss these projects. Let your little one make a Valentine box to hold her special treasures or help them create butterflies from doilies. There is something in here for kids of all ages, and several that we parents will love, too.

1. Bee My Valentine Mailbox

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Remember making those great Valentine’s boxes when you were in school? This project is very in keeping with that tradition, and is really easy for kids of all ages. Kids will love putting their Valentines in their own little “Bee My Valentine” mailbox, and you can customize the cards that they pass out at school to match this great little box. I love the bee theme, and you only need a small handful of supplies to make it.Tutorial: momendeavors

2. Valentine’s Day Countdown

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I simply love this idea! It’s 14 small hearts that you use to countdown to Valentine’s Day. Just create the hearts with little messages of love on the backs and they look great displayed in a vase or mason jar atop lollipop sticks or straws. This gives kids a way to spread the love for two entire weeks before the big day, and they will adore decorating their hearts and choosing their messages

Tutorial: makeandtakes

To read more of this post, please follow the link below…

http://www.diyncrafts.com/22787/crafts/20-adorable-easy-diy-valentines-day-projects-kids

Also, check out this Valentine’s Day Post, which also has ways to teach kids about the history behind Valentine’s Day…

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/valentines-day-celebrating-love-with-our-kids/

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening, by Emma Young

In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years. Emma Young finds out how they did it, and why other countries won’t follow suit.

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It’s a little before three on a sunny Friday afternoon and Laugardalur Park, near central Reykjavik, looks practically deserted. There’s an occasional adult with a pushchair, but the park’s surrounded by apartment blocks and houses, and school’s out – so where are all the kids?

Walking with me are Gudberg Jónsson, a local psychologist, and Harvey Milkman, an American psychology professor who teaches for part of the year at Reykjavik University. Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”

We approach a large building. “And here we have the indoor skating,” says Gudberg.

A couple of minutes ago, we passed two halls dedicated to badminton and ping pong. Here in the park, there’s also an athletics track, a geothermally heated swimming pool and – at last – some visible kids, excitedly playing football on an artificial pitch.

Young people aren’t hanging out in the park right now, Gudberg explains, because they’re in after-school classes in these facilities, or in clubs for music, dance or art. Or they might be on outings with their parents.

Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.

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The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”

If it was adopted in other countries, Milkman argues, the Icelandic model could benefit the general psychological and physical wellbeing of millions of  kids, not to mention the coffers of healthcare agencies and broader society. It’s a big if.

“I was in the eye of the storm of the drug revolution,” Milkman explains over tea in his apartment in Reykjavik. In the early 1970s, when he was doing an internship at the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City, “LSD was already in, and a lot of people were smoking marijuana. And there was a lot of interest in why people took certain drugs.”

Milkman’s doctoral dissertation concluded that people would choose either heroin or amphetamines depending on how they liked to deal with stress. Heroin users wanted to numb themselves; amphetamine users wanted to actively confront it. After this work was published, he was among a group of researchers drafted by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse to answer questions such as: why do people start using drugs? Why do they continue? When do they reach a threshold to abuse? When do they stop? And when do they relapse?

“Any college kid could say: why do they start? Well, there’s availability, they’re risk-takers, alienation, maybe some depression,” he says. “But why do they continue? So I got to the question about the threshold for abuse and the lights went on – that’s when I had my version of the ‘aha’ experience: they could be on the threshold for abuse before they even took the drug, because it was their style of coping that they were abusing.”

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

https://mosaicscience.com/story/iceland-prevent-teen-substance-abuse?utm_source=Parent+Co.+Daily&utm_campaign=79720c9e11-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3f341b94dd-79720c9e11-132097649

Don’t fall into Cambodia’s orphanage trap, Australians told, by Lindsay Murdoch

1451208080232-1Phnom Penh: Tara Winkler, a former NSW Young Australian of the Year, says it is “highly unethical to expose vulnerable children to serious risks in order to engage donors and raise funds”.

Ms Winkler says potential abusers are not being vetted among a high volume of visitors to Cambodia’s 600 orphanages and children’s residential care centres who are allowed to physically interact with children in intimate ways, such as playing games and hugging.

“Even though the majority of people who want to visit centres are good people who only want to help, if they are allowed in to provide love and affection, then the same access is provided to potential predators and sex tourists,” she said.

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Children at a Phnom Penh orphanage. Photo: Lindsay Murdoch

Fairfax Media has reported that strangers can walk uninvited off the street into a Phnom Penh orphanage, where they are greeted in bedrooms with children trained to engage visitors and encourage them to donate money.

A record 47,900 children are living in orphanages and residential care centres in Cambodia, despite research showing that the institutions scar their emotional and personal development through seemingly endless broken relationships, and that they should be living with their families in their own communities.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.smh.com.au/world/dont-fall-into-cambodias-orphanage-trap-australians-told-20151222-glt8ae.html

Even Science Agrees, You Literally Can’t Spoil A Baby, by Wendy Wisner

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“Don’t you ever put that baby down?”

“Aren’t you going to spoil him?”

“Start teaching him to self-soothe now, before it’s too late.”

Yup, these were things actually said to me when my babies were newborns. Nope, not even when they were a few months old. When they were itty-bitty babies fresh out of the womb, I had strangers, family members — and yes, even doctors — question whether I was going to spoil my babies by holding them all the time.

Looking back, I know how absurd these statements were. My boys are 4 and 9 now, and whiz by me so fast I have to beg them to sit down and cuddle in my lap like they did all those years ago. At the time, though, I didn’t know for sure that my babies would be totally independent eventually, so the critique definitely got under my skin.

The thing is, holding my babies almost 24 hours a day like I did in those months was not exactly a choice. It was a necessity. If I put my babies down, they wailed their little heads off.

Maybe I could have let them do that, and maybe they would have learned to soothe themselves somehow, but every instinct in my body told me that if my baby was crying, he needed to be picked up. And I went with those instincts, despite the fact that I sometimes received dirty looks and judgment.

Turns out, my instincts were absolutely correct. Babies do need to be held whenever they fuss — and not just because they’re sweet and cuddly and their hair smells like heaven. It turns out there’s a ton of research out there to back up the claim that you literally cannot spoil a baby. In fact, holding babies is actually vital for their health and development.

Just a few weeks ago, a study came out in Pediatrics that looked at the effects of skin-to-skin contact on premature infants. It took the long view, looking not just at the immediate effects of holding preemies against your skin in their early weeks, but also how it affected these babies 20 years down the road.

The preemies who experienced skin-to-skin had higher IQs, significantly larger areas of gray matter in the brain, and even earned higher wages at their jobs than those who did not experience skin-to-skin care. The skin-to-skin cohort also showed less propensity toward hyperactivity and aggression in school and were less likely to experience school absences.

Of course, this study looked specifically at premature babies, who are especially vulnerable and in need of TLC. But studies on full-terms babies have similar findings.This 2012 study from the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register showed that full-term babies who experienced skin-to-skin care in their early days had better cardio-respiratory stability, higher breastfeeding rates, and decreased crying.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.scarymommy.com/even-science-agrees-you-literally-cant-spoil-baby/

“The Ruby Sceptre”, a new fantasy novel for children. By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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“When a simple game of Hide and Seek ends unexpectedly with being kidnapped by a dragon-like creature, Xuen, princess of her village, is thrown into an adventure she never saw coming.
Carried off to the northern land of Shardonia, Xuen learns that the ruthless and power-hungry King Xolleran intends her to be nothing more than snack food for his pet, the Halaveel Monster.
A fortunate escape brings her into contact with Sus, a boy who always carries a mysterious ruby sceptre. Together they seek to unite those who have suffered under Xolleran and to bring about the end of his evil reign.”

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A map of the lands of Shardonia and Angdoodle, where “The Ruby Sceptre” is set

“The Ruby Sceptre”, recently published by Ngaio Publishing, is a fantasy adventure story for children by New Zealand author Kirsteen McLay-Knopp (me). 🙂

A number of people have asked me what age group “The Ruby Sceptre” is suitable for.  Long ago at a writing workshop I was told not to put an age on my characters for children, as this encourages a wider  audience age range.  A 13 year old who is a reluctant reader may be put off if he or she thinks, for example, that the characters are only 10.  So I’ve left the characters ages open.  Another tip I learned from the writing workshops was that kids love food and if you read “The Ruby Sceptre”, you will see that there are a lot of references to food:  Xuen, the main female character, loves marshmallows and Sus, the main male character, loves chocolate-covered bananas.

The main characters, Xuen (a girl, left) and Sus (a boy, right) on a flying carpet created by magic

The main characters, Xuen (a girl, left) and Sus (a boy, right) on a flying carpet created by magic

I love the fantasy genre (as well as many others) and have been privileged throughout my life to have read (and had read to me) some of the best.  I don’t think we can ever have too many books in this genre (or too many books of any sort) and anything that keeps our kids engaged and reading is a plus.   Let’s face it, we all need a bit of magic and escape in life at times too.    My hopes are that “The Ruby Sceptre” will provide joy and magic to many for years to come.

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 “The Ruby Sceptre” is now available on Amazon… please follow the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Ruby+Sceptre&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3AThe+Ruby+Sceptre

 

 

Want to make your children better travelers? Start with yourself. By Lalita Iyer

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It’s a maxim universally marketed that having children kills the traveller in you. It is something often quoted in the “Why not to have kids” bibles and generally nodded to and sighed upon. ‘Herculean task’, ‘nightmare’, ‘horror story’ are commonly used words by people to describe traveling with kids. And then there are pre-boarding facilities and goody bags from airlines, overload of activity timetables at resorts – all aiming to subtly announce that a holiday with children is going to require supreme engineering.

When I threw open the question of how do we make our children better travelers on my blog’s forum, I received the usual formulaic responses, since no one realized it was a trick question: Plan well, involve the child, tell them about where they are going to travel, show them pictures, videos, show them the place on the map, plan their meals (or pack whatever you can),  get them excited about what they will do on the plane , make a list of activities, take their favorite toys, carry board games, carry their favorite food, favorite puzzle, favorite soft toy,  favorite movie.. and so on.

Why travel at all, I wondered? Why bother if you are going to simulate the same kind of life in a different address? When you do the aforementioned, you are raising the opposite of a real traveler. I do realize that holidays need to be planned (especially when kids start formal schooling as there are at best three windows to choose from). But that should be limited to bookings. In my experience, Air BnBs and homestays work better than hotels and if you choose locations you have friends living in – nothing like it.

In my limited experience of seven years and 13 trips with a child, I have come to realize this: The problem, very often, is not the child. It’s the adults. Because you pass on to your child how you have been programmed to travel and if you are the kind who bursts a capillary because you forgot to pack your iPod speakers, chances are, you are already raising a high maintenance child who may prove the cliché right. But this is not a post that tells you what to pack in their bag or how to pacify an irate kid on a plane. Instead I will tell you this:

Don’t behave like you are moving there. You are just travelling.  Stop being so manicured about your travels. Your child will follow suit. On my first travel date with fellow parents, I noticed that they came armed with a suitcases full of toys, dolls, books and games for a three night stay in Matheran. “Why do you need so much?”, I asked.  “Oh, you never know. It’s better to be prepared,” they said. But isn’t that what travel is about? Not knowing?

Don’t oversell the destination and what you will do there. Don’t sell the journey either. Parents have a tendency to do this. This disallows the child any room to have his own her own experiences, and they are forced to look at the entire trip through a readymade lens, which will never allow the real traveller in them to come out.

Allow the place to happen to your child.  Don’t tell them what to expect. This usually means giving at least four to five days in one location to give enough time to experience it, rather than location hopping. Improvise. If things always went as they were planned, it’s not travel. It’s stasis. I think this works better for adults too.

Travel is not about being constantly entertained and your child needs to know that.  And if you in that trap,  you are teaching them that this is how life is – a series of fun-filled, action packed time capsules on loop, where there is no time for recovery, stillness or nothingness – you are in a dangerous place. It’s a slippery slope from there.

Give gadgets a break. Try clouds instead. Or birdsong. Technology is an easy weapon used by most parents – I see it in airports, holiday destinations – each child with a gadget, adults with theirs, swiping away. It’s time to  talk to each other and not our gadgets.

 

(To read the rest of this article, please follow the link below…)

Want to make your children better travelers? Start with yourself