The Education System Is Rigged Against Low-Income Students, Even In Kindergarten

Students born into poverty enter kindergarten at a disadvantage to more affluent peers. As they advance through the grades, they receive lower test scores. They’re more likely to drop out and less likely to enter higher education. 
The all-too-familiar cycle, in some ways, is getting worse, according to data in a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics.
The report, titled, “The Condition of Education 2016,” is the 42nd of its kind, produced under congressional mandate by The U.S. Department of Education’s data branch, the National Center for Education Statistics. It outlines the latest data on everything from public school enrollment to the median earnings of degree recipients. 
The report starts with a troubling fact. Low-income students often arrive in kindergarten without a “positive approach” to learning — a mindset that allows them to pay attention in class, follow rules and show excitement for learning. Data collected from kindergarten teachers shows that students from lower socioeconomic households are less likely to demonstrate a positive approach to learning than middle-class and affluent students, which makes it harder for them to excel academically.
“In the early years, even before formal schooling begins, children from socioeconomically disadvantaged households typically have less access to resources that have been associated with learning, such as books and educational toys in their homes and quality preschool settings, than do students from more socioeconomically advantaged households,” the report says. 
Students less likely to demonstrate positive approaches to learning have lower average reading and math scores when they enter and leave kindergarten. They have lower average scores by the end of first grade, and again at the end of second grade.
But there were bright spots for lower-income students. The positive relationship between learning approaches and academic gains is particularly strong for low-income students. That means those students who do have positive learning behavior tend to make meaningful academic gains. 
“Students who were performing at the lower end of that learning behavior scale who never exhibited [positive] behaviors, their gains over time were not as strong as those who exhibited those behaviors often,” said Grace Kena, an author of the report. “Even more interesting, those gains over time were greater for students from lower socioeconomic status households, so having those positive learning behavior skills mastered was helpful to students and most helpful to” students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

In the early years, even before formal schooling begins, children from socioeconomically disadvantaged households typically have less access to resources.

Overall, more students are graduating from high school, although black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native students are still less likely to get degrees than white and Asian American/Pacific Islander counterparts. After graduating, students from low-income households are more likely to enroll in an occupational certificate program or an associate’s degree program. They are significantly less likely to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program. Students who have high grade-point averages or took advanced high school math courses — like calculus or precalculus — are more likely to enroll in a postsecondary institution. 
The impact of educational disparities between affluent and low-income students, as well as between white students and students of color, loom large. In 2014, 20 percent of American children under the age of 18 were living in poverty. That’s 1 percentage point lower than 2013, but 5 points higher than 2000.
Meanwhile, public school enrollment of students of color, especially Hispanic and Asian and Pacific Islanders, is increasing rapidly. Students of color disproportionately come from low-income families and are relegated to schools with fewer material resources and less-experienced teachers. 
Still, interventions that boost positive learning approaches appear promising, Kena said. 
“While you do see these patterns, it does bring some promise that there are things that seem to help improve” outcomes for some children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, said Kena. 
  ______
Rebecca Klein covers the challenges faced in school discipline, school segregation and the achievement gap in K-12 education. In particular, she is drilling down into the programs and innovations that are trying to solve these problems. Tips? Email [email protected]
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The South Isn’t The Reason Schools Are Still Segregated, New York Is
Are Charter Schools The Future Of School Desegregation?
Latino School Segregation: The Big Education Problem That No One Is Talking About — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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Everything You Need to Know About Child Tax Credits

Depending on your income, you may be eligible for a child tax credit of up to $1,000 per child. Remember that unlike a tax deduction, a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax bill. Sound good? Here’s what you need to know about the child tax credit, from the eligibility requirements to how to claim it. For starters, you need to be the parent or guardian of a minor child. 

Check out our income tax calculator. 
What Is the Child Tax Credit?
Child tax credits are designed to give an income boost to the parents or guardians of dependent children. How much is the child tax credit? That depends on your income. The child tax credit lets you reduce your federal income tax bill by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17 that you claim as a dependent. The child tax credit for 2015 is the same as it was for 2014: up to $1,000 per child.

The child tax credit is just that – a tax credit. It’s not a deduction. Because it’s a tax credit, it directly reduces the amount you owe the IRS. So, if your tax liability is $3,000 but you’re eligible for, say, $800 of child tax credit, you now owe $2,200.

The child tax credit is non-refundable. That means that if you’re eligible for $3,000 in tax credits but only owe the IRS $2,000, you won’t get the $1,000 difference refunded to you. Technically, you can get that $1,000, but you’ll have to claim what’s called the Additional Child Tax Credit – assuming you’re eligible to do so. We’ll get to that.

Related Article: All About IRS Form 1040A
Child Tax Credit Eligibility
Eligibility for the child tax credit hinges on a few factors. One of them, of course, is whether you are the parent or guardian of minor children. The child you claim as your dependent has to meet six IRS tests:

Age Test: The child you claim as your dependent must have been under age 17 (so, 16 or younger) at the end of the tax year.
Relationship Test:  The child must be your daughter, son, foster child or adopted child. The child can also be a grandchild or a descendant of one of your siblings.
Support Test: The child must not have provided more than half of their own “support,” meaning the money they use for living expenses.
Dependent Test: The child must be claimed as your dependent on your federal income tax return.
Citizenship Test: The child must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a U.S. resident alien.
Resident Test: The child must have lived with you for more than half of the tax year (with a few exceptions detailed on the Child Tax Credit worksheet).

In addition to these 6 tests, income is also an eligibility factor.

Eligibility for the child tax credit isn’t all-or-nothing. There’s such a thing as the child tax credit income phase-out. As your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) increases, the child tax credit begins to phase out. You’ll get $50 less in child tax credits for every $1,000 – or portion of $1,000 – that your modified AGI exceeds:

$75,000 if you’re filing as the head of your household, single or as a qualifying widow(er)
$110,000 if your filing status is married filing jointly
$55,000 if your filing status is married filing separately

As you can see, it’s possible to be so rich that you’re ineligible for the child tax credit.

Related Article: The Lowest Taxes in America
Claiming the Child Tax Credit

Eligible filers will claim the child tax credit on Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040NR. Unfortunately for those who like the simplified versions of the tax form (Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040EZ), you can’t claim the child tax credit on those worksheets.

The IRS provides Publication 972 The Child Tax Credit as a child tax credit worksheet to help you calculate the child tax credit. It’s not a child tax credit calculator per se but it will tell you how much you can claim in child tax credits on your Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040NR.

Want to know how to calculate the child tax credit? Look no further than Publication 972. The publication starts with some introductory material to help you understand the tax credit and who’s eligible. The worksheet comes later.
The Additional Child Tax Credit
The child tax credit itself is non-refundable. That means that if the amount of credit you’re eligible for is greater than the amount you owe the IRS, you won’t get the difference back in your tax refund. To get that money, you can file for what’s called the Additional Child Tax Credit, assuming you’re eligible.

The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) expanded the eligibility for the additional child tax credit. The law reduced the minimum amount of earned income used in calculating the additional child tax credit to $3,000. This change made more taxpayers eligible for the credit and raised the amount they could claim.

The additional child tax credit has been extended and will last through December 2017. It’s designed for filers who get less than the full amount of the child tax credit. Before you file for the additional child tax credit, you’ll need to fill out the paperwork for the regular child tax credit. According to the IRS:

If you answered “Yes” on line 9 or line 10 of the Child Tax Credit Worksheet in the Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040NR instructions (or on line 13 of the Child Tax Credit Worksheet), use Parts II – IV of Schedule 8812 to see if you can take the additional child tax credit.
If you have an additional child tax credit on line 13 of Schedule 8812, carry it to Form 1040, line 67; Form 1040A, line 43; or Form 1040NR, line 64.

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC)
The child tax credit and the childcare tax credit are two different things. The child tax credit can only be claimed by the parents or guardians of minor children. The child and dependent care tax credit, on the other hand, can also be used by those who are caring for aging parents or disabled relatives.

With the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, you can’t claim more than $3,000 of care expenses for one child/dependent. If you have two or more children/dependents, you can’t claim more than $6,000 of care expenses. Technically, there’s no income phase out if you’re trying to claim the CDCTC, but the credit can only equal up to 35% of your qualifying care expenses (depending on your AGI).

What counts as a care expense? According to the IRS rules on the CDCT, “If you paid someone to care for your child, spouse, or dependent last year, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit.” You must have secured a caregiver who you paid so that you or your husband or wife (if filing jointly) could go to work or hunt for a job. To claim the federal credit, fill out IRS Form 2441.
State Child Tax Credits
Some states offer a complementary state-level child tax credit and/or CDCTC that matches part or all of the federal credit. In some states, the credits are refundable and in other states they are not. Check out this map for state-by-state details.
The Takeaway

The IRS offers child tax credits to help parents and guardians offset some of the costs of raising a family. Some people who are eligible for these child tax credits never claim them, however. If you’re eligible, don’t leave money on the table. You could be reducing or eliminating your tax bill, or earning a bigger refund. Who doesn’t want that?

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Christopher Futcher, ©iStock.com/gruizza, ©iStock.com/DragonImages — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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4 Things I Cared About Before Having Kids

1. Long Showers and Clean Hair

Before I had kids, I washed my hair every day. I know, I know, crazy right? But there was something about washing my hair that I just loved. I think what I loved equally was taking a nice long shower where I could relax with the water flowing down my face and gingerly getting ready for the day, refreshed. It was my time; my quiet time. No one was screaming after me; no one needed me. Ahh… the good old days!

Now, I’m lucky if I wash my hair once every three to four days. I would go longer if I could get away with it. My new motto is, “a dirty hair day, is a great hat day!” If I had more hats, I swear, I’d wash my hair once a week or once a month. Oh and that leisurely shower in the morning, forget about it. I don’t even shower in the morning anymore. My 22-month-old twins would scream for me if they caught me trying to take a morning shower.

Instead, I shower at night. I sometimes close my eyes and imagine I’m in a spa somewhere fabulous, only to open my eyes and get jolted back into reality, of course. And since I’m so tired after I put the girls to bed, I end up taking a quick shower to expedite crawling under my duvet.

2. Perfect Makeup

As a Southern woman, I was taught at an early age that you should never leave your house without your FACE on. And in the event, you don’t have time to put a full face on, you must at least put on a little mascara and blush. While I used to spend so much time making sure my makeup was just perfect and flawless, now I can put on a full face in about 8 minutes. (And I plan to shoot a video to prove it.)

Before kids, I could take my time making sure the eyeliner was perfect and every flaw on my face concealed. Now, I couldn’t care less. If the eye shadow is in the general location, I’m good with it. I guess I could forgo putting makeup on altogether, but it’s the one thing that makes me feel good and allows me to get away with having dirty hair. I can’t have dirty hair AND no makeup. I mean, I still have a little pride left!

Photo by Shea Curry

3. High Heels

For those that knew me before I had kids, I only wore high heels. Not kidding. As a petite person, heels made me feel tall and confident. My mother warned me in my early 20’s that I wouldn’t be able to do that my whole life. But as most 20 something’s, I thought her words were foolish and wouldn’t apply to me. Ha! Well, she was right on a couple of points. A) My older feet simply cannot handle wearing heels like they used to, and B) it’s simply not practical or safe to carry one or two babies down the stairs where we live.

The only way I wear heels these days are if I can carry them with me and put them on last second before walking into an event or restaurant. I have been known to carry them in my stroller or slide them on when I pull up to valet. But wearing them all day every day, never again!

4. Shaving my legs

There is nothing like a smooth pair of legs. Crawling into bed when your legs are freshly shaved is such a fabulous feeling. It also affords you the ability to wear other things than jeans. Not only did I shave my legs regularly, I would sport a cute dress or shorts after. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t overly shave; my hair doesn’t grow that fast. But now, I shave maybe every two weeks. Since I now shower at night, I’m often just too damn tired to put a razor near me. Sleep deprivation and a razor in hand are not a good combination.

I will wait as long as I can before I feel the obligation to whack those long hairs from my legs. This usually happens when I look down and notice the sunlight reflecting from them. It’s almost like long leg hairs become a solar panel for the sunlight. When that happens, I know it’s time to take care of business. You, other moms, must know what I’m talking about, right? And let’s face it, really who’s looking at my legs these days anyway? All eyes are appropriately on the cuteness of my little ones. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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'My Toddler Won't Eat Anything'

Reader Short Order Cook writes,

My daughter used to be such a good eater. When she was contained in the high chair. Now since she sits at her little table to eat instead of a high chair I cannot get her to actually sit and eat. She roams around, plays, eats here and there. When do I start to really enforce, this is lunch, dinner time and you must sit? Plus her newest thing is “I want something else.” Which something else is usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or cheese. Is this something to be concerned about at her age (2.5 years) or should I let it go until she is older?

Dear SOC,

Kids, gotta love them, because you can’t return them.  Anyway, the first thing I wondered is why is she at a little table?  Unless you’re also at the little table, she’s not learning anything about mealtime, because there is no communal mealtime.  In a best case scenario you’re eating at a different table, but I suspect, you’re not actually eating when she eats at all.  If you want her to learn how to behave at the table, which I certainly recommend and do not think she is too young for at all, then there has to be a table.  Put the little table in the playroom where it belongs and put your child her at the table with you, on a booster if she needs it.  Make mealtime fun, by speaking to her and putting your phone away.  Don’t let her get up before she’s sat there for at least 10 minutes, five on a bad day, so she learns about appropriate dinner table behavior.

Next, do not make her anything different than what the rest of the family eats.  (Now you’ll be eating as a family, even if the only adult present is you, so this now applies.)  Yes, never.  If you’re packing her a lunch for outside the house, give her PB and J if she wants, but at home, you make a healthy meal with different things on the plate, and she must eat a bite of everything every time. Kids have to try new foods many many times before their tastes can change and they may like it.  Once you assess which of these healthy dinner foods she likes, you can work them into rotation more often, if you fear that she will starve.

Speaking of which, what if she’s hungry?  Then she will eat something out of what you offer her, especially if you have a bunch of options on her plate, all of which are healthy dinner foods, like a vegetable, starch, and meat, or some equivalent. If not, she will be hungrier for the next meal and will eat better at that time, and we all know kids love breakfast foods (and if you have a child who will not eat cereal, then you need to call Guinness.) Certainly don’t give her dessert if she doesn’t try everything on her plate. And hopefully, make dessert something healthy like fruit anyhow.

This is a topic close to my heart because I was never made to try things more than once that I didn’t like, and as a highly sensitive child, I didn’t like many things at first. My tastes became extremely constricted as a result.  It was to the point that I wouldn’t eat pizza at classmates’ birthday parties and had to bring something else to eat (which really helps you fit in with the other kids… or not). Later in adulthood I made it my business to expand my tastes, and to be able to eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods.  I wish I would have been introduced to a variety of foods earlier, many many times each, so that I could have practiced and learned to appreciate them.

Another point to remember here is that toddlers don’t need to eat as much as babies do, because they grow much more slowly.  So this is normal.  Rather than conceiving of your job as to make sure your daughter is not hungry, assume she has that under control innately, and think of your job as introducing her to table manners and to new tastes.  Then focus your efforts on this.  Also, eat with her.  She watches what you do and if you try a variety of new things, eat with gusto and manners, and eat healthy foods, this is what she will learn to do herself, as an adult and hopefully sooner too.

Good luck!  Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Whose Kids Sing “You Have To Try New Things Cause They Might Be Goo-ood” From Daniel Tiger When I Serve Them Stuff They Don’t Like.  Thanks Again, Daniel Tiger.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman’s private practice here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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5 Tips for Teaching Mindfulness to At-Risk Teens

Karen Bluth

From day one, I knew that it was going to be a different kind of mindfulness class. But I was ready. I could handle this. I had years of teaching teens under my belt, a number of which were in inner-city schools. But I was an experienced-enough teacher to know that I was going to have to be on my toes–the whole time.

As a mindfulness and self-compassion researcher working with teens, my goal has been to help them navigate what is often a very difficult life stage. Now, I was interested in implementing a mindfulness program with a group of at-risk students because they had more obstacles than the average teen, including language barriers, economic challenges, and issues of acculturation. Not much research had been conducted on mindfulness with at-risk youth, and I wanted to know if it would work. Could learning awareness and acceptance actually help the teens who were struggling the most?

The school where we launched the mindfulness program and conducted a study was an alternative high school, a small public school for students who had not been successful at their traditional high school. Many had issues of substance abuse and behavioral challenges. Many had been involved in the legal system; a number were parents or pregnant. All had histories of academic failure.

The first class went alright, probably because students were a bit apprehensive of me and maybe a bit curious about this “mindfulness” stuff. But by class two, they were over it. This strange woman came in off the street to teach us about–what, paying attention to a raisin? Are you kidding?

Despite my admonition, one student took a phone call in the middle of class, saying it was her employer; a second student left to “use the bathroom” and never came back. In class three, it was all I could do to keep the students in the room. Oh, and the raisin activity? When I asked them to pretend they were aliens and roll the raisin around in their fingers and tell me what it felt like, one lanky, sweet-faced boy said “a nipple.” Things were rapidly deteriorating.

One of my research mentors told me I could call off the project, but I recalled what the principal of the school had said at our initial meeting, looking straight at my collaborator and me: “If you want to teach mindfulness here, fine. But you have to commit to finishing out the semester. You can’t give up and leave in the middle. These kids have experienced adults giving up on them too many times in their lives.” There was no question. I was in for the long haul.

I talked to the principal and social worker about my struggles in class, and both were extraordinarily supportive and understanding. They had seen all this before. The principal suggested that I come to school another day during the week to “hang out” with the students to build trust, so I agreed. The school nurse had some experience doing restorative yoga with the students and suggested doing it in class; I thought that would be fine. I figured I had nothing to lose.

Since class four began with a body scan, and we had no room to do this in the classroom where we were meeting, we opted to have class in a corner of the gym. Students lay down on yoga mats, cushioned with zafus under their heads and zabutons under their legs. Some had their coats draped over them for warmth. Not your traditional body scan, but this wasn’t your traditional mindfulness
class, either. And so I began: “Notice the sensations in the toes on your left foot…”

And something shifted. It was subtle, but perceivable. The kids were calmer. More settled, and a bit quieter. From then on, we had every class in the gym, and every class began with either a body scan or a restorative yoga session led by the school nurse and accompanied by “gentle” music.

Throughout these weeks, I sought advice from the author of the curriculum we were using, Dr. Trish Broderick, who was wholeheartedly supportive of my adjusting the curriculum to meet the students’ needs. When I expressed concern that we might not get to parts of the curriculum if we continued to do the body scan in each class, she encouraged me to just go with what was working with these students. So body scan it was.

Through surveys taken after the second class, we found that students did not initially think that learning mindfulness would be all that effective, but grew to be more accepting of it over time. (In contrast, students who were in the “control” class, a substance abuse prevention program, initially had a greater belief in the effectiveness of their class, but became less sure of its usefulness as the semester wore on.) Also, while depression among students in the control group nearly doubled over the course of the semester, the mindfulness students decreased in depression by about 30 percent.

By the last class, students were able to share certain insights that elucidated what worked for them. Below are a collection of five suggestions that can help anyone trying to teach mindfulness to at-risk teens:

1. Choose the right space

The choice of physical space is paramount. These students were clearly uncomfortable–even distressed–with being in the classroom, which for them had associations with failure. As one student said, “If you’re in a classroom, you don’t really feel relaxed all the way…I wouldn’t be able to be completely chill in the classroom.” And another stated definitively, “We were going crazy in the classroom.” In contrast, the gym was where they “had fun and stuff.”

In the gym, they could relax and let down their guard; “you could take your shoes off, you know, and kick back,” one student said. The need for students to have a “safe place,” a place where they could relax and feel protected, was critical to the success of the mindfulness class. At one point, I recall looking out at the dozen or so adult-sized teens wrapped in coats, “tucked in” by the school nurse with meditation cushions and yoga bolsters, scented eye masks covering their eyes. Like baby birds in the safety of a nest, they seemed sheltered, secure, and at rest.

2. Involve people they know

When possible, utilize school personnel as assistants in the class, or have them at least be present. Research has shown that school programs tend to work better when they are implemented by school personnel, rather than outside experts. The reason is pretty clear–just remember how you (or your fellow students) used to treat substitute teachers. If school personnel can’t implement the program, having someone at least in the room will give it a sense of validity in the eyes of the students.

As mentioned above, these students had a history of having adults give up on them. Understandably, then, they were often mistrusting of adults from the “outside.” In contrast, many had positive and trusting relationships with teachers and school staff, and they felt safe with them. Unlike me, the school nurse was an “insider,” and was able to help facilitate students’ slowly–very slowly–growing trust in me as well.

3. Build trust

It was important to spend time with students outside of class to help build trust. From the beginning, I stayed after class to have lunch with them. There is something about “breaking bread” that eases tension and equalizes people. It wasn’t always easy–naturally, the students preferred to chat with their friends than with me–but I persisted. The girls were patient with my halting Spanish, and they shared photos from their cell phones of their babies, while I shared photos of my grown daughters.

At the principal’s suggestion, I also came to the school on another day during the week when students had an elective class. Initially I thought the “sports and games” elective would be mostly board games, but it wasn’t; it was sports. I was WAY out of my comfort zone, but my stubbornness refused to let me give in to my insecurities. I was a goalie in soccer, and, well, stayed on the sidelines passing out equipment during football. But at least I was there.

It paid off–by the end of the semester, students began comments with “Now that you’re part of the school…”; one student suggested that I chaperone an upcoming field trip to Washington, D.C. My discomfort on the basketball court was worth it; I had moved from being an “outsider” to being an “insider.”

4. Give them freedom to choose

Teens need to be able to make the choice to participate in mindfulness activities and meditations. Developmentally, they’re at a stage when they feel they should be able to make decisions for themselves, and yet they often are not mature enough to make some of them. For this reason, it is important to provide teens with choices whenever possible.

The decision about whether or not to engage in mindfulness practices can be theirs. And let’s be honest: You can’t make them participate anyway. You can’t make someone meditate…and why would you want to? Being too heavy-handed with the program would only result in backlash. At the same time, it’s important to clarify that if they choose not to participate in meditations, they are not free to disturb others who might want to.

Instead of judging students for not participating, try to trust that they will participate when they are ready. When they finally do, they’ll be able to get something out of the program. As one student reflected, “I liked this class because it’s the only class where you actually have the time to relax and think about yourself and how you’re doing in your life, and I feel like your mind is calm for a few minutes.”

5. Be flexible with the curriculum–within reason

Most mindfulness activities are designed to get at the same thing: to bring awareness and nonjudgmental acceptance of present-moment experiences. The specific practices we use–whether we focus on the breath, physical sensations, or sound–are incidental.

For example, when engaging in restorative yoga, students listened to relaxing, “new age” music, and were invited to turn their attention toward the sounds. When their minds drifted, they were encouraged to bring their attention back to the tones of the music. When it became clear to me that the students had an affinity for more concrete practices such as restorative yoga and the body scan, I made the necessary modifications and started each class with one of these practices.

Luckily for me, I was able to get the “green light” from Dr. Trish Broderick, author of the Learning to BREATHE curriculum that we were using, to do so. But making those decisions requires that the teacher have a deep understanding and embodiment of both mindfulness itself and the way it is delivered through the curriculum being used. There are no shortcuts here; embodying mindfulness requires a depth of practice.

In the end, teaching mindfulness to at-risk teens is not very different from what good teachers do every day: tuning in to the needs of their students very directly and honestly, readily adjusting the curriculum to meet those needs, and then fine-tuning their efforts and re-calibrating their goals.

One of our students said, “I really appreciate this class. It gives you a chance to think and not have to worry about what’s going on around you.” And as a teacher of teens who live immersed in worry and chaos most of the time, this means a lot. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

This Father's Day, Record That Parent-Child Interview You Keep Meaning To Make

The Huffington Post is building a movement to spark conversations between parents and children. We’d love for you to be part of it.
This Father’s Day, join HuffPost and Facebook in New York’s Madison Square Park and record a conversation for our parent-child interview series Talk To Me.
We’ll provide everything you need (including a beautiful private studio booth, suggested questions, etc.) for a heart-warming interview session with your loved one. Plus, you’ll be able to share it via Facebook Live, a new feature that lets you broadcast your life wherever and whenever you like.
You know you’ll treasure the interview. It’s all free and we’ll have plenty of great giveaways for everyone who participates.
Where: New York’s Madison Square Park, right next to Shake Shack [map]
When: Father’s Day (Sunday, June 19) from noon to 6:00pm
What we’ll be doing: We’ll have a special Facebook Live studio booth where people can interview their parent (or grandparent, mentor, etc.) live on Facebook. It’s really fun! We’ll also provide suggested questions + free goodies, and HuffPost will be featuring your conversations all day long to our 7 million Facebook followers.
What you’ll be doing: You’ll be having a short (5-7 minute) conversation with your loved one about whatever topics you want. Join folks like Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Melinda Gates and hundreds of others who have already filmed their own Talk To Me videos.
RESERVE YOUR SLOT NOW!
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Science Confirms That Any Way You Want To 'Sleep Train' Is FINE

Sleep training can be controversial, and many parents worry that letting their babies cry themselves to sleep could lead to bonding and psychological issues. 
But a small new study adds to the growing body of research that supports the popular method known as “graduated extinction,” or controlled crying, as safe and effective. And it found that a gentler method called “bedtime fading” works, too. 
“We hope this study promotes health conversations about helping babies, and their parents, sleep better — if needed,” said Michael Gradisar, an associate professor and clinical psychologist with Flinders University in Australia and an author on the new study, published in Pediatrics on Tuesday. 
He and his colleagues conducted the small clinical trial in a group of 43 babies age six to 16 months whose parents believed had a sleep problem. To qualify, parents were asked if their babies had a sleep problem, and parents simply answered “no” or “yes.”
One group of parents learned graduated extinction, which tends to be lumped into the broader category of cry it out methods, popularized by Dr. Ferber. These parents slowly extended the amount of time they waited before going in to attend to their crying babies: two minutes before the first check, then four, then six until the baby fell asleep, and so on for seven nights. 
In another group, parents practiced “bedtime fading.” Caregivers picked the bedtime they’d like for their baby (say, 7 p.m.) then pushed it by 15 minutes for a few nights, then by a further 15 for a few more nights if the baby was still struggling to fall asleep. The idea is that once babies are tired because they’ve been pushed a bit past their usual bedtimes, their so-called sleep pressure builds, and they more easily learn to put themselves to sleep. (The researchers have published the full guidelines for the various techniques online for interested parents.) 
Both interventions led to improvements in the babies’ ability to fall asleep after one week, Gradisar told The Huffington Post. On average, babies in the controlled crying group fell asleep 13 minutes earlier than those in the control group, and the number of awakenings they experienced throughout the night was cut in half, from an average of three wake-ups to one-and-a-half over the course of a month.
Babies in the bedtime fading group fell asleep 10 minutes faster than babies in the control group, however they continued to wake up with the same frequency throughout the night.
The researchers weren’t content with simply measuring short-term success; they also wanted to look for any potential long-term problems, so in addition to tracking parent-child bonding, they measured the amount of cortisol — the primary stress hormone — in the babies’ saliva before the study as well as at a 12-month checkup and found that the levels stayed largely the same. While they did not measure cortisol levels during the sleep training itself, the researchers believe the measurements provide strong evidence that sleep training does not cause long-term stress. 
“Extinction-type techniques that involve delaying a parent’s response to their child’s cries do not cause chronic increases in the cortisol stress hormone,” Gradisar said. “On reflection, this does make more sense as three nights of graduated extinction is not enough chronic stress to result in elevated biological markers of stress.” The researchers also found that in the initial month of sleep training, self-reported maternal stress levels improved in both the controlled crying and bedtime fading groups, and though the researchers did not explore why, it may be that navigating bedtime was no longer as difficult.
The new trial joins a small 2012 study, also out of Australia, which followed-up with parents who tried controlled crying after five years and found no differences in their children’s stress levels or relationships with their parents. That study also found that the children’s sleep abilities had all pretty much evened out by age 6.
The goal of all this research is not to try and convince parents that sleep training is necessary, Gradisar said. Rather, it’s to reassure parents whose babies are struggling to fall and stay asleep that it is a safe option if they feel it is necessary for their families. 
The findings don’t, however, attempt to offer up a solution for parents in those intense, early months when babies are up frequently through the night and mothers and fathers are dangerously exhausted. The researchers only included babies age six months and up, because that is the age at which point their 24-hour body clock has truly developed, Gradisar said, as has their ability to build up sleep pressure. Newborns and young babies do not have their days and nights sorted out yet, and must wake to eat every few hours. In other words, at that point it’s really a matter of waiting it out, not crying it out.  — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

Apologies: Why So Difficult for Some of Us?

My husband is a very proud man, and sees it as a sign of weakness to apologize. He is a good father but sometimes he does things that upset to our kids. He thinks if he says he is sorry they will respect him less. Now our kids are mimicking him. They refuse to take responsibility when they make a mistake.

Parents don’t have to be perfect, or even close. But we do need to take responsibility for our actions, delivering a heartfelt apology to our loved ones (including our children) when we have wronged them. This not only heals the connection with them after an upset; it lets them learn that making repair attempts is part and parcel of maintaining healthy relationships.

Unfortunately, many of us were trained in the fine art of defending ourselves at all costs. We cannot tolerate being seen as wrong, so we explain and justify our actions rather than taking ownership of them. This typically magnifies the hurt and fosters disconnection.

Parents often feel that if they acknowledge their mistakes, their authority will be undermined in the eyes of their children. On the contrary, when we demonstrate genuine remorse after we have temporarily lost our way, our children learn to do the same.

An apology must be genuine; simply saying “Sorry” does little, if anything, to make things right when we have hurt someone we care for.

I have found that when the following four steps are included in an apology, forgiveness and reconnection are almost always guaranteed.

FOUR STEPS TO AN APOLOGY

1) The first step is to say I’m sorry without justifying what we’ve done. When the dust has settled, there may be a chance to clear up misunderstandings that could have contributed to the falling out. But initially, the focus should simply be on delivering a genuine, “I’m so sorry” without adding layers of explanation.

“I’m so sorry I threw away your picture, sweetheart.”

2) Second, we need to specifically acknowledge how our mistake affected the other person. This allows the injured party to know that we have made the effort to imagine how they were affected by our behavior, offering reassurance that we truly did not intend to inflict harm.

“Now that I know you were saving that picture for Grandma, I can see why you were so sad when you found out I’d thrown it away instead of keeping for you to give her next weekend.”

3) Third, we show the other person that we want to avoid doing the same thing again. Humans are imperfect; I am not suggesting that you promise never to make mistakes. But in this step we let the other person know that we are committed to avoiding a repeat of whatever happened that was so hurtful.

“The next time I’m not sure if you’re saving a painting, I’ll do my best to ask you before I throw it away.”

4) Finally, in the fourth step we ask the other person what they need from us to make things right.

“Is there anything you need from me to help you feel better about this? Is there anything standing in the way of offering your forgiveness?”

As for your husband’s reluctance to apologize because he believes he will lose face with his kids,it is true that many adults have grown up believing that their ego must be defended at all costs. You cannot legislate humility, or lecture him on the merits of apologizing. But perhaps you can share this article with him and respectfully request that he consider the impact of his behavior on your youngsters.

Invulnerability and toughness are not signs of strength; it takes a big person to stand squarely in their missteps and do whatever is needed to make things right with those they love.

When we take ownership for how we show up in our relationship, our children cannot help but learn that this is an essential ingredient in living a life of integrity.

Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and the brand new Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition). She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.

To learn more about her online parenting courses, classes and personal coaching support, visit her Facebook page or sign up for her free newsletter.

Do you have a question for the Parent Coach? Send it to [email protected] and you could be featured in an upcoming blog post. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

The Realities Of Co-Sleeping

We’ve all seen the perfect co-sleeping stories, right?

The bedding is top-quality Egyptian cotton… and totally bleach-clean white.

There are often fairy lights hanging delicately from the wall.

There is usually some sort of Ikea hack involved… to allow amazing functionality and plenty of space.

There is occasionally a bespoke storage system in place… perhaps with a handmade headboard, on which the family’s initials have been lovingly carved into the wood by delicate forest fairies…

These co-sleeping arrangements are all so very… perfect… seriously, just take a look:

Let me just be very real for a moment.

I woke last night — somewhere between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. I would assume — to a bloodied lip and a small foot triumphantly placed across my face.

Little Foot One, Mama’s Face Nil.

My darling daughter, light of my life, beat of my heart… had kicked me (hard) in the mouth in her sleep.

Thanks for that, love.

It would seem that 90% of the bed was not sufficient for her little body….she needed that extra space that my face was so rudely taking up. And her sideways positioning didn’t help matters, either.

And yet even with a bloodied lip, I still wouldn’t trade our co-sleeping ways.

Even with 10% of the bed, I wouldn’t give this up.

Because she needs it. She needs the connection that kicking mommy in the face at 3am brings. She needs to know that it is mommy’s bloodied lip that she is laying next to.

And in a strange way, I need it too.

Because — for real — this is the only way she will sleep. And when she is sleeping happily, I can sleep happily.

Everyone’s a winner. Aside from my mouth… which is healing nicely, thanks for asking.

So there you have it — an imperfectly perfect co-sleeping tale, to give a little roundness and context to those tales of pristine Egyptian cotton and faraway magical tree-house bedsteads.

You’re welcome.

Mama Bean has created a free Sleep Relief email series that shifts our focus away from the idea of changing baby and towards the filling our mommy cups instead.

This post originally appeared on MamaBeanParenting.com.

Thank you to mama Sarah for allowing me to feature her picture in this piece. For more glimpses into real life motherhood, join the Mama Bean village on Facebook! — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

God, Guns and Gardens by Allen Bush

2008 NRA Convention in Louisville, KY.
I’ve run myself ragged the last few weeks. Kentucky has had the most beautiful spring I can remember. May has been rainy and cool. Blooms went on forever. The weeds got ahead of me, yet chiggers and heat didn’t crash my spring party.
But it became harder to avoid the hot air once the National Rifle Association came barreling into town last week.
I attended the NRA National Convention eight years ago when an estimated 60,000 gun enthusiasts last visited Louisville. I wrote a story about it on Julie Ardery’s Human Flower Project.
Back then, I didn’t run into any lunatics seeking antitank weaponry for home protection. But no one packing heat seemed interested in Dr. Martin’s pole lima beans, either.
Wolf Pen Mill in Prospect, KY.
An estimated 70,000 NRA members showed up in Louisville this year. Donald Trump, once an opponent of assault weapons, came to town, singing a different tune. The “impossible candidate” received the NRA endorsement for president and tossed the faithful a bone. Schoolyards should be armed, he said. There will be no gun-free zones when he is elected president.
Shame on you, Donald.
Trump is not a curious man. New York Times columnist David Brooks said, “He [Trump] doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out.” Hunters and gardeners are curious about the outdoors. You won’t hear Trump talk about nature or gardens.
This worries me.
Trillium grandiflorum at Whitehall in Louisville, KY.
My life and garden would be very dull if I gardened in the absence of nature. Kentucky’s beautiful woodlands are often surprising. I am always grateful when I stumble upon larkspur or woodland phlox along a narrow path. If I’m lucky I might see a white shooting star, Dodecatheon meadia. Sedum ternatum or Saxifraga virginiensis could be growing nearby on mossy, limestone ledges.
Larkspur (Delphinum tricorne) and Phlox divaricata in Salvisa, KY.
 
My garden is influenced by what I see in the wild. Donald should put on a hairnet and take a walk in the woods.
 
Saxifraga virginienis in Salvisa, KY.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, addressing the NRA this year, said, “There is a verse in scripture about the watchman on the wall … it doesn’t do any good if we see what’s coming if we don’t sound the alarm, if we don’t sound the trumpet, shame on us.”
His get-out-the-vote plea for the November elections was “heavy on religion and guns,” the Courier-Journal reported.
My aim is improving, but my .22 rifle will never save my soul.
Spring beauties, Claytonia virginica, in Lexington, KY.
Matt Bevin has his sights set on bigger political fortunes. He’s too scared to risk alienating the NRA, demanding a ban on assault weapons. Our governor could have talked about our sacred woodlands, too, but he didn’t.
The governor should man up and take a shot.
Salvisa, KY on May 23, 2016.
I don’t think all NRA members are bat-shit crazy. Most, I suspect, are sensible hunters and sportsmen who love the outdoors as much as I do.
Hunters track deer while I stalk spring beauties.
God, Guns and Gardens originally appeared on Garden Rant on May 23, 2016.

Source: GardenRant